Much more than a club: North Liberty Garden Club a place for history, learning, growing, sharing

BUTLER – The names in the roster of people in the North Liberty Garden Club give an observer an idea about the stature — and stamina — of the long-standing group.

The garden club’s charter members include Zella Bechtel, Effie Crunkilton, Leota Shipley, Nirma Statler and Ola Webster. It was formed 75 years ago. And those founding members, plus others, are still in the group. The surnames are easily identifiable as families known in the area.

The group was formed when times were a little tougher. People would meet with others to “learn from each other,” said Norma Miller.

She said at that time, people had gardens because it was necessary for sustenance. The group was founded Dec. 8, 1944.

Miller said she was around when that happened, but wasn’t old enough to join. Her mother took her to meetings.

At first, folks met in homes, and would entertain one another.

They would also dress up, because getting together was a big deal, said Penny Bechtel, Miller’s daughter.

The group is now large enough to have to meet in the North Liberty United Methodist Church. The group has been chartered by the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs.

A show put on by the garden club awarded prizes to exhibitors at the recent Butler Apple Fest.

Julie Divelbiss won best of show for an arrangement. This is awarded to the person who gets the most blue ribbons in all classes.

Bechtel got the top prize for her floral specimens. She displayed a dahlia.

The garden club has grown from its first days. Now there are 55 members. One club member has a Mount Vernon address.

There can be as many as four generations of family members in the club, said Bechtel and Miller.

In winter month, the group meets, but usually doesn’t have a formal program. The idea is to get together and share a meal.

Bechtel and Miller want people to know anyone in the community is invited to their meetings and to join the club.

At regular meetings, there are speakers and tours of greenhouses.

The group has a flashy, artful booklet, which lists members’ names and vital contact information. It also lists birthdays.

At each meeting, a bag containing quarters is circulated, and people pick out a coin. The winner in the drawing gets a door prize. Gifts can include garden gloves, homemade items like breads or jams, or craft goods.

Miller said she received a set of outdoor lights one time, and was happy for the award.

The group has had male members, though most people think of garden clubs as only for women. Dues are $15.

The club attracts young and old. Miller said she is probably the oldest member, at 85.

The group is good because it is for “country people” who share an interest, said Bechtel. The gatherings are amicable, and there is no “fighting or feuding,” she said.

The history of the group is preserved in a collection of scrapbooks, which are kept at the North Liberty Church. Some items in those scrapbooks, which includes photos and newspaper clippings, are handwritten.

In those days, there weren’t computers, said Bechtel.

Miller said being in the club “has been quite a journey for me.” She joined in 1962 and at one point dropped out to rear four children.

The group is having an auction Nov. 8, at 1 p.m., at the North Bend Liberty Church, 178 Snyder Road. This event says it is for people who “make it, bake it, sew it or grow it.”

Here, people can get all kinds of items, like plant information, maybe bulbs, baked goods. Bechtel and Miller want everyone to know they are invited to the Nov. 8 sale.


By Louise Swartzwalder

Bellville Star