This Saturday LCHS is hosting a reception for two of Latah County’s finest local historians. Dorothy Anderson and Herman Ronnenberg, both of Troy, were recently recognized by the Idaho State Historical Society for their years of dedication to preserving and promoting local and regional history. Dorthy and Herman received the state’s Esto Perpetua Award in June at a ceremony in Boise, but we wanted to show our appreciation for their tremendous work with a party a little closer to home.
Please join us on Saturday, July 19th at Troy’s Filling Station from 2:00 to 4:00 to congratulate Dorothy and Herman in person. Refreshments will be available for purchase and a celebratory cake will make this one sweet afternoon!
Given this weekend’s festivities, I thought I would share with you all the brief biography I submitted with Dorothy’s nomination to the Esto Perpetua selection committee. Dorothy is a truly remarkable woman, and I enjoyed the opportunity to tell the folks at ISHS why she is so great!
“I first met Dorothy Anderson just three days into my tenure as Museum Curator at Latah County Historical Society. It was an unseasonably hot June afternoon, and Earl Bennett’s Bovill Run was making a final stop on the north county historical bus tour in downtown Troy. We were greeted by Dorothy’s friendly face, protected by a broad sunbonnet, and her infectious enthusiasm for her community’s history. As we began our walking tour of Troy’s commercial district, Dorothy’s insightful and entertaining narrative chronicled the development of the town and helped me forget about the oppressive heat.
“Just a few weeks later I had the good fortune of making Dorothy’s acquaintance more formally when she visited our archives in Moscow to do research. I learned that Dorothy moved to Troy in 1944 as a high school student when her parents bought the local newspaper. In subsequent conversations Dorothy recounted feeling a little sad about leaving her friends in Wyoming to move to the rather remote north Idaho town; those feelings, however, soon passed. Dorothy has been a resident and booster of Troy ever since. After marrying her husband Ellis, a native son of Troy, Dorothy attended the University of Idaho to become a teacher. She spent 26 years with the Troy School District, and it was in this capacity that Dorothy began her campaign to preserve Troy’s history.
“It all began, she said, when she and few colleagues in the elementary school realized the need for a local public library. As a committee formed in the early-1990s to raise money for a new library space, Dorothy and her husband were also quite active in the formation of a group that would plan Troy’s centennial celebration. Of course many of the people interested in creating a space for community members to share knowledge were the same individuals who wanted to preserve Troy’s history. Before long Dorothy found herself the leader of a fledgling Troy Historical Society, a role she has been dedicated to for nearly two decades.
“Dorothy’s list of contributions to the preservation of Troy’s cultural heritage is impressive. She served on the Centennial Committee, celebrated in 1992, and no doubt sparked a passion for history in many young Troy residents when she involved her students in collecting oral history accounts from local business owners. From the gathered information, Dorothy pieced together the history of many of the buildings that make Troy’s downtown such a beautiful example of a 19th-century western town. In turn, these building histories were used to nominate several structures to the National Register of Historic Places. As is the case in many communities, some property owners pushed back against the idea, believing that designation would infringe upon their rights. It was Dorothy who bridged the gap between the preservationists and the owners. Her personal touch, reinforced by her credibility as a long-time resident, went a long way to allay apprehensions among business owners. With the hard-won blessing of the owners, many of the nominations went on to be successfully accepted to the National Register. You can guess who worked on the attractive signage that now adorns each historic building.
“Another of Dorothy’s accomplishments was organizing the 1995 All School Get-Together, a reunion for all past attendees of schools in Troy and the immediately outlying areas. She recounted to me that the motivation behind such an all-encompassing event was to provide a reunion for all the men and women who did not get to attend high school, instead going to work after the 8th grade. Inclusivity characterizes much of Dorothy’s work. When she took on the important task of documenting experiences of locals who attended the now vanished rural schools around Troy, she again turned to her students. Not only did she collect incredibly valuable primary accounts of one-room schoolhouse life, she also engaged the next generation of residents in their local heritage. Moreover, she and her husband Ellis went on to create a 1/12th scale replica of the county school at Burnt Ridge, based on those collected oral histories, that has been enjoyed by residents of Troy and the county as a whole.
“Under the expert guidance of Dorothy, the Troy Historical Society has produced a number of invaluable resources. “Troy, Idaho: A Historical Walking Tour” provides visitors and residents alike with all the information necessary to appreciate the historic structures of the town. The pamphlet is second only to a guided tour by Dorothy herself, a proclamation I can make based on personal experience. Indeed Dorothy makes herself available for any school class, historical commission, church group, or scout troupe that inquires. Members of the Idaho State Historical Society Board of Trustees might remember meeting Dorothy on one such tour a few years ago, when they lunched in Troy at Herman Ronnenberg’s home. Dorothy also edited and narrated a wonderful video released by the Troy Historical Society entitled Yesterday, Vol. 1, which provides audiences with an overview of the town’s rich history. Additionally, every year the society produces an exhibit for Troy Old Timers’ Day. That is, in fact, the occasion that brought Dorothy into my office last summer. The 2013 exhibit, which consisted of informational posters displayed throughout downtown Troy, related the history of many local businesses. While the Troy Historical Society has done a terrific job preserving photos and documents on their own, the organization continues to collaborate with other heritage groups like our county historical society to improve their programming and enrich our shared knowledge. I was happy to contribute some of our original photographs to her exhibit, as any partnership between our organizations surely benefits all of us.
“The good work of the Troy Historical Society is especially noteworthy because the group has achieved so much with limited resources. Although the group lacks a traditional museum space and does not own any storage facility of its own, Dorothy and her colleagues have made a significant commitment to preserving local history. Admirably, Dorothy has sought out the advice of local and state resources. Keith Peterson of ISHS and Mary Reed of the Idaho Association of Museums have both been invited by Dorothy to consult on future plans for the organization, and Latah County Historical Society has been approached for technical support as well. Dorothy’s relationship with a prominent family in the community, the Brockes, helped the Troy Historical Society secure a safe space for the storage of archival materials at a local bank. While a member’s basement might have proven a more convenient location, Dorothy pursued a solution that would protect the resources from potential dangers such as flooding or fire. An ultimately unsuccessful bid to purchase or lease part of the original Troy High School building for the Historical Society has not deterred Dorothy for identifying venues in which to tell the community’s unique story.
“As a relative newcomer to north Idaho, I have a lot to learn about the history of this wonderful region. Thank goodness for people like Dorothy, who happily answer my questions, no matter how naive. Her patience and willingness to explain events or describe people seems endless, and truly, I could listen to her wonderful stories for hours. She has further demonstrated her commitment to educating others by agreeing to serve as Troy’s official City Historian, a program that the Latah County Historical Society supports.
“Dorothy tells me that even as a child, she knew the importance of history. An interest in how other people built their lives motivates her projects and an appreciation for other cultures, past and present, continues to inspire her curiosity. Given Dorothy’s long list of accomplishments, it is clear that she is a lover of history and just as importantly, a lover of Troy.”