It was not unusual to see Fritz Hilgeford rushing down the street in his auto, he was always in a hurry. It had been told by his son, Lee, that he moved twenty seven times in the first twenty six years of his marriage! At least that’s what everyone said. Originally living on the Old Hilgefort farm, he was forced to find a different life after a serious case of pneumonia. Fritz thought it all looked good and tried it all. He bought an ran saloons in McCartyville, Dayton, and Ft. Loramie. He owned a hotel on Poplar St. in Sidney and also groceries in Sidney, Osgood, and Ft. Loramie. During one move Fritz was in such a hurry he pulled the carpeting up with a jerk and tacks flew everywhere!
Generous with his customers, saloon owner, Fritz, would pour a shot of whiskey to the brim. Many of his grocery customers worked at a pole and shaft factory. Fritz was not afraid to extend credit to his friends but was financially hurt when the factory collapsed on a cold winter day. He was $1800 in debt and refused to collect from the debtors after learning the factory would not be rebuilt. Instead he sold the grocery and moved on.
Fritz sometimes enjoyed a a drink or two and had been known to forget and lock wife, Katherine out of the house! Seldom did he lose a pool game and loved to play cards. At Christmas Fritz delighted in singing Old Tannenbaum forwards and backwards! Son, Lee, would tell that after finishing the song Fritz would laugh and joke, “How would you like to hear me sing it backwards?” He then turned himself around and proceeded to sing Old Tannenbaum again.
According to Katie Lachey, daughter of Fritz’s sister, Frances Borchers, Fritz is responsible for changing Hilgefort to Hilgeford. One afternoon while Katie was babysitting some of Fritz’s children she overheard a telephone conversation. Fritz had been drinking and was talking to Henry Sturwold. Henry informed Fritz that the new Ford car was coming out. Fritz then exclaimed “I’ve got a Ford, too! ” and proceeded to spell his name H-i-l-g-e-f-o-r-d! He then went out and painted a ” d ” on his mailbox! There after other Hilgeforts have changed their names Fritz also must have been responsible for the spelling on his father Clernens, tombstone which is misspelled Hilgeford!
The Hilgefort family ha always been very Catholic arid Fritz was no exception maintaining a special relationship with the parish priest in Ft. Loramie. Every Sunday Fritz would arrive at mass a few minutes late, walk up, sit with his family, and then leave after Communion. When asked by the priest about his erratic church attendance, Lee his son said the reply was, “Why Father, I’m doing you a favor. I close my bar for mass and then re open it for the men to recuperate after your sermon.”
One evening young Lee heard his father and the priest arguing on the front porch. He could hardly hear but knew this father was swearing. The priest finally rose his voice and said, “You can’t swear at me! ten times worse to swear at me! “At this Fritz It’s commented, “Good, then I don’t have to do it as often.”
One grocery Fritz bought contained bolts and bolts of outdated calico. During this time Fritz had helped form the Minster and Ft. Loramie Traction Company, bringing a train line to his town. He proceeded to give the town women bolts of calico and when the first train arrived everyone celebrated wearing a calico suit!
Fritz eventually bought back the Hilgefort farm and put his sons to work. Times were hard, the first year 120 pigs were lost to cholera and chinz bugs completely destroyed the crops. Fritz also bought livestock from local farmers to ship to New York and Chicago. Once after buying more hogs than could be shipped on the train Fritz went to the lumber yard, bought wood and made a double decker hog car. Probably the first of its kind.
As a grandfather Fritz would spend time with grandchildren on Lee’s farm in West Milton. Grandson, Dwight remembers him very independent not accepting bacon Dwight had fried for him but eating it when everyone was gone. Fritz is buried beside Katherine at St. Martin’s Cemetery in Darke County, Ohio.
- Lee Hilgeford, son
- Dwight Hilgeford, grandson
- Katherine Lachey, niece
- St. Martin’s Cemetery
- Jayne Talbot, great granddaughter