“ZIEGER” IS THE NAME
by W. W. Higgins
The problem with the marker on the southeast corner of High and Scioto Streets was a long-standing one. The name of one of the founders of Circleville was misspelled on the original sign, dedicated in April of 1978. The recent article in the Winter, 2006 “Pickaway Quarterly” was “confusion worse confounded.” Let’s just start at the beginning and sort it all out.
The house that originally stood on that corner was a large log structure, built by the elder Jacob Zieger, in 1810. The second floor of the main house was one large room, reached by an outside stairway. Before the courthouse was built, the Pickaway county common pleas court met there. When the first Masonic Lodge was organized, in 1813, the meetings were held in the Zieger house. They continued to be held there until 1825.
The house went through many changes over the years. Sometime after Jacob Zieger, Sr. died, in 1825, the house was sold to a family named Williamson. In the 1830’s or ‘40’s, the logs were covered with clapboards. During that period, or a decade later, the two-story portion of the house was turned ninety degrees, so that the main door faced south instead of east. At about that time, the southern part of the lot was sold and another house was built next door. Finally, about 1904, George Roth had the old house demolished and a new house constructed on the lot.
In the 1970’s, during all the “Bicentennial” activities, the local Masonic Order decided to mark the site of their first meetings. When the matter was first proposed, the Masonic Committee found that there were a half dozen varied spellings of the name. Someone suggested that court records be examined.
When Jacob Zieger’s original land grant was recorded, in 1805, the Circleville area was still part of Fairfield county. The recording clerk in Lancaster spelled the name Ziegler. Ziegler was not an uncommon German name and Zieger may have been less well-known to the clerk. At any rate, that is the way it was spelled in that particular record. Without consulting local historians or descendants of the Zieger family, the Freemasons chose to use this outrageous spelling from Fairfield County and the Ohio Historical Society accepted it. Thus, for over twenty-five years the marker read, in deathless aluminum, “ZIEGLER HOUSE.”
As soon as the monument was dedicated there was an unholy hullabaloo. The local historical society voiced an objection. Mrs. Ray Davis, the editor of the “Pickaway Quarterly,” launched an attack, aided and abetted by Trudy Yates, one of her local committee members. Family members also lodged complaints — but all to no avail.
“Ziegler House” it would remain for a quarter of a century.
Trudy Yates carried on a spirited correspondence with the newly appointed director of the state historical society, Amos Loveday. To give him his due, Mr. Loveday was new to the area and was caught completely off guard. A sound historian himself, he forgot the basic rule of historical research: “If you’re wrong, admit it and do what you can to make amends.”
Instead, he tried a patronizing and facetious tone, hoping it might turn away wrath. How wrong he was! Mrs. Yates’ next letter was a scorcher. She read him out in the grand manner, intermittently referring to him as “Loveday” and “Lovejoy.” I read the letter before she fired it off and found it most impressive.
Various people tried to right the wrong. Mrs. Don Miller approached the Masons suggesting that they might pay for the sign to be corrected, but they were neither willing to admit the error nor to foot the bill.
In the Fall, 1993 “Quarterly,” I weighed in with some research on the family tombstones (“Controversial Spelling: Seegar or Zeager, It’s Still Zieger,” pp. 20-2l) I thought the evidence fairly strong. Of the six family stones, five spelled the name “ZIEGER” — very strong evidence. Even the misspelled name supported “Zieger” in a backhanded way. When the elder Jacob Zieger’s wife, Julia, died in 1812, some stone mason in Chillicothe or Franklinton spelled the name “ZEAGER!” This jibes, however, with the old German pronunciation. Unlike “Ic” and
in English, which are often pronounced alike, the Germans pronounce “ei” as a long “i” and “ie” as a long “e.” So the stone cutter heard a name that sounded like a “Z” followed by “eager,” and that is the way he spelled it. However logical the arguments sounded, the misspelling remained unaltered.
Then, in 1998, Dorothy Cooper, who had recently moved to town with her husband, Tom, stopped in at the Ted Lewis Museum in her effort to learn more about the community. She said something about being interested in historical research and Polly Miller, her hostess, immediately brought up the long battle over the “Ziegler-Zieger” controversy. Dorothy decided to see what she could do. Eventually her research led her to the historical files at the Moore House. There she discovered a document related to the formation of the Lutheran Church. Jacob, senior, had signed his name — and it was spelled “Zieger.”
At that point, Mrs. Cooper brought the idea to Roundtown Conservancy and the group strongly supported the effort to correct the error. With the help of a number of interested individuals — particularly Dr. Emily Lutz, a Zieger descendent, — money was provided to do the work and the Coopers contacted SEWAH in Marietta, the company which had made the original sign. They agreed to ‘get the L out’ and to restore the sign and replace the pole. Louis McFarland and the Circleville Service Department removed the sign and Tom Cooper hauled it to Marietta in his van.
We brought it back late in the Fall and Mr. McFarland put it in storage for us. When it was put in place in the Spring of 2006, we were horrified to discover that SEWAH had removed the “L,” but in the process they had spelled the name “Zeiger” — not as wrong as before, but wrong all the same! Mrs. Cooper marshaled her evidence and called SEWAH. They admitted it was, indeed, their mistake and offered to make it right without further cost.
Now, when you go to the corner of Scioto and High Streets, you will see “ZIEGER HOUSE” spelled correctly. It is thus appropriately honoring one of Circleville’s founding fathers and an early benefactor of the town. It was a long, hard fight, but well worth It.