BOOK SIGNING…Author Barb Fogel, on the left, was thrilled at this 2015 Book Signing at the Edon Branch Library when a former student showed up and bought all three books. Jenni Kellogg Smith was in Fogel’s English classes at Edon Middle School and High School during a few of Fogel’s thirty years as a teacher there. They were proudly holding all three books: A Place Called Cooney, Ohio. 2002. (Tan); Life Around Rigelman’s Corners. 2006 (green); and Rooted in the Corner: The People of Cooney, Ohio. 2014. (The yellow book.)
By: Rebecca Miller
Her efforts to preserve local history began for Barb Fogel when the Cooney, Ohio school was being closed down. She has lived in Cooney ever since she and her husband, Mike, got married in 1976 and bought the old Cooney Telephone Office for their home. They have raised their two daughters there, watching them attend school in Cooney and then Edon.
Barb was born in Hillsdale, in 1954, to Eleanor and Cecil Clevenger.
They were Michigan people, with Ohio roots, as her mom was born in Kunkle, Ohio. Barb grew up in Camden, Michigan, just five miles north of Cooney. They lived in West Unity for about five years in the mid 60’s and she attended Hilltop (Millcreek/West Unity School District). Barb’s husband, Mike Fogel, is from Montpelier, Ohio.
They met at a baby shower that was held for both parents, in 1975, and got married in June 1976. They call themselves “border people” as they are 1 ½ miles south of Michigan and very close to Indiana as well. She and her youngest daughter are Wolverine fans and Mike, and their oldest daughter, are Ohio State fans. (She did clarify that she is an Ohio State Fan except when they play Michigan.)
The Cooney School originally, from 1939 when it was built as a WPA project, until the fall of 1969 covered grades 1-8 and then the Cooney students would move on to Edon Northwest Schools for their High School years. From 1969 till it was closed in 2004, it was used for all of the Edon Northwest district, including Cooney, children in either Kindergarten through Third grade or first through Fourth grade.
“All kindergarteners went to Edon, and the rest of the grades down there were 5-12. I don’t remember the year that all kindergarteners went to Cooney, and it became a K-3 building. When that happened, Edon became a 4-12 building. The Edon building sold to two brothers, I think, from Ft. Wayne. Nothing was ever done with it. Of course the main part of the Cooney building was razed in December of ’04.”
When the community found out the Cooney was going to be closed, Barb found herself saying that someone ought to write the history of the school or it would be lost. She ended up being the “someone” who did it. Her original plan was to write what she called a Research paper on how it got started.
She started talking to people about what they remembered about it, wrote it all down and realized she had more than a Research paper and needed to put it into book form. The book came out in 2002, before the school was closed and torn down, because she wanted people to read it before that happened.
“This was for the people,” Fogel says about her first book A Place Called Cooney, Ohio (the tan book). “Each of us is a book and we have to decide if we want to write it. Each town has a story and I just wanted to tell the story of Cooney.
That is what happened. For the second book, Life Around Rigelman’s Corners (the green book) that I published in 2006, I would drive there, get out of the car, and if it was abandoned I would just stand there and absorb the feeling of the place.
These small, unknown areas are important and I just can’t stop writing about them. During my mother’s last years, I would go to her bedside in Camden, Michigan, on a Sunday afternoon and ask her about Camden. She would tell me wonderful stories of life in Camden and I wrote it all down.” Someday, that might become a published book, too. “Locals, families, people, school…I got sentimental and kept going. That is how I ended up with three books,” Fogel said.
Rigelman’s Corners, the subject of her second book, is the corner of Highway 49 and County Road F, just before Michigan, still in Northwest Township, but about 2 ½ miles north of Cooney. The green book is “an excellent book for genealogists”. Two students in her class at Edon Schools were related by blood and did not know it until she told them.
In 2014, Fogel published her third book, Rooted in the Corner: The People of Cooney, Ohio (the yellow book). Each of her books have been printed and bound “like a large cookbook”, at The Printing Place in Angola, Indiana.
Fogel enjoys having them each a different color, making it easier to speak about them without having to say the whole title each time. The first book has had three printings, one quite recently, and she was shocked at how fast the 50 books were snatched up after the third printing. “I had asked participants on our FaceBook page called ‘Williams County, Ohio, Local History Exchange,’ how many of them would be interested in getting a copy.
At the deadline, about 25 had said yes, so I doubled that amount, hoping I wouldn’t have a bunch of them left over,” Fogel said. “They cleaned me out in one day! It has to be covid. People are reading more as they are spending more time in their homes, I guess. It is a mystery to me how the books went so fast! That book is 19 years old.”
The third book is an online book right now, and people are asking her to get that one printed also. She is thinking about getting a printing done of that in response to the request, but needs to find out how many people want a copy of it before she gets it done.
Anyone interested can email her at email@example.com or can let her know on the FB page. The third is stories and memories of the school, of people, activities, the fire department, auxiliary etc., but really about the Cooney school. One chapter in the book is specifically about “the competition that happened when the Cooney kids would move up to the Edon Schools,” Fogel said. “Until 1973 it went through 8th grade.
When they went to HS there were some real challenges for them. I researched that and found that Don Schaffter, a Cooney resident, kept track of all the top students of each graduating Class at Edon. Many of them had gone to Cooney. Schaffter’s wife Carol is featured in the third book as she is a genealogist.”
“I thought at Edon High School and so I have loyalty to both Cooney and Edon, but it always bothered Don S. as to how the Cooney kids were treated, and many of those top students originated from Cooney. I was told they had great teachers at Cooney and probably more one on one, so they excelled in High School.”
She was from Cooney and taught at Edon from 1976-1981, then subbed for a while and got hired back in 1988 and taught till 2013, when she retired. “I was already writing these books when I was teaching,” Fogel shared, “so I would get up to work on books at 3:30 a.m., do part of the chores and be at school at Edon at 8 a.m. and collapse at home around 8:30 p.m.”
By 2002, when she published her first book, her oldest, Victoria, had graduated and Roxanne, her youngest was a Junior. Both are moms now and they all live in different states (Ohio , Michigan and Indiana) within a half hour of each other.
At present, Fogel is writing a book on the small town of Columbia, Ohio. That in itself is a story. “There was a man in Columbia named Dave Miller,” Fogel reminisced, “ and he told me things about the area. One day he asked me to write about Columbia. I told him I didn’t know a thing about Columbia, but I would be happy to edit it if he wrote it.
Nothing happened…and then after he died about 5 years ago, it started to bother me that he went to his grave with out me writing about Columbia. Other people started saying I should write about it and when I said I don’t have Dave Miller to answer my questions anymore, everyone told me to talk to Jack Hancock.”
Fogel says she finally contacted Hancock, who owns the 1950’s style auto repair place in Columbia, in 2020 and he gave her pictures and information. “The part I just love is that the people touch me deeply. Dave would loan me things and Jack does that, too. Their level of trust is amazing to me.”
“These are treasures… Heirlooms that need to be kept for posterity! We have spoken about how all these items we have need to be donated to either the Historical Section of the Library or the Williams County Historical Society, before we die and our kids don’t know what to do with it all.”
A huge part of Barbs life is that she is also an Equine historian. They raised Morgan horses and she was a pedigree analyst for years. She wrote historical articles for The Morgan Horse magazine for years in the 70’s through the 90’s. They still have horses on their 20 acre farm.
Even as Barb Fogel researched Camden and is researching Columbia and other little places around the area, she says, “Cooney is where my heart is. Almost 20 years later and I am still writing from local research…it is amazing.” She has chosen to write about isolated places that others don’t know about.
As she attends church in York, Indiana, lives in Cooney, Ohio, and is ten miles from the closest town, which is Edon, it seems that she is the perfect person to be writing books to hold on to the history of isolated places.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org