Friday, July 3, 2015

Scotus Gaul Picti

Historian August Reifel, in his 1915 history of Franklin County. explores a somewhat interesting society that was founded in Brookville in 1892.

"In the year 1892 there occurred in Brookville two incidents of great importance. One was the completion of the water works system and the other was the establishment of a society with the formidable name Scotus Gaul Picti."

The two events are not coincidental. The water works project was considered a significant event for the town, and what better way to show that pride than allow people to join a secret social promotion club.

Herman Trichler
A man named Herman Trischler led the way in building a platform for the structure of the club, establishing such offices as "lord of frith and forth," "earl of locks and heather," "warden of the Grampian marshes," and the all-important "monarch of the mystic mists."

Somebody also had to be the "keeper of portcullis."

Two events were to be held sacred: Independence Day (July 4) and the completion of the water works (April 10, 1892.) So, on July 4, 1892, a party was held. A big one. Thousands rode the railroad to Brookville. A parade, speeches, a picnic. "It was the biggest celebration Brookville ever had up to that time, and the new society was responsible in a large measure for its success."

After all, water is a very big deal.

The society was off to a raucous start and by 1894 had moved into new digs. Its agenda, however, doomed it to failure, primarily because being a member was nothing short of silly. Just being in favor of Brookville was enough.

Being a member of SGP was just something everybody did. They rarely met, had nothing of an agenda, and existed just to enjoy life.

Says Reifel: "Probably no organization ever had such a requirement for membership. The constitution says, 'Any male citizen of 18 years or over, of good character, who believes that Brookville is the greatest town on earth, shall be eligible for membership.' "

It cost 50 cents to join and 50 cents a year to remain in the society. The treasury was used "in a riotous, gustatory celebration annually."

Reifel's coup de grace:

"On the theory that the good die young, the Scotus Gaul Picti was formally interred on July 4, 1898, with all the honors due its honorable life. Its race had been run, its life had brought happiness to those who gave it birth, and now, like the old canal, it remains as a sweet memory in the minds of those who loved it."

The society is apparently unique.

If you are at the Brookville library, check out Virgil Davis's accounts of the society in his work, produced in 1958 as part of the town's sesquicentennial celebration.

A bit about Trichler: His parents came to this country from Germany in 1837 and settled in Blooming Grove, where Herman was born in 1846. He made his career early on as a merchant before moving into traveling sales out of Cincinnati. Apparently at some point, he bought up a rather large chunk of retail space on Main Street in Brookville. He also dabbled in local and state politics as an active member of the Democratic (Populist) Party.


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