Meet Butler County’s ‘power couple’ of history

By Richard O Jones
For the Journal-News

Photo by Greg Lynch
Photo by Greg Lynch

Although they’ve only been in Butler County for a few years, you’d be hard-pressed to stump Ed and Kathy Creighton on a matter of local history.

Most people are also surprised to learn that they’ve only been married for five years — only a little bit longer than she’s been the Executive Director of the Butler County Historical Society.

Earlier this year, Ed took the job as the director of the Oxford Museum Association, but also serves on at least a dozen boards and committees, and is organizing next year’s National Docents Association Convention to be held in Cincinnati.

To many children in the area, Ed is known as “the cornbread man” as one of his favorite living history schticks is to make cornbread and cook it the pioneer way.

Kathy Firch grew up in the Chicago area, Ed in the suburbs of Cincinnati, and both have had a life-long love affair with history.

“I used to take my teachers on as early as the sixth grade and argue with them,” Kathy said.

She spent the majority of her adult life in Springfield, Ill., first as a scheduler for the Governor “Big Jim” Thompson, then went to the Department of Agriculture as the administrative assistant to the state veterinarian for 26 years.

“If you live in Springfield, you can’t not get involved with Abraham Lincoln,” she said, so she and her sister were both active as volunteers and docents for historical sites.

Ed said although he’s grown out of it, he was a shy, awkward kid and never played with other children, preferring instead to listen to the stories of the older folk.

“They taught a lot of things and I thought history was cool,” he said.

When he was 12 years old, his father took him to flea markets where he started collecting local postcards, and later go into restoring old cars.

Ed, professional, has been everything from a airline pilot and truck driver to interior designer and farmer, so history has always been a hobby until he got the job with the Oxford Museum Association.

But it was their love of Morgan horses that brought them together.

Kathy bought her first Morgan horse shortly after moving to Springfield in 1977. Ed got interested in Morgan horses when he saw a Walt Disney special about it.

“It was a neat horse and the first American breed,” he said, and as a teenager, saving up money mowing lawns at five bucks a yard at Homarama when it was near his house until he raised enough money to buy one, which he kept for 30 years.

“I was on the board of the International Morgan Horse Association in 2006 and she was on one of my committees,” he said.

At the opening night of the 2007 convention, as Kathy recalls, a match-making mutual acquaintance told her that Ed Creighton was interested in meeting her.

“But he came in and said ‘I’m Ed Creighton’ and bolted out of the room,” she said.

“Well, I figured if I didn’t talk to her she couldn’t say no,” he said.

“So he ignores me the entire convention until the last day, he finally gets up the courage to talk to me,” she said. “We started talking at 11 o’clock at night in the hotel lobby.”

Ninety minutes later, he proposed to her for the first time.

“I thought he was nuts,” she said, “but I went back and told my sister that I was glad there was 300 miles between us because I could really fall for that guy.”

So they maintained a long-distance relationship for as long as they could stand it, but a year later after a telephone romance (“He’d do all the talking,” she said), got married and had moved her 18 horses into their house on Reily-Milville Road.

“We thought we would just stay at his house and come out to feed the horses twice a day,” she said, “because we couldn’t keep them all in his back yard in North College Hill.”

Their 1852 Victorian farmhouse is on the Ohio Historic Register, with two barns that are even older, stocked with period-appropriate furniture.

“The house picked us,” Kathy said, and they both joined the Butler County Historical Society almost immediately.

“I didn’t know much about all of Butler County, but I had family in the Stockton area, so I knew all about that,” Ed said.

When they married, Kathy got a job with the Cincinnati Museum Center, but was laid off during a reorganization.

Shortly afterward, she learned about the job at the Butler County Historical Society and knew on the spot she had the job, even though they didn’t offer it to her right away.

“It was just one of those things,” she said, and she started in Nov. 1, 2010. “It was almost like a dream come true to do something like this.”