Inside the Swartsel house you will find two beautiful pianos and two stunning organs. These musical instruments each have their own unique history, with ties to Preble County in some way. Read about the Van Ausdal Piano below!
Cornelius Van Ausdal, pioneer merchant of Eaton, was born in Berkeley County, Virginia, in 1783. He arrived in early summer, 1806, when the town of Eaton was being laid out by William Bruce, and began selling his goods directly from his Conestoga wagon. He opened his first store at 204-206 East Main Street. As his business grew, he moved to the south side of Main Street on a lot now part of the court house grounds; and in 1822, he built a three-story brick building on the northwest corner of Main and Barron which he occupied until his death in 1870.
Cornelius was also very fond of music; and in 1828, during one of his trips to New York and Philadelphia for goods; he brought back a large variety of musical instruments - harps, flutes, accordions and violins. On the same trip, he purchased a very fine square piano for his eldest daughter, Lucinda. The piano was shipped by ocean steamer to Charleston, South Carolina, and then came overland by wagon to Cincinnati and home, being the first instrument of its kind ever brought to Eaton. There was must interest in it among the settlers, and it was reported that Mrs. Van Ausdal (Martha Bilba) complained that she was unable to get her housework done because of the number of people “dropping in” to see the curiosity.
Cornelius urged Lucinda to play for all who stopped by at the house. When Lucinda married Joseph Donohoe in 1836, she took the piano with her to her new home on the north side of Main Street in Eaton, between Barron and Cherry Streets and stored it in the attic. It remained there until her death in 1890.
Lucinda’s daughter, Julia Donohoe Lake, inherited the piano and displayed it as a museum piece at her home at 212 Wadsworth Street in Eaton. Julia’s daughter, Martha Lake Campbell (Mrs. Earl) resided at the home until 1964. At that time, the Campbell’s moved to Dayton to make their home with daughter Julia Mary Campbell Eichenlaub, taking the piano with them.
In December 1975, Mrs. Eichenlaub sold the piano to Allen and Ione (Sell) Hiestand who had it restored to playing condition and presented it to the Preble County Historical Society in November 1976.