Gentleman. Scholar. World traveler. Book lover. Philanthropist. Henry Ayer True was all of these — and a member of one of Marion’s pioneer families.
Henry A. True, who lived from 1879-1964, was the third Henry True in his family. He was a banker, having served as vice president and the largest shareholder of the Marion County Bank and director of the Home Federal Savings & Loan Association, and known for his bashful but pleasant personality. He quietly and generously supported dozens of causes, charities, churches, and civic enterprises to meet the needs of Marion County residents.
What motivated this confirmed bachelor to be so generous to the Marion community was likely his family history.
The Trues were one of Marion’s first families. Henry’s paternal grandfather was born in Maine, became a doctor, and moved to Marion in 1839 at the suggestion of an uncle who had settled in Marietta. At the time, Marion had a population of 570. Dr. True and college classmate James Reed saw the need for a bank and co-founded the Marion County Bank, Marion’s first and one of the four oldest banks in Ohio. And, he married Reed’s sister, Elizabeth, and built, in 1848, the True Home that yet today stands at the corner of Church and State streets.
Dr. True and Elizabeth had a son, also named Henry, but known as Harry. Harry was a pharmacist and married Flora Bowen, daughter of prominent Marion judge and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Ozias Bowen, who built another spectacular Marion home on the corner of South State and Washington streets, now known as the Stengel-True Museum and home to Marion Community Foundation. Henry A. True was their son.
Henry was educated at Princeton University, where he was valedictorian of his graduating class. With his degree in literature and avid love of reading, he amassed a collection of more than 13,000 books in his personal library. He was a speed reader and, at the time of his death, had one of the largest private libraries in Ohio.
One of Henry’s boyhood friends was Norman Thomas, who would go on to become a political activist and six-time presidential candidate on the Socialist Party ticket. Although of differing political mindsets, both men attended Princeton and were active in the Presbyterian church.
Henry’s parents were both active in the community and their church, the First Presbyterian Church. Dr. True served on the Session, as clerk, and helped to organize the choirs. Additionally, Flora taught Sunday School at the Lee Street Presbyterian Church as needed.
Henry was considered a great conversationalist who enjoyed social life. There was never a social event of any importance in Marion to which he was not invited, nor which he did not attend, recalled many who knew him.
Henry also loved travel, and did so all over the world. His favorite place was London, where he went several times. No matter where he visited, he sought out their libraries and would spend a great deal of time in them.
Henry was especially active with the Marion Public Library and served on its Board for many years. And, he was active with the YMCA, Masons, and the Elks.
In addition to creating and preserving his grandfather’s home as the Stengel-True Museum, Henry True will probably be most remembered for the trust that he provided for in his will. Known to give generously and anonymously, Henry will be remembered for his Trust, created in 1965, which continues benefit of local churches, charities, and civic organizations in Marion.