The Beginnings Of The Community
In the early 1800′s, the little community that we know as Ayden, was known as Ottertown . Otter Dennis was a lot of things, but a gentleman he was not. He was known as a mean and ruthless man who loved nothing better than a good fight. Because of his frequent encounters with the law, Otter Dennis was forced to leave town to avoid being imprisoned.
In the 1870′s, as legend has it , our community got its name from its reputation. The community was known at that time as Aden, because every criminal misfit and cut-throat who had been banned from or run out of another area came and settled here. We were known as a den of corruption. At that time, the town was located about a mile and a half west of its present site, or about where Farmer’s Funeral Service is now located.
About 1888 or 1889, the railroad came through this area, and its location is the same today as it was then. A man by the name of William Henry Harris laid off streets along the railroad and the town moved from its old site to its present site. At the time our community was started along the railroad, Second Street was the main street. And about this time, the town changed its name to Harrisville, a name that lasted one year.
In 1890, when we were trying to get a post office and be chartered as a town, the name Harrisville was dropped and the old name of Aden was proposed by Alfred Harrington. Congressman Small, who was our representative in Washington at that time, suggested to Mr. Harrington that a “y” be placed after the “A” in Aden to help dignify the name. It was done and in 1891 we were chartered as the Town of Ayden. Ayden has made much progress through the years and bears the title of “A Hometown to Love”.
History of the Ayden Collard Festival
It all started in the spring of 1975, when Mrs. Lois Theuring wrote a letter to the editor of the Ayden-NewsLeader suggesting that Ayden have a festival. After considerable discussion, a committee was formed and a “festival” went into the planning stages. It was decided to let the citizens of Ayden vote on naming the festival. Six names were selected to choose from: Collard Festival; Cucumber Festival; Garden of Ayden-Almost Paradise; Harvest Festival; Progressive Ayden Day; and September Fun Festival.
Ballots were printed in the local newspaper and “Collard Festival” won by a large margin. Committees were formed and Saturday September 13, 1975, was chosen for Ayden’s first Collard Festival. On that day, Ayden was the scene of a large street dance; a parade witnessed by 6,000 people; amusement rides; and booths filled with many fun activities. “The Ayden Collard Festival”, which is now over 30 years old, is held the first week in September, starting Tuesday after Labor Day continuing through Saturday. The following events take place each year throughout the week with many new events added each year.
The Untold Story…
(This letter appeared in the 1991 Collard Brochure…)
I want to tell the story of the Collard Festival’s beginning as I remember it:
Lois Theuring had written an article pertaining to her likes and dislikes about Ayden. Each paragraph extolled the virtues of Ayden, but ended with the statement: “… but I hate collards!”
A few weeks later, I stopped by to visit you at your office and asked your opinion on creating some sort of celebration, or festival to draw people to our little town, because I was the President of the Chamber of Commerce, and wanted to promote Ayden in some way. You suggested that I write a “letter to the editor,” asking ideas from the Town’s people. As I was finishing my letter, you said, “Why not ask Mrs. Theuring to head up a Collard Festival?”
So I included that challenge to Lois in my letter, and she wrote back the following week, accepting my challenge, if I would be co-chairperson with her. And the rest is history!
Therefore, Mitchell Oakley, for the past 17 years, you have not received the credit you deserve – it was your idea, and I just wanted to finally set the story straight. You have done a lot for Ayden and Grifton, and I, for one appreciate it! (I would like to see the real story printed in the future issues of the Collard Festival brochures, giving you the proper recognition).
Thank you for your time and keep up the good work.
Willis E. Manning, Jr.