I often run across new and interesting bits of local history in the old newspapers while researching other topics, but I can’t recall an item ever making my jaw drop like the one I encountered a few weeks ago.

If I ever do a revised edition of “A Brief History of Noblesville,” I’ll have to add a section to the chapter on famous visitors to include Susan B. Anthony.

Yes, THE Susan B. Anthony, perhaps the most famous women’s rights activist in this country’s history, was in Noblesville 140 years ago this week, on February 7, 1879.

I’m simply astounded that I’ve never heard, or read, any hint of this before. It’s not like Anthony was an unknown then. She’d made headlines around the country when she voted illegally in 1872 and was put on trial the following year. (Remember, women didn’t get the vote until 1920.)

Anthony’s appearance here came courtesy of the Young Men’s Library Association, a group that had been organized a couple of months earlier in an effort to bring a little culture to this area.

Not content with merely providing rooms in the Bachmann building for reading, chess and other intellectual pursuits, the Y. M. L. A. also decided to sponsor a lecture series that winter. (For people around my age, the Bachmann building was on the east side of the square where Murphy’s dime store was located.)

The group’s first featured speaker was James Whitcomb Riley, who was just beginning his career as a poet on the lecture circuit. Anthony came next, followed by Theodore Tilton in March and Alfred J. Knight in April.

(I wasn’t familiar with Knight or Tilton and had to look them up. Knight performed Shakespearian readings in historical costume. Tilton, an author, poet and newspaper editor, was probably as well known for his national lecture tours as he was for suing prominent clergyman and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher for seducing his wife.)

But, getting back to Susan B...

The February 7, 1879 Noblesville Ledger announced that Anthony would be speaking on the “Homes of Young Women.” I’m not sure they had their facts straight, though.

For one thing, the correct title of that particular lecture is “Homes of Single Women.” For another, when the Ledger reviewed the event later, they noted that Anthony had made a strong case for ”the claims of women to ballot suffrage.”

That leads me to wonder if the presentation wasn’t actually Anthony’s usual speech of that time period, “Woman Wants Bread, Not the Ballot.” In it, she argued that getting the vote was merely a means for women to achieve economic independence, not an end in itself.

Neither the Ledger nor the Noblesville Independent mentioned where this program took place, but it was probably City Hall, since that’s where Riley, Tilton and Knight appeared. At that time, City Hall was on the third floor of the building on the southeast corner of Logan and Catherine (Ninth) Streets. (Smith’s Jewelers is in that building today.)

Both newspapers gave Anthony a fairly good review, although the Ledger thought she used too many “hackneyed phrases.”

The Ledger was actually more critical of the Y. M. L. A. While Anthony had attracted a decent turnout, the newspaper observed that even more people would have attended the event if the organizers had done a better job of advertising.

They may have had a point. The Y. M. L. A. failed to make a profit on their lecture series and as a result, decided not to try a second season.

The following April they closed their library and apparently disbanded.

Notable Nineties Update: Deb Carrell has added her father, Jim “Tex” Ritter of Fishers to the list. Congratulations, Tex!

- Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com