any record exists of the early settlers of this township, and even after
availing ourselves of the labors of those who have preceded us in the
field of historical research, there is a paucity of material which is
deplorable. The early settlers who came out here to make for
themselves homes in the wilderness were too busy doing with their might
what their hands found to do - and there was plenty to be done - to
realize that a record of themselves and what they accomplished would be of
interest to those yet unborn; to them, sufficient unto the day was the
evil thereof. This township was bounded on the north by Berlin
Township; on the south by Franklin County; on the east by Genoa and on the
west by Liberty Township. Originally it was known as Township 3,
Range 18 of the United States Military Lands, and when the first settlers
came here, the found Sections 2 and 3 to be a part of Liberty Township and
Sections 1 and 4 were a part of Birkshire Township. On September 3,
1816, the county commissioners granted a petition to set off the original
survey of Township 3, Range 18, as a separate township. The prime
mover in this matter was Alpha Frisbey. The township was to
be called by the classic name of Virgil, but this was to much for the
simple-minded folk of those days, and a petition was presented to the
commissioners to change the name to Orange. This was granted on
September 9th, just six days later. A glance at the map will show
that what would naturally be the southwestern corner of the township, on
the west side of the Olentangy River, is really in Liberty Township.
As a matter of face, this was originally a part of Orange, and its
annexation to Liberty Township was brought about in the following manner:
Ebenezer Goodrich, who lived on this corner, was elected justice of
the peace by the people of Liberty Township, about 1824. It did not
occur to him, nor to anyone else, that he was not the citizen of Liberty,
and therefore, not eligible to the office. This fact finally was
brought to light, and it became apparent to all the official business
transacted up to that time was, consequently, void. How to remedy
this state of affairs was a perplexing problem, until it was suggested
that the General Assembly be petitioned to make this tract of land a part
of Liberty Township; so in 1826, the Olentangy River was made the boundary
of the township across that corner.
The ridge along which run the tracks of the "Big Four"
and Pennsylvania Railroads forms the water-shed between the Olentangy
River and Alum Creek. The river bottoms are rich, and the ridges,
which rise immediately back of these bottoms were originally covered with
beech trees, indicating a clayey formation. The same is to a large
extent true of the southern central part of the township. Extensive
elm swamps were originally found in the northern portions of the township,
but these have been redeemed by clearing and tilling, the rich black soil
producing fine crops.
In 1807, Joab Norton, for whom the town of
Norton, in Marlborough Township was named, was the first settler in Orange
Township, He built his cabin in Section 2, then a part of Liberty
Township. He was influenced in coming here by his wife, who wanted
to be near her father, John Goodrich, who purposed coming to
Worthington, Franklin County, where many of his former neighbors of
Berlin, Connecticut, had already settled. They reached Worthington
in November, having been on the road since September. Norton was a
tanner and currier by trade, and, not content to be idle, he sunk vats and
prepared to engage in the business, which the promises and prospects held
out to him before he left the East led him to believe was waiting only to
be claimed. Skins and hides were not to be had and so he started
north, and purchased the 150 acres of land where he settled in this
township. After he had provided a home for his family, Mr. Norton
sunk vats, so as to be prepared to do a little tanning during the
intervals in his work of clearing the land. He could not content
himself with the frontier life, and so, in 1808, he took a trip East on
horseback. Upon his return in the fall, he was attracted by the
prospects of business in the new town of Delaware, which Colonel Byxbe was
developing, and so he purchased a house on the hill-side just north of
where the Edward's gymnasium of Ohio Wesleyan University now stands.
The details of his experience in this venture are covered in the chapter
devoted to the manufacturing industries of the county.
Joab Norton and others made application as early
as 1809 for permission to form a rifle company. This was granted on
June 24th of that year, and Norton became third sergeant of the
company which was composed of about forty officers and privates, mostly
from Liberty township. Apparently, Norton had a taste and
talent for military affairs, and was popular with the members of the
company, as well, for his promotions were rapid. We find that on
September 12th of the same year he was commissioned sergeant major, and
tow years later, on September 6th, he became lieutenant. It was not
long before he was made captain of the company.
The company was called out in June 1812, by Gov.
Meigs, to defend the frontier settlements against any hostile
incursions. Capt. Norton afterward proceeded with his command
to Sandusky, where he was engaged in building a block-house, of which he
expected to be given command. He was here when Hull
surrendered in Detroit. For some reason the Captain was not placed
in command of the block-house, and he returned home with his company.
While at Sandusky, the germs of the malarial disease, which finally caused
his untimely disease, which finally caused his untimely death on July 17,
1813, were undoubtedly implanted in his system. He was a man of
large executive ability, a devout Christian, and of cheerful disposition.
He was buried with Masonic honors in the first cemetery laid out in the
City of Delaware. He had been commissioned a justice of the peace on
January 28, 1812. Besides a widow, he left four children-
Desdemona, who afterwards became Mrs. Colflesh; Edward;
Matilda, who married C. P. Elsbre, and Minerva,
who moved to Wisconsin.
In 1808 Eliphalet Ludington came from
Connecticut, and purchased land adjoining Norton's. Others
who came that year were William and Joseph Higgins, with
their families, and their mother, who brought the younger members of her
family, viz.: Josiah, Elisha, Irving, David and two
daughters. The older boys had enjoyed unusual educational advantages
for their day. Joseph had exceptional skill as a penman, and
he was so clever in imitating the hand-writing of other people, that he
was suspected of having signed the counterfeit bills which were issued for
the South. Apparently, there was no just ground for the suspicion,
and the family continued to retain the respect of the community.
Later, however, the family left the community under a cloud. Before
the family left Vermont, the father of the boys ran off to Canada with a
younger, if not a handsomer, woman than his wife. He came to Orange
about 1812, with the intention of "making up." However, he brought
his paramour with him as far as Berkshire, so that in case his overtures
were not favorably received, he would not be left alone. He knew his
wife's weak points, and sent a messenger with his pocket-book to his wife,
with the simple instruction, to "hand it to the old woman." The
result was a reconciliation which brought disaster to the family.
Changes in the habits and actions of the family soon aroused the suspicion
of the community, and finally, the father and the three younger sons,
Josiah, Elisha and Irving, were arrested for counterfeiting.
A large amount of counterfeit coin, some paper money, together with dies
and metal were captured. The boys escaped by means of some
technicality, and later, the old man, too, escaped much merited
punishment. The family left the township at once, and have never
since been heard of.
In 1810, the wife of Eliphalet Ludington died,
leaving an infant boy a few weeks' old. This was the first birth and
death in the settlement. Soon after Mr. Ludington took the
baby and returned to Connecticut. The families of Nahum King
and Louis Eaton came into the township that year. The next
year James McCumber with his third wife and two sons by his former
marriages came into the township. Collins P. Elsbre, who was
then a boy of eleven years of age, accompanied his mother and step-father.
Their fist actual residence was in the cabin which had been abandoned by
Mr. Ludington. They purchased 150 acres of land adjoining Norton
from James Kilbourn and immediately began to make a clearing.
A log cabin 12 by 18 feet was erected and occupied in the fall.
In 1825, young Elsbre married Matilda, the third child of
Captain Norton. Elsbre lived until February 16, 1880, when he
was gored to death by a bull. Other early settlers who came into the
township prior to the War of 1812, were the Arnolds, Stewarts and
Asa and John Gardner. With the exception of the
Gardners, these people remained in the township but a short time.
Soon after the war, Lee Hurlburt settled on the west bank of Alum
Creek. Hurlburt went to the War of 1812 as a substitute for
his father, who came into the township with him, bringing his family of
twenty-three children. The first settler on Alum Creek was probably
Samuel Ferson, who came from Pennsylvania and settled here about
1819. His brothers, James, Paul and John, his sister
Sallie, and Margaret Patterson, whom John afterwards
married, came with him. In 1824, David Patterson, Cyrus
Chambers, Thomas McCloud, and Nelson Skeels settled on
the west bank of the creek. The following year Samuel Patterson,
with his father and mother and two sisters, located on the east side of
At different times, there has been considerable
competition between the different villages in the township, each seeking
to become the leading village, in which would be centered the chief
interests of the township. These were
Williamsville, on the Columbus and Sandusky
Pike, being located at the four corners just west of the present
village of Orange; the latter place was the second aspirant for
distinction, and Lewis Center, which is today the recognized metropolis of
the township. Africa is a settlement that has
not been without influence upon the community. It was given this
name by Leo Hurlburt, who was strongly in favor of slavery, though he took
no action to oppose the operations of his neighbors, the Pattersons,
who were prominently active in the service of the "Underground Railway."
Much quiet assistance was given to fugitive slaves, but no pursuers ever
came to this part of the township. In 1854, about thirty negroes,
having been freed by the will of their deceased mistress, were sent from
North Carolina to the Patterson neighborhood to find homes.
Upon their arrival, the friends of the anti-slavery movement provided them
with homes. The negroes remained in this neighborhood, some of them
for many years, though the negro settlement has in the course of time
disappeared. One of the Elsbre family in the west part of the
township had an interesting experience in connection with a hunt for some
runaway slaves. About Christmas time in the year 1834, a negro boy
calling himself John Quincy Adams, came to his cabin, and remained
until the following summer. One day while he was working on the
pike, he was recognized by two negroes who had run away from the same
neighborhood he came from. Realizing that they would be pursued, and
fearing that he too would be recaptured, he fled that night and was never
heard from again. The pursuers were put on the trail of the boys by
a neighbor, Mark Coles, who had previously known their master, and
one bright September night, as Mr. Elsbre sat with his little
family enjoying a social chat with a neighbor, the door of his cabin was
rudely opened, and a burly six-footer strode in, carrying a club big
enough to use in killing an ox. Without saying a word, he proceeded
to examine the trundle-bed in which the younger children lay, and, with a
glance toward the bed where Mrs. Elsbre lay with a two-weeks-old
baby, he started up the ladder toward the loft. This was too much
for Mr. Elsbre's equanimity. He had repeatedly asked the
meaning of the demonstration, but got no answer, and, seizing his gun from
its place he ordered the intruder to come down, or he would 'put him on
the coon-board in a minute.' The rifle was unloaded, but the
trespasser saw the frightful hole in the end, and deciding that discretion
was the better part of valor, he came down. Still threatening with
his gun, Mr. Elsbre drove the ruffian out of the cabin and the
enclosure where his companions were waiting. Of course the negro
boys who were sleeping upstairs were awakened, and made their escape
through a back window. When Mr. Elsbre was satisfied that the
boys had gone, he satisfied the pursuers that the slaves they were seeking
were not there, and he was not disturbed again.
In 1835, Anson Williams brought 1,000 acres of land in Section No.
3. At first he settled in the southeastern part of the tract, but
the following year he moved to the site of Williamsville, and in December,
1836, he laid out what he expected would soon develop into a thriving
village. There were already two settlers here besides Mr.
Williams - William Dutcher, and Mr. William's
son-in-law, Isaac Bovee. Williams built a large frame
house to be used as a hotel, in one part of which he opened a place of
business, for the sale of general merchandise and liquor. That Mr.
Williams' plans were visionary is plain, from the fact that there was
already a good hotel farther north, where the stage changed horses, and
which continued to do the bulk of the tavern business. This was a
brick structure that had been erected in 1827 by George Gooding.
It is said that a Mr. Saulsbury, who lived nearby, and who was a
carpenter by trade, having an eye to business, to say the least, did
nothing to discourage Mr. Williams in his ambition. Mr.
Saulsbury served as justice of the peace, and established the first
manufactory in the township. He formed a partnership with Squire
Truman Case, and secured permission from the State Penitentiary
authorities, who had a monopoly of the business, to manufacture grain
cradles. They made a snath with an artificial bend, which at that
time was quite a novelty, and it is said their product was of a high grade.
Lewis Center dates its birth from the completion of the
railroad through that point in 1850. John Johnson, who built
his cabin here in 1823, was the first settler at this point. The
spot is marked by a well he sank. At that time the locality was a
swamp. The name was given to the place by William L. Lewis.
McCoy Sellers kept the first store, which stood near the railroad
track when it was put through. The building of the C., D. & M.
Railway placed the people of this township within easy reach of Delaware
or Columbus, but considerable business is still transacted here. The
leading business men of Lewis Center at the present day are: Bert
Slack, blacksmith; C. A. DeWitt and A. C. Barrows,
general store proprietors; John O. Gooding, grain and implements;
E. R. Case, hardware and groceries; Frank Slack, glove
manufacturer; P. W. Willey, physician.
Orange station probably would never have any any
existence, had not Mr. Lewis for a time objected to the location of
the railroad station, so that the company abandoned the site. Mr.
Lewis was afterward influenced by friends to withdraw his objection,
but in the meantime, the senior George Gooding had offered the
company the use of ten acres of land so long as they would keep a station
on the tract. The company accepted the proposition and kept a
station there as well as at Lewis Center, until 1879. For a time a
post office was maintained here.
The question of locating the Town-house caused a good
deal of discussion, there being many conflicting interests. Some
wanted to have it located at the center of the township; the citizens of
Lewis Center wanted it built in their village. Finally, it was built
of brick, in its present location at the center of the township, in the
year 1871, at a cost of $825.
The Orange township officials for 1908, as reported to
the county auditor, are: Andrew Bagley and J. S. Gooding,
justices of the peace; C. C. Ballenger, C. D. Lehman and
F. E. Smith, trustees; Frank B. Ferson, clerk; E. L. Grove,
treasurer; W. B. Crumb, assessor.
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