Source: County of Williams, Ohio.
Historical & Biographical
By Weston A. Goodspeed.
The territory comprising the present Centre Township
was at first included within the limits of Delaware Township, which had
been created by the County Commissioners June 7, 1824, and which
embraced all the land bounded on the north by the Harris State line,
east by the line separating Ranges 3 and 4 east , south by the line
separating Townships 3 and 4 north, and west by the Indiana line, or the
First Principal Meridian. Centre was known as Township 6 north,
Range 2 east, and remained a part of Delaware until Dec. 3, 1833, at
which time it was set off and made a part of St. Joseph Township.
The latter was bounded north by the Harris line, east by the line
dividing Ranges 2 and 3 east, south by the line dividing Townships 4 and
5 north, and west by the Indiana line. On the 7th of March 1836,
the Commissioners ordered "that the original surveyed Townships 6, 7,
and 8 north, in Range 2 east, be erected and incorporated into a
township to be called Centre; and further, that the inhabitants of said
Centre Township meet on the first Monday of April next, at the house of
Jacob Dillman, and proceed to elect, according to law, the
necessary officers to organize said township, and that the Auditor
advertise the same according to law." No other change was made
with Centre until March, 1839, when Township 7 north, Range 2 east, and
fractional Township 8 north, Range 2 east, were set off and created as
Superior Township, thus leaving Centre as it is at present. The
names of the first officers who were elected at the residence of
Jacob Dillman in April, 1836, are no longer remembered.
THE EARLY SETTLERS.
During the summer or autumn of
1833, Mrs. Mary Leonard, a widowed lady, came with her
family to Centre Township. She was accompanied by James
Overleas, Sebastian Frame and John Heckman, all three of whom
were her sons-in-law. The four families located in the
south-eastern part of the township, and began to prepare homes from the
heavy woods. Mrs. Leonard had a large family of nearly
grown-up children, and with the assistance of her sons and sons-in-law,
encountered no serious drawbacks in the creation of a comfortable home.
These families came from Montgomery County, Ohio, when three or four
wagons, each drawn by two yoke of oxen, and loaded with such households
goods as would be needful in the new home. Members of the family
had come to the township some time before to select and enter suitable
tracts of land, upon which they designed to locate; this was very
probably done during the spring of 1833, and ere, so far as known, the
first tracts entered in the township, though not the only ones entered
during the same year. Sebastian Frame was a man of
considerable ability, and had been ordained an Elder in the Dunkard
Church. Unquestionably, the first religious exercises in the
township were conducted by him, either at his own cabin, or at the cabin
of the mother-in-law, Mrs. Leonard. The members of the four
families often met during the severe winter of 1833-34, to worship, and
to talk over the means of meeting successfully the difficult problems of
pioneer life. Upon their arrival in the township, the families had
at first lied in their wagons, under the shelter of rude temporary
abodes built of poles, brush and blankets, while the men went to work to
construct rough cabins of round logs. Pleasant was the task of
removing to these cabins, humble though they were. These were
probably the only persons residing in Centre during the year 1833.
In January, 1834, Joel Kinsey came from Montgomery County, Ohio,
entered the northwest quarter of Section 35, erected on the same a small
log cabin, and began the destruction of the timber on his land.
Two or three months later, George Skinner appeared, and
entered the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 34.
He likewise built a log house, and made some improvements; but in
October of the same year, sold his land to Jacob Dillman,
and removed from the township, going no one knew whither. Mr.
Dillman, a man who afterward during his life was very prominent in
township affairs, had come from Stark County, Ohio, during the spring of
1834, and had selected a tract of land in the eastern part of the
township, upon which were favorable facilities for a fine waterpower.
He returned to Stark County, but the sudden death there of a man whom he
expected would operate his prospective mill altered his plans somewhat,
and when he again came to Centre Township he purchased the Skinner
farm. A few acres had been under brushed by Mr.
Skinner, who had sown thereon what he thought was clover seed, but
which soon proved to be Canada Thistle seed. The ground was soon
covered with these pests, which have not been wholly eradicated even to
On the 1st of January, 1837, there were living in the township the
following persons, or their families: Zebulon Britton, S. L. Boughton,
Samuel Crocker, Jacob Dillman, Lewis Fritch, Jacob Fetters, Daniel
Filson, Sebastian Frame, William Hill, Samuel Hill, Joel Kinsey, Abner
Lovejoy, Mary Leonard, Martin Lloyd, Frederick Miser, James Overleas,
Banister Pool, Almon Stinson, Horace Stinson, Seth Stinson, Jacob
Spangler, Isaac Sufficool, John Heckman, Prescott Sawyer, Daniel Weaver,
Abraham Weaver, Phillip Yockey, Mr. Brant, and perhaps a few others.
In 1837, 1,080 acres, valued at $2,700, were taxed.
The total tax that year for State, canal, county, school and road
purposes was $47.25. A considerable portion of this tax was paid
by the proprietors of the village of Centre and Freedom, which had been
laid out the year before. By the 1st of January, 1839, there had
come in Alfred Church, M. G. Frock, Lorenzo Garton, John B. Kimmell,
Joseph McKean, Isaac Neihart, Jacob Neihart, Thomas Punches, Amasa
Shafer, Peter Yockey and others. A year later, there were in -
Jacob Swartzcope, Jacob Bowman, John D. Martin, Robert Baird, John
Dinsmore, Stephen Hungerford, John McDowell, William Prouty, Robert
Smith, William Sheridan, Sr., Frederick Webber and others.
In 1839, there were in the township 13 horses and 102
cattle; i 1840, there were 34 horses and 130 cattle; i 1842, there were
59 horses and 177 cattle; in 1843, 72 horses and 228 cattle, and in 1844
80 horses and 252 cattle.
Perhaps the most successful hunter ever in the township was Frederick
Miser, who came from Coshocton County, Ohio, to the township in the
spring of 1834. He was a very large man - possessing enormous
strength - and was a dead shot with the rifle. He loved to hunt,
and would often be gone several days at a time, taking with him in his
provision bag a plentiful supply of bread and meat. He would
always return loaded down with skins and game. It is said that he
was so strong that he could carry in two or three deer on his back.
He went dressed in a complete suit of buckskin, as did also his boys.
He was one of the few early settlers in the township who succeeded in
killing bears. The night was so dark that Mr. Miser knew it
was useless to sally forth. The swine squealed terribly for some
time, and then all became silent. At daybreak, Mr. Miser
and his sons went out where the squealing had occurred; and, after
looking around a short time, found the half-eaten carcass of a hog
covered with leaves. Mr. Miser knew enough of the habits of
the bear to be aware that the animal would very likely return the
following night to gorge itself again with fresh pork; so he resolved to
be present on that occasion to act as a reception committee of one.
Accordingly, about two hours before dark, he went to where the carcass
lay, dressed in an appropriate fashion for the reception of so
distinguished a guest. He concealed himself behind the roots of a
large tree, and patiently waited for the development of events. A
little while before dark, he heard a rustling of leaves, and, peering
out, saw, a moment later, a large black bear stepping leisurely along,
and approaching the "supper table." At a favorable moment, the
hunter took careful aim and fired, table." At a favorable moment,
the hunter took careful aim and fired, and the animal fell shot through
the heart. A few feeble spasmodic movements - a few feeble kicks -
and all was over. The dead animal was carried to the house, on a
handspike, by the boys. The next morning, the family ate bear
steak for breakfast. The near neighbors were presented with
portions and fared likewise. Bear meat is said to be excellent.
It tastes much like veal, and can be fried in its own fat like pork.
A MOTHER BEAR AND THREE CUBS.
One morning Mr. Miser started out for a long hunt down in the
present townships of Defiance County. While moving through the
woods in Milford Township near the residence of Mr. Mann keeping
a careful lookout for game, his attention was attracted to a large
opening in the gigantic tree, many feet from the ground. Closer
examination revealed the fact that the trunk of the tree and the opening
in the same were scratched by the claws of some large animal. The
hunter resolved to wait awhile and see what transpired; so, without
noise, he seated himself at the foot of the tree. The minutes
passed away, and at last a great noise was heard high up in the hollow
tree, a scratching and clawing, interspersed with numerous whines and
snarls, which, after a few minutes, ceased, and all became stll again.
Mr. Miser immediately started for the cabin of Mr. Mann
who, with ax in hand, came back with him. The tree, though large,
was hollow, and was soon cut down. Mr. Miser, stood near
with his rifle ready, and when the tree fell with a great crash, out
through the opening came a large bear, with open mouth and eyes of fire.
The animal was instantly shot dead. The tree was examined, and
three cubs about as large as cats were found. They fought and
scratched when taken out, but were too small to do much damage.
Mr. Mann took one of them and Mr. Miser the other two.
The latter were taken home, and became great pets in the family of
Mr. Miser. They grew rapidly, and soon became large and a nuisance
generally. They were up to all sorts of capers, and could eat as
much corn as swine. The family kept maple sugar and wild honey in
the cabin loft. The bears were very fond of anything sweet, and
could small it if it was anywhere about the house. They soon
became aware of what the loft contained, but were unable to reach it
until one day, after they had become quite large, when they climbed upon
the cabin roof, knocked off the weight poles, scattered the clapboard
shingles and descended into the loft, where they helped themselves to
the store of sweets. Sometimes they would snap and bite the
children, but this was done only in sport. They loved to souse
themselves in a tub of water, and were a pest to the women on washing
day. At last they became so troublesome they that were killed.
A BEAR TRAP.
made by fastening across some path a small log, into which many sharp
pins were driven. Above this, much larger and heavier log was
partly suspended in such a manner that when the animal steped over the
lower log, the trigger was struck and the heavy upper log came down,
pinning the animal fast. Mr. Miser often set these traps.
One stormy night a large bear attacked a hog belonging to Mr. Miser
and weighing nearly two hundred pounds, and threw it over an eight rail
fence that constituted the pen. The unfortunate Sus scrofa
was dragged off in the woods despite its squeals, where it was killed
and partly consumed. A trap like the one above described was set,
but the only thing caught and killed was a valuable dog belonging to the
family. The bear was not seen, but must have been a very large
one. On still another occasion, while Mr. Miser was hunting
in the western part of the township, and while he was trying to force
his way through a tangled and almost impenetrable swamp, he saw off at
some distance to one side a suspicious looking heap of leaves and dried
grass. While standing observing it, he suddenly saw the head of a
large bear emerge from the covering, and a pair of small bright eyes
peer about, though the animal still remained lying in its next.
Mr. Miser cautiously raised his rifle without being seen, took
deliberate aim at the exposed head and fired. The sharp report was
followed by a sudden and tremendous scattering of the leaves and grass
of the nest, accompanied by a torrent of growls and snarls, though in a
minute or two the death struggles of the animal ceased. Upon going
forward, Mr. Miser found two young cubs sprawling among the grass
and leaves. He took them home, where they were kept some time, but
were afterward killed. One night Mr. Miser heard the
screams of a panther in a swamp west of his house, but, although he went
out the next morning, nothing of it could be discovered.
and James Overleas were one day hunting in the woods north of
Miser's cabin. They were walking along some distance apart,
when Overleas discovered a fresh deer track. He followed it
a short distance, and soon saw the deer quietly feeding. He
cautiously approached and shot the animal, which fell upon the ground,
and the hunter approached and shot the animal, which fell upon the
ground, and the hunter went forward to cut its throat. As he
stopped over it with knife in hand, the animal, having been merely
stunned by the shot, suddenly leaped to its feet, and with bristles
erect along its spine, and antlers lowered, charged furiously upon him,
knocking him down and pinning him to the earth like a vise. He
seized the angry animal by the antlers, and endeavored with all his
strength to free himself, but without success. The deer gored him
with its sharp-pronged antlers, and struck him with its cutting hoofs,
until he was covered with wounds and bruises, and his clothing was torn
into ribbons. At the first of the attack he had began calling
loudly to his companion for assistance; but, although the latter heard
the cries, he was unable to reach the spot until Overleas had
been severely punished for his carelessness. Leonard came
panting up to the scene, and immediately ended the struggle by shooting
the enraged animal dead. Had it not been for his timely arrival,
Overleas would have had probably been killed. He went home
a wiser man.
Daniel Fetters one day killed a doe and
two fawns within the space of a few minutes. While out with his
gun, he discovered them feeding, whereupon he shot and killed the
mother, and the fawns ran away at the top of their speed, but soon
returned and approached their parent. Mr. Fetters knew they
would return, and had concealed himself near the doe. From behind
a tree he shot one of the fawns, and the other ran away; but, when it
returned, a few minutes later, it was likewise killed. John
and Jacob Fetters, one autumn, tried to see which could kill the
greater number of deer during the time which each could spare from his
work. John killed forty-six, and Jacob
forty-nine. The skins were taken and sold, as were also the
better portions of the flesh. Many of the hams were smoked or
salted down like pork. One day a bear was started in the
northeastern part of the township by some one not remembered, and was
followed to a swamp in the southwestern part, many joining in the chase.
Jacob Neihart and Michael Frock joined the pursuit with
their dogs. The bear was at last treed in the swamp, and was shot
at by Philip Neihart, who gave it only a flesh wound; whereupon
another settler tried his hand, and the animal came to the ground dead.
Mr. Miser could dress deer skins as well as an Indian, and after
the same fashion. The suits of buckskin which he and his sons wore
were warm and comfortable while they were dry; but after they had become
wet and had dried, they were like boards, and about as easily put on as
a suit of basswood. On such occasions the process of the morning
dressing was amusing and ridiculous.
One day in early years, several of the settlers had occasion to go to La
Fayette. As they were going along, one of them discovered a "bee
tree," which was immediately cut down. The men ate what they
wanted of the choice honey, and when they were satisfied, they hold
Mr. Overleas that he might have the remainder. The settlers in
early days were in the habit, when they left home, of taking with them a
"wallet" (usually made of cloth) well filled with substantial food.
These "wallets" were bags about three feet long, closed at both ends,
but open at the middle, and were carried over the shoulder or around the
neck, food being placed in both ends. Mr. Overleas had his
wallet on the occasion above mentioned, and when he was told that the
remainder of the honey was his, being a peculiar man, he resolved to put
it all, to the amounts of about three gallons, in his cloth wallet and
carry it with him. The honey was accordingly placed in the wallet,
and the men proceeded on their way. Some of the men had been wiser
than Mr. Overleas, and had foreseen the consequences, but they
said nothing. At last, as the honey became warm on the back of
Mr. Overleas, it began to strain through the wallet, and before he
was aware of the fact his back was covered with the sweet substance.
The other men had been laughing some time at his expense, and when he
discovered this, he resolved, as you have done a great many times, dear
reader, to stick to his honey as long as it stuck to him, in spite of
them. It was a warm day, and he began to sweat, which greatly
aggravated the disaster. The other men enjoyed the occasion
hugely. The honey was soon dripping from the mortified man's
shoulders, but he would not give up, as he naturally dreaded the
outburst of merriment and the ominous ridicule that was sure to result
from his relinquishment of the honey. He kept the sweet substance,
but was tortured all the way by the suppressed laughter of his
companions. At length, when he reached home, about a gallon had
escaped, the most of which covered his entire back. He was a sweet
picture, truly, and his clothing was immediately put in the wash-tub.
It was reasonable to conclude that Mr. Overleas did not eat honey
for his supper on the evening of his return. The crab-apple sauce, the
vinegar, the pickles, which his wife had prepared, suffered, no doubt, a
THE LOST CHILD.
day, in early times, a small boy, about four years old, belonging to a
family which lived in the southwestern part of the township, became
lost. The mother had gone to one of the neighbors, and the child
had attempted to follow her. The loss was not discovered until the
mother returned, about dark. The loss was not discovered until the
mother returned, about dark. Search was immediately instituted,
the neighborhood was aroused and soon the woods were filled with anxious
searchers. Torches were carried, and the search continued all
night; but the morning dawned, and the first day passed without success.
The mother was almost distracted with grief and nervous anxiety.
People came by the score to assist in the search - some as far distant
as five or six miles; but, although more than a hundred active searchers
were present, no concerted and organized effort was made, strange to
say, until the third day. On this day, a long line was formed, the
men and women being stationed about sixty feet apart, and the word was
given by the Captain to march. It was not long before the little
boy was found. He was dead, but his body yet contained warmth,
showing that death had occurred only a short time before. The spot
where the little fellow had slept each night was found. When night
overtook him, he had, as was his habit, taken off his clothing, thinking
that he must do so in order to go to sleep. It was October and the
nights were quite cold, and the little wanderer could not survive the
chilling weather. When he arose the first morning, he was unable
to put on his clothes properly, and thus wandered about half-clad.
Had the search been organized, as it should have been, on the second
day, the little boy would have been found alive. It was the
easiest thing in the world even for grown people to get lost in early
days. The sensations on such occasions are described as
terrifying. The mind and senses become wild with bewilderment, see
familiar objects under new and strange aspects, and refuse to recognize
trees and paths known for years. Old settlers, lost, have been
known to pass within a few yards of their own doors without recognizing
a single familiar object.
LOCATION OF THE SETTLERS.
Samuel & Abner Aiken
B. L. Mead
Almon & Horace Stinson
C. L. Noble
James B. Wells
William & Samuel Hill
Prescot Sawyer, eastern pt.
Daniel & Abraham Weaver, northern pt.
Philip Yockey, eastern pt.
J. S. Marshall
T. L. Punches
Joel Kinsey, eastern pt.
Martin Lloyd, southern pt.
J. B. Kimmell
W. P. Green
In about the year 1845, Fred Miser, Jr., built a saw-mill in the
eastern part, on the western branch of Lick Creek. A dam was
construction, and a race dug, and, for some five or six years, during
the rainy months, a considerable quantity of lumber was sawed. It
is said that 500 logs were transformed into lumber by this mill, during
one spring, while the mill was in operation. The mill was
abandoned because it did not pay sufficiently well to warrant its
continuance. Several years before this mill was built, Jacob
Bowman had constructed a strong dam on Lick Creek, near where the
stream is crossed by the Centre and Bryan road, and had, with the help
of eight or ten hired men, excavated a long race across the large bend
in the stream, on Sections 24 and 25. Near the terminus of the
race he erected a two-storied frame grist-mill, and placed therein two
sets of buhrs, one for wheat and the other for corn. About the
same time, he built a saw-mill on the same race. These mills were
conducted quite successfully for many years, and became well known and
well patronized. The grist-mill furnished excellent flour; and the
saw-mill furnished lumber that may yet be seen in many a building in the
surrounding neighborhood. In 1836, Mr. Bowman, opened a
general store in Centre Village, his stock being valued at about $500.
About the same time, John D. Martin also opened a store at the
same place. The Assessor of 1837 valued his stock at $700.
These stores and mills were very handy to the settlers, as they saved
long journeys, through bottomless roads, to distant places. The
stores furnished all sorts of useful articles needed in the backwoods,
and almost any kind of produce was taken as payment. Deer skins
were for many years almost legal tender for the payment of obligations.
Money was very scarce, and other mediums of exchange were sought and
found. So many yards of calico were worth so many pounds of butter; so
many pounds of sugar or coffee were worth so many deer skins or hams, or
dozens of eggs; and such a pair of boots was worth such a hog, or such
furs. Estimates of value were thus made from the self-regulated
law of supply and demand, with the various articles in the possession of
the settlers. Stores were not opened in villages alone; they were
kept in farmers' houses. Prescott Sawyer, one of the first
blacksmiths in the township, placed in his cabin dry goods, groceries,
hardware, queensware, etc., valued at about $500. He also built an
ashery, and for several years manufactured the estimated quantity of ten
or twelve tons of black-salts and pearl-ash, annually. He
exchanged goods from his store for ashes, and probably opened the store
as an adjunct to the ashery. Here the early settlers could get
goods without money; all they had to do was to save the ashes which
resulted from their log-heap fires, and haul the same to the ashery.
Henry Ruse purchased the Bowman grist-mill after a number
of years, and placed in the same a steam engine. A few years
later, the mill was destroyed by fire, but was soon rebuilt, but after a
number of years was again burned, and was then abandoned. It was
customary in early times, in almost every family, to have whisky, at all
times, on the mantlepiece; members of the family, old and young, could
take a drink whenever they pleased. This universal custom of
consuming liquor led to the construction of many distilleries in the
wilderness. It quite an early day, Jacob Householder
constructed a small one in the eastern part of the township, on the old
Neidhardt farm. The small quantity of whisky made
was consumed as fast as it came from the still. The distillery was
conducted about three years, and was then abandoned. Lewis
Fritch was a carpenter and cabinet-maker; he made many coffins,
tables, stands, etc., for the early settlers. Jacob Fritz
made spinning wheels, large and small, also reeds, shuttles, looms, etc.
He tried his mechanical ingenuity i the construction of a musical
instrument known as an "organ;" but, after the lapse of several mentally
laborious months, abandoned the project, as he had reached the terminus
of his inventive skill. Philip Neihart manufactured chairs,
in an early day. Specimens of his workmanship may yet be seen in
the township. Sebastian Frame, immediately after his
arrival in the township, erected a small building on his farm, i which
he placed a small set of "niggerhead" buhrs to be used in "cracking
corn." It was located on a branch of Lick Creek, and was operated
by water power, and, later, by horse or ox power. It was the first
"grist-mill" in the township. William Sheridan, Sr., an
excellent man, and one of the first blacksmiths in the county, built a
shop on his farm in the eastern part of the township, where, for many
years, all manner of work in his line was done. A man named
Clendennen worked at the same trade. In about the year 1846,
Daniel Wirtz erected a building in the eastern part, in which he
placed the necessary machinery for carding wool and dressing cloth.
The motor for operating the mill was water from the stream on which the
building was situated. A considerable quantity of wool was taken
to his mill, where it was carded, after which it was taken home, spun,
woven into cloth, and returned to the mill to be fulled or dressed.
The mill had all it could do during the wet months - the only times it
could operate. It did a paying business for about ten years, and
was then discontinued. It is said that David Leonard
afterward transformed it into a saw-mill. These were the principal
early industrial pursuits in teh township, outside of the villages.
month of February, 1836, Montgomery Evans, Nathan Shirley and
Thomas Warren, proprietors, employed a surveyor and laid out the
above-named town on the southeast quarter of Section 35. The
proprietors were speculators, whose object was to lay out a town that
should ultimately become the county seat of Williams County. At
that time Defiance and Williams Counties were one, under the latter
name; and, as the geographical center of the county was not far from
southeastern Centre Township, the proprietors felt sure of securing the
location of the county seat at their village; for the subject of
removing the county seat from Defiance to some spot more centrally
located, was then being seriously discussed. The above designated
gentlemen, with pretty accurate foresight, laid out Freedom accordingly;
but two important obstacles, which, in the nature of things, could not
be foretold, lay in the way of the fruition of their hopes. One
was the foundation of Centre (village), and the other was the division
of the county into two. The latter circumstance was sure the
defeat the hopes of Freedom, and the former was very likely to do the
same, as it was located only the justly celebrated Bellefontaine road.
The result was that Freedom did not grow a particle, and at length, in
about 1842, the village was abandoned.
This village, like Freedom, was designed for the county seat, and would
have been but for the division of the county. It was laid out on
the 23d of January, 1836, by John Evans, proprietor, and
Miller Arrowsmith, Deputy Surveyor of Williams County. Four
hundred and eighteen lots were laid out on the southwest quarter of
Section 35, four lots being reserved for a park, a school-yard and a
cemetery. Within a short time after the village had been founded,
it became plainly apparent that Williams County was soon to be divided.
This was a death blow to the anticipated growth and prosperity of
Centre. In 1836, there were two or three families on Centre.
Prescott Sawyer, a blacksmith, was there. J. B. Kimmell was
also there with his store, as was John D. Martin, soon afterward.
A. M. Bateman also lived in the village. Kimmell was
the first Postmaster, and was appointed some time during the year 1838.
It was during the spring of this year that Congress established the mail
route from Defiance vial Brunnersburg, Williams Centre, St. Joseph and
Denmark, in Ohio, and Perseverance, Steubenville, Little Prairie and
Pretty Prairie to Lima, in Indiana. It is said that Judge
Israel Stoddard, who at that time lived at Denmark, St. Joseph
Township, was the first mail carrier. He traversed the route on
horseback. Colin Tharp, who lived at Centre, but just
across the line in Defiance County, opened his doors and entertained the
traveling public. Mr. Kimmell also kept a house of
entertainment. He kept liquor for those who wanted it, and their
names were legion. His house became quite a resort for those who
looked upon the wine when it was red. At that early day the
subject of total abstinence began to be discussed. Jacob
Dillman came out strongly in opposition to the liquor traffic.
He and Mr. Kimmell were opposing candidates in 1839 or 1840 for
the position of Justice of the Peace. Mr. Kimmell was the
successful candidate, and it is stated that his election was largely due
to the support of the intemperate element. Mr. Dillman kept
a small store. Lorenzo Crocker located in Centre in about
1840, and Samuel R. Clendennen, a blacksmith, appeared in about
1842. John Manon, a tailor, came in 1841, and for some time
worked at his trade, but afterward clerked many years in the store of
Giles H. Tomlinson. The land upon which Centre stands was
entered by James Overleas, who erected the first building of any
kind upon the present town site. This was a rude log cabin, built
in the fall of 1833. The cabin of Mr. Kimmell was
probably the second; it was erected in 1836. Crocker was a
shoemaker, and worked at his trade. John Evans, the
proprietor of the village, was a physician, who lived at Defiance.
He had considerable means at his command. Oliver Sawyer was
a resident of Centre about the year 1838. Giles H. Tomlinson
first appeared in Centre in 1838, but he did not locate there until
about 1848. Mr. Manon succeeded Kimmell as Uncle
Sam's postal agent. He took the office about 1844, and held
the same for nine or ten years, at which time Dr. Dunshee stepped
in and remained until J. P. Dodge was appointed, during
Buchanan's administration. After a few years, Daniel
Lovejoy took possession of the office. He was succeeded by his
son, who is yet Postmaster. In about 1844, the most of the village
lots of Centre, after having passed through several hands, were
purchased by Brown & Phelps, who paid the tax on them a few
years; but when the neighborhood was taxed heavily for school purposes
at the time the schoolhouse was built, their share of the burden was
greater, than they cared to hear, and they neglected the payment of
their tax. Finally the lots were sold by the Sheriff and purchased
by G. H. Tomlinson, for $400, or at $2 each, their being two
hundred of them. In January, 1848, Mr. Tomlinson opened a
store in Centre with about $1,500 worth of a general stock of goods,
which he brought from Bryan, where he had previously been in business.
He continued in the mercantile business until 1862, having in store at
certain seasons goods valued at about $6,000. He packed large
quantities of beef and considerable pork, and conducted an ashery from
1848 to 1864. Often the value of his shipments East considerably
exceeded the value of his goods shipped West. He employed six or
eight hands in the fall and winter to pack meat. Sometimes for
months the ashery was conducted day and night, two sets of hands being
employed. An average of about thirty tons of black salts and
pearl-ash was manufactured annually. Freeman & Freedy
opened a store soon after 1848, and about the same time Ruse & Tharp
did likewise. The former firm had about $2,500 worth of goods.
Boyd, of Defiance, sent good to be sold at the village.
Bowman & Core opened a store a little later, but finally sold out at
auction. Too many stocks of goods were offered for sale from 1850
to 1860, as several failures resulted. Garver Brothers
began during the war, and for a number of years conducted a fair
business. The brothers were succeeded by Garver & Walker .
The population of Centre in 1840 was about 25; in 1845 was about 40;
in 1850 was about 90 or 100, and in 1860 was about 250. This has
been about the population since Centre saw its best days from 1850 to
1865. Rudolph Roth opened a grocery and saloon about 1853;
he made considerable money. John Manon opened a general
store about sixteen years ago, and has continued until the present.
Hugh Mills opened his store in 1861, and continued until about
five years ago. A. H. Ogle began measuring tape and calico
about six years ago; and J. M. Shutt brought in a stock of goods
in 1881. Charles Agler conducted a saloon a few years,
beginning about 1870. James McDowell, in 1848, began
manufacturing chairs, tables, stands, and large numbers of coffins.
James Ritchie and his brother worked at the cabinet business, and
also made quite a number of wagons.
MILLS AND SHOPS.
Jacob Dillman built the first saw-mill in Centre in about 1846,
and operated the same with steam. It passed to several owners, one
of them being James McDowell who, in 1866, sold it to Storer &
Kittridge. In January, 1867, the mill was burned down, but was
rebuilt the same spring. Storer bought Kittridge out
in the fall of 18690, and in the spring of 1870 the ill again burned
down, but was again soon rebuilt. In October, 1870, Mr. Storer
had his left hand, except the thumb, sawed off by an accident.
In 1873, W. S. Wilsey purchased an interest in the mill, but four
years later sold out to Storer. The mill in its day ahs
been an excellent one. Mr. Storer had added a shingle
machine, a lath machine, a fork, hoe and broom-handle lathe, a planing
machine, and a machine for chopping feed for stock. Large number
of cheese boxes are made at present. Dr. William Hall
came to the village in about 1842. After him came Drs. Pope,
Ensign, Dunshee, Jenkins, Clark and Shutt. In 1868,
Dodge & Young began manufacturing wagons, carriages, buggies, etc.,
on quite an extensive scale, nine hands being employed, and from $,000
to $5,000 worth of work being done annually. The sales ran down in
1873, owing to the hard times, and the business was partly abandoned.
This, in brief, sums up the past importance of Centre.
WILLIAMS CENTRE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
Williams Centre Circuit was organized at the Central Ohio Annual
Conference, held at Fostoria, Ohio, A. D. 1867, when Rev. Henry
Boyers was appointed pastor. It was then in Defiance District,
Rev. Elnathen C. Gavitt, Presiding Elder.
In 1868, Williams Centre Circuit was placed in Toledo District, and
Henry Boyers was returned as pastor. Rev. T. H. Wilson
was Presiding Elder in Toledo District at this time.
1869, T. H. Wilson, Presiding Elder, and Rev. J. McKean
was appointed pastor.
1870, T. H. Wilson, Presiding Elder; J. McKean, pastor.
1871, Rev. Leroy A. Belt was appointed Presiding Elder of Toledo
District, and O. E. Moore, pastor of Williams Centre.
1872, L. A. Belt, Presiding Elder, and William Littell was
1873, L. A. Belt, Presiding Elder; William Littell,
1874, L. A. Belt, Presiding Elder; William Littell,
1875, Park S. Donelson was appointed Presiding Elder of Toledo
District, and William Littell was returned as pastor of Williams
1876, P. S. Donnelson, Presiding Elder, and David Bowers
was appointed pastor.
1877 P. S. Donelson, Presiding Elder, and David Bowers,
1878 P. S. Donelson, Presiding Elder, and S. L. Biler was
appointed pastor, who remained two years.
1879, Wesley G. Waters was appointed Presiding Elder of Toledo
District, and Jackson T. Pope as pastor at Williams Centre, who
remained two years.
1881, W. G. Waters, Presiding Elder; E. H. Snow was
The first church was erected many years ago. The second one was
erected during the first year of Rev. William Littell's
pastorate, 1872. President membership and officers, forty-two, and
about sixteen will be added soon. Present pastor, E. H. Snow.
The Sunday school has a regular attendance of seventy-five; present
Superintendent, Mrs. Giles H. Tomlinson.
In the month
of August, 1869, John Fritch, John Kendall and Jacob Neihart
laid out twenty-three lots on the southeast quarter of the northeast
quarter of Section 20, and the southwest quarter of the northwest
quarter of Section 21, Township 6 north, Range 2 east. The lots
were all north of the railroad. In October, 1871, Eden Neer
laid out an addition to Melbern, consisting of three lots on the south
side of the railroad and on the west side of the wagon road. The
town came very nearly being called Kansas, but by good luck
escaped such a direful fate. It has had, therefore no grasshoppers
nor tornadoes. The house of John Fritch was the first, it
having been built many years before. Some years before the lots
were laid out, Amos Huffman built the brown house near the
church. Dr. John Kendall bought two acres at the village,
and became the first Postmaster. The office was in Philip
Neihart's old log house south of the railroad. David
Lovejoy built an early house in which he opened a small grocery;
this was about 1866; he became Postmaster. William Thomas Peter
Brakeman and Constantine Beals erected early buildings.
In about 1871, Mr. Thomas opened a general stock of goods in
town. About three years ago Samuel Benn began merchandising
in the same room. William Brown came in some eight or ten
years ago. He is yet in business, and ahs the largest and best
stock of goods in Melbern. Henry Jaques was his partner for
a time, but sold out to George Brainer. Alexander
McCaskey began selling notions about four years ago. There are
in town and usual number of carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. Henry
Beck was the third Postmaster, and Alexander McClaskey the
fourth and present one. Dr. Kendall was the first
physician; Dr. Trutton, the second, and Dr. Shutt, the
third and last. None reside in town at present. Of course,
the town has had its saloons. About the year 1866, Beal &
Harris built a steam saw-mill, which they operated about three
years, when it was purchased by Brakeman & Son, who yet own and
conduct it. It is a good mill. "Centre Grange" was
instituted at the Miller Schoolhouse in 1874, by the Deputy Grand
Master, and at first was filled to overflowing with members. The
first officers were: Master, Theodore Hunt; Secretary, William
Weaver; Treasure, Samuel Stauffer. Two years after the
organization, the lodge built the storehouse in which Mr. Brown's
stock of goods is now for sale. The upper story was fitted up for
a lodge room, and here the grangers yet assemble to deliberate.
The lodge, though not as strong as at first, numbers, at present, about
eighty-five members, and meets on Saturday evenings. The members,
by united action, have done much to reduce the price of various farming
implements. Three of four years ago, George Fox built a
cheese factory south of the railroad. He manufactures per day,
during the warmer months, from six to fifteen cheeses, each weighing
from twenty-five to forty pounds.
(DIAGRAM of Schoolhouses and Cemeteries value)
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