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HENRY COUNTY, OHIO
History & Genealogy

HISTORY

Source:
History of Henry & Fulton Counties
edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich - Syracuse NY - Publ. D. Mason & Co.
1888.

 

Chapter XXII.
pg. 235
HISTORY OF LIBERTY TOWNSHIP

     THIS is one of the best, one of the earliest settled and first improved townships in the county.  It possesses more intrinsic historic interest than any of the thirteen.  In the government survey it is known as township six, north of range seven, east.  This territory was reduced by the detachment of the two northern tiers of sections in the formation of Fulton county.  It was however, increased by the annexation of sections one, two, three, four, five and six, and the most of seven and half of eight, nine and twelve, and in small slice off the northern part of ten and eleven of the township five in the same range (Harrison) at the time the Maumee River was made the dividing line between the townships.
     The part of section twelve taken from Harrison, and section seven of Washington (originally Damascus) constituted what was known to the pioneers as Prairie du Masque, having been so named by the early French adventurers, traders, or religious enthusiasts, who were attracted to the valley of the Maumee, ambitious of conquest for greed for gain or desire for religious proselytism.  This was a camping ground for ten army of General Wayne on his march to the battle field of Fallen Timbers.
     Upon this division of land, thus designated as Prairie du Masque, and long before the division of the northwestern territory into counties, much less townships, the white man had dared to penetrate.  He invaded the wilderness which then enshrouded the county of Henry and the outposts of which were guarded by the most savage of the Indian tribes, and settled there.  The names of the representatives of the white man as can now be ascertained were John Butler, David and Jacob Delong, Charles Gunn, George Chilson, David Bucklin and Edwin Scribner came in 1818.  These early settlers are, alas, all dead.  The ashes of some of them rest in obscurely marked and almost forgotten graves along the banks of the Maumee.  The last survivor of these pioneers was Edwin Scribner, who died during the present (1887) year, at the residence of his son-in-law in Napoleon.
     At a date so early that its date cannot now be determined with certainty, but surely no later than 1820, Samuel Vance, already mentioned, erected on section twelve, a double log house, called it a tavern and suspended a sign announcing "accommodation for man and beast."  The cellar of this primitive tavern still remains on the banks of the Maumee, close to the "old orchard" - the first planted in the county - near the town of Damascus.  The brick for this cellar were bloated from Toledo (so at present named) on pirogues.  At that time this was the only house between Defiance and the Rapids, where Peter Manor then lived.  A short time afterwards Joseph Cowdrick, whose sons are now residents of Napoleon, built a small house on the river below Vance's but subsequently removed further up the river about half way between Damascus and Napoleon, where Joseph Rogers now lived.
     In 1826, on the 17th of November, John Patrick, the father of George, who still resides on the old place, settled on the river three miles east of Napoleon.  He purchased the land of one Cornelius Thompson, who obtained it from the government on land scrip issued to him for services under Wayne in his Indian campaigns.  Mr. Patrick erected a large house at this place, and also opened a house of public entertainment, and which subsequently became the main "tavern," as they were called in those days, between Defiance and Toledo during the days of canal navigation and packet travel, which began in 1843 and remained brisk until the construction of the Wabash Railroad.
     Long before work on the canal had commenced Edwin Scribner, already referred to, erected a "thunder gust" saw-mill on Dry Creek, and this was the first saw-mill in the county.  After the completion of the canal, Burlin & Taylor started a mill at Damascus, and the mill has ever since been retained and is still one of the principle stationary ones in the county.  Burlin & Taylor also opened a general store, the first in the county, and managed the tavern which had been established by Vance.  A town was laid out at this point, but if ever platted the plat was destroyed in the fire of 1847.  In 1859, however, under direction of the auditor, the assessor made a plat of the lots in section twelve (Damascus), which was recorded on the 5th of December of that year.  By this it is learned that there were in all seventeen lots - fifteen of which are on the north of the canal and two on the canal within the county of Henry, and was ambitious enough to rival Napoleon for the county seat.  The inability of the canal to compete with the railroads and retain the carrying trade, has ruined Damascus as a town and converted it into a magnificent farm.
     In those early days, to use pioneer language, "it was pretty rough sledding."  When John Patrick came to the river in 1866, the nearest mill was a Waterville, a distance of twenty-five miles, and the settlers were often compelled to go to Brunnersburg, on Beam Creek, in what is now Defiance county, and not unfrequently to Monroe, in Michigan, taking along an ax and log chain to clear out the Indian trail, the only road to travel.
     After the completion of the canal, and the commencement of navigation on its muddy progression, and in 1847, the earliest preserved duplicate discloses the fact that there were residing on the territory which at present is embraced within the limits of Liberty township, sixty-six persons who paid tax on personal property.  Among these contributors to the public revenues who resided on the sections detached from Harrison, were General Ezra S. Dodd, whose ashes repose in the Damascus grave-yard; Joseph Cowdrick, already referred to; Samuel Bowers, dead and buried on the farm he cut and cultivated from the wilderness; and George Bowers, who is still living and rejoicing in great-grandchildren; Judge MEekison, a banker at Napoleon, being the father of the latest addition.  Prominent among those who resided in the other part of, or rather the original-township, may be named:  Alonzo, Lorenzo, Solomon, James H., and a large family of Babcocks, most of whom are still living; George Chroninger, one of the jolliest old men, surrounded by a happy family, who still lives in the township, having by his industry, frugal habits and honest dealings, acquired a competency which will certainly protect him from the charity of the infirmary direction; Hosea Harrison, Rensselaer, and several others of the Hudson family, whose names have become interwoven into the official history and progress of Henry county; John and several others of the Knapp family, still prominent in the township; John M. Meek a brother-in-law of Judge Cory who came to the county at a very early period, was prominent in local government, and whose only remaining descendant by his first marriage, is the wife of Judge J. M. Haag, of Napoleon; the Redfield family; Samuel H. Steedman, who was the first colonel of the Sixty-eighth O. V. Infantry; James B. Steedman, subsequently the hero of Chickamauga, and whose monument is now the chief ornament of the city of Toledo; John Wright, sr., John Wright, jr., and Nathan Wright; Ward Woodward, now of Liberty Center, Samuel Winters, and George Crawford, at one time county commissioner and prominent in local politics, whose children still reside in the vicinity.
     The duplicate of 1847 shows the township charged with eighteen thousand four hundred and forty-two acres of land, valued at $38,764.95, and chattels valued at $4,988.  The total tax paid was $1,316.66, with an additional for school-house of $49.22.
     A comparison and a calculation of the growth and prosperity of the township may be made from teh following figures:
     The duplicate of 1887 shows seventeen thousand five hundred and ninety-one acres of land, exclusive of town sites, and railroad right-of-ways, valued at $330,725; chattels listed at $136,487, paying a total tax including the village of Liberty Center, of $10,139.  The township had a population of 1,119 in 1860; 1,766 in 1870; in 1880 the population amounted to 1,946.  It may be safely estimated at present at 2,400.
     Outside of the town of Liberty Center, there are eight school-houses, most of them brick, and all well appointed, with school maintained for at least half the year.  The Christian Union has a church edifice in section thirty-two and also in section fifteen, and the United Brethren have a chapel in section fifteen.
     The main and several branches of Turkey Foot Creek (north of the Maumee) and Dry Creek, afford the township very good natural drainage and artificial surface and underground ditches have contributed to make this perhaps the best farming township in the county; and which, together with goods roads, commodious, comfortable and well-constructed residences and farm buildings give to it, as a body, an average value greater than that possessed by any other farming land in northwestern Ohio.
     The construction of the Wabash Railway did much to develop the township and hasten its improvement.  While it destroyed the plant of the towns along the canal, it converted the wilderness along its track into many flourishing villages.  Among them is

LIBERTY CENTER,

at present a flourishing village with a population between five and six hundred.  It was the second village in the county to become incorporated, and has taken advantage of its corporate franchise to secure good sidewalks, streets and drainage.  It is located in sections twenty-five and thirty-six of the original surveyed township, is a railroad and telegraph station on the Wabash, has the third best post-office in the county, and a printing office from which the Liberty Press is issued weekly.  The village has a good hotel, a livery stable, a hardware store, a drug store, three dry goods stores, several saloons and restaurants, several find brick blocks, and the mechanical artists usual to all villages.  A handsome roller process grist-mill is a considerable attraction to the trade of the village, and a saw-mill furnishes a market for the few trees which remain to be converted into timber.  It has four churches, - one Methodist Episcopal, one German Reformed, one United Brethren and one Seventh Day Adventist.  Its greatest ornament, however, and its chief pride is its new graded school building, erected during the year 1886.  It is a two-story, finely finished building, in which is maintained one of the best educational schools in the county.
     On the 4th of June, 1863, Alpheas Buchanan first conceived the idea of establishing a trading-point in Liberty township, and on that day recorded a plat of twelve lots in the northeast quarter of section twenty-five, on the south side of the Wabash Railway.  To this was added his first, second and third additions.
     Jan. 7, 1867, Calvin C. Young added an addition of twelve lots; and June 7, 1868, E. T. Coon contributed an addition of ten lots more, with requisite streets and alleys; Jan. 2, 1869, G. P. Parrish stimulated the growth of the village by adding eighteen more lots to the town plat, being in the northeast corner of section thirty-six.  Ward Woodward, one of the early settlers of the township already mentioned, not wishing to be outdone by those to the manor born subsequent to himself, on the 19th of July, 1869, contributed to the village a triangular addition of ten lots and an alley, on the south side of the Wabash Railway.  Orle Buchanan, awakening from a sort of Rip Van Winkle sleep, determined not to be outdone by those whom he termed the "boys," and, on the 24th of July, added an addition of eight irregular lots, and a street of thirty feet on the north of the railway, and caused the erection of a handle and excelsior factory in his addition.  This enterprise served to again arouse old "Uncle George" Parrish, who, getting on his muscle, added a second addition of four irregular lots on the west of his former addition and separated from it by Parrish street.  On the 22d day of September, 1882, Daniel Ehrgood gave to the village its last contribution, which consisted of sixteen lots, continuing East street and adding Garfield, Lincoln, Cherry and Plum and an alley, which gives to the village one hundred and forty-one platted lots upon most of which are neat and handsome residences or business buildings, and is the site of one of the pleasantest, most prosperous and enterprising towns along the line of the Wabash Railway.
     The township is divided into two voting precincts.  The elections for the eastern is held at Liberty Center, and that for the western at Chroninger's school-house.

 

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