Interview with Ralph Creager
May 12, 2012, Liberty Center, Ohio
(Photo at left taken October 6, 2014.)
CW: Please tell us your name.
RC: My name is Ralph Creager. My great great grandfather Calvin C. Young was very instrumental in the starting of Liberty Center.
CW: Oh really.
RC: The earliest thing that I have written down that tells about the time he came to Liberty Center was 1849.
CW: That was pretty early.
RC: Shortly after that the Wabash Railroad was going to put a line through this area and they were going to have a station at Colton, but Calvin’s property was in the Liberty Center area so he went to the railroad to see if they would put a siding in to Liberty Center. The way it finally wound up, he offered to build a railroad station and to man it if they would put in a siding. So one thing led to another happened and that is why Liberty Center has a railroad station. The original railroad station, a small one story wood building now resides on Maple Street here in Liberty Center.
CW: It is right down the street.
RC: It was made into a house and some years ago someone put an addition on the back to make it bigger, but he (Calvin) became the stationmaster and studied Morse code so he could run the telegraph.
CW: Is that right.
RC: And directly across the street from the location of the hardware he built a building which was a combination store and house and he lived there.
CW: Now where on Maple street was this? Was it close to where the downtown is now or farther east?
RC: Do you mean that little house. It is farther East. It is just over here oh maybe three or four houses down.
CW: From here
RC: Yes from here. His farm was on Maple street and it ran from the Dairy Queen corner this way and down to the corporation limit going south.
CW: Oh yes.
RC: He had 80 acres that I know of and at one time he owned another 40 acres attached to it.
CW: Way back then 80 acres was a pretty good sized farm.
RC: Because it had trees on it and he had to clear it.
CW: Oh yes.
RC: The family doesn’t really remember him as a farmer, but he was a woodworker and he ran mercantile stores in town.
CW: He was a man of all trades.
RC: Yes he was a man of all trades. In 1865 he made an addition to Liberty Center. I think there were ten lots on the corner of Maple and Damascus Street, and they are still there. That was an addition to Liberty Center. It is still called Calvin C. Young First Addition. He was an interesting man. Our family has always been proud of him.
CW: They were rightly proud. He was probably a wheeler and dealer I bet.
RC: He was an interesting man and our family has always been proud of him. We don’t necessarily consider him to have been only a farmer. He came here from a little town named Scott in central New York state. From the south end of what is known as the finger lakes.
CW: Oh yes.
RC: That is the area they came from. We have often wondered how they got here because that was in the days of the great Black Swamp and transportation on land was not very good. Since they were in that area of New York.
CW: I have been there.
RC: Have you. This is my own personal opinion that they might have gone north over land to the Erie Canal. That would have carried them to Buffalo. Then they could have come across Lake Erie to Toledo and come out here on the Canal. Now that is all supposition on my part.
CW: Well it sounds reasonable.
RC: It was the easiest way to travel because the rest of it was not good.
CW: There were so many trees everywhere. I read about a family that walked from Pennsylvania through Ohio and they never saw the sun because of the trees.
RC: Because they made a canopy.
CW: Do you know of any members of his family that came with him.
RC: Yes. Calvin was married twice, three times as a matter of fact. He had ten children. If you want to shut your thing down for a minute I’ll see if I can find this information for you.
CW: Oh we can look at some pictures here.
(Far eft: Melvin Clifford Young. He was born in 1879 and died in 1961.)
(Left: Ralph Earl Young is on the right. and on the left is his older brother Melvin Young.)
Pictures were taken in Toledo.
CW: He is a distinquished looking gentleman isn’t he.
RC: He was a poor man. I don’t think he ever owned any property. He was a farmer. Years ago around 1900 these boys were born. This little one is my father and the bigger one is his brother. They had another son and daughter after this, but anyway around 1900 or before he was a conductor on a street car in Toledo. He was born here in Liberty but he migrated to Toledo. Then after a while he came back and he was a farmer.
CW: Were there any streetcars that came out towards Liberty. I know there were some around Deshler.
RC: The closest one here followed the New York Central Railroad and went through Swanton, Wauseon, Archbold, and Delta and down around Stryker and Bryan, and I think on to Elkhart; Indiana.
CW: A streetcar isn’t that something.
RC: This was a thing that I put together and you can carry it with you. There is more history of Liberty Center in it.
CW: I would like to borrow that.
RC: This goes back two generations beyond Calvin. They came from New England. Thomas, you see my great-grandfather. He was a born in 1875. He had a bunch of children.
CW: This says 1775.
CW: His children were from 1871. They probably didn’t know for sure. Look at the number of children. There is twelve here.
RC: Then you get, you see it goes down through Daniel, and it comes down here to Calvin. He was born in 1825, and that tells about his children and what happened to them.
CW: That is a neat genealogy you have. You did a lot of work.
RC: I had a copy, I don’t know if it is in here, it may be in the back, a hand written copy. Calvin’s wife, this tells about each of the children and what happened to them. Then there is a part here as to who was Calvin. Tlhis is still not my original. This genealogy I gleaned from a hand written article, and I have no idea what I did with it. It was written by Calvin’s last wife. So I was able to get some first hand information from her.
CW: Oh yes. That would be valuable.
RC: This is, you will have to take this with you.
CW: Yes I would like to and then I will be sure to bring it back to you.
RC: Well I think I have it. This is the type written copy of the hand written copy. It was originally written in 1890.
CW: Oh for heavens sake!
RC: That is in there too.
CW: Yes we can just make copies of those.
RC: You will have to study that.
CW: Yes, it will be interesting to read. This work is very worthwhile. Somebody did a lot of work.
RC: Several years ago, if you notice down by the cemetery there is a placard up to Calvin C. Young as being one of the founders of Liberty Center. There is one up north and one down by the cemetery. So they wanted me to tell them what I knew abut Liberty Center. I put this thing together for them. That took some time to do too. As far as we know and this is general knowledge that one of the original settlers in this area was a man named Scribner, and he homesteaded or bought, one or the other, and he bought a lot of land starting from the river and coming this way. I forgot his first name.
CW: Was he related to the Scribner publishing man?
RC: I don’t know. But this Scribner llived down here by Damascus. He built the first sawmill in Henry County. It was out here at Dry Creek. Exactly where I don’t know, but he built the first sawmill . In fact the Young’s bought this piece of property, not this piece, but down to the corner from Scribner. There was a schoolhouse that sat down on Roads 6C or something, down towards the river. There was a schoolhouse there years ago that was named Scribner School. Warren Sharp bought the Scribner School and moved it a half mile north and a mile east from his farm and made a workshop out of it. I was a little boy, really little, about four years old and I got to see them move it.
CW: That would have been exciting for a little kid.
RC: Yes it was exciting. The reason I got to see it, that on the corner of 6C and Road S, was where I was born. A mile south and a mile east of Liberty Center. That is where I was born.
CW: Was that along the river?
CW: Is this when they were moving the schoolhouse.
RC: Yes this was when they were moving the schoolhouse. The road south of Road S was yellow sand and I remember the men had to lay planks down for the big rollers to roll on, so they wouldn’t get stuck. I remember this as plain as day.
CW: It wasn’t muck.
RC: No, It was yellow sand.
CW: Was it deep?
RC: Right on that, the road went up a hill right there the sand was very deep. In the summertime, the sand was just as bad as mud. That farm, I don’t know how much detail you want to know, but
CW: As much as you can remember.
RC: That farm was owned by a family named Rogge.
CW: I have heard that name before.
RC: My grandfather rented it from him. There are some of the Rogge descendents around here. He was the grandfather of Marvin Mueller. Do you know Marvin Mueller?
CW: I knew Carl Mueller from Tony’s Bakery.
RC: No, This was Marvin Mueller, well there were several in Marvin’s family. They were related to the Rogge. Yes, I was born on that farm.
CW: Tell me again just where that farm was.
RC: It is a mile south of Liberty and then east on Road S. And the farm started at Road 7 and went another half mile east to Road 6. It is in that section. In fact if there weren’t any trees I could see the house where I was born. Speaking about that time I was born there on January 10, 1924 at my grandfather’s home.
CW: The babies were all born on kitchen tables back then.
RC: Right. My mother told me it was on a Thursday and it rained all day in January. No snow.
CW: Were you the oldest in the family?
RC: That is another story. I was an only child at that time. My father whose name was Ralph Earl Young, he is the little one in that picture, he was born in Toledo during the time that my grandfather was a conductor on the streetcar line. They came back to Liberty when he was small. He graduated from Liberty Center High School in 1919. He went to work as a clerk in the Liberty Center State Savings Bank. He always had a desire that he wanted to work for the railroad. Well, somehow or other, I don’t tknow that part of the story. He acquired a job on the railroad and he was the fireman on a switch engine in the railroad yards in Toledo. He was 22 years old and he got typhoid fever and they broke up their household in Toledo and moved back to Grampa Youngs. He died there in October 1923. I wasn’t born until January, 1924. So he died three months before I was born.
CW: My goodness.
RC: My mother and I lived with Grandma and Grampa until August of 1925 and she married a man named Fred Creager. Well, my Grandmother Young was broken up because of my Dad dying. She didn’t want my stepfather to adopt me, so I always went by the name of Young until after I had finished high school. My Dad and my Mom we talked about it and one day in the summer of 1941 and my Dad said to me that you know we have been talking about changing your name to Creager and since you are going off to college this fall I think this would be an opportune time. So in August of 1941 we changed my name to Creager.
CW: That would have been just before World War II broke out.
CW: That broke out in December.
RC: In fact I have another story about that, but that is how my name became Creager. I went through the School of Applied Science in Cleveland and became a Chemical Engineer in three years because the Navy had taken over the school. I found out that the Navy did not take summer vacations during wartime.
CW: So you stayed and worked.
RC: The local draft board knew that I wanted to finish school and since I was studying chemical engineering they gave me oh about four or five months deferrment. I remember a man named Baughman was the head of that draft board. He said we are going to let you finish school, but as soon as you are out of school you are in the Army. So I graduated from college in August of 1944 on the 20th. On the 19th of September I was in the Army. I served two years with the Army, most of them with the counter intelligence force in Japan. During that time in June of 1945 a young lady by the name of Margaret Jean Lance from Cleveland Heights and I were married. Then I went overseas after that. I was discharged on October 1st of 1946. I had to tell people that my grandson here that you just saw was the same age as I was when I left for service. In those 23 years I went to grade school, high school, college, got married and spent two years in the Army, got home and I was only 23 years old.
CW: You lived a very full life.
RC: I lived pretty fast.
CW: Yes you did.
RC: That took in a big period of time. Speaking of Jean she was a student at Western Reserve, and that is how I met her. We had three children, Cheryl Lynn who was born in 1950, Mary Beth, who was born in 1953, and Julie Amelia, who was born in 1957, and now they are spread all over. Cheryl, the oldest one lives in Bradenton, Florida. Mary Beth, the middle one lives in Chicago, and Julie, the youngest one lives by Waco, Texas.
CW: They have a way of getting spread out, don’t they.
RC: I keep in contact with all of them. Cell phones do pretty well for this. Cheryl is a graduate nurse at the University of Michigan. Then she went back and got a Masters Degree in Home Health Care Administration. She now is retired. Mary Beth studied Library Science, and all her life she was a Librarian. She worked nine years for the Toledo Public Library, and the rest of the time here in Liberty Center as Director of the Liberty Center Library. You might have come across her.
CW: What is her married name?
RC: Slee. That is spelled S l e e.
CW: I remember her, she is a very nice young lady.
RC: She is very sharp.
RW And my youngest daughter Julie went to college for a year or more, and she gave it up, got married and she wound up in Waco, Texas. They have one son who is a Freshman at Baylor University in Waco.
CW: Oh yes.
RC: Mary Beth had three children, two boys and one girl. The oldest boy Eric, lives in Los Angeles. Erin, a girl lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Tate lives here with me.
CW: Isn’t that nice that he can stay here with you and help you out. There is nothing like being in your own home.
RC: Oh yes. I am pretty self-sufficient. You saw me hobbling around, but they do things for me that I can’t get done. Cheryl, the oldest girl could never have children. They adopted a boy who was seven years old. He is now thirty-six years old. After I came home from the Army I had made contact before I went into the Army with Standard Oil Company in Cleveland. After the war when I got home my dad, he wasn’t an old man, but he was badly crippled with arthritis, and how he worked I don’t know. He asked me and he said what are you going to do now. I said well maybe I will go with the Standard Oil Co. if they will hire me. He said will you stay home and work for a year because he couldn’t get help. He couldn’t buy machinery or haul those things that the war had brought on. I told him, yes I will stay and help you for a year. When my brother got home a few months later he asked him the same thing. Bruce, my brother said that he would stay and work too. That was in the end of 1946, so we worked the summer of 1947 on the road. On January 1st of 1948 he said can you both come over to the house. We went over to his house and he said I’ll tell you worked good for the year you promised. Now I have a proposition for you. Of course we were interested in what he was going to say.
CW: Oh yes.
RC: He said if you will stay on here and run the business, I will make the business a three way partner. So he gave us each a third of the business. So we stayed.
CW: What was the name of this company?
RC: Fred Creager and Sons.
CW: Oh, the cement company.
RC: We did cement, built houses, but our main thing was asphalt. We paved roads. We both stayed. Dad died in 1960. He was only sixty-five years old. It was a result of his arthritis and hardening of the arteries and a stroke. He turned sixty-five on the thirteenth of June and died on the twenty-third. It was bitter-sweet.
CW: Yes, there was a Creager that lived on West Washington St.
RC: That was my Uncle Pearl. He was my step-fathers brother. He built roads also. That is what he did. The Creager’s started building stone roads and this is a give and take date, in 1912. Our grandfather started that.
CW: That has been a company for a long time.
RC: We had it for fifty-nine years and sold it and went to work for the people who bought it from us.
CW: Let them have the headaches.
RC: Well, that was in 1971. As late as 1960 and up through 1971 it became harder and harder to finance a road job with your own personal money.
CW: It took more capital by them.
RC: All the time. We made money on our jobs, and by the end of the year we found out we had taken most of it down to the bank. The interest was high. If you go out and do $5,000 dollars worth of work every day and the State doesn’t pay you for two months your bills pile up. So we sold it. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. I went to work for Johnson Company and Bruce decided he wanted to do something else. I worked for Johnson Co. seventeen years.
CW: What do they make?
RC: They have stone quarries and blacktop plants. They build bridges. They pave roads.
CW: It would have been the same sort of thing.
RC: Yes, I was back into the same type of business. They gave me the job of, for the first five years since I knew all these people out here in this area, the county engineer, they made me a Public Relations man. I spent most of the time visiting these people. At the end of that time or even before, the man who was in charge of the EPA for the companies got sick and they asked me to come and help. Well he eventually had to leave the company for health reasons. I became the head of the EPA as well as doing my Public Relations job. I did some engineering for the stone company, they were going to build a plant. Then OSHA came in. So they needed somebody to head up the OSHA. So then I was EPA and OSHA.
CW: Were you the head of both of them?
RC: Yes, when they first started. So the OSHA got to be a big thing, and the Safety Director had retired so I became the Safety Director too, which wasn’t too bad as it tied in with OSHA. When i was sixty-four I decided I had enough, so I retired. “Dog starts barking wildly” Do you remember when we had sonic booms from the airplanes? They were caused by the fighter pilots out of Toledo. They said that it wouldn’t crack the plaster in your house. People would complain that the boom had cracked their plaster and they said it can’t be. I have one crack in this house and I was right there when it happened. It was caused by a sonic boom.
CW: So you could see it when it happened.
RC: Yes I saw it. Now they have made the pilots quit doing that. Those training pilots would come out would have to dive-bomb to pass the 660 miles per hour. That is what caused the sonic boom. They were going faster than the speed of sound. A strange phenomenon happens. With the change of energy is what causes the sonic boom. The pilots don’t do it anymore now.
CW: I can remember hearing those things.
RC: They were loud. Back talking before, I don’t know how detailed you want to go . Talking about houses I hope that whoever buys this house does not decide to paint this woodwork white. These are all premium birch doors. The baseboards and the trim were all made at Sauder Manufacturing.
CW: Oh that is where they make the church pews.
RC: Nowadays they build this type of thing.
CW: There has been a big change.
RC: The Liechty boys weren’t satisfied with what they could buy at the lumber yard. Sauder made the baseboard and the trim around. You can’t even buy that birch nowadays.
CW: Is that right.
RC: I had to remodel my lavoratory and I had to buy enough, maybe fourteen feet of baseboards, I couldn’t buy birch, so I had to take oak. I was telling my daughters when you sell this house you tell them not to paint these doors. You can’t buy them anymore.
RC: They were expensive even in 1954.
CW: You just wonder how much longer they will be able to keep cutting down trees.
RC: Did you notice the logs out by Damascus Bridge, on the corner.
CW: No, I haven’t been down there.
RC: You didn’t come down Route 109.
CW: No, I came out Road T.
RC: I think the logs are from Holgate. There is a sawmill in Holgate. They have a yard right on the corner of 109 and Road 24. They store their logs in before they take them to the sawmill. They are big trees. There are lots of them.
CW: Where are they getting them from?
RC: Well, I know one place on the other side of the river after you go across South Turkeyfoot Creek you will come to the two King properties. You know those two big brick houses. Levi King is on the right hand and I don’t know who the other King is that lives on the other side.
CW: Is that the road that runs along the river?
RC: Yes, it is on the south side of the river. There are two great big brick houses.
CW: Yes, I know.
RC: North of the one that is on the north side of the road, at the edge of the river there was always almost like a native woods there. There was always a woods there as long as I can remember. I think they are getting some logs out of that. I think too that they cut logs from from that tornado that went through here a couple of years ago.
CW: Yes a tornado will take them down for you.
RC: So I don’t know, but I think their name is Wagner. Their sawmill is down there by Holgate, or maybe New Bavaria.
CW: Isn’t there a Wagner Sawmill. I have seen their sign just south of Holgate.
RC: I think they are the people that are harvesting these trees. One day you go by and the lot will be empty. The next day you go by and the lot is piled real high with logs. They haul them away. There is a lot of them.
CW: You would think they could use some of these huge old beams they have in these old barns that are falling down, but they don’t.
RC: Well a lot of them are not in good condition. Those barns were built a hundred years ago. A lot of those beams have dry rot in them or something.
CW: Oh I see.
RC: But, people do use them. Somebody might want a fancy beam in their house . We built houses for nine years.
CW: Oh you did!
RC: In 1962 we bought a lumber yard.
END OF TAPE
ADDITIONAL WRITTEN HISTORICAL INFORMATION PROVIDED BY RALPH CREAGER
WHO WAS CALVIN C. YOUNG?
Calvin C. Young was born March 31, 1825 in the Village of Scott, Cortland County. New York. At the age of 24 he moved to Henry County, Ohio arriving in 1849 and lived in Liberty Center until his death on March 1, 1911.
He was the husband of three wives and the father of ten children. Two of the children were born in Scott, New York. The other eight were born in Henry County, Ohio.
He must have been an energetic person because he cleared his farm and evidently continued as a farmer even though he followed other business pursuits. One would have to say he was an entrepreneur, because he promoted various businesses.
He must have had great foresight realizing what might be good for the community where he lived. Along with the farming, he was engaged in the mercantile business. He was also engaged in woodworking since he built a woodworking shop. It is also believed that he built houses, not only his own, but several others along the North boundary of his farm along Maple Street.
He became the Postmaster and was certified as a Notary Public.
Probably one of his ventures that proved most valuable to the community was his success in persuading the Wabash railroad to place a switch track in the town. He was also the station master and telegrapher. At no cost to the railroad.
He donated land for a cemetery -- Young -- which is still in use.
He was an enthusiastic and devoted Free and Accepted Mason and never missed a meeting of his beloved order when it was at all possible for him to attend. So faithful was he that, in the earlly days before Liberty Center had a lodge, it was nothing unusual for him to walk to Napoleon to attend the lodge meetings. He was one of the oldest Masons in Henry County having been made an Entered Apprentice in Napoleon Lodge No. 256 on September 2, 1862 and passed to the degree of Fellowcraft on March 31, 1863. He was raised to the degree of Master Mason on June 2, 1863. He remained a member of the Napoleon lodge until October 18, 1877 at which time Liberty Center Lodge No. 518 was chartered. He was one of the seventeen charter members. He was the lodge treasurer for nearly 30 years.
In 1867, he plotted and added twelve lots to the village. This was the second plotted sub-division in the village.
He has been deemed the “Father of Liberty Center” not because he was the first founder but because he seemed to be the sparkplug needed to get things organized. His leadership did inspire others to create businesses and homes and this resulted into the Village of Liberty Center.
The family of Calvin Cheney Young lived in the village of Scott in Cortland County, New York for several generations before moving to Henry County, Ohio. The earliest one that there is a record of was named Thomas. He married a widow who had one son named Peleg Allen. After their marriage, they had eleven more sons together. So Thomas really had twelve sons. The sons after Peleg Allen were -- Thomas; George, Winthrop, Clayton, Silas, John, Simeon, Ebenezer, Johnathan and David (twins) and Daniel T. Daniel T. is the one that played an the most important part in the life of Calvin C.
Daniel T. Young was married to Hannah Cheney. They were the parents of five children ----Polly (who died while a baby), Fidelia, Calvin Cheney, born March 31,1825, Charles (who died while a baby) and Martin C. The Daniel T. Young family moved to Henry County, Ohio in 1849 and settled in Liberty Township. Daniel T. died on April 27, 1871 and his wife Hannah died on July 14, 1875 in Liberty Center, Henry County, Ohio. They are both buried in Young Cemetary in Liberty Center.
Fidelia, daughter of Daniel, married Ward Woodward. This couple had six children - Malina, Mary, Amelia, Hellen, Samantha and Frankie ( who died while a baby).
Martin C., also known as C.M., married Francis Smith they had five children. They were --- Delia, Frances, Eddie (who died while a baby), Charles and William. Martin C. died in Lockport, New York on October 8, 1888.
Calvin Cheney married Lucy Ann Eldredge, born August 1825, in Scott New York. This marriage produced two children --- Charles Orlando born May 13, 1845 and George David, born September 6, 1847, Lucy Ann died.
After Lucy Ann had died, Calvin married Esther Amanda Eldredge, who was born in September 1826, and they had eight children. Their children were --- Julia Amanda born November 6, 1850 and died February 19, 1884. Jewett Otis born May 12, 1852, Dwight Cheny born September 1, 1854. Dorr D. born December 1, 1857 and died December 9, 1858. Delia Abba born January 7,1860, Ward Woodward born June 14, 1862, Lucy Anna born January 7, 1864 and Cora Hellen born October 19, 1866.
Charles Orlando was born May 13, 1845 in Scott, New York. He never married. He died in October of 1869 in Philadelphia where he had gone to take his last or graduating course of medical lectures.
George David was also born in Scott, New York on September 6, 1847. Evidently, he moved with his father and step mother to Henry County when he was two years old. He married Esther A. Ferguson, who was born September 13, 1826 and died in the fall of 1873. This couple had one son --- James D.
After the death of Esther, George married Elisabeth Burgess and had five more children ---Fred, Charles, Melvin Clifford, born March 31, 1879, Vida, and Grace.
Julia Amanda, born November 4 1850, married William J Gasser and had four children --- Charles A., Nettie (who died before she was 2 years old)., Minnie (who died before she was 2 years old), and Eddie (who died before he was 3 years old). Julia died on Feb. 19,1884. She and the babies are buried in Young cemetery.
Jewett Otis, born May 12, 1852 married Tillie Avery. They had one son Gurney who was born in October 1885.
Dwight Cheney, born September 1, 1854, married Ellen Hales. Their family consisted of Winnie who died when only a few weeks old, Gertie who died at about 4 years old, Dorr who was born November 16, 1880 and Bessie who was born March 1, 1884 and died August 27, 1889. Allen died about six days after Bessie on September 2, 1889. After Allen’s death Dwight married Sylvia Jones.
Delia Abba Young, born January 7, 1860, married Charles M. Showman on November 9, 1881.To this couple was born the following chidren --- Cloyce M. born November 12, 1882, Melville B. born May 18, 1884, Meme born September 8, 1885 and Louvinia Amanda born January 29, 1890.
Ward Woodward, born June 14, 1862, married Adella M. Haag on August 7, 1889. They had one son named Eldon.
Lucy Anna Young, born January 7, 1864, married William Ferguson on November 9,1882. They had one child Gale L. born September 28, 1882. While they owned property in Liberty Center, they moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. William worked in New York.
Cora Hellen Young born October 16, 1866. Hellen never married and lived at home with Calvin C. and Esther Amanda.
Esther Amanda Young died in 1893. After her death, Calvin C. married Sarah A. (Pinney) Geering. Sarah Pinney was born on November 7, 1840 in Erie, Pennsylvania. She married J. W. Geering in 1878. Her husband died in 1880 in Washington Twp.
After Calvin C. died on March 1, 1911, Sarah continued to live in Liberty Center where she was active in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Order of Eastern Stars. Her active interest in foreign missions caused her to maintain a Women’s Mission and a scholarship at Vicarabad in India and she also built, at a cost of $700.00, a school house in Corea. (also known as Korea in some languages) She worked toward raising $3000.00 for a mission house and institute also in Corea. Her charity at home was no less extensive, though not as well known. She was constantly devising plans for the benefit of public and educational institutions.
INTRODUCTION September 22, 2001
The remarks I have prepared for today are to provide a short history of the Village of Liberty Center and one of its more illustrious “founding fathers”. I must say “one” of its founders because actually there were many persons who contributed to the reason Liberty Center came into existence.
The area around Liberty Center evidently attracted the attention of adventurous people around the time of the French and Indian War. The site of Damascus was the location of two different Indian tribes and shortly thereafter a trading post started by Samuel Vance about 1816. It is not a proven fact, but the Damascus site might have been chosen because it might have been a place where the river could be forded. Some of you remember the islands and sand bars in that area.
Another reason this area was popular was drainage. The Great Black Swamp covered most of the area South of the Maumee but on the North side the area was drained both by three creeks --- Bad Creek, Dry Creek, and Turkeyfoot Creek.
There were settlers in the area some forty-three years before the incorporation of Liberty Center and twenty-nine years before the Young family arrived. Some of the early names in the area were ---Biggins, Hales, Reed, Steambarge, Rathburn, Woodward, Chamberlain, and Merriman. In fact, Henry County was chartered in 1820 and the 1840 census showed there were 2492 people here and by 1860 there were 8901.
Finally in 1863, there were enough people that Alphius Buchanan saw the need for a trading center in Liberty Township and proceeded to plot a village. Others added to the process and Liberty Center was born.
The data presented today is taken from a number of articles published in various books. You may well find some contradictions to your memory. Don’t feel badly --- there are contradictions in the published articles also.
Daniel Young purchased the property on October 2, 1849 for $800.00 or $10.00 per acre. Calvin C. Young evidently inherited this farm on March 3, 1863 at least he only paid $1.00 for it.
The 1849 date when the Youngs acquired this farm coincides with the date they arrived in the area.
Thus the availability of the “canal lands” led to the settlement of this area and the eventual establishment of Liberty Center.
In 1849 the canal was in full operation. The first canal boat from Cincinnati having arrived in Toledo on June 27, 1845. There are no published records available to tell how the Young family arrived in Liiberty Township, but they could have traveled part of the way on the canal.
The nearest post office was located in the Damascus area. It was established there on September 3, 1819 and was operated by Charles Gunn. Samuel Vance became postmaster in on March 19, 1825. The office was closed in 1868.
Even though the “canal lands” sales were not available until about 1844, there were settlers in the area as early as 1820. A Mr. Biggins, in Washington Township, acquired a land grant to purchase land from the Federal government in that year.
Edwin Scribner, the first owner of the C. C. Young farm was in the area of Damascus as early as 1814. Sometime before the start of the canal construction, he erected a “thundergust sawmill” on the banks of Dry Creek in the area of what is now known as the Robert Bortel farm.
THE VILLAGE OF LIBERTY CENTER
The village of Liberty Center, though located some two miles from it, partly owes its existence to the canal. During the planning stages of the canals in 1827, the Congress of the United States granted Indiana millions of acres of land along the canal route to help finance its constuction. But this action would have resulted in Indiana’s owning and controlling 250,000 acres in Ohio. Indiana agreed to relinquish its right to these lands if Ohio would pay for the construction in Ohio. Ohio proceeded to sell this land to raise the required money and construction was started.
The only documented land sale that I have available is for the parcel that eventally wound up belonging to Calvin Cheney Young and which became a portion of the Village of Liberty Center. this parcel is described as --- the West half of the Northeast quarter of section 36, Townshp six North, Range seven East in the County of Henry in the State of Ohio. This section borders State Route 109 on the West and Maple Street on the North. Its Northwest corner is at the Dairy Bar Intersection.
This land, containing 80 acres, was sold by the State of Ohio to Edwin Scribner for the amount of $120.00 or $1.50 per acre. The date of this sale was November 10, 1843.
The next owner was Samuel J. Meader who paid $500.00 or $6.25 per acre. The date was December 11, 1844. This was the first sawmill in Henry County and the first business to be established on land in the Liberty Center area.
In 1855 the railroad was completed, this was another boost to the area. About 1858, Calvin C. Young persuaded the railroad people to put in a switch track. In exchange he agreed to build a building, at his own expense, to be used as a station. He agreed to man the station for no compensation and even learned telegraphy so the town would have a communication link. So, Liberty Center was placed on the railroad map. The old station was moved to East Maple Street, where it still stands and is used as part of a residence.
Also in about 1858, C. C. built a carpenter’s shop on East Maple Street about on the site where Wright’s funeral home is located. About the time the Civil War broke out, he built a home on East Maple Street. It is the house that Charles Grundy now lives in. The original Young home had been down by Dry Creek.
On July 4, 1863, Alphas Buchanan first conceived the idea of establishing a trading post in Liberty Township and on that day recorded 12 lots on the South side of the Wabash railroad. To these were added a second and third addition.
On January 19, 1867 Calvin C. Young added an additional 12 lots and on June 7, 1868, E. T. Coon added 10 more lots with the requisite streets and alleys.
Liberty Center was the second incorporated village in Henry County.
By 1858, some three years after the coming of the railroad, the village really began to take form. The “town” was covered with more or less groves of saplings and shrubs. There were no roads except the one extending East and West past the old Wright school and one North and South from the canal to the Hales-Reed community. The bridge near Wright school was the only one in existence for miles around.
The years between 1849, when the “canal lands” became available and 1855, when the railroad started operation, are not well described in the research writings available. It is reasonable to assume that people were moving in and establishing farms and small businesses. After 1855, and especially after 1858 when the railroad siding was built and a depot and train station were established, progress seemed to take a more positive direction. This was probably what prompted Alpheas Buchanan to realize there was a need for some platted land so that Liberty Center could develop in a more orderly manner.
The thirty-seven years between 1863 and 1900 must have been very active for people in the community. During this time stores were built, churches were formed and buildings erected, schools were developed, streets were laid out and graded, two cemeteries were defined --- Young and Wright. The railroad was doing a good business. However, travel on the canal was diminishing. In fact, the last canal boats ceased to use the canal only twelve years later in 1912.
The community was always well known for and proud of its school. The old Wright school, which sat a short mile to the West, was moved in 1877 to the Northwest corner of the school grounds. In 1886, a two-story addition was attached to the East end of the old building. Liberty schools were defined as being “graded” which must have been a unique style for the time and was known to be one of the best in the county.
The Wright school portion of the building was moved away to make room for a new building -- a two-story brick building containing four rooms. It was moved to a location on East Street, just South of the Corporation line and made into a residence. It is still in use today in 2001.
The two-story portion was purchased by the G.A.R. and was moved to the corner of East and Maple Streets to about where David Perry’s gas station is now situated. It later burned down.
During this time there were four churches -- The Methodist Episcopal, St. John’s German Reformed, The United Brethren and the Seventh-Day Adventist.
The first hotel was built on the main street near the depot. It later burned down. Liberty Center suffered several disastrous fires. Before the business district assumed its present form, nearly all the original structured had been destroyed by fire.
The main street North through town was opened up about 1860 along the East boundary of the Chamberlain-Woodward farms by a gathering of the interested neighbors, who cut a passage through the brush to the Rathburn neighborhood. It was years before the road was improved. About the same time, the road half a mile West was extended North from the Merriman and Chamberlain area to connect with the Hales-Clapp road. This gave a direct route South from the Hales road to the Wright school and on to the Wabash canal. This road, too, was not improved for many years later.
NOTE: this description of the roads leads me to believe that the main route South to the canal and the river was the one we now call Road 8.
About 1858, or a little later, a young doctor located in the neighborhood and built a neat little cottage not far from the sawmill. His name was Dr. Frank E. Pray who came from Norwalk soon after his graduation from medical school. He served here until he enlisted in the Army in 1862, during the Civil War. The Pennocks came in about 1860 and Ed Pennock opened a grocery store next to Dr. Pray.
About this time, there were several businesses established in the area. There was a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, a cooper’s shop, grocery store, hotel, dry goods store, a carpenter’s shop, a post office, a railroad station, a grist mill, a wagon factory, a livery stable and several others.
There always seemed to be a goodly number of businesses in the town. In the time after 1920, there are a number to be remembered -- a sauerkraut factory, a pickle processing plant, a grain elevator, two undertakers, a furniture maker, three automobile dealers, two hardware stores, a men’s clothing store, a millinery shop, a weekly newspaper, a shoe repair shop, a drug store, a bank, a dry goods store, a lumber yard, a road construction company, a trucking company, a hatchery, a photograper’s studio, a bakery, a tinsmith shop, five gas stations, three barber shops, a movie theatre, two saloons, two billiard parlors, four grocery stores, two restaurants, three beauty parlors, a produce buyer, an egg processing plant, a machine shop, two coal yards, two farm machinery dealers, a cider press, a sorghum syrup cookery, a tile and brick yard and probably some others.
Liberty Center, from the very start, has been a thriving community.
We have to feel that some families were well established in the area before Liberty Center came into existence. Evidently some were here as early as 1820. Probably the earliest was about 1812 to 1814. The canal building days --- 1825 -- 1845 brought settlers to the area. Some of the people, many of Irish descent and having worked on the Erie canal to help build the Miami-Erie canal, bought farms when the canal lands became available and stayed and made their homes here. Some of those families still reside in the area. Some on the same farms they acquired so long ago.
It is interesting to note that Calvin C. Young’s life span closely paralleled the life span of the canal. The first construction began in Cincinnati in1825 -- Calvin was born in 1825. The canal went out of business after the great flood of 1913 -- Calvin died in 1911.
The main street, East Street, in the business area was originally paved with brick. It was used as such until it was covered by asphalt in 1951. The North end of East Street, Maple Street and Damascus Street were graded and curbing installed even though they were paved only dirt or gravel. The founding fathers had good foresight when they left the wide right-of-way where the business district was going to be.
It is hard to imagine now, but the Wabash railroad was very busy. Even up to and after World War II there were four passenger and two freight trains each day. There were no freight trains on Sunday. Mail was picked up and dropped off four times a day. It was hauled to the post office in a two-wheeled push-cart.
At one time, there was a train called “the Four O’clock Flyer”. It didn’t stop in Liberty Center but did throw off the mail and pick up mail from a mail hook that held the bag. The train is said to have gone through town at sixty miles per hour. The line through Liberty went directly to Fort Wayne with connections to St. Louis. It was a very direct and important rail link.
The trading area of Liberty Center was probably a circle with a radius of about six miles. This was about a hour’s trip for a horse and buggy. With the advent of the automobile, this radius expanded and in doing so, reached past other trading centers which added more competition to the businesses in Liberty Center. Gradually businesses started to close their doors. The ones that remain are those that provide a convenience service to the local people. The large national chains of stores and services have taken their toll.
As we learned earlier, the school has always been a jewel and a central binding force in the community. It is still so today. It is the largest employer. Without the school, Liberty Center would become a place you passed through on your way to somewhere else.
Liberty Center has recently enjoyed a pattern of newly constructed residences that not only enhance the appearance of the town but also strengthened it by providing a larger tax base which in turn strengthens the school. The older homes and businesses have also been repaired and beautified.
Liberty Center has always been known as a pleasant place to live. It still is.
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