Category Archives: Townships

Flatrock Township

Flatrock Township was organized on May 23, 1835. At this time, Flatrock Township included what is now Richland Township in Defiance County.

In 1833, there was no post office nearer than Defiance, but one was established about 1834, called McLean after John McLean, the Postmaster General. This is probably where the story that Florida was first named McLean stems from and it well may be true as the location of this post office was said to have been just east of the present site of Florida. Mail was received about once a month, carried on horseback.

In 1833, the Indians were more numerous than the whites in Flatrock Township, but they were friendly. They had camps near Girty’s Island on the south bank of the river and came each year to burn bones at the graves of their deceased friends. It was predicted then that Flatrock Township would grow as its soil was capable of sustaining a population multiplied by ten or twenty. In 1888, Flatrock Township was one of the best “cleared up” townships in the county, containing more of the “old” farms than any other section. The population of Flatrock Township in 1888 was 469 persons. The official census of 1970 lists 1,560 inhabitants in Flatrock Township of whom, 285 live in the Village of Florida.

Flatrock Township farmers are prosperous and still produce generous yields from their fertile farms. General grain farming is foremost but the advent of the large Campbell Soup Co. plant at Napoleon has introduced the cultivation of tomatoes and small vegetables to the area. Dairy farming is declining although there are some top notch herds in the township. Much of the choice acreage in Flatrock Township now sells for well over a $1000.00 per acre and is much in demand. Many new homes are being built on the farms and in 1975 there is a trend to move to the country and many farmers are selling small acreage plots from their wood-lots and former pasture lands to city dwellers who are constructing homes.

In 1831 Wm. Bowen wrested a small clearing on the north bank of the Maumee River and established a double log cabin known as “Hunter’s Inn”. This clearing was to become the first village in Henry County and was named Florida although it has been written that it was first called McLean. The village
is located in northern Flatrock Township on Scenic Route 424 nine miles west of Napoleon or nine miles east of Defiance. Here the township records were kept and the township business done.
With the completion of the Miami-Erie Canal in 1842, Florida immediately became a thriving metropolis —the center of trading and commerce for the area. It is said that at one time the village supported sixteen saloons. There was a grist mill and slaughter house as well as a hoop mill, an ashery, two hotels, and several other enterprises.

Stanley, located in the very southwestern corner of Flatrock Township, was a railroad town organized when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bought a 100 foot strip of land from the local landowners. Hearsay has it that Stanley was named because in order to board the train, potential passengers were obliged to stand on the platform in order to stop the train as no regular stop was made there.

Today, Stanley remains much the same — a small cluster of homes divided by the railroad tracks with the elevator as its main business establishment.

Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.

Damascus Township

Damascus was first settled by whites in two general areas. The first area near the mouth of the south Turkey Foot, now owned by Dr. Thomas Brown, is known as Odessa. This area was probably an old Indian haunt and was taken up by the Reid family as early as 1838-40. The Reids came from Scotland, and parlayed hard work and enterprise into large landholdings along Road 5-A, once known as Reid Street. Odessa prospered for a time while the Miami and Erie Canal made port on the Turkey Foot.

Apparently an epidemic of cholera and progress nearly finished the community, but before the railroad put McClure (1880) on the map, Odessa was the only community of any size in the township, and at one time boasted of a sawmill, gristmill, and at least one store. Of late, Odessa is only a place name to people of the township and to the residents of the assorted dwellings along the creek.

The other area of early settlement in Damascus Township was along the eastern edge. This most likely occurred because of travel along the Wapakoneta Trail and Big Creek. Into this area came the Rowlands in the 1840’s, the McLains, David Hickman, the Bells, James Fiser, and Ballmers. Settlement in this area was less concentrated than around Odessa. But the land was cleared, churches and schools founded, and life on the frontier began.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 designated certain areas being set aside for schools. The early settlers took this cue and established at least 9 schools throughout the township before they were consolidated into the Central School in McClure about 1917.

Today a drive around the township will show the remnants of the “little brick schoolhouses” that “learned” our parents. Only three buildings remain; The Foltz, Big Creek or “Brush College” and Odessa.

The fate of the local churches through the township is much the same as the schools. All have been consolidated, forgotten, or transformed into homes, yet they stand as a monument to those founders of this land whose faith in themselves was surpassed only by their faith in God.

While the river served as the primary transport connection to commerce, Odessa flourished and the ferry to Texas at the foot of Bob Wagner’s lane carried Damascans to that thriving canal town across the river. However, once the Cloverleaf Railroad cut through the woods from Toledo to Grand Rapids, to Delphos, the fate of the canal-river connection was sealed. Now the railroad town was the link to the world and all along the track sprang up those little towns that still dot the county; McClure, Grelton, Malinta, Elery, Holgate and on down the road.

Laid out in 1880 on the farm of John McClure, the village of McClure was incorporated in 1886. The new town was near the junction of two proposed railroads, the Coldwater, Mansfield and Lake Michigan and the Toledo, Delphos and Burlington (also later known as the Cloverleaf, the Nickle Plate and now the Norfolk and Western). The Coldwater never passed the grade stage but the T,D and B was built and the town flourished. A relic of this growth period (circa 1890) still stands east of the McClure Elevator along the railroad. The McClure Machine and Manufacturing Building is all that remains of the ambitious scheme to produce farm machinery in McClure. Despite the company’s failure, a new addition to the town was platted, people were attracted and new businesses were established.

Businessmen are the first to recognize the change and the smart ones take action. One such character was Thomas Durbin, who moved his store from Texas across the river to McClure. He built a store and eventually, a bank on the site of the present bank building in McClure.

(Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.)

Bartlow Township

Bartlow Township is situated in the southeast corner of Henry County where Henry, Wood, Putnam and Hancock join. It was not organized until 1854, at which time there were not enough electors living in the territory to fill the township offices. It became necessary at this first election, which was held on a pile of railroad ties, for one person to assume the duties of several offices. There was no need for electioneering!

The township was named in honor of Cornelius Bartlow, who had settled in section 36 in 1851, and was the first settler in the township, it at that time being a part of Richfield. Earlier still, it, together with all of the rest of Henry County, was a part of Damascus Twp., organized in 1823.

In 1855, there were but four resident tax payers, who with the Dayton and Michigan Railroad, paid taxes totaling $488.12.

Many causes contributed to the slow development of this area. It was the only part of the county that formed a part of the actual “Black Swamp”, low, flat, wet, with no outlet of any kind for the water that covered the whole surface. Nine-tenths of the land was owned by land speculators, the land not being for sale, and besides there were plenty of more desirable and better located lands that could be had cheaply.

The construction of the Dayton and Michigan R.R. was the first real break made in the wilderness. The construction of this road necessitated drainage, but it was quite superficial. A large reservoir was constructed at the place where Deshler now stands, and the surface water drained into it through Brush Creek, and became a main watering place for the railroad. The real improvement of the township came in 1869 with the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. A frame building was erected and a supply store for the contractors and employees opened at the reservoir, and the D. and M. then made that place a regular station, giving it the name of Alma.

The west branch of Beaver Creek, Hammer Creek, Beaver Creek, Brush Creek were all cleaned out, widened and deepened. So began the conversion of the swamp to the fertile farms of today!

According to Historical Atlas of the World published in 1875 by H. H. Hardesty and Co. of Chicago, there were only 342 acres of land under cultivation in Bartlow Township. The total acres of land in the township are listed at 22,434 with a value that totals only $91,380! Now, a hundred years later, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to purchase 100 acres for that sum!

Few of the names of land owners in the township a hundred years ago are familiar here today. Among those that are, may be mentioned the Blues, Oberlightners, Spanglers, Van Scoyocs, Smiths, Millers, Wendts, Lees, and Browns. In 1875, Mr. J. G. Deshler, still held title to over 6000 acres in the township.
Of land that is today in possession of descendants of the same surname there are two: the farm of Howard Van Scoyoc in section 36 which was first owned by his great grandfather and his father, and the farm of Nelson Spangler in section 18 which was first owned by his grandfather’s brother Levi Spangler in 1851.

Today fertile fields cover nearly all of the township. From the air, it appears like a vast, orderly, and very beautiful garden. However, it seems that the pioneer zeal to clear the land has been carried a little too far for the ultimate good of the land. It remains to be seen if our farmers of today will be equal to the challenge of preserving the remaining woodlands and conserving the soil that is their basic and most valuable resource.

(Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.)