By Estelle R. Brown
The Villager – This village was settled 210 years ago, in early July 1804, by John Garrett of Delaware. On the occasion of Garrettsville’s Centennial Celebration, the history of early Garrettsville was written by S.M. Luther and published in SOUVENIR of Garrettsville ~ Centennial Home Coming. (Interesting to note it was published three years late in 1907!) Local businessman Christopher Perme discovered a copy of this relic on eBay, and has loaned it to the Villager in order to share these little-known facts about our hometown…
1) When Garrett founded Garrettsville in 1804, it was part of 300 acres of Nelson Township he bought for a grand total of $1,313. The Garrett family was accompanied the Dyson family and two slave girls (aged 6 and 10) who earned their freedom (by law) when they turned 18.
2)Garrettsville is located in territory that was originally Trumbull County. Portage was the third county formed from it in 1808 (which was the same year Hiram Township was formed. In 1817, Hiram Township was divided into the six townships of Mantua, Freedom, Windham, Nelson, Shalersville and Hiram.)
3) “Following their arrival, they were encamped for several weeks where the pavement of Main Street now is, and busied themselves erecting cabins. The newcomers seemed to have energies equal to the exigencies of the conditions that faced them. They were located in the midst of an undisturbed forest, with few hands to do the work, yet early in the following year they had built a dam across Silver Creek and had a saw mill in operation, soon followed by a grist mill.”
4) Abraham Dyson was a blacksmith who “is said to have had considerable patronage by the Indians in repairing firearms. The natives and settlers at times had altercations, but in general their policy seemed to be that of tolerance up to the war of 1812, after which an Indian was rarely seen.”
5) John Garrett died two years after arriving here at the age of 46. He was preceded in death in 1805 by an infant son Josiah, who was the first white person to be buried here. His widow, Eleanor, became known as Mother Garrett. “A cheerful welcome was extended to all newcomers and often the hospitalities of her home. Her customary address on receiving new settlers was, “I welcome you to my country.”
6) Mason Tilden settled in Hiram in 1802, at which time he located a stream he christened Silver Creek, which runs through Garrettsville.
7) At the time Garrettsville was settled, Garrettsville’s only passageway was an Indian blazed trail, running from an encampment in Windham to Hiram Rapids, “where there was a village of about 15 huts occupied chiefly by Indians of the Wyandot tribe.” State, Main and Windham streets were established in 1827.
8) A sampling of goods and farm product available in early Garrettsville demonstrate how much times have changed since 1818: : gingham cloth-$1 p/yard; coffee-50 cents p/lb.; loaf sugar-50cents; felt hat-$5; quarter of beef-$2.62; dressed hog-$2.50.
9) Discussion to incorporate the village began in 1863, when “the condition of the streets and walks in stormy weather was intolerable, and the proper method of improving conditions was much discussed.” By 1864, a charter was granted, incorporating the town of Garrettsville. “The result was a marked improvement in many lines, notably in sidewalks and roadways.” In order to alleviate long distances travelled in order for citizens to vote, it became a township as well as an incorporated village with concurrent powers in 1874. At the time, only one other village in the state was known to have a similar form of government.
10) In 1889-1990, wooden sidewalks were replaced with 6+ miles of sawed flagging. City Hall was also erected in 1889, costing more than $15,000 to build. The building included council rooms, the fire department, the jail and a boiler room. The main floor included a 600-seat ‘audience hall’ with a 23×48-foot stage and dressing rooms. In 1907, “The citizens are awaiting the placing of a town clock in the tower, which has been contracted for and amply financed by loyal friends at home and abroad.” By 1964, the opera house had fallen into disrepair, was condemned and torn down. Only the clock was saved. It now ticks on in a new clock tower built to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. From its location near the police department, it overlooks the the burned-out Buckeye Block.
As history demonstrates, Garrettsville has gone through seasons of hardships and periods of focused growth. Some of its historic landmarks have fallen into disrepair or have been consumed by fire. Others — like the feed mill at Main and Center — are currently undergoing a renaissance. The Buckeye Block, which once housed one third of Main Street’s business district, is “Rockin’ to Rebuild,” thanks to overwhelming community support. In the near future, this village is poised to add plenty of good news to the history books.
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