Stark County History
On February 13, 1808, the Ohio government authorized the creation of Stark County. Residents named the county in honor of General John Stark, a hero of the American Revolution.
Stark County is located in northeastern Ohio. The county seat is Canton, which is the county’s largest population center, with 80,806 residents in 2000. The county experienced a 2.9 percent increase in population between 1990 and 2000, raising the number of residents to 378,098 people. An average of 656 people live in each of Stark County’s 576 square miles.
Stark County remains heavily rural, with urban areas comprising just five percent of the county’s land mass. With 1,300 farms existing in the county, many residents find employment in agriculture, but manufacturing establishments, sales positions, and service industries are the county’s largest employers. Stark County also has an active tourist industry, including the President William McKinley National Memorial, the First Ladies Museum, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, among numerous other sites. The county’s average income was 25,214 dollars per person in 1999, with 10.5 percent of the population living in poverty.
Most voters in Stark County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have supported Republican Party candidates by slim margins at the national level.
The county also boasts numerous famous residents, including President of the United States William McKinley, First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley, and early industrialist Bezaleel Wells.
Sources: Stark County, Ohio History Central, July 24, 2008, http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=2015&nm=Stark-County
George Young, the earliest permanent settler of Pike Township, was born at Hagerstown, Maryland in 1780. His father was born in Germany and came to this country in Colonial days with his parents when he was only three years of age.
At the age of nine George moved with his parents to Milford Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, about fifty miles south-east of Pittsburgh. At the early age of nineteen he became engaged and married Miss Catherine Hachler and they immediately commenced housekeeping near his father’s home. After remaining at this location for the period of one year he moved to Jefferson County, Ohio where he employed his time in working by day and farming on shares. Being dissatisfied with his progress at this location and learning of better opportunities in other parts of the state he resolved to try his fortune by penetrating farther into the unsettled forests of Ohio.
Leasing a tract of land for ninety-nine years, known as Section 16 in Pike Township, southern Stark County, of the owner (a resident of Jefferson County), and spending his small accumulation of worldly wealth for two horses, a few agricultural implements and other actual necessities, he was ready once more to start in quest of a new home. He placed his wife with their babe on one horse and on the other which he led he packed their provisions and clothing; in his hand he carried his trusty rifle as a means of defense and for procuring game for food.
As there were no highways in the unsettled parts of the state, their path was through the wilderness and along Indian trails. After a slow and wearisome journey of several days they crossed Sandy Creek at Downings Ford, which is located a short distance South-east of the old location of the B. & O. Station at Sandyville. Then turning north-westwardly they followed the old Indian trail until they touched the banks of the Limestone Creek; turning north they followed the tortuous course of this stream until they reached the Sulfur Spring at the foot of the bank, south of the farm residence of T. P. Russell and approximately near the center of Pike Township.
Here beneath the branches of an oak tree he constructed a shelter of poles and brush to serve as a protection from storm and wild beasts and a lodging place at night. At this location surrounded by virgin forests in the early spring of 1806 marked the humble beginning of the history of Pike Township.
Mr. Young’s neighbors were few and those were not near. The nearest were John Nicholas who was at that time building a mill on Nimishillen Creek, four miles to the north which was subsequently known as the Browning Mill at North Industry, and John Farber whose land was located in Tuscarawas County near the southern boundary line of Pike Township, a distance of five miles.
For a number of weeks this couple worked together clearing the ground, burning brush and logs and preparing the soil for seeding. Their horses fed on grass and wild pea vines which grew luxuriantly and at night were tethered to prevent them from straying away. During this time their provisions ran low and Mrs. Young rode horseback to Steubenville to replenish their supplies. During her absence Mr. Young’s food supply becoming exhausted, he went to James Eakins who resided in Tuscarawas County about five miles distant for a pail full of meal and exchanged the pail for enough meal to tide him over until his wife’s return. After all the planting and sowing had been done Mr. Young and wife returned to their old home in Jefferson County to harvest a crop of wheat which he had sowed the fall before and in which he had an interest. While engaged in harvesting, threshing and marketing his wheat, Mrs. Young secured employment at weaving, receiving as compensation for her services, lodging and boarding for herself and child and in addition a small pecuniary consideration.
As soon as he was able to sell his share of the wheat, he invested the proceeds in a load of merchandise, consisting of flour, meal, corn, salt, whiskey and tobacco and also a two-wheeled cart to which he hitched his horses tandem style and started on his road home to Pike.
After his arrival at home, he erected a log cabin just across the road to the south -west of the T. P. Russell farm. He also constructed some rude furniture sufficient for their wants. Regardless of how rudely constructed the furniture might be, the early settlers were satisfied if it served the purpose intended. A large puncheon with legs set in augur holes served as a table; blocks of wood set on end for chairs and a sugar trough which was made by splitting a log in twain and hollowing out one of the parts was used for a cradle or bread tray as circumstances might require.
The first winter they passed in their new home was long, lonely and dreary. There was little to do outdoors except fell trees and prepare them for firewood. They seldom saw the face of a white man. However it was not an uncommon occurrence to be visited by Indians who called for something to eat. They were friendly and did not harm anyone, but often frightened women and children when alone.
It is related that at one time a rumor spread that the Indians were on the warpath and that they would visit the settlements in this part of the state. John Domer who lived on land later known as the John Teeple farm, went over to his nearest neighbors, the Youngs, and induced them to flee for safety with them to Steubenville.
They started in the evening and traveled all night. When they stopped to rest they could hear distinctly the crowing of Mr. Young’s roosters at home. At daylight they discovered that they were either on the Steiner or Hiple hill. Mr. Young then said that he was going home to sow his rye but Domer who was more interested in saving his scalp than agricultural pursuits continued on his way to Stubenville. The Indian scare proved a false alarm and as a result of Domer leaving without sowing his rye he was compelled to buy what he needed of Young the next year.
The first crop of wheat harvested by Mr. Young in Pike was done without bread, there being no meal to be purchased nearer than Stubenville or among the settlements on the Muskingum. The wheat was beaten out of the heads and boiled in milk as a substitute for bread. The customary way of preparing meal was by rubbing the ears over a large tin grater nailed on a board or a block of wood. This was somewhat easy unless the corn became too hard when it was necessary to resort to the pounding block to reduce the corn to meal. It became necessary for Mr. Young to use the above crude methods for several years after his settlement in Pike.
Mr. Young lived on this leased land until 1811 when by hard labor and strict economy he accumulated enough money to enter the N. W. Quarter of Section No. 21. subsequently owned by George Lebeau, upon which he built a log cabin. He afterwards improved the place and opened the farm, having built a large brick house in 1830, the first of the kind erected in the township. After a period of 108 years this brick building, in a fair state of preservation is standing as a monument in silent memory of the thrift and courage of it’s builder and is still performing its duty as a dwelling house.
During the war of 1812 Mr. Young was drafted three times but each time furnished a substitute. The standard price of a substitute was One Hundred Dollars. Who of the early settlers served as substitutes for Young the records do not reveal. While the soldiers were encamped at Canton and Wooster he furnished them with beef cattle, the greater part of which he raised on his own farm.
At this early period Stubenville was one of the nearest markets to which the settlers went when in need of any of the necessities of life. Young being a shrewd business man soon saw the advantages to be gained by starting a small store at his residence which he continued for a number of years. He held in stock only such articles as the settlers most needed such as salt, iron, nails, glass, leather, etc. As time passed and general stores were established in the growing villages, Mr. Young closed his store and devoted his whole time to the cultivation of his farms.
Like many of the uneducated people of his day Mr. Young believed in witchcraft. He bought a book on the subject entitled “How to Control Witches” of a Dr. Fogle of Canton, paying a high price for it. By following the directions in this book and to the fact that he was left handed he attributed his power to control the witches. However, as the country became more densely settled and intelligence reached a higher plane his belief in witchcraft weakened; his experience and observation taught him that those things which he had heretofore credited to super-natural agencies were due to causes based on natural laws.
In politics he took little interest, never seeking or holding any office of public trust in the township. He usually supported the principles of Thomas Jefferson. However, if he concluded that his party strayed too far from its original principles he would support the opposing party.
His religious sentiment was probably inclined towards the German Lutheran faith. His education was limited as his youth was passed before public schools were established. However he gained much valuable knowledge in the school of experience. He was a man of strong will, industrious, and was possessed with natural ability in business as his ownership of large tracts of land at his death attested.
Physically he was a large man and possessed with much strength and endurance. His voice was high pitched and somewhat shrill. During the later years of his life he was afflicted with rheumatism which necessitated the use of a crutch or cane to assist him in walking. Besides the 160acre tract on which he lived, he owned a quarter section on the north and a quarter section on the south of his home farm. Also 80 acres south of the village of East Sparta, two lots in the village and 80 acres in Bethlehem Township afterwards known as the John B. Whitmer farm. At the time of his death he owned all of the above tracts of land except the quarter section joining his home farm on the south which he had previously sold.
He died October, 1873, at the age of almost ninety-four and was buried in Sherman Cemetery in the eastern part of Bethlehem Township.
Mr. Young married twice and was the father of the populous family of nineteen children. To the union with his first wife twelve children were born, six sons and six daughters, of which we have the following;
In the same year his first wife died (1839) he was remarried to a widow by the name of Almria Greene. To this union seven children were born, two sons and five daughters of which we have the following:
The mother of these children some time after the death of her husband made her home with her son Frank in Canton, Ohio, where she died several years later.The whole number of descendants of this pioneer settler to the seventh generation (1938) is eight hundred. Many have died and a number have moved far from the home their worthy ancestor established, yet they are all contributing in the various occupations and professions a goodly share to the prosperity and stability of the communities in which they reside
— Written and compiled by Edwin S. Hines —
The beginning of Pike Township and the town of Sparta (now East Sparta) were so intertwined that a single history covers both. (East Sparta Village incorporated 12/6/1938)
Pike Township was organized March 16, 1815. It included both present Pike and present Bethlehem Townships and was made up of an area which had previously been part of Canton Township.
The first election for township officers was held in April, 1815, at the home of Henry Bordner, and those elected were from both the Pike and Bethlehem areas. the new Township was named for General Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who was killed in the War of 1812 while in command of an expedition again York (now Toronto) in Canada.
The earliest known permanent settler in Pike Township was George Young, described in the previous section.
Henry Bordner, at whose home the first township election was held, and Philip Seffert settled in what was to be Pike Township in 1811. Both were chosen township officers in that first election in 1815. Jonathan Cable also came in 1811 and planted the first five acres of wheat in the area. His holdings later became the site of the U.S. Quarry Tile Company.
Pitney Guest came in 1912 with his father-in-law, Benjamin Miller. Guest was the first justice of the peace elected in the township. He was an ordained Baptist minister, and did much of the early marrying in the area.
Other Pike Township pioneers were John Shutt and Jacob Kimery. In 1814 a Quaker, Amos Janney, settled in the lower portion of Pike Township. He was a surveyor by profession but had an inclination towards business. He built a sawmill and a gristmill, the first in the township.
Janney believed that an influx of population into the area was coming and would support a town, so he surveyed and platted the village of Sparta (named after the rival of Athens in the history of ancient Greece) with four street crossings at right angels, named for animals (buffalo, elk, wolf and bear). He recorded the plat at the Stark County recorder’s office on March 22, 1815, only a few days after Pike Township itself was organized. East Sparta was incorporated as a village on December 6, 1938. The first elected officials were: Fred O. Paul, justice of the peace; Paul H. Black, mayor; Cora K. Dine, clerk; (she served until 1958); A. J. McKinney, marshal; W. J. Schnitzer, treasurer (followed by E. L. Murray in 1942).
In 1816, the Bowman family farm, located about a mile west of Magnolia, in both Sandy and Pike Townships was started by Thomas Newhouse II, who homesteaded 150 acres at the current borders of Stark and Carroll counties, one of the oldest family farms in the United States. Newhouse and his wife were blessed with 10 children, seven boys and three girls, which would have been a big help as they worked their 150 acre farm. At that time in history, women had not yet gained voting rights or legal rights like today, so usually only males inherited or owned property. But out of Newhouse’s seven sons, only one had a son to leave the family farm to, and then that male child did not have children in his lifetime, so in the end, the farm was legally passed on to one of the daughters, Sadie Newhouse.
Sadie married John Bowman in 1910. It proved a very wise decision to pass the farm on to her and her husband John, for the Newhouse-Bowman family has kept farm the original homestead for an amazing 193 years through five generations, until the death of Warren Bowman in 2006.
About 1827 Pike Township was divided into 6 school districts. They were Green Ridge #1, Battlesburg #2, Guest #3, Henlines #4, McKinney #5 and Bowman #6. The Green Ridge district was organized in 1826 and the others before 1830.
As new settlers arrived in the township, Melshimer #7 district was added. These 7 districts sufficed until the mid 1940’s when Bowman #6 was sub-divided and Squirrel Valley #8 was created. Shortly afterward Groves #9 on the west side of the township was added.
In the 1850’s a new district, known as Farber’s was built and called District #10. In 1889 #11 at Howenstine was added, where the pupils from the village had to walk the mile east of Sparta to attend until the late 1870’s when Sparta rented a building for their own school.
Other towns/settlements that sprung up in the Township, in the early 1800’s and consisted of such businesses like, but not limited to, post office, general store, school and church, were:
Battlesburg, in the center of the Township at the intersections of Battlesburg Road and Ridge Avenue. The only remaining buildings, general store (N.W. corner of Ridge) and log house (S.W. corner of Ridge) on the west side of Ridge Avenue where the town water supply was located. Both buildings are residences now. The town hall and post office was located on the S.E. side of Ridge Avenue. The school was located on the N.E. corner of Ridge Avenue, which is presently a vacant lot owned by Asbury church.
In 1830 meetings were held in the home of Abraham Chestnutwood, afterwards known as the Mahlon Slutz farm home. The meetings held at this home were the beginning of the or Asbury Chuch. In 1831 Jacob Miller and his family moved onto a farm, which was located near the center of the township. This farm home became the center of religions activities before the first brick church was built on the same lot as the Asbury Cemetery. in 1834 Rev. C. H. Jackson took pastoral charge of the organization. In 1842 Jacob Miller donated a tract of land in the northeast corner of his farm for the church (Briggle & Battlesburg) where the cemetery remains. In 1891 a new church was erected a mile east (Battlesburg & Ridge), where it remains and is still active.
Howenstine (originally called Briggsville), founded in 1880 in the northeast area, to serve the needs of coal miners on the Howenstine farm, as well as the mines to the west and north to Slabtown. The Samuel Howenstine home remains on Howenstine Drive, just west of the railroad tracks. The original ancestral home of the Howenstines lies, in disrepair, about a mile away at the southwest corner of Battlesburg Road and Cleveland Avenue where Jacob Howenstine, father of Samuel who founded the village, settled on 400 acres which he purchased from his father-in-law, George Crause in 1823.
Three prominent families of the Howenstine were Samuel Howenstine, James Steinmetz, who founded Howenstine Christian Church, (the church remains and operating) and Irving Sickafoose (the first school teacher at Green Ridge School) turned farmer. Decendents of these families still remain in the area.
Melscheimer. Located in the north central area (Ridge Ave. & Melscheimer St.) of the Township and connected by Melscheimer Church (named after Rev. Henry Melscheimer) and Cemetery (the official burying ground for the area in the early 1800’s), Melchimer School #7 The land for the Church (Lutheran and German Reformed) was donated to the church trustees on July 15, 1818, which had been a part of the Bechtel farm. Dr. William H. Becher lived and practiced medicine in the home adjacent to the cemetery on Ridge Avenue, which is currently owned by the Eversole family.
Melscheimer Church was raised in 1959 and Melscheimer School was closed in 1947 and the students transferred to Canton Local Schools. Melscheimer School was sold to the Coon Hunters Club, who retained it until 2008 and then sold the property.
Cricket Valley. Harry N. Malavite came from Attica, Greece and purchased 25 acre farm, in l903 from Ed Young. He later purchased the Davis and Alexander farms and presently Cricket Valley Farms comprises approximately 800 plus acres owned by Herry’s son Gust and his sons. For a long time Gust, his wife Penny and their three sons sponsored local 4-H groups, Tri-County Trail Assn. and hosted a yearly national rodeo. The farm still remains a working farm, specializing in long horn cattle. Their excavating business operates on the north end the Township at the Ridge Avenue and Cleveland Avenue intersections.
MINING – A large portion of Pike Township was strip mined in the 19th and early 20th century. Mining continues in the township, but a great deal of acreage is still un-reclaimed spoil banks and pits from both coal and clay mining operations. Most of the area west of Dueber Avenue from the north boundary to the southern most part of the township, including the 258 acre landfill in the southwest corner of the township still contains remnants of the mining operations. The clay mining area between Dueber Avenue, east to Sandyville Road, still shows the remnants of mining from the U. S. Ceramic Tile Company.
A portion of the coal stripped area in the southeast portion, north of Westbrook, of the Township has been re-mined and reclaimed and residences have been built on some of the reclaimed area. The City of Canton property (the old sewer plant) has been reclaimed and an effort was made to transform that property into a county park but was put on hold when changes were made in the City government. There is still a large area north of Battlesburg, on both sides of Cleveland Avenue, that has not been reclaimed.
Residences are doted throughout the area, but during the 60’s and 70’s residential allotments were established. In the northwest corner is the Fohl Village Mobil Home Park and along Route 800 (Cleveland Avenue) are the residential areas of Cricket Hill, Deerwood Circle (Maycrest Allotment), west of Howenstine, Diss Allotment near Battlesburg Street and Ferndale Allotment at the southern most part of the Township.
West of Melscheimer and east of Dueber Avenue a golf course was built on the Shankle farm (Breezehill Road) in the early 1960’s. Spring Valley Golf Course, after changing ownership several times, a retired Canton fireman, purchased the property in the early 1990’s and expanded the 9 hole golf course to a scenic 18 holes, adding a driving range and banquet facilities. It remains as a prime example of reclaimed strip mine land.
Areas zoned for commercial use were established at Fohl Road and Sherman Church and along state route 800 on the north (both sides of Cleveland Avenue); on the west side of Cleveland at Battlesburg and the west side of Cleveland south of Farber Street, a portion of which was annexed into the Village of East Sparta in 2008.
Industrial areas include: (1) in the north at I-77 & Fohl a salvage yard. (2) in the southwest between Gracemont, Dueber, Downing & I-77, Countywide landfill and (3) in the south, between Dueber on the west, Ridge on the east, Ullet on the north, strip mined area, with a dozen or so residences.
U.S. Ceramic Tile Company – George H. Walker purchased the 109 acre farm of Jonathan Cable in 1882 and built a brick plant. In 1890 he sold to George Markley of Mineral City and Markley added the plant to the American Fire Brick and Clay Company which he had organized in 1893. The clay on the Walker farm, when fired or burned, produced a natural buff color by the process known as salt glaze.
Markley’s company produced the bricks for the old Canton Auditorium and for St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Canton. Markley’s American Fire Brick and Clay Company later became the Anchor Tile and Clay Company, located on the railroad. This company went into receivership in 1895 and the name was changed to the Canton Buff Brick Company, and later to the Federal Clay. It was sold to the United States Quarry Tile Company on October 10, 1936.
In 1908 A. B. Klay and George Walker built a new plant on the Walker farm to manufacture Spanish Roofing Tile, patented by Klay. He had traveled around the country looking for the proper clay deposits to manufacture his new tile and found it in East Sparta. This plant became known as the “Shingle Plant” and operated under the name A. B. Klay Company from 1908 to 1912.
In 1912 the firm was reorganized as the Canton Roofing Tile Company. And in 1913, D. J. Cable and F. L. Beam merged the United States Tile Company of Parkersburg, W. Va. and The Canton Roofing Tile Company of East Sparta, and incorporated under the laws of West Virginia as the United States Roofing Tile Company.
After World War I, a Dressler Tunnel kiln was built and machinery installed for the manufacture of buff, gray and brown quarry tile. This was the first Tunnel kiln in the world. A round kiln was built by W. C. Knight, a kiln contractor, for the O. C. Garber plant south of Howenstine.
The famous Romany Tile originated in East Sparta in 1926. This tile was sent all over the world. It was made by the United States Quarry Tile Company and some great construction projects, including the Panama Canal, the T.V.A. and Hoover Dam used the tile.
A noted United States tunnel using United States Quarry tile was the 179th Street tunnel at the end of the George Washington bridge in New York City, connecting the Henry Hudson Parkway with the East Side Highway.
Luflen, a Spanish company, purchased the Company and in 2008 they stopped production and requested the 711 acres, including the plant be annexed into the Village of East Sparta and they offered the company’s land and buildings for sale.
The East Sparta Soldiers’ Monument, a bronze figure of a soldier at parade rest, was erected in 1915 in the East Sparta Cemetery by the G.A.R. in honor of the Pike Township soldiers.
East Sparta was incorporated as a village on December 6, 1938. Two residential areas were added to the village in the 1950’s; the Haag Allotment annexed in 1953 and the Reynolds Allotment in 1961. The U. S. Ceramic Tile plant (711 acres) was annexed in 2008. A plot of land was donated by the Company for the village water tank. Until 1956 the village council meetings were held in the Pike Township Hall. That year a newly constructed municipal building was occupied.
Pike Township with 4,400 residents remains, primarily, rural residential, in nature, and has no central water or sewer systems. It is split into three school districts; Canton Local, on the north, Sandy Valley Local on the south and Tusky Valley on the southwest. Excerpts from The Stark County Bicentennial Story, Volume 2, written by Edna Elliot.
Free Press Standard Accent, 11/13 & 11/20/2003.