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Galena and the Mudflats: More Than Meets the Eye

0 Gal MF 01Unlike Alum Creek, Hoover Reservoir was not constructed by the Army Corp of Engineers and was a less invasive process.  It was created in the 1950’s by the City of Columbus and holds as much as 20 billion gallons of water.  It dams up the Big Walnut Creek.  Galena, which was established at the point where the Little Walnut Creek meets the big one, now sits at the very northern end of the reservoir.  Here the Hoover nature preserve was established just less than 10 years ago.

The preserve is actually made up of several areas detailed on this map, including Mud Hen Marsh.  The crown jewel of the preserve is the 1500 foot boardwalk where you can view birds, fish, and watch amazing sunsets.  Depending on the time of the year, water levels can be very low, and mud may be the only thing you can see.  However, this provides a virtual buffet for many species of birds.

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A trip to the Mudflats boardwalk is also a great destination for cycling enthusiasts.  A series of connected trails will get you there.  Kayakers also love Hoover Reservoir, and from their vantage point may discover incredible things, perhaps even pink flamingos.

While the local history around the entire reservoir and both townships is very rich, I focused my recent trip on the Galena area.  Gilbert Carpenter found it to be an excellent location for a sawmill in 1809 and thus the village was born.   Gilbert raised his family here and is buried in Galena cemetery along with many other original residents.

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Also built in 1809 was a log building which served as the first church and school.  When the village of Galena was platted in 1816 by William Carpenter, it was named Zoar.  Unfortunately another Zoar (in Tuscarawas County) had established a post office first, so by 1834 when our Zoar was preparing for closer mail delivery, a new name was required.  Some historical accounts say names were drawn out of a hat.  Others say Colonel Nathan Dustin suggested the name Galena.  Galena is a mineral which is the chief ore of lead. It is found in Ohio, but not necessarily Delaware County.  Shale, however, was common and helped support the rise of Galena’s biggest industry, the Galena Shale Tile & Brick Company.

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One of the earliest and most documented settlers was Marcus Curtiss who established an inn just south of Galena on Yankee Street as early as 1812.  It started as a log structure, but he later moved the business to a brick building in 1822 which still stands today.  The Curtiss Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  One of the famous guests was said to be Lafayette in 1825.  Legend has it that he left his gold handled cane at the Curtiss Inn and it had to be shipped on the next stagecoach to catch up with him.  Marcus Curtiss is buried nearby in the Copeland Cemetery where Yankee Street dead ends into the Hoover Reservoir.  Additionally this was the site of a covered bridge which was irreparably damaged by a wayward load of coal.

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By 1880, Galena was prospering with a railroad, three mills and a lumber yard.  Additional businesses to support the village were general stores, warehouses, blacksmiths, and harness shops.  A cobbler, a tailor and an undertaker also established themselves.  Galena and Sunbury were regular stops on the stagecoach route between Columbus and Mt. Vernon.

The railroad operated through Galena for 101 years, between 1873 and 1984.  Although the tracks and the depot are gone, some great history remains and today you can walk where the trains once traveled.  Part of the old route will become a section of the Ohio to Erie trail.  Other walking paths and park information for Galena can be found here.

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Another early settler, Colonel Nathan Dustin, operated an inn which was completed around 1828 and still stands on the square in Galena.  Dustin has been painted as a colorful character who was married five times.  In one 1880 book, it was reported that “three of the five wives were hostesses to travelers.”  Another account says that in addition to running the inn, Dustin was also a very strict school teacher.  One source said that because of his strictness “one girl cried … and later he later made this girl the second of his five wives.”  One of his granddaughters, Almira Dustin, went on to marry Frank B. Willis.  The colonel is buried in Galena Cemetery.

Willis is most notably the most famous resident of Galena, having served as governor of Ohio (1915-1917) and as a United States senator (1920-1928).  The school that Willis attended was auctioned off just this past year.  It still stands in downtown Galena and is now owned by a church.

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The Galena village square has changed over time, but still holds much history and local lore.  Many original buildings still exist and are in use, including the old bank.  You must read the story of the 1932 robbery, which takes you back to the days of “blowing safes”.

Two of the best businesses now operating on the square are of course restaurants.  Both were founded around the time the boardwalk was completed and provide a great source of nourishment before, during or after your Galena journey.  I have been to both the Mudflats Bar & Grill, which often has entertainment at night and has great food, and to the Galena Diner, which has a wonderful menu.

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Other interesting findings in my excursion included Hartman Aviary and Parrot University.  Also, Berkshire Lake campground is nearby, and has been operating for over 40 years on 81 acres with 300 campsites.  Finally, I leave you with a mystery.  During this research I found reference to an Adena mound but wasn’t able to dig deep enough to verify where it was and why the information is so sketchy.  One story said there was a mound on the site of the school.

Galena may be a tiny hamlet, but it adds a huge dimension to Delaware County.  Between the local history, the nature preserve, and the restaurants ~ you can’t go wrong on this one.  Safe travels!

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