Hidden Treasures in Northeast Delaware County

Chambers Road Covered Bridge, Porter Township

Chambers Road Covered Bridge, Porter Township

Kingston and Porter Township may feel far removed from the city of Delaware, but they contain some fascinating remnants of and tributes to the past.  While there are no active towns or villages in either township, there is still a lot to explore and experience.

There are four major creeks running through this corner of the county:  Culver Creek, Sugar Creek, Big Walnut Creek and Little Walnut Creek.  This supply of clean water help support the early pioneers and the landscape proved excellent for farming.  Two hundred years later, the land is still supporting farmers and in many ways remains unchanged and relatively free from overdevelopment.

As holds true for many of our early settlers, they came west to Ohio because of land awarded to them for their military service.  President John Adams gave 4,000 acres to the Honorable Robert Porter, who was a noted attorney and judge from Philadelphia.  The township was formed sometime around 1826 and carried his name, although he may have never lived here himself.

Big Walnut Creek as seen from the Chambers Road Covered Bridge

Big Walnut Creek as seen from the Chambers Road Covered Bridge

Porter Township was home to two major towns, which are still noted on the county road map, but no longer represent the bustling communities of 150 years ago.  East Liberty was a small town that once boasted a sawmill, church and schoolhouse.  George Blainey operated an inn and served as the postmaster.  Several physicians practiced here as well.  The town was plotted out in 1840 by William Page, Jr. on his own farm which was located on the east bank of Big Walnut Creek, near the intersection of S. R. 656, Ulery Road, and East Liberty Road.  Different sources report varying population figures, ranging from 30 to 100.

Other Porter Township memories passed down include possibilities of Underground Railroad activity, as well as the story behind the name “Olive Green.”   Porter Township cemeteries also provide hints to the past.

Olive Green is a skeleton of its former self.  It was the first village in Porter Township and is located at the intersection of Plantation Road, S.R. 656 and S.R. 521.  A large abandoned white building is the remains of a once active store.  Platted in 1835 by Joel Mendenhall, acting for Christopher Lindenberger and Festus Sprague, there were originally eight streets and several alleys.  As of 1851, plans for the Springfield, Mount Vernon & Pittsburgh Railroad were underway and it was expected to come through this area.  When it didn’t, it hurt much of the chances for long term success here as well as East Liberty.   Complete with post office, churches and schools, the population peaked at about 125.

 

Inside close-up of the Chambers Road Covered Bridge

Inside close-up of the Chambers Road Covered Bridge

Other early towns noted include Culver Creek which operated a post office in the 1850’s at the corner of Fredericks and Centerburg roads.  This town could have been named for early settler John Culver who arrived in Porter Township in 1809.  A town named Peerless Station was recorded in an 1895 atlas, had a post office, and was said to be a railroad town located on Peerless Road which borders Morrow County.

The Chambers Road Covered Bridge in Porter Township is the last original covered bridge in Delaware County.  Ohio was once home to over 3,000 covered bridges in the 19th century, but now less than 125 remain.  This historic bridge crosses Big Walnut Creek and is still accessible between S.R. 61 and S.R. 621.  It was built in 1874 by Everett S. Sherman and in 1974, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It survived the flood of 1913, and was restored in the 1980’s by the Delaware County engineers.  The bridge is truly a historic treasure but needs some repair and attention.  Unfortunately graffiti artists have found their way here, and there is some damage on one side of the bridge.

The first settlers in Kingston Township were Pennsylvanians John Phipps and George Hess who arrived in 1807.  Many others followed, including James Stark in 1809.  The township was officially established in 1813.  While today there are no remnants of old villages, they did exist.  Kingston Center had a post office between 1851 and 1865. The location is in dispute but is thought to be where S.R. 521 and Carter’s Corners Road meet.

A more notable settlement was known as Stark’s Corners.  James Stark built a 200 acre farm at the intersection of S.R. 61 and S.R. 656.  Some historical records indicate that James ran a “house of entertainment” for travelers.  This evolved into a small town known as Stark’s Corners.   In 1812, one of five blockhouses in the county was built here to protect its citizens from possible Indian attack.  The Stark cemetery remains today on the township line between Kingston and Porter.

Stark Cemetery

Stark Cemetery

Other settlers prior to 1812 included Daniel Rosecrans.  It was his grandson who would go on to become one of Delaware County’s most famous natives.  Kingston Township is most known as being the birthplace of Major General William Stark Rosecrans.  The original memorial to him was erected in 1940 and is on the site of the log cabin where he was born on Rosecrans Road.

Original memorial for Major General William Stark Rosecrans (est. 1940)

Original memorial for Major General William Stark Rosecrans (est. 1940)

Later he both attended and taught at West Point.  In 1861 he volunteered his service in the Civil War and in a short time was elevated to a brigadier general.  At the time he resigned his commission he held the rank of rank of brevet major general.  He continued a life of service to the country.   When he was alive, Rosecrans worked to have statues erected to honor major Civil War generals.  Finally, with a lot of hard work from the Big Walnut Historical Society and thanks to many donors, a bronze statue of Rosecrans was erected in the Sunbury square in September, 2013.

Sunbury Square's bronze statue of Major General William Stark Rosecrans (est. 2013)

Sunbury Square’s bronze statue of Major General William Stark Rosecrans (est. 2013)

Blue Church Road and Blue Church Cemetery are both missing a blue church.  Built in 1827 and razed in 1975, it was at one time the center of life in Kingston Township.  All that remains of the Old Blue Church is the bell and the cemetery.  Located at the corner of S.R. 521 and Blue Church Road, the church got its name because while originally not painted blue, over time it weathered into a very nice hue.  The name stuck.

The bell from the Old Blue Church

The bell from the Old Blue Church

Like many small villages and towns in other parts of Delaware County, the failure of a railroad to materialize contributed to the lack of growth and eventual demise of these small burgs.  The railroad was supposed to go through the township along S.R. 521 but it was never completed.  Still, both Porter and Kingston townships are beautiful and historic sections of the county, and worthy of a visit.

Want to read more?  In honor of the bicentennial, Suzanne Allen compiled a book about Kingston Township memories available from the Big Walnut Historical Society.

Chambers Road Covered Bridge

Chambers Road Covered Bridge

Need to get away from the hustle and bustle of Delaware?  Yes, I know this might sound funny to some of you, but bear with me.  Autumn Lakes Campground in Porter Township is open year round and has cabins available as well as spa service!  They even feature holiday dinners for family, and they have banquet facilities available.  Recent guests gushed about the food, location, people and the service.  This is truly a place to check out.

Want to get your inner artist out?  Look into spending time at the Sanctuary for the Arts, which offers a range of opportunities from supporting artists to hosting retreats and meetings in a beautiful and peaceful setting.

If you set out to explore, start or end in Sunbury so you can enjoy the William Stark Rosecrans statue and a hearty meal at the Sunbury Grill or Joe’s Firehouse Tavern.  Get your old county roadmap out or work the GPS, and explore the quiet terrain of these early townships.  Visit the original Rosecrans memorial, trek through the old cemeteries and spend some time at the Chambers Road Covered Bridge.  Whatever the time of year, this corner of the county is worth the drive.  Safe travels!

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