Wide Open Spaces in Northwest Delaware County

Some Trumpeter Swans in the Scioto along River Road

Some Trumpeter Swans in the Scioto along River Road

This week’s road trip took me north by northwest to the land of plenty.  In Radnor and Thompson townships, there are plenty of farms, and many of them are six or seven generations old.  Those early families who worked the land here were on to a good thing – very rich, fertile, well-drained soil.  It’s no wonder Radnor and Thompson townships remain largely agricultural today – as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

The Scioto River divides Radnor and Thompson townships and much like other river townships, early settlements of Native Americans and pioneers dotted those river banks.  The name “Scioto” was derived from the Wyandotte Indian word “scionto” for deer.  The 1914 Archaeological Atlas of Ohio identifies 5 mounds, 1 village site, 3 burial places and 1 cemetery within both townships.  Suffice it to say, this area of the Scioto River was home to many Native American cultures.

Rev. B. W. Chidlaw wrote, “The old Wyandotte Chiefs, Summadewat, Esquire Grey Eyes, and Between The Logs, the early friends of the settlers, frequently visited the neighborhood, and traded in cranberries and jerked venison with the people.”  Ottawa Creek (Tau Way Run) is one of the main creeks in Thompson Township, and flows along Taway Road.  It was originally named for a tribe of the Wyandotte nation who occupied the banks of the river and was known for their good disposition.

This log church preceded Old Stone Presbyterian Church

This log church preceded Old Stone Presbyterian Church

The shift to white settlement started with David Pugh who purchased almost 4,000 acres from Dr. Samuel Jones in Philadelphia.  He visited the area and christened it Radnorshire after his home county in South Wales.  Henry Perry met up with Pugh in Baltimore, and was encouraged to go to Ohio.  His family became the first to actually settle in the township in 1803.  His two young sons, Levi and Ebenezer, went with him to build a home and begin clearing the land.

Henry had to go back east for his wife, Margaret, and other children, and left the boys alone for some time.  The infamous “Home Alone” story has been recounted in several publications.  Some of the details vary, but all agree that Levi and Ebenezer persevered.  The cabin was reported to be no more than a three-sided lean-to.  For food, it has been said they traveled as far as Franklinton and were also aided by Thomas Cellar in Liberty Settlement, as well as sympathetic Indians.  Perry’s land was said to be on the site of the William P. Penry farm.

In 1804, Pugh plotted out his village and called it New Baltimore.  A few years later he returned to Wales and brought back more Welshmen to help grow his town.  Radnor is most known for this Wales connection, and the township is still active in preserving and celebrating their history.  The Radnor Heritage Society has a museum in addition to walking tours of the village.  The Troedrhiwdalar Welsh Congregational Church and cemetery are maintained on Warrensburg Road.  According to the Google Welsh translator, the sign on the front means “Wales Forever.”

Troedrhiwdalar Welsh Congregational Church

Troedrhiwdalar Welsh Congregational Church

The 1880 History of Delaware County book lists some of the other settlers that followed Pugh and Perry as John Watkins, John Jones, Hugh Kyle, David Marks, Evan Jenkins, David Davids, Richard Hoskins and David Davies.  David Penry and John Phillips were married to Pugh’s sisters, and they joined him as well.  Others included Elijah and Nancy Carey Adams – after stopping off in Harlem Township for a short year, Elijah built the first brick house here in 1823 and became Justice of the Peace.  Ralph Dildine’s farm was one of the locations of the first three schoolhouses in 1821.  Ralph’s son, Valentine Dildine, was the president of the first turnpike road built in the township.  More familes named Watkins, Jones, and Penry followed.

While many of the Indian encounters were friendly, there was still fear among the pioneers.  Radnor did have a blockhouse and a militia organized under the infamous Captain William Drake.  His false alarm at Fort Morrow has been well recorded.  One of the stories that has been passed down was that while fleeing from the alleged Indian massacre, a small child was tossed out of the Penry family’s wagon.  In their panic and haste to get to safety, they didn’t realize the boy was gone until they were well on their way to Worthington.  They were afraid to return, and left the boy to his own devices, hoping for the best.  Luckily, he survived.

Biographical sketches of early villagers are interesting. Dr. Thomas B. Williams was born in South Wales in 1819, and came to Ohio as an infant.  Thomas was first a shoemaker, but then began a distinguished medical career.  He served as a surgeon in the Civil War for three years and was with Sherman on his march to the sea.  He returned to serve the community as a physician and a leader. Other Radnor civil war soldiers are depicted here.

Radnor Cemetery

Radnor Cemetery

Between 1803 and 1833, Pugh’s New Baltimore never really got a strong footing.  This was partly due to Thomas Warren who purchased the entire plot for farming and his tavern in 1810.   With his wife, Margaret Milner Warren, they operated the tavern and a post office in a two-story 20’ x 32’ log building. In 1833, Edward Evans reconfigured the village nearby and called it Delhi.

The final name change to Radnor occurred in 1876.  By 1908, there were two general stores, an elevator, mill, tile works, saw mill and lime kiln.  Along with agriculture, Radnor was also known for horses.  The Radnor Importing Co. was noted in a state report as one of the “most prominent” equine importers in the state in 1884.  The Covell brothers were noted as major importers of Percheron horses from France.  For a first hand account of a farmer’s life in the late 1800’s, bid on this diary on e-Bay!

Meredith Depot (courtesy Delaware County Historical Society)

Meredith Depot (courtesy Delaware County Historical Society)

Thompson Township had a slower start and wasn’t organized until 1820.  Much of the activity was among the Scioto River and two main creeks, Ottawa and Fulton.  Fulton Creek was named to honor a pioneer who while known for his hunting prowess, went in search of game one day and never returned.

Samuel Weaver was the first settler here in 1809.  Other early residents were Michael Dilsaver, James Cochran, John Swartz and his four sons, Joseph Russell, Simeon Lindsley, and Roswell Field.

By the 1830 census, there were a whopping 233 people in the entire township.  With the advent of various mills, there was a flurry of industry along S.R. 257 where Fulton Creek empties into the Scioto River.  This was to be the closest thing to a town that Thompson Township ever saw.

The Lavender Bridge at the Scioto & Radnor Road (courtesy Delaware County Historical Society)

The Lavender Bridge at the Scioto & Radnor Road
(courtesy Delaware County Historical Society)

It was first called Cone’s Mills and at some point Eagletown.  James Cochran built the first gristmill here in 1827.  Jacob Swartz followed with a sawmill, and John W. Cone added a water powered woolen mill in 1844.  It was very successful and for a time Cone’s Mills flourished.  The Patterson post office operated north of Fulton Creek for a few decades starting in 1837.  There was a school, a tannery, and a blacksmith.  Detwiller’s Tavern and liquor store were quite prosperous as well.  James and Nicholas Money thrived on the north side of the township as depicted in this drawing of their Fair Oakes farm. Thomas Lavender had the first brick kilns.  His name was also attached to the covered bridge built around 1850 that spanned the Scioto and connected the townships at Radnor Road.

In 1874, a fire took Cone’s Woolen Mill, and the loss impacted neighboring businesses.   Three years later H.P. Pickerell built a large grist mill on the same site.  The post office here was called Pickerell’s Mills and operated for a few years until 1883.  Eventually things just died out and residents came to rely on neighboring townships for supplies.

As evidence of the small populations, there are only six cemeteries between Radnor and Thompson townships.  The most well-known of these is the Radnor cemetery and its historical lych gate made with stone from the Meredith quarry.  President Obama has ancestors buried here – his many-times great grandparents are reported to be the original settlers, Margaret and Henry Perry.  In Thompson Township, the Thompson-Shoup cemetery is the main resting place.

Historic Lych Gate at Radnor Cemetery

Historic Lych Gate at Radnor Cemetery

There are four houses on the National Register of Historic Places between both townships.  They are the John Baker Tavern, the Samuel Cooper Farmhouse, the John Detwiller Tavern and Farmstead, and the Samuel Lewis Farmhouse.  As you drive around the area, you’ll see many other historic buildings, especially in downtown Radnor.

To list a building on the NRHP, you must go through the National Park Service and follow a detailed process.  The Ohio Historical Markers are from the Ohio Historical Society.  If you are interested in finding more historical markers around the county and the state, there’s an app for that!  Locally, the Delaware Historical Society erects signs at key places.

By 1870, Delhi already had a stronghold as the seat of Radnor Township.  To secure their prosperity, the citizens raised $10,000 to invest in the Columbus and Toledo Railroad.  In 1872, it came through Radnor Township for the first time at the Meredith station at Hedley and Radnor roads.   Further north, the little town of Robertsburg sprung up along the railroad tracks at the intersections of Curtis and Roberts roads.

A CD&M parlor car (courtesy ColumbusRailroads.com)

A CD&M parlor car (courtesy ColumbusRailroads.com)

From 1903 to 1933, an interurban electric railroad was a popular way to travel in Ohio.  The Columbus, Delaware & Marion Railway Company followed a route that included both S.R. 37 and S.R. 203, and also followed David and Mink Street roads on the way to Magnetic Springs.  This route was known as the “Punkin Line” and you could get from Radnor to Columbus for 85 cents.  A combination of factors including the Great Depression contributed to the demise of the interurbans.  Don’t miss the short film of this great piece of history.

While both townships seem relatively sleepy, there is no shortage of industry and development.  Farming operations range from small organic and specialized farms to huge agricultural businesses.   Most recently, Thompson Township has seen a lot of activity from our friends in Columbus, who are building three upground reservoirs in this area.

New raw water intake and pump station along S.R. 257

New raw water intake and pump station along S.R. 257

The net capacity will be over 18 billion gallons of water covering 2500 acres of land.  Upground reservoir number 2 is in progress now, and you can see the 40 foot embankment along Taway Road that surrounds over 800 acres of land.  It alone will hold over 9 billion gallons of water.  The construction company, H.R. Gray, states that it will be the largest “lined” upground reservoir in the United States.

The project will surely have positive and negative affects for the township, but hopefully in the long run this will be an asset to the county. While the city of Columbus will benefit from the water, the county of Delaware will benefit from another Preservation Park.  The Ottawa Creek Preserve is still years away, but it’s good to know that this section of Delaware county will have a great park in the future.

Upground reservoir #2 along Ottawa Creek and Taway Road

Upground reservoir #2 along Ottawa Creek and Taway Road

Today you’ll find an array of businesses that revolve around the land in these two townships.  Delhi Landscape, Inc., Price Farms Organics, and Lehner’s Pumpkin Farm are some examples.  The Ottawa Creek Alpaca Farm and store are open all year.  The Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese company sells their products at the Delaware Community Market.  You can get maple syrup and free range turkeys at Ottawa Bota Farm.  Agricultural efforts are supported by The Delaware County Farm Bureau and the OSU Extension Office.  There’s even an airport in Thompson Township connected to the International Aerobatic Club.  If you find yourself longing for a piece of peaceful property here, you might want to buy land along Fulton Creek.

This area of our county has no strip malls or convenience stores, no gas stations or busy intersections, but it is crammed full of history and scenery.  I confess, I have always wanted to live on a farm and have a thing about old barns.  Driving down these country roads is a nice little escape.  Perhaps you too long for wide open spaces?  If so, gas up before you go and enjoy the ride!

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I grew up just south of Fulton Creek on 257. I used to sit on the river bank behind my house and wonder about the remnants of the mills that I could see. Now I have a better picture of the history of the area. Awesome!

    • Thanks for the feedback! I am learning so much about the county history as I go through each area. The Delaware County Historical Society and the local history room at the main library have many more resources to look through if you want to dig deeper.

  2. Pam Weirick says:

    Susan – I have enjoyed reading your posts as I am an appraiser and resident in the area. I have been trying to figure out where the Bean on Bean Oller Road comes from. I saw your mention of the Oller Family and was wondering if you know anything about where Bean comes from? We live on Bean Oller and I was just wondering. Thanks!

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