As half of the inspiration for 3 B’s and K Road, the townships of Brown and Berlin include the north end of Alum Creek State Park. While an earlier article explored the park area, there is much more to know about these townships.
Before any permanent settlers arrived, the northeast quarter of present day Brown Township was designated by the federal government as a Salt Reservation. This section of land just north of present day Kilbourne was well known to Native Americans for its salt water spring. Dr. John Loofbourrow, who lived in Berkshire Township, learned of this and became the only salt merchant around from 1805 to 1817. The state then leased the land to another group of pioneers for a twelve year contract, but the new salt merchants were not successful and the operation petered out.
New Yorker Daniel G. Thurston arrived in 1817 and is credited with being the first white settler in the township. Although Erastus Bowe came from Vermont and had a cabin here as early as 1809, he did not stick around long. His homestead was called Bowetown and even though he left the area, the name stuck and today we still have Bowtown Road. Bowe went on to greater things in Seneca County.
Thurston had already been in Delaware County as early as 1810, but he lived in Berlin Township first. He was one of three men who procured the 1817 salt contract from the state. With James Eaton and Steven Gorham, they attempted to capitalize on the salt reservation. Daniel’s brother, Isaac Thurston, also joined him in Brown Township and for several years these men and their families were the only residents. Daniel Thurston and his wife, Frances, had 13 children who all lived to marry and have more children. It was unusual at that time to have so many survive. They would eventually have 88 grandchildren.
Isaac Eaton settled just north of Thurston and also pitched in with the salt endeavor. In 1838 he sold his land to William Williams. This property was noted as having one of the 8 mounds in the township that were attributed to the ancient Moundbuilder culture. It was reported as being a cone shaped mound, 40 foot in diameter and 8 feet above ground, surrounded by a two foot ditch. When it was excavated, bones and relics were found. There were actually 5 mounds and 1 enclosure found in Brown Township, and 3 mounds were found in Berlin Township. All of these mounds were clustered along Alum Creek. You can see from the 1914 Archaeological Atlas of Ohio that the location of the mounds matches up with the location of the salt reservation. For more on the Moundbuilders, the Ohio Historical Society and an independent blogger share past and present information.
Brown Township and its current boundaries evolved out of other townships around 1826 or so. During this time more settlers arrived, including Benjamin McMaster from New York. Benjamin’s son Horace would later buy his father’s land and improve upon it, building a large fruit farm that produced as much as 2000 bushels of apples per year in addition to plums and other fruit. Horace was also an inventor with a patent on a vinegar generator. In his autobiography, he described his interest in spiritualism and ability to talk to the dead.
Some other early settlers were Andrew Finley, Zenas Leonard, James George, brothers Ezekiel and Ralph Longwell, Charles Cowgill, Hugh Lee, John Finley and John Kensill. Leonard’s family members were some of the first merchants in the township. Hugh Lee was a tanner and the father of John Calvin Lee who became a Brigadier General in the Civil War and served as Lieutenant Governor under Rutherford B. Hayes.
The first real village in Brown Township was known as Eden, and surely was a paradise for some. Ezekiel Longwell opened a sawmill in 1830. Eden was surveyed in 1836 by Isaac Eaton for Daniel Thurston and Isaac Leonard. John Finley had the first log cabin in the village, and William Williams had the first frame house. In 1838 the government assigned the name “Kilbourn” to the post office. Eventually it would grow to have restaurants, a boarding house, a church, a funeral home and a creamery. Kilbourne was prosperous enough to warrant two telephone companies in the early 1900’s. There was one on either side of S.R. 521. Joseph Leonard was the first merchant and was also reported to be a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Samuel Walker, an elder of the Brown Presbyterian Church, was noted in the Kilbourne Bicentennial Day program with connections to the Underground Railroad.
A colorful story about Kilbourne residents Helen Estelle Potter and her sister Lucy appears in Ray Buckingham’s Delaware County Then and Now: An Informal History. Helen was the postmistress of Eden for many years and was known as a good shot and someone who shouldn’t be messed with. Both sisters never married and died on the same day.
Leonardsburg didn’t come into existence until the railroad came through Brown Township in 1852. It was originally called Eden Station but was eventually named Leonardsburg for the first merchant and postmaster who started a store and a grain warehouse. By 1861 there were about 100 people living near here.
Paget, another small railroad town, existed for a short while where the railroad tracks intersect with Harris Road. A covered bridge was located on Howard Road, but it was dismantled and replaced long ago. The Brown Township school has since been demolished, but a photographer captured its last days. Kilbourne has two main cemeteries, Old Eden Cemetery (aka Old Kilbourne Cemetery) and Greenmound Cemetery.
The old county home, also known as Shady Lane Manor, was built in 1854 as the county infirmary. It served the county well in that it provided a home and livelihood for people who could not care for themselves. They were able to work on the 268 acre farm which helped support the operation of the home. In 1856 a brick addition with iron bars on the windows was built as “an asylum for the insane”. In 1880 there were 84 people living at Shady Lane Manor. In 1903 those deemed insane were moved to the state asylum. After 142 years, the county home shut down in 1996. It was a popular place for wayward teenagers and ghost hunters until it was torn down in 2012. An old cemetery map shows the burial ground for the county home. Today the Delaware County Dog Shelter is located on the property.
Like Brown, Berlin Township came in to being with land from other townships. In 1820, Asa Scott petitioned the county for a new township and gave it the name of Berlin. The first settlements were on land around present day Cheshire. Built on a parcel of land purchased by Joseph Constant, the post office was originally called Constantia. The first settler in present township lines was George Cowgill in 1805. David Lewis, Sr., Philo Hoadley, Asa Scott, Joseph Eaton, Sr. and John Johnston were close behind. A contingent from Connecticut followed and included David Isaac and Chester Lewis. In 1809 about forty more from Waterbury, Connecticut were inspired by the good reports from family and friends and traveled west to settle “on the Constant purchase”.
Joseph Lewis built a gristmill and a sawmill, and Wilbur Caswell started a tannery in 1817. The village of Cheshire evolved and was officially established in 1849 by proprietor F. J. Adams on land owned by Samuel Adams. By 1880 there were doctors, stores, mills, churches, and even a slat window shade manufacturing plant.
The other main village in the township was Berlin Station. But, before there was Berlin Station, there was a Berlin. In 1850, J. R. Hubbell and Thomas Carney speculated that the railroad would put a depot at the point where Sweeney Road runs into 36/37. They built a warehouse and sold 80 lots. Unfortunately for them, the anticipated depot was place just south and became Berlin Station. Within a decade the failed Berlin was back to farmland.
Berlin Station was known as Tanktown for a time, as well as West Berlin and Pershing Station. It was called Tanktown because it held the water tank used by the railroad. Located where Berlin Station and Gregory roads intersect, there were three streets – Main, East and West. By 1880 there was a grocery, a sawmill, a wagon maker shop, a post office, a church and a tile factory. Although the post office closed in 1907, the grocery store lasted until 1940.
For a short time “Gregory” was listed on the map as a railroad town where it meets Cheshire Road. The Gregory brothers owned property on either side of the railroad tracks, but a town never fully developed. As noted in the Alum Creek State Park article, the village of Alum Creek was lost to the reservoir. Likewise, Jacktown is underwater. It was reported to have a tavern, sawmill, church, and post office and was south of Cheshire.
Other towns were either just small railroad or crossroads communities, such as Jones (Curve & Sweeney roads), Rust Corners (South Old State and Hollenback roads), Steward’s Corners (Plumb & Africa roads) and Saunder’s Corners. For a better understanding of these old towns, check out Richard Helwig’s book on Ohio Ghost Towns in the library. Because of the creation of Alum Creek Reservoir, some cemeteries were moved. Berlin Township Cemetery is the main cemetery and is the final resting place for most of the 2,610 graves that were relocated.
One noted resident of Berlin Township was Sarah Brandy. The 1880 History of Delaware County identifies her as a former servant of George Washington. She had also been long connected with General John Sullivan. Reportedly, Sullivan sent Joseph Eaton “a small sum of money each year to provide Sarah with such comforts as tea, sugar, (and) coffee.” One account said that Sarah lived to be 114 years old.
Some of the native sons of Berlin Township went on to political careers. Preston B. Plumb was born on Alum Creek and went on to become a U.S. senator. Frank B. Willis was native to Berlin as well. He was born on Peachblow Road in 1871.
Ever wonder where the name “Peachblow” came from? Although I’m not sure it’s ever appeared in a box of Crayolas, it is a color that has been described in one place as a “purplish pink” and in another as “pale orange yellow that is slightly redder, lighter, and stronger than sunset.” In 1858 a United Brethren church was built and dedicated as Berlin Chapel. Although some of the church trustees agreed to paint it white, when the painter actually arrived another trustee told him to paint it red. This rogue trustee said that he “had a preference for the delicate tint of the peach-blow.” The other trustees won the battle, the church was painted white, and the parishioner with a penchant for peachblow promptly “retired from the unappreciative church.” Today this church is the Peachblow United Methodist Church.
What about the “Lackey” in Lackey Old State Road? Perhaps it comes from Thomas Jefferson Lackey or his descendants. Many other road names come from early farm families – W.S. Piatt (Tanktown), Utley Roloson (Berlin Twp.), and John Heaverlo (Kilbourne) are some examples. Speaking of farms, both townships have Christmas tree farms. Cackler Family Farms in Brown Township and Fly A Way Farm are open starting in November.
Alum Creek State Park and Hogback Ridge Preserve are the main parks in these townships. I visited the Mary McCoy Nature Center at Hogback Ridge and chatted with a volunteer recently. He has been participating in the Golden Marathon for a few years and enjoys visiting all of the parks. The nature center has an indoor bird viewing area and nature displays, so even in inclement weather it is worth a visit. If you are lucky you might see one of the local albino squirrels.
Both townships have neighborhood and community parks, and Berlin has public and private golf courses. Berlin Township is planning for future bike trails that would include Cheshire Road and Piatt Road.
In Cheshire today, you can enjoy excellent food from both the Cheshire Market and Water’s Edge Sports Grill which is in a new location on Cheshire Road. There is also a veterinarian, a barber and an auto mechanic. Kilbourne houses the Brown Township Hall and still has an active post office. A small park occupies the space where the Brown Presbyterian Church once stood, and the church bell is displayed there. Kilbourne is also known for C Dee’s Lil’ Store which also sells pizza and subs. Word on the street is that the pizza is pretty good.
The north campus of the Delaware Area Career Center lies within Brown Township and offers a wide variety of training and continuing education opportunities for all Delaware residents. Ventures Academy is also nearby and provides alternative education programs for school age kids. Both park systems offer educational programming. Want to learn more about geology and fossils? The Ohio Earthquake Information Center is located on South Old State Road at the H.R. Collins Laboratory. This division of ODNR offers opportunities for tours and learning about geology and fossils.
Looking to donate time or money to a good cause? Canine Companions for Independence and the Humane Society both welcome volunteers. Want to decorate your home in 17th and 18th century style? Visit the Seraph which sells reproduction furniture and accessories with one location in Delaware on Rts. 36/37 and one in Massachusetts.
For more in depth background on Berlin Township, you might want to check out the eight volume history by Anna C. Smith Pabst. The local history room at the Delaware County library has them all as well as plenty of Brown Township information. The Delaware County Historical Society is also a great place to explore and may have the original kettle used on the Salt Reservation.
While Brown Township remains largely rural, Berlin is increasingly residential. Both have a lot to offer and are worth exploring. Try taking in these two townships, and turn down some back roads. With sweet parks and salty history, you can’t go wrong. Happy trails!