Concord Township – Cross Section of America!
Even if you don’t dock your boat at the Leatherlips Yacht Club, you can still cruise down both sides of Concord Township in your stylin’ set of wheels. Spring is the perfect time for a windows-down, radio-up kind of drive.
The Scioto River cuts right down the middle of Concord Township, flanked by state routes 745 and 257 on either side. The community of Bellpoint is in the north, Rathbone is in the middle and Shawnee Hills holds strong in the southern part. The Delaware County part of Dublin is at the southern tip.
Most likely named for Concord, New Hampshire, the township was created in 1819 and boundary lines were moved often. In the 1880 History of Delaware County, it was said that “people used to get up of a morning in doubt as to whether they were in Concord or some other township”. Land was swampy and heavily forested, full of rattlesnakes and wolves, so pioneers had their work cut out for them. Draining wetlands was a common practice and Ohio was one of the states with considerable change during this period. The result was drier, nutrient rich soil that was more suitable for farming.
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There were many notable early settlers in Concord Township. Pennsylvanian George Hill holds the title of the first permanent settler. In 1811, Hill, a Revolutionary War soldier, settled two miles south of Bellpoint. John Day came with him, as well as his brother-in-law, Christopher Freshwater. William Carson also hailed from Pennsylvania and arrived here in 1821. John Cutler arrived in 1830 and some early maps indicate “Cutlers Corners” around Moore Road & S.R. 745. Virginian George Oller arrived in 1839, and his family name lives on in the Oller Cemetery on S.R. 257 near Bean Oller Road.
John Edward Robinson, an Englishman, was a man of mystery to early settlers. Rumors surrounding him included claims he was a pirate and hidden treasure was buried on his property. Other stories circulated about the murder of a Spanish mistress who was his muse. Robinson, like his father before him, was an artist and the chief decorator of Windsor Castle. The source of his wealth was likely not piracy, but royalties from a picture frame he invented.
After marrying Elizabeth Hayes, they came to Ohio and built a baronial style mansion south of Home Road on S.R. 745 in 1834. Furnished with expensive paintings and décor not common to most locals, Robinson and his castle were the subject of much speculation. It was said that he painted a life size mural of the Last Supper on one wall, but art was not his only talent. Robinson also farmed, and built the tools and equipment that he needed to do so. He was also interested in the finer nuances of horticulture and had a cryptogamia collection which he donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
Robinson was internationally known for his artistry with wood and even carved his own coffin. The Ohio state capitol building and the Neil House were recipients of his work, and today the Delaware County Historical Society has some of his pieces on display.
Another interesting Concord Township resident was DeWitt Clinton Lugenbeel, who served the township in many capacities but was most known as a teacher who taught for 55 terms. He was a writer and a poet with an illustrious newspaper career, and during the Civil War wrote for the Camp Chase Chronicles. It was said that he “has been in 33 of the 38 states.”
Isaac Butt came to the township in 1825 from Buttstown, Virginia. That same year Solomon Hill was born, his father having arrived in 1812 with his parents. Solomon was noted in several places in the 1880 History of Delaware County. For one, he had a picnic and party operation on his farm called “Hill Pleasure Grounds”. Hills Grove was a location listed on an early map and was noted as a “resort for festivals and pleasure parties.” When not busy hosting events, he made brick. He was said to have furnished almost all of the brick for the Girls’ Industrial Home. The Hill cemetery is located along S.R. 745 and the home still stands on the corner of Home Road and S.R. 745.
The Hill farm was also said to have been the location of one of the more explored Indian mounds. There were nine known Native American archaeological sites in the township in 1914, and all but 2 of them were situated around Bellpoint on the east side of the river.
The New Hampshire state motto is “Live Free or Die” and freedom was certainly appreciated in Concord Township. From a very early time, it was home to a settlement of African Americans. Some were freed slaves, like John Day and Samuel Whyte. In 1811, Day came with his master, George Hill, but was freed when they arrived. He moved into Delaware and opened a barber shop that was later run by his son, John Day, Jr.
Abraham Depp came from Virginia in 1835 and bought 400 acres next to what is now Shawnee Hills. It was the first African-American owned farm in the county. He also started a Baptist Church here, and in addition to farming, was a blacksmith. He provided safe haven as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Depp property stayed in the family, more land was acquired and the community grew to be known as Lucy Depp Park. Eventually in the 1920s, the area became a summer resort for black families from Columbus. It has been noted that boxer Joe Louis even stayed here.
Depp’s son, Aurelius, attended Oberlin College and returned to Concord Township as a farmer and stock raiser. He also served in the Civil War and was at Camp Chase in Delaware. Rev. John Merchant was also a noted settler, and namesake for Merchant Road.
In the History of Medicine & Physicians of Delaware County, Ohio, Silas Fowler says that the Rev. Depp invited Dr. Samuel Whyte, Jr. to come to Concord Township to provide medical care to the community. Whyte settled half a mile south of Home Road in the mid-1830s. Although he was born a slave in Virginia, Whyte’s master wanted him to have an education and sent him to school. His father, Samuel Whyte, Sr., bought him and his mother Amy for $800 from their master, then bought his own freedom for $1220. Whyte later continued his education and became a respected physician and surgeon. Fowler writes, “He was well informed and an extensive reader, and many came from long distances to consult him.” In 1880, he was one of only three African-American doctors in Ohio.
You can read more about the Whytes, Depps, and other early residents including Stephen Hill, William Jackson, Constable John F. Penrod, and Dr. William P. Ropp here. Some additional reading from 1920 also includes information on these early Concord Township settlers.
Mill Creek is the largest creek in the township, feeding into the Scioto from the west. Sometime before 1838, the Mill Creek Settlement was started by Colonel Seburn Hinton on 1000 acres. With his sawmill and gristmill, he had a large lumber business and also opened a general store. Rafting logs down the Scioto to Columbus and even to the Ohio River was commonplace during those days. Today the Old Mill Creek Cemetery is all that remains of the settlement.
James Kooken laid out the village of Bellpoint (aka Belle Point and Bellepoint) along S.R. 257 in 1835. He had high hopes for Bellpoint based on plans for configuring the Scioto River for steamboat travel. 160 lots went up for sale, but the steamboat plans sunk, and that goal was never reached. At its height, there was also a car dealership that sold the Hudson Essex, and couple of doctors practiced here. Bellpoint was also known for its Buccaneers – the famous basketball team who won 95% of their games over a four year period in the 1920s. U.S. Route 42 eventually was bypassed around Bellpoint, and the old bridge was torn down. You can see its remnants from ODNR’s Area Q at the point where Mill Creek meets the Scioto. The Bellpoint United Methodist Church was established in 1873 and is still the cornerstone of the village.
Heading south on S.R. 745, your next stop is Rathbone. At the crossroads of S.R. 745 and Home Road, this area is most known today for the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility. But you might not know that the same location was first famous as White Sulphur Springs Resort.
From 1842 to 1869, the resort had room for 600 guests. The pictures of the sprawling resort are fascinating. Founded by Nathaniel Hart in a time when mineral springs were considered therapeutic, the resort is also known as the place where Rutherford B. Hayes met his wife, Lucy.
It was first known as “Hart Springs” when it was sold to Andrew Wilson, Jr. In Wilson’s time, there was a large hotel, cottages, stables, a chapel, a saloon, a store and even a bowling alley. In 1865, John Ferry took over the reins and invested a lot of money to update it, but would only keep it open for four more years due to the Civil War. You can read the 72 page brochure written in 1858 for explicit details about the resorts healing properties and amenities.
In 1869, the state bought out Ferry and designated the property as the new State Reform School for Girls’. In 1872 the name was changed to the Girls’ Industrial Home. It was a place created for “the instruction, employment and reformation of exposed, helpless, evil-disposed and vicious Girls’.” Ironically, as governor, Hayes signed the legislation that created the Girls’ Industrial Home.
Up the river a ways in Scioto Township, White Sulphur Springs Station was established around the railroad stop that served the resort and later the Girls’ Industrial Home. The home itself has gone under several changes in name and mission over the years. The Ohio Home Cemetery is located on the current institutional grounds and is not open to the public. David Meyers’ blog about Ohio’s historic prisons contains some good insights into the history and evolution of the Girls’ Industrial Home. The current facility is closing in May.
Continuing south on S.R. 745, you’ll find the quaint village of Shawnee Hills. In 1924 a Columbus real estate company tried to create a vacation area to profit from the new reservoir, but owing to utility issues and other problems, they failed to sell all the lots. Village growth was slow, but it was incorporated in 1942 and has found a niche with good restaurants and shopping in addition to all of the natural goodness along the Scioto River.
Completed in 1925, the O’Shaughnessy Reservoir is on the National Register of Historic Places. The dam is really something to see up close. Maintained by the City of Columbus, the bridge was replaced in the early 90s to the tune of over four million dollars. The original bridge, prior to the creation of the dam, can be seen here. ODNR maintains many nice fishing and picnic spots on both side of the reservoir. Kayakers, boaters and birders will also find plenty to do here. Glick Park and Overlook is a great place for picnics and spectacular views of the dam.
There are so many things to do and see in Concord Township you might have to make multiple visits. In Rathbone, you’ll find the expansive Concord Township Park on Home Road, and if you want your canine along for your adventure, across the street is the Companion Club Dog Park. Head a little further south and you’re soon at the Ohio Wildlife Center, and the O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, Twin Lakes area.
Your dining options are many. For breakfast, Hella’s in Shawnee Hills is a must. For dinner, a personal favorite is Tavern 42 near Bellpoint. You can’t go wrong with a visit to the Bogey Inn, Jimmy V’s or Iacono’s either. Save room for desert and satisfy your sweet tooth at the Shawnee Hills Bakery. If shopping is your thing, you should definitely check out Baker’s and the Morgan House.
If you plan to fish along the river or in the reservoir area, be sure to make stop at Scioto Bait & Grocery. If you love Concord Township as much as I do, you might even want to buy your own bait store! The old Dock Stop on the corner of Butts Road is for sale.
This is truly one of my favorite townships ~ steeped in history, natural beauty, and full of good eats and activities. May you see it with new eyes on your next Delaware county adventure!
UPDATED APRIL 26, 2015: This article was edited to clarify that the Lucy Depp Park neighborhood was a community in its own right, contiguous to Shawnee Hills but separate. Thank you to Gwyn Stetler for the clarification. Additionally, thanks to the work of the Lucy Depp Park Civic Association, an Ohio Historical Marker for Underground Railroad, Black Settlement and Black Subdivision history will be installed on Labor Day in 2015. More articles on this historic area of Delaware County can be found here and here. Many thanks to the association for their work in historic preservation and updating this article. Congratulations on the marker!