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Take a Journey through Genoa


 

Sunset along Red Bank Road

Sunset along Red Bank Road

Delaware County History Abounds in Genoa Township!

Genoa Township has three listings on the National Register of Historic Places, and one is a mysterious archaeological site.  In 1879, Professor John T. Short explored two Indian mounds in Genoa Township.  In the 1880 History of Delaware County, an extensive record of the dig explains where they were and what they found, but today the Spruce Run Earthworks has a restricted address.  The remains of two Indians from the Woodland period were taken to and still remain at a Harvard museum (search item number 79-85-10/20391.0).  They are estimated to date between 200 B.C. and A.D. 400.  A book was also written about this site in 1947.

Other Native American cultures would later occupy the area, and the trusty 1914 Archaeological Atlas of Ohio shows 6 mounds and 2 enclosures in Genoa Township.  Most of the Indians had already moved west by the time pioneers arrived, but they sometimes returned to their favorite hunting grounds.  An old tale recounted by early settlers include stories of these visits, including a secret lead mine on Spruce Run that the Indians had access to but never shared with the settlers.

Like native cultures, white settlers also lived along creeks and rivers.  Jeremiah Curtiss, originally from Connecticut, is noted as being the first of these early Genoa pioneers in 1806.  He built the first distillery and mills along Big Walnut Creek.  Although he moved to Marietta in 1811, his son, John Curtiss, moved the family right back to Genoa after his death.

Marcus Curtiss, Jeremiah’s brother, and Elisha Newell came in 1808, and bought nearly 700 acres on Yankee Street, much of which is under Hoover Reservoir now.  Here Marcus established an inn as early as 1812.  It started as a log structure, but in 1822 he moved the business to a brick building which still stands today.  The Curtiss Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both brothers are buried nearby in Copeland Cemetery.

Signs of spring at Copeland Cemetery along Hoover Reservoir

Signs of spring at Copeland Cemetery along Hoover Reservoir

Diadatus Keeler was originally from Vermont, and settled in Genoa Township in 1819.  Like Marcus Curtiss, he is also buried in Copeland Cemetery and also has a house on the National Register of Historic Places.  The role of the first blacksmith was filled by Hezekiah Roberts in 1810, and later by his son “Long John” Roberts.  Other early settlers were John Williams, David Weeks,  William Cox, Alexander Smith, Fulrad Seebring, Ary Hendricks, Thomas Harris, Henry Bennett, Jacob Clauson, Johnson Pelton, Eleazer Copeland, Sylvester Hough, Abraham Wells and Comfort Penney.

Many of the early settlers of Genoa Township settled on the oxbow of Big Walnut Creek.  If you look at an old map prior to the existence of Hoover reservoir, you can see this oxbow and pretty much figure out where it was based on Oxbow Road, north of Big Walnut Road.  Today the park at the dead end of the road is a Hoover hot spot for both fishing and birding.

A flock of phalacrocorax auritus (double crested cormorants) near Oxbow Road fishing area

A flock of phalacrocorax auritus (double crested cormorants) near Oxbow Road fishing area

Genoa Township was officially sectioned off from Harlem Township in 1816.  It was named after Genoa, Italy by early settler Elisha Bennett in recognition of the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.  While there were many people who helped establish the township, some names came around more than once.  The story of Dr. Eleazer Copeland is quite compelling, and his unfortunate drowning ended a very rich and productive life.  In addition to being a physician, he built a saw mill and a gristmill with Sylvester Hough along Big Walnut Creek in the mid 1820s.  The mill had a brick dry-house and machinery for processing hemp which was a primary staple grown on nearly all the farms.

 


 

By 1879 there were 9 one-room school houses and two wooden covered bridges.  In addition to the Yankee Street Bridge, there was another near Maxwell’s Corners.  Early church services were held in pioneer’s homes, and the first church building was erected by the Presbyterians in 1838.  The Methodists built a frame church at Maxwell’s Corners in 1849, but political differences over slavery caused problems within the congregation.  The church was sold in1866 that building was rededicated as a Christian Union Church.   The cemeteries are scattered throughout the township and well maintained by current officials.  The old map shows Maxtown/Nutt cemetery which was moved to Bon Air/Burnside cemetery due to the creation of Hoover Reservoir.

The Underground Railroad stories in Delaware County are many, and Genoa Township shares a piece of that history as well.  In the southwest corner along Africa Road you’ll see a historic brick home which was in the Sharp family.  The Sharps helped guide slaves north along Alum Creek.  Garrit Sharp was considered the first resident within the Westerville city limits and played a role in the beginnings of Otterbein College.  With his sons, Stephen and Joseph, and other Westerville abolitionists, they helped many men and women along their road to freedom.

Underground railroad home along Africa Road

Underground railroad home along Africa Road

When you look at the county map, today Genoa Township seems heavily residential in the south and west.  But north and east you’ll still find plenty of open space and parks, and township officials and zoning board members work hard to maintain that balance.  People who live in the south of the township are more apt to frequent Westerville, while those in the north feel more in tune with Galena and Sunbury.  But there was a time when Genoa Crossroads and Maxwell’s Corners were centers of activity.

Postal services originated at the Curtiss Inn in 1819 and stayed there for nearly 30 years.  In 1848, the Genoa Crossroads P.O. was founded and lasted until 1865.  Situated near where the Genoa Township Hall is currently located, Genoa Crossroads was also known as Franklin Corners as Vernon Franklin was the postmaster there.

Maxwell’s Corners was also a small center of commerce and postal services for a time.  It was located around the area where Maxtown and Sunbury roads intersect.  Because the Maxwell name was already in use, the post office was called “Maxtown” and hence, today we have Maxtown Road.  The post office for Genoa Township was here on the 1866 map and lasted until about 1901.

Picnic in the pines, at Hoover Meadows

Picnic in the pines, at Hoover Meadows

The Genoa bike path occupies a historic railroad bed that carried thousands of passengers and cargo for over 80 years.  After going through several ownership, route and name changes, the Cleveland, Akron and Columbus railroad stopped running around 1950.  Genoa Crossroads was a point that had a small flag station and even a post office for a short while.  After it closed passengers had to go to Westerville or Galena to get on board.

The 3C Highway pre-dates U.S. Route 71, connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland as a primary route in the early days of the automobile.  When the first state routes were numbered, the 3C highway became known as State Route 3.  In the 1950’s S.R. 3 was rerouted a bit, leaving “Old 3C” as a separate road in some places.  Upon its completion in the 1960’s, U.S. Route 71 became the primary route for those traveling between the 3 Cs.

Believe it or not, you can’t find everything on the internet.  I stumbled upon a “Historical Sketch of Maxwell’s Corners” in a file cabinet in the local history room of the Delaware County Library.  Written by Emmett Melville Wickham in 1941, it is a firsthand account of growing up in Genoa Township, and real evidence of what was once at Maxwell’s Corners.

Wickham was born in 1859 in Genoa Township and raised on a farm, but was always very interested in education.  When he was 21 he rode on horseback twenty miles to Delaware to take the teacher’s exam, which he passed.  In 1880 he started teaching in Genoa Township, and alternated between that and farming for several years.  He eventually would study law and pass the bar exam in 1891.  By 1897 he was on the bench as the Judge of the first Subdivision of the Sixth Common Pleas District in Delaware County.

Hello Deer! Char-Mar Ridge Preserve (by Lori Littleton Taggart)

Hello Deer! Char-Mar Ridge Preserve (by Lori Littleton Taggart)

Wickham did extensive research on the land ownership, tracing it to Thomas Jefferson Maxwell.  Maxwell may not have lived here long, but his name stuck.  There was a one-room schoolhouse, stores that changed hands many times, and the Methodist Episcopal/Christian Union church.  John C. Nutt had a tavern called “The Traveler’s Rest”.

This truly is a fascinating look at early Genoa Township, and includes a story about Christian Smothers who reportedly killed the last buffalo ever seen in the county.  If you are dying to know more about Genoa Township, the Big Walnut Area Historical Society and the Community Library in Sunbury are great resources for local history and genealogy.

The township is exploding with parks.  The largest and most obvious is the Hoover Reservoir and park system.  While the actual dam is in Franklin County, most of reservoir is in Delaware.  Created in 1955 from the Big Walnut Creek, the dam and reservoir is named for the Hoover brothers, Clarence and Charles.

The City of Columbus maintains most of the park area around Hoover.  There has been some controversy of late between the city’s Watershed Management Program and residents who live along the waterfront due to disputes over maintaining property and where those boundaries should exist.  The city also owns the Spruce Run Environmental Education Center.  It covers approximately 50 acres of land and for the past 40 years has been used by Columbus City Schools to promote environmental education.

Sailors sailing side by side

Sailors sailing side by side

The park has many activities including fishing, disc golf, hiking, and bird watching.  There are many opportunities for boaters of all kinds – clubs like the Buckeye Boat Club and sailing lessons from Wind Over Water, as well as kayaking and canoeing.  Hoover Nature Preserve encompasses areas surrounding the reservoir, including the Galena Mudflats and Hoover Meadows.  According to TrekOhio, the boardwalk at the Mudflats was damaged by the harsh winter and is currently closed for repairs but will reopen this spring.

Some of the Alum Creek State Park mountain bike trails occupy the top northwest corner of Genoa Township.  But that’s not the only connection – Alum Creek Reservoir and Hoover Reservoir share an underground piping system that transports water from Alum Creek to Hoover.  The water is then treated at the Hap Cremean Water Plant and distributed to much of northern Franklin County.

Char-Mar Ridge Preserve is one of several Delaware County Preservation Parks.  The 1.7 mile gravel trail surrounds a pond with a wildlife blind.  If you love nature photography, this is a good spot to visit.  Photographer Lori Littleton Taggart has captured some amazing photos here.  Whether you are looking to get some exercise, catch some wildlife, or just find some peace and quiet – this is the place to be.  Coming up in May, the Preservation Parks’ Golden Marathon has a walk scheduled here.

Carolina wren at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve (by Lori Littleton Taggart)

Carolina wren at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve (by Lori Littleton Taggart)

Genoa Township has a developing network of parks including McNamara Park which is adjacent to part of the Genoa Trail.  That bike trail is on an old railroad bed and part of the larger Ohio to Erie trail that covers over 300 miles.   The Hoover Scenic Trail picks up where Genoa trail ends.  Genoa Township Community Gardens offers four different plot sizes and provides great space and resources for gardening.  Millstone Creek Park has unique features for kids with disabilities.

With its own fire and police force, and over 100 employees, the township covers three different school districts:  Big Walnut, Olentangy and Westerville.  It’s a complex undertaking to maintain relationships with the county, the city of Westerville, the city of Columbus and various state agencies.  Genoa Township officials also work closely with neighboring townships to share services and thereby reduce costs to residents.

Despite incredible growth in the past two decades, the township stewards are still mindful of green space and careful about zoning and development.  They require a certain percentage of open space and common space in new developments and enforce densities for certain areas.  The township is very good about keeping residents informed and including them in the process.  Genoa was even awarded a “Healthy Community” award by the Ohio Department of Health recently.  Additionally they have established a legacy program to help support the parks and preserve local history.  Despite no official village or town, the township hall is a focal point for events and activities and works hard to build community.

The best eating in Genoa Township may be from packing your own picnic and enjoying one of the many parks!  But if you are looking for a good restaurant, Giammarco’s still counts as Delaware County and is a great Italian place with its own bocce court.  If you are hankering for something fancy, make reservations for Bel Lago and enjoy waterfront dining.  It’s worth crossing the county line for.  Just north of the township, you can’t go wrong in Galena with either the Mudflats Bar & Grill or the Galena Diner.

After this crazy long winter we’ve had, I know you’re already getting out and exploring.  Put Genoa Township on your itinerary and keep an eye out for runners and bikers.  Safe travels!

White-breasted nuthatch at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve (by Lori Littleton Taggart)

White-breasted nuthatch at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve (by Lori Littleton Taggart)

 

 

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