Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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source:  Mansfield News, 01 August 1903


Submitted by Jean and Faye


History of Richland County

By A. J. Baughman



Olivesburg is in Weller Township and was laid out by Benjamin Montgomery in 1816, and was named for his daughter, Olive.  By 1821 business to its several lines of those days was represented there.  Benjamin Montgomery kept a tavern, Abel Montgomery, a blacksmith shop; John Gun, a tailor shop; Thomas Beach, a cabinet shop, and Joseph Burget, a tannery.  The town is on the left bank of the Whetstone creek, about two miles north of its junction with the Blackfork of the Mohican.

The first road in the Whetstone country was cut through the forest by General Beall’s troops in September, 1812, and the road is still often called “Beall’s Trail.”  The first roads were called “trails” and “paths.”  There was the “Great Trail” from Fort Pitt “Pittsburg” to Detroit.  Then there were Muskingum and Wyandot trails, the Portage path and others.  Not only were the Indian trails used largely by the pioneers, opening the way to a distribution of population over the new country, but they became the course of the first roads.  In those days nearly all the roads passed along ridges, having been located along Buffalo trails, later widened by the Indians and the pioneers.  The first towns as well as the first roads were upon ridges and hills.  But in time, the need of motive power furnished by the streams led to the building of mills in the valleys, and about the mills sprang up settlements and towns.  The coming of the railroads was the doom of many villages, and the shrill scream of the locomotive sounded the passing of many towns, not only of the hill-tops, but also in the valleys.  The Beall trail in time became the Wooster road to the northwest.  And since the trail was cut through, the village of Olivesburg has been built, and instead of the wild forest that surrounded Camp Whetstone, where General Beall’s army encamped, fields of waving grain are now kissed and ripened by the summer sun.

To one of an imaginative turn of mind, who is interested in history, the old century comes back at time in retrospection.  In a panorama-like view border armies can be seen marching by in militia garb or in the uniform of Continental soldiers.  The pioneers may also be seen, the lines upon their faces, telling of the hardships and work which made the present civilization possible.  And in each scene the story may be read of the century now passed away.

The mission of Beall’s army was to keep between the settlements upon the south of the trail and the British troops and their allies - the Indians - upon the north.  After remaining in camp a few days at Olivesburg, General Beall moved forward and founded Camp council, in Bloominggrove township.


The first school house in Olivesburg was built in 1824.  It was a log building, twenty feet square, and Joseph Ward was the first teacher.

The Presbyterians built a church in 1827 and the Methodists erected one in 1847.

People say “the railroad killed Olivesburg,” meaning the Erie road.  A more correct expression would be that railroads - the railroad age - prevented Olivesburg from becoming anything more or greater than a little village.  It has a pretty location and nestles in a quiet valley with charming surrounding.

In 1857-8, the Rev. J. R. Burgett was the pastor of the Presbyterian church at Mansfield.  His pastorate, though brief, was successful.  He was called to Mobile, Ala., and was on board the vessel with Mason and Slidell when they were captured while en route to England as emissaries of the rebellion.  When a boy, Olivesburg was the Rev. Burgett’s home.

The saw mill a short distance below Olivesburg was operated for a number of years by Mr. Tinkey, the in-in-law of Mr. Willis, of East Fourth street, Mansfield.

William Houston came to Ohio from the state of Delaware in 1815, and was a resident of Olivesburg for many years.

Jonathan Montgomery, then a resident of Olivesburg, was a county commissioner in 1850.

Dr. Hubbs, of Butler passed his boyhood years in Olivesburg.

The late David Berry was a wagon-maker in Olivesburg for a number of years.

John T. Crabbs, of Mansfield, formerly lived in Olivesburg.

Perhaps incidents are of more interest to the general reader than are personal mentions.

A story is told of a justice of the peace in the long ago.  But as the same story has been located in different places, the exact location cannot be vouched for.  A certain man who had just been elected a justice of the peace, upon returning home told his wife that he had been elected a “Squire,” as such magistrates are usually called.  The next day the children were calling each other “Squire.”  Their mother ordered them to “shut up,” saying, “There is nobody ‘Squire here but your daddy and me.”

When David Tod was running for governor as a Democrat before the war, Joe Geiger made a campaign song out the foregoing incident, changing it to suit the politics of the time.  One stanza of the doggerel sung as follows:

“Be silent, each little young sappy,
Or I’ll tickle your back with a rod; 
There’s none but myself and pappy
Shall ever be Governor Tod.”

An old resident, speaking of muster days, says:  “We boys had fine times during the general musters.  Then we got gingerbread, which to our taste was next to ambrosia, the food of the gods.  Whiskey, too, was plenty - the good kind that Tom Corwin called the leveler of modern society.

Of the schools, another states that, “The early school teachers were paid for their services by subscription.  There being but few school houses, teachers often got permission to hold school in settlers’ cabins.  The children learned to “read, write and cipher,” the latter as far as the rule of three which was considered sufficient for ordinary business purposes.

East of Olivesburg, in Ashland count, “sick wheat” was often produced in the early settlement of the country.  This condition could not be accounted for.  The grain would look as plump and perfect as the best quality ever grown and the flour made from the same would be as white and nice as any ever bolted, and when made into bread, would be palatable, except that the bread would have a sweetish taste.  But whenever eaten by man or beast, a distressing sickness would follow.  Neither weevil, rust or smut then affected the grain and the cause of “sick wheat” was never ascertained.

Elijah Charles came from Beaver county, Pennsylvania, in 1814, and built a saw mill on the Blackfork about one and a half miles south of Olivesburg.  His son, Isaac Charles, succeeded to the property, to which he added a grist mill in 1835.  In 1868, he removed to Bluffton, Allen county, where he died some years later.  His son, Isaac, was charged with murdering his father, and was convicted and sentenced to the state prison for life.

When Rogers’ rangers passed through the northeastern part of what is now Richland county, in 1761, the Blackfork was called “Moskongain Creek.”

The writer was in Olivesburg the night of the great frost - June 4, 1850.  Sunday morning, June 5, the sun rose on a scene of artistic beauty, but, alas, it was only a crystalline veneering of destruction.  As the warm rays of the sun shown upon the ice-incrusted vegetation, the scene of beauty was soon changed to one of desolation, as all plant life wilted and withered, some having been frozen to the roots.  Ice had formed a half-inch in thickness.  Garden, as well as field crops, were ruined.  While some vegetation revived a season of scarcity followed, and breadstuff advanced to prices never reached before.  This frost devastation passed over a considerable area of the country, and was particularly severe in northern Ohio.

There were frosts every month in the year of 1859.  In 1838, there were destructive frosts between the 15th and 18th of May.

But these are only incidents.  Seedtime continues to come, and harvests have never entirely failed.

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