Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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source:  Part One:  Mansfield News:  03 July 1903, p. 11.  Part Two:  Mansfield News, 11 July 1903, p. 17


Submitted by Jean and Faye


History of Richland County

by A. J. Baughman



Shelby is the second town in size in Richland county, and was first settled in 1818.  Shelby is so well known that its location and boundaries need not be given.  Trolly-line cars ply forth and back like a weaver’s shuttle, between Mansfield and Shelby every hour, and the intervening land between the two cities may be so built upon within the next few decades that it will be difficult to know where one corporation ends and another begins.  The first settlers in Shelby were Stephen Marvin, Henry Whitney and Eli Wilson, who came from the vicinity of Norwalk, Conn.  Mr. Wilson erected a cabin on what is now South Gamble street, where W. R. Brooks now resides.  This is the highest point in Shelby, and has a gentle slope towards the Blackfork, that immediately south sweeps around to the east before turning to the north in its course through Shelby.  Mr. Marvin built his cabin on the same day, on what is now North Gamble street.  Between these, Mr. Whitney put up a cabin near what is now the northwest corner of Gamble and Mill streets.

The Gamble brothers—Hugh and John—came in 1833, and the father—James Gamble—came two years later.  John Gamble erected a grist mill on the southeast corner of Main and Gamble streets and the settlement was called “Gamble Mills, which name it retained after it had grown into a village.  A postoffice, called “Gamble’s Mills,” was opened in 1828, with John Gamble as postmaster.  It is related that after serving as postmaster for many years, receiving but a small remuneration for his services, an attempt was made to have Mr. Gamble removed, the salary having been increased with the growth of the village, making the office, or the salary at least, a thing to be desired.  To counteract the movement, a mass meeting was called, which was successful both as to numbers and results—the Hon. Henry Leyman was the principal speaker.  Mr. Leyman was quite an orator, as was his son, N. N. Leyman, in later years.  Mr. Leyman described the state and condition of the country at the time the postoffice was established, that the mail was then carried through the wilderness by post-boys on horseback, and that the postmaster served more to accommodate his neighbors than for the small salary he received.  He gave a vivid portrayal of pioneer life, and stated that John Gamble as postmaster had kindly aided the early settlers in getting letters from their old homes and friends in the east; that he frequently went out into the wilderness to meet the post-boy, and would lead his horse along intricate bridle-paths into the little village.  And after years of such unrequited service, the town had so grown and the country had been so improved that the government allowed the postmaster a larger salary, and that spoilsmen were now attempting to crowd the faithful old servant out of office, when he should be permitted to remain and receive a recompense, at least in part, for past services.  The opinion of the meeting was so unanimous and its decision so emphatically expressed that it reached the ear of power at Washington, and Mr. Gamble was retained.  In narrating this incident, a man, who as a boy six years old, attended the meeting, says he was so much impressed with Mr. Leyman’s eloquence and looked upon his figures of speech as actual occurrences, and in his innocency supposed that John Gamble really had to lead the post-boys’ horses along bridle-paths.  How the realities of life encountered in later years dispel the fancies and destroy the pictures created and drawn by the imagination in the May-morn of a man’s youth!

The Hon. Henry Leymand represented Richland county in the Ohio legislature in 1834-45.  He was in the mercantile business in Shelby for a number of years, then removed back to Mansfield, where he died in 1879.  His son—N. N. Leyman—once a Shelby boy, was a prominent Mansfield Lawyer in the “seventies” and early “eighties.”  He died in New York about ten years ago.  He was faultless both in dress and in speech.  No grammatical inaccuracies ever escaped his lips.

The town outgrowing the name of Gamble’s Mills, was re-christened “Shelby,” in honor of Governor Shelby, of Kentucky, a hero of the Revolution, as well as of the war of 1812.  General Shelby was successful in both the military and the civil service of his country, and Shelby town has prospered even beyond the expectations of the promoters of her present industries.

Mrs. G. M. Skiles contributed an article to the “Ladies’ Edition of the Shelby News,” of April 10, 1896, on the “History of Shelby,” and to her acknowledgement is hereby made for many of the facts obtained in this chapter.  Mrs. Skiles wrote:  “The writer will not attempt to give in detail the history and progress of this village from the pioneer days to the present time.  Suffice it to say, however, that Shelby has grown so large that today it is in fact a city.  It has all the surroundings, advantages, privileges, fascinations and ‘airs’ of a city.  Let us look at Shelby reflection in a mirror as she is today.  A true picture is presented to our view and we see eight churches, all flourishing, and their pulpits filled with able ministers, and on beautiful Sabbaths the pews well filled—rainy ones not so many attend.  We have four school buildings.  We are certainly proud of our high school building.  It is located on the right bank of the magnificent winding Blackfork that flows with its never ceasing waters through the center of our village, dividing the town, as it were, into east and west.  It is a very fine building with a large and beautiful lawn dotted with shade trees.  We are very proud of our schools.”

Concerning the schools, another writer says that within three years after the first settlement was made, the pioneers of the town, unwilling that their children should be deprived of the benefits of an education, built a log school house, made from hewed slabs, and in place of windows they used oiled paper.  It was here that 80 years ago “Aunt”Debby Moyer taught the first school within the limits of Shelby.  Her salary was nine shillings per month, with the understanding that she was to board herself.  This building was burned within a year, and in 1822 another log building was built, but the log buildings in time were supplanted by more modern [several words not shown]  have moved forward from the day when the teacher was required to teach only orthography, reading, writing and arithmetic, as far as the “single rule of three,” till today there are eight grades and a four year’ high school course.

The pioneers encountered much and accomplished much.  They worked hard and left to their descendants as a rule, unsullied names.  And while there was a hospitality then that present conditions would not make desirable, no one should contrast the present unfavorably with the past.  A certain so-called equality may have been recognized then that would not now be congenial.  There is a social and mental scale, which, like Banquo’s ghost, will not down and cannot be ignored.  Let the carpist try to qualify himself to fill a higher niche, rather than to drag others down to his own level.  Aim higher, “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

Friendships may exist between individuals and families, or taking a more comprehensive scope, may bind a whole neighborhoods together in common interests, as was the case with the pioneers.

The early settlers, as a class, were poor, comparatively.  But poverty is not only the mother of invention, but the promoter of industry and enterprise.  Poverty does some of the greatest and most beautiful things that are done in the world.  It cultivates the fields and operates the shops and factories, and carries the commerce of nations upon the high seas.  It sees the day break and catches the sun’s first smile.  It inspires the orator and the essayist and gives pathos to the poet’s song.

But while poverty places people upon a certain level, perfect equality is impossible.  There never has existed a nation without gradations in society; and it is evident that without grades the business of life could not be carried on.  There could be neither leader nor followers, commander nor soldiers, director nor operator.  The idea that there should be no gradations in positions in life is about as absurd as to expect that all hills could be of the same heights.  Providence created an infinite variety in external nature and a variety as diversified seems to exist among men.

A “pioneer” has been defined as a person who resided in Richland county prior to 1820.  With this octoganary definition, but few pioneers remain.  The majority of the people who were living eighty-three years ago, have passed into the Land of the Leal in their journey to that Kingdom where Enoch and Elijah are pioneers.

History of Richland County

By A.J. Baughman

Shelby — Continued


In the continuation of the history of Shelby, the schools deserve especial mention.  When it is recalled that it has been but a short time, reckoned by history, since the public school system was inaugurated in Ohio, the rapid advances that have been made in both town and country schools, in the modes of teaching and in the uniformity of text books, is the more marked.  Nowhere is this advancement more noticeable than is illustrated by the schools of both Mansfield and Shelby.

The first school house built in Shelby was in 1821, in that part of the village then called “Texas.”  It was a log building, as were all the buildings of that day.  The seats were rough benches made of hewn slabs, and slabs placed along the walls were used as desks.  In such a rude cabin, Debbie Moyer taught the first school in Shelby, eighty-two years ago.  And as a retrospective look is taken at the schools of that period, the fact is recalled that it was in such schools that the most prominent men of the country received their preliminary education, which in time enabled them to successfully take part in the great events of history.  Fifty-four years after the school was taught in that log cabin by Debbie Moyer, a union school was opened September 1, 1875, in a large, handsome and convenient brick building that had been erected at a cost of over $26,000, and statistics for that year showed that the running expenses of the several schools aggregated nearly six thousand dollars.  The first superintendent of the union schools was W. H. Pritchard, now deceased.  Mr. Pritchard was born and reared in the vicinity of Bunker Hill, in Worthington township, this county.  He was named for the Rev. William Hughes, a Presbyterian minister, who was much beloved by the people in southern Richland and Ashland counties among whom he labored for many years.  After some years spent in teaching, Mr. Pritchard read law and became a member of the Mansfield bar—the law partner of his brother-in-law, Judge N. M. Wolfe.  Later Mr. Pritchard removed to the far northwest, where he became a judge of the court, serving upon the bench there at the same time Judge Wolfe did here.  But great as the Shelby school building was considered in 1875, it has since been enlarged to more than double its original size, and its campus is one of the most beautiful in the state.

The first survey for Shelby was made by John Stewart, June 26, 1824, and the platt contained twenty-three lots.  The village was incorporated in 1854.  William Hills was the first mayor.  He was succeeded by Harrison Mickley, who was afterward a state senator.

Gamble’s grist mill was situated at the southeast corner of Main and Gamble streets, the present site of Peter’s drug store.  It has been claimed that Gamble’s was not the first grist mill in that locality—that there was a water-power mill on the Blackfork, just south of Main street.  But Hiram R. Smith, of Mansfield, now in the ninety-first year of his age, states that such was not the case, and he transacted business at Gamble’s frequently.  The Gamble mill was operated by horse-power, and it would not seem likely that if a water-power plant was in operation on the Blackfork, that a horse-power concern would be built upon the next corner.  The surveyor’s notes of a county road refer to McClure’s mill-site, further up the Blackfork, but it was a “site,” not a “mill.”  The first water-power grist mill on the Blackfork was built by John A Duncan, in 1839, where Whitney avenue crosses the stream.

John Gamble, the founder of Gamble’s mills was the promoter of the business interests of Shelby in many ways, and, as stated last week, was the first postmaster of the place.  His brother, Hugh Gamble, was distinguished in legislative and judicial affairs.  He was a justice of the peace for a number of years and was an associate judge of the court of common pleas, and served two terms in the legislature.

The first newspaper in Shelby was called “The Pioneer,” and was founded in 1853, by C. R. Brown.  The next venture in that line was made by the late C. M. Kenton, who had served an apprenticeship in the Banner office at Mt. Vernon.  Kenton afterwards succeeded well in the newspaper field, as editor and publisher of the “Journal.” at Marysville, Union county.  Shelby, like other towns, has its newspaper grave-yard, which it is not the purpose of this sketch to disturb.  Much as he is attached to his craft, the failure of his paper seldom breaks a printer’s heart.  He simply puts his rule in his pocket, goes to another town and makes another venture.  Shelby now has two daily and two weekly papers, well established and creditable to the town.

In the religious field, a number of denominations have congregations and houses for worship in Shelby.  The Methodists were the first to organize, and among their ministers were Harry O. Sheldon and Russell Bigelow.  The Rev. A. E. Winter is the present pastor, and is an affable, pleasant gentleman.

The Presbyterians first organized at Taylor’s Corners, in Jackson township, in 1822, but later changed their place for meetings to Shelby.  Their new church building is of variegated sandstone, uniquely constructed.  Their pastor, the Rev. E. M. Page, is the minister who conducted the funeral services of the widow of the late Judge Meredith and who so favorably impressed Mansfield people at the time.

The Christian church was organized in 1858, and the congregation has recently built a new house of worship.  The pioneer preacher of this congregation was the late Elder Benjamin Lockhart, who was then a resident of Bellville.  The present pastor is the Rev. J. S. Oram.

The United Brethren people organized in 1859.  They erected a new church building a few years ago.  In fact, all the Shelby churches are new, or as good as new.

 The Lutherans organized in 1859, with forty-two members, and the Rev. A. R. Brown as pastor.

 The beginning of the history of the Catholic Church in Shelby dates back to Indian times.  In 1745, Father Armand de la Ruhardie, pastor of the Tionontates or Wyandots at Sandusky, frequently visited the Blackfork, and traveling along its shores preached to the Indians.  He was succeeded by Joseph Peter de Bonnecamp.

The Reformed church was organized in 1852, with the Rev. J. B. Thompson as pastor.  The names of many of Shelby’s old-time residents are upon the membership list of this congregation.

St. Mark’s Protestant Episcopal church was organized as a mission in 1502.  While the St. Mark building is the smallest church edifice in the town, it is both handsome and convenient.  Edward Mapes, a recent Kenyon graduate, who acted as a lay-reader for the congregation for the past year, has been ordained to the diaconate and will take charge of the parish.

The late John Meredith—many years a resident of Shelby—was probate judge of Richland county in 1853-64.  Judge Meredith purchased the Mansfield “Spectator” newspaper in 1836, and changed the name to the “Ohio Shield,” and later to that of “The Shield and Banner.”  He retired from the business in 1841.

The late Hon. S. S. Bloom, lawyer, statesman and author, was identified with the Shelby press for many years.  While the names of a few of the more prominent men who were identified with the history of Shelby can be cited, many who contributed to its growth, prosperity and good name, cannot be given in this limited chapter.  As has been said of war:  Every battle has its unnamed heroes.  The common soldier enters the stormed fortress and falling in the breach which his valor has made, sleeps in a nameless grave.  The subaltern whose surname is scarcely heard beyond the roll-call on parade, bears the colors of his company where the fight is hottest.  And the corporal, who heads his files in the final charge, is forgotten in the earthquake shout of victory which he has helped to win.  The victory may be due as much or more to the patriot-courage of him who is content to do his duty in the rank and file, than to the dashing colonel who heads the regiment, or even to the general who plans the campaign, and yet unobserved, unknown and unrewarded the former passes into oblivion, while the leader's name is on every tongue and goes down in history.  So it also is in local history, only a few of the many who deserve mention can be named.  Shelby, like the other towns of Richland county, had her noble men who contributed each his share in making the county what it is today.

The most notable personage whose business life covers fifty years of Shelby’s history, is Col. John Dempsey.  He was actively engaged in the wholesale and retail trade for a quarter of a century, then sold his business and turned his attention to his farms in that vicinity.  He is the proprietor of one of the best stocked and equipped stock farms in Ohio, and his suburban residence is situated in beautiful grounds.

J. G. Hill, the oldest printer in years of service in the county has been a resident of Shelby ever since the close of the civil war, in which he was a soldier, and was in the newspaper and printing business there for over thirty –six years.  He has now retired to his farm, and puts “30,” for a time on the hook.

The active professional and business men of Shelby today are too numerous to even attempt to name in this article, (which has already exceeded its limit).  Such mention must be deferred for a time.  Suffice for the present to say that her people in their several callings and pursuits are the peers of those elsewhere.  And as to her industries—her shops and factories—give employment to several thousand persons and sustenance to hundreds of homes.

Mansfield and Shelby are sister cities, bound together by rails of steel, with amiable relations and reciprocal interests.

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