Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

- - - - - -

Washington Village

source:  Mansfield News, 29 August1903


Submitted by Jean and Faye


History of Richland County

 By A J. Baughman


Washington Village.

Washington village is in Washington township, and was named I honor of the Father of his country - George Washington.  The village was laid out by John Conwell, Wesley Barnes and James Sirpliss, who owned farms at the cross roads.  A round-log school house was the first building erected, and stood upon the present site of the Congregational church.  David Coulter was the first school teacher, and among his pupils were children of the Smith, Armstrong, Sirpliss, Barnes, Conwell, Pollock and other families  Mark Finnicum was the first merchant of the village, and Emilus Day the first blacksmith.  A succeeding merchant was the Rev. James McGaw, father of the James Franklin McGraw - preacher, author and lecturer.

Fifty years ago, the Rev. James F. McGaw was prominent in the religious, literary, educational and reformatory circles of Richland county.  He was a man of character, of talents and of attainments, but was not notably successful in any pursuit.  He was a denominational minister, but did not want to be confined to ministerial work, and literature was one of his “side lines.”  In fact, whatever success a minister or a lawyer attains in the literary field, is achieved at the expense of his calling, or profession.  But, had opportunity been presented, and Mr. McGaw had given his time and talents exclusively to literary work, he might have secured both wealth and fame.  As a writer had had no equal in his part of the country.  To show his power of portrayal, the following paragraph is given from a sketch of a wayfarer’s return home:

“The poet, when seeking a theme for his loftiest verse, will turn with affection and pride to his early home, where he first felt the divine inspiration of poetic fire, where first he roamed the wild wood, or listened to the warbler’s note, gleaning something around which he might wave with God-given power his glowing fancies.  It matters not if the home be lonely, love and poetry will find sweet music in the babbling rivulet - affections within the cottage wall - every breeze that trembles, every flower that lifts its chalice in the sun, and every bird that warbles its gladsome lay, brings to us reminiscences of early home.  The memories of home will find a calm delight in the hour of sunset, when the king of day is slowly sinking behind the western hills, and pouring his unclouded blaze of light on all surrounding objects.  Ah, yes, and when the weary exile is riding far over the world of waters, along some distant shore, the beams of the sinking sun, resting upon the hushed deep, or gliding the green billows and sending back to the eye an increased radiance, will bring to mind the brightness and cherished glories of the home of his youth.  Thoughts of our early home will crowd upon the mind wherever we may roam, and when, after a lapse of years, we revisit the sacred spot, what deep emotions fill our minds.  Who that has visited the home of his youth and not felt that time and distance have lent enchantment to the spot.”

The foregoing extract is given to show that “there were giants on the earth in those days” of the past in literature as well as in other pursuits.

A number of other men from Washington village and vicinity also deserve notice.  The late Hon. John P. Altgeld became a distinguished jurist and governor of the state of Illinois.  The Hon. William L. Sewell has won promotion in the consular service.  Homer P. Sewell has succeeded in the law and in mining operations.  S. N. Ford in manufacturing and electric railways.  Robert C. McFarland as a merchant.  Milton W. Worden became an officer in the army during the civil war, and was later judge of the probate court of Richland county.  The Rev. Andrew Pollock has done faithful service in the Methodist ministry for many years.  Others also deserve notice, but those given show that Washington has sent out from its borders people who are men among men in the business and professional world.


The first temperance society in Richland county was organized in Washington township, and the people there have ever been at the front in temperance and other reforms, and in ante-bellum days their anti-slavery views were quite radical.  The agitation of the slavery question finally caused a split in the Methodist church, a number of members seceding from the same and organizing under another society called the Wesleyan Methodist, which the “unregenerate” called the “Nigger church.”  After the war of the rebellion had obliterated pro-slavery and anti-slavery lines, both of the Methodist local organizations went out of existence and a new religious society was formed called the Congregational church, and a handsome church building was erected on the northwest corner of the cross streets, and there Christians meet and worship in unity and brotherly love, in happy contrast in the times of the past.  In looking back through the vista of years, a man seldom, if ever regrets having taken a firm stand for whatever he believed to be right, and supporting the same by voice and vote.


In the “forties” a German settlement was founded in the central part of Washington township, extending on the northeast to the village.  The more desirable land had previously been taken, and when the Germans came they had to take what was left.  The question whether a living could be made out of those rough hills was settled in the affirmative, for the land proved to be productive for both cereals and fruits, and less liable to crops being affected by wet or dry seasons, than have been the products of the more arable valleys.  A number of those German pioneers and their descendants became wealthy.  They are frugal and industrious, and the history of the past shows that it has never been necessary to “pass the hat” for any of their people.

The meeting to organize the first temperance society, to which reference has been made, was held at the home of Samuel Smith, March 29, 1827, and was organized with Thomas Smith as chairman and Samuel Richey, secretary.  Thomas and Samuel Smith and Alexander McBride were appointed a committee on platform, and presented the following, which was adopted:

Whereas, the common use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage is injurious to the health of the consumer, and ruinous to the morals of a community,

Resolved  That we form ourselves into a society to be known by the name of the Washington and Monroe Temperance society, and that we adopt the following pledge for our guide:

We, whose names are hereunto attached, do pledge ourselves to dispense with the common use of ardent spirits in our families, and at our gatherings and frolics and, as far as our influence extends, use all laudable means to discourage the use of it in others.

The signers to the foregoing were:  Thomas Smith, Samuel Smith, Vernon T. Smith, Thomas Smith, Sr., Jedediah Smith, Henry Mosar, Lambright Larnee, Joseph Coe, Robert McDermott, Levi Tarr, David Newlon, John and Lancelot Conwell, Joseph Reed, Alexander McBride, Henry Hull, George, David and John McFarland, Andrew Schosser, James, Richard and Robert Sirpliss, Elias Hyser and Wesley, Benjamin, John J. and John K. Barnes

This society was in existence about thirty years, during which time about six hundred names were placed on the membership roll.

The matter of getting along without whisky during harvest and at log-rollings and corn-husking parties was an objection to signing the pledge, but as the temperance sentiment advanced, total abstinence became popular with all classes.


 Of the prominent old-time families in and around Washington village, the Pearces came from New Jersey, Hammett, McFarland and Leppo from Maryland, Pulver from New York, McPheren, Swigart, Smith, Pollock, Fleming and Clever from Pennsylvania, Maglott and Touby from Germany

How interesting is family history, and how much future generations will regret that more complete personal records were not kept of the good old fathers and mothers who were in their generations Richland county pioneers.

<< Back to Historical Information Index

<< Back to the Richland Co., Ohio Index