History of Clay Township - St. Johns, Auglaize County, Ohio
From: History of Auglaize County, Ohio
Edited By: William J. McMurray
Histotical Publishing Company
Indianapolis - 1923

CLAY TOWNSHIP AND THE VILLAGE OF ST. JOHNS

Clay township on the south line of Auglaize county (town 6, south of range 7 east) covers thirty sections numbering from 1 to 30, running five sections from north to south and six from east to west, and is thus but thirty square miles in extent. The township is crossed by the Toledo & Ohio Central railway, which enters at Santa Fe in the northeast quarter of section 25 (in the southeast corner of the township) and passes out in the northwest quarter of section 7 and on to Wapakoneta, crossing the old Detroit, Toledo & Ironton railway (the present Ford railway) in the southeast corner of section 8. This latter road traverses the township from north to south, entering at the village of St. Johns on the northern line of the township in the northwest quarter of section 5. Other villages or railway stations in the township are Geyer, in the northwest quarter of section 21 on the Ford road, a mile southeast of that road's crossing with the T. & O. C.; Gutman, in the southwest quarter of section 15, on the T. & O. C., a mile northeast of Geyer station, and Santa Fe, on the east line of the county in the northeast quarter of section 25, on the T. & O. C., a part of the latter hamlet lying in the neighboring county of Logan. Clay township is bounded on the north by Union township, on the east by Goshen township and Logan county, on the south by Shelby county and on the west by Pusheta township, and is amply drained by Blackhoof creek, Wolf creek, Pedlers run and the main branch of Pusheta creek and their tributaries, supplemented by an adequate system of ditches. The old Lewistown Indian reservation takes in parts of sections 25, 26;27 and 28 in the southeast part of the township, and the Wapakoneta Indian reservation cut through sections 19, 20, 21 and part of section 22 on the south and down through sections 3, 10, 15 and 22 from the north, the Indian lands thus having embraced one half of the present territory of the township in the days before its civil organization. It was there, at the present site of the pleasant village of St. Johns that old Chief Blackhoof spent his last days amid the hills and dales he loved so well, and it also was within the present bounds of this township, in the immediate vicinity of the Blackhoof lodge, on what later came to be known as the Bitler farm, that Chief Wayweleapy (Willipie) had his lodge at the time he and his people ceded their lands to the Government in 1831 and in the next year took their departure from their old hunting grounds here forever. These picturesque hills now provide an apparently inexhaustible source of gravel for the needs of the community and in the gravel pits thus uncovered it not infrequently happens that grim relics of the days of Indian occupancy are uncovered in the form of skeletons of the red men who were buried there in the days now long gone.

Prior to the erection of Auglaize county in 1848 Clay township was attached to Allen county for civil purposes and it attained its own civil status two years after the Indians had left this region, a sufficient number of settlers having come in by that time to give force to their petition for the formation of a new township, it having been a part of Union township before this time. According to the journal of the board of commissioners for Allen county this action was taken on December 1, 1834, the journal as of that date setting forth that "a petition was then presented to have original Town 6, south of Range 7 east, made the limits of their township and said township to be designated and made known by the name of Clay. Petition granted and bonds given and advertisements written for an election to be held at James H. Coleman's for township officers on the 20th inst." James H. Coleman had entered his land in section 6, the northwest corner of this township, in 1833, the year following the departure of the Indians and the year prior to the presentation of this petition. He and Thomas Beer and John Rogers served as judges of this first township election and Richard Henry and Joel Bayliff as clerks. Besides these there were six other voters participating in the election, David Vonblaricom, William Hinton, Thomas Reed, Byrd Richardson, William Copeland and Samuel Bechdolt, and the following officers were elected: Township trustees, John Rogers, David Vonblaricom and Thomas Beer; clerk, Richard Henry; treasurer, Joel Bayliff; constable, Thomas Beer; fence viewers, James H. Coleman, Thomas Reed and Thomas Beer; overseers of the poor, William Copeland and Samuel Bechdolt - as many offices to fill as there were voters to exercise the suffrage. Originally this township ("original town 6") included its normal lower tier of sections, but with the readjustment of county lines that presently began to take place in northwestern Ohio it lost this tier to Shelby county, and thus now has but thirty sections instead of its original thirty six.

ST. JOHNS AND OTHER VILLAGES.

In. the spring following this election, April 29, 1835. Daniel and Elizabeth Bitler and John and Mary Rogers created a town site on the north line of the township in section 5, the site of the old Blackhoof village, and as a compromise of the respective preferences the two couples held in the matter of a name for the new town named it St. Johns. The Bitlers had come in here from Franklin county in 1834 and Daniel Bitler had opened a store and blacksmith shop on the site of the old Indian village and presently also erected an inn, thus having become the first business man in the village. John Rogers was a New Yorker by birth but had been transplanted to Ohio soil when he was fourteen years of age by the coming of his parents to this state, and he grew to manhood and was married in Richland county. He and his wife came over here into the new lands in the fall of 1833, the year following the departure of the Indians, and settled in the old Blackhoof village, Mr. Rogers - as noted above - being elected one of the township trustees in the election of the following year. He afterward served as justice of the peace in and for Clay township and lived to a ripe old age, his death occurring in the spring of 1880, he then being eighty years of age. These pioneers no doubt had a deep consciousness of the natural beauty of their town site, for St. Johns is one of the most picturesquely situated villages in this section of the state and its hills and dales when clothed in their native forests must have been a delight to the eye.

The original plat of the Bitler-Rogers village of St. Johns (or St. Johns Town, as the plat has it) was filed in the office of the recorder of Allen county on April 29, 1835, and sets out the boundaries of a tract of thirty two lots bounded on the north by Washington street, on the east by Walnut, on the south by Spring and on the west by Mulberry, and bisected north and south by Lima street and east and west by Center street. Extensions later were made to the east, over toward the creek to which the settlers by common consent gave the name of Blackhoof, and the village gradually grew in importance as a rural social and commercial center. The Methodists effected an organization there in the year in which the village was platted and church and school were given deep consideration from the first. When the railroad came some impetus was given to the growth of the village and the extension of the grain shipping facilities was greatly appreciated. The town has two grain elevators and the proper complement of stores to meet the community demands. Its location on the Wapakoneta-Bellefontaine highway, paved with cement, places it on the line of the heavy tourist travel along this road and the picturesque situation of the village, nestling amid its hills, attracts the admiring attention of all who pass that way. The census report for 1920 gives St. Johns a population of 355.

The other railway stations in Clay township have proved convenient shipping points and local commercial centers, but have not attained much growth. The 1920 census gives Geyer a population of 140. This place was platted by George Geyer on September 20, 1893, following the coming of the railroad, and was named by him Geyer City, the plat showing a tract of thirty six lots divided midway north and south by the railroad - the present Ford road. Mr. Geyer had entered the farm on which he platted his townsite in 1840. The hamlet has a grain elevator and is a very convenient trading center for the people living in that vicinity.

The census of 1920 gives the hamlet of Gutman, on the T. & O. C. railway in this township, a population of seventy seven. This convenient trading center grew up around the grain elevator and store that the Gutman brothers started on their farm following the coming of the railroad twenty years and more ago. The village of Santa Fe, on this same railroad, in the extreme southeastern corner of the township, and extending over into Logan county, was laid out on the Deloss pike by Reuben Conner in pioneer days and profited somewhat by the later coming of the railroad, but has not attained much growth. The original plat of this hamlet shows some peculiarity of lay out, the same covering a tract of fourteen parcels of land of varying dimensions, ranging from twenty three hundredths of an acre to one and fortyeight hundredths of an acre. It has a grain elevator and the necessary complement of stores to meet local demands upon it as a trading center.

THE PIONEERS OF CLAY TOWNSHIP.

Concerning the days of settlement here, an interesting little sidelight is carried in the following from the Sutton review (1880), bearing on the conditions which confronted the pioneeers: "The territory comprised within the township was of a low, swampy character, except along the line of the deposit ridge which crosses the northwest corner, reaching its highest and most broken point at St. Johns. Judging by the topography, there was little to encourage settlement save the richness of the soil, which is unsurpassed in the county. Still, a rich soil under water and heavy timber presented obstacles which necessity alone was courageous enough to meet and overcome; for the writer has been told by an honored pioneer that, on his arrival here, the lack of $10 was all that caused him to remain." To this it may be added that this no doubt was true of many a settler who would have turned and gone back to the old home upon corning over here into the new lands and finding conditions as they were if he had not exhausted his resources in making the attempt to gain a home in the wilderness and thus was compelled to stick and see it through simply because he did not have money enough to make the trip back. But time rewarded him and the rich and improved lands of this county now bespeak his honor.

When Auglaize county was erected in 1848 there were the following landowners in Clay township, according to the tax duplicate for that year: Jacob Allenbach, Amos Arthur, Daniel Apple, Joseph Allenbach, Henry Bey, John Burlean, William Brackney, Sr., William Brackney, Jr., Peter Bennett, William Bitler, Richard and H. R. Baily, Daniel and Henry Biller, Joel and Margaret Bayliff, D. W. Barber, Charles Boden, Abraham and Rebecca Bilger, James Ball, F. K. and Joseph Bush, John Bierlain, John Bailey, Joel Babcock, Mathias Buckhart, Casper Bodenbender, Peter and Samuel Beckdolt, George Bishop, Simeon Biggs, G. W. Bodkin, Henry Baughman, M. A. Bradley, J. H. Coleman, James H. Coleman, Jr., Henry Coleman, Abner, James and Jeremiah Copeland, William C. Campbell, Eli Costle, Joseph, Madison, Amos and William Copeland, S. S. Coleman, John Copeland, David Caldwell, Henry Crowell, William Collison, William Counsellor, Jacob Chambers, Elizabeth Cloverstine, John Corder, John Collier, James Coleman, H. B. Curtis, Hamilton Davison, Jeptha and Samuel Dunlap, Otho Danderlin, Leonard Evilseizer, George Elsas, Henry Eversole, Bartlett Ellrod, James Ellison, David Eversole, Benjamin Furrow, Philip Fetters, Joseph Flick, Valentine Flegel, John Foreman, William F. Frankeberger, Benjamin Faler, Resin Franks, Conrad Fry, Blazy Fisher, Ozias Falkner, George Fisher, Philip Gross, Michael and Nicholas Gross and Nicholas Gross, Jr., Kaitzel Godpey, Joseph Graham, William Gunter, John Gray, George Geier, Mathias Glaser, Jacob Griffin, Richard and Willard Gunn, Joseph Gibson, Daniel Guseman, Charles Hankerson, Christopher Hohn, Lewis Helmlinger, William Hinton, David and Richard Henry, David B. Helmer, Frederick Hohn, Cynthia Harrod, Aaron Hartley, William Hamilton, William Harbst, Wilhelm Harbst, Hiram Howe, John H. F. Josting, Joseph King, M. Kinstler, Christopher Kramer, Leonard Kinstley, Zelpha Kinstley, John G. Kraus, James H. Lusk, George Linder, John Lockhard, Philip Leininger, Jonathan McCoy, John McNoble, Jr., William Miller, Martha F. Mays, John Moore, G. H. Martin, Arthur McHugh, Uri Mix, Jacob Michael, John Moore, J. D. Mefford, Elizabeth Miller, George Mink, David McKnight, Charles Martin, Doctor, McMillin, Samuel McHarry, James Manning, William Milnor, John Nippgar, Catherine Neal, John Northrop, Michael Nipgen, George Newman, Enos and Thomas Oxley, Isaac Pownall, Philip Phenegan, Philip Pulfer, Albred Purcell, James Pownall, Jesse Pence, Peter Roth, D. Rostorfer, George M. Ripple, John Rogers, George Ripley, Barbara Rock, Charles Reed, Jacob Rock, George Runkle, Robert Reed, Thomas Reed, Hugh T. Rinehart, David Reed, William Rock, William B. Speers, John Stull, Michael and Blazy Seiter, Jacob Snider, D. A. Schneider, George Snider, Abraham Skillman, William Staley, Ansel Sateal, John Lemon, William Spence, Joseph Schlicting, Davis Trumbo, John Tomlin, Gerhard Thusticher, Adam Vegar, John Watt, Stephen Werling, John Wiss, William Welchance, Jacob Whetstone, John Weimert, John Wagner, Joseph Wright, Andrew Walk, Joseph Wilson, Stephen Worling, Leonard Werst, Philip Wiltermule, Andrew Wagner, John Walk, Henry Yost and Michael Zwiebel.

In that portion of the town of St. Johns lying in Clay township there were at that time the following lot owners: Henry Baughman, William Brackney, Daniel Bitler, Sr., Daniel Bitler, Jr., Benjamin and John Corder, Jacob Flegel, L. G. Moorehead, John Rogers, J. M. Shaw, D. A. Schneider and Benjamin Vantress.


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