History of St. Marys, Auglaize County, Ohio
From: History of Auglaize County, Ohio
Edited By: William J. McMurray
Histotical Publishing Company
Indianapolis - 1923
ST. MARYS TOWNSHIP AND THE CITY OF ST. MARYS.
St. Marys township, occupying the central part of the western tier of townships in Auglaize county and the oldest civil division in the county, is a true congressional township (town 6, south of range 4 east) of thirty six square miles and is bounded on the north by Noble township, on the east by Washington township and Shelby county, on the south by German township and on the west by Mercer county. The Grand Reservoir (Lake St. Marys) extends into this township from the west almost to the western edge of the city of St. Marys and covers about four square miles of the township's surface. This reservoir, as previously has been set out in connection with the narrative relating to the Miami & Erie canal, is the largest artificial body of water in the world and was constructed as a source of water supply for the canal, which flows through the township from St. Marys on the northern line of the township in section 3 a bit east of south and on out in section 35. The township has ample drainage through the St. Marys river and its tributaries, supplemented by an adequate system of ditches, the river being formed at the south edge of the city of St. Marys by the confluence of the East, Center and West branches, this forming a waterway which determined settlement there at the beginning of historic times hereabout, the head of pirouge navigation here having been selected as a site for the establishment of a trading post in the days of the French traders and later as a site for a fort when the military campaigns against the Indians were being carried on throughout this section, all of which has been set out in an earlier chapter in this work. The township is entered by two railroads, the Toledo & Ohio Central, skirting the northern border of the township and having its western terminus at St. Marys, and the Lake Erie & Western railway, entering the city from the northeast and proceeding west, with a southern branch terminating at Minster on the southern edge of the county. The Western Ohio electric line from Wapakoneta to Celina also follows the northern border of the township, passing through St. Marys, at which place the traction company maintains its power house.
ST. MARYS AS FORMER SEAT OF JUSTICE.
It is said that when St. Marys township, then a civil division of Mercer county, was organized in 1824, at the time St. Marys was established as the county seat of Mercer, there were but twenty nine taxpayers in the township and that the total taxes collected amounted to but $26.64. As has previously been set out, St. Marys remained the seat of justice for Mercer county until 1840, when the county seat was removed to Celina. This was eight years before the erection of Auglaize county, when St. Marys township was disannexed from Mercer and attached to this county. In the meantime settlers were coming in and taking up the lands in the township, so that by the time Auglaize county was erected in 1848 the township was pretty well settled. The impetus given to this settlement by the construction of the canal, beginning in the late '30s, and the gigantic work connected with the construction of the Grand Reservoir, was maintained when the commercial and industrial importance of the canal began generally to be recognized and the later settlers thus were of a substantial character, this giving a "tone" to the community which ever has been maintained. When Auglaize county was organized St. Marys township was pretty well populated and the farmers and landowners there naturally joined with the people of St. Marys in demanding that the county seat be located there, but the central location of Wapakoneta, the other claimant of county seat honors, was an argument against them which apparently could not be overcome and they had to swallow their disappointment; a not particularly agreeable potion, according to all accounts. This township profited greatly by the construction of the plank road between St. Marys and Wapakoneta and between St. Marys and Ft. Wayne in the early '50s, these roads and the canal giving the people of that part of the county what then were regarded as the best possible advantages for transportation. Besides affording an exceptional outlet for labor, the plank roads also afforded a ready market for the valuable timber needed in their constructon, for it is recalled that none but the best timber was used in the construction of these roads and many of the land owners in that section were able thus profitably to dispose of their timber that otherwise would largely have been a dead loss, for that was in the days before the woodworking industries had begun to develop a local market for the timber which had to be cleared away before farm land could become available. The Ohio & Indiana plank road from St Marys on northwest through Mercer, Shanesville, Willshire, Decatur (Ind.) and thence to Ft. Wayne opened a tremendous traffic in hoop poles which in season were poured in almost ceaseless caravans into St. Marys for further transportation thence by canal. This road was built by subscription and was completed in 1852, about the time the plank road east to Wapakoneta was completed, a story of which is carried elsewhere. For almost a quarter of a century, or until the coming of the free gravel pikes in the middle '70s, these plank roads were maintained by the owners, who collected toll for maintenance and such profit as might accrue to the stockholders. St. Marys township was among the first in this part of the state to take advantage of the law authorizing the construction of free turnpikes and upon the beginning of that work in 1876 plans were adopted for an extension of the work until the township was equipped with a complete system of gravel roads, many of which later were further improved by the macadam process and some of these later giving way to paved highways.
TALES OF THE OLD MILITARY TRAIL.
Agriculturally, St. Marys township is abreast of the times. The soil generally is a rich black loam of high
productive qualities and since the drainage of the township has been exceptionally well taken care of by numerous
county, township, state and private ditches, "it has become a leader in all lines of agricultural improvement,"
according to one well informed reviewer, while another emphasizes this by observing that "the lands adjacent
to the great reservoir and along the St. Marys river and its tributaries are unsurpassed in their fertility."
The old Wayne military road passes through this township and there is a well defined local tradition to the effect
that General Wayne was compelled on one occasion, owing to the difficulties of the march and the necessity of abandoning
stores, to bury a large sum of money, said to be as much as $150,000, upon his approach to St. Marys and that this
money never was reclaimed. The point of burial of this money is said to be on what is now the farm of County Commissioner
Elmer H. Youngs, in section 21 of St. Marys township, about two miles and a half south of St. Marys, along the
line of the old military trail, now the St. Marys-New Bremen road. Mr. Youngs is living in confident expectation
that some day his plow will turn the money up, but he has laid no plans for retirement pending such discovery.
PIONEERS OF ST. MARYS TOWNSHIP.
The tax duplicate for 1848 reveals the following landowners in this township when Auglaize county was erected: Daniel Ayers, David Armstrong, Samuel Armstrong, John Armstrong, Sr., John Armstrong II, James C. Anderson, Demas Adams, Joseph D. Blew, William Botkin, Margaret Botkin, James Botkin, Christian Benner, R. R. Barrington, Joshua Benner, E. T. Bates, George Craft, Joseph Combs, Joseph Catterlin, Edward Cooper, James Carr, Asahel Cleveland, Joseph Doute, Pickett Doute, Frederick Dubling, Amos Doute, Thomas Doute, William Fink, Frederick Fry, Henry Franz, Jonas Farlin, R. B. Gordon, H. M. Helm, John Hawthorn, William B. Hedges, B. F. Harmes, Henry W. Hinkle, Mary Hinkle, James D. Hoy, B. H. Huckerider, Jones Haney, John Helm, John S. Houston, William A. Houston, William Hollingsworth, George Kipp, William L. Helfenstein, Samuel Johnston, John W. Jones, G. F. W. Kolhorst, Frederick Koop, James Kay, William Kenning, H. F. Kenning, William Kirten, Jared Kelsey, Samuel Long, Lewis Lake, Thomas Longworth, J. Longworth, Samuel Lynch, Jacob Long, John Luneman, Henry Ludecke, Elizabeth McCoy, J. Miller, John Mause, Frederick Marquand, M. G. Mitchell, William Mines, John H. Mohrman, John C. Mohrman, Thomas McKee, Samuel A. Major, Mark E. McMahon, J. H. Neismeyer, John B. Neiman, Gottlieb Neitert, William Preston, John Pickerel, Daniel Rankin, J. W. Riley, O. C. Road, Sabert Scott, Samuel Scott, Aim Sackett, B. F. Schroader, F. H. Schroader, M. W Smith, Herman V. Shafer, Thomas Skillman, R. W. Stearnes, J. G. Strasburg, John D. Strasburg, John D. Seimer, Thomas S. Sturgeon, H. H. Schroerluke, Elizabeth Smith, G. H. Studheite, Henry A. Smith, H. H. Shearholtz, J. F. Smith, Samuel Statler, William Tellman, Diederick Tohle, Lawrence Tale, D. H. Tangerman, Evan O. Thomas, P. VanMiddlesworth, Charles Walker, John Wappenhorst, J. N. Millenbrook, Henry Weirwile, William Weirwile, Charles Watkins, Peter Wagner, William White, James Wilkins, John W. Weimeyer, John T. Weimeyer and. George Young.
In the town of St. Marys at that time were the following land and lot owners: The Armstrongs, David, John and William; John Achey, James Anderson, John Aley, R. R. Barrington, Barbee & Sherrick, Charles Bowser, H. T. Brandenburg, Barbee & Kinsley, Robert Bigger, Peter Bugh, John Baker, David Bender, Lewis Broadwell, Randall Black, John Blew, George Berk, Valentine Burget, Nancy Beauchamp, Joseph D. Blew, L. R. Brownell, George Berry, Aaron Chester, Crane & Davis, Robert Cooper, N. & C. Chapman, Joseph Curtis, William M. Crane, R. J. Crosier, C. W. Cowan, ____ Craighead, Isaac Demherst, C. Dennison, C. P. Dunbaugh, L. D. Dowty, William Draline, Eli M. Dennison, David Eastwood, F. C. Estabrook, Cyrenus Elliott, Daniel Eichleburger, John Elliott, Robert Elliott, William A. Elliott, John Eicher, J. W. Fulton, B. Gilbert, Reuben P. Graham, Daniel S. Gaus, Bernard Gilbert, R. B. Gordon, Michael Goddard, Gordan & Sawyer, John Gardner, Isaac House, Robert Harvey, J. Harshman, John Hawthorn, William Hollingsworth, Nicholas Holtz, William L. Helfenstein, John S. Houston, David Hays, H. M. Helm, John Hollingsworth, J. E. Hollingsworth, George Holtzbecker, Lewis Holtzbecker, Nancy Houston, Philip V. Herzing, John Hawthorn, Henry L. Huesch, Garrett Handley, Frederick Henick, Henry A. Hopson, John House, Samuel Imhoff, John W. Jones, William Johnston, George Johnston, Jared Kelsey, Joseph Kelsey, Benjamin Linzee, Adam Linch, Peter P. Lowe, Franklin Linzee, Henry Lemcohl, A. D. Levering, Herman Long, Dennis McMannis, G. W. McLaughlin, A. V. Medberry, M. G. Mitchell, Medberry & Stearns, James Major, Caleb Major, Henry Morvelius, George C. McCune, L. D. McMahon, Samuel McKee, Thomas McKee, Samuel A. Major, Samuel R. Mott, Jacob Morvelius, William M. Murdock, L. D. Mann, M. W. McLean, Erastus Porter, Joseph Plunkett, Daniel Piper, George Piper, Elisha Phelps, Benjamin Patton, John M. Parks, John Pickerel, E. M. Phelps, Bartholomew Rapp, Roher & Sherick, Daniel Rankin, Charles Route, Chas. F. Risse, John J. Rickey, O. C. Rood, J. W. Riley, Samuel Buckman, Frederick Romagle, W. L. Ross, Patrick Stone, William Sawyer, Sawyer & Williams, Samuel Scott, M. W. Smith, Scott, Linzee & Co., John W. Stoker, C. M. Statler, L. C. Shawyer, Charles Spankenburg, R. W. Stearnes, Samuel Statler, Sabert Scott, T. J. Stephens, John Stephens, Thomas Stone, John Stromenger, David Simpson, Diederick Schroeder, G. W. Timmonds, Joseph Tangerman, Hector Topping, A. H. Trimble, D. Vandervol, Cuthbert Vincent, Isaac Wingart, J. It. Wagner, L. Worst, Lewis Whiteman, V. H. Weaver, S. J. Worthington, John S. Watts, J. F. Whiteman, George Wise, Christian Whiteman, William Youngs, Robert Younger and E. D. Zimer. The practicing physicians then located at St. Marys who paid the physician's license fee of $1 for the year 1848 were Doctor Goodrich, Doctor Holderman, A. O. Connell and R. W. Stearnes, and the lawyers who paid a similar tax levied on the attorneys were William M. Crane, C. W. Cowan, F. C. LeBlond, S. R. Mott, Joseph Plunkett and E. M. Phelps.
DEVELOPMENT OF ST. MARYS TOWN.
As has been set out in the chapter relating to the settlement of the county and the pioneer period, the growth
of the village of St. Marys was a gradual development which received no real impetus until the village became established
as the county seat of Mercer county in 1824. As Professor Simkins has it in his review (1901), "no material
growth was manifested at the isolated settlement at St. Marys before this date, and even then the outlook was not
promising." There was a little grist mill down the trail on the creek at Loramies and another and somewhat
more pretentious mill on the Miami farther down at Piqua. To the west there were a few scattered settlers, mostly
"squatters" whose chief business was hunting and trapping. The adjacent county of Jay over the line in
Indiana was not erected until in 1836, when it was disannexed from Randolph county, which at that time covered
a somewhat vague stretch of territory to the north and west. To the east the Indians on the Wapakoneta reservation
still held their lands, while to the north there stretched the desolate Black Swamp country, dreary and forbidding.
A mail route was not established at St. Marys until in 1827, the mail then being brought up by post rider from
Piqua and distributed to the settlers who by that time had begun to make themselves known in the district. Ten
years later, in 1837, work on the canal was begun and the real development of the village dates from that period,
commercial development following rapidly after the completion of the canal in 1845. In the meantime, the neighboring
village of Celina over to the west was being developed as a commercial center and in 1840 the county seat was removed
to that place, St. Marys thus losing whatever prestige at that time attached to the civic center. The value of
the canal, however, more than compensated for this blow to civic pride and St. Marys maintained its steady growth,
which was given a further stimulus upon the completion of the first railroad to that town in 1877, the present
Lake Erie & Western. The manufacturing industries that had developed with the coming of the canal took on new
life with the coming of the railroad and have since maintained their own.
ST. MARYS COMMERCIAL CLUB.
As a recent commercial review of the city of St. Marys sets out, "to the last man all of the members of
the Commercial Club take great pride in the growth of the city along so many lines, not only in the manufacturing
line, but in the erection of new business blocks and the improvement and remodeling of many others." This
same review also points out that the citizenship of St. Marys "is made up of an element of most intelligent
workmen and of business men that possess sound judgment and integrity, her banks are controlled by men who are
acknowledged financiers and who have always taken a firm stand against all speculative schemes and have at all
times vigorously upheld all that promised permanence." The points also are made that "St. Marys has more
miles of paved streets than any city of its size in Ohio," and that "our farmers are all well to do,
roads are kept in excellent condition, scenery beautiful and picturesque and crops rarely ever fail, owing to the
fine soil." The St. Marys Commercial Club, which it was pointed out "is composed of practically every
manufacturer and merchant, most of the professional men and numerous farmers," was organized in 1915 with
the following officers: President, C. C. McBroom, superintendent of city schools; vice president, C. W. Schemel;
secretary, L. C. Brodbeck; treasurer, C. F. Limbacher, and directors, William Jaspersen, Edward Wust, Albert Herzing,
C. W. Schemel, A. B. Kohler, Frank Ausman, C. C. McBroom, H. B. Casperson, Ernest Wiehe, William Geiger, Paul Graetz,
A. L. Saum, A. C. Buehler, Jacob Victor, J. D. Hollenbaugh, Charles Limbacher, L. C. Broadbeck, Herman Haberkamp,
Henry Koop and Ewald Kellermeyer.
INTERESTING BIT OF REMINISCENCE.
In an earlier commercial review compiled as a "souvenir" of Homecoming Week at St. Marys in 1907 the
point was made that "St. Marys is not a boom city. The population is stable, not of a transcient nature, but
is composed of an industrious and intelligent class of citizens, the sort who do things. The increase in population
has been both natural and steady and the working of natural laws cannot help but continue its growth." The
census for 1920 gives St. Marys a population of 5,679.
IN THE DAYS OF THE STAGE COACH.
Regarding the old Dieker House, mentioned above, it will be proper here to state that the historic old building
which years ago was moved back off Spring street, was sold at a mortgage sale in May, 1922, and that it was sold
at about two thirds of its appraised value. It long had been abandoned as a hostelry, and is now occupied as a
rooming house. This hotel in the palmy days of the stage lines was a companion to the old Wapakoneta House, previously
mentioned, the first inn erected at Wapakoneta and which gave way after the Civil war to the Burnett House which
is still doing business at the county seat. Concerning this stage line, an advertisement in the Democrat (Wapakoneta)
in 1865 carried the information that the stage "leaves St. Marys at 6:45 a. m., 9 a. m. and 1 p. m.; leaves
Wapakoneta, 6:25 a. m., 10:45 a. m. and 2:45 p. in." An advertisement of the Dieker House carried in the St.
Marys Courant as late as 1873 set out that there was an "omnibus line and good livery exchange stables connected
with this house," while in the same paper Fred Dieker's advertisement of his livery and feed stables connected
with the Dieker House announced his proprietorship of "a nice hearse, carriages 'and spring wagons for use
at funerals," as well as the "daily buss line from St. Marys to Wapakoneta and Celina and return. Passengers
can be forwarded on arrival of busses to any part of the country at any hour." The Hotel Fountain occupying
the site of the old river wharf was erected in 1888.
[Forward to part 2 of St. Marys Ohio history.]