History of St. Marys, Auglaize County, Ohio (Part 2)
From: History of Auglaize County, Ohio
Edited By: William J. McMurray
Histotical Publishing Company
Indianapolis - 1923

OLD CHARLEY MURRAY.

The name of Charles Murray ("old Charley") has been mentioned often in this chronicle. "Old Charley," who must be regarded as "the father of St. Marys" and who despite his Scottish name is sometimes referred to as a French trader and by one reviewer as an Irishman was on the scene there at St. Marys when the historic treaty at that point in 1818 opened lands thereabout and over to the west in Indiana to settlement and had been there for years carrying on a trading business with the Indians, he having been the successor to the infamous James Girty, brother of the equally infamous Simon Girty, whose earlier trading post there had given the place its original name of Girty's Town. When the treaty was concluded and the troops were removed from old Ft. St. Marys, Murray continued on the scene, carrying on his trade with such settlers as slowly came in or with hunters and adventurers passing through, so that by the time the place came to be recognized as the nucleus of a town he had become well established and was known throughout all northwestern Ohio and eastern Indiana. As has been mentioned above, he created an informal town site there in 1820, but it was not until three years later in the summer of 1823, that he and his associates got for St. Marys an official place on the map.

The plat book in the office of the county recorder in the court house at Wapakoneta reveals that the original plat of the city of St. Marys was surveyed for Charles Murray, William A. Houston (the surveyor) and John W. McCorkle on August 8, 1823, and was filed for record with the recorder of Darke county, "to which the county of Mercer is at this time attached," on the following August 20. This original plat carries sixty eight lots of one half a block each, beginning with No. 1 in the southeast corner of the plat and running to 68 in the southwest corner, all lying in section 3 of township 6, south of range 4 east. The plat contains a square in the approximate center reserved for court house purposes, "should the seat of justice of the county of Mercer be located in said town," and two lots also were "set apart and donated by the propositors to any regular organized society of professing Christians that may erect thereon suitable churches." North street forms the north line of the plat, Front street, so named from its position facing the river, on the east, South street on the south and Perry street on the west, the plat being laid out more with respect to the course of the river than to the points of the compass, a variation of 30° west of north, "according to the magnetic variation", being noted on the plat. High street and Spring street are the intermediate east and west streets and Main and Wayne streets the intermediate north and south streets, while Wharf street is noted as an eastern extension of Spring street to the river. When the bridge was thrown across the river, as mentioned above, the town began to grow east, as well as on the west side of the river, and as population increased and need of corporation extension demanded, additions were made to this modest original plat until now the city limits take in all of section 3, one fourth of section 2 and a fraction of section 11, nearly half of section 10, one eight of section 9 and one fourth of section 4. According to the list of taxable lots in St. Marys returned for taxation by the lister in June, 1824, the year following the filing of the above original plat, Charles Murray owned sixteen of these lots; James Lord, one; Leander Houston, one; James Miller, one; John Maiming, thirty; William A. Houston, sixteen, and Christian Benner, three. The valuation of the lots was placed at $1 each and they were taxed at the rate of 5 mills to the dollar, or a total of 34 cents for the entire town site. In 1903 St. Marys, previously incorporated as a village, became incorporated as a city.

THE PIONEER MILL OF CHRISTIAN BENNER.

The Christian Benner above noted as one of the owners of lots in the town in 1824 was the miller, who had come in about that time and had set up a small grist mill, run by horse power, perhaps finding this more economical and convenient than the erection of a water mill with its attendent dam. In the Linzee collection referred to elsewhere in this work there is a pencil drawing by A. J. Linzee of the old Benner horse mill which was standing there when the Linzee family came up here in 1831. This drawing shows a square structure a story and a half in height, with a wide door and three windows at the front, one of these windows lighting the half story. At the rear there is a small "lean to" which is indicated as the "power house," evidently the shelter for the patient animals that operated the treadmill. The main part of the building is indicated as the "grist room," and a notation on the sketch locates the structure as having stood on Spring street. A fence corner shown at the opposite side of the street would indicate that the pioneer mill probably (and reasonably) occupied a position at the intersection of two of the highways of that period. Benner was listed for taxation on lots 7, 8 and 17, which cover the east side of the block facing Front street south of High street to the alley and the north half of the block facing High street between Front street and Main street, hence it might be assumed that this mill occupied that site, a square west of the High street bridge across the river, though this does not agree with the Linzee reference to Spring street, nor with the well defined local tradition amounting almost to positive assurance that the Benner mill occupied the site now occupied by the First National Bank of St. Marys at the southeast corner of Spring and Front streets, which would be a likely site for a mill, there on what then was the brow of the river bank leading down to the wharf. Christian Benner lived to be an old, old man and his last days were spent in his pleasant home on South Main street, south of Market street, opposite the present handsome home of Albert Herzing. His mill probably served well the pioneer needs of the community, but in good time it was succeeded by mills of ample capacity to take care of the growing trade, one of the best of these having been the Reservoir mill established by Scott, Linzee & Co. in 1847, the year before the erection of Auglaize county, and presently taken over by Robert B. Gordon, which mill (with modern extensions and improvements) is still in operation, and St. Marys thus early became widely known as a milling point.

ORGANIZATION OF MERCER COUNTY.

It was in June, 1824, the year following the platting of St. Marys, that the county seat was established there, Mercer county then deciding to have a nearer point for the transaction of its civil business than at Greenville, the county seat of Darke county, to which Mercer had been attached for civil purposes. John P. Hedges was appointed by the commissioners of the new county to act as treasurer and he appointed Samuel Hanson to be collector of taxes, it being noted on the record of the commissioners for Mercer county that "the said Hanson agreed to collect for $5 all the taxes of Mercer and VanWert counties." W. B. Hedges was the auditor of the new county and his notation on the record has it that "the above business was done before David Hays and Solomon Carr, commissioners of said county; which I do certify is a correct proceedings of all business ordered by said commissioners to enter on said day's proceedings." The records of the auditor's office as of that same day (June 7) show that to John Dougerty, Asa Coleman and Samuel Newell were issued orders for $42, $36 and $33 respectively "for locating seat of justice," and thus St. Marys became the county seat, an eminence maintained until deprived of its position by Celina in 1840.

On the following October 12 (1824), an order was issued to Isaiah Dungan "for listing and appraising property in St. Marys township, $1," and an order to Judge James Wolcott "for services rendered in opening last election returns, $2.50." Among other orders issued by the commissioners on the auditor was that of the following December 10 to Joseph Steward "for surveying the State road from Sidney to St. Marys, $6.12 ½," and on the same day orders were issued to Asa Hinkle and John Johnson, commissioners to locate said road, for $3.90 and $3.34 respectively, while to John Bloks and Henry Bryan, chain bearers in the survey of the road, orders were issued for $1.67 each. On the following March 5 (1825), Joseph D. Blew was' allowed 75 cents "for carrying chain in surveying town lots in St. Marys" and James W. Riley was allowed $1.50 "for surveying town lots in St. Marys," while to Robert Linzee a claim of $10 was allowed "for services as judge of common pleas in November term," and on the same day an order was issued to Caleb Major in the amount of $1.75 "for services as blazer on State road from Mrs. Flinn's to Waupaughkonetta (sic) out of Allen county funds." Certainly the demands on the treasury for public service do not seem to have been unreasonably high in those days.

It was on Saturday, June 11, 1825, that the commissioners, Isaiah Dungan, Ansel Blossom and Solomon Carr, "met pursuant to adjournment and proceeded to take from the proprietors of the town of St. Marys a deed for the lots donated for county purposes. They also appointed Thomas Scott agent to sell and convey the lots (Nos. 1, 7, 15, 25, 33, 35, 39, 44, 48, 57) on the following conditions: one third in hand; one third in one year, and one third in two years." It then is recorded that after a division of the lots by the commissioners they set apart fifteen lots on which to build public buildings, the proceeds of the other fifteen lots to be used for other county purposes. On that same day the commissioners received the resignation of W. B. Hedges and appointed David Armstrong to succeed him as county auditor. Evidently there presently was trouble in the treasurer's office, for a notation as of June 5, 1827, sets out that "the commissioners met pursuant to adjournment and proceeded to settle with the treasurer for Mercer county levee;and (received $52.57, leaving a balance of $94.05 which could not be accounted for; also $35.83.7, the whole amount of the State and canal tax, for which he could not account." It then was noted that the treasurer was allowed until November 1 following to prepare for [final settlement and the commissioners "then appointed Robert Bigger treasurer, who gave bonds to the sum of $1,000 according to law." In an earlier chapter in this work there are given further details concerning the time when St. Marys occupied the position of county town, with descriptions of the old court house and jail and of the court there held in pioneer times.

THE OLD COUNTY SEAT "WAR."

The story of the claim of St. Marys for a resumption of county seat honors when Auglaize county was erected in 1848 and of her disappointment in that direction has been told elsewhere. It is an old story to which some mystery seems to have attached from the beginning, and even to this day is told with variations. Many at St. Marys insist that ballots that would have shown a public preference to the site at the western edge of the county were stolen. The commissioners' records, set out elsewhere, make no reference to what perhaps at the time was a pretty warm local row, simply dealing with the Wapakonetans' payment of $5,000 for public buildings. The Sutton review of 1880, written about thirty years after the dispute, does not clear up the mystery of the missing or "manipulated" returns, the story there being told as follows: "At the organization of the county a strife arose between St. Marys and Wapakoneta for the location of the seat of justice. The former, as the oldest town, located in the more populous portion of the county, urged these facts as grounds for priority. The latter urged geographical advantages, being more centrally located, and thus entitled to priority. The claims of both were well founded, and with this status the question was submitted to the people. There was little doubt of the ascendancy of St. Marys, as the populous settlements in the south were favorable to her interests, while Wapakoneta was largely' dependent on the more sparsely populated section of the east. When the question was thus submitted to the voters of the county, German township (then indluding also Jackson township), holding the balance of power between the rival factions, was generally conceded to have favored St. Mary's, but by some manipulation of the returns they were never handed in with those of the other townships and Wapakoneta, in the absence of these returned, had a decided majority and thus secured the prize. It is impossible to determine what the result would have been had this self disfranchised township expressed its real sentiment, but it is evident that it lay in its power to dictate between the rival towns. This rivalry, naturally enough, developed into enmity and this, in turn, has retarded the progress of both towns. Perhaps the most prominent illustration of the evil results produced was in the case of the P., F. W. & C. R. R., which was driven from the county by the jealousy of these two towns." The review of this situation made by Professor Williamson is given elsewhere, in connection with the story of county government. As will be recalled, he has it that over night "the returns from German township were taken from the files by some one and could not be found," but that they were restored "some time in the year 1849."

PIONEERS WHO LACKED FORESIGHT.

While the above statement regarding the loss to this community of the Pittsburg, Ft. Wayne & Chicago railway doubtless is true, the main reason of the county's failure to secure the construction of that road through Auglaize county was the inability of its more prominent citizens to look into the future and to visualize what the construction of the new road (now the main line of the great Pennsylvania system) would mean to, the county. Unfortunately they did not have a vision. They thought only of immediate conditions. To illustrate: John C. Bothe, who had a warehouse in Wapakoneta and did an extensive business in grain and was quite well off in the matter of worldly goods, refused to give aid to the building of the road for the reason that he would lose some grain trade, apparently never thinking that his loss in that direction would more than be made up by the advanced value of his real estate. When asked to subscribe a reasonable amount of stock to aid in securing the road, he said: "I will not subscribe anything. If the road is constructed through the county by way of St. Johns, Wapakoneta, Moulton and St. Marys it will be but a short time until grain warehouses will be erected at St. Johns and Moulton and our grain trade will be cut off from the east and the west. If they want to build the road let them go ahead, but I will give nothing."

Joseph Kelsey, who was doing an extensive retail and jobbing business in general merchandise on the west side of the canal on Spring street in St. Marys, was equally shortsighted. When appealed to to give aid and encouragement to the building of the proposed railway, he said: "I will not give much toward the construction of a railway east and west through Auglaize county. St. Marys has the Miami & Erie canal and that is good enough for me."

Those who were enthusiastic supporters of the project lost heart on account of the failure of some of the more prominent citizens to give aid and encouragement to the enterprise, with the result that the effort was a failure. It was a well known fact that the promoters of the road preferred the route through Auglaize county, for various reasons, but that knowledge did not deter them from making the effort. Fortunately for Lima and Allen county their business men and more prominent citizens were wise enough to look into the future and to see the possibilities of great gain in population and consequent increase of values and material prosperity if they secured the road. With intuitive foresight they effected an organization and went to work with a will and a determination to win, and their efforts were successful. If the well to do citizens of Auglaize county, especially in Wapakoneta and St. Marys, had put forth the proper effort and thus have secured the road both St. Marys and Wapakoneta today each would likely have a population of 30,000 or more. Property owners could have aided in securing the road, even to the amount of half the value of that they possessed, and have bettered their condition.

FRIENDLY FEELINGS FOSTERED BY NEWSPAPERS.

Despite the traditions of rivalry that seem to persist between the towns of St. Marys and Wapakoneta, the county seat newspapers apparently always have sought to speak well of the neighboring town and have ever displayed a friendly attitude toward that place, as witness the following from the old Wapakoneta Republican of May 14, 1851, George W. Andrews then having been editor of that paper (now the Democrat). Under the heading "St. Marys," the editor of the Republican observed that "we made an agreeable visit a few days since to our little sister town, St. Marys. While there we noticed many substantial evidences of improvement - buildings in process of erection, plans for street improvements, etc. In the way of accommodations for the wayfaring public there are some two or three good hotels, with fine, sprightly, gentlemanly and very good looking landlords. They are always provided with what makes the stomach as well as the heart glad - no disciple of Epicurus can gainsay this The business men are quite pleasant in all their intercourse - have cultivated habits that cannot fail to please; and last, though not least, the town in miniature is said to contain as many pretty, bright eyed, rosy lipped ladies as any little village hereabouts (of course we except Wapakoneta in this and all things else, when compared with other places). All things considered, St. Marys is considerable of a little town and when it shall be connected with Wapakoneta by the plank road now in course of construction, the place will be greatly benefited by the influence of the county seat, just as the smaller satelites are benefited by the controlling influence of the superior planet. We think the day is not far distant when St. Marys may in some things even compare with our own Wapakoneta. If a good, clever, upright set of people can obtain that great desideratum, she will stand a good chance of it."

Another evidence of this friendly attitude on the part of the press of the county seat is disclosed in the following little item from the Democrat (Wapakoneta) of August 24, 1874, more than twenty years after the above was written: 'We almost envy the people of St. Marys their clean, beautiful streets and alleys. The town has an air of neatness and comfort always; then too, you never fail of finding good, pleasant people when you go there, whatever your business. We can't explain why, but certain it is, we feel quite at home whenever we visit the town. A good deal of manufacturing is carried on there, but a great volume of water unused wastes away every year. Why don't capitalists from a distance away go there and invest in manufacturing? No better inducements can be found anywhere."

This was the picture of St. Marys painted by a friendly visitor at a time that may be regarded as the close of the pioneer period there and throughout this section. St. Marys even then was laying plans for commercial and industrial expansion. It had its own newspaper, Ed Walkup's Courant, and was amply able to speak for itself. Its wood working industries were begining to develop and it had one of the best flour mills in northwestern Ohio, the old Reservoir mill, as well as its celebrated Farina mills which Philip von Herzing had established there in 1855 and which by the time the above was written had attained a wide reputation throughout this region, besides the woolen mill erected in 1866 by William Gibson and later taken over by a local stock company, and regarded then as one of the most substantial industrial enterprises (even as it is today) along the whole course of the canal. Two years later, in the fall of 1876, E. M. Piper, who then was president of the company operating the woolen mill, Albert Althausen and Fred, Dieker started the first bank in the town, the Bank of St. Marys, a partnership concern, and in 1879 erected a bank building which perhaps may be regarded as the forerunner of the rebuilding program which during the '80s and '90s resulted in the practical reconstruction of the business section of the city along modern and substantial lines. The Bimel woodworking and carriage factories were running then on a basis which carried far the reputation of their products, while a whipstock factory (Woolworth & Cowles) was turning out whipstocks at the rate of more than 350,000 a year. In 1876 Christian Buehler established his machine shop and foundry, the first concern of its kind in the county, and other manufacturing enterprises began to be attracted to the place, so that by the time the "gas boom" came on in the late '80s St. Marys was quite ready to take proper advantage of this new impetus to its growth.

COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL STATUS OF THE TOWN.

As the terminal point for the Toledo & Ohio Central railroad, St. Marys enjoys such advantages as this terminus gives and as the seat of the great power house of the Western Ohio electric railway, which supplies electric power and light throughout a wide territory hereabout, it enjoys an additional advantage, while its situation at a division point of the Lake Erie & Western railway is a further advantage. Among its present industries, in addition to the woolen mills and the flour mills above mentioned, are a wheel and spoke works, an extensive machine shop, a box board factory which is the successor to the old straw board company which began operation there years ago, a chain works which has been in operation there for more than twenty years, an extensive branch of a nationally known cigar factory, a carriage factory and a concern for the manufacture of farm tractors, a creamery, a lumber and finishing mill, besides numerous lesser industries, while the commercial interests of the city are well and substantially represented, and the grain elevators provide ample grain market facilities. The city has a daily newspaper, the Leader, John L. Sullivan, editor.

As noted above, the first bank at St. Marys was the bank of St. Marys, founded in 1876 by E. M. Piper, Frederick Dieker and Albert Althausen. In 1887 the latter retired from the institution and the remaining partners, Messrs. Piper and Dieker, in February, 1890, reorganized the institution as the First National Bank of St. Marys, Mr. Piper being elected president; Mr. Dieker, vice president, and O. E. Dunan, cashier. Following the death of Mr. Piper in 1900, Mr. Dieker was elected president and upon his retirement was succeeded by Mr. Dunan, who is still serving as president of the bank, the other officers being D. W. Jay, vice president, and Charles H. Pauck, cashier. In 1907 this bank erected its present substantial building at the corner of Spring and Front streets, across the street from its original location. The bank is capitalized at $60,000 and the current bankers directory shows its surplus and profits to be $27,730; deposits, $979,890, and resources in excess of $986,000.

It was in 1890, the year in which the First National Bank was organized, that the Home Banking Company of St. Marys (a state bank) was organized, with Albert Althausen as president, S. Bamberger as vice president and W. G. Kishler as cashier. Not long afterward Mr. Bamberger disposed of his interest in the bank to John J. Hauss and C. It. Backhus and the officiary was reorganized with Mr. Althausen continuing as president and John J. Hauss and Albert Herzing, vice presidents, with C. It Backhus as cashier and H. H. Brinkmeyer as assistant cashier. Upon the death of Mr. Althausen Mr. Backhus became president and Mr. Brinkmeyer cashier, and following the retirement of Mr. Backhus, Mr. Brinkmeyer, the present president of the bank, was elevated to that position. E. M. Veenfliet is the present vice president of the bank and W. A. Mackenbach is cashier. The bank originally was capitalized at $30,000, which capitalization was raised to $40,000 and then to $100,000. The current bankers' directory shows this bank to possess resources in excess of $1,000,000; surplus and profits amounting to $50,000 and deposits aggregating $950,000.

The American State Bank of St. Marys, a reorganization of the St. Marys Banking and Trust Company, organized in the summer of 1903, is capitalized at $50,000 and according to the current bankers' directory has resources in excess of $500,000, with deposits aggregating $471,170 and surplus and profits amounting to $21,740. The present officers of this bank are H. G. McLain, president; L. G. Neely, vice president, and T. A. White, cashier. The St. Marys Banking and Trust Company (present American State Bank) was originally capitalized at $30,000, which was raised to $50,000, and its original officers were O. E. Dunan, president; L. G. Neely, vice president; H. G. McLain, secretary, and R. B. Gordon, treasurer, with T. A. White as assistant, the other members of the directorate being Charles H. Pauck, Richard Barrington and W. F. Brodbeck.

[Return to part 1 of St. Marys, Ohio history.]

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