History of Urbana Township, Champaign
From: History of Champaign County, Ohio
Judge Evan P. Middleton, Supervising Editor
B. F. Bowen & Company Inc. (Publisher)
Indianapolis, Indiana 1917
Urbana township is one of the townships of the county the date of whose organiation has not been definitely established. The present township was definitely established with its present limits some time between 1811 and 1814. A record in the commissioners' minutes for 1814 defines its limits as they are today: That is, all of township 5 in range 11, and the northern tier of sections in range 10. The township thus contains forty two sections or a total of 26,880 acres. It is the same size as Mad River township, which adjoins on the west, Salem being to the north, Union to the east and Clark county on the south.
DRAINAGE AND TOPOGRAPHY.
The township lies in the valley of the Mad river, but the river cuts the township only slightly on the western
side. A small stream named in honor of one of the earliest pioneers of the township, Pierre Dugan, runs through
the city of Urbana and empties into Mad river about two miles southwest of the city. Other streams in the county
are known as Bogle's run, Moore run and Buck creek, while numerous smaller streams do not rise to the dignity of
a name. Many of these have been tiled within the past two years and have entirely disappeared from the face of
the earth. An examination of old maps of Urbana township reveals an interesting feature in one respect. Scattered
over the eastern and southern portions of the township, as it appears in an atlas issued in 1872, were no fewer
than twenty three bodies of water which are labeled "stock ponds," three of which were of sufficient
size to be designated as lakes. The largest lake is Dugan, located a mile and a half east of Urbana. This does
not include a so called "factory pond" within the corporation limits of Urbana, nor, of course, the modern
artificial bodies of water to be found west of the city along the Pennsylvania railroad tracks. Taken as a whole,
the township is decidedly rolling in the northern part, but the southern part is level to the degree that it has
been known as "Pretty Prairie" since the earliest history of the county.
ORGANIZATION OF THE TOWNSHIP.
The best evidence points to the organization of Urbana township by the county commissioners in the fall of 1811. The absence of the commissioners' records for the years prior to 1819 compels the historian to fall back upon the records of the old pioneers themselves as expressed in their published writings. Undoubtedly the best local authority on this subject was the late William Patrick, who located in Urbana in 1811 and resided there until his death in 1891. He always referred to the township as beginning its political existence the same year he arrived here. J. W. Ogden, another local historian, makes the statement that "The election of Urbana township given as the first election held in the township, was held in Urbana, October 8, 1811." From another source ("History of Champaign and Logan Counties," 1872, p. 269) has been taken the. complete record of this first election. It follows:
POLL BOOK OF URBANA TOWNSHIP, OCTOBER 8, 1811.
Poll Book of the township of Urbana, in the county of Champaign, on the eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and eleven. Zephaniah Luce, William Stevens and William Glenn. Judges, and Joseph Hedges and Daniel Helmick, Clerks, of this election, were severally sworn, as the law directs, previous to their entering on the duties of their respective offices.
NAMES OF ELECTORS.
Lawrence White, Joseph Gordon, William H. Fyffe, Samuel McCord, George Hunter, James Robinson, Benjamin Doolittle, Nathaniel Pinkard, Daniel Helmick, George Fithian, Joseph Hedges, Zephaniah Luce, William Glenn, Nathaniel Morrow, John Higdon, John Huston, Alexander Allen, Joseph Ford, John Williams, Britton Lovett, James Askin, James McGill, Jacob Arney, Hugh Gibbs, James Dallas, Samuel Hoge, John Gilmore, John McCord, William Stevens, Anthony Patrick, Henry Bacon, Simon Kenton, David W. Parkison, Nathan Fitch, Frederick Ambrose, William Powell, Jacob Slagal, James Fithian, David Moody, Daniel Harr, Isaac Robinson, Edward W. Pierce, John Thompson, John Thomas, John Schryock, James Wilkinson, Enos Thomas, Isaac Shockey, William Bridge, John Reynolds, John A. Ward, John Trewett, William Largent, William Rhodes, Joseph Ayres, Sr., Allen Oliver, Thomas West, Nicholas Carpenter, John White, John Glenn, John Largent, Daniel Largent, Jacob Pence, Curtis M. Thompson, Andrew Richards, Job Clemons, Timothy Giffert, Sanford Edmonds, Thomas Moore, John Rhodes, Alexander McCumpsey, Robert Noe, John Ford, Francis Stevenson, Robert Taber, John Frazel, Tolson Ford, Job Gard. James Davidson, Samuel Clifton. John Stewart, Thomas Trewett, Benjamin Nichols, John Fitcher, Joseph Pence, Nelson Largent.
This shows a total of eighty seven voters in the township of Urbana. The officers elected at the first election were as follow: Trustees, Zephaniah Luce, William Glenn and William Stevens; overseers of the poor, John Reynolds and Charles Stewart; fence viewers, William Bridge and William Powell; supervisors, William Rhodes and William Parkison; house appraisers and listers, David Vance and Daniel Helmick; treasurer, Joseph Hedges. Although the name of Daniel Helmick does not appear as clerk in 1811, nor is there a record of any clerk being elected that year, yet he appears as the first incumbent of the office. John Rhodes succeeded Helmick as clerk in 1815, but Helmick returned to office in 1816 and served until William Patrick took the office in 1820. The honor of holding a township officer longer than any other man in the county is probably clue William Patrick. Beginning in 1820 he was elected year after year until 1852, making a continuous service of thirty two years.
COUNTY SEAT'S SEPARATE CIVIC CAREER.
The city of Urbana began its separate political career in 1816 and since that time the history of the township has been largely the history of the city. Most of the incidents which have been preserved concerning the early pioneers of the township are connected with the early settlers of the county seat. Very early in the history of the county the county seat had a larger population than the township in which it is located and in 1910 the county seat was credited with a population of seventy seven hundred and thirty nine, the township being credited with eleven hundred and ninety four. The part played by the inhabitants of the village and township in Urbana during the Indian troubles and in the War of 1812 is related in the military chapter elsewhere in this volume. It may be stated in this connection, however, that General Hull camped in the village of Urbana in the summer of 1812 and that the village was a rendezvous for the troops which were to be sent north to Detroit and other points around the Great Lakes. The county of Champaign, and particularly Urbana, played no inconspicuous part in the military affairs of the West from 1812 to 1815. Judge Patrick recalled that a block house stood on the northeast corner of South Main and East Market streets, across from the present interurban station.
It is difficult to determine who was the first permanent settler within the present limits of Urbana township.
Certainly there was a number of settlers in the township before Urbana was laid out as the county seat in the fall
of 1805. Thomas Pearce had a log cabin on East Market street, just north of the site of the later market house,
and he was living in it as early as 1803. There is no doubt but that he was the first man to settle on the site
of the present city of Urbana. He was the father of Harvey Pearce, who lived to a ripe old age in the township.
LIMITS OF THE CITY OF URBANA.
The city of Urbana has increased its territorial limits from year to year and now occupies in Urbana township
all of sections 23 and 24 and parts of sections 17, 18, 22, 28, 29 and 30 - an area of slightly more than five
sections or thirty two hundred acres. Dominating, as it does, the township, it is to be expected that there are
fewer churches and mills of one kind and another within the limits of the township proper than are to be found
in some other townships of the county. Churches have existed, however, in the rural districts in the township since
its earliest history. A Methodist church about three miles east of town (section 5), a Presbyterian church about
five miles southeast of town (section 7), and the Hickory Grove Baptist church, two miles south of town (section
27), are three churches of the township which have maintained an existence for a long period of years. The only
mill outside of Urbana which is recorded as being in operation in the seventies stood in the southwestern corner
of the township on the banks of Cedar run and was evidently operated by water power.
The Indians have been charged with many things, but among a few of the many good things which they left behind
in Champaign county is the name of the village of Powhattan in Urbana township. At least, the name is pleasantly
suggestive of the Indian and redolent of the aborigines who hunted and fished up and down the creek which meanders
through the ancient village of Powhattan. In the years before the Civil War there was a prospect that the little
village might become of some importance industrially, but now there is only one establishment of any kind to be
found in the once flourishing center.