History of Sharon Township, Franklin County OH

From: History of Franklin County, Ohio
By: Opha Moore
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka - Indianapolis, 1930


Sharon Township is one of the northern tier of townships in Franklin County, being the middle one of the five that border on the Delaware County line. It is bounded on the north by Delaware County, on the east by Blendon Township, on the south by Clinton Township and on the west by Perry. It contains good farm land, some of it rolling just enough to insure good drainage. These farms have been brought to the highest state of cultivation and a great fruit industry has been established there. The Brown fruit farm has been developed along the wonderful highway that is an extension northward of High Street. This orchard is one of the foremost in Ohio and some of the developments there are as important and as instructive to orchardists as the work done at agricultural experiment stations, often more so, as the experiments can be carried on much more extensively on the Brown farm than they can be on the more limited areas of experiment stations.

The township is peculiarly fortunate in its means of transportation. North High Street, extended so as to run from Columbus to Delaware, is one of the best paved highways in the country. The Columbus and Delaware Road, running along the west bank of the Olentangy River, which traverses the township from north to south, is a beautiful drive. The scenery along it is so diversified that it has been made the site of suburban residences and of a suburban resort which has attracted many summer residents, not alone for the beauty of the spot, but also for the valuable mineral springs that are located there. The late N. Monserrat, president of the Hocking Valley Railroad Company, and the late Al G. Field, the famous minstrel man, both had handsome homes in this neighborhood. The summer residence development was made on the Monserrat farm. From west to east, through Worthington, runs the much traveled Worthington and Granville Turnpike, and the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Big Four Railroad and the Columbus, Delaware and Marion electric line all pass completely through the township from south to north, making Worthington an important station on all three of the lines.

Sharon was one of the four original townships into which Franklin County was divided, being the northeasternmost. It was finally established, with its present boundaries, March 4, 1816. The country was covered with forest, which abounded in game. The game, indeed, were so numerous that they were a pest to the farmers, destroying crops. To thin out these depredators a great hunt was organized early in the century. A line of hunters was formed from the Olentangy to Alum Creek at the northern boundary of Columbus, and another line was formed at Delaware County. The two lines marched, one north and the other south, until they met south of Worthington. The bag included 500 wild turkeys, thirty deer and a number of bear. August 31, 1822, another great hunt was started, for the purpose of thinning out the squirrels, which were destroying the corn crop. In this hunt 19,660 squirrels were killed.

The greater part of Sharon Township was originally owned by General Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, to whom had been patented so much land in this vicinity, and by Dr. Jonas Stansberry of New York City. It was a part of the Military Lands set aside by Congress in 1796 for soldiers who had served in the armies of the Revolution. The township was first settled by the Scioto Company, which was formed in Granby, Connecticut, in the winter of 1801 and 1802 and consisted at first of eight associates. These associates drew up articles of agreement, in accordance with which the whole number of members was limited to forty and no one could be admitted to membership without unanimous consent of the others.

In the spring of 1802 this company sent out Rev. James Kilbourne to select a township for the residence of the proposed argonauts. This Rev. James Kilbourne was a remarkable man. He was born in New Britain, Connecticut, in 1770 and, being apprenticed to a farmer, learned mathematics and Latin from the farmer's son. He became a mechanic, acquired a competence as a merchant and manufacturer, and in 1800 took orders in the Episcopal Church. He was also colonel of a frontier regiment. He was the grandfather of the late Colonel James Kilbourne of Columbus, prominent as a manufacturer and public man and at one time Democratic candidate for governor of the state. In 1804 he retired from the ministry and was appointed by Congress surveyor of public lands. In 1812 he was on the commission to settle the boundary lines between the public lands and the Virginia Reservation, and from 1813 to 1817 he was a member of Congress. As a member of Congress he originated the plan to grant the lands of the Northwest Territory to actual settlers and was chairman of the special committee appointed to draw up the bill for that purpose. He was also a poet, the author of the once well known "Song of Bucyrus." He was married three times, and died in 1850 and was buried in the Worthington Cemetery. An intimation of his rugged character may be drawn from the fact that, prior to his death, he had carved on the tombstone over his lot in the cemetery the names of all his family, including his own and that of the wife who survived him. This lady objected to having her name on a tombstone before her death and insisted that she should not be buried in its shadow. Her tomb is therefore to be found in the kilbourne lot in Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus.

The Rev. Colonel Kilbourne, in his trip in 1802, made selection of Sharon Township as the site of the new settlement, but he did not at the time complete a purchase, which he had been authorized to do. He did, however, make from the records of the office of colonel, afterward Governor, Worthington, who was then register of the United States land office at Chillicothe, the first authentic map ever drawn of the territory of Ohio. The delay in making the purchase was due to the fact that there was an uncertainty whether, despite the provision in the charter of the Northwest Territory prohibiting slavery, Ohio might not be admitted to the Union with a constitution favorable to that institution.

Immediately upon learning that the constitution of the new state of Ohio forbade slavery, in the spring of 1803 Colonel Kilbourne completed the purchase of the township, containing 16,000 acres for the sum of $20,000 or $1.25 an acre. There is now land in the township, lying along and adjacent to High Street, which could not be purchased for $10,000 an acre. The character of the new proprietors may be surmised from the fact that one of their first acts was to set aside a tract of 100 acres, to be devoted perpetually to the cause of education, and another tract of equal size was deeded for the support of the Protestant Episcopal Church, to which all these pioneers, being of English descent, belonged. It was also provided that two roads, running east and west, should be dedicated and improved as much as possible and that the new village should be located at their intersection. These two roads are now the wonderfully improved North High Street, along which the city of Columbus has grown until it reaches to within a short distance of the older village, and the other is the much traveled Worthington and Granville Turnpike. The original plat of the village contained 160 acres, divided into lots of one acre each. The four lots at the intersection of the two highways were set aside as a public park or green and some years later there were planted there the maple trees which grew with the years to such size and beauty as to make the square the pride of the town and one of the prides of the county and state. One lot was set aside for the school and another for the Episcopal Church and the remainder of the purchase was divided among the new settlers, each obtaining in this way about 100 acres of land. The character of these pioneers was such that there could be no doubt of the success of their enterprise, and their worth is reflected in that of most of their descendants, who have been outstanding in the history of the county and the state.

In advance of the main movement of the company came a small band to erect cabins and to build a sawmill for the use of the colony. In this small band were Colonel Kilbourne, Lemuel Kilbourne, Levi Pinney, Alexander Morrison, Jr., Abner P. Kinney, William Morrison, Adna Bristol, E. C. Brown and Israel P. Case. The whole company was on the ground by the end of the year 1803. The first timber cut was for the purpose of erecting a schoolhouse and this building was ready for the children of the settlers the first winter after their arrival. The first teacher was Thomas T. Phelps.

When the Ohio Legislature was looking about for the site of a capital city the claims of Worthington were urged, but they were overlooked for the undeveloped site of Columbus. As that city is growing, however, it looks as if it would not be long before it will include Worthington in itself and the original ambition of that community may be realized in a manner not even guessed at.

Among the men who came with the first of the pioneers were the founders of important families in this section of the state, including such names as those of Roswell and Bela Tuller, Abiel Case, Moses Carpenter, James Russell, Judge Recompense Stansberry, Jacob Fairfield, Samuel Wilson, Josiah Fisher, Charles Thompson, the Starrs, Jonathan Park, Moses Maynard, Potter Wright, Deacon Goodrich, Isaiah Wallace, Stephen Hoyt, Orange Johnson, Deacon Abbott, Milton Green, William Page, Joseph Poole, Chester Griswold, Berkley Comstock, Richard Dixon, Ira Kellogg, John Snow, Demas Adams, Obadiah Benedict, Stephen M. Frothingham, Asa Weaver, William Thrall, the four Barkers, Nathan Mason, Azem Gardner, John Bishop, Ozias Burr and Rev. Uriah Heath.

Contrary to a widely spread belief, the village of Worthington was not named in honor of Colonel and Governor Worthington of this state. It was named for the parish of Worthington in Connecticut, near that of New Britain, where Colonel Kilbourne was born.

By December, 1803, there were 100 settlers in Sharon Township. The Sunday after the arrival of the third family, services of the Episcopal Church were held in the first log house raised in the township and used thereafter jointly for church and school purposes. The first Fourth of July spent by the settlers in their new home was appropriately celebrated. Seventeen huge trees, the same number as that of the states then constituting the federal union, were chopped nearly through so that a few blows of the axe would topple them over, and at sunrise on the Fourth this unique national salute was fired without any burning of gunpowder.

Colonel Kilbourne in 1811 established the Worthington Manufacturing Company, which was regularly incorporated and which did a diversified business, including the manufacture of woolen cloth and shoes, the tanning of hides, the making of furniture and hats, and general blacksmithing. The company continued operations for eight years and attracted a considerable number of operatives to the village, but the enterprise was too pretentious for the pioneer conditions and it failed.

There were other business ventures, such as sending boatloads of merchandise down the Olentangy, Scioto, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to the markets in the South, and mills, worked by water power, a necessity of pioneer existence, were built, but Worthington was never a great commercial or manufacturing center, although it has always enjoyed a good local trade and its inns and latterly, since the advent of the automobile, its hotels have had a considerable vogue. The most prominent business man in the earlier history of Worthington and Sharon Township was Orange Johnson, who came to Ohio from Connecticut in 1813. He was a maker of combs and, arriving in Worthington with a capital of but sixteen dollars, he established a business which he kept up for sixteen years, amassing what was in those days a considerable fortune. He then engaged in the enterprise of building the Columbus and Sandusky Turnpike Road, in which he added to his wealth, and later helped make the survey for the Columbus and Xenia Railroad, now part of the Little Miami division of the Pennsylvania system. The organization of the original Columbus and Xenia Railroad Company, despite its retirement from public notice, is still in existence and the stock of the corporation has long paid good dividends and been held carefully together by its owners. Mr. Johnson moved to Columbus in 1862 and was for many years a director of the Franklin State and National Bank. His daughter married F. C. Sessions, who succeeded to the management of the bank. It is largely due to the munificence of Mr. and Mrs. Sessions that the city of Columbus is to enjoy the splendid new home and endowment of the Columbus Art Society, Mrs. Sessions having left to that society by her will her handsome home, with its spacious grounds, on East Broad Street, for the establishment of an art school and museum.

Another successful business man among the earlier residents of Sharon Township was John Snow, who came from Rhode Island and went into the drug business in Worthington. He was the first grand master of the Masonic order in Ohio, his jurisdiction extending throughout the West and South. He and Thomas J. Webb systematized the work of the order in the West. Mr. Snow at one time held the third office in the Grand Chapter of the United States and also the second office in the Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar in the United States.

While large business enterprises did not thrive in Sharon Township, educational enterprises were always to the fore, despite the pioneer conditions. An academy was one of the first establishments of the village and it continued in existence and activity until within a very few years, its home standing on High Street after the school itself had been abandoned. Rev. Philander Chase, a minister of the Episcopal Church, removed to Worthington in 1817 and was immediately made principal of the academy. He also officiated as rector of the little Episcopal Church. The next year, 1818, Mr. Chase was elected the first Episcopal bishop of Ohio. Thereafter his name was conspicuously coupled with the cause of his church and of education in the state of Ohio. Bishop Chase owned a farm of 150 acres just south of Worthington, which is now a suburban subdivision known as Chaseland. For the sum of $2,050 he purchased and partly cleared this tract of land, which is now worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was then made to furnish some part of the support of the Worthington Academy. A movement was put afoot to establish a college in Ohio for the education of aspirants to the Episcopal ministry and Bishop Chase went to England and raised funds to that end. In 1825 the academy became the Ohio Theological Seminary, but its headquarters remained at Worhtington only a short time, for Bishop Chase in 1826 purchased a new site for the college where the town of Granville in Knox County is now located and in a short time the seminary was removed to that place, where it has grown into the well known Gambier College. This school has graduated one man who afterward became President of the United States, General Rutherford B. Hayes, who was valedictorian of the class of 1842.

Bishop Chase was the uncle of Salmon P. Chase, afterwards United States Senator from Ohio, governor of the state, a member of the cabinet of President Lincoln and finally Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, probably the most exalted position that can be attained by any lawyer in the world. When a boy Salmon P. Chase spent a year and a half with his uncle in Worthington and there still linger in the traditions of the place tales of youthful pranks perpetrated by the future great man. The boy's father was dead and his mother found it difficult to make both ends meet for a large family. The lad was therefore turned over to his uncle the bishop for a short time. Elias Lewis, who was a bricklayer and employed in the construction of a building for Bishop Chase, used the youthful Salmon P. as his assistant. Mr. Lewis lived to an extreme age and was accustomed to boast that in his prime he had had as the carrier of the hod in his mechanical activities no less a person than the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court in embryo, of course.

Worthington was a station on the Underground Railroad and it was said that one man alone, Ozem Gardner, who arrived in Worthington from New York in 1817, passed more than 200 fugitive slaves along toward freedom in the Canadas. It is claimed that no slave that was ever under his care was ever recaptured. The settlement was from the beginning a hotbed of abolition sentiment.

The first postoffice in the township was established in Worthington in 1805 and the first postmaster was a remarkable character, William Robe, who was a dwarf, his weight never exceeding sixty pounds. He was, however, a man of culture, being a teacher in the Worthington Seminary and afterwards a clerk in the office of the auditor of state.

The first newspaper published in Franklin County appeared in Worthington in 1811. It was known as the Western Intelligencer and was founded by the ubiquitously active Rev. Colonel Kilbourne. In 1812 it supported James Madison for the presidency and in 1814 it was removed to Columbus, where it appeared as the Western Intelligencer and Columbus Gazette. Through many mutations it has come down to the present time and is now known as the Ohio State Journal.

According to the federal census of 1980 Worthington had a population of 1,240. It is one of the really beautiful small towns of the state.

Just north of Worthington there is a flourishing institution for the nurture and education of orphans under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It comprises commodious buildings and a large farm.

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