History of Center Township, Ohio
From: History of Mercer County, Ohio
and Representative Citizens
Edited & Compiled by: Hon. S. S. Scranton
Published by: Biographical Publishing Company
Chicago, Illinois 1907


Was organized June 2, 1834, and by order of the County Commissioners the first election was held at the house of William Bonafield, June 21, 1834. This township extends north to the Union township line, east to the Auglaize County line, south to the Jefferson township line and west to the Hopewell township line. The surface is generally level, although rolling enough to drain very nicely; tile drains are used wherever any kind of ditching is found necessary. The land of Center township has a rich soil, and all kinds of grain are raised in abundance, but corn is "king." The farms of the township are highly cultivated and well improved. The timber lands are nearly all cleared, leaving only scattered groves which serve as wind breaks in time of storm and protect man and beast from the scorching rays of the meridian sun. The township contains 19,188 acres of land, valued at from $75 to $100 per acre. The population in 1880 was 1,456; in 1900 it was 1,493. The township has some of the best residences in the county. It has also good schools and churches, and as a whole the people are a church going people, lovers of education and religion, the population being almost exclusively of English descent. The present officers of the township are as follows: Trustees - Jesse Willcutt, C. F. Kruger and C. F. Lutz; clerk, J. H. Murlin; treasurer, George D. Lewis; justices of the peace - D. W. Hawkins and G. W. Bogart.


The seat of the township, has a history extending over nearly 70 years. Its founder, William Bonafield, was one of the pioneers of Mercer County, coming into the county as early as 1823 or 1824, and settling first in Dublin township, near the village of Mercer. About 1827 or 1828 he entered land in Center township where Neptune is now located and moved there with his family. He was the first settler within three miles of the site of the present town except a man by the name of Crawford, who lived half a mile east of Mr. Boiafielcl. On December 2, 1837, he laid out a town, which he called Neptune. Shortly after he settled here, he engaged in the hotel business, keeping what was called a travelers' home for the accommodation of the extensive travel on the old Fort Wayne road. He was a carpenter by trade and followed this in connection with farming and hotel keeping throughout life. He died January 1, 1841. About 1838 Benjamin Nichols came to Center township from Pennsylvania and stopped with Mr. Bonafield at Neptune for several years and after the death of Mr. Bonafield took charge of the hotel and store and conducted the business for many years. Jason and Atwater Hall and their families settled in Neptune in. 1839. Soon after came "Doc." Keyser, who spent a long life in the town. Henry Lakamp moved to the town in 1865 and opened up a large country store, which he conducted for many years. The fact that the old plank road from St. Marys to Fort Wayne, Indiana, ran through the town made Neptune quite a good trading point in its early history, but this has all passed away and we find the old town today with not as much business as it had many years ago. Owing to its favorable location in the township, it formerly had a postoffice but now it has none; Uncle Sam through his rural mail carriers makes Celina the distributing point for Neptune and the people have their daily mail delivered at their doors,no more hack or horseback mail for Neptune. The Center township High School is located at Neptune and is considered one of the best in the county. The town also has a number of churches. The present population is about 150.


The pioneers of Center township came from all sections of the country. Some did not take up permanent homes or remain long in this district. In mentioning the pioneers, we are able to refer only to a few of those who lived here for an extended period.

Michael Harner was one of the earliest pioneers of the county; he was born in Maryland, January 18, 1794, fought in the War of 1812 and came to Mercer County in 1819, locating in Dublin township, half a mile south of where the village of Mercer now stands. In 1820 he moved into Center township and settled on 16o acres of land, where he passed the remainder of his days. William Bonafield was also one of the earliest settlers of Center township, as were other early residents of Neptune mentioned previously. Wesley Copeland located here as early as 1834. In 1835 the Spicer family moved to Center township, Mercer County, from Miami County, Ohio, being among the first settlers in the township. Samuel Davis came to Mercer County in 1834 and at first located in Union township, afterwards moving into Center, where he passed the remainder of his clays. William Cain and C. L. S. Shanklin, natives of Virginia, also came to this township in 1837. Stephen Howick, who came from England to America in 1831 and landed at Quebec, proceeded thence to Buffalo and thence to Lancaster, Ohio, where he was engaged in brick making until 1835; in that year he removed to St. Marys, where he remained until 1837, when he moved upon an 80 acre tract of land in Center township, where he made his home until within a few years of his death, which occurred at the home of his son David in Celina. Mr. Howick lived to see the forest cleared away and beautiful farms with elegant homes surround him where once was the habitation of the wolf, wild deer and turkey, which "Uncle" Stephen delighted to hunt when he first came to the county.

The Hankins family were early pioneers in this and adjoining townships. Rev. Timothy Hankins came to Mercer County in 1837 from Coshocton County, Ohio, and settled in Liberty township on the northeast quarter of section 7. His cabin was the third built in the township. There were then no roads in the township except as they were made by the axe wherever the pioneers wished to go. There was a trace leading from Fort Recovery to Willshire through Liberty township, on the section line and one mile east of the Indiana line and another trace, crossing that from east to west, where the settlement known as Skeet's Cross Roads is now. In 1837 John Bolton and William Watkins settled adjoining him, and in 1838 Philip Deitsch and Adam Bollenbacher. In 1838 Mr. Hankins moved to Center township. He taught the first district school that was ever taught in the township, which was held in James Thompson's old kitchen. He was at the place now called Celina before there was a house in sight of it, and had the honor of sitting on the first jury. Mr. Hankins assisted in building the first church that was built in the county, which was the old Bethel Church on Eight Mile Creek in Union township. Rev. James Drury and his wife came from Kentucky in 1838 and located in Center township, where they passed the rest of their days. He was one of the first Baptist ministers in the county.

In 1839 Jesse Keyser came to the township of Center and located on a farm of 160 acres, which he cleared and upon which he lived until a few years ago. In 1840 Amos Stanberry and his son Stanley moved to Center township. In the same year Enos Hays settled on a tract of land in section 16, Center township, where he lived until 1868, when he sold his farm and moved to Carroll County, Misouri, In the spring of 1841 Luther Newcomb came to Center township, Mercer County, erected a cabin, cleared a small plat and planted it in potatoes on land that his father had entered in 1837. The family consisted of three boys - Miletus M., Joseph B. and Miloann; these boys grew to manhood here and helped to make the farms that their children enjoy today. James Malick came to the county in 1847 from Clinton County, Ohio. In the same year Zophar Williams and wife migrated to Mercer County and located in Center township, where Mr. Williams lived until his death.

The following settled in Center township later than 1850. - Henry J. McKirnan has been a resident of Center township since 1851 and has contributed largely to the development of the township. In early life he learned to bear the burdens cast upon him, being left at the age of 15 years with the responsibility of caring for the family and looking after the farm; with heroic courage, energy and industry hem cleared the farm and made a beautiful home for himself and sisters and widowed mother. Smith and Moses Townsend came to the county, about 1852, from Columbiana County, Ohio, and settled in Center township. Both helped to clear farms and build houses and lived to see the county cleared up from an almost unbroken wilderness to fine, well cultivated farms. Lyman Dibble came to the county in 1846 and settled in Jefferson township; in 1853 he moved to Center township and located on a farm which is now owned by his son, Charles F. Dibble, who lives on the place. Frederick Lutz, born in Germany, emigrated to America in 1853, came to Mercer County in 1854, and settled on a farm of 120 acres of land in section 22, Center township, where he passed the remainder of his days; Charles F. Lutz, his only son, now lives on the farm and is one of the leading farmers of Center township. In 1854 Abraham Fast came to Mercer County from Fairfield County, Ohio, and settled on a farm in Center township. Casper Schnarre, a Prussian soldier, came to Center township in 1856.

Another pioneer of Center township who passed away not many years since was George W. Raudabaugh, a native of Hocking County, Ohio. Mr. Raudabaugh first came to Mercer County in 1842, but spent the winter of 1842-43 in Champaign County, Ohio; in the spring of 1843 he moved to Hopewell township, Mercer County, where he engaged in farming from 1843 to 1864, filling the offices of justice of the peace, county auditor and county treasurer. In 1864 he moved upon a farm in Center township and in 1876 was elected to the Ohio Legislature. John MI Wright, a pioneer of this county, came from Clinton County, Ohio, in 183o, with his parents, Abel and Mary Wright, who located on land in Union township on Eight Mile Creek where the Bethel Church now stands. In 1878 Mr. Wright moved to Center township.


There are two Methodist Episcopal churches in Center township, Center Chapel and Copps' Chapel, both of which belong to the Celina circuit and are in charge of Rev. C. M. Baker, who resides at Celina. The history of Center Chapel dates back to 1843, when Rev. David Gray, at the residence of Enos Hays, organized a class of to members, viz.: Enos Hays and wife, Alanson Hays and wife, Rhoda Newcomb, Luther Newcomb and wife, Charles Smart and wife and Daniel Martin. Enos Hays acted as class leader and steward. The present church building was erected at a cost of about $1,800, being dedicated in April, 1875, by Rev. James F. Mounts. The present value of the church property is $3,000. The present membership is 115, with an average attendance at Sunday school of 70. Copps' Chapel was organized in 1851 at Jacob Copps' residence by Rev. Wilcox, with seven members, namely: Jacob Copps and wife, Gilbert Sinift and wife, Mrs. Ezekiel Hitchens, Mrs. Horace Loomis and Mrs. Cain. Jacob Copps was class leader and steward. The present church is a frame building, 46 by 32 feet in dimensions, erected at a cost of about $1,800 in 1873, being dedicated in July of that year by Rev. Wilcox. The present estimated value of the church property is $1,500. The church has a membership of 50. The Sunday school has an average attendance of 45.

Center township has three societies of the Church of God, viz.: Beery Bethel, Fairview and Neptune, all of which are served by Rev. H. B. Croft. The Church of God at Beery Bethel wads organized by Elder Cutup in 1853, with to members, namely: Christian Beery and wife, Benjamin Beery and wife, Daniel Beougher and wife, Jesse Gile and wife and Joseph Good and wife. Jesse Gile was the first elder and Benjamin Beery, the first deacon. A frame church building was erected in 186o at a cost of about $600. The Church of God at Fairview was organized at the home of Tesse Keyser in 1866 by Elder Small with some 12 or 15 members. A frame church building was erected in 1867 at a cost of about $800.The Church of God at Neptune was organized in 1869 by Elder Warner with 43 members. They built a frame church in 1878 at a cost of about $1,800. When the society was organized, A. T. Fast was elected elder and Edward Kelly, deacon.

The Mount Zion United Brethren Church in Center township was organized in September, 1850, by Rev. James Lay in the schoolhouse on Twelve Mile Creek. The original class consisted of eight members, namely: Mr. and Mrs. Michael Harner, Mr. and Mrs. James Hamer, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Bolton and Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Rider. This class and the Old-town United Brethren class in Jefferson township have been served by the same ministers. The present pastor is Rev. J. P. Hight, who is also pastor of the Old-town and the Montezuma United Brethren churches. The church is in a flourishing condition.

The Mount Gilead Baptist Church was organized in 1843 on Eight Mile Creek, one and a half miles north of Neptune, with to constituent members. Michael Craft and wife were baptized into the fellowship of the church soon after the organization. The first meeting house, a hewed log structure, was built in 1845 on the Menclon road, two and a half miles from Neptune, on land then belonging to Rebecca Moore. The present house of worship is a frame building in Neptune, erected in 186o, which with lot is worth about $1,000. The present church membership is 60. The pastors have been: Revs. Tames Drury, H. Gordon (ordained in 1849), G. N. Drury, J. Jackson, J. H. Manning (ordained in 1870), G. C. Graham, E. S. Griggs, V D. Willard, H. F. Perry, W. H. Gallant, L. E. Baker, D. B. Reckard, A. W. Yale and J. C. Kazee, the present pastor.

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