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Copyright © 2008 - 2014 by Andrew J. Morris





A generation which ignores history has no past -- and no future.

Robert Heinlein

History of Norwalk, (Huron County) Ohio

Featured Picture:


Norwalk Birds-Eye View 1870


Local History Notes:

Norwalk

Norwalk's tree-lined streets, majestic maples predominating, give to Huron County's capital, many years ago, the name of Maple City. Forest monarchs, more umbrageous with the passing decades, are still much in evidence, especially on West Main Street, historic thoroughfare along a ridge once an Indian trail. Norwalk is a city of beautiful homes, some of its historic mansions more than a century old, still beautiful, for they were built to endure.

This city of the Firelands, settlement of which goes back 122 years to the forming of Huron County, originally an area of half a million acres, is rich in historic traditions and records of heroic achievements by the pioneers who built wisely and well.

Not only in the treasures of the Firelands Museum, one of the finest collections in this section of Ohio, and in the records and publications of the Historical Society for nearly three-quarters of a century have the lives and achievements of the forefathers been perpetuated for the emulation of succeeding generations, but in the ideals and enterprising spirit of the Norwalk citizens of today, so many of whom are descendants of early day settlers in the Firelands.

The Whittlesey Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Firelands Historical Society, the Young Men's Library and Reading Room Association, out of which have grown so many lasting benefits to the community, have been spoken of as a "Trinity of Benefactors." The Norwalk Seminary, one of the famous educational institutions of the early days, attracted to the Huron county seat large numbers of earnest, aspiring young people in whom were inculcated highest of ethical standards, noblest of ideals, the beneficial influence of which can scarcely be measured. It grew out of a private school started in Norwalk 105 years ago. It was called the Academy and in 1833 -- the same year that Oberlin College was founded -- it was transferred to the Methodist Episcopal Ohio Conference, which then included the greater part of Ohio. We shall speak further of this institution, also some of the famous people who have figured in the annals of Norwalk.

Nathan Comstock, who had previously come to the Firelands on an exploring trip, returned in the spring of 1809 with Darius Ferris and Elijah Hoyt and erected the first house in Norwalk Township. he cleared ten acres of land, sowed wheat, sold whisky to the Indians, so it is said, and in the autumn returned East. he had intended to return but it appears that his wife objected to the idea of facing the perils of pioneer times, when conditions were so unsettled, so Nathan sold the property to his brother, Abijah, who with his wife came to the house in the forest, where in August 1812, their son Thomas was born, the first white child born in Norwalk Township. When Thomas was a babe, his parents took him and fled upon the approach of Redskins who burned their house.

As stated elsewhere, Huron County's first county seat was on the David Abbott farm, north of the town of Milan. Here the first court in the county was held in January, 1815, in the fall of which year Platt Benedict, Elisha Whittlesey and others came to the site of the future city of Norwalk. The town was platted in 1816 and in the following year Platt Benedict erected a log cabin on the south side of East Main Street. After it was burned her erected another.

The town plat filed Oct 16, 1816, by Elisha Whittlesey, M B Whittlesey, E M White and Platt Benedict consisted of forty-eight lots. There had been a complaint regarding the location of the county seat and the Legislature having appointed commissioners to consider this matter, decided that Norwalk should have the seat of justice.

In 1816 Norwalk's first postoffice was on the Minor Cole farm and the following year when Platt Benedict became postmaster, it was at his cabin, which stood on the site of the present Home Savings and Loan Company's building, East Main Street. A poll book of an election held in Norwalk Township Oct 13, 1818, shows fifty-three votes for Ethan Allen Brown for Governor, and two for Thomas Worthington. The first election had been held in April of the previous year at the home of Hanson Reed, Norwalk and Bronson having been organized as an election district. Abijah Comstock had been justice of the peace but his commission had expired and it became necessary to send to Ridgefiled for Squire Littlefield to come and qualify the election officials. Huron County's first court house in Norwalk was a building which the county commissioners bought from David Underhill and Co for $848. In the spring of the following year a jail was erected at a cost of $1,275. Platt Benedict had the contract but Henry Gallup did the work. The temporary buildings at Avery were abandoned. The first county commissioners were Caleb Palmer, Charles Parker and Eli S Barnum. The clerk was Ichabod Marshall; sheriff, Lyman Farwell; treasurer, Abijah Comstock; recorder, Almon Ruggles. The presiding judge at the first session of court in Huron County was Judge George Tod and the associate judges, Jabez Wright, Stephen Meeker and Joseph Strong. The old court house built in the late '50s was, in its day, considered one of the finest in the state. It stood where the present court house stands. This was rebuilt in 1882, a stately building of red brick and stone with clock tower. This building was destroyed on the night of July 9, 1912, in a spectacular conflagration. The fire started in rubbish and old papers stored in the attic. The law library of 10,000 volumes was consumed. The loss was more than $150,000. The clock tower surmounted by a statue of justice plunged through the building and helped in its fall to spread the flames. Improvements costing $10,000 had been made to the building four years prior to its burning. The present court house of Amherst stone is along much the same lines as the previous court house. The jail, built in 1887, at the corner of Benedict Avenue and Seminary Street, is a modern brick structure to the south of the court house, with which it is connected by a bridge. During the present year the third floor of the court house is to be remodeled so as to give much additional space of county offices, thus saving about $1,500 a year in rentals.

It is recorded that at Platt Benedict's log house in 1818 the first public religious service in the community was held, service of the Episcopal church being read and sermon by a layman. A couple of years after this, services were held at the court house every Sunday and on Jan 20, 1821, the old St Paul's Parish was organized. The present St Paul's Church was erected in 1910 on the site of the original church.

The Methodists organized a Bible class in the vicinity of Norwalk in 1817, Ed L Young says in an historical sketch. This developed into a Sunday School, the first superintendent of which was John Laylin, father of L C Laylin. The first official church society was organized in 1823, the first regular pastors being the Rev. True Pattee and James McIntyre. The site for the first church building was bought in 1829 and the edifice erected in 1833 and 1834 on East Seminary Street. The second site was at Main Street and Benedict Avenue opposite the court house, where the Glass block now is. The church on this site was completed in 1867 at a cost of $15,000. This was used until 1893. The present church was built in 1897 and in 1902 the main auditorium was completed and dedicated.

The First Presbyterian Church was organized Feb 11, 1830, with nine original members. The sermon at the organization was preached by the Rev. Dr. Alfred H. Beets. The first minister was the Rev. John Beach. For some time the services were held in the academy building. After this was burned in February, 1836, the attic of a brick block on West Main Street was used for a while and then services were held in the old court house. A church was finished in July, 1838, at a cost of about $10,000. In 1870 the present church was dedicated.

Until 1836 Catholics at Norwalk attended St Alphonsus', at Peru. Later services were held in a log house on East League Street. Afterwards services were held at Old St Peter's, on the site of which now stands the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows. A combination church and school was built in 1868 and subsequently a new location was secured, the parish name changed to St Paul's, the Old St Paul's School was erected in 1876 and in 1878 the school was placed under the Sisters of Notre Dame. The present St. Paul's Catholic Church was dedicated by Bishop Horstmann of Cleveland, Jan. 22, 1893. Various changes have been made. The famous Fisher brothers of Detroit have been benefactors of this church, to whom are due the new parochial school buildings for children from first grade to the end of high school, a gymnasium and parish auditorium, a sister's convent, all of buff brick; and a pastoral residence of red pressed brick.

FROM: History of North Central Ohio, by William Duff. Historical Publishing Co, Topeka-Indianapolis, 1931.




Biographies:

Biography of William Arnon Henry

William Arnon Henry, educator, was born at Norwalk, Ohio, June 16, 1850; son of William and Martha (Condict) Henry. He spent his youth on a farm and attended the public schools at Defiance, Ohio, and Holbrook normal school, earning his tuition by teaching school. He was a student at Ohio Wesleyan university, 1869-70; principal of the high school at New Haven, Ind., 1871-73; principal of the high school at Boulder, Col., 1873-76; and a student in agriculture at Cornell university, New York, 1876-80, where be was graduated B. Agr. in 1880. He was an assistant to Prof. C. V. Riley of the U.S. entomological commission at Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1879, and instructor in botany at Cornell university, 1879-80. He was appointed professor of botany and agriculture at the University of Wisconsin in 1880, began work in September, 1880, and in 1883 was relieved of the botanical work and elected professor of agriculture. He was appointed director of the experimental station of the University of Wisconsin in 1887, and in 1891 was appointed dean of the College of Agriculture and professor of agriculture. The institution rapidly grew in importance and the number of students in 1900 was 380, representing eigbteen states and Canada, and the teaching force was over twenty in number. He conducted experiments in the manufacture of sugar from amber cane, and the ensiling of fodders, by direction of the Wisconsin legislature, 1881-83; and established the first short course in agriculture, and also the first dairy school in America, which was enlarged by an appropriation from the legislature of Wisconsin. He became a staff correspondent of the Breeders' Gazette, Chicago, Ill., in 1887, and is the author of Experiments in Amber Cane, and the Ensilage of Fodder (2 vols., published by the state, 1882-83); A Hand-Book of Northern Wisconsin, describing the agricultural and horticultural features of northern Wisconsin, prepared by direction of the state legislature and of which the state printed 50,000 copies (1896); Feeds and Feeding, a Hand-Book for the Student and Stockman (1898); and the, chapter on "Cattle Feeding" in the special report on Diseases of Cattle and Cattle Feeding, published by the agricultural department, Washington, D.C., in 1892. From the experiment station under his direction, in 1900 there had been issued sixteen annual reports, covering over 4400 pages, and eighty bulletins, covering over 1600 pages.

From: Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, Johnson, Rossiter, editor




William Baker

Lawyer, was born in Norwalk, Ohio, February 5th, 1822, and is the son of Hon. Timothy Baker, a native of Massachusetts, and a prominent citizen of Huron county, Ohio. In 1841 he graduated at Dennison University, and in 1844 at the Law School of Harvard University, Massachusetts. In November of the latter year he commenced the practice of his profession in Toledo, Ohio, where he has since been actively engaged in a general practice, and more especially in commercial and real estate law and chancery. While attending sedulously to the fulfilment of his professional duties, he has also been for many years intimately identified with the growth and prosperity of the city, and has actively supported all railroad and manufacturing enterprises, with many of which, including the Wabash Railroad, the Toledo & Cleveland Railroad, the Milburn Wagon Works, etc., he has sustained important personal relations. He has acted also as the trusted adviser and attorney of many of the corporations and leading business men of Toledo, who recognize in him a trustworthy and skilful practitioner. To all movements promising the promotion of the moral and educational welfare of the city also he has uniformly given his cordial and active sympathy and support. With the exception of local and minor offices, he has never evinced a predilection or desire for position of a partisan or political nature, and has, accordingly, persistently refrained from entering into the arena of contested place and patronage. But all trusts, professional or personal, committed to him, have been discharged invariably with unassailable fidelity, and admirable ability. He was married, August 28th, 1849, to Frances C. Latimer, of Norwalk, Ohio, by whom he has had five children--four sons and one daughter.

From: The Biographical Encyclopedia of Ohio of the Nineteenth Century. Columbus, OH, USA: Galaxy Publishing Co., 1876.




George Kennan - A Biography

George Kennan, author, was born at Norwalk, Ohio, Feb. 16, 1845; sen of John and Mary Ann (Morse) Kennan; of Scotch-Irish ancestry. He attended the public schools of his native town and at the age of twelve found employment in a telegraph office. He attended the high school at Columbus, Ohio, in 1869, and worked at night as a telegraph operator, becoming first assistant, then chief operator and manager of the telegraph office in Cincinnati, 1863-64. He went to northeast Siberia as an explorer and telegraph engineer in 1865, and was superintendent of the construction of the middle division of the Russian. American Telegraph company, 1866-68. He explored the mountains of the Eastern Caucasus and Daghestan, 1870-71, and on returning to the United States became a newspaper writer and lecturer, and was night manager of the Associated Press at Washington, 1877-85. In 1885-86, in company with George A. Frost, an artist, he made a journey of 15,000 miles through Russia and Siberia, visiting all the convict prisons and mines for the purpose of investigating the Russian exile system, and in 1889-90 embodied his observations and conclusions in a series of articles published in the Century Magazine. From 1886 his time was occupied in lecturing in the United States and Great Britain on his Siberian experiences. He went to Cuba in May, 1898, with the American National Red Cross society and was a special commissioner for the Outlook magazine. He is the author of: Tent Life in Siberia (1870); Siberia and the Exile System (2 vols., 1891); Campaigning in Cuba (1899), and contributions to the leading magazines.

From: Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, Johnson, Rossiter, editor




Moses Randolph Brailey

Lawyer and Brigadier-General United States Volunteers, was born, November 2d, 1816, at Canandaigua, New York, of American parents, and of English and Irish descent. He received an elementary education in the common schools of Buffalo, New York, which he supplemented afterwards by close study in leisure hours. After leaving school he was engaged in sailing vessels on Lake Erie, in which he continued for five years, when, on account of the superior abilities he displayed, he was, in the autumn of 1835, made mate of the steamer "Sheldon Thompson," which post he filled for two seasons. After leaving the steamer he removed to Ohio, in 1837, where he embarked in the lumber business, and also in farming at Norwalk, which he continued for five years, during which time he was elected Justice of the Peace for Norwalk, and served as such for a term of six years. While he occupied this position he read law with Hon. E. M. Stone, and was admitted to the bar in 1846, and remained in Norwalk, practising his profession, until 1857. In the fall of 1852 he was elected Prosecuting Attorney for Huron county, Ohio, and re-elected in 1854, his term expiring in 1856. He removed to Fulton county in 1857, where he continued his law practice until the autumn of 1858, when he was elected Prosecuting Attorney for that county, and was re-elected in 1860. He filled this position until 1861, when the civil war broke out, and he enlisted in the three months' service, and on August 21st of the same year was named Captain of Company I of the 38th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, for three years' service. He was wounded in a skirmish near Mill Springs, Kentucky, and discharged from the service on that account in March, 1862. In the following month of May he was made Captain of Company G of the 85th Regiment Ohio Infantry, and on August 28th was transferred to the 111th Ohio, and promoted to the rank of Major, and went to the field in command of that regiment. He participated in the battles of Frankfort and Perryville, Kentucky, and in January, 1863, advanced to the grade of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was in the battles of Rochester and Lenoir, Tennessee, in the autumn of 1863, and was brevetted a Colonel in the regular army and Brigadier-General of Volunteers for gallantry on the field, and for services rendered. He was shortly afterwards attacked with hemorrhage of the lungs, and discharged from the army on account of the same during the winter of 1863-64. On his return to Ohio he was appointed by Governor Brough, in February, 1864, Pay Agent, and served in that capacity until the close of the war. He was elected in 1865 Comptroller of the State Treasury of Ohio, re-elected in 1868, and served until 1871, meanwhile being elected a member of the Board of Soldiers' Claims for Ohio. He is at present engaged in farming and also in the practice of his profession in Swanton, Fulton county, having the largest and best clientelage of any lawyer in that county. During his life he has been a consistent Whig, and since the dissolution of that party, an unwavering Republican. He was married, April 21st, 1837, to Sarah Jane Maxom, of Buffalo, New York.

From: The Biographical Encyclopedia of Ohio of the Nineteenth Century. Columbus, OH, USA: Galaxy Publishing Co., 1876.








Ohio Facts:
Tree: buckeye
Bird: cardinal
Flower: scarlet carnation
Nickname: Buckeye State
Motto: With God, All Things Are Possible
Area (sq. mi.): 41,222
Capitol: Columbus
Admitted: 1 Mar 1803


Mexican Business Directory



Huron County Facts:

Seat: Norwalk
Established: 1809
Formed from: Portage and Cuyahoga


Below is an historic public domain photo by a photographer from Norwalk OH, courtesy of Classyarts.com


Civil War Vet in Norwalk OH

Some Historic Photographers from Norwalk

  • Allen, George P
  • Allen, Mary (Mrs George P)
  • Bateham, Charles S
  • Beckwith, Charles
  • Benham, B H
  • Butt, George
  • Couch, Addison P
  • Edmondson, G W
  • Edmondson, George William
  • Foster, F B
  • Foster, Frank D
  • Fuller, William
  • International Photo-Enlarging
  • Kellogg, Charles H
  • Lee, Charles F
  • Meres Brothers
  • Poyster, Fred
  • Saunders, (Mrs)
  • Smith, W A
  • Walz, Anna (Miss)
Courtesy of Classyarts.com



Additional Local History Notes:

The 1854 Gazetteer of the United States by Thomas Baldwin shows:

NORWALK, a post-township in the N. part of Huron co., Ohio. Population, 2613.






Norwalk is situated 219 meters above sea level.



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