As it were
Colorful characters mark Marysville’s past
Marysville and Union County in general are parts of the state of Ohio that have seen sustained growth in the past few years. It is a remarkable transformation for an area that for much of its history has been generally a much smaller and quieter place to be. But it has also been a place with a story of its own to tell.
Marysville, the county seat of Union County, was laid out and platted in 1819. This was one year before Union County itself was brought into being from pieces of Delaware, Franklin, Madison and Logan counties as well as a bit of land “north of the old Indian Boundary Line.”
But people had been living in the area for quite some time.
In 1795, in the wake of the Treaty of Greenville, the land between the Scioto and Miami Rivers set aside as the Virginia Military District began to be surveyed.
One of the surveyors was a young man named Lucas Sullivant. Sullivant generally took his pay in land and to improve its value he laid out towns on some of it.
In 1797, the same year he laid out Franklinton at the Forks of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, he also laid out the town of North Liberty near what is now Plain City, at the site of a former village of Mingo Indians. Two brothers named James and Joshua Ewing settled there on the assumption that Sullivant would soon be back to live there as well in what would become Madison County.
Sullivant decided to make his home in Franklinton and never came back. The Ewings stayed and became the first permanent residents of what would later be Union County. North Liberty never really became a village but the Ewings stayed on and called it home.
Over the next several years other families began to acquire home sites as well. Generally the area was settled from south to north as people moved along Big and Little Darby Creeks through the vast prairies that came to be called the Pickaway and Darby Plains.
One of those early settlers was a man named Samuel Culbertson. Culbertson acquired 450 acres along Mill Creek. Two years later he laid a small village and, naming it after a daughter, called it Marysville.
As it turned out, the village was well located near the middle of what would become Union County and eventually would displace nearby Milford Center to become the county seat.
But that would take a while. Early resident George Snodgrass in 1882 remembered the early days of Marysville. “When I came to Marysville to live, there were but four families living on the town plat; it was literally in the woods. ... Between that date and the fall of 1827, two families located in the place. ... I built the first two-story frame that was put up in Marysville. I think I am safe in saying that I taught the first school that had any scholars in the corporation or town plat.”
“Amos A. Williams was then Sheriff of the county. He was a carpenter by trade, and as the business of his office did not give him constant employment, he made me his deputy and left the entire business to me. I was then twenty years of age.” Mr. Snodgrass went on to have a long and happy life in Union County – but not without interesting neighbors.
A later account noted that, “About 1835, Silas Strong changed his religious views and went with his wife to the Shakers. After about one year, he became dissatisfied and returned to Marysville. He then embraced the doctrine of the Second Adventists and became enthusiastic in that belief ... he had his ascension robe ready on several occasions. After a number of years, Strong went to Nauvoo, Illinois and joined the Mormons and there died.”
“A blind man named James Ward kept a tavern on the north side of the street and ... he was keeping there in 1837 or earlier. His was a log building, weatherboarded and the institution was more of a liquor shop than a hotel. Ward was never known to be cheated on silver money. He would feel of the coin and bite it, and determine accurately in that way whether it was genuine or counterfeit.”
“Colonel Noah Orr, the ‘Union County Giant’ died at Marysville July 1, 1882. ... When in good flesh he weighed 550 pounds, was perfectly formed, handsome in features and as active as a man of 200 pounds. He was for a time with Barnum’s New York Museum ... as active labor was impossible for him, he earned a good support for himself and his family by exhibiting his massive proportions.”
By the time Noah Orr died, Marysville had provided stops on the Underground Railroad, passed through the American Civil War, seen the arrival of rail and telegraph service, become a regional center of commerce and trade and boasted a population of 2,061. The frontier village was gone and a Midwestern town was coming of age.
Local historian Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek.