'Tis the season to talk about ghosts. So what about ghost towns?

'Tis the season to talk about ghosts. So what about ghost towns?

The Powell Liberty Historical Society library includes a book published in 1987 by Richard Helwig of Sunbury about Delaware County ghost towns.

I don't believe in ghosts, but can easily understand his personal description of ghost towns. "They lack continuous human habitation, and each is a unique reminder of some part of our country's past."

Many of you have visited old mining towns out west. The natural resource disappeared, and so did the town. Helwig points to lumber camps and cow towns, abandoned when all of the timber was cut or the railroads replaced cattle drives. Prior to those times, he said. prehistoric man left hunting camps, flint quarries and farming settlements.

In Ohio, often transportation no longer served a community by way of a river or lake port, canal, or railroad. When people left to earn their living elsewhere, communities that had been prosperous became ghost towns. In a July 6, 2004, feature in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Helwig's son, Rick, said,"In Ohio, because of our climate and population density, once a town is abandoned it quickly disappears."

A Toledo Blade article on May 28, 2002 listed the Helwigs' four classifications for ghost towns: ghost towns, towns that don't exist anymore; semi-ghost towns, towns that have less than 10 percent of the business and/or population they once had; paper towns, towns that were planned out and platted but never got off the ground; and old towns, small towns that are more than 100 years old and are a shadow of what they once were.

The Liberty settlement is classified as a true ghost town. Capt. Nathan Carpenter from upstate New York and others who soon followed in the early 1800s established their small community along the Olentangy River, north of what we know as Home Road. Among them were mill builders and operators, gunsmiths, and tailors.

Hyattsville, now called simply Hyatts, was laid out in 1876 by Henry A. Hyatt, and the following year a post office was established with Mr. Hyatt as postmaster. The Columbus and Toledo Railroad was the reason for the town. Soon there were blacksmith, cooper and shoe shops as well as a grain warehouse and sawmill. Helwig labels Hyattsville as an "old town."

You may not have heard of White Sulphur Springs. It was a resort community on the Scioto River (at Home Road) from 1847 to 1869 when the state of Ohio converted it into a girls' reform school. The language of that day is a harsh reminder of institutional life. The school was founded "for the instruction, employment, and reformation of exposed, helpless, evil disposed, and vicious girls above the age of seven years and under that of sixteen."

Not far north along the Scioto River was Bellepoint, which Richard Helwig designated a semi-ghost town. James Kooken (spelled "Kooker" in some accounts) had the town laid out in 1835. It seems some thought the river would be good for steamship navigation, so he bought a large tract of land and began selling lots for up to $75. Land prices fell to as low as $1.25 per acre when the plan was impossible to carry out.

Another town, also in Scioto Township, was Fairview, given its name for its lovely location on Little Mill Creek. The town grew in the mid-1800s, but the railroad went through Ostrander instead, so the little village died before 1880. It is regarded by Helwig as a true ghost town. At some point, it was also called Edinburg.

The Orange Township of today once was home to the villages of Orange Station and the Goodingdale P.O. as well as Williamsville. Williamsville continued for barely 50 years and may have declined because of competition, said Richard Converse, a descendent of Anson Williams, who laid out the village in 1836. His hotel, store and tavern were very close to George Gooding's hotel and tavern, where stage coaches changed horses.

The Helwigs' interest in ghost towns goes back to courses and research begun in 1975 at The Northwest Technical College, now the Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio. Eight years later, the Center for Ghost Town Research in Ohio was created. In 1986, its headquarters moved to Delaware County.

Richard Helwig died in 2004, but his son, Rick, reports he is carrying on with the center. He is working on a third edition of Ohio Ghost Towns for Delaware County. There's much more to learn.

If you have information for him or wish to know more, you may contact him at (740) 965-9636.

Carole Wilhelm is a member of the Powell-Liberty Historical Society.