Horsepower was used to clear additional ground for growing corn in early Prairie Township.
Alton, Rome, LaFayetteville, Galloway-Smithville, Lincoln Village
The landscape of Prairie Township today is nothing like what it was when the area was first settled more than 200 years ago.
Shawnee and Wyandot Native Americans hunted wild game in and around the dense forests and prairie lands, according to a 1984 newspaper article quoting John Barsotti, a curator at Ohio Historical Connection. They also fished in the streams, especially Darby Creek and another stream known as Hell Branch.
Prairie Township was organized in 1819. It’s believed the name was selected because of the tall grasses that once covered the landscape, much like a prairie. Stories of the time said the grass was tall enough to hide all but the head of a man riding a horse. The area also had vast forests which kept numerous sawmills busy throughout the year. A visit to Battelle Darby Creek Park showcases what the woodlands and tall grass area once looked like.
The land was level and the soil was well adapted to the growing of wheat and corn but much of it needed to be drained. Darby Creek flowed along the western boundary while Darby Run drained water to the south and Scioto Run provided a land drain to the Scioto River, according to the 1880 History of Franklin and Pickaway Counties, Ohio.
In William T. Martin’s History of Franklin County, the earliest settlers to the area that became Prairie Township are identified as the families of Samuel Higgins, Shatrick Postle and William
Mannon. They all arrived around 1800. That was just three years after Franklinton became the first permanent settlement in Central Ohio.
In 1804, widower John Dougherty, 39, married Nancy Ann Gatton, 17, according to an article written by Nola Freeman, a member of the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society. A year later, a son, James, was born while they lived near Franklinton. The family moved to what would become Prairie Township and had 10 more children. James, not his father, is mentioned in the 1880 history as one of the early settlers of the township. Others mentioned in Martin’s history were the families of S. S. Hunter and Edward Hopper.
In 1813, the Clover family relocated from Virginia after a short stay in Chillicothe. Henry and Katherine Gambrose Clover were the parents of 14 children, 11 were boys. Their homestead became known as the Clover Settlement. Sons included Peter, Joshua, Jacob, Solomon, Henry, Samuel, Philip, John, William and Aaron. There were two daughters, Mary and Jane.
Samuel and Solomon were skilled hunters. Solomon often hunted by himself and harvested deer and bear and was known to kill many wolves common in the area. They were extremely fond of hunting, made many excursions into the surrounding woods, filled with panthers, wolves, bears, wild turkeys and deer and they never failed to bring home the trophies of their prowess, according to a 2014 history of the township by the Franklin County Genealogical and Historical Society.
Solomon was especially successful in the chase. He led every competitor in the taking of bear, deer and wolves where a bounty of three dollars was paid for wolf scalps.
Another son, Peter, was elected the first justice of the peace, opened the first school in 1817, and was its schoolmaster. About 20 students attended his classes in a small log building on the Clover farm. Philip became a popular house painter in Columbus.
In 1824, Daniel Harrington, a Kentucky native, arrived and settled in Prairie Township. His father, mother, brother and sisters had been killed by Indians in Kentucky. Daniel and two Clover brothers, Solomon and Samuel, became friends and frequently hunted large game together.
The following information is from an edited 1972 article written by Nola Freeman, a member of the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society.
Prairie Township lies in the Virginia Military Land Tract. In consideration of military service performed by officers and soldier of the Virginia Line, on Continental Establishment, they were to obtain title to certain lands lying northwest of the Ohio River between the Little Miami and Scioto.
Over a period of time from the earliest survey in July of 1796 to the latest in July of 1829, the officers and soldiers were given the original warrants to land in Prairie Township. Most of the land was sold to settlers and never settled by the individuals who held grants on lands in Prairie Township.
Over time, settlers came from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, and a few from as far away as Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England, France and Wales. In the late 1800s and 190os, descendants of the settlers tiled and ditched Prairie Township allowing it to become very productive farmland.
Farms were located in the township like pieces on a quilt, with a small gathering of persons and business establishments in the Galloway, Alton, and Rome communities. The township consisted of approximately 30 square miles of a farming community located on both sides of the National Road. Many old elegant farm houses once lined the National Road.
The first school in Prairie Township was located in a small log building on the farm of Peter Clover in either 1817 or 1818. Students trudged through snow in the winter months and mud during spring and summer.
One of the worst areas for walkers was what was called, ‘Frog Pond’ on Bukey Road, according to Myrtle Brooks Burnside. She explained children arriving at school had no choice but to sit in class with wet clothes and muddy shoes.
Other one room schools were located about two miles west of Rome and another a half mile south. One of the schools was very crowded according to a history by Alvin L. Richards. He wrote as many as 60 attended class in a one room school where the teacher was paid $45 a month. According to one history dated 1936, at log cabin built in 1913 was torn down to make room for the school in Rome.
Richards, who lived in Rome, was a strong advocate of a school in the community of Rome and also urged better buildings in the township. After becoming a member of the school board, he spearheaded an effort to place a $42,000 bond issue before township voters in 1915 that would build three six room brick buildings.
The vote was approved by 18 votes and Galloway builder John Felton was awarded a $32,000 contract for the buildings. Additional expenditures were $5,000 for furnishings and $500 for three pianos. One old school in Galloway
stands today as an apartment building. It was operated by the Prairie Township Local School District until 1959 when the township school consolidated as part of South-Western City School District.
Like most other townships in Central Ohio, farming was the principal occupation in Prairie Township and as more people moved to the area, the demand for services increased.
A few of the other businesses included a vineyard, cheese factory, general store, slaughterhouse, greenhouse, wagon maker, blacksmith, garage, coal-lumber yard, a kennel, restaurants, several saloons, pool room, barber shop and even an illegal still that produced whiskey.
James Dougherty and his son, Joshua, operated a brick and tile mill but the brick side of the business didn’t prosper. At one point there were at least four sawmills in the township. The first physician in Prairie Township was
Dr. George Richey in 1820; and a funeral home once served the area.
Galloway’s downtown was somewhat progressive in the day providing wooden sidewalks to encourage business.
Most roads in the township were impassable many times throughout the year. Slabs and sawdust from the sawmills were used to repair them, especially those in Galloway. Alternating layers of sawdust with layers of slabs improved road conditions. Because many wagon loads used the roads, they needed regular surface repairs, according to Mrs. Burnside. She said there was always plenty of material at hand.
As more people began to move into the area and with the completion of the National Road, efforts were made to create settlements. The first was Rome in 1836 followed by Alton and LaFayetteville, a town that existed on paper. Later, Galloway became a settlement.
The National Road cut through the northern portion of Prairie Township around 1833. Earlier a dirt road, it was later improved with packed gravel greatly improving travel. When finished, it connected Central Ohio with major trading centers to the east and west. After the road was built, progress brought a railroad, the interurban streetcar, and finally the utilities.
Once residents reached the National Road, travel was much easier but it could still take three hours to travel between Columbus and Galloway.
One couple, Mrs. Burnside recalled, frequently traveled to Columbus in a large spring wagon for supplies. They also purchased Ague for loggers working in the area. Ague was a liquid medicine said to help with fever and chills. After a day in Columbus, the couple began the long trip home. As they turned off the National Road toward Galloway, they reclaimed two oxen they had left along the road. The two oxen then joined the two horses already hitched to pull the wagon through mud which sometimes reached the hubs of the wagon wheels.
A plat for Galloway was completed around 1861 and by 1872 the Cincinnati, Sandusky and Cleveland Railroad announced plans to lay track through the village. Another source said the railroad company was Columbus, Springfield and Cincinnati Railroad.
David Deffenbaugh and Wallace Peddicord were two carpenters contracted by the railroad to build a trestle. Wells J. Brooks, who was living in Galloway at the time, wasn’t successful in locating carpenters to build a house. Brooks and his daughter, Myrtle, walked about a mile through dense woods to reach the area where two men who were hewing large, recently cut trees. He hired them on the spot to build his house after work on the trestle was completed.
After a train station and ticket office was built at Galloway, Brooks was hired as ticket agent, selling passenger tickets to Columbus. His daughter also worked in the freight office and sold tickets. After trains were running, the I. B. & W. Railroad took over the route.
“So many accidents occurred people were afraid to ride on it and spoke
of it as the ‘I Better Walk’ railroad, which indeed seemed the only safe way,” Myrtle recalled. The accidents were often due to the fact that train engineers and crews were obliged to work 14 to 18 hours a day and many times went to sleep while on duty.
New York Central Railroad took over the route in the mid-1870s. Todd Galloway sold additional land to the railroad with the stipulation that a passenger service would continue at least once a day in each direction.
Today, Camp Chase Railway, with its orange and white engines, operates 15 miles of that track between Columbus and Lilly Chapel. Much of their cargo is grain. Camp Chase provides switching services for Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation.
Prairie Township Fire Department
Prairie Township Fire Association, an all-volunteer organization, provided firefighting services before the township took over the operation in 1944 creating the Prairie Township Fire Department. The department, still an all-volunteer organization, operated a single truck capable of dispensing 500 gallons of water per minute from its 500-gallon reserve. Grover Kaderly was appointed the first chief. Volunteers were paid $1 an hour when fighting fires.
A bond issued allowed the construction of a firehouse in 1947, the same year the trustees signed a contract with Pleasant Township for fire protection. A year later, a used ambulance was purchased and used as the township’s first emergency squad. In 1954, volunteer firemen pooled their money and purchased a panel truck, extended its frame and created a new emergency squad that operated for seven years.
It wasn’t until 1965 that the township hired its first full-time fireman, Louis Scheiderer. A year later, the township purchased an aerial apparatus to assist in fire protection for Doctor’s West Hospital.
Fire chief John R. Richards received national publicity for making sure all building codes and structures were followed to the letter. A complex known as the Beacon Club Tower Apartments had numerous building
The fire chief and residents considered the building to be a fire trap and threat to public safety. The Lincoln Village Residents Association also played an important part that led to the demolition of the ill-fated Beacon Club Tower Apartments in 1976. Richards ordered the building be reduced to two stories or torn down. Following a lengthy court battle Richards’s decision was upheld by the court. The building was never occupied. When he retired in 1980, he received the State of Ohio Distinguished Fire Service Award.
After construction of the National Road in 1836, the town of Alton was laid out by Thomas Graham. It was the largest village in the township at the time. It had a post office and Tom Graham was appointed the first postmaster.
Alton also had Prairie Township’s first tavern and first hotel, The Alton House. Just north of the village that was on the National Road was an area known as Alton Station, a part of the Little Miami Railroad.
Many churches were built in the area after 1843. A brick Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1883 served most likely by circuit riders.
For many years, Alton was the only community that actually had a church. After Billy Sunday conducted evangelical revival services in Alton sometime after 1880, the people of Rome decided they needed to build a church in their town.
Among the other pioneers were Francis Downing, Israel P. Brown, William Stiarwalt, George Richey, Russell N. Grinnold, John G. Neff, Reuben Golliday, Thomas O’Hara, David Howard, Thomas J. Moorman, John Gantz, Samuel Kell, Andrew W. Shearer and Smith Postle.
Rome, New Rome
Three miles east of Alton, James Bryden and Adam Brotherlin made plans to plat a town they would call Rome. It was 1836 and since their property sat on each side of the newly opened National Road, they hired Frederick Cole to complete a survey and create 64 lots. The Bryden- Brotherlin plat included an equal number of lots on both sides of the National Road. The lots on the north side of the National Road were purchased by James D. Kinnaird to expand his farm. He lined the driveway to his home with maple trees, a road now called Maple Drive.
The National Road had become an important east-west route and the two men saw commercial value in a new settlement. The original road was dirt and could create obstacles. After a heavy rain, oxen were required to pull stage coaches through the mud and onto a dryer surface. It didn’t take long for several taverns to open in the Rome area and the Daniel McFarland Tavern the most well-known.
There was considerable competition between Alton and Rome and it worked against each village. For many years, the Yeager Home was a principal stage coach stop and tavern. The building was constructed before the War of 1812, long before the village was created.
Rome became a popular stop for stagecoaches going east and west. Coach drivers could water horses and make any necessary repairs. It was also a chance for passengers to take a short rest. Stage coach routes were eliminated when the Columbus, London and Springfield Interurban Line began service after 1915.
About the same time, Dr. W. G. O’Hara, O. G. Riebel, Frederick Maier and Leo J. Meyer, all of Rome, incorporated as the Columbia Light, Heat and Power Company to bring electric service to the community.
Hilda Riebel Walz, a daughter, remembered her father was well liked in the community. In the 1920s and 1930s, he sponsored Independence Day fireworks at his store.
For years, the store was a focal point of the community. The interurban ran just in front of the store and stopped for passengers and to unload freight. The three daily Columbus newspapers were also left at the store for local carriers.
Among the other earlies Rome pioneers were Francis Downing, Israel P. Brown, William Stiarwalt, George Richey, Russell N. Grinnold, John G. Neff, Reuben Golliday, Thomas O’Hara, David Howard, Thomas J. Moorman, John Gantz, Samuel Kell, Andrew W. Shearer and Smith Postle.
New Rome was thrust into national headlines in 2002 when the National Examiner carried a two-page article calling New Rome “America’s No. 1 Speed Trap.” That wasn’t the first negative publicity for the village. In 1989 state and county investigators seized all records from their Mayor’s Court. Numerous other incidents and resignations occurred that challenged the very existence of the village and its police department.
The New Rome Police Department operated a notorious speed trap that angered many residents of Prairie Township and other areas of the state. The village’s annual budget was largely financed with traffic citations in its Mayor’s Court. A new state law in 2003 stopped villages with less than 100 residents from operating a Mayor’s Court. New Rome had 60 citizens at the time and news reports stated there was one police officer for every eight citizens.
The village of LaFayetteville looked good on paper but it never took its place as a settlement in Prairie Township. According to Ed Lentz, Columbus historian, the village created by Job Postle existed in name only. The exact location of LaFayetteville is not known but it most likely was also located along the National Road.
Just west of Prairie Township in Madison County, another settlement along the National Road was also named Lafayette. William Minter surveyed the town in 1834. It was named in honor of French General George LaFayette. Another Lafayette is located in Allen County organized in 1868.
Rome became the only settlement in the Prairie Township to incorporate as a municipality. That occurred on Aug. 22, 1941, and the village assumed the name New Rome. At the time, it was the second smallest incorporated village in Ohio. Local merchant O. G. Riebel was elected the first mayor. He enclosed a portion of a porch beside his grocery store as the mayor’s office. He had operated the grocery since 1919 when he built the brick structure. The store was torn down in 1997. New Rome existed as a village until 2004 when it was dissolved by order of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in 2004.
Galloway, Smithville, Galloway Station
The area where Galloway sits today was originally part of a 1,000-acre Virginia military land grant awarded Whitehead Coleman for military service during the American Revolutionary War. There is no evidence Coleman ever lived in Ohio. Instead, on Feb. 6, 1798, Coleman sold his land to John Pleasant.
After Pleasant’s death, his heirs sold portions of the original tract to Clark Higgins and Samuel Kell. The land was later sold to M. A. Pratt then to Samuel and Jean Galloway who purchased the property around 1861.
Although some people consider 1798 as the year Galloway was established, it really wasn’t until 1861 that a community began to take shape. Galloway and his wife purchased additional, larger tracts from Pleasant’s relatives in 1861 and his wife sold 200 acres to Spicer L. and Rosline Smith and another 80-acre tract to George W. McDowell that same year.
In Galloway alongside Main Street is a sidewalk to nowhere. Overgrown and hardly visible, it remains silent as to why it was built and for what purpose because no houses or businesses exist on that side of the road.
Ten years later, landowners became aware that a rail line was planned that would cut through the community. In July 1871, Rosline Smith sold an 80-foot right of way to the Columbus, Springfield and Cincinnati Railroad Company. Included in the easement was a requirement that the railroad would construct a fence on both sides of the easement. In negotiations, the rail company also agreed to build and operate a depot and provide daily passenger service. The initial plat for Galloway w
as created around 1872. A post office was soon established at
Galloway Station and either Milton Demorest or George Ray was the first postmaster. Both names are listed in separate histories.
For a time, there was much indecision about the naming of the town but it was finally decided to call it Galloway after Samuel Galloway. Smithville had also been frequently mentioned as the town’s name so honoring Roseline Smith. With the arrival of rail service, some began to refer to the settlement as Galloway Station.
Galloway and Roseline Smith had become major land owners and were responsible for clearing much of the land. Large tracts of timber were cleared and the land drained with tile made at Clinton D. Postle’s tile factory.
“Roseline Smith and my father built the first warehouse, using the rear [of the building] for storage of grain,” said Mrs. Myrtle Brooks Burnside. “The front of this building was used as a grocery by my father. This building was erected in the summer of 1872.”
In 1878, Smith sold 18 acres to D. B. Peters for $1 an acre. Peters wanted the land to subdivide into lots that could be sold to encourage more people to move into the community.
There is a reference in at least one historical account that Peters’ land was annexed to the village. There is no information currently available that Galloway was ever a village with a local government.
In 1950, plans were announced to create a new, model city in Prairie Township that became known as Lincoln Village. Until the project’s groundbreaking ceremony occurred on 1,120 acres in 1953, Galloway had the distinction as the last village established in the township back in 1861.
Lincoln Village, according to the Census Bureau, covers near two square miles located on the western edge of Columbus. About 9,000 people live in the area which initially cost developers about $30 million dollars.
The village today includes single family homes, apartments, churches, retail businesses, a shopping center and a branch of the Southwest Public Library. The initial price for homes in the area was between $9,000 and $16,000.
The project was a bit unusual, almost unheard of at the time. The community was planned as a model city created by the former Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, today known as Nationwide Insurance. Considered a housing subdivision today, that wasn’t part of the initial plan.
The project took life from farmland located west of Columbus. It was planned to create affordable housing, safe streets with limited intersections and an outstanding place to raise families. The plan became a reality but it never became a self- governing Ohio city.
News about the Lincoln Village project went national with articles published in Time and Life magazines helping create interest in homes being offered for sale. The John Smitherman family were the first residents of the community.
According to a 1980 article in The Dispatch by James Breiner, NBC broadcast a documentary about Lincoln Village in 1956 that was seen in 33 countries. Breiner also reported a total of 113 newspapers and 31 magazines carried articles about Lincoln’s approach to create a “dream” city.
The man behind to project was Murray Lincoln, president of the insurance company at the time and likely the namesake for the development. His plan called for 900 single family homes, 750 apartments units, a shopping center, library, fire station, churches and schools.
That is according to a historical account published in The Darby Independent on July 4, 1985. The weekly newspaper served the far westside of Columbus for a year before going out of business.
“Many of the features that were innovations in Lincoln Village are standard in housing subdivisions today,” according to an article believed to have been written by Mary M. Stephens, the newspaper editor. It’s believed the full scope of plans for Lincoln Village was never fully realized because Carl Fry, the general manager for the development, died before everything could be carried out. Fry worked for People’s Development Company, a subsidiary of the insurance company.
One of Galloway’s early settlers was known as Aunt Lucy Moore. She had been a slave in the South before settling in Galloway. It’s said she was a storyteller in the community who told stories and experiences as a black person in the southern states. Residents, including children, were impressed with her ability to carry a bucket of water on her head keeping her hands free to carry additional items.
Another story is about a man simply known as Gilland. He had a large garden and prized his turnip crop. Railroad workers also took a liking to them and frequently raided his garden. Gilland was angered and threatened the men but it’s said his strongest reaction was to file a complaint with the railroad.
The most nationally known resident of Prairie Township was John W. Galbreath. He is remembered as a commercial property developer, builder of skyscrapers and the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He built the Darby Dan Farm near Galloway and became involved in breeding and racing thoroughbreds earning two championships at the Kentucky Derby.
The following is edited exerts from the Burnside and Lavely historical account. The full text can be read in “Reflections II”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum and online at www.grovecityohhistory.org.
Roseline Smith and her family moved into an area once known as ‘The Woods’ which was less than a mile north of what is now known as Galloway sometime around 1872. Mrs. Burnside’s father, Nells J. Brooks, moved his family near the home of Mrs. Smith who was her father’s sister. The ambition of Roseline Smith and Samuel Galloway sought to have a town for the accommodation of the farmers of the surrounding county where they could sell grain and avoid a long trip to Columbus.
Previous to this, surveying for the Cincinnati, Sandusky and Cleveland Railroad had been completed and a plat of the new town could be made. Roseline said her father built the first warehouse, using the rear for storage of grain, except corn. It had to be taken directly to the rail cars because shipping shelled corn was unknown in those days. The front of the building was used as a grocery. That building was erected in the summer of 1872.
Following the completion of her father’s house in the summer of 1872, the same carpenters contracted were hired to build a Methodist Church. They were David Deffenbaugh, Wallace Peddicord and Collier Burkey. The next building was a small house with one room attached for dry goods. It was built by Martin Suver. This was
opposite the Methodist Church. A third dwelling was next built and occupied by George Ray, his wife and Mr. Ray’s niece, Lizzie. One room in their house was also used as a grocery and post office.
Mrs. Smith and Mr. Galloway drained the land, first by making a “V’ shaped trough. This trough was inverted and placed in a ditch. In some places a small boat could be navigated easily. Later very wide and deep ditches were dug and there was running water in them most of the year.
When the first settlers arrived in the section of Franklin County that would become Prairie Township much of the land was covered with dense forests. Visits to the Battelle Darby Parks, especially in the winter months, provides current residents with a view of just how thick the woodlands were.
First Child: A daughter, Nellie, born to Mr. and Mrs. William Neer.
First Male Child: A son, Joe, born to Mr. and Mrs. John Felton.
First Brick House: Large brick built for Dr. D.B. Peters by the railroad tracks in Galloway.
William Karnes was 83 years old when he was interviewed in 1950 by a reporter from The Hilltop Record. The interview gave him a chance to relive his nearly 50 years as a resident of Rome and life along the National Road.
Karnes was considered the patriarch of Rome and enjoyed telling stories about trips to Columbus.
“We rode horseback, and the road was pretty rough and the ride long and tiresome,” he said. “I guess I seen about all kinds of methods in travel go past this house. Horses, stage coaches, automobiles, traction lines, and now those airplanes up in the sky. As for myself, I don’t go much anymore, just sit here in my chair and watch the world go by.”
He spent many years as a farmer and as a hauler before taking a job as the head of the maintenance for the National Road. He said Rome was once considered to be the roughest and toughest area in Franklin County. There were “hard talking, two fisted” men that made it difficult to go out and not return home without a black eye. Karnes recalled he wasn’t afraid to stand up to the trouble makers. He said hard knuckles and swift action were the deciding factors in many arguments.
Big Darby Creek
Big Darby Creek is a national and state scenic waterway that passes through both Prairie and Pleasant Townships. In the past, there were two attempts to dam the waters of Darby Creek, one by the Army Corps of Engineers and a second by the City of Columbus.
In the 1960s, the Army Corps proposed a flood control dam that would have flooded approximately 3,000 acres of land. Many people were forced from their homes as land was secured for the project. Years later, the City of Columbus proposed a second dam. Neither were built.
In the mid-1970s, a new metro park, now known as Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, secured funding and purchased several thousand acres from the Corps to be used for recreational park lands. That land had once been set aside for a reservoir.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that consideration for a reservoir, using the water from the Big Darby, was finally put to rest. The Darby would remain a free-flowing river. In 1993, Big and Little Darby Creeks were designated as State and National Scenic Rivers.
According to an Ohio Historical Marker in Galloway, more than 100 species of fish and 40 species of freshwater mollusks have been recorded within the watersheds including one species that is considered endangered.
Text and Photo Selection by James F. Hale, 2021
1880 History of Franklin and Pickaway Counties, Ohio.
William T. Martin’s History of Franklin County
Southwest Franklin County Historical Society
Karen R. Lane, Grove City Public Library
Reflections I and II
Franklin County Genealogical and Historical Society Former Prairie Fire Chief Robert Kunz
Prairie Township Fire Department hometownusa.com
The Hilltop Record
Myrtle Brooks Burnside
Wikipedia – National Road
WOSU public media – Neighborhoods historyofohio.blogspot.com
James F. Hale