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Monroeville history a little blurry early on

By Henry Timman • Jun 22, 2018 at 12:00 PM

The village of Monroeville is celebrating a 150th birthday this year. This number could confuse some people and lead them to believe that the town wasn’t settled until 1868.

Actually, 1868 is the year the village was incorporated and began life under a municipal government. It actually was 50-plus years old in 1868, but had never had a local government.

Going back to the beginning, we find the usual contradictions, based on the recollections of the surviving pioneers. Most sources say that the first cabin in what is now Monroeville and in all of Ridgefield Township was put up in 1811 by William Frink, who had purchased on a land contract the area which is now the village. He didn’t like civilization, however, and in 1813 sold his contract to Seth Brown and moved to a location on Ohio 547 near Everingin Road. The nearby stream there is called Frink’s Run and commemorates William Frink’s tenancy.

His claim to being the first settler is attacked by a writer who stated that when Frink arrived in Ridgefield, the Reuben Pixley family was living in a temporary home in the southwest quadrant of the village. They later moved to a location on Peru Center Road north, near Blue Bridge.

Meanwhile, we’ll carry on with Seth Brown. He bought Frink’s land contract in 1813, but the second war with Great Britain had broken out in the summer of 1812 and interrupted life in northern Ohio until the peace treaty was signed. While serving in the Army, Seth had met up with Mrs. Sarah Tuttle, a young widow from Monroe, Michigan. They married, and in commemoration of his propitious circumstances, he called his Ohio home “Monroe.” The “ville” was added after a post office had been established and there was confusion between it and another Monroe post office in Ohio.

Seth and Sarah Brown erstablished their home on Monroe Street near the corner of Baker Street, and in 1817, he platted the oldest part of the village into streets and lots. Co-owners were John Sowers, and Richard and Henry Burt. This area was “downtown” along Main Street and a block or two back on either side from the river bridge to Broad Street.

Monroeville was a busy town, being on the main east-west road. Of course, the road was completely unimproved and in the worst weather was almost impassable except for the brave stagecoach drivers who tried to stick to a schedule to deliver their passengers and the mail. In the very worst of times, Monroeville was a day’s trip from Norwalk or Bellevue, and hotel signs were prominent on the skyline.

The town was enhanced by the Burt brothers building a sawmill and then a gristmill along the river just northwest of the present U.S. 20 bridge, in 1817. These facilities brought many farmers to town to have sawing and grain grinding done. The mill continued (with many alterations) until 1946, and was the reason a dam was first built. Several dams have followed, and now its pond supplies Monroeville’s drinking water.

Next week, I’ll tell you more of the Monroeville story.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

 

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