100 years ago – Groveport in 1908

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Photos courtesy of the Groveport Heritage Museum
 Main Street, looking west, in downtown Groveport in 1908.
 
 The Ohio and Erie Canal in Groveport in 1908 looking northeast from approximately Walnut Street. Note the Main Street bridge at the right and Town Hall in the background.
 
 The saloon that was once located at Main and Front Streets as it looked in 1908.
 
 Cherry Street looking west from College Street in 1908. The side streets were mostly dirt paths at the time.
 
 Groveport School on College Street (near what is now Naomi Court) as it looked in 1908. The school was built in 1884 and was used until the new Groveport School (now Groveport Elementary) opened on Main Street in 1923.

Imagine it’s 1908 and you’re walking down Groveport’s Main Street when, as you reach its intersection with Brook Alley, you come face to face with a lumbering, smokey locomotive.

A century ago a railroad spur from the Hocking Valley Railway tracks on the north edge of town extended through Groveport to the Claycraft Brick and Tile Plant along the Ohio and Erie Canal on the south side of Groveport. Yes, Groveport was a much different place 100 years ago.

A look back in time

In 1908, Groveport was a town of around 600 people. Most people worked in town or in nearby businesses that could be reached by riding the third rail electric interurban railway. The town was a farming community and most of the businesses were geared to supported the agrarian economy.

There were no cars, trucks, or buses in town. Everyone either rode horses or used horse drawn carriages to get around. Or they simply walked.

None of the streets were paved and as a result they were dusty in dry times and muddy during wet periods. To help keep the dust down in dry times, the village council paid $3 a day for a man with a team of horses and a wagon with water sprinkling barrel to dampen the streets.

The town had no water system so people used wells for drinking water. Every house had an outhouse since there was no sewer system.

Natural gas fueled the street lights and the lamp tenders in charge of keeping them lit were Jacob Miller, John Cramer, and Elder Thompson.

While the electric interurban railroad, which arrived in 1904 and whose tracks are still embedded in Blacklick Street, brought electricity to the village, the distribution of electricity in town was not widespread until 1910.

The Elmont Hotel (the former mansion of John S. Rarey) still sat where Groveport Madison Junior High School stands now. The Elmont was a showplace that attracted visitors from around Central Ohio and beyond.

Groveport Elementary on Main Street did not exist as all 12 grades attended the school that once stood on College Street near what is now Naomi Court. The Groveport Madison High School boys and girls basketball teams played their games in the second floor auditorium of Groveport Town Hall as the school did not have its own gymnasium.

The familiar Groveport United Methodist Church at Main and College streets was brand new in 1908 and was dedicated in April of that year.

A giant silver maple tree towered at the intersection of Main and College streets. A large oak tree stood guard in the middle of College Street near the canal bridge at Wirt Road.

Horse troughs were scattered throughout town.

The Groveport Band, a community group, performed every Sunday afternoon during nice weather at the bandstand that once stood near the canal at Main and Front streets.

West Street was the western border of the village (except for a handful parcels just west of the street); the Ohio and Erie Canal was the southern and eastern border; and the railroad was the northern border.

The Ohio and Erie Canal still coursed through Groveport, though most canal boat traffic had ceased save for a few occasional shipments of brick and tile from the Claycraft Brick and Tile plant. The canal would not be drained until 1911.

Groveport had no newspaper of its own as the "Groveport Observer" had ceased publication a few years earlier.

Most people in town were essentially small scale farmers as the lots were platted large to allow for big gardens. People also kept animals in the village such as horses (for transportation), chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, ducks, and geese. Remnants of this agrarian background remain in the older parts of town as the old barns and chicken coops have been converted into garages and storage sheds.

Remember, where there are animals, there is manure, so the town was no doubt aromatic.

The village government of 1908

The mayor was H.E. Firrell and the village council included L.W. Carruthers, John Moody, B.F. Dildine, C.W. Arnold, W.T. Meloy, and J.G. Schleppi. As the year wore on, Schleppi resigned and was replaced by J.G. Lorimer, who in turn left the council soon after being appointed. Lorimer was replaced by N.E. Albery.

The village began  1908 with a fiscal balance of $263.93 and finished the year with $467.58 on hand. Compare this to the multi-million dollar village budget of today!

Council spent much time dealing with drainage issues in Groveport and spent $600 in 1908 alone on repairs to Joppy (also known as Joppa) Ditch, the open drainage ditch that meandered through the village.

Council also kept a watchful eye on billiard playing in the village passing an ordinance in 1908 that prohibited "the use of screens, blinds, or other device or thing obstructing a full, free and complete view of the interior of places from the outside thereof, when any game of pool or billiards is played therein." An action that calls to mind the song from the musical "The Music Man" that touted the evils of billiards "…that rhymes with ‘p’ and that stands for pool!"

Perspective

Though Groveport was incorporated in 1847, people were living in what would become the village as early as 1809. Just think of the strides made from 1809 to 1908 to 2008 and imagine what the Groveport of 2108 will be.

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