By Linda Dillman
Stand in the center of Canal Winchester and you are enveloped in the history of a town founded on transportation, sprinkled with local and national celebrities, and a rich creative arts presence.
In 2017, Canal Winchester High School Social Studies teacher Todd Sautters and English teacher Seth Bixler capitalized on the city’s local history by creating a semester-long Academic Journal class (now called Canal Winchester Historical Research) tasked with two goals—a group project applying for an Ohio Historical Marker and completion of individual research papers.
Two groups submit applications. One was successful in their quest for a marker honoring a former school building.
While class goals were reached, it took four years to bring the project submitted by 2018 graduates Trey Brown, Silas Crase, Reid Chapman, and Bailey Sumner to fruition on Sept. 24, when the historical marker was unveiled in a ceremony on the grounds of th school district’s Washington Street education center.
Other members of the 2017-18 class included Caleb Anderson, Logan Crist, Nicholas Duncan and Brandi Gidley. The current class is comprised of 21 students.
“The Ohio Historical Marker commemorates the history of the Canal Winchester Local School’s Education Center,” said Sautters, who called the building a symbol of Canal Winchester growth and history. “It had been the only school in Canal Winchester. Over the years, as the community grew, the school grew in size. Additions were included. Until the building of the current CW Middle School in 2007, it was a functioning school building.”
As the town increased in population, the size of the old Canal Winchester school adjusted as well. According to Sautters, during World War II, there was a cannery in the basement to help with rationing.
The senior-level students accomplished their research with support and assistance from the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society and the board of education funded construction of the marker. Students spent many hours combing through historical society records and contacting individuals in pursuit of information.
Historical research class member Emily Avery said, “I think it is important to study Canal Winchester history because it teaches us how the town became what it is, and what mistakes they made along the way. If we know the history, we can prepare for a better future for the town. We can also pass on the stories and lessons to future generations.”
Classmate Connor Well also felt it is vital to study the history of the city because it gives students a better understanding of the town they live in and the people who were here before them.
“It’s important to make sure that this history isn’t lost to time,” said senior Greyson Dunbar. “We make sure that this history is known for the people in the town to allow people that come to visit or people that even live here to understand more about how this town came to be.”
The full text on the marker reads as follows: “Old Canal Winchester School (1862-2007), Over its 145 years, the Old Canal Winchester School building played a significant role in the community. The original four-room building opened in 1862 and its high school class graduated in 1888. Canal Winchester’s growth is reflected in the school’s seven additions, the first of which was in 1875. Other expansions include a separate high school building in 1909, a three-story connector in 1929 between the 1862 and the 1909 buildings, and elementary school wings in 1956 and 1967. The school was the site of continuing education and vocational classes for adults in the 1930s and 1950s, agricultural programs for veterans after World War II, and a cannery from the time of that war until 1952. The school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017 and it remains the district’s administrative center and a community gathering place. Canal Winchester Local Schools Board of Education, Canal Winchester Area Historical Society, Canal Winchester Academic Journal 2018, The Ohio History Connection.”