History Of Magnolia
about one-half mile south of the Great Trail, the most important of the
Indian trails in the Old Northwest. The trail started at what is now
Pittsburgh and ended at Sandusky, Ohio by way of the mouth of the Big Sandy
Creek. The trail crossed the Sandy North of the Village of Magnolia at a
place later known as Downing's Fording or Rock Bottom.
whites to travel through this area, although not voluntarily, were captives
of the Indians from Maryland and Pennsylvania. They were brought over the
Great Trail as early as 1730 or 1740. The first whites of record were scouts
during the French and Indian War of 1756 to 1763. In 1764, Col. Henry
Bouquet and his British troops passed through here on an expedition against
the Indians. On October 12, they reached the Big Sandy Creek in the area of
Minerva. They encountered small Delaware villages, but all were deserted.
Continuing down the stream, they camped on the north bank of the Big Sandy
about one mile north of Magnolia. This was exactly 83 miles from their point
of embarkation at Fort Pitt. Among Bouquet's troops was Lt. Thomas Hutchins
in the capacity of Assistant Engineer.
talent was in the area of cartography or map making. President George
Washington named him Geographer General of the United States.
Revolutionary War the young nation was deeply in debt to foreign powers as
well as to private American citizens. In 1789 the fledgling Congress under
the Articles of Confederation decided to survey lands in the west and sell
land to help pay these debts. It was determined that from a point on the
Pennsylvania border at which the Ohio River entered the Northwest Territory
that a geographer's line would be established. Thomas Hutchins was in charge
of this difficult project.
through virgin forests this line was to run due west for seven ranges. A
range is a measure of six miles. At a point of the western terminus of the
seventh range the line was then to go due south to intersect with the Ohio
River. Hutchins erected an upright sandstone to mark this point. This
sandstone marker, the Seven Ranges Stone, remains and marks the corners of
three counties; Stark, Carroll and Tuscarawas. It serves also as the corner
of four Townships; Sandy and Pike in Stark County, Rose in Carroll County
and Sandy Township in Tuscarawas County.
interesting to note that Thomas Hutchins maps of the frontier areas of
Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, Ohio and the Great Lakes were very
skillfully rendered. Even in this present day with all our modern map making
and both ground and aerial surveying equipment, his maps have been found to
be accurate to within fractions of inches. Hutchins is credited with the
rectangular system of surveying of the western lands of the United States
known to the world as the American Land System.
of Magnolia by Capt. Downing and Isaac Van Meter.
Downing, the Indian Scout, and his son-in-law, Isaac Van Meter, and wife
made the first settlement in this area in 1805 from Brooke County Virginia,
now West Virginia. Their belongings consisted of a few cooking utensils, a
few tools, a little bedding, and some provisions. These were all carried on
their backs and in packsaddles. A small piece of ground was cleared and with
the help of a few friendly Indians a log cabin was erected. Their furniture
was just what could be made in the woods with an ax and auger.
The winter of
1805-1806 passed without their seeing another white face. In the spring of
1806, Capt. Downing who had gone back to Virginia returned with his family.
Soon afterward his two sons-in-law, John Cuppy and Isaac Miller, arrived and
settled on the west side of the Sandy near the present village.
At the top of
the hill at the eastern corporation limits sign on State Route 183 is the
Downing cemetery. Here lie the remains of Capt. James Downing Sr., the
Indian Scout and Revolutionary War veteran, his son James Downing Jr.,
veteran of the War of 1812, and members of their families.
• The Sandy &
summer of 1827 in the village of New Lisbon, Ohio, plans were formulated for
a great capital investment program. This was the time of canal fever in
Ohio, and many people were interested in this means of transportation. The
idea was to build a canal from the Ohio River to connect with the Ohio Erie
Canal at Bolivar. The result would be to further open the trade routes in
Ohio that would enable the cheap transportation of goods to the East and
West. Any town that had a canal near by would become a boomtown. To cash in
on this lucrative trade and the business that accompanied canal building a
company was chartered. Shares of stock in the Sandy & Beaver Canal were sold
to the general public. This along with grants from the Ohio General Assembly
would finance construction costs of the canal.
Richard Elson, the founder of the Elson Mill in Magnolia, saw the advantage
of a continuous supply of water to his gristmill. He invested heavily in the
Sandy and Beaver Canal Company and was the successful bidder on the one-mile
section east of the mill.
He immediately began construction on the canal and it was one of the first
sections of the canal to be completed in the western division.
Special canal crews of highly skilled engineers, carpenters, and stone
masons were necessary to construct the wooden dams and stone locks. A lock
still standing on the canal between Magnolia and Waynesburg is an example of
their work. It is still in good condition 180 years after its construction.
Work progressed steadily until the panic of 1837. By this date the canal was
only half complete with almost one million three hundred thousand dollars
expended. By 1840 all work on the canal had stopped due to the terrible
depression that gripped the nation.
Following the failure of the canal company many sections of the canal were
filled. Roads and railroads followed the easy grade of the canal. The
section of the canal between Waynesburg and Magnolia was, however,
maintained for many years because it was the source of waterpower for the
Steam and then electricity replaced water as a means of powering the mill
and this section was allowed to fall into disrepair. Without maintenance the
canal developed a break in the late 1960's thus losing its water. Since
there were no funds to repair the break the canal lay idle and became a
detriment to the community. In 1971 the Sandy Valley Jaycees took on the
immense project of repairing the canal. A great deal of enthusiasm was
generated. Money, equipment and labor were volunteered and the canal was
The canal was used for recreational purposes until a major break occurred in
early 1977. All the time and effort spent to repair the canal seemed to be
wasted. The latest break was due to lack of maintenance. The canal needed
periodic checks to ensure no minor holes would develop into major breaks.
The canal remained dry for two long years. Again the canal was an impairment
and an eyesore for the community. In the summer it became a breeding ground
for mosquitoes. Many in the community felt the canal should be leveled and
In April of 1979 the late Jim Crowe, a lifelong resident of Magnolia,
decided that something must be done. He believed that the canal was
worthwhile. He remembered how as a youth the canal had provided countless
hours of recreation and learning. Hiking along the towpath, fishing in the
basin and ice-skating in the winter on the millpond and along the length of
the canal were fond memories of Jim's childhood. He wished to pass these
memories along to his eight children and other children of Magnolia.
A force of approximately 75 volunteer workers of all ages set to work to
clear the canal beds and towpaths. Deep muck in the canal bed made the work
very difficult. The overgrowth of trees and brush was tremendous. To repair
the breaks in the berm banks nearly a mile had to be rebuilt. One major
break required 200 tons of clay and dirt to repair. Over 50 two-ton
truckloads of rubbish were hauled out of the canal bed. A huge amount of
wood and brush were cleared and burned.
Finally in December of 1979 the canal was completely cleared with only a few
minor repairs needed. On December 23rd at 1:00 P.M. Jim Crowe along with a
few loyal workers gathered at the lock to put water back into the canal.
Mack Elson owner of Elson Mill was given the honor of opening the gates.
Water again filled the canal and millpond.
During that winter many residents took advantage of skating on the millpond
and the canal. Many people again enjoyed Hiking and fishing along the canal.
The scene of the millpond and mill again became the subject of artists and
The first Sandy & Beaver Canal Days was instituted in the summer of 1980 to
celebrate the restoration of the canal and to provide funds for the canal's
continued maintenance. The Sandy Beaver Canal Society was formed to provide
oversight for the canal and to keep the canal as an asset to the community.
The earliest means of transportation was by foot. The Great Trail, the most
important of all the Indian trails of the Midwest, ran through the valley of
the Big Sandy. Leaving what is presently Pittsburgh, it followed the Ohio
River to the mouth of Beaver Creek. From there the trail went northwest to
the headwaters of Yellow Creek in what is now Columbiana County. The trail
then crossed over the ridges to the valley of the Big Sandy passing near to
the present town of Minerva. The trail followed the valley, crossing the
Nimishillen Creek between East Sparta and Sandyville. Crossing the
Tuscarawas River at the mouth of the Big Sandy, the trail continued in a
northwesterly direction about a half-mile south of Wooster and on to Fort
Sandusky. From Fort Sandusky the trail led to its western terminus at what
is presently Detroit, Michigan.
In 1761, the pioneer missionary, Christian Frederick Post, followed the
Great Trail to present day Bethlehem Township in Stark County. Here on the
east bank of the Tuscarawas he located his cabin. It was from here that he
sought to convert the Indians of the Tuscarawas Valley to the Moravian
In 1764 Col. Henry Bouquet with his army of 500 Highland soldiers, 1000
Pennsylvania militia, and a small band of Virginia volunteers utilized the
Great Trail on his expedition against the Delaware, Mohican, and Mingo
Indians. It is reported that he camped along the Big Sandy about a half-mile
north of Magnolia.
Also using the Great Trail in the year 1778 was Gen. McIntosh who with his
troops built Fort Laurens near what is presently Bolivar. This fort was the
first built by the United States in the Northwest Territory.
Of more immediate importance to the story of Magnolia was the expedition of
Capt. James Downing. Capt. Downing and his Virginia Rangers came into the
valley of the Big Sandy. They fought a skirmish with the Indians on the
banks of the Big Sandy. This place is located between the mouth of the
Little Sandy and the mouth of Indian Run. This is the only Indian fight said
to have taken place in what is now Stark County. This is near what is now
known as Grovedell Street on the northern outskirts of Waynesburg
approximately two miles east of Magnolia. Captain Downing later returned to
this area and was Magnolia's first settler.
The old Steubenville Trail to Canton, which later became known as the
Steubenville Road, crossed the southwestern part of Sandy Township. The
trail that was laid out by Bezaleel Wells, the founder of Canton, came into
Waynesburg from Morges and then southwesterly to the Big Sandy. Keeping to
the south side of the Big Sandy it crossed the creek close to the place
where Capt. Downing, the area's first settler, built his cabin. This was
known as Downing's Fording. From the fording the trail followed the east
side of Reeves Run. Locals know this stream as Hypocrite Run
Two interesting stories come to us about this road. The name “Hypocrite Run”
was used by locals because of an early settler who settled at the mouth of
that stream. His name was James Reeves. Reeves was a man who made loud
professions of religion among the early pioneers until he had gained their
confidence. Subsequently he commenced to cheat and deceive his neighbors and
all those who came in contact with him on business matters. He thus received
the name of hypocrite and that name was used instead of the proper name of
The second story concerns the “Unknown Traveler.” A stranger in these parts
tried to cross the Big Sandy at Downing's Crossing during a time of high
water. He was overcome by the current and drowned. His body was buried in a
field south of the Downing cabin. No one made claim to his body and his
grave remains unmarked and unknown to this day.
Isaac Miller an early settler built the first bridge over the Big Sandy near
Magnolia. He operated it for many years as a toll bridge. A toll bridge over
the Big Sandy was also constructed at Waynesburg and operated for many
• The Old Road to Waynesburg
The old road to Waynesburg angled to the Northeast from the Trinity Lutheran
Church. It crossed through what is now the Magnolia Cemetery to the northern
end of Elson Street. From there it went down through the bottom. A telephone
right-of-way now follows its route.
This road was abandoned near the turn of the century when what is now State
Route 183 was constructed to be above any floodwaters.
During the 1920's a group of investors purchased this land. Their plan was
to make a lake and sell building lots around it. Due to the sandy nature of
the soil the lake bed would not hold water. The company went bankrupt and
the plan was abandoned.
A Special Thank You to Magnolia Mayor Leach for providing the above History