The History Of Magnolia

Magnolia is 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.

The first 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.

Hutchins true talent was in the area of cartography or map making. President George Washington named him Geographer General of the United States.

Following the 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.

Traveling 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.

It is 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.

• Settlement of Magnolia by Capt. Downing and Isaac Van Meter.

Capt. James 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 & Beaver Canal

During the 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.

Canal Restoration
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 Elson Mill.

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 restored.

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 forgotten.

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 photographers.

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.

• Transportation
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 faith.

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 Reeves Run.

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 years.

• 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 Of Magnolia.