One Person’s History of Plain Township

Like many other Ohio communities, Plain Township near Columbus has been a place where paths crossed. The paths of some Indians leaving and some settlers arriving crossed throughout Ohio for some time after Anthony Wayne’s defeat of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, followed by the treaty of Greenville in 1795.

In 1796 what is now Plain Township became a part of the “Military District” in Ohio, two and a half million acres the Federal Government set aside to satisfy the claims of Revolutionary War veterans. Common soldiers were entitled to 100 acres each. Accordingly, the southeast quarter of the Township was surveyed into 40 hundred-acre lots. Many veterans, by now established in the East or tired of waiting for the Government to act, had sold their warrants to land speculators. Few of these veterans’ paths crossed. None entitled to a warrant is known to have settled permanently in the Township.

Things went differently in the southwest quarter. Dudley Woodbridge bought its 4000 acres from the Government in 1800 and sold the parcel two years later to John Huffman, a farmer in western Pennsylvania. German farmers there, having no way of sending their grain to Eastern markets, made the grain more transportable and less likely to rot by turning it into whiskey. Because the farmers resisted paying a federal tax on whiskey, their paths soon crossed the paths of troops that Washington sent into the state in 1794 to put down the so-called “Whiskey Rebellion.”

Signs point to that development’s having been a cause for the Huffmans and their relatives by marriage (Baughmans, Swickards, and Dagues) to move westward, to a place where their paths crossed only with others of the same mind. Sign number one: Huffman bought his quarter Township with 4000 gallons of whiskey delivered at Marietta. Sign number two: Daniel Swickard is described in a Franklin County History as having been in Pennsylvania a “well-known distiller.” Sign number three: the first temperance meeting in the Township was held in a log schoolhouse on Central College Road in 1823.

After 1812 the Federal Government realized it had reserved too much land for Revolutionary War veterans and offered for sale what remained (in Plain Township, the northern half) at $2.00 an acre. Archibald Smith, early settler, wrote in his Autobiography: “In the year 1814 Ohio was creating a great excitement and hundreds were moving to the new country.”

Archibald’s grandfather and uncles moved from northwest New Jersey to the northeast quarter of Plain Township in 1813. About the same time Clouses and Kitzmillers moved from western Maryland by way of Fairfield County to lands adjacent to the Smiths. Tripletts from Virginia and Bevelheimers from the Pennsylvania Dutch country moved to the north-central part. Taylors and Trumbos moved to the northwest part from the headwaters of the Potomac in what is now West Virginia. To name a few.

The paths of many of these immigrants had crossed already in the territories from which they came. Like the Huffmans, Baughmans, Swickards, and Dagues, Clouses were related by marriage to Kitzmillers; Smiths to Straits and Farbers; Taylors to Trumbos. In Plain Township the paths of young people on adjacent farms often crossed so that present-day long-time residents are right many times over when they say “We are all related out here.” By the turn of the century, some residents were concerned that epileptic fits were a by-product of inbreeding.

But always there has been an influx of fresh blood. Noble Landon strengthened New England’s representation in the Township when in 1837, with William Yantes, he laid out the town of New Albany where roads (now Routes 62, 161 and 605), which connected early settlements, crossed. The paths of early settlers also crossed at the tavern Noble built at the intersection of High and Main Streets, long known as “Landon’s Corners.” That traffic ended, however, when Noble, himself a heavy drinker, underwent a remarkable conversion. In an upsurge of repentance he moved the kegs of whiskey he possessed into the street and bashed them in.

The Landons were energetic and prolific. Domiciled on Long Island at the end of the seventeenth century, they had moved into neighboring states by the time of the Revolution. Noble was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1773. Before coming to Licking County, Ohio, in 1810, he had lived in northern Vermont, where Landons had migrated, and had passed through New York, where Landons had migrated. Another band of Landons took a parallel course, crossing from Long Island to New Jersey and beyond, to Kansas, where in time they produced Alf Landon and Nancy Landon Kassebaum. Noble helped to people the new town of New Albany with his numerous offspring. He attracted other relatives there and, seemingly, persons who knew of him in New England. Members of the Beecher family, a family well entrenched in Connecticut, moved in shortly after 1837. At mid-century John Beecher, inventor of a “Folding 10 ft. Measuring Pole,” was the town’s master carpenter.

The heavy German immigration to Ohio in the nineteenth century spilled over into Plain Township. John Andrew Schott had settled in German Village in Columbus by 1833. In 1850 he bought 80 acres in the northwest corner of Plain Township and moved out. In 1852, with other German-Americans in the vicinity, he signed a constitution for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Members constructed the church, just over the line in Blendon Township, with fieldstone from their fields and lumber from their woodlots.

The Civil War brought Heischmans from northern Virginia to Plain Township and to Jefferson Township just below it. They were fleeing, rather obviously, the accidental devastation visited by the War upon the upper Shenandoah Valley, where they lived, and the deliberate devastation visited upon it by Ohio General Sheridan, the latter as severe as that visited upon Georgia by Ohio General Sherman. The Heischmans were not taking refuge in enemy territory exactly even though two or three of them had served in the Confederate Cavalry. They were seeking out the Souders, it seems, who had established themselves strongly in Jefferson Township beginning in 1820; and they were following in the footsteps of John Heischman who married Christina Souder in Jefferson Township in 1848. The Souders would not have thought of the new arrivals as rebels. Although opposed to slavery, the Souders throughout the War were loyal to Virginia, the place of their origin.

The flow of fresh blood in the Township has never stopped. The Great Depression brought people looking for work on the farms and cheap building sites. Traffic up from the border states to Columbus intensified during World War II.

An extraordinary influx of young and old urban professionals into the Township has occurred in recent years as a result of an enlargement of interest from women’s clothing to real estate on the part of the Limited’s founder, Les Wexner. His New Albany Company has acquired thousands of acres and supervised the building of houses ranging in price from a couple of hundred thousands to many millions. The company’s tight architectural control has created a spread of buildings in a uniformly Georgian style reminiscent of Virginia, development boundaries marked off by white fences reminiscent of Kentucky, and street signs such as “Greensward Road” and “Alban Mews,” reminiscent of place names in England. This splendid creation has some of the unreal quality of a mirage.

–John Saveson