Sunday, February 23, 2003

Ohio Bicentennial Moments


Settlement grew rapidly

On Feb. 23, 1833, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation incorporating the town of Elyria. The town's history begins in 1816, when Heman Ely of West Springfield, Mass., decided to build a settlement on 12,500 acres he had purchased from his father, Justin Ely, in what would become Lorain County on Western Reserve lands.

He chose the name Elyria after himself and the Austrian province of Illyria, which was acquired by Napoleon during Ely's visit there in 1809. When the first settlers came to the property, it was mostly thick forest inhabited by elk, panthers, mountain lions, bears and small Native American camps. The settlers followed an Indian trail until they reached two waterfalls in the Black River. That is where the settlement was begun, with a sawmill built by one of the falls.

Elyria boasts one of the earliest high schools west of the Alleghenies. Incorporated in 1831, Elyria High School's first principal was the Rev. John Montieth, a founder of the University of Michigan. His wife, Abigail, was one of the school's first teachers. Among their early students were the Fairchild children, each of whom went on to become college presidents: James H. at Oberlin, Edward H. at Berea in Kentucky, and George T. at Kansas State University.

By the time Ely died in 1852, Elyria had five churches, three grocery stores, three flour mills and more than 1,500 residents.

- Rebecca Goodman

Ohio Moments will appear daily during 2003. Have a suggestion? Contact Rebecca Goodman at rgoodman@enquirer.com or (513) 768-8361.




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