By Thomas Palmer
With this post, we add a new series to 1812Blockhouse, “It Happened in Richland.” From time to time, we will be sharing interesting tidbits of Richland County history or, as in this post, a series relating to one topic.
As local historians know, the County’s boundaries changed more than once in its first decades. To the west, this meant that places like Crestline and Galion were established not in Crawford County, but in Richland. In turn, this means that much of the very early history of those communities was tied to Mansfield, not Bucyrus.
In this short series, which will run each Friday, we will look at an even earlier settlement that was lost to history until it was “rediscovered” in the Richland County Courthouse.
The Story of Greensburg
Part One: A Family from New York
“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” — Demosthenes
They were not the first to follow the road west of Mansfield through the newly-surveyed but as yet unorganized Sandusky Township. Nor were they arriving at an unoccupied location, as indigenous Americans of the Wyandot and Delaware tribes had long hunted and, in some numbers, lived there.
They may have heard tales of the ill-fated expedition of Colonel William Crawford which had taken place in the area over three decades before, and perhaps whispers about the revered Chief Wigenund, and of Seccaium.
The military had fashioned a way for settlers to arrive when it built its east-west road just north of the Olentangy River. The first civilians to follow the route and stop just south of the river, however, was a family of civilian New Yorkers. It was 1817, the year that a Virginian, James Monroe, became US President.
The father of the family was one Benjamin Leverich. 1
While Benjamin’s ancestry is still the subject of research, modern DNA-based sleuthing appears to confirm that he was a descendant of Reverend William Leverich of “New Town,” or Newtown, in what was known as “New Netherland” (now New York). 2 3 Leverich was a Cambridge-educated pastor who was minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, a congregation still worshipping today in the Borough of Queens. 4
Reasoned estimates place Benjamin’s birth between 1752 and 1754. It is known that he served in the Revolutionary War in the 3rd Westchester County Militia commanded by Captain Samuel Haight. 5 As such, Galion shares a distinction with a limited number of Ohio communities (Kirtland, North Olmstead, Grand Rapids, Urbana among them) in having its first settler be a veteran of America’s War for Independence.
Much of Leverich’s history has been well documented, as has that of his family members. The most exhaustive material available online is in the comprehensive Leverich (Leveridge) Family History & Genealogy website created by Tom Leverich in New Jersey. 6 There are several references to that site in this series.
Benjamin and Mary Briggs Leverich had eight children. All but one made the move to Ohio. That relocation, as was the case for many in that era, was done in stages. The first leg of their journey took place about 1808 and ended in Ohio’s Guernsey County, near Cambridge. 7 Nine years later, the family set out yet again, traveling several days in a northwesterly direction to reach the newly-created Sandusky Township in Richland County.
What did they find on their arrival? A wide rise in the land near a river, two features that would have checked boxes on any settler’s “must have list.” To the north and west, swampy land was a discouragement, however the small village of Wyandots nearby seemed friendly.
In the opening chapter of Dr. Bernard Mansfield’s two volume history of Galion, The Olentangy Legacy, the author detailed the flora and fauna which would have greeted the family. Mansfield suggested that the wet ground ahead was the most likely reason why a stop was made at this particular location.
There were ample natural resources to build log homes, clear fields, plant crops, and get on with the business of living — which is exactly what the family decided to do. Four cabins went up in short order in what were deemed to be ideal locations, claiming prime land before other families arrived the following year.
Benjamin and Mary’s house of unhewn logs, undoubtedly built with the assistance of their sons, was located by a spring near what is now the corner of Orange and Atwood Streets in modern-day Galion. Son James had his residence just a bit further east but within walking distance. Nathaniel, the youngest son, staked his future out on high ground near the center of today’s Public Square. 7 A well was dug to provide water, the location of which is suggested by the presence of a cistern on an 1887 fire insurance map of Galion. 8
Some distance to the south and east, son John Leverich built a cabin but was killed by a falling log while assisting in the erection of a house for his brother-in-law the very next year. That structure sat uncompleted for some time thereafter until the Story family arrived. 9
Benjamin Leverich purchased several acres of land which included property bordering the quarter line, a man-made demarcation that would prove important in the story of Greensburg. In fact, this observation begs the need at this point to look at the Leverichs’ chosen home from a different perspective — something we will do in the next installment of our series.
What we will discover will begin to unlock one of the secrets of Greensburg.
Author’s Note: I will not be following any established style guide for footnotes and comments, which are intermingled. My goal is to provide information to the reader in a straight forward, non-stilted manner.
1 — Leverich appears to be the correct name and spelling, however some records and narratives have the surname as “Leveridge” or “Leverick.”I will use “Leverich” in this series.
2 — https://leverichgenealogy.org/wp-content/uploads/6-100-Benjamin-Leverich-Individual-Narrative-TMG-3-27-2020.pdf (hereafter “Leverich Narrative”)
3 — Newtown is now known as the “Elmhust” neighborhood in the Borough of Queens on Long Island, In a coincidence not known until this short series was written, the then-small community of Newtown was not only home to Revered William Leverich, but also of Lieutenant William Palmer, the original immigrant paternal ancestor of the author. Small world indeed!
4 — http://www.fpcn.org/history/pastors/26-leverich
5 — https://leverichgenealogy.org/
6 — Leverich Narrative
7 — The October 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Galion shows a cistern located a few feet east and a few feet north of the center of Public Square, likely under the location of today’s northeast bricked island.
8 — Leverich Narrative