Our History



The Village of Van Buren was laid out December 28, 1833, by John Trout and George Ensminger on the boundary of Portage and Cass Townships.  It was comprised of 53 lots surrounding a public square, and was named in honor of Martin Van Buren, a prominent national figure (8th President, 1837-41).  The village was incorporated in 1866 and Daniel Frick was elected the first mayor.  The first school was built in 1836, a log cabin one mile west of Van Buren.  The first post office was established in 1837.  By 1870, the village had a population of 157.  The Toledo, Columbus, and Southern Railroad was completed through Van Buren in 1883.  Allen Township was the last township erected in Hancock County.  Organized in June, 1850, it was composed of the west side of Cass and the east side of Portage townships.  Named in honor of General Ethan Allen, it contains an area of 24 square miles.


                                              



The First 100 Years      
        



 

          In 1833, the Wyandot and Ottawa Indians roamed at will through this section, which was then an unbroken forest.  To the north was the great Black Swamp.  The only road was a trail cut out by Hull’s army on its march to the Maumee during the War of 1812.  This road was called “Hull’s Trace” and went directly through Van Buren.  It was merely a trail made by the cutting down of trees and brush to allow the gun carriages to go through.  Colonel Cass was sent to cut the trail to Maumee and it is said the engineers of this day could not have done a more complete job.  This trail struck Allen Township just south of Van Buren and passed through what was the S. D. Spitler, Jacob Kempher heirs, H. O. Burrell, J. D. Burrell and Lewis Lyon farms on the west side of the Portage river then into Wood county.

          Allen Township was the last township to be organized in Hancock County.  It was formed in 1850 from territory embraced in Portage and Cass Township, taking 12 sections from each.  It contained an area of 24 square miles or 15,360 acres.  It was named in honor of General Ethan Allen.  Nathan Frakes was the first settler in this township to build his cabin in this unbroken forest.  In 1827, he purchased from John Gardiner the west half of the northeast quarter of Section B on which Van Buren was built and at once erected a log cabin on what was the S. D. Spitler farm.  He sold his holdings in this section to Isaac Miller.

          John Trout came to Hancock County in the summer of 1828, selected land and erected a double log cabin on the site of Van Buren.  He returned to Perry County for his family, arriving there in December 1828.  The trip was long and arduous-forging rivers, swamps and streams and cutting their way through forests and thicket.  The sturdy parents with their five children trudged many a weary mile and on December 15, 1828 took possession of their cabin.  A daughter, Eliza, afterward married Elisha Beesoon, which was the first marriage in the settlement.  In 1831, Christian and Rebecca Barnd with their four sons and four daughters came from Perry County and took possession of the cabin in Section B previously occupied by Isaac Miller. 

          The year 1932 brought in quite a number of settlers. Among them were John Barnd, George Ensminger, Michael Ensminger, Charles Baker and Hugh Gilchrist.  John Barnd located on the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 13.  He was the first justice of the peace of Allen Township and served continuously from 1850 to 1880.  George Ensminger settled on the east half of the southeast corner of Section 12 and the following year he and John Trout laid out the village of Van Buren, December 28, 1833 on Section 12 and 13 and originally comprised 53 lots surrounding a public square.  This plat extended north to the alley north of John Smith’s home east to the alley between the properties of Mrs. Mary Carr and Madison Cramer and south to a line between John Poole’s and the Dilts properties.  The town was named in honor of Martin Van Buren who at that time was one of the eminent public men of the nation.  It was incorporated in June 1866.  Among the early settlers was David Dorsey who came from Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1833 and settled near the site of Van Buren.  He reared a family of seven children.  Allen Dorsey was the first white child born in this section.  A sister, Cordelia, was the mother of Miss Emma Adams.  Cyrus Hart located here in 1836 and Abraham Kempher, John Beeson and Samuel Huntington in 1837, Samuel Spitler in 1840 and Hugh McMurray in 1840.  The Overholt family came here in 1853 and John Cramer in 1859.  The May family came to Van Buren in 1842 and the Frick family came in 1856.  The Mummert family came in 1860.

 

Schools

 

          The first schoolhouse in Allen Township was a small log structure built in 1836 at a location near the Whetstone farm, afterward known as the Thicket school.  It was built of round logs covered with a clapboard roof, had greased paper windows and a huge fireplace at one end.

          Mrs. DeBouver then used the first schoolhouse in Van Buren as a dwelling.  At this school, Peter May, L. M. Cramer, Richard Crawford, Elizabeth Crawford-Wise, Cyrena Bushong-Baker, J. B. Bushong, Ermma Bushong, Ola Mummert Gilmore and others learned the three “R’s” taught to the rule of a hickory stick.  Some of the early teachers were Joe Kagy, Sadie Cumerine and Arch Dillinger.

          About 1870 a two-room brick building was built on East Market Street.  This building was later condemned and a four-room school was erected and used till 1917 when the schools of Allen Township were centralized and the present school building was erected.  The school district was later enlarged to take in parts of Cass and Portage Townships.

 

Churches

 

        The two Presbyterian societies, Pleasant Hill and Ebenezer, organized in Portage and Cass Townships respectively united September 1, 1843 as the West Union Church of Van Buren.  They put up a frame church in Van Buren in 1855, which was the first church erected in the Township.  Reverend George Van Eman was the earliest pastor of this congregation.  This church was located on the east side of the railroad.  It was removed to the D. B. Kagy farm where it was utilized as an implement shed.  In 1860-1861, the congregation built a new structure, which was remodeled twice. 

          The Baptist Church in Van Buren was the successor of a society organized on Ten Mill Creek and reorganized in 1855.  The present building in Van Buren is still used today.

          In the winter of 1967-1868, Reverend Peter Flack of Milgrove, assisted by Reverend L. J. Osborn and Reverend Temple, held a meeting in the Presbyterian Church.  The weather was mild up to the first of the year, the roads being hard and dry.  Then came a big snowstorm that made delightful sleighing.  People came in sled loads for miles around to the meetings.  This meeting lasted for eight weeks and resulted in a great revival with 180 conversions and the organization of the United Brethren Church.  The new congregation made plans at once for a new church building.  A lot was purchased and Reverend Flack moved to town and directed the building.

          Most of the labor and material was donated.  Men went to the woods and hewed out the timbers, which were hauled to town by ox teams.  The new church was completed and dedicated in August 1868.  In 1904, during the pastorate of Reverend J. H. Arnold, the church was moved away and the foundation laid which was completed and dedicated on April 9, 1905.

          The German Lutheran and Reformed churches purchased and fitted up the old school building and used it for their services for a number of years but these congregations were disbanded.

 

Lodges

 

          Among the lodges that spread friendship and goodwill are the Knights of Pythias, organized March 5, 1891.  The Pythian Sisters organized in 1907. These two were the only ones that had active memberships.  The Odd Fellows was a strong organization here for a number of years.  They then became affiliated with the Findlay Lodge.  The Rebekahs joined with the North Baltimore Lodge.  The modern Woodmen, the Maccabes and Lady Maccabees flourished for many years but are now extinct. 

 

Post Offices

          The first Post Office in Van Buren was established in 1837 when the mail was carried weekly on horseback between Bellefontaine and Maumee over the old Hull Trace.  Christopher Ensparger was appointed as the first Postmaster.  The present Post Office building was erected in 1927 with money left to the town by the will of Glenna Trout-Day, great- granddaughter of the founder of Van Buren.  Other Postmasters who have held the offices are as follows:  Dr. George Springer, John Zarbaugh, S. M. Heller, C. S. Wilkinson, Lewis Michaels, Dr. E. C. Wells, Daniel Frick, L. J. Hissong, Solomon Zarbaugh, H. C. Hartman, John Lee, Mrs. Elizabeth Wells, E. C. Showman, C. E. Hanna, Charles Roberts, G. S. Brushwood, Frank Van Eman, Arby Barnd and C. A. Alexander.

 

Industries

 

          In the early part of the century, there were many industries in Van Buren.  There was a tannery on the ground where the U. B. Church stood, run by Joe Osthimer.  A cabinet shop and undertaking establishment with John Zarbaugh, Grandfather of Miss Bina McMurray, as proprietor, located where Miss McMurray’s home stood.  Mr. Zarbaugh made the coffins himself and often carried them through the swamps on his shoulder for miles.  When the old building was torn down the rafters in the attic were found full of measuring sticks for coffins with each person’s name on them.

          There was a distillery in Van Buren operated by David Frick on the west bank of the creek north of the bridge.  There were several asheries where potash was made.  Sam Howard operated a brickyard on the east side of the creek, south of the bridge.  The brick for the Presbyterian Church and for the house then owned by O. M. Kilts was made in this yard.

          John Burman built a mill on the creek east of Van Buren.  It was the first built in the township.  The mill was propelled by water and since the creek was so low the mill was not of much benefit.

          Beginning in 1859 Dan Frick and John Cramer owned and operated a steam gristmill on the banks of the creek northeast of the bridge.  Grist was carried to the mill from Bowling Green and all the surrounding territory.  The mill was later dismantled and taken to Fostoria.  On the bank northeast of the gristmill was the sawmill owned by C. Fauble.  It was later owned and operated by Andrew Bushong, father of Mrs. M. R. Hess.  The mill was burned in 1903.  Peter May, Sr. ran a wagon shop.  There was a cooper shop in a log building where Dr. George’s office was.  During the oil boom in 1886-1888, a sucker rod factory was owned and run by Philip Rupert and Adam English, which employed a number of men.  In 1870, Van Buren had a population of 170.  It had two general dry goods and grocery stores, a shoe shop, two blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a steam saw mill, a hotel, a saloon and one physician, Dr. Edward George.

          In the early thirties, a road was surveyed and called the Bellefontaine and Perrysburg Road.  It went through the public square of Van Buren.  This road, which was called Dixie Highway, was at the time and for a number of years a corduroy road.  It was made of logs laid crosswise and covered with dirt.  On either side were deep, open ditches for drainage.  The Ridge Road was laid out in 1932 from Risdon, which is now called Fostoria, to Van Buren. 

          The first train on the T. & O. C. railroad, which was now called the New York Central, was run February 7, 1883 thus opening shipping facilities to the outer world.  Mr. Brown directed the construction of the road.  He and his workmen boarded the train with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hanna, who owned and lived on the farm where O. M. Dilts lived.  The electric line was laid about 1902 and was abandoned in 1931 after 30 years of service. 

          In 1886, following the discovery of oil and gas in Hancock county, Van Buren took a new lease on life.  The great Kagy gas well on what was the D. W. Frick farm drew attention to the town and oil men came in large numbers from the East and Canada.  Some of the individuals who settled in Van Buren were Peter J. Poole, Daniel Hiestand, W. A. MacGeorge, J. C. McFayden, James O’Leary, Philip Rupert, E. S. Gilmore, John Huston, King Huston, John Shaffer, Edward Campbell, P. J. Bronson, James Umpress, S. O. Gretter, Tom Gavin, Tom Wesley, Hugh Holland and a number of others.

          A number of new dwellings were erected among them was a large house on the Shaffer property.  Mr. Hiestand also built the store building occupied by C. W. DeRodes and the Knights of Pythias.  The Toledo Gas Station was erected just east of the railroad, the property being owned now by William Umphress.  Later in 1892 the North Western Gas Station was built one mile east of town and was rebuilt in 1913.  The town was piped for gas in 1886 and wired for electricity in 1913. 

          Van Buren and Allen Township never have faltered nor failed when called upon for defender of the flag.  In all the wars, this township gave fully of her best men.  In the Civil War, many of the pioneers fought for the preservation of the Union, taking all the younger men.  In the Spanish-American war, Van Buren gave its quota.  When war was declared on Germany in 1917, President Wilson asked for volunteers and selective service men.  The young men from Van Buren nobly responded.  Among those from this village who answered the call were Alvin Dove, Elmer MacGeorge, Earl May, Rowell Hartman, Edgar May, Clyde Spitler, Claude Bronson, Vern Scott, Carl Cook, Delbert McAtee, Glen Shaffer, Alfred Clements, Rudy Clements, Wyant Connel, Ross Van Eman, Lester Exley, Ross Kuhlman, Harry Farmer, Fred O’Leary and Marion Stevens, Glen Stough, Joe Knoke and one nurse, Miss Ethel Keeran.

          The women of the village responded to the call of the Red Cross while the boys were abroad and in camp.  The village had a branch of the Red Cross with Mrs. L. B. Corbin as chairman and Ardinelle Pie as secretary.  The organizers were Mrs. W. A. MacGeorge, Mrs. L. M. Cramer, Mrs. P. G. Poole, Miss Bina McMurray and Mrs. S. D. Spitler.  A sewing room was established in the school building with Mrs. L. M. Cramer and Mrs. MacGeorge in charge.  Here the women met and sewed on hospital garments, knitted sweaters, socks and helmets.

          The businessmen were C. W. DeRodes, general merchandize; T. E. Hissong, restaurant; Paul Laurer, restaurant; Hess and Connell, hatchery; M. R. Hess blacksmith; Glen Coons, barber; B. C. Griffith, barber; Tom Tedrow, Service Gas Station; Richard Wright, Linco Gas Station; Gerald Price, gas station and garage.

          In 1933, the population of Van Buren was about 300 people, 80 families.  About three-fourths owned their own homes.