Worthington at Mid Century

When the United States conducted its first census of every individual by name in 1850, it provided a fascinating glimpse of Worthington as it approached its fiftieth anniversary. The Scioto Company pioneers were mostly deceased. James Kilbourne, who had surveyed the village in 1803, served as its first mayor when it was incorporated in 1835, and influenced every issue of importance in the young settlement's development, had died April 24th.

Worthington had missed becoming the state capital, or even a thriving metropolis, but it was a well-equipped market town for the rich Sharon Township farm community. The 983 inhabitants of the township were almost evenly divided between the village and the surrounding township.

Despite its original sixteen block survey, the village at mid century was still linear, with homes and businesses concentrated along the north-south road from Columbus to Delaware. This road had been improved by the Worthington Plank Road Company as a toll road, and Lewis Johnson operated the only tollgate in the township, just south of the Delaware County line.

The elected officials of the village were mayor Stephen Hoyt; recorder J. M. Hart; trustees William Bishop, Sidney Brown, James Brundige, Flavel Tuller, and Potter Wright; treasurer James Scanland; marshall J. D. Tuller; street commissioner George Bishop; and fire wardens A. Mattoon and E. Lewis. The federally appointed postmaster was George Taylor.

The variety of occupations in a 19th century village is most interesting. Peter Goble, Swasey Hoit, Jedediah Lewis, W.G. Norton, and John Parmelee identified themselves as doctors. Arius Kilbourne was the only dentist.

James Stickney was the only identified school teacher, and a blind man named George Coming was music teacher. Shiley Porter was superintendent of the female seminary where thirty-two girls from twelve to eighteen years of age were in residence. Five ministers were enumerated: F. K. Nash, Episcopal; Jacob Weaver, German Reformed; and James Gilruth, James Porter, and Horace Sunderland, all were identified as Methodist.

Six men described themselves as merchants: Sidney Brown, Samuel Fay, John Snow, Flavel Tuller, Homer Tuller, and Potter Wright. Several employed young men as clerks. William Morse and William Youell described themselves as peddlers, and Totham Clark specialized as a clock peddler.

The most numerous skilled tradesmen were: seven blacksmiths Othinel Jewett, Ansel Mattoon, Charles Martin, Isaac Martin, Berger Morgan, Nicholas Morgan, and Levi Pinney; five wagon makers Isaac Brush, Henry Booth, James Skanlon, Robert Vose, and Almon Woods; five coopers B. F. Case, George Girkey, John Keltner, Thomas Perkins, and James Taylor. All of these skills are nearly obsolete in the 20th century.

Hiram Andrews and Lyman Cook were distillers, Daniel Short and John Walker cabinetmakers, John Budge a potter, Joseph Needles a weaver, Samuel Black a basket maker, and Gabriel Bishop a saddler.

The village was experiencing very little growth and new construction at this time, but Samuel Lyman was identified as a stonemason, Joseph Genry as a house joiner, Elias Lewis, Jr. as a plasterer, Elias Lewis and William McFarland as brick masons, William Crane, John Smily, P. Muzzy, Joel Slate, and John Tuller as carpenters.

The town had four tailors Stephen Peck, Isaac Thompson, Salmon Wilcox, and Charles Wiley; one barber William Yard; and three shoemakers G. W. Hill, Merrick Star, and Joel Welling.

One hundred and thirty-six men in the village and township described themselves simply as laborers, but others were specific. Jonathan Tuller was identified as a drover, Daniel Bump as a teamster, and Absalom Walker as a butcher.

A significant contribution to this labor force was the construction of a railroad between Columbus and Cleveland which was occurring just east of town. Thomas Daniels identified himself as a civil engineer, and John Hart and Christopher Tones as railroad contractors. Three households recorded twelve, fifteen, and eighteen, railroad laborers respectively, primarily men born in Ireland. Kitty Clanahan and Pyrena Pitkin appear to be the unrecognized heroines who cooked for these crews.

As with the Ohio Canal and the National Road, the peaceful village of Worthington was again being bypassed by the transportation boom. The first passenger train from Columbus on February 20, 1850 launched service southwest to Xenia and thence to Cincinnati with much fanfare. The closest station to Worthington, for the line to Cleveland, was being built at Flint, where the construction crews were developing their own community.

In Worthington three men identified themselves as landlords James Brundige, Uriah Beers, and James Wilson. It is clear from the persons enumerated in these households that all were boarding houses for workers rather than hotels for travelers.

Well-known innkeepers such as George Griswold and William Bishop identified themselves in the census as farmers, perhaps accurately reflecting the fact that their rented farmland was their primary source of income. Farming was, in fact, the primary occupation in the township with one hundred eighty-seven persons identifying themselves as farmers. Some of these were sizable operations. Buckley Comstock's household included his wife and six children, nine male laborers, and two female laborers, and his real estate was valued at $12,000.00.

This was a substantial real estate holding, but less than Rodney Comstock's $14,000, G. H. Griswold's $15,000, Homer Tuller's $19,000, Flavel Tuller's $22,000, Orange Johnson's $26,750, James Gilruth's $40,000, or Potter Wright's $44,860. Then as now, real estate constituted a major source of wealth.

Worthington had long since changed from the homogeneous New England village of the Scioto Company pioneers. Many of the leading citizens were migrants from the east, but far more diverse than the pioneers. Potter Wright came from Rhode Island, Ansel Mattoon and Stephen Hoyt from Vermont, William Bishop, Shiley Porter, and Ozem Gardner from New York, and James Brundige from Virginia.

Because of its well-known distaste for slavery, the Worthington area had attracted twenty-five black or mulatto residents by the decade preceding the Civil War. Most of these households were headed by native Virginians who undoubtedly had slave ancestry. Some, like Henry Carter, Benjamin Lee, and John Lee, had been living in Worthington for twenty years or more. Henry and Dolly Turk were able to purchase the town lot on which their home was located with the aid of white friends.

Worthington in the middle of the 19th century was in many ways a self-sufficient market town for the surrounding rural area. The few occupations it lacked, such as bankers and lawyers, were a reflection of the fact that Columbus, the county seat and state capital, was only ten miles south. Industrial and commercial development was passing Worthington by, and allowing remnants of the early New England village to survive.

 

SOURCES:

The 1850 U.S. Census for Franklin County, Sharon Township is on M432, roll 680, pp. 17-34, Ohio Historical Society. Census takers recorded the information they were given by the occupant of the households. Users should realize that this information contains errors and omissions. One should be most cautious, for example, in using estimated values of real estate holdings.

Village officials in 1850 are taken from General Ordinances of the Village of Worthington, 0. in force March 15, 1885 (Columbus: Gazette Printing house, 1885) p. 33.

This article is one of a series of 31 articles originally published in the Worthington News and then in the book "Probing Worthington's Heritage" copyright by Robert and Jennie McCormick. The 1990 book is out of print, but copies are available at the libraries of the Worthington Historical Society and the Old Worthington Library. Much of this content was later included in the book "New Englanders on the Ohio Frontier" which can be purchased at The Shop at the Old Rectory.

 

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