county has a total area of 715 square miles, rolling prairies, farmland, communities, and small towns.
Fairfield is the county seat, and the largest town.
Barnhill (Barnhill Township): By 1881 the village had been mapped including Odell, Main, and Meeks streets going east/west and Franklin, Douglas, and Washington streets going north/south. Near the depot/store were the Farmers Mill, a blacksmith, a restaurant, and additional storehouse. The Baptist and Christian churches were also indicated. The map shows a total of 29 structures in Barnhill village. G.F. Pykiet and Hiram Tucker ran dry goods stores; John W. Meeks and J.T. Purvis were the school teachers; A. Wales, the cooper; and James M. Cox the saw mill owner.
Blue Point (Indian Prairie Township): Platted by 1855, this village had a general store for a while and, perhaps, a blacksmith shop. A school house and a dwelling or two were left after the store moved its stock to Cisne. The 1884 county history says “the town is a thing of the past….”
Cisne (Bedford Township): A “railroad town,” Cisne was created after the Ohio & Mississippi (later the B & O) railroad came through in 1870. The village was named in honor of Levi Cisne. F.A. Kutz built the first house and was the first merchant. The railroad depot was the second building. Shortly there was a blacksmith shop, saw mill, grist mill, post office, school, and Christian church. Methodists moved services from a nearby rural church into the village in the early 1880s. By 1884 Cisne had 3 general stores, 3 groceries, a drug store, hotel, 2 grain buyers, furniture store, blacksmith, wagon shop, and shoemaker.
Enterprise (Elm River Township): The Enterprise post office opened in 1852, indicating the village was established earlier. Businessmen included L.D. Barth, T.J. Mayes, Louis Frehse, and G.W. Rucker. About 1873 the German Albright Evangelical Church was built to serve the many German emigrants. The Baptist Church was built in 1890.
Fairfield was laid out as a town in 1819, on land donated by the Barnhill family. The actual plat was not recorded until 6 years later. The original town essentially covered the blocks around the courthouse square with business activity extending to First Street. Fairfield has its own page, here.
Golden Gate (Leech Township): Golden Gate was established on Leach family land after the railroad came through in the early 1880s. By the early 1900s the village had a population of about 500. The town grew into “one of the best small business places along the Southern Railway” during the early 1920s through the 1940s. Shortly after it was platted it had a hardware store, drug store, furniture store, car sales, undertaker, and lumber yard. The Carey Stave Mill was operated near the village and a hickory factory within it. The George Leach Brick and Tile Factory were in business as well.
Jeffersonville (Lamard Township): Jasper Branch’s land was surveyed for this village in 1853; J.S. Rinard opened a general store and bought furs for resale. Initially, the village had three buildings. Shortly there was a post office, D.C. Porter’s blacksmith shop, and a school held in a residence. A Christian church was the village’s first; the Methodists built in 1879. The town incorporated on April 1, 1869 and gained a depot in the 1870s. The railroad required the depot name to be “Geff” to avoid confusion with Jeffersonville, Indiana. By the 1880s, there were 2 general stores, 2 groceries, a drug store, wagon shop, 2 blacksmiths, 4 millers, a millinery store, furniture store, shoemaker, 4 carpenters, a livery stable, boarding houses, and a “short-lived” saloon. Jacquelyn Willett Rapp ran a general store and was one of the first women to run her own business in the area. The Jeffersonville school was a frame, two-story building, later replaced about 1915 by the current “old section” of the Geff Grade School. For several years, Geff had a high school as well, offering two or three years of secondary education and fielding a basketball team.
Johnsonville (Indian Prairie Township): Platted in 1855, Johnsonville began with a single log building, T.P. Alvis’ store, followed by Wiley Galbraith’s store room. The post office began in 1857. The only church in the village was the Methodist which began in 1855. By 1884 the village had 3 general stores, a blacksmith, cabinet makers, harness shop, carpenter, 2 physicians, stove and tin ware dealer, shoemaker, barber, millinery, and a hotel. The railroad route through the county bypassed Johnsonville in the 1870s; this limited its growth.
Keen Station or Keenes (Four Mile Township): three miles west of Wayne City, this little burg in 1884 had 2 general stores, a grocery, a school, grist mill, 2 saw mills, and a Missionary Baptist church.
Mount Erie (Mt. Erie Township): Established by Alexander Ramsey in 1818 on a hill “covered with nice large white oak trees and a nice large spring of pure water,” Mt. Erie was platted in 1853; the post office opened in 1856. William Copley’s house and store were the first buildings. Ramsey operated a horse mill from 1825 to 1840; James Bradshaw opened a mill. With steam conversion, that business eventually became the Gem Mills. Early stores included Crews’ general store, Holly and Mayo’s store, Israel’s harness, Carson and Bradshaw’s hardware and blacksmith shops, a millinery, and physicians. The Methodist church organized in 1839, the Presbyterians in 1856, followed by United Brethren, the Christian congregation (1912), the Nazarene Church (1944,) and the Pentecostal (1945). The first school began in 1866, replaced by a four-room building in 1904, and a brick building in 1954. For several years, Mt. Erie also had a two-year high school.
New Massillon (Massillon Township): After flood problems, “old” Massillon village with its water-powered mill was supplanted in 1843 by “New Massillon” with additions platted in 1849 and 1850. The village flourished and competed economically with Fairfield. By 1854 the population reached 60 families. Harris & Vandaveer, Dr. W.H. Camp, and Ed Wiley each ran a general store. In addition, there was a tan yard, cooper shop, blacksmith, saw mill, and, until 1855, a toll bridge across the river. Pork and produce was shipped on flatboats from New Massillon to New Orleans, Louisiana. The village faded as Mt. Erie grew.
Orchardville or Aid (old Brush Creek Township, later Garden Hill and Orchard): Settlers were in the area for more than two decades before the village formed about 1870. Frank Dunlap owned the first store; a Harris store opened next. Jacob’s Chapel (named after settler Jacob Feathers) began in a log structure; the Needmore Church located to the west. The village’s original name was Aid. A block-long business district included a two-room school, church, barber shop, undertaking parlor, restaurant, and real estate agency as well as a town hall, two original stores and 2 doctor’s offices (Vera Henson,1956)
Rinard (Bedford Township): Fairfield banker and merchant Ed Bonham owned the land that became Rinard. This railroad village, surveyed in 1870, was created for a side track in order to ship trainloads of oats. The town was named after Bonham’s business partner, Adam Rinard. D.F. and B.J. Chaney built the first structure, followed by a depot. A brick Presbyterian Church, erected in 1873, was sold later to the Methodists. In 1884 Rinard’s population was around 80 and the business census included two general stores, two blacksmiths, a shoe maker, millinery, grain dealer, and physician.
Sims--also Simms or Arrington (Arrington Township): Surveyed on land owned by John Simms, this village began about 1882 along the east/west Airline (Southern) Railroad. The burg had two general stores in the 1880s.
Wayne City (Four Mile Township): This village on the old Air Line (Southern) Railroad incorporated in 1882. J.B. Scudamore was the first merchant and postmaster. Other early merchants included John Chandler, Augustus Smith, the Reid brothers, John Tyler, Charles Jacobson, L. Knowles, and three doctors: Garrison, Bristow, and Branson. (As early as 1837 Maulding Mill operated; it was the local post office in 1871.) The arrival of the Air Line (later called the Southern Railroad) invigorated the small settlement. Red top seed, poultry, milling, and other small industries flourished. In the early 1920s, a branch of Sexton Manufacturing operated; the factory existed into the 1950s. Early businesses included the First National Bank (1902), DeWitt Lumber Company (1900), and Ira Holman Jewelry (1909). Soybeans became the main local crop; the town is celebrated as the “Bean Capital of Little Egypt”.
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