Cedarville Township was not established until Dec. 6, 1850. The 23,000 acre territory was taken from portions of Xenia, Miami and Ross Townships and lies totally within the Virginia Military District. This was the first township to be created with irregular boundary lines.
Some of the residents of Ross Township objected to losing some of their land to the new township, but the Greene County Commissioners had directed the new township to select three trustees, a clerk and a treasurer at a general election so the new township had officials when it was established.
John and Thomas Townsley were the first settlers in the area in 1801. Before the settlers moved to this area, it was occupied by what today are known as Mound Builders, those pre-historic Indians who constructed a number of mounds throughout the county.
One of the larger man made mounds in Ohio lies in Cedarville Township. This structure, made by the Adena around 3,000 years ago is known as the Williamson Mound. Located nearby is the Pollack Earth Works which was apparently constructed by the Hopewells.
The Village of Cedarville was established in 1816, but at that time was called Milledgeville. In 1834, the residents decided to change the name to Cedarville, in honor of the many red cedar trees which were near the cliffs. The village lies near the center of the township where two state highways intersect US Routes 68 and 72.
Other communities in the township include Bakertown, about half-mile West of Cedarville, Frogtown, Pittsburgh and Macedonia are all areas located within the Cedarville limits.
The first Cedarville Opera House was constructed in 1886, but destroyed by fire within the first year. Whitelaw Reid brought plans from England for the present Opera House which was constructed in 1888. The present building is a one-third scale model of the Royal Albert Hall located in London. The Opera House has been restored to its original beauty and remains an important feature.
In 1879, the General synod from the Reformed Presbyterian Church desired to establish a Liberal Arts College in Cedarville. A bequest of $25,000 in 1886 made it possible to open The Cedarville College in 1877. Later the college was purchased by the Baptist Church and remains under that direction. Today it is known as Cedarville University.
Whitelaw Reid was raised in Cedarville Township. He was a writer who was known for his coverage as a reporter of the Civil War. Later he became the editor of the New York Tribune. He was selected to be the United States Ambassador to Great Britain. He loved and respected by the British people, that upon his death they formed a long line as his casket passed by on the way to the ship which brought his body back to this country. He is buried in New York. His home is still standing in the township.
Cedarville regularly celebrates Labor Day with a festival because the father of Labor Day was Cedarville native Senator James H. Kyle. Cedarville Township can certainly boast of many individuals who lived there at one time or another. Hal Reid, born in 1862, was an author who wrote “dime” novels. He also wrote 117 plays which were performed on the stage. Another author who was well-known in his time was Wilbur D. Nesbitt.
Eleanor Parker was an actress who grew up in Cedarville, where he father was superintendent of schools. Though her parents were not completely happy with her choice of careers. She starred in several moves including “The Sound of Music” where she portrayed the Duchess.
For several years, the Cedarville Herald brought local news to the residents, and a stock yard was a major business in the middle 19th century. Harold Strobridge who was very knowledgeable about Cedarville history told the story that a shipment of whiskey arrived at the train station and was taken to a shed at the station. The building floor was several feet off the ground, so several fellows went to the station, crawled under the floor and drilled holes into the floor of the station along with the whiskey barrels.
Cedarville is known for its beautiful stone arch bridges, and if you visit the cemetery, one of the first sights is the Harper mausoleum. It is quite large with two sphinxes on either side of the steps leading to the door. That same cemetery has a Civil War Memorial “Dedicated to the memory of our heroes 1861-1865 GAR.”
George Day was was just a lad he bested a traveling strong man in a contest. Later he went on to travel with the circus, lifting as much as 1,500 pounds with a harness. His favorite stunt was to lift a barrel full of water with two heavy men astride — a total of over 600 pounds with his teeth. After he retired from the circus, he opened a movie theater in Xenia, charging 5 cents for each admission.
Of course, one of the most famous feats took place over the gorge. Cornelius Darnell had been captured and held at Old Chillicothe by the Shawnee Indians. He escaped and traveled north, where he thought he would be lease likely to be found, but the Indians took chase, and he found himself by the gorge. His choice was to be killed for running away, or attempt the leap across the gorge. He made the leap successfully, went back to Kentucky to share his adventure.
Joan Baxter is a resident and long-time historical columnist.