Founding of Twinsburg

Ethan Alling left for Ohio with three hired men, Zeri Alling, Rodolphus (called Tom) Wolcott and Lex Johnson on March 3, 1817. A sawmill was built in 1817 and a gristmill was built in 1818. In 1818, a frame barn and part of a frame house were also built. Joel N. Thompson ran a distillery in 1821.

In July 1817, Ezra Osborn arrived and settled in the western part of the township. She had “the distinction of being the first woman to be a settler in the town.”

Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, first published in 1923, is as an iconic part of newspaper comics as perhaps any strip which has ever been published. Over the years Ripley’s has grown to more than 100,000 cartoon panels with a peak readership of 80 million people a day.

Why does this matter to Twinsburg? Because our small region has appeared in a Ripley’s panel on three separate occasions.

The first was published on December 26, 1962. It featured Moses and Aaron Wilcox, not just because they were Twinsburg first twins, but because of how similar their lives were. Many people remember this particular cartoon panel plastered on the walls of Twinsburg’s classrooms in the 1960s.

The second, published on December 12, 1993, celebrated the Twins Day Parade and the over 3,000 sets of twins who register for the event.

Finally, on August 14, 2003, Ripley’s told the tale of Mark Blumenthal’s Irish Water Spaniel Spencer. It seems Blumenthal had trained Spencer to clear the table, load the dishwasher, climb ladders and fetch drinks from the refrigerator. A lot of parents were probably jealous of Blumenthal.

Ripley’s celebrates some of the most unique aspects of America, and because of that it makes perfect sense Twinsburg has appeared in Believe It or Not! more often than areas easily twice its size. Just another reason for our region to be proud of its history.

Mount Olive Baptist Church

Mount Olive Baptist Missionary Church has enthusiastically been serving the spiritual needs of the Twinsburg Heights community for over 85 years. Within the three communities only the Twinsburg Congregational Church has a longer continuous history.

Not long after the Heights was established as an African American community within Twinsburg, a small group of residents met to form what would eventually become Mount Olive Baptist Church.

The small group, meeting in the home of John and Emma Mckinney, first organized themselves on May 25, 1932. The group included the Mckinneys, Hiram and Betty Studevant, Louise and Blanch McDonald, acting secretary Christine Golden and Rev. Wilder, who served as the initial chairman.

The congregation held their services in the Mckinney’s home until April 16. 1933 when they relocated to The Church of God in Christ on Eaton Street, where they continued to meet for the next year.

In 1933 though, Charles Brady of the Ravenna Building Co and the developer of Twinsburg Heights, had promised a church to the first minister who purchased a home in the development. Rev. John Ribbins, previously of Cleveland, purchased a home in early 1934 and was awarded a lot on the current church site at the corner of Oxford and Yale. Ribbins’ house, after several remodels, still stands.

Pastor Ribbins capitalized on the standing offer from Charles Brady of the Ravenna Building Company to provide land for a church to the first minister to purchase a house in the Heights.

The men of the community dug and built a basement for the church, volunteering their free labor during the W.P.A. era. On the fourth Sunday in April of 1934, the congregation marched from The Church of God in Christ to the new church and held services their for the first time. The church consisted only of a basement, which would be the congregation’s home for the next three years. And while it has continued to grow over the years, both spiritually and physically, The Church of God in Christ structure no longer exists.

In the spring of 1937 the membership started work on the framework for what was to become the upper sanctuary. It was completed by that winter. In the subsequent years a pulpit area and a choir loft were also added. In 1970 though a major renovation occurred when a front room, church office, choir room, restrooms and a pastor’s study were added.

Mt. Olive, currently led my the Rev. Wallace Thomas, continues to serve the Twinsburg Heights community. The Heights has always been well served by its churches, with six congregations currently residing within the community, but Mt. Olive is the originator.

For more information, check out Mt. Olive’s website.

Twinsburg Historical Society, 1963

Civic-minded residents decided to start the Twinsburg Historical Society (THS) in 1963 in order to preserve and promote local history. To be a member of the THS originally an individual had to live in Twinsburg for a specified duration of time, but there are no longer such strict restrictions on membership. The original members of the THS were Marjorie Percy, Larry Richner, John L. Eggleston, Fred Bissell, Marian Jewell, Jean E. Zahniser, M. Leland Zahniser, Carl Herrick, and Sarah M. Riley. Original member and former president Marge Percy recalled: “The Historical Society began with a building, a charter, a board with enthusiastic volunteers, a shabby barn in great need of repair, and an empty treasury.”

The THS has a substantial collection of papers, photographs, maps, books, and various vital artifacts pertaining to local history. They are also responsible for staging events such as the Olde Thyme Faire, at which youngsters can view how their forefathers lived and actively participate in an outmoded way of life as well.

The structure that is now the THS building was built in 1865 by the Reverend Samuel Bissell, almost exclusively with his own hands. The Bissell Institute, established and run by the Reverend Bissell until his death in 1896, was housed in this building. In the course of his tenure more than six thousand students received an education, regardless of their ability to pay. In 1920 the Twinsburg Grange purchased the building, retaining ownership until 1963, when it was sold to the THS. The second story was removed when the building started to settle, rendering it unsafe due to the weight of the stones. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The First Congregational Church

Like a boulder that withstands the flow of a rushing river, the First Congregational of Twinsburg has remained unmoved, in spite of time and transformation. A house of worship, it has stood through the ages, a silent witness to generations of parishioners and the coming and going of reverends, as well as periodic renovation and expansion.

Twinsburg’s oldest church during a long ago Christmas season.

The origins and essence of the church predate its physical embodiment. The first assembly coalesced in August of 1822. Though small in number, the thirteen founding members formed a cohesive community, united in their belief in a higher power. The work and worship they dedicated themselves to began within the walls of a small log structure in close proximity to Public Square. The church standing today owes its construction and craftsmanship to the skilled laborers who completed the structure in the autumn of 1848.

Over its nearly two centuries of service, numerous leaders would guide the flock; schisms fractured the congregation and time brought them together again. The street it stood along, Church Street, was named for its houses of prayer, though Congregational Church would eventually stand alone, much as it was when it began its life. Of all the reverends to serve, Dewey Long held the distinction of serving the longest, doing so from 1972 to 1991. It was during his tenure that in 1974 the National Register of Historic Places bestowed a place within its ranks on the church, recognizing its longevity and importance to the community. Patricia Jefferis, the first woman to shepherd the flock, arrived in 1998.

For more information, visit the First Congregational Church website here.

Military Personnel Killed In Action

To find the center of American patriotism, the heart of valor, you need look no further than the faces and names engraved on the monuments and markers of Public Square. Heroic deeds and the horrors endured mingle in the mind of each individual who contemplates those who fell fighting for an ideal bigger than themselves. Time may pass, but the names remain. Each of the individuals below gave his life protecting that which they loved, and each had a family that suffered an incomprehensible loss.

Civil War

Edward Bissell
John E. Carter
Walter C. Chamberlain
Henry Crocker
Dryden Ferguson
George W. Gaylord
Edwin R. Hanks
George W. Hanks
John Hansard
William Hansard
Joseph G.Hawkins
Elmore Hinkston
Anderson Oviatt
George E. Pease
Louis Shroeder
Charles H. Springer
Charles H. Stearns
Eli Thompson
Warren I. Wait
Charles B. Weatherby
Samuel B. Vail

World War I
Orland Bishop

World War II
Herbert Gill
Paul Bennett
Fred Staedtler
Bert Buganski

Vietnam War
Patrick Mortus
Alvin Robertson
Donald Malicek

Cost of Freedom, 2015

Like so many family-oriented, close-knit communities, the three communities are proudly patriotic. Twinsburg is the perfect locale for hosting an event honoring our veterans and safety services. In September 2012, a postcard was delivered to the Twinsburg Historical Society from a company in Texas promoting the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall. The letter was passed along to Commander Joe Jasany, who immediately broached the idea of bringing the tribute to his fellow members of the 4929. In December of 2012, the Texas company provided information, including the cost of the exhibit, to Commander Joe. The cost for bringing the wall to Twinsburg was $16,000, an amount Post 4929 wasn’t even close to possessing, so Jasany went before City Council to ask for funding. The Council agreed without a second of hesitation to donate $5,000. In quick succession the Township and Reminderville gave $6,000 and $5,000, respectively, effectively paying for the wall.

There was still a great deal of funding needed for security, construction of a replica Vietnamese village, and a variety of other expenses. The Cost of Freedom Fundraising Committee held approximately fifteen fundraising events to raise funds for the event. In fact, so much money was raised ($88,000 overall) that a surplus was accrued and given to veterans in need.

From July 1 to July 5, 2015, Twinsburg’s VFW Post 4929 presented the Cost of Freedom Tribute event. According to the City of Twinsburg website, “The Cost of Freedom Tribute is a one of a kind outdoor tribute depicting honor, respect and remembrance of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. The mission of the traveling tribute is to create a forum for communities to come together for all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country and to educate all to the cost of freedom. The AVTT, or American Veterans Traveling Tribute, travels the USA bringing this traveling tribute to as many communities as possible.” The event featured much more than just the tribute wall. There were exhibits from every era, including a 9/11 exhibit built entirely by a retired firefighter from Macedonia.

Somewhere in the vicinity of sixteen to twenty thousand patrons visited the wall during the holiday weekend it was displayed in Twinsburg. It was open twenty-four hours a day with clergy stationed in a comfort tent the entire duration of the event. The majority of veterans visited the tribute in the cover of the darkest and most desolate hours of the evening and morning. The experience was too emotional and personal for them to share with the public. A couple of videos were produced to commemorate the event, one produced by Cable 9, the other created by a local high school student.

Tinkers Creek

Tinkers Creek, named after Captain Joseph Tinker—the chief boatsman in Moses Cleveland’s survey crew, is the largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River, gathering water from 13 sub-watersheds in 4 counties. The creek flows through Summit (including the Township and City), Portage, Geauga, and Cuyahoga counties.

In June 2006, trace amounts of antibiotics, prescription and nonprescription pharmaceuticals, personal-care products and household and industrial chemicals were found all along Tinkers Creek, but luckily in the years proceeding there has been a concerted effort to remedy this environmental crime.  According to Twinsburg Naturalist, Stanley Stine: “Tinkers Creek…we’re doing our best (everybody’s doing their best) to clean it up. And someday I’m hoping it’s the Creek that the ancestors of Twinsburg enjoyed, being clean. It’s showing signs of improvement. We have a river otter in it, too many beaver in it, water ducks, the eagles hunt over it when the rivers are frozen over with ice because the creek coming out of seven different waste water treatment plants along its length tends not to freeze because of the warmth of the water being in a building and being cleaned and deposited outside.”

Mail Pouch Tobacco Mural

An advertisement of sorts occupies the north-facing side of the old red barn sitting along Darrow Road just south of the town square: chew mail pouch tobacco; treat yourself to the best. The three-story barn next to the Twinsburg Historical Society has stood on that lot since 1870, when it was built for Dr. Seth Freeman, as a home for the horses and wagon he used when making house calls.

The old Freeman barn adjacent to the Twinsburg Historical Society receives a fresh coat of paint.

The old Freeman barn adjacent to the Twinsburg Historical Society receives a fresh coat of paint.

The sign, a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era, was painted in the fall of 1987 by Harley Warrick. According to Marge Percy, one-time president of the Twinsburg Historical society:

“Here is how the project began. At the meeting of the society, I shared a column by Frances Murphy of [the] Akron Beacon [Journal], where she described Mr. Warrick and his work and how to reach him. I received a unanimous OK to proceed with the project. I called Mr. Warrick, who lived in West Virginia. He agreed to the project, but before he presented the idea to his boss, the society had to fulfill a list of criteria which was…

1. Written consent for such a project had to be given by the mayor and council of the town and township.

2. The sign had to be visible from a major highway.

3. The sign had to be a reasonable distance from any bar or liquor store.

Though he was never a household name, Mr. Warrick’s artistry and advertisements have been seen by countless drivers and passengers along America’s highways and byways. Twinsburg’s very own mural was a labor of love that took the better part of twelve hours to complete. The craft honed by Warrick and the career he was devoted to spanned more than fifty years and more than twenty thousand barns. His initials, a humble “H.W.,” are painted at the lower left corner of the mural.

Educational Facilities

The pages of history record and recall stories and statistics of the earliest schoolhouses to dot the countryside, these antiquated institutes of learning were long vacant by the time the first truly modern school came into being. While the first centralized school brought all the students under one roof, it was the “Old School” that many remember so fondly.

The source of countless lessons learned and friendships forged, the old schoolhouse located just off the town square served the area’s children for nearly seventy-five years. Welcoming its first students in the fall of 1921, the two-story red brick schoolhouse was a replacement for the older, whitewashed building that once stood behind it. Games were won and lost, field trips were taken, and countless bells rang, signaling the end of one period and the beginning of another. For more than thirty years, the school served all grades from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The edifice, now vacant, evolved in numerous ways after closing its doors in 1992, including its utilization by Kent State University. Congressman Steven LaTourette used the space while campaigning, it was the first location of the Twinsburg Senior Center, and at one point a proposal to transform it into a perambulator museum was bounced around.

Exterior of vacant school building taken April 26, 2016.

Exterior of vacant school building taken April 26, 2016.

All of Twinsburg’s current educational facilities except the new high school and the Kent State University Regional Academic Center were constructed in the mid-twentieth century, a time rampant with civil unrest and racial tensions. For those who attended area schools during this time, race relations were present, though subdued in comparison to other areas of the country. As is the case with most things though, time’s passage washed away much of the tension, as new students, new initiatives, and new administration came and went. As our world grows increasing diverse, so too does the student body. Individuals from all corners of the world converge amid the lockers and lunch tables, mirroring the melding of ethnicities, nationalities, ideologies, and opinions that occurs on the web on a daily basis. Today, most school-age students from the three communities attend school in one of five facilities:

  • Wilcox Primary (kindergarten through first grade)
  • Samuel Bissell (second and third grade)
  • George G. Dodge (fourth through sixth grade)
  • R. B. Chamberlin (seventh and eighth grade)
  • Twinsburg High (ninth through twelfth grade)

The newest addition to Twinsburg’s educational landscape is Kent State’s Regional Academic Center. It offers a less expensive alternative for college students from both Twinsburg and neighboring cities such as Oakwood and Bedford. The building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified as a “green” building. Kent State University has had a presence in Twinsburg since 1991, when it began offering training and education to employees at the Chrysler stamping plant.

Locust Grove Cemetery

Amidst the locust trees that canopy these burial grounds reside the final resting places of many prominent locals and founders. Weathered headstones of granite, sandstone, and embrittled metal dot the rolling hillside, recording biographical information, epitaphs, and the last messages of individuals including Reverend Samuel Bissell, Ethan Alling, and both Wilcox twins: a veritable who’s who of Twinsburg royalty.

The sandstone vault standing sentry at the entrance was born out of necessity, as the earth proved too difficult to hollow during the winter for the recently deceased. Bodies would lie there in waiting until the biting cold of winter receded and the ground thawed. Eventually, the need it once served waned, and it took on a more historic role in the community. In 1997, the edifice and its 138 tons of locally quarried stone were shifted to make way for land redevelopment, squeezing and confining the hallowed grounds to their current configuration.

Photo courtesy of Kieth A. Peppers

Photo courtesy of Kieth A. Peppers

As for the rest of the cemetery, Locust Grove has played host to activities including historical reenactments portraying prominent figures from the past. As autumn approaches and the leaves change, local reenactors converge on the site once again to the delight of spectators as they provide lantern-lit tours, weaving well-known stories for the groups wandering among the gravestones.

Courtesy of Kieth A. Peppers

Courtesy of Kieth A. Peppers