Twinsburg & The Civil War

Like other cities at the time, Twinsburg finds itself amidst the beginning of the Civil War.

There were 120 documented volunteers from Twinsburg who enlisted with various regiments, including:

  • 1st Regimental Iowa Volunteer Infantry
  • 1st Regimental Michigan Volunteer Infantry
  • 1st Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 2nd Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
  • 6th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 7th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 7th U.S Regulars
  • 9th Independent Battery, Ohio Light Artillery
  • 10th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 13th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 17th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 18th Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
  • 19th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 20th Independent Battery, Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
  • 21st Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 23rd Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 24th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry
  • 30th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 41st Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 49th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 84th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 85th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 103rd Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 104th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 105th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 115th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 125th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 150th Regiment, O.V.I.
  • 177th Regiment, O.V.I.

Note: O.V.I. is the abbreviation for Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

For further reading on Twinsburg’s soldiers during the Civil War, look for Beyond the Monument: The Civil War Soldiers of Twinsburg, Ohio written by Veronica Hughes, published in 2017.

Corrigenda (Corrections to Published Book)

Page 16 “and its police, fire, and EMS services are outsourced to Twinsburg.” Police services for the Township are provided by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

Page 38 Bowen’s Garage, Twinsburg’s first fire station, on the southeast corner of 82 and 91 from 1929 to 1939.

Page 42 The Township Police Department was disbanded in 1998. Demetrius R. Maccannon is the correct spelling of the sergeant’s name.

Page 45 Betty Tomko’s tenure with the Fire Dept. was five years.

Page 68 The article discussing the Great Expectations did include the fact that Janeen Webb was the originator of “The Great Expectations” (1978-1989), and coined the groups name, “Great Expectations.”

Page 88 “the organization has steadily grown and now boasts 265 members.

Page 88-As of 3/14/2017, there are approximately 450 businesses in the three communities.

Page 88. “the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce also serves businesses in neighboring communities such as [Shaker Heights] Hudson and the Greater Cleveland area

Page 92. the photo next to the story of Gaskins Tavern is that of “Willies” not Dooley’s Tavern nor of Gaskins as credited. (Correction courtesy of Madelon Curtis)

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.

Creation of Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce

No organization binds the three communities and their businesses together more than the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce. Founded in 1921 with a mere dozen members, the organization has steadily grown and now boasts over 260, according to Abby Fechter, executive director of the Chamber. There are approximately four hundred businesses in Twinsburg, the Township, and Reminderville, with over half belonging to the Chamber of Commerce (there are more than 260 active members as of 2018). Though the main focus is on businesses located in the three communities and on drawing new industry to those areas, the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce also serves businesses in neighboring cities such as Shaker Heights and Hudson.

The Chamber’s mission is “to promote the interests of its members, strengthen the local economy and advance educational, tourism and community development programs that contribute to making the Greater Twinsburg area a better place to work, visit and live.” Educational programming is determined by the member’s needs and wants. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed, members asked for and received a program on how the new plan would affect their business and their employees. Programming is tailored toward different types of businesses to assure every company is accommodated.

Area Police Departments

Glenn R. Osborn, the first police chief in Twinsburg, is reported to have said: “It has always been my firm conviction that there is no more certain barrier to crime than efficient local policing supported by an enlightened, cooperative citizenry. Community respect and assistance are so vital to the success of law enforcement [and] are achieved only through unified police and public effort.” One need look no further than the three communities to find the truth in this statement.

Prior to splitting into three separate entities, the three communities were policed by the Twinsburg Township constables. Twinsburg in the early years of policing has been compared to Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. It was a rural farm town where almost everyone knew everyone else and crime was a rarity.

 

Twinsburg Constable force in the early 1950s before the Village and Township split.

 

When the City of Twinsburg split from the Township and started its own police department on March 4, 1955, Glenn R. Osborn was named police chief for the newly formed Twinsburg Police Department. Osborn and patrolman Otto Clarvat were the first two full-time officers for the Twinsburg PD. In the beginning, Osborn’s wife was in charge of all dispatches for the PD and volunteer fire department. She did this from the Osborns’ house with the use of five telephones.

Osborn was progressive in his approach to policing. Current police chief Chris Noga, who also acts as unofficial Twinsburg PD historian, has commented, “He embraced the concept of the police radio and brought those in. He was one of the first users of the police computer, that system where we can query and find out information on license plates, and driver’s licenses . . . does this person have a warrant out for their arrest.” He also served as the president of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police. Possibly his most important contribution was lobbying for the pension system for police officers and firefighters that now greatly benefits those who serve.

 

Osborne sitting in police cruiser.

Reminderville also would form its own police department, but until recently it lacked many of the advantages afforded the Twinsburg PD. When current Reminderville mayor Sam Alonso first took office, he recalls, village police officers were making well under ten dollars an hour. A number of the officers were enrolled in the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program to feed their families. The police station was a small backroom at City Hall, barely sufficient as an office for one more person, much less a police station.

Presently police officers are making over twenty dollars an hour due to the efforts of Mayor Alonso. A new police station was funded by money procured from a major drug bust. The new station is located less than half a mile away from City Hall on Glenwood Boulevard.

During a meeting on September 12, 1983, the Board of Trustees decided Twinsburg Township would start its own police department. Previously there had been talks with Reminderville about forming a joint police force, but no agreement could be reached. The Township police department officially came into being a mere nineteen days later, on October 1. Prior to the formation of the police force, the Township contracted with Reminderville for all its law enforcement needs.

Four officers, including the chief, comprised the entire department when formed in 1983. Additionally, two patrol cars (purchased at a cost of $5,200 each) were procured, as well as equipment including radios, cameras, and an assortment of other necessities.

In spite of these investments, the department did not last long. In January 1988 the trustees voted to disband it due to a slew of indiscretions combined with financial woes. Corruption was corroding the unit to the core, commencing at the top with Chief Samuel Williams. The discredited chief, who had resigned the previous year for “health reasons,” was charged on one count of theft and tampering with records, as was Sergeant. Demetrius MacKannon. The allegations mainly revolved around the chief and sergeant “double-dipping” by working on security jobs while still on the clock for the police department.

Just as instrumental in the downfall of the department were the financial difficulties the Township was dealing with. Paying the sheriff’s department for five full-time deputies to patrol the area saved the Township almost $150,000 in the first year ($237,000 as opposed to the $377,000 it cost to run the police department).

Most recently (in 2014) the Township entered into a three-year agreement with the Summit County sheriff for police protection services. The Township pays for these protective services via property taxes, intergovernmental revenues, and “General Fund transfers.”

 

 

 

Twinsburg Public Library

The year 2010 marked a century since the people of Twinsburg dedicated the area’s first public library. The door to the Samuel Bissell Memorial Library swung open on May 1, 1910. The locale of this “book nook” was a two-story residence located along the northern side of Public Square. Funding for materials came from donors, patron subscriptions, and a healthy dose of donations. For a time, the small structure seemed well suited for the little library, and the little library seemed well suited for the tiny town.

But as the city grew, so did the demands placed on the diminutive library. Eventually, demands for new materials and services outstripped traditional sources of income, and additional funding was needed. By the end of the 1920s, the library became tied to the school district and those who supported it. More people meant more books, more books meant more space was needed, and more space meant an inevitable move to a new location.

Little of note happened during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. With resources spread thin for many Americans by the Depression and World War II, activities for many remained close to home. However, statistics during this time frame do show circulation increasing by a factor of twelve, from 5,325 in 1929 to 64,657 in 1966. By 1963, the fruits of planning and budgeting were reaped and a new building was completed, marking the first time the Twinsburg library occupied a space specifically designed for the learning and literature its staff strove to provide. For thirty years, staff, students, and the public utilized the services of the library at 9840 Ravenna Road. Classes were taught, meetings were held, and the minds and imagination of youths were opened to new possibilities. With the newly completed edifice, the evolution of the Twinsburg Public Library paralleled that of the city. Close-knit and quaint when the first library opened, the city became larger and less rural, evolving into something more akin to other cities and offering similar amenities.

By 1991, after nearly three decades of utilization, once again a move and a more expansive home were needed for the library. According to census records for Twinsburg, the population more than doubled between 1960 and 1990, from roughly four A number of Twinsburg’s favorite locales, including the Public Library, Richner Hardware and Lawson are featured in this photo of the Town square. {Courtesy of the Twinsburg Historical Society} CHAPTER NAME 39 thousand to nearly ten thousand. The building couldn’t handle an increase of that magnitude, so books, fixtures, movies, and music were packed up and relocated. The new building, at 10050 Ravenna Road, opened in 1993 under the leadership of director Karen Tschudy and the Board of Trustees. Even more space was added in 2003.

Under the stewardship of director Laura Leonard, standards of customer service have been retained while the evolving needs of the patron base have been brought into the twenty-first century: patrons have access to one-on-one personal assistance, a soundproof audio/video studio, a well-equipped computer lab, and a bookmobile acquired in September 2016. Leonard envisioned the bookmobile as a way to “reach communities that don’t have easy transportation—some of the people in the township, especially in Pinewood Gardens; some of the people in Reminderville; some of the smaller senior living areas.” Today, the Twinsburg Public Library serves an average of thirty-two thousand patrons per month and strives to do more for a user base with an ever-evolving list of demands.

 

Mayors of Reminderville, 1955-

Since its incorporation in 1955, Reminderville has been governed by a bevy of mayors, twelve to be exact, all of whom have contributed to the continuous progress of the village. The achievements of four of the most prominent mayors are highlighted below.

The first mayor of Reminderville was Clement Reminder, a member of the famed Reminder family that is the namesake of the village. Illness shortened his fledgling political career. He spent less than a single year in office.

Ray Williams, one of the most important figures in the brief history of Reminderville, was the third mayor of the village, holding office from 1960 to 1963 and then again from 1976 through 1983. Overall the Democratic mayor served twelve years in office for the village he loved and dedicated his life to. He was one of the founders of the village; while he was in office Glenwood Drive was constructed.

It was during Ray Williams’s second term as Reminderville mayor that the population exploded from 215 residents in 1970 to approximately 2,000 in 1983. During this same period the village budget ballooned from $10,000 to $675,000 annually.

In addition to his storied career as Reminderville mayor, Williams also spent thirty-two years at Republic Steel as a crane operator. For a period he served as president of United Steelworkers Local 2665 and at the time of his demise was the Vice-President of Republic Steel retiree’s organization. Ray W. Williams Park, located next to the Reminderville Village Hall and Fire Station, was dedicated on December 31, 1983 .

From 1988 to 1998 Tom Schmida was mayor of the village. If that wasn’t enough he also served as vice-president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union for the first two years of his mayoral tenure and then president of the same teachers union from 1990 to the present.

The most recent mayor Sam Alonso, a native of Fairmont, West Virginia, migrated to the area in 1993—mistakenly believing he and his family had set down roots in Aurora. What turned out to be Aurora’s loss proved quite fortuitous for Reminderville. Thirty-one years as a union rep at General Motors endowed Alonso with the ability to communicate and negotiate making him an ideal candidate for mayor of the village.

Local corruptions lead to his run for mayor. While budgeting was being conducted in 1999 it was discovered that Palmer Peterson, the mayor of the moment, had been taking money allotted to the fire department and using it to make the budget balance for the next year.  Alonso, at the time a councilman for the village, informed that Peterson money earmarked for the RFD could not be used to the balance the budget. Peterson’s response was a challenge to Alonso’s authority: “If you don’t like it you run for mayor.” Alonso did just that: easily defeating his predecessor nearly three to one.

The early days of his mayoral reign were rife with hardship: discovery of a clerk/ treasurer who pilfered over $100,000 of village funds and a police chief who was illegally moonlighting as security manager of Geauga Lake Park. These early setbacks were quickly overcome by Alonso. His accomplishments have been numerous and varied:

• Construction of a new village hall

• Renovation of Glenwood Boulevard (including new bike lanes)

• Helping to establish the Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) of the Village of Reminderville and Twinsburg Township in 2002. The JEDD’s primary purpose is to promote jobs and economic development in the two participating communities.

Close Encounters and UFO Sightings

Mankind has experienced many strange things for which no parallel could be found. In 1972, author and UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek categorized and defined the many experiences people claimed to have had with aliens and unidentified flying objects. His book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Journey provides the following outline:

Close Encounters of the First Kind: visual sighting of a UFO
Close Encounters of the Second Kind: physical effect of the UFO is felt
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: the eyewitness account of an alien entity

Disclaimer: not an actual photo of the purported UFO seen over Twinsburg in 1969.

Disclaimer: not an actual photo of the purported UFO seen over Twinsburg in 1969.

On the evening of March 6, 1969, area residents both saw and experienced the effects of one such object. Eyewitness accounts seem to corroborate the presence of a UFO along a stretch of Liberty Drive.

Mildred Karabec lived off Liberty Road in 1969, along with her husband James Karabec. The strange activity began as they arrived home for the evening. “We had just moved in…I pulled in my driveway and I opened the garage door . . . and the door kept going up and down and up and down.” Their residence was located along a swath of high-voltage power towers that cut across the rural countryside. Former mayor James Karabec, suggested that alien aircraft “would get their power from the power lines,” as they flew parallel to those streams of electricity. What of the aircraft itself? What did it look like? Mildred Karabec recalled, “We saw lights but there was no noise over the power lines . . . there was absolutely no noise . . . bright, they were just bright lights . . . white.”

Sketch of a unidentified flying object from page 6 of a highly redacted United States Air Force report, from 1969.

Sketch of a unidentified flying object from page 6 of a highly redacted United States Air Force report, from 1969.

Reports from residents terrified and confused by what they saw began making their way to the police on duty that night. According to Betty Tomko, two area officers investigated. Her account of their patrol is as follows: “We had two policemen call it in . . . and they were coming up Cannon Road Hill . . . and they actually stopped their cars on the hill and got out because something was hovering over top the police car and it was very bright lights around and they got out and watched this thing for a while and they felt it was watching them so they got back in the car, and when they would try to go forward this thing would follow them and I guess it followed them to the top of Cannon and when they turned on Liberty, it flew away.” Photographer Mark Gutowski remembers, “We were actually friends with one of the patrolmen at the time. Not sure which one it was . . . On that night, I remember him visiting our home and asking if we’d seen anything.”

An interview with police sergeant Donald Prange appeared in the Twinsburg Bulletin on February 24, 2015, adding credence to accounts by the many silent observers of that night several decades ago. Reporter Andrew Schunk wrote:

The evidence may have been in the evening sky over the city Feb. 17, 1969. The curious case of one local UFO sighting began innocuously enough in the city of 7,000 with TV interference at a Glenwood Drive home. It concluded, abruptly, with a bizarre visit to the Twinsburg Police Department from a United States Air Force lieutenant colonel and his mysterious, diminutive sidekick.

According to a recently released report from Project Blue Book, the United States Air Force’s systematic analysis of UFO reports between 1952 and 1969, a woman, 44, and her son, 19, were watching the news when the color contrast went out on their TV—and then the entire signal. The mother walked outside at dusk to check the antennae, and immediately called Twinsburg police to report an “oval-shaped object that had red and white lights around it”—what World War II pilots might have dubbed a “foo fighter,” or UFO, just two decades earlier. “Looking up we seen [sic] the strange object, coming over Glenwood Drive,” said the woman, whose identity is redacted in the March 6, 1969, report. “I never seen anything like this before,” she states. “It seemed to have stopped near the corner of [Glenwood Drive], then proceeded down [East Idlewood Drive] for about a quarter mile . . . then it just went right up out of sight.”

Sgt. Donald Prange, a former Twinsburg officer and Marine Corps veteran who later served as chief of police in Twinsburg in the late 1970s, responded to the woman’s call around 6:40 p.m. More than 20 calls referencing the UFO were ultimately fielded by Twinsburg dispatch that evening. Prange, now 77, recalled the event with detail Jan. 27 from his home in Rancho Cordova, Calif. “We officers talked amongst ourselves after the sighting,” said Prange, who said he witnessed the object over R.B. Chamberlin High School for several minutes with Twinsburg patrolmen Walter Orcutt and Herbert Munn. “I told them I didn’t think we should say anything to anyone . . . they would think we were crazy.”

In keeping with caution, the TPD did not immediately report the event to the USAF. The USAF was made aware of the event thanks to a Feb. 18, 1969, letter from the woman’s 19-year-old son to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton detailing the sighting. In its April 22, 1969, conclusion to the Glenwood Drive woman, the USAF determined that the object was actually an “aerial advertizing [sic] aircraft.”

“A letter was sent to the Twinsburg Police Department requesting information on the sighting, however this office did not receive a reply . . . the description of the UFO is similar to past reports of Aerial Advertizing aircraft,” states Lt. Col. Hector Quintanilla, chief of the now defunct Aerial Phenomena Branch at Wright-Patterson. Prange said he doesn’t buy the USAF’s answer in the Twinsburg incident any more than he believes its conclusion from a Portage County case three years earlier, in 1966, when officers were informed that they had just chased the planet Venus for 85 miles, from Ravenna to just outside of Pittsburgh.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Prange said. “We had three cars respond, and watched it for several minutes over R.B. Chamberlin High School, near some power lines there. “It appeared to be stationary, hovering. What bothered me is that it didn’t seem to be making any noise, at least not that ‘egg beater’ sound you get from a helicopter. It was more like a whirring sound. Then it slowly rose up and disappeared.”

For the woman and her son, the story ends with the April 1969 correspondence from Quintanilla. For Prange and his fellow officers, the story of the peculiar foo fighter over Twinsburg has one final, bizarre chapter. About a month after the sighting, Prange says his department was visited by a USAF lieutenant colonel—believed to be Quintanilla—and a “strange little man.”

“They brought out a light colonel . . . another strange little man was with him . . . to question us individually,” Prange said. “The smaller man, perhaps 5 feet tall, was not like us . . . he had strange features, almost like a child who has aged rapidly. He wore a hat, gloves, and he never spoke to us, never shook our hands, just observed. I don’t remember [the colonel] ever even saying thank you. When they left, we never heard from the Air Force again.” Prange added he never experienced anything like the February 1969 call again in his law enforcement career. “You ask me what it was? It was a flying saucer,” he said.

Fast-forward to 2014, and glowing spacecraft were still lighting up the skies over Twinsburg. Mildred Karabec recalled, “We were changing a tire for my younger sister and just happened to look up and we saw two of them interacting . . . and it had flashing lights.” They proceeded to head toward Liberty Park, the site of the close encounter thirty-five years earlier. “I got out of the car and stood by the hood of the car and two cigar-shaped [objects] . . . came toward us and stopped right above us and I turned to jump back in the car at that point and when I did, they went up a little higher and one went left and one went right. And then in a second they both met back in the center and headed straight toward Aurora and disappeared, but they moved at such speed.”

The pencil mark below the "30" indicates the angle above the horizon of the alleged UFO as seen by an unnamed observer along Glenwood Drive.

The pencil mark below the “30” indicates the angle above the horizon of the alleged UFO as seen by an unnamed observer along Glenwood Drive.

If flying saucers and glowing lights weren’t enough, there were rumors of an abduction. According to Betty Tomko, “There are a set of apartments at the top of Route 91 . . . [where] a child claims to have been abducted.” She said, “He was spending a night with a friend . . . The people who owned that apartment disappeared.” Local police were purported to be going door to door following the incident. When asked if they believed it to be a UFO, Betty Tomko replied, “I can’t attribute it to anything else.”

Heroic Grandfather Saves Five, 1965

Jessie S. Dunacan heroically raced to the second floor of his burning house at 1888 Buchtel Street rescuing five small children (three of whom were his grandchildren, the other two his offspring), one-by-one, as he tossed them out a window to his wife below after which he leapt to safety. One child was left behind, his (Duncan’s) 14 month old granddaughter–Betty Butler. Duncan attempted to dash back into the now engulfed domicile, but Summit County sheriffs deputies prevented him from doing so due to the severity of the blaze.  Flames were shooting out all windows and doorways.

Betty Butler tragically died in the accidental inferno, caused by a grease fire in the kitchen that occurred during dinner preparation. The two-story home was completely decimated, with an estimated $6,000 worth of damages.

Liberty Park

One of the three communities’ greatest natural assets is Liberty Park. The park contains a moss-capped landscape of slump rocks, vertical crevices and sedimentary layers, rock cliffs, colossal boulders, and a cave that is more spacious than some of the homes townspeople grew up in.

Initially Liberty Park was privately owned. It was the ever progressive-minded Mayor Karabec who realized the potential of procuring the park. During Karabec’s administration he composed a letter of intent (including price) to purchase Liberty Park from its previous owner, but the procurement of the park wasn’t finalized until Mayor Procop was in office. The formal dedication took place on April 22, 2001. Prior to the purchase, Twinsburg only owned three hundred acres of open-spaced parkland; now there are over two thousand acres. The process of negotiating with the owner was arduous, as he vacillated over whether to sell to the city or a land developer, the latter being considerably more profitable.

Ultimately the city purchased the property for $11 million. It was the catalyst for Summit County to continue purchasing land in the area, creating a link between Twinsburg and Tinker Creek State Park. Twinsburg owns the land, but the Metro Parks manage Liberty Park, helping to preserve the Ledges and the wetlands.

Over the years, the park’s three thousand acres had been the site of an amusement park, a hotel, a railroad, and farms. Some of the owners had toppled trees and straightened a brook. In 2011 Summit County Metro Parks added sixty-six acres to the park using funds obtained through the Trust for Public Land amounting to $1.22 million, which went toward completing access to the park from Ravenna Road. One of the newest additions is Liberty Park Nature Center, a $3 million facility constructed by the Summit County Metro Parks. Visitors are greeted by an inanimate and presumably affable life-sized black bear upon arriving at the center.

The Ledges are part of the nine-hundred-acre land deal Mayor Katherine Procop brokered with a local landowner. There may be no more beloved natural phenomena in the three communities than the Ledges. It seems as if almost everyone who grew up in the area has a fond childhood memory connected with the natural marvel. It was a popular hangout for kids, teenagers, and families alike. More than just a source of natural beauty and a recreation destination, the Ledges have played a huge part in the history of Twinsburg, and in the determination of its geographical boundaries. For a time all of Twinsburg’s water (village and Township) was obtained from wells located in the Ledges.

“Significance of ledges around Twinsburg is that Twinsburg sits in a pocket surrounded by ledges. South to where the Cleveland Clinic is located, there are ledges running behind it. When you go west towards Macedonia there are ledges right at the 271-82 intersection. And then east are the Liberty Park Ledges,” according to Twinsburg naturalist Stanley Stine.

Possibly the most important aspect of the park is the unusual plant and wildlife that inhabits the acreage. The unique flora include immensely colorful lichen species that are a cross between fungi and algae, and one of a kind in the state of Ohio. A four-toed salamander found in 2003 was considered extremely rare, the only salamander in the state that has four toes on its hind legs instead of the usual five.

The park is home to endangered reddish brown Indiana bats, which almost assuredly will not bite the necks of unsuspecting visitors. Due to the presence of these bats in Liberty Park’s caves, construction in the nearby vacated Chrysler complex was postponed as it was believed some members of the endangered species might inhabit that area as well. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to officially determine and declare that none of these bats were in an area before trees could be cleared and the area developed. It was discovered that a number of bats suffered from white-nose syndrome, leading to their untimely demise. (As of 2012, 5.7 million North American bats have relinquished their mortal coil due to this incurable disease.)

Other rare creatures, including a minuscule, shrimp-like crustacean, have been discovered residing in the caves of Liberty Park. There are dozens of endangered species, plus an assortment of other wildlife: beavers, otters, red-backed salamanders, wood frogs, gray rat snakes, and numerous dragonflies and butterflies.

The park also serves as one of the most popular destinations for birders in Northeast Ohio; in fact it was designated as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society.

Liberty Park continues to be one of the most popular destinations in the three communities and a local treasure. Former Mayor Procop considers its purchase to be “the legacy project of our community.”

Corbett’s Farm

A mainstay of the community, a day trip for generations of school kids, and a remnant of a bygone era—Corbett’s Farm was all these things and more to the people of Twinsburg. The origins of the old home along Darrow Road date all the way back to 1826, just nine years after the area’s founding. The barn would be built in 1911, with the Corbett Family purchasing the eighty-two-acre farmstead in 1939. So it was to the chagrin of many that in 2007, the family-owned and -operated business was sold to developers, setting the wheels in motion for its eventual demise.

According to former Twinsburg mayor Katherine Procop, “The thing with Corbett’s Farm was a lot of the residents felt that the city should purchase that property, and if it had a connection to the rest of our parkland, if it had a purpose, if we didn’t already own two thousand acres of parkland, we probably would’ve considered it. The owners of the property, the Corbetts, had a certain price that they wanted to get out of the property . . . so there wasn’t a lot of negotiation room with the city.”

Once all options had been explored, the last remaining dairy farm in the county, having outlived its usefulness, was cleared acre by acre, structure by structure, until the home, barn, and silos stood alone and silent. Like many people, Marti Franks, an Aurora Shores resident and member of the Twinsburg Historical Society, “prayed for a miracle,” but with time, these structures too would fall, and the last physical traces of the farm would be gone. The nutrient-rich farmland began sprouting homes in place of the crops it once grew. In all, ninety-five single-family homes were constructed over the course of three phases, concluding in the fall of 2016. Franks perhaps put it best when she indicated that paying homage to the historic Corbett’s Farm by giving the housing development the same name was a slap in the face. “It was a sad thing for the town . . . there were a lot of plans and dreams.”

Aerial photo of Corbett's Farm and pond, near the intersection of Darrow Road and Glenwood Drive.

Aerial photo of Corbett’s Farm and pond, near the intersection of Darrow Road and Glenwood Drive.

While many area residents fondly recalled the earlier, more rural iteration of Twinsburg, the passage of time is an indomitable force, and progress is inevitable. Decisions once made cannot be undone. Katherine Procop said, “I think it turned out the way it was supposed to turn out.”

Great Expectations, 1978

Great Expectations, formed in 1978, is the pride of Twinsburg High School and the entirety of the three communities. The nationally ranked show choir has won over 150 trophies and performed in competitions across the continental United States, spanning the country from New York to California. In 2014, they competed in their first formal national event, the Fame National Show Choir Competition in Chicago, finishing third out of fifteen accomplished companies. (In 2013 they participated in a competition against fifty-seven of the top show choirs in the nation, at which they also finished third.)

More often than not, Great Expectations emerges victorious in “Glee-style” contests featuring elaborately choreographed dance routines. Few, if any local show choirs can rival them, with possibly their greatest adversary being Solon High School’s Music in Motion. On occasion, Music in Motion has even managed to topple Great Expectations from its lofty perch.

The current directors are Randall Lanoue and Scott Hamler, but it was Nancy Slife who put Great Expectations on the choral map. Slife directed the show choir for nearly twenty extremely successful years before Lanoue took command. Under his artistic direction and the musical guidance of Hamler, Great Expectations has continued to soar above all other local show choirs and should continue to  do so well into the future.

Reminderville Fire Dept. Unrest

William J. Delgado, Reminderville Fire Chief for 17 years, his assistant (Joseph W. Algeri Sr.), and another firefighter all quit the fire department in the same week in February 1972. They jointly alleged the burgeoning village had inadequate budget and equipment. The potential inability to continue to keep the village safe, as the population continued to grow, in particular with the addition of Aurora Shores, weighed heavy on the department. At the time of the unrest in the department, the three engines utilized by the department were a 1939 Ford, 1946 Dodge and a truck purchased (and subsequently remodeled) for $150 by the firefighters.

Another major contention voiced by the former chief and his assistant: the village was in violation of fire hydrant distance limitations as some fire hydrants, that should have been 300 feet apart, were instead 1,000 feet apart. They further alleged the village made these concessions in order to appease developers of Aurora Shores.

Two weeks after the resignations, Reminderville Mayor Louis Svette appointed Albert J. Sedlak as new fire chief (Sedlak, his wife and two children had recently migrated to Aurora Shores). Sedlak was a former Cleveland fire battalion chief.

Automated Packaging Systems, Inc.

Automated Packaging Systems, Inc. was founded by brothers, Hershey and Bernie Lerner in a one car-garage in Queens, New York in 1962. Soon after its founding, the company was moved to Bedford, Ohio and a mere five years after its conception relocated to Twinsburg. The headquarters and plant were located at 8400 Darrow Road for many years, comprised of ten acres and employing in excess of five hundred people.

The company famously developed the idea of “bags-on-a-roll.” They saw that polyethylene bags, a new product at the time, were difficult to open and load product into. They solved the problem by perforating one side of the bag and leaving the other side open. The bags were then rolled onto a cardboard cylinder. This innovation spread to supermarkets across the nation, saving many a shopper endless headaches.

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.

Twinsburg Heights Community Center

The Community Center was the social epicenter of Twinsburg Heights. Many longtime residents, when asked to name their earliest memories of the area, spoke of its dirt roads and the Community Center. John Curry, an elder statesman of the Heights, has said: “My fondest memory is the Community Center.”

It was home to the Mothers Club, a social group of older women from the community with similar interests. According to Carlton Powers: “The Community Center evolved from the Mothers Club, as far as I can remember.” Once it became the Community Center it benefited not only the woman in the neighborhood, but all residents. The first building was just a very small brick building, constructed completely by the men in the neighborhood.

Every June through August, there was a summer youth program at the center. For almost all the children in the Heights, this was the highlight of the sweltering summer months. As they grew older, many of the former attendees of the summer program became volunteers, donating their time to the youngsters that followed in their footsteps. The center offered hot meals, sports activities, swimming, educational programs, and numerous other activities for the children.

Adults benefited greatly from the community center as well; WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) programs were offered, and a local doctor gave free examinations there. The greatest contribution it made to the community was as a gathering place. It truly provided a sense of community to so many residents. Sadly, the center closed down earlier this decade due to a lack of support and funding (many of the residents who previously frequented the institution had moved away).

First Trial by Jury

The first trial by jury in the history of the village of Twinsburg occurred on August 6, 1957. Presiding, was Mayor Alexander J. Day. The Prosecutor was Jerome W. Moss, and the attorney for the defense was Gerald Sims. Marie Switalsky had signed out a warrant for assault and battery against Albert Hock, Jr. The defendant, Hock Jr., was acquitted of all charges.

Community Theatre

For the vast majority of the three communities’ two hundred years of existence, there was a lack of local theater in the area. That all changed in December 1996, when the Twinsburg Youth Theatre debuted with a production of Babes in Toyland. First conceived in 1994 by Meredith Shreve, the youth theater started its transformation into a multigenerational community theater in 2001 after many adults approached Shreve with their desire to perform onstage. Before the 2001 production of Annie, adults only worked behind the scenes, building sets, dropping backgrounds, and so forth.

Shreve, originally from Cleveland, moved to Twinsburg in 1993; soon after her arrival she started serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission, in part due to her realization that there was no community theater. In particular, she recognized the importance of a theater program for children. According to Shreve, “Theater is a very great way for kids to have some activity and earn self-confidence and grow within themselves and express themselves.”

Thousands of adults and children have been involved in the community theater over the first twenty years of its existence. Almost all of them have participated solely for their love of the arts and sense of community, as there has never been any financial compensation. It is a nonprofit endeavor that pays for all the necessities in putting on a top-flight musical production via ticket sales, concessions, program sales, and fees paid by performers. All of these proceeds go toward funding expenditures such as royalties, rigging systems, choreographers, costumes, and other related requirements.

The productions have often been mounted on a grand scale, with as many as 120 people working on a single musical. World-renowned Hall Associates Flying FX supplied their exceptional effects for the flying sequences in Peter Pan.

One of the drawbacks to the community theater is that it is financed in part by a pay-to-perform platform, as all performers must pay a fee of fifty dollars to act in a production. This reduces the opportunity of underprivileged youths to participate in the community arts program. For those who have had the good fortune to participate in the community theater, it has brought great joy, a sense of achievement, and lifelong rewarding relationships with their fellow performers.

If there is any doubt as to the community theater’s positive effect on Twinsburg, it should be quelled by Mayor Katherine Procop’s statement that she couldn’t think of  anyone who has brought more joy to the community than Meredith Shreve, through her devotion to the theater.

Twinsburg Community Theatre commemorated its twentieth anniversary in 2016 with a musical revue, a first for the theater. The production celebrates twenty years of Broadway, including fan favorites Wicked, The Little Mermaid, and Phantom of the Opera.

Joshua Miktarian, Police Dept.

Violent crime is almost nonexistent in the three communities. According to statistics compiled by the FBI there were only ten violent crimes committed in Twinsburg in 2012 (the latest statistic compiled). This makes the tragic and senseless events of July 13, 2008, all the more startling and harrowing.

Around two a.m. on that fateful day, Officer Joshua T. Miktarian, a Twinsburg police officer of eleven years, pulled over motorist Ashford Thompson, who was playing music at a deafening decibel level and possibly driving under the influence. The incident transpired right in front of a home at 2454 Glenwood Drive, near Route 91. What must have initially seemed like a relatively routine traffic stop soon turned serious and deadly: mere minutes after Officer Miktarian radioed for backup, he was shot several times in the head by Thompson. Miktarian’s beloved canine compadre Bagio watched helpelessly, locked in the patrol car and unable to intervene in the absurd altercation. Less than an hour later Miktarian was pronounced dead at MetroHealth Medical Center.

Police Chief Chris Noga has referred to the slaying of Officer Miktarian as “the darkest day of my career.” Noga and Miktarian had started in the department within a week of each other and were close friends. Seeing a fellow officer slain is never easy, much less someone you’ve worked side by side with for eleven years.

According to Katherine Procop, mayor at the time of the murder: “It was absolutely devastating to the police force, and community. There is truly not a day that goes by I don’t think about Josh.” Such was the effect that Josh had during his too-brief tenure on this Earth. Sporting a mischievous grin, infectious sense of humor, and magnetic personality, the devoted husband and father was beloved by his fellow police officers and the community as a whole. “Josh was one of the few young persons who used to really respect the older guys . . . like myself,” said retired police officer Joe Jasany.

His interests and activities were varied, as illustrated by his ownership of a Gionino’s Pizza restaurant and his dual duties as guitarist and songwriter for the heavy metal band Barium. He is survived by his wife Holly and their daughter Thea, only three months old at the time of the murder.

Thunder Chicken

In 1976, during the inaugural Twins Day Festival, a peculiar sight was observed: the only skydiving clown in the world, Thunder Chicken, hurled through the afternoon sky, safely landing on Twinsburg soil to the delight of all who were lucky enough to glimpse it. The man behind the greasepaint and guise of Thunder Chicken is Dallas Wittgenfeld, who improbably came up with the idea of a skydiving clown while serving in the army during the Vietnam War in 1969.

Wittgenfeld figured that Vietnamese orphans would never get the thrill of seeing an American clown, so he donned some makeup and deployed from an airplane high above the cheering throng. After the war he continued to delight children and adults alike with his skydiving chicanery at fairs, air shows and shopping center openings. His one-of-a-kind career was almost cut short in May of 1985 due to an arrest at Deland Municipal Airport (located in Central Florida) for flying while intoxicated.