Early Wooster Twp. records

“The name of the township was changed from Wooster to Watertown, December 6, 1824, the object being to avoid the annoyance of having two Woosters in the same State, there being a town and township bearing that name in Wayne county,” says Williams History of Washington County (p. 621). Until recently a book survived that contained the original minutes of Wooster Township in Washington County. The late Ross Stapf Jr. purchased the book at an auction. In 1974, with his permission, this writer made Xerox copies of the book. Since then a fire destroyed many of Stapf’s papers, which probably included the original Wooster Township records since they have not been located. There will be several articles from time to time relating to these records taken from the copies. This article discusses the general makeup of the Wooster Township minutes (1807-1815). Other articles will include more specific topics, including the duties of some of the first officers, the early years of the Watertown Board of Education (1839-1857), 1840 school enumeration lists, and others.

“At the date of its establishment, June 4, 1806, Watertown, then Wooster, included only the fourth township of the tenth range,” states Williams (p. 621). The minutes start in 1807 with the following heading: “At A Meeting of the Inhabitants of the Township of Wooster assembled at the House of Wm Ford in said Township Notified according to Law on the 6th Day of April A.D. 1807.” The only business conducted at this meeting was “to elect the several Officers recognized in the Warrant authoriseing [sic] said Meeting.” Those elected were: Robert Oliver, Esqr., moderator; Duty Greene and William Ford, judges of elections; Horace Wolcott, township clerk; Nathan Proctor, Jason Humiston and Selah Hart, trustees; William Ford Jr. and John Waterman, overseers of the poor; Ferrand Waterman and Lot Gard, fence viewers; Simeon Deming (“lister” of taxable property) and Thomas Cory, appraisers of houses; Robert Oliver, William Ford, Christopher Malster, Simeon Deming, Esqr., Nathan Proctor, John Laflin, James Lawton, George Ewing, Ezekiel Deming, supervisors of highways; Asa Beach and Robert Oliver Jr., constables; and William Ford, township treasurer.

The residences of these men are known and the township was much larger at the beginning, taking in much of what is now Barlow, Fairfield, Palmer, Waterford, Wesley and possibly others. The first page of the minutes appears to be labeled page “9,” so minutes of one or more meetings in 1806 or early 1807 have probably been lost. It appears from the initial heading that “Inhabitants of the Township” elected the officers. Notices of a meeting were sent out “according to Law,” interested men responded, and they each voted at the meeting. At least for the elections of the earliest township offices, it does not appear that there were separate polling places in the township. The

polling place was the township meeting at Ford’s house. There could be more than one election during the year, but the one for township offices was held at 10 A.M. on the first Monday in April. The minutes mention that occasionally when there was a vacancy, the trustees named a person to fill the position.

On a smaller scale and somewhat similar to a county seat (the courthouse), Wooster Township’s seat of government was Capt. William Ford’s house. Except for a meeting on April 25, 1807, which was held at the house of Horace Wolcott, all the meetings, at least through 1815, were held at Ford’s house. It was located on the west side of what is now State Route 339 about 300 feet north of Sampson Road. It stood for 200 years and was owned by seven generations of Fords. Due to a badly deteriorating foundation and other irreparable structural damage, the house was demolished in May 2001. James R. Sherlock had Ralph Wreckbacher construct a modern house on the site later in the year. After the village of Watertown was platted in 1838, the area around Ford’s was commonly called North Watertown.

The most important executives within the township were the trustees. This is still true today. At the meeting on April 25, 1807, the trustees met “for the Purpose of Dividing supervisors [of highway] Districts.” The minutes state, “Made the Divisions and assigned their respective Warrants in form as Follows: You are hereby required to call on all Male Persons that have resided within your District three months to do and perform one Days [sic] work on the road & c.” To make sure this was executed, the trustees instructed the supervisors, “And of this warrant make return with your doings …”

The minutes record the winners of the township elections in 1807, 1808, 1810, and 1811. The names repeat year after year, but the name often fills a different office. For example the trustees in 1808 were: Simeon Deming, Duty Greene and Jacob Proctor; in 1810 Cornelius Hougland, William Ford Jr. and Matthew Corner; in 1811 William Ford Jr., Salah Hart and Ferrand Waterman. Notice that, with a couple exceptions (including the 1807 names), new people filled this position each year. This is very different today, when many trustees hold the position for years.

Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.