History of Bath Township

There are 13,040 township governments in the United States. This is the story of one of them.

The region now known as Bath Township became part of the United States when the Treaty of Fort Industry was signed on July 4, 1805. In this treaty the Wyandot, Ottawa, Chippewa, Munsee, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee Nations relinquished one-half million acres of land south of Lake Erie and west of the Cuyahoga River in northeastern Ohio. This land consisted of part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.

The first permanent New England settlers, Jonathan Hale and Jason Hammond, came from Connecticut five years later, and eight years after that, in 1818, the township was officially organized.

This history behind the township's name is an interesting story in itself. The area, originally known as simply Number 3, Range 12, of the Western Reserve, became Wheatfield and then Hammondsburgh, after Jason Hammond. The question of a new name came up at one of the town meetings; but discussion dragged on and was seemingly endless. Finally Jonathan Hale rose and exclaimed, "O, call it Jerusalem, Jericho, Bath, or anything but Hammondsburgh!" The motion was quickly passed and the township adopted the name of Bath, which, if nothing else, placed it first in the alphabetical listing of the county townships.

The township government was patterned after the local form of government familiar to the settlers from Connecticut and the other New England states. Three trustees, a clerk, and a justice of the peace served as the elected officials. The early township records have been lost, and only one of these first officials has been positively identified -- Dr. Henry Hutson, who served as the first Justice of the Peace. The first constable, who was appointed by the trustees, was Eleazer Rice. Partial records show that Jonathan Hale and Jason Hammond were early trustees, but the exact dates of their terms of office are not known.

The first constable, Eleazer Rice, was also involved in the first case of assault in the township. Eleazer was small in stature and not well liked. Two men, Lewis Hammond and Isaiah Fowler, had tipped over Eleazer's sled as a practical joke. They were summoned to appear before the Justice of the Peace, but upon reaching the outside of his house and seeing Eleazer, they lost their courage and took off in opposite directions. Eleazer unfortunately chose to chase the larger of the two, Lewis Hammond. When he caught up with him he leaped on Hammond's back, but Hammond, undaunted by the additional weight, continued running. When last seen he was still galloping through the woods.

The earliest available township records identifying the elected officials are trustee's records dating from 1865. Some of these early trustees included Gerry Pardee, Abijah Spencer, Roswell Hopkins, Thomas Pierson, H.H. Mack, Peter Miller, Luke Wuckoff, and Joseph Brimley. Holding the office of clerk during this period were W.H. Rozelle, John Spears, Abraham Harshey, G. Thorp, and John Davis. Other appointed offices included constables, road supervisors, and ditch supervisors. Originally part of Medina County, the Township became part of the newly formed Summit County in 1840.

The early township trustees concerned themselves mainly with the maintenance and upkeep of the roads, the town hall, and the cemetery. Although the trustees were not permitted to pass ordinances, they could levy taxes for upkeep, including road taxes. The early farmers either had to pay the road tax or periodically repair the road in front of their property with their farm equipment. Other duties which the trustees occasionally performed were buying groceries for the poorer families, and giving out bonuses to war veterans. State legislation later eliminated the trustees' power to perform these two services. Since the early trustees had to authorize anything dealing with roads, farmers even had to obtain the permission of the trustees to graze their cows along the road. An excerpt from the minutes of the trustees meeting held April 21, 1866, states: "This day the trustees granted the following permits for cattle to run at large in the highway: Benjamin Point, John C. Sallman, C. Smith, Oliver Thorp, W.A. Rozelle, and W.W. Williamson." Since the roads were, for the most part, self-maintained, and the maintenance cost of the town hall and cemetery was low, the early appropriations were small. A comparison of the 1967 and 1867 expenditures show that in 1867 $664.56 was spent while one hundred years later, $179,000.00 was needed.

The first regular fire station in Bath was organized in 1922. The Stoney Hill Fire Department, which was operated from 1935-1965, also served Bath with equipment bought and furnished by volunteer firefighters. Before these fire stations were established, bucket brigades and other haphazard techniques were the only methods for fire fighting. This is the reason why few of the old mills and stores are still standing. As Bath progressed through the years, the importance of fire and police protection increased. Today, in keeping with its independent New England heritage, Bath Township continues to be governed by a small, self-contained, friendly, and conscientious body.

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