My father was born and raised in the "City of Brotherly Love." In 1836 with his family he left Philadelphia for Dayton Ohio, crossing the Alleghany Mountains in a virginia schooner, drawn by a team of mules, and proceeding from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati on a boat on the Ohio River. From Cincinnati to Dayton, and from there to Yellow Springs in Greene County, the journey was made in wagons, finally going from Yellow Springs to the Long Prairie in York township, Van Wert County in 1839. The family lived in a pole pen on the farm of Evan B. Jones, while a log cabin on the east half of the southwest quarter of section 3, York township, was being built. When we were unloaded on the Long Prairie, father and mother both cried and offered the man that moved them all that they had -$25- to take them back to Dayton where he lived. This man refused to do so on account of the terrible roads.
With the assistance of neighbors living 10 miles away, my father built a log cabin 18 feet square in a dense forest, without a road to any place. The nearest neighbors were two and a half miles away; David W. McCoy and Daniel Beard, three miles; Evan B. Jones three miles; Levi Rowland, four miles; John Arnold and Leonard Varner three and a half miles each. There was a village of Wyandot Indians on the Little Auglaize a mile and a quarter from us. They were very kind and hospitable.
In December we moved into the log cabin, half of it floored with puncheons and with a bed quilt serving for a door. There was a fireplace five by seven feet in dimensions, a mudback wall and a stick chimney. When night would come, the wolves would approach the house and scratch and howl until we could hear nothing else. For 10 years between the months of November and February, from sunset until sunrise, nothing could be heard except the howling of the wolves and the hooting of the owls.
In May, 1847, three Welsh families left their homeland to come to America. These families were William Bebb of Rhiwgriafol, Darrowen, North Wales; Thomas Moris, Dolygweiddil, Trefeglwys, North Wales, and J.R. Jervis, Llanbrynmair, North Wales. After a voyage of six weeks and three days they landed in New York. Another trip of two weeks took them to Cincinnati and Paddy's Run, Ohio, which was already a Welsh settlement.
In October 1847, William Bebb, who was then Governor of Ohio, accompanied his newly arrived cousin William Bebb on a tour through Allen and Van Wert Counties where they purchased land for a settlement. Then in April 1848 these families came up the Miami Canal arriving at section Ten (Delphos), eight miles from their settlement. They found a crude log cabin in the woods with nearly a quarter of an acre of clearing around it.
The land was covered by a dense forest, harboring rapacious beasts such as panthers, wolves, and wildcats which frequently awakened the settlers at night by their howling and scratching at the walls.
Delphos at this time has two stores, and a flower mill, so it was there they went for the few necessities they required i.e. flour, sugar, yard goods, thread. For these things they exchanged butter at 5 or 6 cents per pound. Eggs brought 5 cents per dozen. (The original says ".05 or .06 cents per pound" but surely that is a typing mistake in the original.)
When they went to the mill with grain to be ground, they left about noon so as to arrive by night fall, since it was so extremely dangerous to travel by night through the forest. (It is new easily possible to drive from Venedocia to downtown Delphos in 15-20 minutes. -Charles Good) Arriving at the mill, the horses would be tied to the wagons. The shoppers would spend the nignt in the mill loft. The flour would be ready the next day so they could return safely.
Having conquered the forest, the settlers turned their attention to improving their surroundings. Mr. Clark built a grist-mill which was later remodeled by Mr. Culver to grind both corn and wheat. A second one was built by Mr. D. Walters close to Venedocia and ex-Govenor Wm. Bebb erected a sawmill. Their plows were called "bull plows" and were made entirely of wood. The first gunsmith was John Heath. John McConn was the first shoemaker. A profitable market in the fur and hoop-pole trade was carried on with Delphos. Mr. Benjamin Griffin built the first frame house followed by Mr. Albans who built the first brick house which still stands just south of Venedocia on St. Route 709. The first couple to be married in the township was Lewis Tomlinson and Rachel Boroff.
Soon building and drainage material became important, so businesses were established to furnish both lumber and tile. There were sawmills on the Ellis Oliver farm in Sec 2, H. E. Evans in Sec. 12, Adam Stuckey in Sec. 7, Jacob Dibert in Sec 18, Charles Kneip Sec. 36, and S. Pissler (sawed the lumber for the Rossville school) in Sec. 19.
Tile mills were built on the C. R. Hiller farm in sec 3, William Pollock Sec. 1, Edwin Smigh Sec. 20, John Goodwin Sec. 25 and A. Holmes.
The settlement continued to develop and in 1861 D. W. Evans, a son-in-law of Mr. Bebb, took possession of that portion of land now occupied by Venedocia.
When Mr. Evans gave the land,he inserted a clause stating that should any part of the premises be used for keeping or selling intoxicating liquors the title would revert to the original owner. This precedent has been followed by inserting this condition in nearly all the deeds executed since.
In 1863 Mr. Evans sold the first lot for building purposes to Mr. W. E. Jones, who immediately erected a frame building. The next lot was sold to R. J. Whittington and E. A. Evans who erected a storeroom and engaged in the mercantile business.
In 1875 Mr. E. B. Evans made a survey and sold some lots upon which several fine dwellings were erected. There were 16 lots staked at this time. The first addition was made in 1880 at which time 31 lots were added to the east and west sides of Main Street. Bebb Street ran west from Main and Plum, and three lots ran east from Main. By 1897 there were 73 lots and the townspeople began talking about incorporation. A petition was set up which 43 electors signed. Morgan H. Morgan was chosen spokesman to represent it to the County Commissioners. On September 7, 1897 Venedocia was recorded as an incorporated town with at that time a population of between two and three hundred people.
The discovery of oil about 1900 brought the typical "boom" to Venedocia. Many existing businesses expanded and new ones were established. Oil wells were drilled on the M. N. George farm in Sec. 12, on the David Morris farm in Sec. 1, on the David Reese farm in Sec. 1, on the Everett Jones farm in Sec. 2. There were a few wells in York Township. Some were drilled in Jennings township at the same time. Unfortunately it was not a very rich field and was soon "pumped off"
In 1903 the Mary Whitling addition was laid out and twelve new lots were made available. They lay between Plum Street and College Street, fronting on Main Street.
About 1877 a group of men raised money to be given to the railroad to bring it to Venedocia. It was very important, for the farmer needed access to the markets and later the oil men needed their supplies. Finally the narrow guage Toledo, Delphos, and Burlington was built. At one time there were four passanger trains, in addition to the regular freight trains, making regular stops. This "Clover Leaf" was changed to standard guage and finally taken over by the Norfolk and Western which now carries only frieght. (Note added by Charles Good-- The 1917 and 1922 Venedocia phone books list a "Depot" for the Toledo St. Louis and Western. The 1926 phone book lists a Nickel Plate Depot. The railroad is now a short line called, I think, the Indiana Short Line.)
One of the widely known establishments of Venedocia was the livery barn, built in 1907 by W. B. Evans. It was 60 feet wide and 103 feet long. 100 tons of hay were required to feed the 45 driving horses and 16 teams of work horses. Most of the work teams were rented out for work in the oil fields. Mr. Webb Watkins was employed as manager and a number of others as they were needed to care for the horses. It was also now and then necessary to employ drivers. As was customary all the horses had names and Mrs. Alford Breese recalled that the one she drove as she went about the community giving piano lessons was Mable. Two hearses were maintained, a white one drawn by a team of grays for the corpse of a young person and a black one drawn by a black team for the corpse of an adult. There was always someone in attendance at the barn, and usually it was the older son of the owner Harries Evans. Tramps also found it a most convenient place to sleep. It cost one dollar to rent a "rig" to go to Middle Point or Van Wert and one dollar and fifty cents to go to Delphos. The stable closed about 1920. (The barn is still used by the Evans family to store farm equipment and grain. --Charles Good)
Mr. William C. Morgan and Mr. Jones, about 1898, built a grist mill in Venedocia located at the North end of Main Street. Assisting in its operation was John C. George with Ed Smith as miller and Andy Oliver as fireman. In 1903, as the result of a boiler explosion, the mill was destroyed. Then Mr. Ott Lang rebuilt it and employed Jack Elias Jones to manage it. Later he sold out to Mr. Grant Pollock and his son Kenneth managed it. Unfortunately it too burned; however Mr. Young and Mr. Odenweller of Delphos rebuilt it and subsequently sold it to the Van Wert County Farm Bureau. It was then under the management of Layton Jenkins. Upon his retirement Carl Morgan took over. He was followed by Edgar Morgan. Then Stanley Pollock operated it until the Farm Bureau closed it. For a number of years it was inoperative. In 1973 Everett Koenig bought the elevator buildings, the ASCS storage buns along with all of the lots lying west of lots 18 and 19 adjacent to the railroad. These buildings are now used for storage.
Morris B. Jones and Brough Jones operated a combined drug and hardware store on the west side of Main Street. They also did an excellent business selling farm machinery and buggies-- surreys with the fringe on top. This building was destroyed by fire in 1925. "Morris B." then moved to a brick building which had been occupied at one time by a Boston Store. It was purchased from "Morris B's" son, Palmer and his daughter Edwina about 1950 by Rudel Good. Shortly after an extensive remodeling it was destroyed by fire in 1952. Mr. Good then erected the building which now stands on the original site. It is at the present vacant.
The following notes have been taken from the references listed (on the title page of the book --Charles Good), from family records, and conversations with many individuals.
Margaret A. Chapman, the first Welsh child born in the Venedocia community was baptized in 1849. She was also the first person married in the Venedocia church.
The first grist mill was a horse powered mill built by Jesse Clark. The second mill was built by D. Walters. The first sawmill was erected by ex-Governor William Bebb, of Butler County, near Venedocia about 1850.
A Mr. Harry Shaffer owned a tin shop which unfortunately burned. He then moved to Delphos. Later Mr. Dave Griffin established another with Albert Uhl as his assistant.
Several other business operators were Bill Morgan, boiler maker, J. W. Jones, wagon maker; Mrs. "Sadler" Evans and Mrs. W. B. Evans, dressmaker and millinery shops, and "Sadler" Evans a harness shop. Mr. Davis and Tom Evans, tailor shops.
There were at one time three grocery stores including the Whittington and Evans general store, a fascinating place where one could exchange butter and eggs for groceries, yard goods, pins, ribbons, and other household necessities. Eventually Mr. Henry Uhl operated the only remaining general store and in 1932 he closed out his stock of domestics continuing only the grocery items. It was purchased in 1946. Glen Howell Morgan and Thomas A. Morgan bought into it in 1947. They eventualy erected a new building across the street and moved the grocery there. They continued to operate it until 1956 when they sold to Bill Morgan. After a short time he sold to Mr. Courtney who in turn sold to Mr. Good. After Mr. Good's death it was sold to Lee Lare who operated it until 1975.... Now, after over 100 years, Venedocia has no grocery store.
One custom which was common to all the early grocery stores in the area was the maintenance of a huckster wagon. This was at first a light covered horse drawn wagon stocked with a selection of grocieries, which was driven around the community stopping at each residence. The lady of the house would come out to make her selection and perhaps trade some eggs or poultry for her purchases. Later the wagon was replaced by a truck, but the shipping remained just as interesting. By 1940 the practice was discontinued.
In 1917 Mr. Jack S. Jones (I wonder if he got kidded about his name a lot. --Charles Good) and Mr. Henry Uhl organized a company to furnish electricity. The power was produced by a diesel driven dynamo located on the lot behind the present council house. Mr. Gomer Richards was employed as lineman. The facility was later purchased by the Central ohio Power Company and in 1955 it was taken over by the Ohio Power Company, the present owner.
In 1902 the Jennings Telephone Company was organized with Dick O. Evans president, C. B. Stose vice president, and Wesley Weaver secretary-treasurer. Baynton Burnett and Charles Corolus were employed as linemen. Two exchange offices were set up--one in Converse and one in Venedocia. In Venedocia the "Central" office was located on the second floor over an ice cream parlor in a building which stood just south of the preesent Flat Land Supply building. The office, later moved to the corner of Main and College Streets, was razed when the Ohio Electro Polishing Company was started. In 1968 the Venedocia exchange was purchased by the United Telephone Company of Ohio, which at this time continues to serve. (Old phone books starting with 1917 are available at the Brumback Library. United Teleophone is now part of Sprint. --Charles Good)
The Auglaise Post Office was the first post office in York Township. It was located on the Jackson farm in Sec. 32 just off state rte. 81. Later offices were established at Venedocia, Tokio (Jonestown) and Elgin.
The first postmaster for Venedocia was Mr. John Uhl. he was followed by Mr. "Sadler" Evans who operated a harness shop in conjunction with the post office. Three Rural Free Delivery routes ran out of Venedocia. The carriers were Alban Evans, Bob Thomas, and William C. Morgan. Later one route was divided between the two and Alban Evans and Jenk Davis made the delivery. Later part of the northwestern section of the township was assigned to the Van Wert office so only one route was needed for Venedocia. Jenk Davis continued the one route. When he retired Elmer Miller took over the route which is now serviced by John Evans. "Sadler" Evans served as postmaster for 42 years. He was succeeded by Pauline Davis, Zelma Evans and the current one Lee Lare, who assumed his duties in 1965. (The current postmistress is Doris Price. All people mentioned in this paragraph are or were village residents. --Charles Good)
The first undertaker was David W. Williams who came to Venedocia in 1877. He was followed by Henry Jones who operated a furniture store and undertaking establishment on the lot just south of the David Van Eman residence until about 1930.
There were at one time four doctors: Dr. Owins, surgeon; Dr. Jenkins; Dr. Davis; and Dr. Morgan, dentist.
Mr. John Uhl operated a cobbler shop and shoe store.
There were several blacksmith shops - one operated by D. Davies, one by John Pritchard, one by Chas. Nesbeitt, and one by Morgan Thomas. Two supply houses serviced the oil fields. The three boarding houses were primarily for workers in the oil fields.
About 1914 Mr. David B. Jones built the cement block building located on North Main Street for a garage which was operated by Lester Burnett and Steve Schobe. It is not now in operation. (The 1917 phone directory has an ad for this garage. "The Venedocia Garage. Automobile supplies of all kinds. Specializes in repair work, vulcanizing, etc. We also repair all kinds of vehicles as well as build new. Anything in the line of wood work. Gas at lowest prices. Oil and grease in stock. Bennett & Burnett. Phone 10" At the time the village had two and three digit phone numbers. --Charles Good)
In 1950 Mr. Gerald Koenig established the Ohio Electro Polishing Company Inc. in Venedocia. It is located on the corner of Main and college Streets. His sons Gerald and Ted are the present owners and very successful operators of the company.
In 1947 Everett Koenig opened a hardware in his house across the street from the parsonage. In 1966, deciding to expand he organized the Flat Lands Supply Company and purchased the building just south of the Post Office for a sales room. It is at this time a very busy and prosp[erous enterprise. Because of its historic interest (it is the oldest building, dating back to the early 1860's) Mr. Koenig has kept the building intact even to the original potato and vegetable bins. <.P. Now, in 1976, these three businesses along with the Post Office comprise the commercial activity of this once bustling community. (In 1995 Flatland Supply and its hardware business moved its main office to Van Wert city, but maintains storage facilities in the village. Ohio Electro Polishing is still very active in the village. --Charles Good)
Socially there were for a number of years chapters of the Knights of Pythias, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Grange. It was largely through the efforts of the Grange that Rural Free Delivery came to the Venedocia community.
There are three cemeteries in York Township: Wright, Godwin, and Venedocia. All are maintained by the York Trustees. (The Horeb cemetary about 2 miles NW of the village with a lot of Venedocia history associated with it, is in Jennings township. --Charles Good)
In 1945 a committee, inspired by the Rev. Gerald Johnson, began planning for a memorial for those who had served in the Armed Forces. This committee, composed of Joe Williams, Lloyd Reese and Bob Morris, selected a site and purchased the three acres from D. B. Evans adjacent to the "old" part of the Venedocia cemetery. The Piqua Granite Company was contacted and the present design was chosen. Dedicated in 1947, it is titled "An Altar to Peace" and bears this inscription: "In memory and in tribute to the members of this community who so nobly served our nation in Her several Wars." The Veterans' Memorial Park trustees hold the deed and are responsible for its care and upkeep......The white marble columns, standing picturesque knoll, framed by the majestic gren trees, form an inspiring scene fro the annual Memorial Day services.
In 1961 a Lions' Club chapter was organized with 24 charter members. Middle Point was the sponsoring club. The club has grown over the years and contributed much to the community. They now have a modern completely equipped club house which is used for many activities. It may be rented for private parties such as family reunions and alumni class dinners....They sponsor a Chirstmas treat and Easter egg hunt. They have built a tennis court and supply various other recreational equipment. They also participate in the Lions' National eye glasses program.
In 1946 a group met to discuss forming a permanent committee to improve and administer a ball diamond for the benefit of the community. They orgainzed the Venedocia Recreational Committee with Henry Uhl, Earl Monroe, Jenk Davis, Glen H. Morgan, Manfor Lytle, Elliot Jones, David W. Morris, Vaughn morgan and Rev. Gerald Johnson. They improved the grounds, built bleachers, erected fence and eventually installed lights. The refreshment stand was painted and improved. The park is continuously in use during the baseball season.
One of the early institutions that did much to encourage singing and the arts and crafts was the Eisteddfod. This was a day devoted to competition for singers, readers, translators, penmen, photographers, knitters, and woodworkers.
A program for a 1917 Eisteddfod listed 54 numbers for competition, 19 of them musical numbers. The program began about 9AM and often was not completed before midnight.
The first Venedocia Male Chorus was organized about 1890 under the direction of Bob Thomas. The group under the direction of guest conductor Hugh Owens, whent to Seattle Washington to compete in teh National Eisteddfod about 1901, winning first place!!
In 1897 the Venedocia Male Chorus purchased the frame church, which was being replaced by the present stone structure. They named it the Cambrian Hall and set it on the net lot north of the present church.
A story is told of Bob Thomas taking the group to Columbus Ohio to compete in the state Eisteddfod. He had to have exactly so many men. On arrival he found he was one short, so he went out on the street and got one, brought him in, told him where to stand, and said, "Don't you dare open your mouth."
Jim Jones became the next director and the chorus continued until about 1914 when interest began to wane. This group jokingly referred to themselves as the "cornhuskers".
Then in 1918 the Cambrian Glee Club was organized at the instigation of a quartet composed of Howard Hughes, Gwenlyn Jones, Haydn Jones, and Haydn Morgan. They had been very active singing at various churches and civic organizations throughout Van Wert County and sensed the desirability of forming a glee club. Thirty-si young single men joined the chorus. They chose Haydn Morgan for their director and Austin Polock for their accompanist. They gave many concerts in the towns of the surrounding area even traveling to Columbus for a concert. Soloists were Daniel Evans, Luther Jones, Maldwyn Jones, Reese Morris, Glen Owens, and Austin Pollock. In 1920 Haydn Morgan left the community to enter a wider field of music and Oswald Jones took over the duties of conductor.
The custom of a yearly reunion on the Saturday night before Labor Day began in 1930 and continues to the present time (1976-- C Good). Until 1956 the group presented one number during the morning worship service. They were forced to discontinue this practice because...their voices were not as flexible as in earlier years........
The Venedocia-Zion Brotherhood organization had owned the Cambrian Hall for a number of years. In 1959, because of the epense of upkeep and high taxes they decided to sell the building to a Mr. Blaine who razed the building. Some of th lumber was purchased by Frank Rigdon who was at thea time building a house to replace his which had been destroyed by fire. And so, the next to the last public historic landmark disappears from the Venedocia scene.
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