The Sub-Communities of Huntsburg

Early last spring, I had the pleasure of spending a day with Huntsburg Historical Society member Dan Tucker. Dan is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to our little part of Geauga County, learning much of what he knows as a young boy riding the roads with his postal carrier dad. He has been gracious enough to share his recollections by creating a Huntsburg tour, and I was delighted that day to be getting this tour from the author himself.

Of all the things I learned on the trip, one revelation hit me hard. As Dan pointed out subtle remnants of a Huntsburg well before our time, I realized that for over thirty years I had travelled through, day-in and day-out, and never knew most of it was even there. Another realization was that, while Huntsburg was, and is, a quiet country township, it was certainly bustling with activity in the first one hundred years of its life.

Muddy Path through the forestA major part of Dan’s tour deals with tiny towns within Huntsburg. Yes, there were little ‘sub-towns’ within our township. These miniature hubs of commerce developed naturally out of the lack of optimal transportation options – horses and carriages could only travel so far in a day, and ‘roads’ were not much more than narrow, muddy paths through vast forests. Where businesses developed, settlers followed and built their homes. And where settlers built homes, businesses in turn developed.

Finley Creek Community

The first of these ‘micro-burgs’ to develop in Huntsburg was known as the Finley’s Creek Community. As you may recall from my earlier articles, a fairly famous man by the name of John Finley was the first known European to inhabit our town. The creek he briefly resided on was named after him. As the pioneers trickled into the vicinity, commerce followed, and a community took shape. The need for a mill quickly arose, as the nearest was a distant fifteen miles away. And so, the first grist mill (and only for some time) in Huntsburg was built here by William Reed. It was soon followed by the township’s first sawmill, erected by Amos Morse, and two more saw mills after that.

Driving through the former Finley Creek community today, near the intersection of Clay Street and Pioneer Road, there is little obvious evidence of its thriving past. However, if one looks close enough at the surrounding land, subtle clues still exist. Remnants of a couple of the old mill dams still flank the creek. The two mill stones from the grist mill serve as driveway markers at the home of an Amish family. A row of trees in a farm field and a few landforms show the location of an old cheese factory. One of the area homes is built on the foundation of a former creamery. A square of woods on the northwest corner is where the schoolhouse once stood, now part of a barn just north of this location. And a small grove of trees off of the southeast corner stands to shelter the spot where our beloved and little-understood John Finley briefly called his home.

Scottsburg

Another early sub-town went by the name of ‘Scottsburg’. It got its name from early settler Aaron Scott. He arrived in 1818, and several settlers purchased lands near him. It is said that, for a time, Scottsburg had a larger population than Huntsburg Center. Scott’s cabin served as both a church and a school until a new school building was erected. Soon after, the new school was moved north and served as the Clay Street School until the 1930s.

Hardly any remnants of Scottsburg exist today at the current intersection of Clay Street and Huntley Road. The only landmark of note is a grove of locust trees to the west and on the north side of Huntley Road. It was in this old, overgrown stand that the Scottsburg Cemetery once stood. The residents of the cemetery were moved to the Huntsburg Center Cemetery in 1870.

Joint

Joint was a small point that came to be in the middle of the 19th century and lasted into the early 1930s. It got its name from the fact that the area is where four townships all come together—Huntsburg, Claridon, Montville, and Hambden. The community, including the intersection of Chardon-Windsor Road and Kile Road, flourished and boasted a store, a cheese factory, a sawmill, a school, and even its own post office! Nothing but a few old houses remain there today.

Old Plank Rd Scale
Old Plank Road Scale

Black Brook/Damon

Another one of our well-known tiny towns was called Black Brook, then Damon. Damon grew around the intersection of Chardon-Windsor Road and State Route 86. While this little community was located just inside Windsor Township, it was shared with residents of Huntsburg and Montville. As many may know, Route 86 is known as the ‘Old Plank Road.’ This name came from its original surface—the road was paved with thick, oak planks all the way to Warren.

To pay for this expensive work, tolls were charged along the road. Damon was the location of one of the several tollhouses, and the community grew around this feature, including its own store, sawmill, stone quarry, and a school where this author’s great-grandfather taught. The former Damon is today marked only by a residence on the east side of the intersection. The toll house fell in the mid-1980s as oil companies were using heavy equipment along the road. The school was used briefly as a blacksmith shop, then moved a few miles west on Chardon –Windsor Road where it still remains a residence.

“The Reservation”

No doubt our strangest sub-town was known as ‘The Reservation’. In the early 1900s, Geauga county townships reported their local happenings to a newspaper known as the Geauga Republican. The reports were mainly a town gossip column, and sub-communities were invited to report in as well. It is in these columns that we find the only documented mentions of ‘The Reservation’, written under what was probably a comedic pen name, ‘Tollepehawkee’. What is certain is that the area referenced encompassed the general vicinity of the intersection of Clay St. and Chardon-Windsor Road. What is unknown is the origin of the name. Perhaps it is in reference to the prime-quality springs and artesian wells in the area, possibly a stop for Native Americans as they hunted these lands. Maybe it was just a sarcastic or derogatory nickname concocted by a local writer aspiring to a comedic career. Families that resided in the very area insist it was never called that, even though there is published evidence!

The Reservation did not have a post office, but it did include the Clay Street School. This school was the former Scottsburg School. In 1937, its function as a school had come to an end, and the school was moved to Huntsburg Center for use as a barn, then on to Nauvoo Road in Middlefield where it still serves as a home.

As roads slowly improved, and automobiles eventually replaced horses, the purposes these tiny communities served were fulfilled by larger towns, now just a short car drive away. Huntsburg’s sub-towns disappeared into antiquity, leaving behind only a few written accounts, postal marks, and scattered structures and landforms. Though they are gone, their existence serves as a reminder of a time gone by, of a way of life that technology forever transformed.

Are you interested in taking the Huntsburg tour? Become a member of the Huntsburg Historical Society and join in the fun! Contact Ty at 216.780.2103 or at huntsburghistory@gmail.com!

Ty Pilarczyk
Author: Ty Pilarczyk

Ty is the president of the Huntsburg Historical Society, and has lived in Huntsburg most of his life. When he is not designing, installing, and maintaining landscapes for the family construction business, Ty enjoys vegetable gardening, restoring and collecting old pressure lanterns, and spending time with his family.