The word ‘homecoming’ has a definition as simple as it sounds—coming home. Yet, if I asked those of you reading what ‘homecoming’ means to you, I doubt that any two answers would be the same. Maybe it takes you back to family reunions. Maybe it was that big game in high school. As varied as the personal meanings would be, the feelings are likely those of reminiscing, fondness and belonging—home.
For over a century, the residents of our next township have known ‘homecoming’ as a yearly celebration of family, community, neighbors and friends.
Like the other towns in our Geauga History series, Troy Township, Range 7, Township 6 of the old Western Reserve was settled by New Englanders hungry for inexpensive land and a new life. The area was settled later than others in the county. The early in-roads came from the north, and the marshy wetlands of the Cuyahoga River inhibited traveling south until crude wooden bridges were constructed.
The first settler was Jacob Welsh in 1811. Jacob was initially a land speculator who purchased several hundred acres of the northwest corner, and erected a cabin near the future town center. Soon after, Peter Beals and Ebenezer Ford arrived to claim their lands. The next year, Peter returned with his family and a large settling party. By 1820, the township had surpassed 100 residents. The formation of Troy was under way.
In that year, the Geauga County Commissioners officially resolved to form the township, which was to be called Welshfield. Jacob Welsh had promised 50 acres of his holdings to the public if the town was named for his family. The only trouble was that Jacob’s end of the bargain was never held up. Years later, angry citizens moved to strip the first settler’s name from their land and replace it with the Troy we know now.
Commerce started with sawmills, and progressed as the surrounding townships did with wagon makers, shoe makers, carpenters, cheese factories and charcoal makers. While Troy has been home to several industries and businesses, it has always retained its rural, agricultural roots. Sometimes, it was through bad luck, and sometimes even by force!
In 1850, a railroad company surveyed a new line between New York City and Chicago, running through the southern part of Troy. Pictures of profitability and wealth were painted to sell stock to eager residents, many of whom invested their entire savings. The right of way was cleared from New York City to Hudson, OH, when mysteriously the entire project stopped. It was briefly revived around 1889 when it again failed and was then sold and abandoned.
In 1901, a Burtonite named Pace Latham had a vision of large-scale onion farming. He began making the Cuyahoga River deeper and straighter to make usable the rich soils of the area’s wetlands. There was one obstacle still holding the water and his onion farm back—a dam at the Hiram Rapids. Pace attempted two times to remove the dam by hiring thugs with dynamite. Both tries failed as surrounding residents packed their shotguns with rock salt and repelled Latham’s goons. Defeated, Pace abandoned his ambitions. Eldon Russell Park, established in 1969 by the Geauga Park District, marks the very spot in the township where the dredging from the ‘Onion War’, as it came to be known, came to an end.
Eldon Russell Park, established in 1969 by the Geauga Park District, marks the very spot in the township where the dredging from the ‘Onion War’, as it came to be known, came to an end.
In 1911, Troy citizens put together an annual celebration that is still alive today. The Troy Homecoming is a time for current and former residents, as well as folks from the neighboring areas, to come together for food, conversation and fun. To learn more, make sure to check out their web page.
Only one more township to go in our Geauga History series!