Springfield Ohio History

History of Springfield Ohio

 Springfield founded by James Demint, a former teamster from Kentucky, in 1801. When Clark County was created from parts of Champaign, Madison and Greene counties, Springfield was designated as county seat in 1818. Springfield beat out the village of New Boston by two votes in the state legislature.

Springfield traces its early growth to the National Road, which ended in Springfield for approximately 10 years as politicians wrangled over the path it would continue. Dayton and Eaton wanted the road to veer south after Springfield, but President Andrew Jackson made the final decision to have the road continue straight west to Richmond, Indiana.

During the mid and late 1800s Springfield was dominated by industrialists including O. S. Kelly, Asa S. Bushnell, James Leffel, P. P. Mast and Benjamin Warder. Asa S. Bushnell built the Springfield, Ohio Bushnell Building where the patent attorney to the Wright Brothers, Harry Aubrey Toulmin, Sr., wrote the 1904 patent to cover the invention of the airplane. To promote the products of his agricultural equipment company, P. P. Mast started the Farm and Fireside magazine. Mast’s publishing company - Mast, Crowell, and Kirkpatrick - grew to become Crowell-Collier Publishing Company best known for Collier's Weekly. In 1894, The Kelly Springfield Tire Company was founded.

At the turn of the century Springfield became know as the "Home City." Several lodges including the Masonic Lodge, Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows built homes for orphans and aged members of their order. Springfield also became known as "The Champion City"..a reference to the Champion brand of farm equipment manufactured by the Glessner Manufacturing Company..which was later absorbed into International Harvester in 1902. International remains in Springfield as Navistar International, a producer of medium to large trucks.

In 1902 A.B. Graham, then the superintendent of schools for Springfield Township in Clark County, established a "Boys' and Girls' Agricultural Club." Approximately 85 children from 10 to 15 years of age attended the first meeting on January 15, 1902 in Springfield, Ohio, in the basement of the Clark County Courthouse. This was the start of what would be called the "4-H Club" within a few years, quickly growing to a nationwide organization. (4-H stands for "Head, Heart, Hands, and Health". The first "projects" included food preservation, gardening and elementary agriculture. Today, the Courthouse still bears a large 4H symbol under the flag pole at the front of the building to commemorate its part in founding the organization. The Clark County Fair is the second largest fair in the state (only the Ohio State Fair is larger) in large part to 4H still remaining very popular in the area.
On March 7, 1904, over a thousand Springfield residents formed a lynch mob, stormed the jail and removed prisoner Richard Dixon, a black man accused of murdering a police officer. Richard Dixon was shot to death and then hung from a pole on the corner of Fountain and Main Street, where the mob continued to shoot his lifeless body. The mob then proceeded to burn much of the black area of town.[ In February 1906, another mob formed and again burned the black section of town know as “the levee”. Springfield was the first city in the US to have a black mayor, Robert Henry.

From 1916 to 1926, 10 automobile companies operated in Springfield. Among them: The Bramwell, Brenning, Foos, Frayer-Miller, Kelly Steam, Russell-Springfield and Westcott. The Westcott, know as the car built to last, was a six-cylinder four-door sedan manufactured by Burton J. Westcott of the Westcott Motor Car Company. Burton and Orpha Westcott however, are better known for having contracted the world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design their home in 1908 at 1340 East High Street. The Westcott House, a sprawling two-story stucco and concrete house has all the features of Wright's prairie style including horizontal lines, low-pitched roof, and broad eaves. It is the only Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style house in the state of Ohio. The property was purchased in 2000 by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (Chicago, IL), and as part of a prearranged plan, the house was then sold to a newly formed local Westcott House Foundation. The Westcott House Foundation managed the extensive 5 year, $5.3 million restoration, the house was fully restored to its original glory in October 2005, when it officially opened to the public for guided tours.

International Harvester (now Navistar), manufacturer of farm machinery and later trucks, became the leading local industry after Springfield native William Whitely invented the self-raking reaper and mower, in 1856. It held that position, along with Crowell-Collier Publishing, throughout most of the next century.

The city is served by one daily newspaper, the Springfield News-Sun, and by one weekly newspaper, The Springfield Paper

 The following are some interesting historical facts about the Springfield area:

  • The first jail in town was guarded by a black bear. Many decades later, however, famed outlaw John Dillinger robbed a bank in New Carlisle.
  • For many years, the corner of Main Street and Fountain Avenue was known as "Trapper's Corner." It got the name from an 1830 presidential rally for William Henry Harrison. For the rally, a model log cabin was built atop a wagon and everyone dressed as frontiersmen in support of Harrision.
  • For almost a decade Springfield was known as the "Town at the End of the Pike" because the massive National Road project stalled here due to a lack of federal funding.
  • Famous western performer Anne Oakley gave her first professional performance in Springfield at the Crystal Palace. Many years later, the Marx Brothers also started their careers here.
  • Agriculture has always had a big influence on the area, in 1902 A.B. Graham started the 4H movement in Clark County.
  • At the turn of the 20th century, 54 passenger trains arrived daily in Springfield. And during the early 1900's, 10 different automobiles were produced here: the Bramwell, Brenning, Foos, Frayer-Miller, Kelly Steam, Russell-Springfield and Westcott.
  • Burton J. Westcott, who built the car of the same name, remains a well-known local name today because of the house he had built in 1905 at 1340 East High Street. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is currently undergoing renovation.
  • Springfield has had three nicknames:
    • Champion City (the highly successful Champion reaper was produced here in the 1800's)
    • Home City (the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Knights of Pythias located retirement homes here around the turn of the 20th century)
    • City of Roses (by 1919, Springfield's 33 greenhouses produced more roses than any other city in the world).
  • Two beers have been produced here: Red Head Beer and Blue Head Beer.
  • Springfield was home to former featherweight boxing champion of the world (1959 - 1963), Davey Moore.
  • Springfield produced two Ohio governors:
    • Asa Bushnell - the 40th (1896 - 1900)
    • James Rhodes - the 61st (1963 - 1971) and the 63rd (1975 - 1983)
  • In 1983, "Newsweek" magazine chose Springfield and Clark County as the focus of its 50th anniversary issue, which chronicled the impact of the past 50 years on five local families.



The following are notable people born and/or raised in Springfield: