1894 Book - A history of Norwood

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"Norwood, Her Homes and Her People"

by Ren Mulford, Jr., and Werter G. Betty,
Norwood's first official historians


- pages 3-6 -
J. A. Knapp's 'T'

EN YEARS ago the Norwood of today was imperfectly pictured in the dreams of a few hopeful souls who believed that the future had much in store for a borough so abundantly blessed by nature. The pasture lands and orchards of the last decade have disappeared and in their stead is a beautiful little city of homes linked to the Queen of the West by bands of iron and strands in which play the mystic forces of electricity. Norwood, among the youngest members of Cincinnati's sylvan family, has put on metropolitan airs. Her house is in order and she bids welcome to all of mankind who can appreciate what pluck and energy can do in the cause of progress.
There was a time, not many years ago, when Norwood was unknown—unnamed. The little hamlet of half a dozen houses on the Montgomery pike was called Sharpsburg. It never created much of a stir in the world. Farmers, on their way to and from the city, stopped at the old tavern, where there was cheer for both man and beast. Later on, the Marietta and Cincinnati railroad was built, and the primitive iron horses snorted and tugged up a heavy grade and stopped at the modest little Sharpsburg station that stood near where the Montgomery pike bridge is now located—a bridge that was built when the cut was made and travel rendered easier. Those whose memory long antedates the building of the railroad tell of the tavern on the hill—"Mother Goose's"—a famous resting place for the travelers along the old pike that was then the highway between Cincinnati, Chillicothe and Columbus.
    When in 1869 the William Ferguson farm, now known as Norwood Heights, passed into the hands of the late S. H. Parvin, Col. P. P. Lane and L. Bolles, "Sharpsburg" was the adopted named of the territory. That was not considered pretty enough for such a spot, and the suggestion of Mr. and Mrs. Bolles to call it Norwood (an abbreviation of Northwood) met with indorsement, and so it was that the suburb was christened anew. This was the first of the subdivisions; but the hopes and plans of those early projectors were not carried out. The William R. Phipps home, now occupied by A. O. Russell, was the only building erected, and the trend of improvement shifted from hill top to valley, when L. C. Hopkins appeared upon the scene. The dry-goods prince soon turned his interests over to A. G. Bofinger and Louis G. Hopkins, and to their careful handling of the property they had acquired is largely due the character of Norwood's population.
    From none of the hills that skirt the Miami valley like giant sentinels is there revealed a panorama of greater grandeur than that which unfolds before the pilgrim who has scaled the heights that are crowned by the historic Indian mound. Here, upon soil that was doubtless sacred to the Red man, Norwood's water tower rises a monument to man's ingenuity and the progressive spirit of a suburb that has challenged the admiration of all its neighbors. It is a spot which must have been fashioned when Dame Nature was in one of her merriest moods. Directly before one, to the northeast, are the outskirts of Pleasant Ridge. From the balcony on the great steel tower the beauty of the scene is inspiring. Village after village is revealed. Beyond the ridge one looks down upon Kennedy Heights—made prominent by Yononte Inn, whose hospitable roof seems to cover the extreme edge of the plateau upon which it had been built.— The dual towns of Lockland and Wyoming are visible, with Reading close enough to warrant the claim that they are triplets. Of the hamlets on the heights College Hill is prominent. Across the valley, to the left, seemingly nestling at the foothills of the range beyond Millcreek, lie Hartwell, Carthage, Elmwood Place and Ivorydale. The square tower of the County Infirmary and the great dome of Longview Asylum loom up in the distance, lending an additional architectural charm to the scene; but those mighty walls echo the lamentations of disappointed lives and the ravings of others in whom the light of reason has been stuffed out. One sad thought to the fate of the unfortunates there and the eye sweeps onward. Bond Hill is a conspicuous figure in this magnificent picture. Far away the smoke stacks of the factories that have given Ivorydale international repute are visible. Ludlow Grove and Clifton are both in sight and between the two St. Bernard lies, the clustered tombstones glistening in the sunlight in the cemeteries there, proving a grim reminder that Death lies in ambush everywhere. The twin spires that rise heavenward, far in the distance, give St. George's and Corryville a distinctive place in the marvelous tableau. Then there is Mt. Auburn beyond. Sweeping away to the left is Walnut Hills, that great city of the hilltops, the Eden Park stand pipe showing clear against the horizon. The Observatory, at Mt. Lookout, is prominent, and as the eye is turned toward the East, Mornington, Oakley and then Madisonville are revealed. Between the borders of Norwood Park and Oakley there stretches the mile track of the old Queen City Driving Club. Linwood lies unseen beyond the Observatory, but her water-tank, elevated on stilts, is conspicuous. Kentucky's hills burst into view to the Southeast, but Bellevue is the only borough that can be seen in the old Commonwealth. Ft. Thomas, however, is within range of the naked eye, and with the glass the stars and strips of "Old Glory" can be seen flying in the breeze above the square water tower at Uncle Sam's military station.
    Norwood itself has an air that is almost metropolitan. There appears to be a continuity of pretty residences reaching almost to the gates of the city. The white streaks that line nearly every thoroughfare are the evidences in cement of the villagers' escape from the thralldom of bad walks. Hopkins avenue winds its way up the hill—the artery that leads to Avondale, for Avondale is a neighbor that is already touching elbows with the Ivanhoe folks. The Montgomery road is the watershed of the territory. Bloody Run, ugly only after a storm, flows peacefully along the outskirts of the town, keeping to itself the legend of the Indian massacre from which stirring tragedy, that dyed its waters with the life blood of pioneers, it gained the name that clings to it still. To the east runs Duck Creek, and the drive along its wooded banks is one of the most delightful in Ohio. Indeed, there is no break in the picturesque boundaries of "the Gem of the Highlands."
    Norwood is essentially a village of to-day. There are less than fifty of the inhabitants who can claim a residence of a quarter of a century. Edward Mills' grandfather was host at the old tavern, now the Sanker House, but modern improvements have obliterated nearly all traces of the famous land-mark. Columbus Williams, Thomas Drake, W. B. Ferguson, Moses F. Buxton, Tunis Van Middlesworth, David Woolley, Justus Durrell and Rev. Jas. Lyon, famous as a farmer preacher, were among these pioneers. Some of their descendants have fallen in with the procession, and aided in the development of their old farm lands; but the "new blood" has proved the bone and sinew of the movement. Uncle Joe Langdon took up his residence here in 1840, and he tells of an incident in making a clearing which recalled Mad Anthony Wayne's campaign. In the heart of an Oak tree he found buried a bullet that had been hidden there sixty-six years!
    In all of Cincinnati's suburban family there never was a more precocious youngster than Norwood. It early evidenced a disposition to leave the nursery in the possession of other sylvan sisters a bit older but not evincing quite so much pluck and energy. Before there were active steps taken toward incorporation, the town was fairly well lighted. Back in those days every division of territory boasted of its improvement society. South Norwood was the pioneer in the movement, and East Norwood followed. Both West Norwood and old Norwood imbibed the spirit of progress and formed organizations that laid the foundation for Norwood's unprecedented growth. Private purse strings were loosened, and out of darkness there came light and the country path gave way to the plank walk. When it became necessary to put up a few new lamps, these pioneers turned out in force at night, dug their own post holes and planted beacons. If individual effort could do such much for Norwood it was evident that hopes for greater improvements lay in incorporation. The sentiment of the community was overwhelming in favor of such action, and on May 10, 1888, the efforts of V. C. Tidball and Casper H. Rowe, who had been named as agents for incorporation, were successful. Norwood celebrated her sixth birthday in 1894. Her record is one which must be a matter of personal pride to every soul within the corporate limits.
    At the first municipal election—a special one, held August 6, 1888,—199 votes were cast. At the last presidential election in 1892, four years later, that total had increased over five fold, and 1,026 citizens cast their ballots at the two precincts. Dr. John C. Weyer was the first mayor chosen; John C. Masker, treasurer; Edward G. Bolles, clerk, and Gerald Kehoe, marshal. The first board of councilmen was made up of Fred. H. Mehmert, Edward Mills, William Leser, J. P. Zimmerman, sr., D. H. Whitehead and Anthony Weiand. The same town officers were elected in April, 1889, but Philip Moessinger, T. J. McFarlan, Robert Thompson and A. H. Pape joined Messrs. Zimmerman and Mehmert in council. During this administration, David Davis acted as solicitor and D. A. Hosbrook, as village engineer. In 1890 J. M. Thomssen was the only new man to take his seat in council, Mr. Thompson retiring. During the year Mr. Moessinger resigned, and Richard Evans served during his unexpired term. Mr. Bolles also laid down his pen as clerk, and W. E. Wichgar succeeded him. The spring election in 1891 resulted in the choice of Aaron McNeill for mayor. Once more J. C. Masker was continued as treasurer, and Marshal Kehoe was re-elected. Wm. Damen was installed as sealer of weights and measured. W. E. Bundy, as solicitor, was warmly endorsed. Three new councilmen were chosen: John Rolsen, J. J. Hess and W. S. Gwynn, and they acted that year with Messrs. Mehmert, Pape and Thomssen, this trio being returned to that body in April, 1892. The spring campaign in 1893 resulted in the renewed choice of Mayor McNeill and the return of all the old officials with two exceptions—Albert Berger succeeded Mr. Gwynn in council and Benjamin Zeis was installed as Marshall, an office not in conflict with his duties as one of Norwood's finest. The first official abode of Norwood's fledgling fathers was decidedly modest. All of the early ordinances were engrossed in a small apartment in the frame building on the pike, remodeled by the Knights of Pythias. The quarters soon became too cramped for comfort, and by an expenditure of $5,200, Norwood Hall was purchased, and it has served the village for council chamber, court room and calaboose, while continuing in popular demand as public hall. Possessing a splendid site the first steps have already been taken to give Norwood a new public building worthy of this picturesque and beautiful suburb.

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