A New City is Born in Our MidstThe Great Scioto Indian Trail ran through the Township from the northeast. Crossing Wolf Creek, the trail turned southwest to Johnson's Corners and continued southwest in an almost identical route to modern Wooster Road. Other early roads ran from Biglow Chapel to Wolf Creek and from Middlebury (in East Akron) through the center of our Township to Harrisburg in Medina County.
The Norton area was only lightly populated until after the War of 1812 when New Englanders relocated into the region followed by German settlers from Pennsylvania. Norton was not settled as early as some of the other townships in this area, but it soon outgrew most of them.
The census of 1840 listed Norton as having a population of 1,497 inhabitants. This is a phenomenal growth when you realize that twenty-five years before there were about four log cabins scattered over the 25 square miles, which later comprised our lands.
From 1840 to 1880, Norton Township's population increased only by 569 people to a total of 2066. Up to this time, it was pretty much a quiet rural countryside made up of fine farms, many fine farm homes and seven hamlets or centers which boasted hotels, stores, etc. The seven hamlets were: Norton Center, Loyal Oak, Western Star, Hametown, Sherman, Johnson's Corners, and New Portage.
In 1890, all this was to change quickly. Messr's Ohio Columbus Barber, Charles Baird, Albert T. Paige and John K. Robinson purchased a number of contiguous farms adjacent to the already established eastern Norton Township hamlet of New Portage. Their purchase was for the purpose of founding on these farms a new manufacturing city. This city was called Barberton after O. C. Barber, and thus began a new city partly inside the boundaries of Norton Township. In the center of this land development was a beautiful spring-fed lake at the time called Davis Lake. The name was later changed to Lake Anna, so named after O. C. Barber's daughter.
New Portage already was a station stop on the Erie, and Cleveland, Akron and Columbus Railroads. It was a port on the Ohio canal and it was the south most terminus of the Portage Path which had been, probably for centuries, the aboriginal path or highway connecting Lake Erie and the great rivers flowing to the South. In a matter of one year, the rolling farm lands with their white houses and red barns were to almost completely disappear and in their place was platted the new city of Barberton.
The new city was not haphazardly thrown together like many towns experiencing overnight growth. Beautiful homes were being erected on the broad streets around the lake. Substantial business buildings were going up everywhere. Many factories were started along the railroads and even a new hotel, which could have been the envy of many older cities, was erected on the south shore of the lake.
Probably the main objective of the four previously named men, who organized themselves into "The Barberton Land and Improvement Company," was to bring as much new industry as possible to the new city. By 1892, the National Sewer Pipe Company, with a capital of $250,000, and employing 200 men; the Kirkham Art Tile Company, capital $500,000, and employing 500; the American Strawboard Co., capital $6,000,000, and employing 200 men; the Sterling Boiler Co., with a capital of $500,000 and employing 300 men; the Creedmoor Cartridge Company, capital $500,000 and work force of 200; the American Alumina Co., capital $500,000, employing 50; and the United Salt Company, capital $1,000,000, and employing 150 men were all started in the new founded city now called the "Magic City."
The Barberton Belt Line Railroad laid tracks around the town connecting these new industries with the trunk line railroads. In 1893, the great Diamond Match Company, which at that time was located in Akron, started a new factory in Barberton and the entire factory was soon moved to Barberton bringing with it a work force of nearly 1000 people. In the next few years the Columbia Chemical Co., with millions in capital and employing hundreds of men located in the southwest corner of Barberton. About this time the Pittsburgh Valve and Fittings Co. was added to the long list of Barberton's industries. A city with such a diversified list of industries was in a much better position to exist than a city with one or two industries. In addition to all the industries Mr. Barber was interested in, he also bought a large area of land in Coventry Township, where he laid out one of the largest farming establishments in America, known as Anna Dean Farms. This farm boasted the largest dairy barn in the world and housed probably the greatest herd of registered Guernsey cattle ever housed under one roof. Many of these cattle were imported directly from the Guernsey Islands and represented the top bloodlines in the Guernsey breed.
Murne Cowan, the name given to a great registered cow in the Barber herd, was for many years noted as having given in one year more milk and butterfat than any other Guernsey. For many years the milk from this herd was bottled and delivered to Barberton residents directly from the farm. Anna Dean Farms was in operation from 1-900-1925. It has given way to progress, but the names of the great Guernsey cows and sires will live as long as Guernsey cows exist in the record books of the Guernsey breed. So besides helping to build a great new city, Mr. Barber must always be remembered for the advancement he gave to American agriculture.
What Our Early Settlers Did for Recreation
Some of us today, with our modern conveniences probably wonder how our ancestors spent their spare time. Actually pioneer families had very little time for recreation after they completed the everyday jobs that were necessary to exist. A pioneer farmer and his family had land to clear, log cabins and other buildings to construct, and crops to grow. They would never find time to go to the movies or to go golfing.
Our early families did not lack for things to do to take their minds off the problems of survival. Most of our early families were deeply religious and church on Sunday was a must. The churches helped to provide the women with sewing circles and quilting bees. The men could always stir up a ball game or pitch horseshoes. Early settlers always tried to help their neighbors especially at threshing time or if there was a barn to be built. It was not uncommon for a hundred men to assemble to build a barn in one day. Most of the time the women came along with picnic baskets.
When the little one-room schools were in session there were always spelling bees, debates, and box socials. Box socials always drew good crowds. The girls would fill a box with good things to eat and an auctioneer would bid the boxes off to the young man who would pay the highest price. His reward was the privilege to eat with the girl who brought the box.
In the winter, skating and bobsled rides were common entertainment. Family reunions and church and school reunions were always well attended. Young people and sometimes the older people too, always could have a square dance if there was a fiddler and a caller around. The early families probably had as much fun as we do today, but it never cost much.