Edgerton Historical Society (Ohio)

Edgerton History
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A Brief History of Edgerton

Alfred P. Edgerton (1813-1897), a politician and very successful businessman, was born and educated in Plattsburg, New York.  In 1837, Alfred settled in Hicksville, Ohio where he managed extensive landholdings for the American Land Company and Hicks & Company.  A land office was established in Hicksville.  While managing that office he became the owner of about 7,000 acres.  Later his ownership totaled 37,000 acres of valuable land in northwest Ohio, all obtained at very nominal prices.  He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1850 and was re-elected in 1852.  He returned to Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1857, and with Hugh McCulloch and Pliny Hoagland, leased the Wabash-Erie Canal, a major venue of shipping transportation at that time.  Edgerton became general manager.  He was also active in Fort Wayne and Indiana politics and ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1868 but was defeated.  He served on the federal civil service board under appointment by President Cleveland.  Alfred P. Edgerton was one of twelve incorporators of Lindenwood Cemetery, which has become one of the nation's greatest.  He rests there himself, along with 46,800 Hoosiers (Indiana residents) from all walks of life.

The earliest records of a resident on the land now known as the Village of Edgerton was James D. Sleiter who purchased a lot in December 1842. The first store building built in Edgerton was the Central Hotel and Restaurant, managed by William Hill for the railroad company.  At this point the village was considered a trading post.  Though historical facts are vague, we know the village of Edgerton was established in 1865 abutting land that was donated by A. P,. Edgerton to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad in 1852.  The survey for the railroad to pass through the area was done in 1854 and the line to Edgerton was completed in 1855.  About this same time, a bridge for the railroad was built over the St. Joseph River.  A railroad depot was located in Edgerton with it's first timetable being issued in 1857, the same year the Hotel Edgerton went into business.  Wood for the railroad engines was purchased from local farmers and it was stored on the east side of the depot.  The highest point on the railroad line between New York and Chicago is located about one mile from Edgerton and it's downhill in both directions from there.   Maple Grove Cemetery was established in 1858, a joint property of St. Joseph Township and the Village of Edgerton.  It's said that the first person buried there was William Preston and later, the graves from the town of Denmark were moved to Maple Grove.

In 1865, the Village Council's main function was to have authority over a park that was donated as a gift to locals by Alfred P. Edgerton.  The Council was to keep the park maintained and just as it was when given to the community at large.  The Council fenced in the park and put an entrance at the northwest corner.  It also had a trough for watering horses and a windmill near the wooden sidewalk leading to the entrance.  1865 was the year Edgerton's first Mayor was elected, A. D. Austin.   1865 also saw the building of a hotel called the Arlington.  In 1867, the first brick school house was built in Edgerton, though there had been two smaller wooden schools before it.  Another unique school was the School of Telegraphy, which was in Edgerton from 1871 until its demise in 1923.  Students from that school were located throughout the country and doing fine work, usually for the railroad systems.

In 1870, the U.S. Census shows the Village of Edgerton as having 690 residents, which was 1/3 of all the people in St. Joseph's Township.  By 1872, it was necessary to appoint three commissioners to direct improvements on the park grounds and to tax the local residents for the upkeep.  In 1882, the first action toward having a Town Hall was taken.  Council had decided to start a fund for constructing a public building of this type.  So everyone would know what building everybody else was talking about, the project became known as Town Hall and the name has stuck ever since.  Since Edgerton Park was very important and the new "Town Hall" would likely take over as the center of attention, it was determined that it should be located in Edgerton Park so they were both the center of attention.  A week or so later, it was determined that an attorney should be consulted concerning the ramifications of constructing that sort of facility in a public park.  The construction there was approved.

December 1882 brought about advertisements for sealed bids on the construction of Town Hall.  Advertisements were placed in the Edgerton Observer and two other Williams County newspapers.  Plans and specifications for Town Hall were ordered from E. O. Fallis of Toledo for $100.00 - a far cry from the architect fees of today!

It was a year and a half before the legislature in Columbus approved the construction of Town Hall in Edgerton Park, but the legalization was announced on March 13th, 1884.  The debate was finally settled when it was concluded that Edgerton Park was an easement owned by the citizens of Edgerton, thus Edgerton Park was a public gathering place, a public square more than a park.  On May 9, 1884, a contract was signed to allow the lowest bidder from Stryker, Ohio to build Town Hall.  Upon its completion, the focal point of downtown Edgerton, Ohio was birthed.  That "park" today remains the site of Town Hall with a picnic shelter and children's playground behind it.  Town Hall is also the location for the Edgerton Police Department, Edgerton Fire Department and all village administration offices.

A fire destroyed the older business buildings on E. Michigan Avenue in 1893, but a number of the old residences were not fully destroyed and were subsequently remodeled.  This prompted the founding of The Edgerton Fire Department on November 20, 1894.  The recorded history of the fire department is non-existent until the first motorized pumper was purchased in 1922.

The Spanish-American War (1898-99) required five recruits from Edgerton who served in camp, navy, the air or overseas.  Three of the five died.  1899 was also the year of the first telephones and the Edgerton Telephone Exchange was established in 1905.  Telephone costs were $1.50 per month for a private line and $1.25 per month for a two party line.  The phone company was sold to Ohio Standard Telephone in 1932 and to General Telephone in 1952.  1903 was the first time Edgerton's own new power plant was fired up on the south side of Indiana Street so that the Methodist Church could have lights for their dedication ceremony.

Gas came by pipeline to Edgerton from Bryan's Ohio Gas Light and Coke Company in 1930.  In 1939, that gas was replaced by natural gas and in 1949 the company changed its name to Ohio Gas Company.  Today virtually every home in Edgerton is heated by natural gas.

Private wells were the choice for water until the late 1930s.  The first water tower for the village municipal water supply was built in 1939 and storm sewers were constructed in 1958.  Sanitary sewers were delayed until 1978.

At the center of town stands a Civil War Monument which was unveiled for residents Thursday, May 30, 1912.  A flag 12X24 feet was shrouding the monument on the day of its unveiling.  It stands 29 feet tall, weighs 59,000 pounds and was constructed of the finest Barre-granite at a total cost of $3,000.  On July 22, 1972, the monument was moved out of the intersection and into its present location in Village Park directly in front of Town Hall.  This was necessary because of an improvement project on Route 6.  The monument was built in nine pieces and each piece was carefully taken down and placed on the pavement before being moved by lift truck to the new location where they were reassembled.

This information is from the Village of Edgerton web site.  This historical adventure is certainly, by no means, a complete history of Edgerton, St. Joseph Township or the surrounding areas.  Our history is well documented because of the Edgerton Historical Society, Williams County Historical Society, Kevin Maynard (formerly of Bryan) and many other sincere individuals, living and passed, to whom we will be forever grateful.  All information accumulated and used in this history page was provided graciously by the Edgerton Public Library for which we thank them.

Copyright 2013 - The Edgerton Historical Society