Early History of Stow

Joshua Stow

Adapted from a letter by Frank A. Green of Stow written about 1950


 

The history of any town is the history of the people who have lived in it day after day from its beginning. What most of us do is commonplace and not worth recording. Most of us live selfishly for "me and my son John."

Stow Township, now Stow City, was a small part of the State of Connecticut's Western Reserve. At the close of the Revolutionary War, several states had conflicting claims for the vast territory west of them. They finally settled their dispute by each one of them turning over what land they claimed to the central government -- the U.S. Only thrifty little Connecticut held anything back. She reserved a strip of land lying south of Lake Erie. Part of this she gave in bonuses to her Revolutionary soldiers -- she had plenty of land but little money. The rest of the land in the Reserve she sold to a company of speculators organized for that purpose. Joshua Stow of Middletown, CT., was a member of the Connecticut Land Company. After a lot of jockeying among themselves, he secured for his share the land that is now the City of Stow.

All of this land was surveyed; divided into counties, the counties into townships, the townships into sections. Stow Township was first a part of Trumbull, then of Portage, and finally of Summit County. In the original draft it was known as Town 3, Range 10.

Joshua Stow was a very thrifty Yankee. He came often to his township and spent a good deal of his money in developing it, but never lived here. His agent on the land was William Wetmore. Mr. Wetmore was also from Middletown.

Frank Green is shown walking home from the Library, one of his favorite places. He was about 98 years old at the time, and lived to be nearly 100!

Wetmore came to Stow in July, 1804. He brought his wife and three sons and one daughter with him. Besides them in this first colony were Capt. Gregory Powers and his wife and large family; Thomas Rice, his wife and daughter; Titus Wetmore, and a younger brother not yet named; John Campbell and a boy, 18 or 19 years old -- Josiah Starr. All of these people stayed here the rest of their lives. They bought land in various parts of the town and cleared it and so contributed to its early settlement. Mr. Wetmore had charge of the sale of all the land and during the rest of his life he did far more than anyone else to make it a fit place to live. He died in 1827, but some of his descendants are still living in the town. All of the Wetmores have been a credit to our town. William Wetmore was the first justice of the peace in Stow. He and his sons laid out the first village in the township. They built it in the southwest corner of the town bordering on the Cuyahoga River. They built a dam in the river and started several factories. (Note: When the township of Cuyahoga Falls was laid out it took this corner of Stow, so that now the Wetmore village is part of the City of Cuyahoga Falls.)

Judge Wetmore's colonists were not the first settlers in Stow Twp. This happened in an odd way. Hudson Twp. [to the north] was settled a little before Stow. One of its earliest settlers was Robert Walker. Mr. Walker, who had come from Virginia, brought his family with him. His land was in the southeast corner of Hudson Twp. One of his sons, William, started to build himself a house in the woods south of his father's. This was in 1802. Mr. Wetmore hired Joseph Darrow to cut up the town into sections or lots and to lay out roads. He did this in 1804. It was found that William Walker's house was built in lot 89 in Stow, so Walker bought the lot and continued to live there.

Portage County was taken from Trumbull in 1804 and Stow became a township in the new county. The Connecticut Yankee is a stickler for law and order and a township government was at once organized, even though there were scarce enough men living in town to fill the offices. The town was organized in 1808, but the first election did not happen until January 5, 1811. It was held at the home of Stephen Butler. The Butler cabin stood near where Mr. Thies now lives, quite near the center of Stow. [Today it's the site of the city administration buildings, at Graham and Darrow Roads.]

The following officers were chosen -- trustees: Titus Wetmore, Josiah Starr and Christopher Starr; overseers of the poor: George Darrow and Thomas Rice. Fence viewers [inspectors]: Thomas Van Hyning and Constant Rogers. Constables: Charles Powers and Thomas Gaylord. Treasurer: Titus Wetmore. On the same day and in the same place a special election was held for two justices of the peace. The two selected were Joseph Darrow and Ezra Wyatt. William Wetmore, Stephen Butler and Samuel Cheney became Justices in later elections. It is interesting to note that these elections were not held on regular dates as they are today.

Brief mention of some of these men should be made because they served their town in other ways besides holding office. Stephen Butler came to Stow in 1806. He was an out and out Presbyterian and at once started his church. A meeting house was built at what is now the west end of the Stow Cemetery. This house was used for worship until 1876, first by the Presbyterians, till they disbanded, and then by the Disciples (Christian).

Ezra Wyatt built Stow Tavern about 1810. This was one of the best known stage coach houses of entertainment. It stood at the crossing of the stage lines from Cleveland to Pittsburgh and from Wooster to Warren.

Joseph Darrow is perhaps the best known of that family who have lived on the Street since 1804.

Call Farm

Josiah Starr came with William Wetmore in 1804. He was Howard Call's great-grandfather and lived on the Call Farm the rest of his life. I think the Call Farm is now the only land in Stow that has been in the continuous possession of one family. It is also much the best known as a model farm. Another name to be added to this list is John Graham. He came here in 1809 and bought his farm on west Graham Road. His sons, Maxwell and William, became very well known horticulturists and the owners of large fruit farms. Graham Road is a testimonial to a fine family.

Thomas Gaylord was a member of one of the best-known pioneer families in Stow. Johnathon Gaylord came here in 1809 with a party of 40 of his relations. His son-in-law, William Stow and his wife Peggy were in the group. Both families have always been well known here. William Stow was a distant cousin of Joshua. He came from the same town: Middletown, CT. Frank Green [the author] and Wilford Bixler proudly claim relation to him and to the Gaylords through Stow's wife, Margaret.

Stow Township 1874

[Stow Township's rolling hills, thick forests, the Cuyahoga River and many lakes made it "one of the very best townships of Summit County." The settlers earnestly set about chopping down trees for their cabins and to clear land for farming. They also had to deal with many kinds of wild animals. Some of these were hunted for meat, such as deer, rabbits and pigeons. Some animals were hunted in order to make the area safer: those included bears, wolves, panthers and rattlesnakes.

Settlers immediately made acquaintance with the resident Indians. About 500 of them lived on the shores of Silver Lake. Most of the natives were friendly, and would visit the settlers' cabins. They even invited settlers' children to visit their wigwam villages. Most of the Indians moved west during the War of 1812, and they were all gone by the 1860's.]

School and Road Districts were early made. The school districts were often changed, but schools were constantly maintained and teachers hired up to the time of their consolidation.

Eli Gaylord Home

Stow Township for many, many years was a farming community. Most of the farmers kept some milk cows. Their wives made butter and once in a while cheese. When the cheese factories were built, dairying became a major industry. Some of the farmers milked a lot of cows. The milk had to be taken to the factory twice a day and the sanitary conditions were non-existent. Factories only ran in warm weather, so the cows were bred to freshen in the spring. The cheese factories furnished a market for the milk for a long time, but when they quit there was quite an interval when Stow dairymen didn't know what to do with their milk. In 1915, the Stow Elgin Butter and Ice Cream Co. was organized. It provided a market for milk for some time.

Sheep and hogs have been kept on our farms, but there was only a short time when the raising of sheep was profitable. This was during the Civil War. All of the Union soldiers' uniforms were made of wool.

By the end of the 1800's, Stow's population was about 900 people. Several hundred more lived in Cuyahoga Falls and Munroe Falls. These communities were divided off from the original square township.

More facts and tales about Stow's early history may be found in "The Bronson Book" and "Biographical and Historical Data of Stow," available from the Library.