Just as the pioneers and early settlers of this region have borne their burdens and paved the way for present conditions and then passed to their reward so must we too meet our problems bravely and leave to those who follow as good conditions and as sweet memories as they have left us.
– Jennie Fadely from “History,” 1927,
Edgerton: Our Hometown Yours and Mine
Edgerton sits in the extreme northwest corner of Ohio, a prominent part of the former Northwest Territory. On December 2, 1832, the St. Joseph Township was established. Preceding Edgerton, the Village of Denmark became the first village in Williams County. The future Edgerton area experienced growth due to its proximity to the railroad, gaining such necessary entities as a post office and livestock business with the railroad. The expanding town consisted of wood frame houses and farm families who used simple farming methods. However, there were the occasional amenities like ice, provided by the icehouse behind Callender’s Dairy.
The Village of Edgerton was officially incorporated as of December 4, 1865, bearing the name of the industrious Alfred P. Edgerton. Alfred had traveled west as an agent of the American Lands Company to sell land to the increasing number of settlers coming to Ohio. He settled in Hicksville, Ohio, and worked to stimulate its economy through the land office, timber mills, and the first toll road in the Maumee Basin. After becoming owner of 40,000 acres of land in Ohio, Alfred donated land to the Village of Edgerton as a public square. This area would later be known as the Village Park. In 1865, the Village Council’s main function was to have authority over this park and to keep the land maintained, as it was when Alfred had given it 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.
December 1882 brought about advertisements for sealed bids on the construction of a Village Hall. Advertisements were placed in the Edgerton Observer and two other Williams County newspapers. Plans and specifications for the new Village Hall were ordered from E.O. Fallis of Toledo for $100.00. It was a year and a half before the legislature in Columbus approved the construction of Village Hall in Edgerton’s park, but the legalization was announced on March 13, 1884. Edgerton’s park was declared an easement owned by the citizens of Edgerton. Thus, Edgerton’s 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 Von Behren and Shaffer from Stryker, Ohio, to build Village Hall. The Village Hall was later called the Park Opera House and provided “a public meeting place for lectures, entertainments, institutes, council and school board meetings, [and] voting precincts for town and township.” The original park today remains the site of Village Hall with a picnic shelter provided by the Lions Club and the Civil War Monument. Village Hall is also the location for the Edgerton Fire Department and the Edgerton EMS squad.
Before the Civil War Monument (affectionately known as “Clem”) rested at its present location, the statue had stood at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Indiana Street. The Barre-granite monument made its premiere on Thursday, May 30, 1912, with a price tag of $3,000. The monument remained in the intersection until July 22, 1972, when the Route 6 Highway improvement project was in full swing. Workmen moved the monument in nine pieces, and it was reassembled in front of Village Hall. Besides the Civil War Monument, Edgerton had been honoring its soldiers for years in the Maple Grove Cemetery, established in 1858. As a joint property of St. Joseph Township and Edgerton, a majority of the graves from the town of Denmark are now in this cemetery. A Civil War veteran, J.O. Rose, led the first Memorial Day service held there on May 30, 1868, and Memorial Day services are still held there each year.
After making so much progress, the Village of Edgerton faced a devastating setback from the infamous “Blaze of 1893.” The Edgerton Earth wrote an article on the fire on July 28, 1893, describing a catastrophe that the town’s Little Giant fire engine and a bucket brigade could not prevent. As a consequence of the fire, Frager’s Barber Shop is the only original storefront remaining in the downtown business block.
Before the invention of the telephone, any communication in Edgerton depended upon word of mouth, a telegraph service, or the local newspaper (officially the Edgerton Earth since 1878). During the year of 1899, a telephone system was first established in the town, greatly in part because of the work of E.A. and Anna Geauque. This couple later formed a telephone company in 1905 and started an office full of switchboard operators and linemen. In order to keep up with Edgerton’s increasing technological demands, the first electric power plant was built in 1903. Additionally, the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company constructed the water tower in 1939. Storm sewers would follow in 1958, as well as the water plant in 1966, sanitary sewers in 1978, and the electric substation in 2003.
Even as Edgerton increased in population, some of its residents inevitably moved to other locations in the country. In order to foster memories and unity, an annual homecoming was organized in 1921. Here is an excerpt from a historical piece written by Jennie Fadely in 1927, describing the event:
In 1921 a Home Coming was inaugurated to take place the first week in August every two years…These home comings have been a delightful time to both residents and visitors. Almost every state in the Union has been represented in these meetings. 1,231 were registered in 1925 and a greater number is hoped for this year. Most of the visitors were born and reared in Edgerton and this returning to the scenes of their youth to renew old memories and friendships is a delightful time indeed. The saddest part being that with each meeting many who came before will never come again and friendly faces which greeted them have passed over The Great Divide.
Edgerton has continued hosting these homecomings, although the homecoming’s frequency and dates have changed. The homecoming is now named the “Festival of Flags” and is held annually at the end of July in Miller Park.
This community involvement shone during the 1940s. The local businesses regularly sponsored a free movie on Wednesday nights to attract business. The shows were held outdoors in the village park in pleasant weather or in the upstairs of the village hall in inclement weather. Additionally, the Farmer’s Institute was a big draw for residents to gather and learn more about new technology and methods of farming effectively. This program later transformed into the Community Institute, which organized lectures, debates, and entertainment for Edgerton. Picking up the thread of community involvement, the Edgerton Chamber of Commerce (previously the Edgerton Businessmen’s Association) was formed after the end of World War II. In the words of Roger Strup, “The purpose of the Edgerton Chamber of Commerce is to improve the cultural and economic welfare of the Edgerton, Ohio area. The Chamber acts as a clearing house for ideas, activities, and information and translates them into action.” The Chamber of Commerce has sponsored such events as the Festival of Flags and the Easter egg hunt held on the lawn in front of the old high school.
Edgerton remains a community that cares about the individual. It is home to numerous civic and service organizations such as the Edgerton Rotary Club, Edgerton Lions Club, the local Boy Scouts, and many more. With a proud history, Edgerton can face the future with the assurance that its residents are ready for any challenges that may come. We are the people that make a town a hometown. Through unity and firm resolve, Edgerton will continue adding stories of good memories and positive progress to its history.
For more detailed information on the history of Edgerton and the surrounding area presented in this article, please check out the following sources:
- Edgerton: Our Hometown, Yours and Mine– a book on the history of Edgerton originally published in 1927 and later republished by Edgerton’s Bicentennial Committee
- Williams County, Ohio: Volume I, 1978– a collection of historical sketches and family histories compiled by members and friends of the Williams County Historical Society
- Williams County Historical Society & Edgerton Historical Society