I have been sharing the origins of the townships of Greene County another one is Ross Township which was established on March 4, 1811. It is situated in the northeastern portion of the county.
The entire township was taken from Xenia Township. When first established it was rectangular in shape seven miles long from East to West and six miles wide, North to South. In later years, some of the land was lost to other townships. One of the features of this township is the flat land and rich soil.
Tradition holds that this township was named for an early settler, but no one seems to know anything about that individual other than his last name. It might have been named for Ross County, since some of the early settlers had previously lived there.
John Harper built a log cabin on 1200 acres of land about 1804 and then Peter Huffman came from Virginia about 1805. He bought 128 acres of heavily timbered land. The first log structure was small with a cloth covering the entrance. Twenty years later, he built a hewed log house which was in use until the 1880s. Methodist minister Jonathan Flood arrived about 1805 and the next year William Harpole came from Ross County. David Larkin is credited with building the first brick house in the township about 1827.
When John Towel brought his family from Virginia in 1820, all their worldly goods were carried by two horses. They brought two feather beds, a skillet, a few pans and their clothing.
Ross Township lies within the Virginia Military District, an area where Revolutionary War solders were granted from 50 to 2000 acres each for their service. There were 36 such surveys awarded in Ross Township.
Several areas of Greene County have considerable outcroppings of limestone, but this township is better suited for farming. Caesars Creek and Massie’s Creek flow through the township.
When the railroad became popular, Grape Grove residents anticipated that the tracks would come through their village. A depot was proposed around 1880. The Cincinnati and Columbus Railroad graded the road bed in preparation, but the project was never completed.
The only recognized village is Grape Grove, which was never platted. Andrew Fogg and William Lewis purchased eight acres upon which they planted a vineyard. They expected to prosper from the grapes and the products thereof. A couple of houses were constructed and soon the area became known as Grape Grove. Although the vineyards have been gone for many years, the name remains.
An early business in the community was a general store owned by John Burtch. The farmers enjoyed having the little store close by, where they could purchase general merchandise, often in return for farm produce.
The first blacksmith was Jacob Little who came about 1817. It was said that some of the plow-shovels made by him were in use for more than 50 years, and were so well constructed; they might be useful for an additional 50. Other blacksmiths came into the area, but they closed. The last shop closed about 1930.
A saw mill was constructed about 1820, but was in operation only about 15 years. A second mill was built, but water had to be hauled to the site for the operation. It was moved and converted to a grain mill, but it too was short lived. A tile factory was established about 1880.
Another small settlement was Gladstone, at one time a thriving village with two stores, a church and a blacksmith. William “Paddy” Hart brought a backpack full of trinkets so sell and soon had a horse and wagon to sell his goods. In time he opened a general store with groceries on one side, dry goods on the other. He had a huckster route wherein he took products to the farm wives and purchased their chickens, eggs and butter. The pot-bellied stove in his store was the social center of the community at one time. The men would gather, smoke their pipes and discuss everything from farming to politics.
Mr. Fogg became the first postmaster for the township. The mail was brought from Jamestown on a semi-weekly basis. The next post office was under the direction of James Conner who distributed mail from the window of his home.
The Protestant Methodist meetings had been held in various homes prior to 1820 when Berah Orcutt offered his one-room cabin for worship. It was not unusual for the congregation to gather in shirt sleeves and bare feet. Minister Robert Dobbins preached while Mrs. Orcutt prepared corn-pone for the congregation to enjoy after the service.
About 1830, a frame church, known as Bethel Church was built, but in time the congregation moved away and so the structure was used as a barn. It was razed about 1935.
The Wesleyan Methodists built a church about 1850 with services being held through the period of the Civil War, and then the congregation sold the structure to the Church of Christ congregation. About 1870, this congregation erected as frame building in Grape Grove. That building was destroyed by fire in 1948 and a brick structure was built.
Today Ross Township continues to be one of the best farming areas in the county with flat land and very rich soil.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.