When Greene County was formed in 1803, there were four townships. As the population grew, so did the desire for more local management therefore Jefferson Township was established in 1858. This township was originally a part of Silvercreek Township.
Christopher Hussey brought his family from Tennessee in 1806. The first home was a crude, circular log cabin. His son-in-law John Mickle came with his family and became the first schoolmaster. The Mickle School was erected about 1813. Students attended to their lessons only about three months of the year, since they were needed at home to help during the growing and harvest seasons.
Farming was a major industry in the township then, as is now, although in 1810 there were so many trees that only about 10 acres of cultivated land was available on most tracts.
Usually a mill was a mainstay in the area, but due to the fact there was no stream to support a proper mill only hand-mills and a one-horse mill operated for a short while. Farmers had to take their products to other parts of the country. In 1845, Christopher Hussey Sr. and Joseph Smith erected a steam saw mill. Sawing was done by a straight saw which ran up and down. A corn-cracker attachment provided additional benefits for the farmers.
In 1849, Christopher Hussy, Jr. went into partnership with Elijah Hussey to purchase the mill and 32 acres of timber land at a price of $2,200. They used the trees for valuable timber for houses and fences and even shipped the lumber to Xenia. Charles Wilson was the last owner when it was dismantled in the 1880s.
Winchester Trace on State Route 72 was once an Indian trail. A small Shawnee settlement was once located about one and one half miles south of present Bowersville. Bowersville was laid out in early April 1848 on part of a survey owned by Christopher Hussey Jr. The 10 acre tract included 26 lots which sold for $15 to $50 each. Bowersville is the only established town in the township.
Some say the name was suggested by D.L. Reaves because of the many trees which created a shady bower. Others say it was named for Peter Bowermaster, an early businessman. Mail was carried from Sabina to Jamestown via Bowersville once a week.
The Columbus Washington and Cincinnati narrow gauge railroad was the first to pass through the township. It was helpful to the citizens to ship their grain and receive other products. This section of the railroad was known as the “Grasshopper” part of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad, once owned by Henry Ford.
I don’t think anyone knows for sure how it got the name, but some think it looked a little like a grasshopper with very large rear wheels and smaller ones in front. It was a welcome sight to the residents until it was dismantled in the 1880s. The village was without a railroad until 1894 when a standard gauge track was laid, but the rail service ceased in the early 1930s.
The community continued to grow, as more and more merchants opened businesses. Dry goods, hardware, and drug and general stores were thriving. Also located in town, was a carriage and wagon business, along with a blacksmith, and attorneys’ and doctors’ offices. The undertaker doubled as furniture maker. Later, there were restaurants, grain elevators, gas stations, barbers, beauty shops, insurance companies, dentists, jewelry store and a bakery.
The firm of L.V. Johnston and Son produced home remedies such as Magic Salve, used for cuts, burns and all skin diseases. It sold for 15 cents a jar. The firm was established in 1891 and also made Oil of Gladness, which was supposed to be good for rheumatism, sore throat, diphtheria, croup, asthma, earache, cuts, wounds, bowel complains and cholera morbus. Other products included Pain Queen, good for much of the above as well as for bee stings and stiff neck. Another produce was The American Life Invigerator, a pleasant tonic for pimples as well as stomach disorders. Oriental Balm was good for colds and coughs. The firm continued in operation until 1959 when small quantities of the necessary ingredients became difficult to obtain.
Bowersville was the birth place of the noted clergyman, Norman Vincent Peale. He was born May 31, 1898 when his father, Reverend C.C. Peale was serving as the minister at the Methodist Episcopal Church. Although he planned to go into journalism, eventually, he also became a minister in 1922 and pastor of the Marble-Collegiate Reformed Church in New York City in 1932.
He was well known as a minister, speaker and author. His book “The Power of Positive Thinking” has been published in many languages. He and his wife Ruth edited the “Guideposts” magazine for many years. An historical marker was place in 1967 near Bowersville in his honor.
When Bowersville celebrated its centennial, activities include a parade, basket dinner ball game, band concert and contests such as a fiddler’s contest, barber shop quartets and even a greased pig catch.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and long-time historical columnist.