A Brief History of Wadsworth
On March 1, 1814 two pioneering families ended a long and arduous journey following the recently cut East-West Road (Greenwich Road) from Canfield, Ohio. They purchased land from General Elijah Wadsworth, an investor in the Connecticut Land Company. Their six-week adventure began in the New England states where they packed up their essential belongings into Conestoga wagons and headed west. Upon arriving at their destination, they immediately cut down trees and cleared an area for their two small log cabins. They were under roof on March 17, 1814; which is now recognized as the official beginning of the community of Wadsworth.
More settlers began to arrive from the east, including the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Germans, or ‘Dutch’ headed to the south and farther west of the Yankee settlement due to mistrust and ill feelings as a result of the Pennamite Wars in Pennsylvania. Together, both groups developed and molded this small section of the Connecticut Western Reserve for future generations.
In 1816 Judge Frederick Brown purchased land two miles west of the first settlers on the East-West Road. He constructed a log cabin for his family on the site. Little did he know that Wadsworth’s downtown area would eventually develop at this location.
As the population grew and farms were being established, small businesses, shops and general stores were built. Mills were built along the many streams that traversed the area. The planing mills reduced logs into planks and boards for permanent homes that took the place of log cabins. Quarries were dug to provide foundation stone. Other businesses included grist mills, a blacksmith shop, a tannery and general stores. All were located on or near the East-West Road.
Farming continued to be the main occupation of the populace until the 1860’s. It was 1863 when some prominent citizens of Wadsworth raised the money and promissory notes to persuade the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad to run a rail through the town. It was located in the south end of town due to the proper elevation of the land. The railroad brought new opportunities to the farmers and businessmen. The plentiful supply of wood was sold to run the steam engines. An injector factory was created to build and sell products used on all steam generating engines. Farmers took advantage of the transportation to ship their excess grain to new markets. Other small manufacturing plants grew up along the railroad tracks.
Another commodity that was harvested and shipped was the bituminous coal that was mined throughout the township. Coal mining became Wadsworth’s largest business for nearly 50 years. The coal was shipped to markets all over the United States.
Wadsworth grew in population and finally met the numbers to become a village in 1870. With that status, the Wadsworth School system was started. Comprehensive education for first through eleventh grades was provided at the newly constructed Union School located downtown.
The next era in Wadsworth’s history occurred around the beginning of the 20th century. A group of entrepreneurs invested in the creation of a number of big businesses. The four Ohio Companies that included the Ohio Match Company and the Ohio Injector Company were created in the south end of town. Other companies that were built during this era was the Wadsworth Salt Company and the Wadsworth Brick Company. All these companies combined employed close to two thousand people. An interurban electric train was built in 1907 to assist in bringing employees from Barberton and Akron areas. Wadsworth’s population boomed and nearly arrived immigrants from Italy, Hungary, Ireland and eastern Europe moved to town to take the jobs. Wadsworth became a culturally diverse melting pot.
This influx of people resulted in the downtown area to grow and prosper. Many retail shops, banks, restaurants, service providers and grocery stores saturated the area around the downtown intersection known as the ‘Center’’.
Wadsworth was incorporated as a city in 1931. A new city hall was built in 1936 in the same general area of the village hall. Today’s modern city hall, built in 1995, stands as a beacon downtown as it bears witness to the prosperity that the city continues to experience. The city services provide the citizens with low utility rates and efficiently maintained streets and parks.
The Wadsworth City Schools are another gem in the crown of the city. The school district is known for its excellence in academics, athletics and arts.
Today, Wadsworth continues to grow and prosper. The large factories closed over 40 years ago; however, the city maintains a balanced economy based on many small industries, large retail stores, grocery store chains, restaurants and comprehensive service providers. The Midwestern values are a mainstay and old fashion traditions mingle with modern day lifestyles that provide an ideal setting for raising families and living out the golden years of retirement. It is no wonder that people who were raised in Wadsworth remain in this safe haven of a community!