Oh, how I love history! Especially local history. I enjoy learning about the places nearby, the stories that help build communities, locations that may have been mentioned in some obscure history text. All of this, however, was not what I was expecting when I passed John H. Wartinger Park.
To be honest, I wasn’t even planning to explore on this particular day. I was running errands, checking off my “To-Do” list, masquerading as what passes for a responsible adult. Fortunately for me, my utterly mundane day was disrupted by an old style log cabin spotted from the road. Obviously I just had to stop and investigate! Wartinger Park, I found, is actually home to 4 early to mid-nineteenth century log homes/cabins and an old barn from the same time period. The information that follows is an amalgam of the signs at Wartinger Park and information garnered from the Beavercreek Historical Society website. The pictures are all mine, minus the first one of the Peter Tobias-Zimmer Barn (mine got corrupted somehow – Boo!).
Early Pioneer Settlement of Beavercreek
Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, which specified how territories and states were to be formed from the land gained by the United States as a result of the Revolutionary War. The Northwest Territory was bounded by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the Great Lakes. The Ordinance also encouraged public education and outlawed slavery within the Territory. With the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, the Shawnee and Miami tribes who had lived in the area ceded all their rights to land in Southern Ohio. At that time, approximately half-dozen pioneer families had settled in Beavercreek Township.
Growth of Early Beavercreek
1798 – Owen Davis turned out the first grist flour from a small hand-powered mill said to be the first north of Cincinnati. He painted ALPHA on the head of the flour barrel. Thus the settlement that grew up in that area became known as Alpha.
1800 – Jacob Coy provided land for the first schoolhouse in Greene County. The limestone rocks that line Wartinger Park were moved from the original foundation of that schoolhouse.
1803 – Ohio became a state, and the first court house in Greene County was established in eastern Beavercreek Township in the Alpha settlement.
1805 – The first water-powered flour mill was built by Solomon Shoup along the south side of the Little Beaver Creek near the Zimmerman settlement.
1806 – Shakers settled on land on both sides of the Little Beaver Creek on the western edge of the township, later to be called Watervliet, now known as Miami Valley Research Park.
1815 – Small settlements growing in Beavercreek Township included Alpha, Zimmerman, Trebein, and New Germany.
About John H. Wartinger Park
In 1975, five acres of this land was set aside to serve as parkland and well field for the neighboring subdivision. The park is now owned by the City of Beavercreek which maintains the grounds and the structures that have been moved here. The herb and flower gardens, some of which were originally planted by the Flower Trail Garden Club, are maintained by the Greene County Master Gardeners. The interiors of the structures are furnished and maintained by the Beavercreek Historical Society.
In December 1975, the park was dedicated as John H. Wartinger Park. John, the oldest son of Ken and Marie Wartinger, was born and raised in Beavercreek. He suffered a fatal heart attack at age 26 in 1975, having dedicated much of his brief adult life to the development of children.
Philip Harshman House, Circa 1803 – 1807
Philip Harshman arrived in Beavercreek Township from Maryland in 1803 to stake his claim to 400 acres and cut timber for this log house. He returned to Maryland and married Frances “Fannie” Durnbaugh in 1804. Roadways being what they were back then, took 2 to 3 months of arduous traveling before Mr. Harshman could introduce his new bride to their home here in Ohio. Personally, the nearly 9 hour drive I took when we moved here from Maryland was enough for me! I couldn’t imagine 2 to 3 months. Marriage counseling would have been somewhere in our future, I’m sure. But I digress… This trek took them across the Appalachian Mountains, down the Ohio River to Cincinnati, then finally followed by a six-day ride in a covered wagon to Beavercreek.
The Harshman house was discovered in 1985 when a wood-sided two-story house, which was originally located just south of St. Luke Catholic Church on North Fairfield Road, was condemned and slated for demolition. When the wood siding was removed, the original log house was revealed. An effort was quickly begun by a group of local citizens, that later became the Beavercreek Historical Society, to save the historic structure for restoration.
George Jarusiewic Cabin, Circa 1805 (Replica)
The history of the Jarusiewic log cabin can only be documented back to 1850, but it is believed to be older. The original builder is unknown. The cabin was crudely constructed with large logs weighing 800 to 900 pounds. Discovered in April 1972, it’s original location was on the west side of North Fairfield Road, just north of Dayton-Xenia Road. In 1972, Beavercreek resident, George Jarusiewic owned that property and wanted to preserve the old house for the Beavercreek community. So the house was dismantled, meticulously, and rebuilt at Wartinger Park by Mr. Jarusiewic. In the spring of 1997, the 16 by 24-foot structure was removed from the park by the Beavercreek Parks, Recreation, and Culture Department because of insect infestation. Only the fireplace was salvaged. Brady Kress, Executive Director of Dayton History made the replica, authentic to the period. Ten tons of stone made the stone fireplace from a cabin located on Sperling Lane in Beavercreek. Kitchen gardens, authentic to the time period, were planted around the cabin and it was rededicated in 2006.
John Nicodemus Cabin, Circa 1811
The John Nicodemus Cabin was originally located on the southeast corner of New Germany and Grange Hall Roads. The property, owned by the Zink family, had moved there in 1932. For many years, the cabin was a rental property , then it stood empty. Finally, the Board of Health issued a close order. In the process of tearing off the weather stripping, the old log cabin was discovered. Research showed that the cabin was built by John Nicodemus in 1811. Max Zink donated the cabin in 1979, thus making it the second historical structure to be moved to Wartinger Park.
Stone removed from the cabin’s original foundation was used around the cabin base during reconstruction. The original timber in this cabin is most likely oak, but many log homes of the time period were also constructed of buckeye (later to become Ohio’s state tree) and black walnut. Buckeye was especially prized as a building material because it was easy to work with and did not splinter. It is believed that this cabin may have also had a sleeping loft. 1 inch diameter removable wooden pegs still exist inserted into one of the inside walls. These pegs may have been used to support a ladder or a foot to assist climbing into the loft.
Samuel Ankeney House, Circa 1828
Samuel Ankeney was the eldest of David and Elizabeth Ankeney’s 9 children. It’s believed that Samuel, somewhere between the ages of 19 and 22, was sent by his father to acquire farmland for the family in Ohio. Doing as his father instructed, Samuel eventually purchased this 2 story log home along with 210 acres of land from John Davis in 1830 for $946.66. The cabin was only about 4 years old at the time. Unfortunately, his father would only spend a short time with them in the new home because he died soon after arriving from Western Maryland with the rest of the family. Samuel, now the head of the household, later built a kitchen for his mother and added it onto the house.
This house, initially located on Ankeney Road, was kept in the Ankeney family until it was donated to the Beavercreek Historical Society by Mary and Phil Ankeney and rebuilt at Wartinger Park in 1993. The Ankeney House as it stands today is completely original except the fireplace which was rebuilt in 1997 with bricks from the old Beavercreek High School that had burned in 1996, and the porch which was replaced in 2009.
Peter Tobias-Zimmer Barn, Circa 1858
Part of an 1814 land grant purchase under President James Madison, Peter Tobias built this barn in 1858 in an area then known as “The Big Woods” in Beavercreek. It is a one-story salt box design with the white oak frame mortised and pinned. The original siding was vertical white pine with hand-split, walnut lap-sided gable ends. From the plain style of the barn, it is thought that the carpenters were Shakers. All materials came from the nearby farm except the white pine siding.
Among other things, the barn was used for threshing. Sheaves of grain (mostly wheat, oats, and barley) were stored in the mow following a short curing time in the shock. During the yearly threshing season, the threshing machine was positioned on the barn floor with the rear barn doors open. Straw was blown on a pile out in the barnyard.
The barn was originally located very near Wartinger Park – Old Home Court in the Stone Falls neighborhood. It was on the property of Bob and Agnes Zimmer who donated the barn in 1996. After the move, some changes were made to increase the longevity. New boards and batten siding was added along with a concrete floor. The old metal roof and wood roof shingles were also removed and replaced with a new standing seam metal roof.
I found out later that the Beavercreek Historical Society also puts on a small (FREE!) festival in September called Heritage Days. According the website, pioneer foods are served and local artisans display their newest wares. Children’s games and music is also featured. They even let you go inside these amazing log homes! Maybe I’ll check it out next Fall!!
Until next time, my Loves! Keep wandering!!