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Genoa Township

Location

Genoa Township, one of 18 townships in central Ohio’s Delaware County, is located in the southeast corner of the county (40° 10′ 4″ N, 82° 54′ 26″ W), adjacent to Franklin County on the south and Licking County on the east. The township has no principal town or city, primarily because of the proximity of Westerville, a large suburb of Columbus just below the township’s southern border and the Village of Galena just above its northern border.

Delaware County has been ranked one of the fastest growing counties in the country over the last 20 years, and Genoa Township is one of the fastest growing townships in the county, along with Orange and Liberty Townships to the west. The township’s population has risen from less than 5,000 in 1990 to over 21,000 residents in 2009. Most of the growth has come from residential development of much of the southern half of the township, while much of the northern half retains a more rural make-up.


Genoa Township boundaries superimposed over a 1988 aerial photo (left) 

and a summer 2007 Virtual Earth aerial photo (right).

History

Prehistoric Indian cultures established villages here as early as 3,500 BC and subsequently disappeared by 1600 AD. The Adena people, who were traders, cultivated native plants, such as raspberries, strawberries, grapes, hazelnuts, walnuts, butternuts, acorns and hickory nuts. The Hopewell people, besides being skilled artisans and builders, were farmers. They were the first to cultivate corn in Ohio, and they hunted, gathered, and fished in small villages along Ohio’s many river bottoms.

The Iroquois pushed most of the descendants of these prehistoric tribes out of the Ohio region to claim hunting grounds, a period referred to as the Beaver Wars. The Iroquois, in turn, eventually made way for other stronger tribes, including the Shawnee, Delaware, Wyandot, and Miami, which were among those encountered when the first European pioneers moved into Ohio. One local tale describes how members of some of the tribes would trek to an area near where Spruce Run emptied into Big Walnut Creek to unearth “almost pure lead” from a deposit there, but the settlers were never able to discover the mine.


The federal government in 1796 compensated American veterans with lands 

of the Unites States Military District, which included all of Genoa Township.

In 1796, the federal government designated 2.6 million acres of the Northwest Territory (including Genoa Township and most of Delaware County) as the U.S. Military District, reserved to compensate Continental Army veterans of the American Revolution in lieu of pay or pensions. Most of the veterans sold their lands to others, rather than move to the distant Ohio wilderness.

Jeremiah Curtiss became the first settler in the township, building a sawmill, gristmill and still in 1806. Soon after, Marcus Curtiss, Jeremiah's younger brother, fired clay dug on his farm to build the township’s first brick house, which served as a post office and an inn. Most of Genoa Township’s earliest settlers were grain and livestock (sheep) farmers.

Delaware County was established in 1808 from land partitioned from Franklin County, and its present-day boundaries were settled in 1848. Genoa Township was established in 1816, taking its western half from Berkshire Township, which now lies entirely to Genoa’s north, and its eastern half from the larger Sunbury Township, which no longer exists after being subdivided into multiple townships, to the east. Elisha Bennett, one of the township’s earliest residents, named Genoa Township after the town in Italy from which he had immigrated to the United States.

An 1829 treaty with the United States forced the resident Indian tribes to move once again, leaving central Ohio for lands west of the Mississippi. Farmers, clearing the land and plowing their Genoa Township fields in more recent years have found many artifacts – some of which are on display at the Westerville Public Library – of these and the earlier prehistoric inhabitants.
Wagons carried merchandise through Genoa Township, following an early stage line between Columbus and Mount Vernon.

The State Road, referred to as the Galena and Westerville Road, was surveyed around 1821 and designated as State Route 3 in 1923. Automobile clubs soon marketed the new route as the 3-C Highway, linking Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. In the early 1950s, Route 3 was rerouted through Genoa Township alongside the rail line and west of the older highway, which is now known as Old 3-C Highway. Much of Interstate 71, opened in 1959-60, follows a route similar to Route 3 and crosses Genoa Township’s northwestern corner.


Ralph H. Clark served as the telegrapher at Franklin Station along the 

Columbus & Mount Vernon Railroad in Genoa Township around 1930.

His sister-in-law, Florobel Carpenter Lachel, looks on.


In 1872, the Cleveland, Columbus & Mount Vernon Railroad began operating a line over part of the old Springfield, Delaware & Mount Vernon roadbed. The railroad ran through Genoa Township in a generally north-south direction, with depot in Galena and a small trestle spanning Little Walnut Creek nearby. The railroad, later owned by several railroads including Penn Central and then Conrail, was abandoned in 1982. A flag station was built at what was formerly known as Genoa Crossroads, but people had to travel to Westerville or Galena if they wanted to board a train.

The Genoa Trail bicycle trail and footpath, built on the roadbed 
of the former Conrail railroad tracks, follows alongside State Route 3.

Today, approximately four miles of the rail bed has been reborn as a wood-lined, multi-purpose paved recreational trail maintained by the township.

 
Construction of a dam in 1955 on Big Walnut Creek (left) just below Genoa Township created 

Hoover Reservoir, which extends the entire length of the township. The Alum Creek watershed 

drains much of western Genoa Township, and the reservoir created by constructing a dam
on the creek in 1972-76 impacts much of that land. [Photohio.org Collection, http://www.photohio.org]


The principal stream in Genoa Township is Big Walnut Creek, which generally runs from north to south through the eastern half of the township. At various times in early township history, the stream was known as Big Belly Creek, Big Lick Creek, Gahanna River, Hayes Ditch, Whingwy Mahoni Sepung and Menkwi Mhoani Siipunk. It finds its source in northern Morrow County, where several hundred acres of swampland known as Big Belly Swamp was covered in water year round. Oxbow Road, just off of Old 3-C Highway, was named for a nearby pair of drastic bends in Big Walnut Creek, which featured some deep holes along its path, some estimated at 60-70 feet in depth.

In 1955, Columbus officials dedicated Hoover Dam, which blocked the flow of Big Walnut Creek south of Genoa Township and created a reservoir eight miles long and covering 3,500 to 8,000 acres. While Alum Creek flows south in neighboring Orange Township, its watershed extends into Genoa Township. Alum Creek has also been known variously as Alum Creek, Elk Creek, Seckle Creek, Sepung Creek and Salt Creek. It was dammed in 1972-76 to create Alum Creek Lake, which holds 3,387 acres of water.

In 1825, Genoa Township organized a school district, building small, brick schoolhouses on property donated to the district by local landowners. In 1928, the last five one-room schoolhouses, serving 101 pupils, were closed when districts were centralized in Galena and Westerville.

Habitat

Sedimentary rocks, such as limestone shale and sandstone, underlie Delaware County. The glaciers that spread over much of the northern United States passed and retreated across the area several times more than 12,000 years ago. Large amounts of boulders, pebbles, sand, silt, and clay from the lands where the glaciers traveled were deposited in the their paths as the ice melted. Most of the material – limestone, sandstone and shale – was of was from central and north-central Ohio. However, many rocks and other material – granite, quartzite, and other crystalline rocks from the Canadian highlands – had been carried hundreds of miles by the ice.

The retreating glaciers left behind a high ridge that extends north and south through the middle of Genoa Township, dividing the watersheds of Big Walnut to the east and Alum Creeks to the west. These streams, along with the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers to the west, have provided Central Ohio residents with many resources over the years, but on occasion also generate considerable floods and freshets. Dams on all four streams were built in the mid-1900s to control the flooding and to provide additional water reserves and recreational space for the growing Central Ohio population.

Much of Delaware County was originally covered in woodlands, featuring oaks, beech, hickory, black walnut, butternut, ash, birch, and sugar maple, as well as wild grapes, wild plums and black haws. Big Walnut Creek was so named because its banks and bottomlands were covered with a dense growth of black walnut trees, most of which were chopped down for construction of split-rail fences, dug-out canoes and cabins. There also were some smaller areas of prairie grass and low-lying swampy areas.

The dense ground cover of Delaware County provided excellent habitat for foxes, beavers, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, whitetail deer, coyotes, raccoons and many other species of wildlife, including songbirds and woodpeckers. Some species that were abundant when the land was first settled by westerners included wolves, bears, wildcats and timber rattlesnakes.
When the area was cleared in the early 1800s, many farmers planted corn, soybeans, wheat, flax and hay, and some tended horse, cattle, sheep, hog and dairy farms, as well as nurseries.

In the days before tractors, the cattle and sheep ate brush along the fence rows, keeping farms looking neat. In those early days of the township, cooperation among farmers was necessary during the planting and harvest seasons. It has been noted that the influx of mechanization in the form of tractors and combines following World War II empowered the farmer to sow and reap his own fields, but also lessened the amount of community bonding that had been prevalent for decades.


An 1880 pen-and-ink drawing of the Joseph Gardner farm (present-day
intersection 
of Maxtown and McCorkle) behind grazing cattle, sheep and horses, 

a typical assortment of livestock for Genoa Township.


Farmers also harvested the abundant beds of clay in the township to fire bricks for building many fine homes, some of which still stand today. Some residents logged much of Genoa Township’s forest timber, often using Big Walnut Creek to help transport the logs to sawmills located farther downstream. Sand and gravel have been mined over the years along the waterways and in other locations, mostly for local use. Genoa Township contains the 17.2-acre Butterfield Landfill, which lies southeast of the intersection of Worthington and Freeman Roads and was operational in the 1960s and early 1970s before being closed and topped with cover soil.

Agriculture remains the primary industry of Genoa Township, and light manufacturing and service industries play a significant economic role, especially in the southern parts of the township, where residential and business development has escalated over the last 20 years. The township has been careful to guide the development process, requiring residential subdivisions to preserve substantial green spaces in an attempt to retain some of the rural culture of the township’s heritage. A comprehensive plan and zoning restrictions allow developers to build developments with slightly higher housing densities and smaller lots in exchange for setting aside additional acres of open space.

Currently, Genoa Township maintains five parks: Freeman Road Park just west of State Route 3, McNamara Park at the corner of State Route 3 and Big Walnut Road north of the Genoa police, fire and service complex, Center Green Park on Center Green Drive and Danbridge Drive, Hilmar Park on Hilmar between Mt. Royal and Tussic Road, and a small park on the side of the township’s administration building off Old 3-C Highway.

Within Genoa Township, Preservation Parks of Delaware County maintains Char-Mar Ridge Preserve north of Lewis Center Road, just east of State Route 3. Char-Mar Ridge Preserve features 128 acres of mixed habitat, including woods, stream corridors, pond and small meadow, with the majority being forested.

The Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Columbus operates numerous sites surrounding Hoover Reservoir, including Mud Hen Marsh, Hoover Dam Recreation Area, Hoover Meadows, Hoover Nature Preserve and Hoover Reservoir Park. Alum Creek State Park is accessible from Genoa Township’s northwest corner, off Africa Road near the intersections with Lewis Center and Jaycox Roads.

The Genoa Township Land Conservation has been an active partner in the effort to conserve natural habitat. Each of its properties is protected from development, and one property features a barn left by previous tenants of the parcel. The properties feature public access to walking trails of stone, mulch and mowed grass.