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Grand Oak


Location

The Grand Oak subdivision is located near the western border of Genoa Township (Delaware County, Ohio), north of Big Walnut Road behind Walnut Creek Elementary School and west of Worthington Road. The public can access walking paths to the 46 acres of conservation land from Grand Oak Boulevard, just behind or east of the school. Other paths begin at Harrow Glen Drive north of Edgebrook Drive and at the intersection of Braymoore Drive and Grandmere Boulevard. Grand Oak lies in Sub-area V of the Genoa Township Comprehensive Land Use Plan 2008.

  

Grand Oak subdivision boundaries superimposed over a 1988 aerial photo (left)
and a summer 2007 Virtual Earth aerial photo (right).


History

The following lineage of landowners of the property that became Grand Oak is only a set of snapshots obtained from notes on township maps. Other persons owned various parcels throughout the years, falling between the occasions of updating the maps.

In 1830, Mr. Jeptha Jarrard, an heir of a Mr. Ludlow, owned about 490 acres of land that would someday include Grand Oak. By 1849, that area was divided up, with H. Meacham owning the western third (along with another parcel west to the township line), S. Lockwood owning the next third east, and H. Adams owning the eastern third. Some small lots north of the property along Jaycox Road had already been set aside as well.

 

An Ohio Historical Marker denotes Africa, a settlement that existed just one mile west
of Grand Oak, near the Alum Creek Reservoir Dam. The nearby Patterson farm served
  as an important link on the Underground Railroad between Westerville and Sunbury.

 

In the years prior to the Civil War, many runaway slaves crossed from the South into the border state of Ohio, following the many routes of the Underground Railroad. One of those routes, the Sycamore Trail, ran from Westerville along Alum Creek and then to Mount Vernon. To elude pursuing trackers, former slaves waded up the creek to the Samuel Patterson farm at East Orange, which at one time featured several commercial buildings, including a post office, a general store, and a saloon. East Orange, a short distance to the west from Grand Oak, later received its “Africa” name from a nearby pro-slavery resident, Leo Hurlburt, due to the fact that a number of freed slaves from North Carolina had settled in the area, later moving to other localities such as Delaware and Westerville. Much of what remained of Africa, including the Africa Cemetery two miles to the north, disappeared when Alum Creek Reservoir was constructed and filled in the 1970s, but some of Patterson’s buildings still exist, as does the building that once was the Africa Wesleyan Church.

In 1866, A. Fairman owned nearly all of the western third of the Grand Oak property, the Lockwood heirs owned the middle third, and Mrs. S. Stanforth owned the eastern third. M. Granges owned a lot just north of the Fairman land. By 1875, the Civil War had been over for a decade, and Mrs. Thompson had purchased the Granges property, while Fairman still owned his property to the south. George Moore had bought the Lockwood land, and George Preston had purchased the eastern section from Stanforth. In 1890, the ownership stayed pretty much the same, except that L.J. Van Auken then owned the lots to the north.

By 1908, D.R. Matthews had purchased the western third from Fairman, George Moore still owned the middle third, and George Darst was tending the eastern third. L. Harris now owned the lots to the north. Eight years later, Carl H. Young had taken over the 53 acres of the western Matthews property, George Moore’s 51 acres of land had passed to Fred Moore, and George Darst was still on the eastern 52 acres, while L.E. Davis owned the small lots on Jaycox.

In 1921, Moore and Darst had not moved, but L.D. and C.F. Fischback had moved onto the Young property. Davis was still on Jaycox Road. 20 years later, Horace W. and Alice D. Troop now worked the western Fischback land, Ernest A. and Helen A. John tended the 51 acres in the middle, and Louis B. Darst worked the eastern 48 acres. In 1955, the Troops were still on the western section, the Johns were in the center, and Darst was to the east. Samuel and Mary Price now owned a four-acre lot on Big Walnut at the south end of the Darst property, and eight acres to the north of Darst, just south of the Jaycox lots, belonged to M. and B. Kuhns.

By 1980, the Troop family still resided on the 53-acre western side, W.E. and B.J. Cole lived on the 52 acres in the center section, and Doris B. Metz and Mary R. Bailey took over 36 acres to the east. The Coles had bought the land in 1965 and moved from Westerville in 1968 after improvements had been made and the briar thickets had been tamed. To enrich the dense clay soil so that they could raise soybeans and hay, they worked in livestock manure and other fertilizers. They dug a pond near the turnaround on Harrow Glen Court, which was later filled in for development. They raised standard-bred horses, chickens and sheep, planting several acres of Christmas tree seedlings obtained in Pennsylvania and holding many hayrides and wiener roasts in the back woods. The shallow well that supplied water to the Cole house next to Big Walnut Road required substantial softening to remove the staining, bitter iron concentrations, a situation that forced the Coles to haul drinking water for several years from Westerville until the Del-Co Water Company extended its lines to the area around 1970.

By 1987, Robert C. Echele had taken over the Troop place, except for a small parcel to the northwest, owned by Jack and Diane Roxey. He also owned land directly across the road to the south. Echele worked for Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. as a real estate developer, and later, with NP Limited, planned the nearby Polaris Centers of Commerce. In 1994, the Coles also sold their land to Echele, who later sold all of his land to the Edwards Land Company for development into the Grand Oak subdivision.


Habitat

Authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1962, Alum Creek Dam was constructed just one mile west of the Grand Oak property by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the flood control plan for the Ohio River Basin. Construction began in August of 1970 and was completed in 1974 and filled by summer of 1976. The dam is a 1.7-mile wide earthen embankment that created a lake about 11 miles in length, with a surface area of about 3,387 acres. The lake is surrounded by more than 5,000 acres of state park land and is very popular for boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, and swimming. A small stream in the subdivision flows southwesterly into the creek below the dam, near where Interstate 71 passes overhead.

 


A 1958 aerial photo (left) shows construction of I-71 through Genoa Township, the village
of Africa (center, above highway) and the future location of Alum Creek Lake (left/center),
all of which will impact nearby Grand Oak subdivision about 40 years later (right upper edge).


The Alum Creek Reservoir spillway features three gates supported by 8-foot-wide concrete piers
resting on concrete “ogee” sections. [Photohio.org Collection, http://www.photohio.org]

 

Ohio shale cliffs are notable around the lake and in many areas of the watershed, exposed as the flowing waters cut through underlying bedrock. The deep coves of Alum Creek Reservoir are lined with standing timber provide excellent habitat for fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, saugeye, black and white crappie, white bass and channel catfish.

Much of the thick beech-maple forests that covered Delaware County after the retreat of the glaciers were felled many years ago to make way for farming. And while a healthy second-growth forest is preserved in Alum Creek State Park and many parts of Genoa Township, Grand Oak retains about 25 acres of the old-growth trees where the cutting action of the stream made the ground too steep and rocky for farming. One old oak tree at the Grand Oak subdivision had been identified as a bicentennial tree – more than 200 years old – but was hit by lightning and died. Developer Bob Webb, it is said, named the subdivision to honor that tree.

The Grand Oak property features 46 acres of large mature trees, wooded ravines, small streams and wetlands. The subdivision’s woodlands provide homes for the fox, squirrel, woodchuck, rabbit, whitetail deer, coyotes, geese and many other species of wildlife. The forest floor nurtures a wide variety of plant species, such as large-flowered trillium, wild geranium, bloodroot, and spring beauties.