The Towns of Darke Co., OH

Ansonia, Castine, Hollansburg, Shakerag, Versailles

Cindy Sopko of Cleveland, OH, posted this to the Darke Co. LIST:

Here are all the cities in the City/County Finder for Darke County.

Abbottsville              Gettysburg               Otterbein
Ansonia                   Glen Karn                Painter Creek
Arcanum                   Gordon                   Palestine
Baker                     Greenville               Popular Ridge
Beamsville                Hewitt                   Red River
Beers Mill                Hill Grove               Rose Hill
Beechgrove                Hollansburg              Rossburg
Bradford                  Horatio                  Savona
Braffetsville             Ithaca                   Sharpeye
Brock                     Jaysville                Steel Point
Buckhorn Corner           Landis                   Stelvideo
Bucks Corner              Lightsville              Tampico
Castine                   Long                     Union CIty
Coletown                  Midway                   Union Corners
Concorn                   Miller Grove             Versailles
Cosmos                    Nashville                Wakefield
Dawn                      Needmore                 Wayne Lakes Park
Delisle                   New Harrison             Weavers
Elroy                     New Madison              Webster
Fort Jefferson            New Weston               Willowdell
Fourmans Corner           Ninevah                  Woodington
Frenchtown                North Star               Yankeetown
Frys Corner               Osgood                   Yorkshire

Carolyn Frazee of Arcanum, OH, contributed these newspaper clippings from her collection:

.... from an article in a 1977 Greenville Daily Advocate:

"Towns. Darke County has a flock of them. At one time or another there were over two score and even today, the rural crossroads continue to bear testimony of some exotically named spots...

"...Dallas, Gilberts, Teacup, Fisher's Corner, Hewett, Hetzlerville, Noggle, Strakers, Stringtown, Sharp's Crossing, Vine and the never to be forgotten Lickskillet...

"...Dallas, as many know, is in fact Ansonia [see below]...Gilberts is known today as Burkettsville, Noggle is really Clarks Station near Palestine....a place originally named Bloomersville is really Stelvideo...Longtown and Tampico are one and the same...Nevada is really Dawn. Woodland is near Annie Oakley's birthplace at Willowdell.

"But there was once a place in the western part of the county ... Shakerag... Now, Shakerag, it seems, was once located on the Weavers Station-Ft. Jefferson road about midway between those two little towns at the Pennsy railroad tracks.

"Many years ago the area was the county's prime lumber area and a hotel of some size was erected there to handle the timber people and so forth. In order to cause the trains to stop for passengers one had to 'shake a rag' at the engineer as he brought his locomotive up the tracks. True story..."

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This comes from pages from what I think is a report of the Dayton Power and Light Company, our electic company for this area; the sheets have been torn from the booklet; there are no dates, etc.


How a Clock Named an Ohio Village....

"In the north central section of Darke Co. there is a village which has the slogan the 'Old Home Town.' Oldsters will remember it as a place where they used to delight in eating cracklings after mother had rendered lard. Others will recall with nostalgia the autumn, the brisk air and the thick carpet of rustling leaves....

"This is Ansonia, the old home town. It is home to approximately 900 people who live here...and scores of others who have moved to other parts of the nation... Ansonia, which is located on state routes 118 and 47, was laid out in 1845. In the earlier days the area was heavily forested. The village was a center of industries manufacturing wooden hubs, staves and spokes. George W. Calderwood, famed for his column, 'Darke County Boy,' in the latter part of the 19th century, had this to say about the forests: 'Timber is an awful nuisance in this county. It's so thick that hogs get lost for days at a time.'

"He recommended that roads be made of wooden planks because wood was cheaper than gravel. 'I expect to live to see the day when there will be a plank road from Darke County to Cincinnati.'

"Mr. Calderwood did not realize that the supply would diminish so rapidly. During the 1850's people were burning the trees just to get them out of the way. It wasn't long before the lumber industry disappeared from Ansonia. However, there remained fertile ground suitable for diversified farming and Ansonia today is the center of a rich agricultural area.

"The village was first called Dallas. Since there was another town of the same name in Ohio, the U. S. Post Office became confused. In 1887 Postmaster Samuel Light was winding a clock in his office when he noticed that it was made in Ansonia, Connecticut. After thinking about this name, he suggested that Dallas be changed to Ansonia...

"The clock still hangs in the office of Ansonia's present postmaster, Paul Smith, and it still keeps good time!...."

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Article from the Greenville Daily Advocate, Wednesday, May 8, 1985, written by Paul Kelly, staff writer:

Castine Claims the First

"The earliest soil in Darke County upon which white men tread was in Castine, in what was then swamp.

"Maple Swamp, which is about one and a half miles from the heart of Castine, was a stopping point for a group of U. S. soldiers in the Northwest Territories, according to the diary of Capt. Daniel BRADLEY. It was near nightfall on Oct. 11, 1791, BRADLEY wrote, when the group of soldiers found the going a little marshy. The soldiers, from Fort Washington (which is now Cincinnati) were traveling north, looking for suitable ground to build a fort.

"They eventually built Fort Jefferson near Ohio 121. But the trail they were taking was up the route now marked by U. S. 127. The soldiers ran into the swamp and camped for the evening, then found an indian trail that cut across the swamp and went over to Fort Jefferson. The soldiers were able to make about five miles per day, BRADLEY reported, adding that the trees in the area were the most developed he had ever seen.

"The next military excursion was a few years later, according to Toni Seiler of Garst Museum, when Gen. Anthony WAYNE came up through what is now Castine. Nine years after the first whites set foot in Darke County, Joe CAMP settled in Castine. In 1802, though, he decided to move west, and another man, John De CAMP, moved to the area.

"The town is named for a French-Canadien fur trader, M. DeCASTIN, who made the town a stop on his route to Kentucky in 1822.

"New Castine was platted in 1832 on land belonging to John ELLIS, Joseph DANNER, and Frederick SMITH. In 1833, J. P. LOVE and Samuel BOSSERMAN bought DANNER and SMITH'S interests and replatted the town, claiming that the original owners had not posted legal notice of the platting."

Quote from another small article on same page written by David Gould, staff writer:

"... Castine used to be a booming town--in the early 1800s--but the departure of the railroad and other factors put 11 bars and seven hotels out of business."

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Undated newspaper clipping from the Richmond, IN, Palladium ...from article entitled "YOUR TOWN" by Camilla Warrick, staff writer

"The town of Hollansburg in southwestern Darke County was founded on a wild and angry resolution uttered about 140 years ago. History has it that a farmer by the name of Billy HOLLOMAN got wind of the fact that a neighbor and sawmill operator, Jonathan LAMBERT, was planning a town. The town was to be called 'Union' and would be centered about a mile and a half south of where HOLLOMAN had his large farm.

"HOLLOMAN didn't merely dislike the idea, he reportedly jumped up, slapped his heels together three times and vowed that he 'would knock that town higher than beef steak when the cow jumped over the moon.'

"HOLLOMAN accomplished his mission by organizing a town of his own. He and a friend named Billy HARLAND platted the town on property owned by HOLLOMAN and turned a building on the land into a hotel. They combined the first three letters of HOLLOMAN'S name and the last three of HARLAND'S, added 'burgh' to come up with Hollandsburgh. In subsequent years, both the 'd' and the 'h' were dropped.

"Probably to the surprise of everyone except HOLLOMAN, his town attracted other settlers while nearby Union lived only on paper. Hollansburg continued to grow or-to use the word of one of the town's chroniclers - it 'mushroomed.' By the 1880's Hollansburg was described in BEER'S History ... as a place where 'different businesses, religious and educational interests, etc., are well represented.'

"Like many small 19th century towns it was self-sufficient, with its own groceries, dry goods stores, doctors, blacksmiths and hostelries. The population was recorded as 300..."

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From an article written by French descendant, then mayor of Versailles, Cyril Ploch. Source and date unknown, but probably from an issue of the Versailles Policy. This was posted to the Darke Co. LIST by Wally Garchow of Sacramento, CA, from a file originally created by George Meeker of Troy, OH.


as told by Cyril W. Ploch, Mayor

"Ohio's Versailles is a long way from the famous French town of that name. In Ohio they pronounce it differently. They call it 'Ver-sales'. It is queer they do, for a great many of its 1600 citizens are French, descendants of those women and men, many from Lorraine, who could not tolerate the return of the Bourbon Kings and what looked to them like a repudiation of the democracy so dearly won in the French Revolution. Indeed some of those first settlers had served under the Little Corporal, Napoleon Bonapart, himself.

"All around here they had settled in Frenchtown, a cross-road farming community north of Versailles, where Mr. and Mrs. (I feel that I should say rather Monsieur and Madame) Tilma Bey keep a general store; in Newport over the line in Shelby County and in North Star.

"In the east is Russia, pronounced here, believe it or not "Rooshie," the very heart of the French Territory. Every family, it would seem, is French or rather American of French descent--they are much prouder of their American birthright (the present day folks) than their French ancestry.

"A common name is Francis. They are names like Cordonnier, Phillipot, Goubeaux, Pilliod, Didot, Couchot and the Alexanders family, whose members once spelled it Alexandres. And there are the Grilliots and Grillots, the latter claiming the `i' is an Ohioism. Both sound the final `t' and most of the names are Americanized now, pronounced in violation of all French rules.

"I called on Ben Grillot (he has kept the upstart "i" out of his name), first citizen of Russia, recognized historian of all the French in this section. A Versailles bank president who cashed a check for me after charging 10 cents for the service and scrutinizing my every scrap of identifying paper, directed me to the Ben Grillot farm near Russia. I found him at work inside the white fenced dooryard surrounding his century old house of strawberry colored handmade bricks. Acres of giant southeastern Ohio corn grew in the distance, a kitchen garden was at his feet. He leaned on his garden gate and talked of his grandfather, whose name his own son, a soldier in the American Army, lately found on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. One general Louis Joseph Grillot, this was Commander of Napoleon's fourth Army; there also was the name of the General's son Louis--Ben's father, who had been a private in the same Army. General Grillot and his son, after Napoleon had died at St. Helena, and a monarchy had come back to the France the Grillots had fought to make into a republic--well, they came to America.

"They landed after two months of storn and yellow fever, and becalmings, at New Orleans, working their way most of them to this spot in Ohio, in 1830's. They had heard about this new Versailles and Frenchtown, from neighbors gone before them. There was one Francis Foy, the first of them all, whose farm, now owned by Dan Kissinger, is near one of the oldest cemeteries in the county. The legends on all the tombstones are in French. St. Valbert is the name of the little log church that served here until they built the Holy Family Church in Frenchtown, where an Irish priest, Father O'Leary, is in charge. I had met Francis Foy's great-grandson, Felix Grilliot, cousin of Ben, on the street in Versailles.

"Ben Grillot told me that after Pearl Harbor he had left his fields and his farming and worked in a war plant until the news came over the radio of Hitler's defeat. His sons went to defend the land of the Old Napoleon general and his son. Ben Grillot, tall, distinguished, was wearing the day of my call, faded but immaculate shirt and overalls. You could imagine him, somehow uniformed, as I remembered the resplendent French Officers of World War I, in blue, almost the blue of his overalls, gold braid on the cap, red whipcord on the shoulder and the decorations. Until he had gone to school he had heard nothing but French. And now his children cannot speak a word of the Mother tongue. General Louis Joseph and his son, private Louis or Ben's father, after coming to Ohio, never learned their new land's language. They talked of their campaigns under Bonapart, the fatal march into Russia, the awful retreat of the 1812 from Moscow, the general, managing to bring back to Paris a handful of men he had taken into that snowbound vastness.

"And Ben Grillot, leaning on his farm gate, referred to Napoleon, his battles, his political ambitions, and the under-currents in the French state, as if it was all a vivid happening of yesterday. And now and then a word or two of the very language in which his boyhood talks were heard, slipped out, 'Ma foi, I would like to see France.'

Where did they get the name "Rooshie" for this town. He repeated my question to answer, 'It had beaucoup de la similarite to Russia you know. It is flat here and an endless plain, and that first winter they had snow and plenty of it.'

"When I returned to Versailles, men and women were coming from mass from St. Denis, the big imposing church which has a name that is so reminiscent of Paris. Hurrying across the flower-lined courtyard to the adjoining school were black robed sisters with scarlet cords handing from their waists, giving a European touch to the picture. The nuns are members of the Order of the Precious Blood, whose convent makes up practically the whole village called Maria Stein not far away.

"Versailles, it seems, has not always been called by this name. It was settled in a few years after the war of 1812 by American pioneers, one of them David Ward a revolutionary war veteran, supplying the first name, Jacksonville. There is a Ward Street, and many Wards, the pioneer's descendants-- among them Ross Ward, a prominent druggist. When the French came in, though in a minority, they set their stamp upon the community and among them, homesick Pete Frantz, at a town meeting forced a new name on the place in 1833, 'Versailles.'"

NOTE (from Wally Garchow): Despite the above, the FIRST settlers in the region were German and English. The first plat of the town was issued/made by Silas ATCHISON in 1819. His father Henry died (killed?) abt 1813 in the environs of Swamp Creek, and 1819 was the year Silas made the final payment to the government for the land he laid out as 'Jacksonville'.

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