Washington Township History
History of Washington Township
Respectively submitted by Peg Gray
Washington Township came into being as a civil subdivision of Union County in 1836. The Commissioners’ journal under the date of June 6th 1836, contains the following entry: “The board considered a petition handed in by John Dysert, praying for a new township to be taken from the North part of the township of York. Whereupon it was agreed that a township be formed to be called Washington, it is to be bounded on the West by Logan Co, and Hardin & Marion Counties on the North. Jackson Township bounds it on the East and York Township on the south. The boundary line between it and York is the Greenville Treaty Line of 1795”
The First Occupants
The first white occupants of Washington Township were mainly a class of men who were attracted thither by the game, which abounded in the deep solitudes of the region. They were usually men who enjoyed hunting and trapping along the Rush Creek, Rocky Fork and Bokescreek streams better than anything else, who possessed no land and who did not care to possess any, but preferred ranging over large scopes of country at will to owning and tilling a limited tract of land. The proprietors of the land here were mostly non-residents of Ohio, and the first squatters would pitch their tents at desirable localities without attempting to find the owner and obtain permission, and in this they were seldom molested.
The darkest period in the township history was after game had disappeared from the forests and before the improved system of farming was adopted. To those who loved the free and roaming life of a huntsman, Washington Township invited a sojourn for many years. Game was abundant and the product of the chase found an easy market, sufficient to provide for the few, simple wants which the position of the squatters required. For a few years after the first settlers came, the Wyandot Indians shared with the whites the occupancy of the hunting grounds in this vicinity. The Indians engaged in trapping and also in sugar making to some extent. Their relations to the whites were always of a friendly nature, and the two races sometimes pursued their favorite pastimes in company, and the young emigrants learned many a valuable fact in hunting from their swarthy neighbors.
Pinneyville, Arbela, & Byhalia
Before Byhalia came into being, there was a town started north about a mile and a half of Byhalia, on what was the Jehu Gray farm, (now belonging to Maxine Gray), which was called Pinneyville, which consisted of a General Store and a Post Office. But because of location it never succeeded as a village, and the town relocated to the crossing of the Marysville-Kenton road and the Rush Creek and Essex Gravel roads, and was renamed Byhalia. (Intersection of Rt 31 and 739 and Treaty Line Rd.)
There were 2 other little villages on the out lying areas, Arbela was a village laid out by Marquis Osborne, July 25, 1838, in the eastern part of the township, North of and near Rush Creek. There was a grocery and gunsmith and also a school. The public square of Arbela was two streets, Main and Osborne. There was also another attempt at a small town called Haynesville in 1838, but the attempt was futile and it remained in utter solitude. Its streets were Main and Rush Creek, its location about one mile up Rush Creek from Arbela and on the southern banks of the stream.
In striking contrast with these two unsuccessful efforts, Byhalia has become the seat for a prosperous little town by the process of natural selection.
There were originally 11 small one-room schoolhouses in Washington Township. They are (Bird), (Sherwood), (Howard), (Miller), (Fout), (Wilderness), (Grace Chapel), (Byhalia), (Haines), (Bethany) and (Centennial). The original Byhalia school building which came about when the county was allowed to draw these schools together, was a two story frame white building built in 1879 and stood where the Gale Bumgarner residence is now on Treaty Line Rd. The Byhalia school building now standing was built in 1915. The new gymnasium was added in 1939. Byhalia & York merged in 1952. Today Byhalia and York are consolidated with Essex, Magnetic Springs and Richwood, and they form the North Union School District. When the North Union School district closed the doors of the Byhalia School Building in the late 1970’s, they sold the property to Washington Township for $1.00 with the understanding that it was not ever to be used as a school again.
At one time Byhalia had its own Post Office and Telephone Exchange. There were 4 blacksmith shops, a butcher shop, a drug store, 2 Doctors offices, 2 hotels which burned in 1935-36 when there was a bad fire which wiped out a lot of the Southwest section, a filling station, a Barber shop, several restaurants, and general stores. There used to be a sawmill across from the school building, and a tile mill behind the Friends parsonage. There was a bar on the north west corner of Byhalia where gambling and etceteras went on. There also used to be Pedro parlor next to Harland Jolliff residence where a lot of the townsmen went to play cards. There also used to be a stone quarry, which is located on the JB Gray farm. Byhalia used to have a traveling Barbershop quartet. There was a town hall, where the townspeople would gather, bringing their lawn chairs, about one Saturday night a month in the summer months, and a movie would be shown on the outside of the building in the early 1950’s.
At one time there were 3 active township cemeteries. The Burnside cemetery, located off Cunningham-Arbela Rd. The Rush Creek cemetery located on Mt. Victory-West Mansfield Rd, this is also next to the spot where the original Quaker or Friends Church was before it moved to Byhalia, and the Byhalia cemetery located on Lingrel road. The township maintains all three, but only the Byhalia Cemetery is still in full use.
There were 3 Churches in Washington Township, Grace Chapel which is now call Grace Chapel House of Prayer, Methodist which closed its doors in 1998 and is now the Oasis Ministries Inc and the Byhalia Friends Evangelical Church.
According to the census taken in 2000, the population of Washington Township is 705, with 413 registered voters.