Copley Way Back When
General MacArthur was not the first soldier to vow "I shall return." it was in 1813 that Major George Croghan's War of 1812 troops camped along Smith Road, then moved on west along the area known as Stony Ridge. One of the volunteers under Croghan's command was so impressed by the land that he vowed to return if he survived the war. Thus, when Jonah Turner, a soldier from Pennsylvania, kept that pledge in 1814, he became Copley's first settler.
Copley had been part of a parcel of the Western Reserve Territory purchased in 1807 by William Gardiner and Elizabeth Greene as their portion in the first "Ohio Lottery." Turner purchased 321 acres of this land for $900, with a down payment of $18.
The terrain and geology of Copley Township is primarily a Sharon conglomerate laid down some 231 million years ago by glaciers that repeatedly moved into and receded from the area. Some of the deposits appear to be as recent as 10,000 years ago. Gravel deposits along Medina Line Road have kept more than one gravel company in business. Copley swamps with their rich muck soil have provided abundant nurture for crops of grain, vegetables and fruit as well as for livestock. A high glacial moraine running east and west through the area is a watershed sending some waters north to the Great Lakes while the rest flows south to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
Originally the Western Reserve plot purchased by Greene included portions of Portage, Summit and Medina counties. In 1819 the area which had been known as township 2 range 12 was deemed old enough and strong enough to exist on its own. Though earlier known as Greenfield, the name Copley was given to the area in honor of Green's wife Elizabeth, who was the daughter of John Singleton Copley -- a famous artist of the period.
Thus on July 15, 1819, the citizens of the new Copley Township, the last in the area of the Western Reserve to organize, met and elected their first officials. The first Township Trustees were Allen Bosworth, George Hawkins and Jacob Spafford and the first Clerk-Treasurer was Jonathan Starr.
There is some debate about the first teacher and the first school in the township. Honors generally go to Jonathan Starr and to a log school on the northeast corner of the square, built about 1819-20. This school also served as the community's first regular polling place and town hall. Others claim John Codding as the first teacher, and that the first log school had been built earlier in the northwest corner of the township. In any case, Copley's education process was well under way in 1819.
Copley had long been an agricultural township, producing an abundance of grain, vegetables and fruits known to this climate. Copley never flourished as an industrial area, but there are claims that the stills of Copley supplied "the best medicine in the West." However, a meeting held in the old log schoolhouse prompted "The First Temperance Society of Medina County" to be officially formed January 29, 1829.
The busy commercial activities in Montrose are not really all that new. Also called Ellis Corners or Latta's Corners, Montrose has a long history of business. When it was Latta's Corners, tavernkeeper William Latta actually was chiefly interested in counterfeiting and his hotel became a hangout for the gang of dandies he was in cahoots with.
Records indicate that August 31, 1831, one year before the death of Gardiner Greene, he and Elizabeth "assigned all lawful claims" to two acres of lots 23 and 28 for use as public land. Originally intended to be a square for the center of the township, Copley farmers early met there for a market day to sell their produce. Horses and wagons caused regular shortcutting of corners around the square which then ultimately became Copley Circle.
Copley Township remained a part of Medina County until 1840 when it joined the newly formed Summit County.
SIGNIFICANT DATES IN THE HISTORY OF COPLEY TOWNSHIP
- 1655 - According to legend, battle of Fort Island between Erie and Iroquois Indian tribes.
- 1807 - (May 28) Gardiner Greene received title to 16,531 acres of land for $26,087 from the Connecticut Land Company.
- 1814 - (August 8) Jonah Turner purchased 321 acres in the Stony Ridge area along State Route 18, becoming Copley's first permanent resident.
- 1819 - (July 15) Citizens of Copley Township met and elected the first officers to govern the newly created area.
- 1820 - First industry in area - distillery and sawmill.
- 1831 - (August 31) Elizabeth and Gardiner Greene 'do hereby remise, release and forever quit claim unto the said citizens of the Township of Copley and their successors, heirs and assigns, all my right and title of dower in and to the above described premises.' Said premises being two acres of land now Copley Circle.
- 1832 - (December 4) First post office.
- 1837 - Stage coach service offered to Copley for trips from Massillon to Cleveland.
- 1840 - Copley Township became a part of Summit County.
- 1843 - Copley's first church, 'First Congregational Society of Copley Township' . . . now the site of Copley Methodist Church.
- 1861 - Civil War broke out.
- 1891 - Train service to Copley begins. Copley Depot was built.
- 1902 - First town hall built.
- 1904 - Copley's first centralized school, which was also the first centralized school system in the state of Ohio.
- 1937 - Volunteer Fire Department formed.
- 1970 - Police Department formed. Sixteen-hour shifts during the day and early evening.
- 1973 - Police Department began 24-hour patrols.
- 1980 - (January 1) Northeastern section of Township voted to separate and form Village of Fairlawn.
- 1992 - Copley Fire Department manned 24 hours.
In 1974, when the old railroad depot on Sawmill Road at Cleveland-Massillon Road was threatened with demolition, a number of citizens banded together for its preservation and in the process formed the Copley Township Historical Society. The depot was moved to its present site on Copley Road just west of the cemetery. The restored depot and its adjacent also-restored caboose now serve as the center for the Society with about 50 members who meet the third Monday, of every month. You can contact the Copley Township Historical Society by calling Helen Humphrys at 330-666-1365 or 330-472-5013.
Information from the following:
"Historical Souvenir Book, Copley Township Sesquicentennial", Kiwanis Club of Copley
"History in Our Back Yard" by Robert Imars.