History of Madison County
Stokes Township Towns
From History of Madison County, W. H. Beers & Co, Chicago, 1883
This is truly a rural township, possessing but one town, or rather village, within its territory – South Solon – which was laid out in 1833 by J. K. Hudson and Andrew Douglass. The latter built the first house, and was the first blacksmith in the village. John Nolan opened the first store, and was the pioneer in the mercantile trade. Dr. Simmerman, a root and herb doctor, and possessed of some Indian blood in his veins, was the first physician, and it is said was quite skillful in treating diseases under his system. The town grew very slowly for many years, as it had no railroad or other stimulus to promote its growth or to create business. The entire township was without a railroad until about four years ago, and all grain, stock, and all productions of the farmers, were hauled to some distant town for a market or for shipment; and as a result of this, when the farmers were at these distant towns, they made their purchases of dry goods and groceries for home consumption; hence there was little inducement for men of means or business ability to locate or invest in South Solon. And thus matters remained until, in 1878, the Springfield Southern Railroad was built, and passed through this village, connecitng it with Springfield and the coal-fields of Southeastern Ohio. This opened a way for shipping the productions of the country, made, as it were, a home market, and the same year, immediately upon its completion, John Hudson erected a warehouse and grain elevator. The farmers now hauled their grain here and sold it, and shipped their sotck. This created quite a business. Men were in demand and this created a demand for houses. They were built, and the town began to grow. Goods and groceries of all kinds were now in demand, and merchants found an opening for the profitable investment of capital. From this time the town had a gradual but steady growth. This railroad, which at first was a narrow-gauge, was in 1880 transformed to a standard-gauge, and is doing quite a large and thriving business. By examining the shipping books of the agent of the road, we were surprised at the great amount of shipping from that small town. There will probably be from 600 to 800 cars of stock, grain, lumber, etc., shipped from that staion during the year of 1882. The businesses of the town now comprises the following: General store, by W. C. Rickards; general store, by William O'Shaughnessy; grocery, by A. Simmerman; grocery and post office, by M. Marsh; harness hop, by Miller & Townsley; blacksmith shop, by O. M. Porter; blacksmith shop, by A. Bush; carriage and buggy manufactory, by Joseph Hidwell; boot and shoe shop; saloon, by Riley Harper; saloon, by M. C. Clark; saloon, by Jerry Neville; livery and sale stable, by Stephen Maxey; saw-mill, by William Haines; grain-dealer, J. J. Hudson; brick manufacturer, J. F. Crawford; and physicians, H. H. McClellan, J. S. Smith and O. G. Fields.
From Atlas of Madison County, J.A. Caldwell [Condit, Ohio, 1875]
South Solon. This is a small place, located in the western part of Stokes Township, and about fifteen miles from London, seven miles west of Midway. It has a post office, a grocery, a blacksmith, and a very fine country surrounding it.
From History of Madison County, Ohio, Chester E. Bryan, Supervising Editor, B.F. Bowen & Co., Indianapolis (1915)
South Solon, the only town within the limits of Stokes township, is located on the Dayton, Toledo & Ironton railroad and is in the west central part of the township. It was laid out and platted on December 23, 1831, by J. K. Hudson and Andrew Douglas. The latter built the first house and was the first blacksmith in the village. John Noland opened the first store, and was the pioneer in the mercantile trade. Doctor Simmerman, a root and herb doctor, and possessed of some Indian blood in his veins, was the first practicing physician, and was quite skillful in treating diseases under his system. The town grew slowly for many years, as it had no railroad or other stimulus to promote its growth or to create business. The entire township was without a railroad for many years after its organization, and all grain, stock and farm products were hauled to some distant market or for shipment. As a result of this, when the farmers were at these foreign markets they made their purchases of dry goods and groceries for home consumption; hence there was little inducement for men of means or business ability to locate or invest at South Solon. Things were at a standstill until 1878, in which year the Springfield Southern railroad, since known as the Dayton, Toledo & Ironton railroad, was built and passed through the village, connecting it with Springfield and the coal fields of southeastern Ohio. This opened a way for shipping the products of the country and made, as it were, a home market for all classes of goods. John Hudson erected a warehouse and grain elevator, after which the farmers hauled their grain there and shipped their stock from the home market. This created quite a business. Men were in demand, and this created a demand for houses. Merchants found an opening for the profitable investment of their capital. From this time the town has experienced a steady growth. The railroad, which at first was a narrow-gauge line, was, in 1880, transformed to a standard-gauge road and is doing quite a live and thriving business. South Solon at present has a population of about five hundred. One of the finest centralized school buildings in the state, recently completed there at a cost of over twenty thousand dollars, has eight departments and along with domestic science and manual training it has first-year work in high school. South Solon is a pretty place, having wide streets, cement sidewalks, some beautiful residences and a number of good churches. The Titus Elevator Company located there handles an immense amount of grain every year. R. C. Brant, who has a general merchandise store, has been there for many years. The Farmers & Traders Banking Company does a large business and is one of the best-equipped banks in the county. L. C. Titus is an auctioneer and a general dealer in grain, wool and all sorts of farm implements, real estate, etc. The South Solon Hardware Company, of which H. C. Whitaker and F. W. Knowles are the proprietors, handles general hardware supplies. Smith Jenks & Son are butchers and conduct a meat market. The Park Hotel provides for the needs of the weary traveler. John W. Black conducts an ice cream parlor, lunch counter and confectionery store. Charles Lower, who conducts a barber shop, has been in business for twenty years. J. R. Stroup, mayor and justice of the peace, is the editor of the South Solon News. Mayor Stroup is an old hewspaper man. W. P. Bainter has a general repair shop. Clemens' restaurant is one of the popular eating places. There are also a number of other business enterprises, including two good livery barns and one or two garages.
EARLY HISTORY OF SOUTH SOLON
The following history of South Solon, written by Thomas Scott Cooper, was clipped from a recent issue of the London Enterprise:
"In about 1833 there lived within a mile or so of the crossing of the federal and Washington roads John K. Hutson, Jacob Smith, Samuel Harrod, David Harold, Griffith Thomas, Andrew Douglas, John Kelso, Noble Ladd and a Mr. Burley. The site of the original village plot was a thicket of hazel brush, oak saplings, haw and plum; in fact, most of the territory now occupied by the village of South Solon was then a howling wilderness.
"It was certainly a momentous occasion when those old settlers decided that it would be a good thing to start a town at the cross-roads. We may imagine some of the arguments put forward in favor of the project—some were in the need of a general store, a hotel, a blacksmith, a shoemaker and a doctor, and there were other advantages they expected to enjoy. After many conferences over the matter it was finally settled and a surveyor was employed to make the survey. We may be allowed to imagine a beautiful day in the spring, or early summer, rather, of the year 1833. All nature seemed, to be in repose, yet was never more alive. While the sun's rays glinted through the tree tops dispersing the dewdrops that hung pendant from the tips of the leaves, the air was redolent with the perfume of the many wild flowers that grew in profusion alongside the road or in the wood bordering the same—the daisy, the buttercup and the ivy, and then the wild plum and the haw, clothed in white, were seen intermingled with the hazel and briar thickets. Down in the low lands the dogwood bloomed. The hum of the wild bee, as it flitted from fiower to flower, the cooing of the turtle dove, the chatter of the linnet and blue jay, the chirping of the young squirrel as it frisked about from limb to limb in the joy of living, and the lowing of distant kine were some of the sounds that broke the drowsy stillness.
ALL NATURE SEEMED TO SMILE
"The wild rose was beginning to open her petals to the sun, filling the air with the sweet aroma; the blue violet nodded 'neath the thorn trees' shade, and far off was heard the bay of the faithful watch dog, and the woodman's ax and blue wreaths of smoke ascending designated where some settler was busy clearing his land.
"All the elements of nature seemed to smile upon the undertaking at hand, as marking an epoch in the history of the world. And while we are meditating upon the glories of nature and the goodness of God in placing our lives in so goodly a land, two men came down the road from the west and halted at the crossing of the federal and Washington roads. They looked to be men of about thirty-five years of age. We recognize them as John K. Hutson and Andrew Douglas. They were soon after joined by Samuel Harrod and Thomas Ellis. While they were engaged in animated conversation, gesticulating and pointing first one way and then another, three or four men, coming from the north, carrying a chain and compass, joined them. The one with the compass, I believe, was Patrick McLene, of London, and county surveyor.
"Without following them any further through the labors of that day we will refer the reader to the original plat, as surveyed and laid off that day—commencing at a point north of the federal road at lot No. 1, east to Washington road—eight lots with an eight-foot alley between each block of four lots. East of Washington road were laid out six lots with eight-foot alley between each block of three lots. On the south side of federal road, corresponding with above, were laid out fourteen lots, each lot being made fifty by one hundred and seventy-five feet. The main street was to be sixty feet wide. The plat does not show any provision for a rear alley nor space for sidewalks, so I presume the sidewalks encroach on the road.
"The original town plat of Solon consisted of twenty-eight lots. The land upon which these lots were laid out belonged to John K. Hutson on the south side of the federal road, and on the north side to Samuel Harrod. My father lived near where the Pancake chapel now stands, but by 1850 I had become pretty well acquainted with the lay of the town: On lot No. 1, as described in the plot, stood a one-story log house; lots 2 and 3 were vacant; on No. 4 stood a one-story log house; on lot 5 was a two-story hewed log house; on No. 6 a one-story frame; lots Nos. 7 and 8 were owned by John Nolan and William Snyder; on lot 7 was a frame storeroom. On No. 8 two log cabins; on 9, where the Brant store is, was a two-story frame, part of it being used as a storeroom, but don't remember now who occupied it; the last house on that side was a small frame on lot 11.
"On the south side of the federal road, on lot 15, opposite lot 1, stood a one-story log owned and occupied by Hugh Orr; the next house standing on lot 19 was a double house, part log and part frame, built by one of the old pioneers by the name of Ray; on lot 20 a one-story frame; on lot 21 a one-story frame and a blacksmith shop; on lot 22 stood the old hotel, in which many a high jinks was played; they were supposed to issue out the best of liquors, and I presume it was of a better grade than is dealt in today, if there is any better to it; on lot 23 was a one-story log; 24, a real nice hewed log house; 25 and 26 were vacant lots; on 27 a one-story hewed log; on 28 two log cabins occupied by William Linville, an old sailor. North of lots 7 and 8 was quite a large frame building, at first used as a distillery and later as a grist-mill, owned and operated by Jacob Smith. I indistinctly remember the old log school house, which stood near where the Methodist Episcopal church now stands.
RAILROAD GIVES TOWN IMPETUS
"When I first came into the immediate vicinity of Solon, in 1854, I do not believe it contained a population exceeding fifty persons, old and young, and its growth was very slow until after the railroad was put through in 1878. Since that time its progress has been quite noticeable in more ways than one. Many of the serious drawbacks to its physical and moral progress have been eliminated, and today we have as Orderly and quiet a little town as there is in central Ohio. We have four church organizations, a township high school second to none in the state, a fine new school building with all the modern conveniences up to date, and a very efficient corps of teachers.
"From what I know by observations of the early days of South Solon, from about 1850, I believe I am safe in saying that the period from 1850 to about 1865 should be reckoned as the time of its lowest moral standard. After the close of the Civil War the citizens began gradually to get the upper hand in the fight for law and order, until today it is not healthy for the class that used to infest the place to be around. With the sentiment of our citizens in favor of law and order, and our efficient officers to enforce the same, we feel safe in guaranteeing the future prosperity and respectability of our Village.
"After the town was laid out, the question arose as to what it should be named. The people could not agree on a name, and it was decided to consult Judge Harrold, he being a man of wide experience and eminent learning, and John K. Hutson was delegated to consult him. Mr. Harrold suggested the name of Solon, in honor of the great Grecian lawgiver of that name. The suggestion was accepted, and for the reason that there was already a Solon in the northern part of the state it was called South Solon.
"The first storekeeper was John Nolan; first blacksmith, Andrew Douglas; first physician, John Zimmerman, a quadroon Pottawatomie Indian. He was a Christian preacher, moved from here to Summerford and organized the first Christian church. I remember seeing him only a few times.
"This town has grown since I first knew it from a population of about fifty to near five hundred today. Property values are increasing, and the demand for new building lots is becoming urgent. I could go on and write of many scenes and incidents that I know of and witnessed during my acquaintance with the community, some pathetic and others reprehensible, but deem it inexpedient, as perhaps it would not interest the general public. If in these feeble efforts I have been so happy as to entertain The Enterprise readers ever so little, I am content."
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