The Rich History of Middlefield Township:
The Pilgrims brought the township form of government to America in 1620. This unit of local government eventually spread as far west as the Rocky Mountains. Today, it is found in 20 states, known as the town or township.
In 1662, Northeast Ohio became part of the colony of Connecticut whose royal charter granted it a swath of land extending across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. After the formation of the United States, Connecticut ceded most of its western lands to the national government but exempted approximately 3,400,000 acres lying north of latitude 41 degrees (southern end of Portage county) and extending 120 miles westward from the Pennsylvania border. This became its Western Reserve. In 1795 it sold most of this land to a group of investors who had formed the Connecticut Land Company and in the following year the company began the survey of the land to prepare it for sale. The Land Company sent surveyors led by Moses Cleaveland to the Reserve to divide the land into square townships, 5 miles (8.0 km) on each side (25 square miles (65 km2). Cleaveland’s team also founded the city of Cleveland along Lake Erie, which became the largest city in the region. (The first “a” was dropped by a printer in the early years of the settlement, as Cleveland takes less space on a printed page than Cleaveland. Distances were always measured in chains and links, based on Edmund Gunter’s 66 foot measuring chain. The chain–an actual metal chain–was made up of 100 links, each being 7.92 inches (201 mm) long. Eighty chains constitute one U.S. Survey Mile (which differs from the International Mile by a few millimeters). There were two chainmen, one at each end, who physically made the measurements, one of them typically also acting as “compassman” to establish the correct bearing at each chain placement. In forested areas, it was essential for rapid progress and accuracy that the lead chainmen follow the correct bearing at all times, since no straightening of the chain was possible without backtracking around trees and re-measuring. It was also necessary to keep the chain level, since all surveying distances are based on the horizontal, not slope, distance. In steep terrain, this meant either shortening the chain, or raising one end of the chain relative to the other, or both. In areas where measuring by chain was not possible, such as extremely steep terrain or that with water obstructions, distances were calculated by triangulation.
Middlefield Gets Settled
The survey of this area made the purchase of land and settlement possible. In search of inexpensive land and new opportunities towns and settlements began popping up from Cleveland back east to the Pennsylvania border. The first permanent settler in Middlefield Township was Isaac Thompson and son James Thompson. Traveling from Mentor back to the Ohio River in March 1799, the Thompsons stopped in Middlefield for the night. In the morning the men went out and surveyed the country. After a day or two they were so favorably impressed with the country, and being sick and tired of moving, they decided to settle. Originally thought to be Burton because that township was settled one or two years earlier, the town was named Batavia. On county records this was township seven, range six of the Connecticut Western Reserve. The name was subsequently changed to Middlefield in 1841, because it was midway between Painesville and Warren. There were no other settlers in 1800 except a few in Burton now known as Geauga County. At this date there were two or three settlers in Painesville and Warren as well. Life was difficult for the Thompsons and the privations [perhaps “adversities” here] and hardships of the few inhabitants were trying. They raised but little grain, and found it difficult to secure that little from the ravages of wild animals. Their meat was wholly wild; they had neither hogs nor sheep, and very few cattle. Besides these, they encountered other privations. Linen was the only clothing for the ladies, and the clothing of the men was the skins of wild animals. During the season of 1800, Joseph Johnson settled on lot number ten. He came with his wife Jane and three sons, John, Joseph Jr. and James. His daughter Charlotte and son Hugh were born later in the township. Roads were built and the town continued to grow as settlers moved in and purchased land. Being little more than a trail, State Route 608, or “Old State Road”, was built in the early 1800’s. The settlers deviated from the surveyed route to avoid deep gullies and swampy areas. This road opened up the territory for development.
War of 1812
The year 1812 brought with it stirring events, but few settlers. Quite a number of the men of the township enlisted in the war of that year and went to Cleveland to protect it from threatened invasion from the British of Canada. The company reported at Cleveland and was mustered into service of the United States, on the 22nd of August 1812, by order of Major General Elijah Wadsworth. The company was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jedidiah Beard. The English had a fleet of war vessels and held complete control of the lake until after the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813. The return of the soldiers caused a rejoicing among the settlers, who had lived in constant fear of the Indians, against whom they had little defense in the absence of the men.
The first written record of township elections for Batavia was in the Spring of 1818. This election was at the residence of John Johnson and, by the names of persons, it appears to have been for the territory of Huntsburg as well as Middlefield. The officers of the day were:
James Thompson, Trustee chairman
Abner Clark, Trustee
Simeon Moss, Trustee
Abner Clark, Overseers of the poor
Clavin Fuller, Overseers of the poor
Paul Clapp, Town Clerk and Lister
J.B. Bishop, Appraiser
Jesse B. Bishop, Appraiser
Simon Moss, Supervisor
William Thompson, Supervisor
Stephen Pomeroy, Supervisor
John Randall, Supervisor
Moses Townsley, Fence Viewers
John Young, Fence Viewers
Stephen Pomeroy, Treasurer
Benjamin Wells, Constable
Township records bear the name Batavia and it was so called until 1841. The records for the spring of that year have the name Batavia and in July of the same year, it was called Middlefield, its present name. The town has continued to grow and prosper to this present day.
Amish Settle in Middlefield
By 1886, Amish from Holmes county, in search of fertile farm land, started migrating north into Geauga county, settling in Middlefield township. Middlefield’s Amish community is the second largest settlement in Ohio and the fourth largest settlement In North America. Like Amish in other settlements, Geauga County Amish make a living running small businesses, farming, doing construction and other manual labor. Factory work is quite common here as well, more so than in other communities. [Consider moving part of this segment to something on the Local Amish Business and Tourism?] Among the businesses are furniture, leather, bakeries, machine shops, stores and construction companies. Some Geauga County Amish supplement their income selling maple syrup, tapping into the extensive maple forests in the area. A tourist industry exists, though it is somewhat less developed than that of other large settlements. Tourist’s will find visits enjoyable in Middlefield with plenty to see and do. Quaint Amish traditions can be explored by visiting the many Amish owned businesses, shops and homes here.
Middlefield Village is Created
On Saturday, December 1, 1900, the Middlefield township trustees met in a special session at the town hall to accept a petition signed by 45 electors, a majority of whom were landowners, to request the right to vote on the formation of a new village to be called Middlefield.
The size of the proposed new village was a perfect square with the boundaries being as follows: to the East near what is today Lenny Dr., to the North where the present day boundary is near Mary Yoder’s Restaurant, to the West near Russell Funeral Home, and South just past Sajar Plastics. In each direction, there are still some of the original boundary lines used today. There were approximately 600 people living in the proposed village then.
The township trustees set an election for Saturday, December 15, 1900 on the question of incorporation. Notice was published in the local newspaper, the “Middlefield Messenger”. Henry Thompson, a descendant of Isaac Thompson, the first settler, was named as agent for the petitioners.
On the appointed day, 142 voters turned out to vote on the question of incorporation. The results showed 80 votes for incorporation and 62 against. Since there was a majority for incorporation, the township trustees then made an order declaring the above described territory to be a village and to be known by the name Middlefield. The newly formed village officers and township trustees continued to work closely together and still do to this day. Village residents could still run for township trustee but only village residents could run for city council. Much of the tax revenue and responsibilities were shared between the township and village. On May 10 of 1994 city council and township trustees decided to split into separate political entities but still share services of police, fire and EMS. A resolution was signed on May 11, 1994. Several changes occurred, one being, village residents could no longer run for township trustee. We continue to work closely together on many issues to this current day.
I sincerely hope you have enjoyed some of our rich heritage and history, possibly you have learned something along the way. Middlefield is a great place to live, work and raise a family. If you live here, you understand, and if not, please come visit and consider making Middlefield your home.