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Historical Society wins award for Avon

See A Time-Line for Norton S. Townshend, M.D., By Jean Fischer , May 1, 2000

Trustee of Oberlin College

A Letter to the Editor

The Avon Mound Cemetery -- Indian mound or glacial lake sand dune?

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS, 11-22-00, By Mike Ferrari

`` Avon - One of Avon's most famous citizens will be long remembered after being honored by the Ohio Bicentennial Committee.

In accordance with Ohio's Bicentennial celebration, Avon will be receiving a historical marker for Norton S. Townshend, a former city native.

Townshend's life history and story was given to the Ohio Bicentennial Commission by Jean Fischer, Avon resident and member of the city's historical society. In return for her research and work, the city will get a history marker in February.

Elder Wolfe, president of the Avon Historical Society, said he is very pleased about the historical marker.

"Am I excited? O, yeah," Wolfe said. "We like to do a lot of stuff with the historical society because we are very enthused about the history of this area, especially Avon."

Several of Avon historical people had been considered, but it didn't take long for the society to decide on Townshend.

"Historically, he was the only doctor around this area and he still managed to see everybody or at least everybody in the area came to see him. We thought of about a half dozen people who could have been considered, but his name kept coming up and we knew he would get approved."

Dorothy Eldred, another historical society member, feels it's important to keep the city's history in mind.

"I think this was a great idea and it will be an asset to the community. It's good for us to know the ties to our past. We can look ahead to the future but not without knowing or connecting to our past," Eldred said.

Townshend was born in Northamptionshire, England and came to Avon in May of 1830 with his uncle Isaac, until his father was able to come to the states. Joel, Norton's father, then purchased 150 acres of land in Avon and re- started his family's life.

Shortly after they arrived, Townshend also purchased 25 acres of farmland adjacent to his father's parcel of land. Throughout the 1830's the Townshend family was the first in Ohio to install tile drains under all their fields. The family also continued to buy land as it became available to where they owned over 300 acres.

Townshend became a naturalized citizen in 1836 and began to study medicine with Dr. Richard Howard in Elyria in 1837. Later that same year he studied at the Cincinnati Medical College where his interest in the antislavery movement peaked.

Two years later he enrolled in the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and in 1840 received his M.D. degree. Furthering his education was a priority for Townshend and he quickly went overseas to further his knowledge.

He studied and took courses in Paris, Edinburgh and Scotland, and eventually he engaged further medical schooling at the Edinburgh Medical School.

In 1841 he returned to Avon where he began his practice. Tt wasn't long after his return that he married Harriet N. Wood, his longtime neighbor. The couple eventually had three children, Mary, James and Arthur, who unfortunately died at age four.

A year later he took over the medical practice of Dr. Howard in Elyria, but instead of selling his land in Avon he kept it, despite living and working in the city where he practiced medicine.

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At the ripe of age of 29 he was appointed a trustee of Oberlin College and tried to establish a school of Agriculture. His interests spanned over a set of numerous topics as he won a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives as a member of the Free Soil Party in 1848.

Two years later he became a U.S. Congressman in the 32nd Congress, where he fought against slavery and asked Congress to repeal the Fugitive Slave Act.

Three years later he lost his seat in his district and returned home where he made a successful run for the Ohio Senate. In 1854, only 11 years after they married, Townshend lost his wife to tuberculosis. Later in the same year he remarried Margaret Bailey and had three more children, Arthur, Alice and Harriet.

During his term in the Senate he strenuously opposed extension of slavery and capital punishment. He also supported prohibitory liquor laws, the proposition supporting the amending of the Ohio Constitution that would allow equal rights for women. He also supported granting elective franchising to "colored citizens."

His views were as diverse as his portfolio, as he also proposed an asylum devoted to "imbecile youth", which was acted upon by the General Assembly in 1857.

When Townshend's term in the Senate ended he did not get involved in elected politics ever again. Instead, he spent the majority of his time on his farm in Avon and closed his medical office in Elyria in pursuit of a career in agriculture.

Townshend took a lot of time and dedicated it to increasing farmers' knowledge by publishing bulletin announcements for his plans for the Ohio Agricultural College at Oberlin College. The classes were scheduled during the winter months so farmers could attend.

In 1855, the proposed educational courses Townshend developed lost funding and the school moved to Cleveland, which ultimately led to the school being closed.

In 1858 he was elected to the State Board of Agriculture where he soon was elected president of that board and focused his attention on tile drainage.

As the Civil War broke out in 1863, despite being 49 years old, Townshend accepted a Lieutenant Colonel position for the Union Army. He served as a medical inspector, supervising hospitals, troops and camps all over the country. Townshend served in the military until 1865.

Two years after he was again asked to serve on the Ohio State Board of Agriculture. Governor Rutherford Hayes appointed him to serve in the 14th district on the first board of trustees for the Ohio Agriculture and Mechanical College.

Throughout his six-year term Townshend provided the leadership and knowledge for the group and was elected chairman of the Executive Committee of the College.

Townshend moved on to be the first ... professor of agriculture. In May of 1878 the General Assembly of Ohio voted to change the name of the school to what it has become to be known as the Ohio State University, making him one of the University's founders.

Following a brief illness in 1895, he died and was buried in Avon's Mound Cemetery, where he still rests to this day. In honor of his hard work and dedication to the study of agriculture, Ohio State named an agriculture building after him. Currently the hall remains named the same but home to the school of Psychology and the Agriculture School is now used as a branch extension of OSU in Wooster.

In addition to Townshend, Lorain County will receive another historical marker in honor of John Mercer Langston. He was the first African- American man elected to office in the United States and was a graduate of Oberlin College.

He later became the first African-American attorney in the state and was elected to the Oberlin City Council and school board. He spent the majority of his life advocating justice for African-Americans.

Ohio's Historical Marker program is administered by the Ohio Historical Society and began in 1953 as part of the states celebration. Since the beginning of the program, almost 300 markers exist, as an additional 200 to 300 markers will be placed by 2003.

According to Dr. Del Fischer, the Ohio Bicentennial Commission said they would be receiving the marker in three and half months, but the celebration may not take place until spring 2001.

"It was a tough competition," Fischer said. "The inaugural and actual dedication will take place in the spring when the weather is better. We are very excited about this honor."

The marker will be placed on the corner of Detroit and Stoney Ridge Roads at the Old Town Hall. Wolfe has estimated the cost of installation of the marker at $2000, but the Avon Historical Society will not have to pay the entire cost.

"We will come up with about $500 of that," Wolfe said. "The state is also going to pay for some of that cost but we want to make sure it is done right. We will have a professional do it right because it is important to the city." ''

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 11-29-00, By Jessie M. Root

`` My husband Frank and I enjoyed the article on Avon's Dr. Townshend. He was the first to tile land in Lorain County.

Frank remembers those old tiles on his grandmother Garfield's Detroit Road property in Sheffield Village.

The first tiles were four wooden boards nailed together in a square and placed in the ground. When the kilns were invented, the tiles were molded like a horseshoe and placed in the soil on a board.

Later the tiles were several shapes: round, six-sided, flat on one side, etc. Today, tiles are long, round, plastic coils laid in the ground. ''

Jessie M. Root, Avon

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The Avon Mound Cemetery -- Indian mound or glacial lake sand dune?

by Charles E. Herdendorf

The Village Pioneer -- Volume 7 No. 1, March 2012

The Avon Center Cemetery (also known as the Mound Cemetery) at the intersection of Center Road (Ohio Route 83) and Detroit Road (Ohio Route 254) contains the graves of noteworthy individuals: Revolutionary War soldier John Prentiss Calkins (1752-1836) who served with the New Hampshire Regiment, several veterans of the War of 1812, and agriculturalist Dr. Norton S. Townshend.

Many of the first settlers of Avon are interred in the mound, including Avon's founder Wilbur Cahoon (1772-1825). The oldest gravestone in the cemetery (1818) marks the burial site of Lydia Williams, age 15. The gravestone of Wilbur Cahoon is near the crest of the Avon Mound Cemetery. This stone was carved in Berea Sandstone quarried along French Creek.

The cemetery is unique in our area, in that it [was] believed to be a prehistoric burial mound constructed by the Woodland Indians and later used as a cemetery by white settlers. The sexton of the cemetery, Alfred Walker, reported that he had recovered several Indian skulls and some beads and arrowheads from the mound in 1900.

Col. Raymond C. Vietzen conveyed this information in his 1941 book, "Ancient Man in Northern Ohio;" however, no formal archaeological investigations have been conducted at this site.

Another interpretation is that the mound is the remnant of an ancient sand dune created over 12,000 years ago on the shore of glacial Lake Warren. In an attempt to resolve the question of the origin of the mound, [Dr. Herdendorf] performed a microscopic examination of sand samples collected in June 2011 at the crest of the Avon Mound Cemetery.

The sample consisted primarily of fine-grained quartz sand. The grains were sub-rounded and definitely had a frosted appearance. The sub-rounding indicates that the sand was probably transported along the shore of glacial Lake Warren (about 12,500 years ago).

The quartz grains were most likely eroded from lake-cliff outcrops of Berea Sandstone near Avon Center. Wave action in Lake Warren dislodged the individual sand grains from the bedrock and rounded sharp edges. Because the shoreline (now known as the North Ridge) sweeps to the north forming an apex at Avon Center, prevailing westerly winds were able to blow fine grains of sand into a dune near the present intersection of SR 83 and SR 254.

Wind blown sand does not have the buffering action of water that beach and nearshore sand does; thus the grains collide with force, causing fractures that appear as frosted surfaces on the grains.

The examination of mound samples indictes that the cemetery mound is a natural dune feature and probably predates aboriginal Indians in the area by several thousand years. However, it is quite possible that Indians, as the early settlers did, used this natural feature as a burial site.

The Village Pioneer displays a photomicrograph of sand grains from a sample taken at the crest of the mound showing frosted surfaces on most grains -- indication of a wind-blown deposit. The photomicrograph [was] made with the assistance of Dr. David Klarer, scientist at Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, Huron, Ohio.

Avon to 1974

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