by Tami Wenger, Gloryland Ministries
John Enoch (pictured left) spent eighteen years prospecting for gold before heading to the Miami Valley in the year 1815. It isn't known if he was hoping to strike gold but apparently what he did discover was well worth the trip. He was one of the early pioneers to settle in the valley, building a home then a gristmill which was powered by the Mad River and the Mac-O-Chee Creek.
The settlement was known as Enoch's Mill until being founded in 1817, then it was named West Liberty. In 1834 West Liberty was incorporated and vying for the main town in Logan County. Bellefontaine was more centrally located so they won the county seat.
In the late 1880's Enoch's Mill (pictured below), owned by Jacob Anstine, provided additional service by providing electricity when a dynamo was connected to the water wheel. Since there were no meters at each home users were trusted to use no more than five bulbs at once. The mill had a long history until it burned in a fire in 1962. Since it was not cost effective to rebuild, the mill was torn down.
In the Memoirs of the Miami Valley, published in 1920, it states, “West Liberty is a pretty town and shines where it stands against the background of it's green hill, with the waters of the Mad River and the “babbling Mac-O-Chee” silvering the plain at it's edge.”
Ask anyone today why West Liberty is special to them you will get a myriad of answers. James Fraley, “Getting a nickel from Ross McIlvain for being a good boy and sitting still for your haircut, and got a nickel form Doc. Mikesell for not crying when I got a shot.” Nina May says, “Because Michael's Pizza has the absolute best Taco Pizza!” “Large enough to enjoy a variety of activity and people, small enough to care for one another,” says Ellen Vitt. Joyce Hilyer, formally of West Liberty says, “West Liberty is in my heart to stay.”
So it's the size, people, memories, favorite restaurant, home town, birth place for some, heart, spirit and more, all rolled into a great place to live. John Enoch must have agreed since he lived the remainder of his life in West Liberty. He may not have struck gold but he did hit the mother lode when he found such a beautiful valley in which to call home.
Sources- Memoirs of the Miami Valley
Historic West Liberty Ohio Sesquicentennial Booklet
Picture - John Enoch, West Liberty Founder used by permission of Bob McClure
Picture two - The Old Enoch Mill used by permission of Bob McClure
by Tami Wenger, Gloryland Ministries
In order for a new town to grow, businesses must prosper. John Enoch settled in the valley in 1815, opening a gristmill and people traveled miles to get their grinding done.
Here are more "firsts" in West Liberty business history. Enoch's sawmill was powered by the Mad River and Mac-O-Chee Creek. A distillery was opened by Thomas Baird on Muddy Run. Hiram White had the first store, tavern and post office on the corner of Baird and Detroit Streets. Dr. John Ordway was the first doctor and lived on Ordway Hill. The first landlord was John Newland, who owned a hotel called "The Buckeye House."
West Liberty grew as more people arrived in town and businesses were opened. In 1828, the following businesses were available. Dr. John Ordway and H. M. White were still in town. John Vaughn was a farmer and Baptist Preacher with William Vaughn being a tailor and Baptist Preacher. John Williams was the local blacksmith and Methodist Preacher and Benjamin Ginn also a tailor. Robert Crockett and Tillman Longfellow were apprentice with John Vaughn a tanner. The wheel right/ painter was William Moore and William Kenton a tanner.. The carpenter was Thomas Hubbard and Abner Tharp was a wagon maker. The miller was Simon Robinson and Mrs. Polly McCullough and family were mentioned but not the business she had. Businesses at this time were mostly cabins.
By 1880, West Liberty had many thriving businesses in the downtown area. In May of that year, a fire wiped out much of the business section on Detroit and West Baird Streets. The town could have died if the business owners had decided to cut their losses and move somewhere else, but they decided to rebuild and save the town. By this time several owners had a large building called a block, with not only their business but rented space to others for theirs. Mention was made of the businesses that were lost, but not those that were saved. Those lost included grocery stores, drug stores, stables, boot and shoe stores, notion stores, the post office, millinery, barbershop, billiard saloon, Odd Fellows Hall, dentistry rooms and a bank.
The West Liberty Sesquicentennial Booklet has pictures of the following businesses in town in 1967: Esch's Meats, Liberty Oil & Gas Service, Humble Construction, West Liberty Lumber, Liberty Variety Store, Weymouth Sohio Service, Tastee Freez, The People's Savings and Loan Co., Liberty Machine Products, Inc., Chuck's TV, Craig's Coal Yard Elevator Grain Storage, Robert Brothers, Charles Sharp Realty, George R. (BUD) King Plumbing and Heating, Nationwide Insurance with Herman B. Lockwood, Yoder Electric, Black's Garage, Ross McIlvain Barber Shop and Max's Barber Shop. Also, Ohio Caverns, Piatt Castles, Thoman Bros. Supermarket, Holdren Brothers Inc., T .W. Swisher Realtor, Wilbert's Auction, Atha, Atha and Atha, C & F Apache Camping, Wilkins Funeral Home, Marie's Homemade Candies, Dajolee's Fine Foods, Nuehauser Division of IMCO Poultry, Inc., Farmers Supply, Figley's Drugs, Lenny's Graystone Restaurant, and the Hillside Greenhouse. S&S Tackle Co., Lester E. Wells Plumbing and Heating, King's Market, Nelson Insurance Agency, Saltz Men's & Boys Wear, Thompson's Shell Service, Joe S, Plank Firestone, Hostetter Monuments, Yoder Furniture, Geoff's Laundromat, Liberty Hardware Co., National Soft Water Service, and The Farmer Banking Co.
In 2017, a new business opened, one moved to a new building, one is set to open in the Spring, and another business is closing for good. Three of the oldest businesses remaining in their original location include the Ohio Caverns, the Piatt Castles and the Hillside Greenhouse. Visit our Local Business Directory to check out all the businesses West Liberty has to offer!
Sources: West Liberty Sesquicentennial Booklet, West Liberty Library, and History and Biography by Unigraphic
Picture One- Ohio Caverns Entrance used by permission of Bob MeClure
Picture Two- Mac-O-Chee Castle in 1910 permission of Tami Wenger
Picture Three- Mac-A-Cheek Castle used by permission of Arnita Yoder
Picture Four- Hillside Greenhouse by permission Tami Wenger
West Liberty History Stories
West Liberty, Ohio was established in 1817. Read a sampling of our village's 200+ years of history or SUBMIT YOUR OWN STORY for all to enjoy!