COLUMNS FROM SOME RECENT "RANDOLPH TIMES" NEWSLETTERS
Excerpts from the July 2004 "Randolph Times" Volume 6, Issue 3
The President's Message from Paul Dewey
The all Randolph Township school alumni gathering was June 18th. On Saturday many of the alumni stopped past the Janice Ward Center. There, our Historical Society was having a tent festival. Mementos, covering the past 200 years were on display in the tents and in the Ward Center. The alumni shared memories and stories about the old township. One story seemed very appropriate to write about. It not only included an early settler, but a family story that has been passed down from generation to generation. The story has to do in part with the National Road as well.
This is the story of the Samuel Herr family. In 1832 the family came from Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, Ohio (known as Englewood today). They would have traveled the National Road through Pennsylvania into Ohio until somewhere between Wheeling, WV and Columbus. There the road ended and they would have to travel over a dirt trail the remainder of the way. The National Road was not completed to Columbus until 1833.
The Herr homestead surrounded Harrisburg on three sides, extending nearly a half mile further south from Chestnut St. On the west, his land began at the village limits, which was located "3 lots" west of Walnut St., to where Union Rd. is now. To the North, it extended nearly a half mile from Jefferson St.
By 1834 Mr. Herr had cleared enough of his 400 acres to plant an orchard. That same year Mr. Herr found the surveyors, working for Mr. Jonathan Knight, staking the 80ft wide right-of-way for the National Rd. on his farm with his orchard right in the midst of the 30ft wide roadbed. Mr. Herr felt that he needed to confer with the man who was in charge of the road project.
The family tells this story: Mr. Herr traveled east to Springfield where the road was stalled "for lack of funding by Congress." He told the man how much it would mean to him to have his orchard torn up and asked if it wouldn't be possible to veer off just enough to miss this important possession. The answer that the superintendent gave reportedly was "Mr. Herr - this road is going straight through even if it strikes your house, and if it does you have dinner ready for us when we get there!"
Who the superintendent was has not been determined for certain, but he went on to become famous. Some family members thought it was Ulysses S. Grant. Grant did not graduate from West Point until 1843. The National Rd. was completed to Richmond, IN in 1836. But, Robert E. Lee graduated from West Point in 1829 and was assigned to the Corps of Army Engineers. The Corps of Army Engineers were in charge of building "the road". In the summer of 1835 he and his surveyors were sent to settle the Ohio-Michigan border dispute. Was he sent because he was already close by, working on "the road"?
I hope that everyone has enjoyed this family story as much as I have. Looking into historical times for answers, often raises more questions than answers, but that is what makes it interesting. Thanks to the Herr family for sharing their family story with us.
THE FAMILY TREE
"Morgan House - the Rest of the Story"
After the photo of the Morgan House appeared in the June 2nd issue of the Englewood Independent, your editor received numerous phone calls about discrepancies in the story. Many of the individuals that I have talked with since then have given more information about this famous restaurant and I would like to pass this on to all of you in this column.
The photo article referred to Leon "Bud" Wirth and his wife Eleanor who "operated" the restaurant from 1950 until 1965. Many readers thought this implied that the Wirth's owned the building when in fact they were leasing it or that they were the first to run the restaurant. I'll try to set the record straight with information received since the photo appeared.
From Geneva Bragg: The Morgan House was built originally by Whitey and Elsie Ellis (or some say Elsass). It probably opened in 1948 (Eva Woolery recalls having her wedding reception in late 1947 in the unfinished building). The Ellises lived upstairs in an apartment above the restaurant with their son Bobby. Geneva Bragg worked for Ellises during 1951 and 1952. Later she worked for Bud and Eleanor Wirth who leased the business from the Ellises around 1954. (The Ellises wintered in Florida and first Bobby, and then his father, drowned within a two year period.) Geneva became manager in 1965, after the Wirth's left and opened a restaurant in the ThunderBowl bowling alley across the street. Geneva continued as manager into 1969 when the property was sold to Joanne White. After the sale, the restaurant never reopened and was boarded up. Sometime later, the Boy Scouts used the building for a "Haunted House" fund raising project. Finally, it was deemed unsafe and torn down. The exact date of its demolition is not known.
Geneva has promised more photos and she even has a "Moron" Badge that was awarded to customers who could eat three "Moron" Burgers!
The above photo was donated to the society by Rita (Wirth) and Ted Dyke along with photos of her parents "Bud" and Eleanor, a snapshot of the original drive-thru menu board and an original menu. For those interested, a "Moron" Burger and fries was 99 cents!