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History of Granville, Ohio

Granville is a quaint, New England-style community located in Licking County (east central Ohio) along the western edge of the Appalachian Plateau. Home to Denison University, the Village has a permanent population of 3,500 and a total population of 5,600 when the college is in session.

Granville Township was surveyed in 1797 as part of the U.S. Military District.  These were lands set aside for those who had served in the Revolutionary War.  Land was acquired, according to an act of Congress in 1796, in units of 4,000 acres.

Two groups settled in the Granville area during the first decade of the 19th century and they left a lasting imprint on the physical character that defines Granville’s distinctive sense of place.

The first to arrive were the Welsh, as 4,000 acres in the northeast quadrant of the township were sold to Sampson Davis, a Welshman living in Philadelphia.  In 1801, he sold 1,800 of his acres to Thomas Philipps and Theophilus Rees.  Additional settlers followed Philipps and Rees to Ohio.  This area of the township still bears the imprint of the early settlers by the Welsh names given to the roads – Jones Road, Welsh Hills Road, Cambria Mills Road, Philipps Road, and Philipps Glen Road.  The Welsh Hills Cemetery and the Philipps Cemetery are both located in this area of the township and contain a number of the graves of the early Welsh settlers.

The second significant group of settlers, from the neighboring communities of Granville, Massachusetts and Granby, Connecticut, were responsible for the establishment of the Village of Granville. People from both communities sent a scouting party to Ohio to identify and evaluate property for future settlement.  As a result, the Licking Company was formed in 1804 with 107 subscribers to purchase more than 29,000 acres of land.  Advance parties came westward early in 1805 to survey and map the site for the Village, erect a mill for sawing lumber and grinding corn, and plant grain.

Before leaving New England, the Village design was laid out in great detail. The company planned a public square, a school, library, burying ground, and property for the support of churches. In November and December 1805, some 150 settlers arrived from New England in ox-drawn wagons and built temporary shelters on the designated public square.

Granville was planned to closely resemble a “New England town”.  The plan began with two wide thoroughfares that intersected at the town square with churches on its corners. The plat continued with 24 blocks of 288 rectangular lots above the Raccoon Creek floodplain.  Nestled between the three hills (Sugar Loaf, College Hill and Mt. Parnassus) these New Englanders constructed a settlement that quickly took on the character of a Village as permanent buildings appeared along the regular grid pattern of streets.  A number of buildings from the first decades of Granville’s history survive today, including some of the private homes, The Alexandrian Bank (now home of the Granville Historical Society), St. Luke’s Church and the Buxton Inn.

Granville was the home to five schools in the early 1830s.  Two of them, the Granville Female Seminary and the Granville Literary and Theological Institution (later Denison University), were both located in the area west of the Village green with Denison located on College Hill  above the Village center.  Although the Granville Female Seminary ceased to exist by the 1890s, Denison University continues today to exert a major influence on the character of the Village.  Its historic campus is included in the Granville Historic District that is listed on the National Register.

Granville continued to grow with the construction of a feeder canal connecting to the Erie Canal system in 1833 and in 1880 when the first railroad lines reached the village.

Granville has retained its small town appeal and is characterized by charming, locally-owned retail shops, historic homes and churches, tree-lined boulevards, and stately buildings. It has maintained its ties to the past, preserving its heritage through the protection of green space and the establishment of an historic district that includes the downtown business area, with over 100 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For additional information:  The Granville Historical Society www.granvillehistory.org