In the first decade of the 1800’s, pioneer Swiss farm families began to arrive in the west end of town, and on March 2, 1825, they dedicated their village as Basil (a misspelling of Basel, Switzerland). One day earlier, March 1, the Virginians in the east end of town dedicated their own village of New Market (after a town by that name in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley). This opened the gates to a century and a quarter “twin city” feud. (In that same year of 1825 the Ohio-Erie Canal would begin ditching its silver ribbon toward the two villages. The L.U.H.S. alma mater recalls this heritage when the community was “furrowed by canal waters.”)
Ohio & Erie Canal and The Twin Cities
Growth and change were imminent. Three years later (1828), north of the current railroad, the hamlet of Rome City was dedicated. In 1833 New Market was incorporated, for some still unexplained reason, as Baltimore. In 1893 the paper industry’s founder came to town on a bicycle and his legacy is obvious to this day. (Again, the alma mater reflects, ” known for her mills.”)
From 1945-1947 there was a notorious controversy over the new name for the twin city consolidation. In a widely publicized story, “Baseball” (a merging of Basel and Baltimore) was thrown out by the circuit judge umpire and “Baltimore” was safe.
Though a current Fairfield County map indicates this Liberty Township – Paw Paw Valley site as Baltimore, locals can quickly identify the whereabouts of Basil Park, Market Street, and Rome Side within their village.
School Consolidations in the 20th Century
A brief glimpse of twentieth century schools includes the school year 1919-1920 graduation of the first class from the new community school building called Liberty (after the township) Union after the junction of the Baltimore and Basil districts). For the 1960-1961 school year Baltimore and its neighbor community Thurston consolidated their kids into the Liberty Union-Thurston School District. And following the 1986-1987 school year, the original (1917) Liberty Union School was razed to make room for the new (1988-1989) high school.
A more detailed account of the history of the Liberty Union-Thurston Schools can be found on the Liberty Union-Thurston Alumni page.
Baltimore’s Locks on the Ohio & Erie Canal
As part of the national government’s goals to improve transportation, save Ohio farmers, and encourage buckeye population, on July 4, 1825, state officials conducted groundbreaking ceremonies for the Ohio & Erie Canal on the Licking Summit just south of Newark.
Ohio & Erie Canal and Dry Dock Lock
Those towns that were fortunate enough to be on the surveyed route of the 40-foot wide (at the top) ditch between Cleveland and Portsmouth anxiously awaited construction. Every “canawler” would be a potential customer and business opportunities would abound at every lock where passengers disembarked for the 15-minute “lock through.”
In March of that same year two small villages, separated by the Pawpaw Creek Valley, dedicated their first official plats of ground in preparation for the boom that would arrive as soon as the gates opened allowing water from the Licking Reservoir (Buckeye Lake) to fill the canal.
Bibler Lock on the Ohio & Erie Canal
The construction of eight locks (90′ x 15′ sandstone chambers that served as water elevators) in this area added to the commercial excitement. A towboy walked his mules down the towpath for the first time in October of 1831. The canal would add fuel to a rivalry between New Market (Virginia settlement east of Pawpaw that became Baltimore in 1833) and Basil (Swiss settlement west of Pawpaw) that would officially last until the end of WWII when both sides of Pawpaw became Baltimore.
Though the “Golden Era” of the canal would be over by the 1850’s, its cultural impact would stretch well into the twentieth century. Consequently, Baltimore, like many other O & E Canal communities on the 310-mile ditch owes much of its heritage to the “silver ribbon” that brought people, prosperity, and progress. The locks stand as eyewitnesses to an unforgettable episode in the story of our community.