In 1662, King Charles 2nd of England granted to the Colony of Connecticut a charter right to all lands contained between the 41st and 42nd parallels of north latitude and from Providence Plantations (Rhode Island) on the east, to the Pacific Ocean on the west, with the exception of the New York and Pennsylvania colonies.
The land later to become Medina County was formed from a part of that grant on February 18, 1812. The Torringford Company, a subsidiary of the Connecticut Land Company, handled the division of real estate west of the Cuyahoga River. Joseph Harris acted as their sales agent. As a result, the first settlers of the county were principally from Connecticut.
Harrisville was the first township in what is now Medina County. In 1810 the township was surveyed into lots of one hundred acres each, which sold for $2 per acre. Joseph Harris and his wife purchased two hundred acres and built their first house in 1810. He moved his family from Randolph, Ohio to Harrisville in February of 1811. By 1817, there were thirty-five families in the settlement of Harrisville.
The size of Harrisville Township was diminished significantly when it officially was organized as a Township. The original Township included not only Harrisville, but also Lafayette, Westfield, Chatham, Spencer, Huntington, Rochester, Troy, Sullivan and Homer Townships.
In the spring of 1818 nine more families came to Harrisville. Among the families was Lomar Griffin, his wife and seven children. He was destined to become one of the most remarkable and most widely known men in Harrisville Township and Medina County, for he lived to be the oldest man in the United States at that time.
1818 was also the year of the organization of Medina County. One of the first duties of the County was to set up a court system that would settle disputes. Joseph Harris was selected to be one of the first judges. Williams Barnes came from the East in 1818 and with his coming the industrial interests began. A dam was constructed on the East Branch River from which water power was provided to the settlement. A grist mill was erected.
Seven years after the Harris family arrived, a small log cabin was built on the Timothy Burr Farm. This was the first public building in Harrisville Township and quite possibility in Medina County. It served as the county’s first school. Miss Diadema Churchhill began her first term of teaching in early summer of 1817. This log structure also held the first organized church.
The Village of Lodi in Medina County owes its name indirectly to Napoleon Bonaparte. There was a conflict with a town of the same name in Harrison County and an issue with mail delivery, so the town people held a town meeting in the old school house. The story goes that someone stood up and starting reciting the poem “Napoleon at the Bridge” which narrates an incident in the Battle of Lodi, Italy. There’s another less popular version that the town was named Lo-di standing for its location on the low divide.
In 1820, the first dry goods store was opened by James Redfield, and by 1828, Harrisville had three stores.
By 1827, the community had grown to a point that it was necessary to divide the township into three school districts. It was during this period that the first school was built in Lodi. The school stood on the NW corner of Bank Street and School Alley. When the new Academy was built, the old school house was moved to the end of Harris Street. It was used for a grain elevator.
In 1835, Jeremiah Higbee built a large mercantile store. Higbees place soon became known as the “great village store”. Mr. Higbee moved to Cleveland in 1858 and started the famous Higbee Company.
Harrisville was established as a post office in 1834. The first mail line was run by James Redfield who had a government contract to carry the United States mail from Wooster to Elyria. In 1835, the post office was located in the “village store” with Mr. Higbee as Postmaster.
During the two decades preceding the Civil War, the people of Harrisville became involved in the anti-slavery movement in the North. The Timothy and George Burr homes in Lodi were part of the Underground Railroad.
By the end of the Civil War, the population and interest in education had increased. On February 16th 1867 a meeting was held in the Congregational Church for the “Advocates and Patrons of Education”. That night leaders pledged their financial support to the building of an academy and they raised $8500 towards buying the campus and building the school. By June, 1868, enough money was raised to start construction of the academy. The academy was dedicated in October of 1870. Students came from both local and distant areas and some even from out of state. The boarding house across the street that held teachers as well as students was built one year later.
In 1887, Messrs., Wean, Horr, Warner, & Co. purchased five hundred and seventy-three acres of Harrisville Swamp, 500 of which was muck. In 1908 they bought four hundred more acres. The swamp was drained through a series of ditches and pumps. On the north it drains through the Black River into Lake Erie. The South end drains into the Ohio River by way of the Killbuck River. One of the barns on the farms stands directly on the water shed. The southern half of the roof drains into the Ohio River and the northern half into Lake Erie.
In the late 30’s Medina County’s largest farm was purchased by a Mr. Rubin of Shaker Heights for $115, 000. At one time, at their peak, this farm employed 400 to 1000 people. The youngsters that worked the farm were known as “Muck Angels”. Robert Hall was the farm manager and he was assisted by his sons. Eventually the hall family purchased the farm from Mr. Rubin under the name Hall Growers Inc. Today this farm is known as Garden Isle Farm, and the present owners, the Halls, are on their fourth generation.
A typhoid epidemic helped get Lodi’s hospital started. A large Victorian home on the hill overlooking the intersection of Routes 224 and 42 was built by G.W. Jason in 1873. He lived there until 1883 when he sold to E.G. Loomis. Later it was purchased by V. A. Homan and still later leased to Col. and Mrs. Leroy Smith as a sanitarium for mild mental cases. Dr. Crum was the house doctor. When the epidemic hit Dr. Crum appealed to Col. Smith for half the sanitariums sixteen beds for thyroid patients. Col. Smith consented and since that date this has been the site of Lodi’s hospital. There have been new constructions, several expansions and changes in services that have led to today’s Lodi Community Hospital, affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic and Akron General. It is an accredited Critical Access Hospital.
In 1881 the first passenger trains were run over the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was completed in 1891, running from Akron to Chicago Junction (Willard). The Village’s railroad arches, located on Banks St between Lee Drive and Richey Alley, are on the National Registry of Historical Places.
The Cleveland Electric Company established an electric railway line through Lodi in 1909. After twenty-two years it was abandoned due to the automobile.
Founded by Joseph Rice and two of his sons, the Lodi Lumber Company has been an important part of Lodi history since 1911. Lumbering throughout its various phases has always been considered a craft in the Rice family.
The commerce of transportation in this area was accelerated by the War of 1812. The American militia was in need of supplies, and Joseph Harris delivered. From Akron to Lodi an east-west road was needed and the Harrisville area to the north of the “great marsh” was a desirable location in Lodi to cross the Black River. A road was to follow, which is now Route 224 and 76.
Usage continued to increase due to the automobile in the early 1900’s, and many main routes in the Lodi area were surfaced with paving brick. Concrete and asphalt was also used. South Academy Street was the first street to use asphalt. State Route 42 became a major north-south artery in the 1920’s. Lodi became a junction site where north-south Route 42 intersected with the east-west Route 224. Combining all major thoroughfares, this area was known as the “most traveled rural mile in the state of Ohio”.
With all major highways passing through Lodi, the trucking industry boomed. The first truckers hauled milk from local dairies. The B&O was the major hauler until 1930s. Specialized hauling of items such as bricks, logs, lumber, tanker, and water has been locally important. In the Lodi Sesquicentennial Book (1811-1961) Business Directory it is noted that Lodi had three trucking companies and fourteen auto parts and service stations. It also had four motels and thirteen restaurants and taverns.
During the late 1940s and 1950 residential development flourished in Lodi. Verne Anderson sold his land for a housing development called Evergreen Circle, Hemlock and Hawthorne Drives. Other streets were added shortly after World War II. The Village extended Redfield Street, added Sunset, Park and Grandview. Highland Drive was incorporated, Elyria Street built up and Lee and Billman Drives became a new industrial area. The Young Development included Janice, Grove, Young, Birch and Ash Streets.
By 1960, Interstate 71 and Route 76 made traveling thought the Lodi area much easier. Harrisville Township saw a jump in population due to the interstate system and the increased accessibility. However, this caused changes to Lodi. The Village lost five restaurants after the highways were constructed. Five gas stations were also lost, and to date there are only three gas stations in the Village.
In the early 1970s Medina County became the fastest growing area in the state of Ohio and Lodi continued to grow as well. New mobile home parks were added and Lodi upgraded its water plant at the beginning of the 80’s as a result of the growth of the Village in the 70’s. But by the mid 1980’s interest rate increases resulted in a slowing of development and housing starts. Residents found it more difficult to sell homes because of these high interest rates and more houses were turned to rental property.
Lodi had a revitalization of the downtown area in the mid 80’s. An earlier revitalization project, in the 50’s, had caused great controversy when some business owners wanted to eliminate the Lodi Central Park for parking. The business owners that complained eventually moved or went out of business.
One issue that hurt the downtown area was the moving of Invacare Corp to Elyria. The company had bought many products from local stores. This may have been the downfall of the hardware stores. Also, nearby shopping malls and big box stores contributed to the closing of many local “mom and pop” businesses.
The new generation was growing up and moving away. The sense of “loyalty” to the community ebbed, and there was very little to keep this generation in Lodi.
During the 90’s large retailers began to take an interest in Lodi. Revco/CVS arrived in town and built a modern retail store on the square and just outside the village limits an outlet mall was built. Locally owned small businesses started to disappear as owners retired or left. The Village extended its water and sewer service out the 83 corridor towards 71 to support the growth in that area of the township. Village Zoning was updated in the early 90’s and the MU district was added to the code. Anderson Cove Condominiums were developed in the late 90’s to provide housing for 55 and older residents. Oakwood Drive was extended across Janice and Grove Streets and homes were added. By the end of the 90’s the village was faced with replacing its ageing waste water plant to meet EPA regulations.
The 2000’s saw the construction of a 10 million dollar waste water plant. Several large parcels of land in the north east corner of the village were annexed and zoned R3 creating the Whisper Creek Subdivision. Construction in the subdivision would not start until 2006 and then just one model home was built before the economy started to decline. Discount Drugmart built a shopping center on Wooster Street in 2002 and the Medina County Library District built a 4.2 million dollar library that opened in 2005. Tax changes implemented in Columbus and extremely low interest rates on investments caused an extreme financial hardship for village government.
As we entered the 2010’s Lodi Village finances were declining and new tax levies were passed to continue to provide minimum services. The Village of Lodi worked with the Township trustees to update our Fire and Rescue levies so that our first full time Fire Chief could be hired. Later the village added part time Firefighter/EMT’s to provide staffed emergency services during peak hours to meet the growing demand for rescue services. The Lodi library that had just been built 6 years earlier was closed in 2011 for structural problems and would not open again until 2014. The village was involved in a court case pertaining to its zoning code towards mobile home parks for several years that ultimately ended at the Ohio Supreme Court with a decision against the Village. Council realized that the zoning code that had not been updated since 1992 was outdated and needed refreshed. As a first step a Comprehensive plan committee was formed and a contract was signed with the Medina County Planning Department to assist the Committee and Council to update its plan so that zoning changes to support the plan could be undertaken.
Lodi may not be the “gateway” from North to South it once was, but it is well located, has land available for new development, ample utilities, small-town charm and wonderful parks.
The above history was taken from the following publications:
Lodi Sesquicentennial, 1811-1961
Growing a Village, Lodi’s 175th Anniversary, 1811-1986