After nearly a half century, William Anderson closed the doors of his general store for the final time on May 5, 1954. The store, The Lima News reported, was the crossroads community of Yoder’s “last commercial enterprise.”
In truth, the Yoder general store was about the only commercial enterprise in the Perry Township town.
Although Yoder can still be found on county maps, motorists stopping at the intersection of Greeley Chapel and Breese roads likely don’t realize they’re there. Like dozens of other small towns that showed up on county and railroad maps in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Yoder as a town exists more in memory than reality. Some sprang up on their own, while others were planned, platted and put on the map, only to come to nothing.
“The Yoder crossroads settlement came into being under the name of West Bradford sometime after the Civil War,” the News wrote. “When the Post Office Department decided to open a star route office here, it was necessary because of a conflict with the name of another Ohio town, to change the name. Yoder was selected in honor of Samuel S. Yoder, of Lima, onetime congressman and probate judge of Allen County.”
The post office didn’t last long, closing around the turn of the century. In the early years of the 20th century, Yoder station was listed as a stop on the Ohio Electric railway line to Bellefontaine and Springfield, though the line passed through to the north of the crossroads.
When Anderson purchased the store around 1918, it was two stories, with the second floor being used as a grange hall. Anderson rebuilt it in the mid-1920s as a single-story structure. A photo from 1927 shows the store with a gas pump out front positioned dangerously close to Greeley Chapel Road.
Anderson’s wife operated it as an antique shop for a while after her husband closed the general store. It also experienced a brief revival as a convenience store. Mostly, however, it stood empty until it was recently razed.
Southeast of Yoder, the town of Amherst was laid out in 1847 near the intersection of Amherst and Ream roads by a Dr. Sleater. In June 1909, Edward Wonnell, who was then in his 80s and remembered a time when wolves howled around his family’s cabin at night, recalled Amherst and other early Perry Township towns in a speech to the county historical society.
“Amherst at that time had a store kept by John Ream, Sr. Also, a cabinet shop owned by Dr. Sleater, and a blacksmith shop and ashery,” Wonnell told the group, according to the Allen County Republican-Gazette. “Dr. Sleater was also a cabinet maker, undertaker and preacher. I remember that oftentimes he would doctor a patient and, after they died, he would make their coffin and preach their funeral.”
In the 1860s, Sleater moved to Michigan, and Ream’s store burned down.
“This left but little of Amherst,” Wonnell told the historical society.
Nearby South Warsaw, located on the south bank of the Auglaize River near the intersection of Schooler and Warsaw roads, was also platted in the 1840s. The town was basically comprised of a couple nearby churches, a store and post office, operated by the venerable Wonnell. After about 1907, it was a stop on the Ohio Electric Railway.
As small as South Warsaw was, the town once hosted a visit by the governor of Ohio — thanks to the efforts of Wonnell, former Lima mayor and historian Frank A. Burkhardt wrote in 1943.
“It was an occasion when Governor (Andrew) Harris was making a tour across the state from Columbus to Toledo by way of Springfield,” Burkhardt wrote, adding that the governor would make rear platform talks at the larger interurban stops. During the trip in the early 1900s, Burkhardt, then an official with the Ohio Electric Railway who was traveling with the governor, received a telegram from Wonnell asking him to arrange a stop for a speech at South Warsaw.
“As the spacious car came to a stop,” Burkhardt wrote, “there was not a soul at the place, and the governor was puzzled as he looked out over a well-groomed rural vista. Just then one lone resident climbed over a fence and came on to the car waving for a hired hand to come over from a cornfield. It was none other than Edward Wonnell, a half-century resident of the place.”
North of Lima, near the intersection of Sugar Street and Bluelick Road, was the resort of Sulphur Springs, which was a popular destination for picnics and Sunday excursions from the 1840s on. The sulphur water flowed from a “gum” that had been sunk 10 feet into blasted out rock. After about 1880, a one-room school occupied the northeast corner of the intersection, while a mill was located nearby.
“The party of ladies who composed the driving party to the Sulphur Springs on Thursday had a perfect afternoon,” the Republican-Gazette wrote in October 1890. “The half hour chat at the spring was interspersed with draughts from the depths of the old log and bites from the lunch basket. The homeward drive by the old road was full of autumn beauty.”
In 1887, the land was acquired by former congressman C.N. Lamison. The Lamison home, the Lima Daily Times wrote in July 1890, “is very advantageously situated on an elevated point overlooking the valley in which the sulphur spring gushes forth.”
Sulphur Springs was seen as an ideal location for growth, at least by the Allen County Democrat, which wrote in April 1887, “We are informed that the street car line will be projected out that far, and that various farms will be platted into four and five acre tracts for homestead purposes.”
It turned out the land also was good for quarry purposes. The springs continued as a social gathering place until 1924, when it was bought by the National Quarry Company. A water-filled quarry occupies the site today.
A town that eventually did fill with people was platted just south of Lima on the Ottawa River. In 1855, Harmon Kibby joined a group of Lima capitalists in having a town surveyed just south of the southern boundary of Lima on land Kibby had purchased. The town initially had 29 lots and was called Eureka.
Eureka covered the territory east of South Main Street, south of what is now Eureka Street, west of what is now Central Avenue and north of Kibby Street. It included the “Blue Bird Hill” home of Col. James Cunningham. The remnants of the “hill” can be seen today on East Circular Street. In 1863, as Lima grew south, the town of Eureka disappeared.
Another new town near Lima was flattened by progress. In June 1882, a Lima dry-goods merchant named Jacob D. Watt platted an addition to the city of Lima in what was originally Shawnee Township.
Known as Watt Town or Solar City, the addition was bounded by Third Street, Greenlawn Avenue, Fourth Street, Metcalf Street and the Lake Erie & Western Railway. It was inhabited in part by workers from the Solar Refinery.
Watt left Lima by 1888 and in 1914 his plat was vacated, the residences purchased and, after 1922, leveled to make way for expansion of the Lima Locomotive Works.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.