On April 14, 1824, a 38-year-old pioneer from Kentucky, named Christopher Stark Wood, was the first white man to clear the area and built a log cabin on the bank of Sugar Creek.
That historic location, in what is now Bath Township, is about 100 yards west of the Sugar Creek Church of the Brethren on Bluelick Road and some 300 yards north.
This became the very first settlement in Allen County. Wood called the new settlement Bath. This was seven years before Lima was established.
A large painting of Wood is displayed in the Allen County Courthouse.
I am in the process of writing a book about the history of Bath schools. In pursuit of this project, I spent more than a year researching the origin of the name “Bath.”
This research included the “1885 History of Allen County, Ohio”; the 1921 “A Standard History of Allen County, Ohio”; the 1976 “History of Allen County, Ohio”; and “A History of Bath Township From the Beginning.”
Nowhere in the hundreds of pages of all those published local histories does it explain the origin of the name of Allen County’s first settlement, Bath.
In my research, I have contacted officials at the Allen Count Museum, the Allen County Regional Planning Commission and the Lima Public Library. They were unable to explain how Bath Township was named.
During the past year, I have personally asked area residents, numbering in the hundreds, the same perplexing question. They couldn’t solve the puzzle.
Oh, some would say, it’s from Bath, Maine; or Bath, England, but no one really knew. No one could solve the local mystery.
I spent countless hours searching the Internet. This did not yield the answer.
Not until 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
At the early morning hour, I found a website that contained a document about the legendary Simon Kenton. It refers to the Draper Manuscript, Vol. 10, BB Simon Kenton papers (1755-1815). Lyman Copeland Draper is a renowned authentic source of early American history.
According to the document, it lists that Rev. William Woods was the father of Christopher,and 12-year-old Christopher helped roof a house of the famous Simon Kenton in Kentucky. It was noteworthy because it was the first house in that community to be roofed. The document also listed a friend of Kenton’s who helped in the project, another famous frontiersman, the legendary Daniel Boone.
The house was located in a northeastern county in Kentucky, Bath County.
There it was! The possible origin of the eluding name, Bath! Wood’s source of the name of Bath.
While probably no written account exists of Christopher Wood stating when he named Bath in Allen County, he likely was naming it for the county where he grew up in Kentucky. However, it is most reasonable to assume that Bath County is Kentucky was why he chose to name Bath as the first settlement in Allen County, Ohio.
I truly believe this assumption is the only reasonable conclusion that can be made, until another source is located to refute the claim.
According to other documents, the Kentucky County of Bath was named for its natural springs, which were said to have medicinal qualities.
My discovery won’t really change the world, but it may end the 182-year mystery of how Bath got its name!
Larry L. Oatman is a writer and lives in Lima. He is a former resident of Bath Township and graduate of Bath schools.