Officials say 2014 is a great year to be in Wadsworth: The city is turning 200 and there’s a calendar of events to celebrate.
“It’s a wonderful year to be in Wadsworth,” Mayor Robin Laubaugh said. “We have a tremendous number of volunteers giving up their time and effort to make sure this is a great year filled with fun, celebrating our history, and giving the 200th the due it deserves.”
The festivities begin March 15 with the First Night celebration. It will include the ceremonial presentation of a 1964 time capsule, which will remain on display downtown until Founders Day weekend Aug. 7 to 10. It will be opened that weekend.
First Night will feature musical performances by the Midlife Chryslers Band with Michael Stanley and Marc Lee Shannon, and The University of Akron Steel Drum Band.
Other entertainment will include polka music, airbrush tattoos, a magician, children’s theater, Home Depot’s “Make It and Take It” trailer, video-gaming trucks, Jazzercise demonstrations, canvas painting — $5 per person — and a performance by the Northeast Ohio Dance Ensemble.
Food trucks will serve fare from Swenson’s, Zydeco Bistro, Wholly Frijoles!, Get Stuffed, and Happy Hour Kettle Corn.
The night will close with a bang — fireworks by Pyrotecnico.
First Night will be 4 to 8 p.m. on the square in downtown Wadsworth. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and younger.
Laubaugh said officials wanted to begin the celebration in March to commemorate the first families who arrived in Wadsworth on March 1, 1814, and the first home’s completion on March 17.
“Throughout the year, there will be many different things we’ll be highlighting about our culture and history,” Laubaugh said.
In May, the city will celebrate Memorial Day with a parade and commemoration of all Wadsworth’s fallen soldiers. The day will feature the return of “The Boy with the Boot,” a statue that was melted down for its metal during the war effort of the 1940s. Sandusky officials have agreed to loan their replica of the statue so a mold can be made to cast a statue in bronze for Wadsworth.
June 17 will bring the Blue Tip Festival, the annual celebration of the Ohio Match Co.’s days as one of the world’s prominent match manufacturers.
At the end of July, a weekend-long community picnic at Memorial Park will offer a car show, games and demonstrations, and a ballgame, all with an old-fashioned flair.
On Sept. 26, Wadsworth High School’s homecoming night, residents and students will take the traditional walk from Central Intermediate School to the football stadium. But this year, they will celebrate past homecoming queens, cheerleaders and athletes, and high school graduating classes.
November will bring the Bicentennial Ball, an adults-only gala at The Galaxy Restaurant, 201 Park Center Drive. The evening will feature foods from different eras and guests are invited to dress in period-specific outfits. The night before the ball will be the annual Candlelight Walk.
Other events will be worked in throughout the year, including historic teas where participants can discuss the city’s history in intimate settings in historic homes; a historical speaker series; Lolly the Trolley to take residents on guided historical tours around the city; and a women’s club historic luncheon celebrating historic Wadsworth women.
Laubaugh said the events will include activities that recognize residents and longtime families of the community.
“I think individuals just love and are really a part of their community. They end up coming back and settling in this community or the surrounding area,” she said. “So often you’ll find families with many generations and roots here in Wadsworth. For those who are new, it’s becoming a tradition for them and their children will start to settle here too.”
Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A brief history
Wadsworth was founded in 1814 on land owned by the Connecticut Western Reserve. Known then as Town One, Range Thirteen, it was at the far southern edge of that tract.
The first families were of Daniel Dean and Oliver Durham, from Vermont, who settled on the eastern end of Wadsworth, known now as Western Star. The only other person in the area at the time was a Canadian migratory squatter, Indian Holmes, whose wife was Native American. He lived near a brook that ran west of town, known now as Holmesbrook Hill, named for him.
The town got its name from Revolutionary War hero Gen. Elijah Wadsworth, who owned a large portion of the land.
Wadsworth himself was a respected patriot, military leader, pioneer and businessman. He was the direct descendant of Joseph Wadsworth, who is credited with saving the charter of the Connecticut Colony by hiding the document in an oak tree historically known as the Charter Oak. Elijah also was related to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Wadsworth never lived in Wadsworth, but in Canfield, where he is buried and where his homestead still stands.
The entire reserve was under the jurisdiction of Trumbull County until it was divided in 1807 and became Portage County. Wadsworth was united with Medina County in 1818 when Portage County was divided.
On April 6, 1818, Wadsworth Township held its first election and officially named the community Wadsworth.
Coal mining became a major industry in Wadsworth in the mid-1880s. The railroad grew mining to the extent that almost all of Wadsworth sat above coal mines at one time. In the latter part of the 1880s, the Silvercreek Mine shipped more than 1,100 tons of coal in one day, a record believed to stand today. Mining stopped almost completely by the 1930s, but the mine shafts are still networked beneath Wadsworth.
In the early 1890s, a group of men founded several companies including the Ohio Match Co. and the Wadsworth Salt Co. At one time, the Ohio Match Co. employed more than 1,100 people, with about half of them women.
Ohio Match was sold near the middle of the 20th century and matches are no longer made in Wadsworth. During the height of production, however, Ohio-made matches were sold worldwide.
The Wadsworth Salt Co. burned in 1927 and was not rebuilt. It was replaced by the Ohio Salt Co. in Rittman.
Wadsworth became a city on Jan. 1, 1931, with 4,997 inhabitants according to the 1930 census. Its population has increased in every census since. The 2010 census shows a population of 21,567.
The city was heavily impacted by war. People who came to Wadsworth brought their war stories with them and Woodlawn Cemetery entombs them. But the two world wars filled most of Wadsworth’s gravesites.
Wadsworth sent more than 1,100 soldiers to the battlefields in World War II alone. It was a time when the city’s population was only slightly more than 5,000 residents. All but 27 returned. The names of the 27 are inscribed on a plaque in Wadsworth City Hall.