Springfield, Ohio


Springfield is the county seat of Clark County, Ohio.

James Demint constructed the first cabin in what would become Springfield in 1799. In 1801, James Dougherty officially surveyed and platted the town. Many of the town's earliest settlers came from Kentucky. One of its most famous residents was Simon Kenton. Springfield became the county seat of Clark County. Because Springfield was on the National Road and was well-served by railroads, the community became quite prosperous.

Most of the early settlers were involved in agriculture. During the Panic of 1819, falling land prices caused the people of Springfield financial distress, but the arrival of the National Road helped Springfield to regain its economic strength. Because of the town's close proximity to streams and a fork of the Mad River, more than twenty mills existed within three miles of town by 1846.

The town became a center for religious and educational activities in the early nineteenth century. In addition to a coeducational high school run by the Methodist Episcopal Church, local libraries contained approximately four thousand volumes. The Lutheran Church founded Wittenberg College in 1845 as both a seminary and college. By the mid-nineteenth century, a number of religious groups had established churches in Springfield, including the Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, and Universalists. By the 1880s, more than forty churches called Springfield home. The strong religious influence in the town made Springfield a center of a growing temperance movement as well.

By 1880, Springfield's population had grown to more than twenty thousand people, primarily because of industrialization. The next several years saw continued growth. Because of the city's close connection to nearby farmers, many of Springfield's earliest industries were in some way related to agriculture. Factories produced threshers, reapers, mowers, and other agricultural implements. Both woolen and cotton textile mills also employed large numbers of local residents. Among Springfield's largest manufacturing interests in the 1800s were the Standard Manufacturing Company, the Champion Machine Company, and the Lagonda Agricultural Works.

Springfield benefited from the inventions of Obed Hussey and Cyrus McCormick, who both developed versions of the reaper. Springfield, along with other Ohio cities including Akron, Canton, and Dayton, became a major producer of the Buckeye mower and reaper by the time of the Civil War. The community's strong industrial growth led to the creation of a mechanic's association in the 1830s, as well as other labor organizations as the century continued. During the 1800s, Springfield was one of the largest producers of farm machinery in the United States, but by the end of the century, that dominance began to disappear. Cities further west, such as Chicago, began to compete with Springfield. Ultimately, Buckeye Reaper and Mower sold out to the McCormick Company, which was based in Chicago.

An economic depression in the 1890s was particularly hard on industrial cities in Ohio and led to widespread unemployment. Conditions improved during World War I, as factories began to produce goods that were necessary for the war effort, but after the war ended, significant business expansion did not continue.

In the twentieth century, Springfield worked to diversify its industries and create more opportunities for economic growth. Building upon one of its strengths after the Civil War, Springfield was home to one of the largest publishing companies in the United States for a number of years. During the early 1900s, local factories produced ten different types of automobiles. These included the Bramwell, Brenning, Foos, Frayer-Miller, Kelly Steam, Russell-Springfield and Westcott. Remaining true to this automotive tradition, the city's largest employer today is Navistar International, a producer of buses and trucks.

In addition, Springfield benefited from its location near the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In 2000, Springfield's more than sixty-five thousand residents could find employment in more than 3,500 different businesses. Similar to other Ohio industrial cities, Springfield has experienced a declining population over the past fifty years.

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