WILLIAMSPORT — A post office and a hotel can be traced to the early days of this crossroads community in Congress Township.
In the early 1800s a stage coach road ran from Delaware to Mansfield and passed through Williamsport. As a result, a hotel was built in the late 1830s. A map from 1857 lists William Hopper as the owner.
By 1871 John S. Mitchell had acquired the hotel and changed its name to the Mitchell House.
Cris Owens fondly recalls the area where he lived — albeit for a brief time — in the late 1990s.
“I lived there for a year or so in third grade. Mom rented a trailer there from a guy down the road from the pond. It was a fun place to run around at that age, ride our bikes and catch frogs and fish. Good memories,” he said.
Williamsport was laid out in 1836 by William Dakan, and named for him. A nearby post office operated under the name Andrews. It was established in 1833 and was discontinued in 1903.
In addition to general stores and blacksmith shops, which were commonplace, the town had a cheese factory. The venture began May 3, 1911, with 1,500 to 1,800 pounds of milk brought in per day.
By 1909 the hotel housed apartments and Andrew Mitchell’s tea room. After Mitchell’s death in 1916 the building was sold to John Carlin and his wife. The last use of the hotel was for Art Ward’s restaurant in the early 1960s.
The Garris family moved to a house on County Road 20 in 1956.
“My father once owned the Williamsport grocery store on State Route 19,” Doug Garris said.
His sister, Frieda Moore, is the second oldest of eight children.
“Daddy had to build on three new rooms for us when the others came along. It was perfect. Everybody knew everybody.
“You didn’t mind a 45-minute walk to the blackberry patch where we’d go pick them all day long,” Moore said from her Dayton home.
Summers were spent helping her father with chores.
“I was his tractor buddy. I was daddy’s girl,” she said.
Moore said her dad bought the store from “a real sweet lady, Mrs. D’Isla.”
He worked second shift, so her mom would run the store until Frieda returned home from school. Then she would operate it until closing.
“Everyone in town was mindful of everyone else. You couldn’t get away with anything,” she said.
In its early days it was a mill town boasting a grist mill, sawmill and tile mill.
At the turn of the century, Dr. J.L. Graves had a medical practice in Williamsport and was considered “an excellent physician” who developed a device with a series of electric needles that removed tumors from the exterior of the body.
CHURCH, GRANGE REMAIN HUBS
Williamsport United Methodist Church was created on April 23, 1968, when The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church united to form a new denomination.
Its roots began in the home of Thomas Fidler in 1850, when members of the United Brethren faith met there. Longtime church historian Laura Pearce said today the church is “still an active little group” with about 110 members.
The church was bustling a couple of weeks ago during the first morning of its three-day basement sale, keeping Bonnie Brannon and Sharon Vanderkooi busy as visitors browsed for bargains and bought baked goods.
“I grew up down the road. My husband’s father owned the little grocery store here,” Vanderkooi said. “This was a great place to raise our kids.”
Both women have lived there since the 1950s.
Brannon started going to the grange and to the church about a year later. “I got really close to the people who have lived here for years,” she said.
Williamsport Grange #1815 was organized in 1911 at the old school house. By 1915 they had purchased the old store and were meeting in their own hall.
On Aug. 12, 1937, the Williamsport Grange Dramatic Club was organized. They met at the Grange Hall and were all members of the Williamsport grange. The group shared the expenses of repairing the stage and gave $150 toward a new furnace.
The old store was used until May of 1954, when the present grange hall was built and dedicated.
The organization continues to meet at the facility, which has been re-purposed as the Congress Township Hall. The grange conducts one major fundraiser annually to benefit a group or agency.
Just south of Williamsport sits Osborne Orchard, which has operated for more than a half-century.
“We still get people stopping by in the fall to take apples to Florida,” Beverly Osborne said.
The business, owned by her son Steve Osborne, sells apples, apple cider and honey.
For those living around Williamsport today, they still find traces of yesteryear.
“We live about a mile off (U.S.) 42 and have found remnants of an old homestead; hand dug well, what looks like an old rock foundation. We’ve found some broken pottery, a harness buckle and a few other odds and ends,” Tracey Zvansky said.
Reach Conchel at 419-946-3010, extension 1806; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.