11 minute read

GRANGER GREATNESS

Granger Greatness Granger Township almost was named Codding Township, after the Codding family, the first family to arrive before the township was formed. From left is Ellen Codding, the wife of Ken Codding, who is the son of Donald Codding, who also is the father of Diana Codding. Ellen married into the family, but the rest are direct descendants from the original Codding family.

You cannot get to be 200 years old without some stories being told about you, and so it is with Granger Township.

The land that Granger Township now occupies was home to prehistoric Mound Builders first. They had built two mounds during their time in the area.

According to local historian JoAnn Boruvka, one of the mounds was donut shaped and located on the south side of Granger Road. Part of the mound was removed to build the road.

The second mound was oval shaped and located between Beachler Road and Longwood Drive. Frank Sylvester used it as a family burial ground in the story and photos by Amy Barnes

1800s until the bodies were moved to Spring Grove Cemetery in Medina, according to Boruvka.

Several American Indian tribes are believed to have hunted and fished their way through the area, including the Ottawa, Seneca, Iroquois, and Wyandot, according to the township’s website.

Granger Township’s path to existence began when Connecticut and the other Atlantic coast colonies were granted land deeds from England in the 1600s with no set western limit. That meant that since northern Ohio was at the same latitude as Connecticut, it was part of Connecticut’s holdings.

By 1795, Connecticut wanted to raise money for its schools, according to Boruvka, so it sold the land to

the Connecticut Land Company, which was formed by 36 investors. Lots were drawn to determine ownership of sections of land.

Judge Oliver Phelps became the owner of several townships, some city lots in Cleveland, and part owner of the land that would become Granger Township. However, the land could not be opened to settlers because the American Indians first had to be removed and the land surveyed and parceled.

In 1809, Phelps died deeply in debt, according to Boruvka. To settle his almost $43,000 in debts, Phelps’ daughter sold the land, which eventually ended up in Gideon Granger’s hands in 1811.

Granger was a lawyer and was the postmaster general while Thomas Jefferson was president. He never stepped foot in the township, because to him it was only an investment to profit from, said Boruvka.

Henry Remsen bought 4,282 acres from Granger for almost $15,000. Granger then sold the remaining 10,847 acres of the future township to Anthony Low, Burt Codding, James Gaynard, and Elizur Hills for $44,800. Low, Codding, Gaynard, and Hills were all farmers from the Canandaigua Finger Lakes area of New York who were ready to farm the fertile Ohio soil. At that time, the land was abundant with wildlife, including wolverines, bears, wolves, otters, turkeys, foxes, beavers, and rabbits. It did not take long for word to spread of the rich farmland that was available and for people to arrive seeking a piece of good fortune, increasing the population and the need to become an official township. Among the names considered for Granger Township were Codding, after the Codding family, the first family to settle on the land that was to become the township; Berlin, after Berlin, New York; and Ontario, a New York county. Berlin and Ontario were considered because many of the early settlers of the township had come from that area. Since Granger was chosen over Codding, a nearby area was named Coddingville. While never a township, it still bears the Codding name.

“It’s just a bump on the map,” quipped Ken Codding, a descendant of the original Codding family.

“It was the consolation prize,” said a smiling Ellen Codding, Ken’s wife.

The township’s first officials allegedly were chosen by drawing names from a hat, even though the 1803 Laws of Ohio outlined how officials were to be chosen involving a very specifically designed ballot box, according to Boruvka.

People continued moving into the township over

continued, Page 6 JoAnn Boruvka holds open the township office door for Roberta Gifford. The two women are co-chairs of the Granger Township Bicentennial Committee.

the centuries, bringing the present day total to approximately 5,000 residents.

It was because of the rapid development and loss of acres of farmland all over Medina County that the Medina County Parks District was formed to save as much land from development as possible.

Granger Township has three of the parks in the Medina County Parks District: Allardale Park, Carolyn Ludwig Mugrage Park and the newest park, the Granger Wetlands.

Farms and open land being developed are the biggest change that one woman has seen in the 73 years she has lived in the township.

Roberta Gifford’s eyes narrow slightly as she thinks back to what it was like in the township when she was a youngster. In her position as the township’s sexton, selling cemetery plots and coordinating with funeral homes, she has seen a lot of changes in land and people over the years.

Boruvka agrees that development has been the most dramatic change the township has undergone. In addition to writing about Granger Township’s history, Boruvka is a retired schoolteacher for gifted students. She taught for 21 years at Cloverleaf High School. She grew up in Parma, eventually moving to Granger Township in 1979.

The two women are co-chairs of the Granger Township Bicentennial Committee, which has raised $18,000 toward the $20,000 goal to fund a three-day bicentennial celebration planned for June 26 through 28 this year. The celebration is planned for later in the year because the cold, snowy weather in February is not conducive to doing many activities outside, said Gifford.

“February is February,” said Boruvka. continued from Page 5

Part of the June celebration will be the performance of a play, written by Boruvka, based on the 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder. “Our Town: Granger Township” features a variety of local folklore stories including a tragedy that occurred during a barn raising, what was found in the fields, what happened in a church during a sermon by a less-than-loved preacher, a tree’s revenge, and more.

The first part of the bicentennial celebration, Travel Back 200, was held in February. It was organized by the Medina County Parks District in observation of the 200th anniversary of the month Granger Township became an official township.

Travel Back 200 featured a presentation by Shelley Tender, the parks district’s interpretive services manager, and Clair Bailey, a district naturalist. The two shared the natural history of the township, including displaying pelts from the abundant wildlife that once lived in the area.

Also provided by the park district were games and activities that would have been enjoyed by early settlers, as well as a general store and a giant board game based on historic facts.

The highlight of the event was the arrival of Bob Hummel riding a stick horse. The Granger Township Historical Society president was dressed in period garb to portray Andrew Deming, a then county commissioner, who had delivered the original document in 1820 proclaiming the formal foundation of the township.

It is not just the early settlers who have stories that became the lore of Granger Township.

Roberta Gifford has one of her own. Her father was working the second shift in Akron, having just returned to work after being off for a few days because of heavy snowfall. Of course, that was when Gifford decided it was time to be born. From her grandfather’s farm, the closest hospital with a birthing center was in Wadsworth.

Her grandfather and aunt loaded Gifford’s mother into the car and started the long, slow drive through the snow to the hospital in Wadsworth. They had to take a shovel with them so Gifford’s grandfather could clear snow from the road where it was too deep for the car to travel along the way. All arrived safely, but Gifford does not know if her father made it to the hospital in time for her arrival.

Gifford’s grandfather’s farm was eventually cut into smaller parcels and sold.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in Granger Township over the years,” Gifford said, with quiet acceptance. A bear pelt impressed many at the Travel Back 200 event hosted by the Medina County Parks District at The Lodge at Allardale. Some of the children made a very wide circle around it.

continued, Page 8

Carol and Charles Leu, from Medina Township, examine the displayed pelts.

Travel Back 200 attendee Iyla Utter is being assisted with a pioneer craft by Vivian Gordon, a parks district volunteer. They are working on making a pouch.

A reproduction of the Granger Township charter was available at Travel Back 200 for attendees to sign.

Gina, Jon, TJ, and Carter Stefanko enjoyed learning more about Granger Township at Travel Back 200. They live in Parma but own land in Granger Township and are planning to move there.

A set of turkey feathers the parks district brought to Travel Back 200.

Elise Simons, a parks district volunteer, was the general store proprietor at Travel Back 200. Visitors could see examples of what was available for purchase 200 years ago.

A pamphlet announcing an event for Granger Township's 175th birthday in 1995, note the picture of Gideon Granger.

Roberta Gifford in period costume for Travel Back 200. Behind her is the starting point for the Granger Trail game the park district made for the event.

Friday, June 26: 6:30 – 7 p.m. – Musical entertainment by students in lobby outside Highland High School Auditorium (upper level entrance) 7 – 8 p. m. – Play production – “Our Town: Granger” at Highland High School Auditorium (upper level entrance) 8 – 9 p.m. – Birthday Cake Reception in lobby outside Highland High School Auditorium

Saturday, June 27: 9 –10:15 a.m. – Parade forms at South Parking Lot of Highland High School Stadium (4150 Ridge Rd.) (Participants in parade must pre-register) 9:00 a.m. –Check-in for Tricycle/Bicycle Parade for children under 12 (waivers to be signed to participate) 9:30 a.m. –Tricycle/Bicycle Parade around track at Highland High School Stadium (bring your own trike or bike) 9:45 – 10:15 a.m. – Opening Ceremonies – Highland High School Stadium 10:30 a.m. (or when all entries are in place)– 12 p.m.– Parade travels from Highland High School Stadium to Township Administration Bldg. (3717 Ridge Rd.)

All events below will take place at the Township Administration & Fire Department properties (3717 Ridge Rd) Guest parking at Highland Middle School with shuttle service to day’s events (Administration Building Parking Reserved for Handicapped Persons)

Noon – 3 p.m. – Purchase a food truck lunch on site: Firehouse Pizza, Swenson’s, Papa Bear’s Ice Cream & Treats, Savannah’s Kettle Corn Noon – 3 p.m. – Spinning/weaving demonstrations, Granger Historical Society display with Medina County Park, Quilt block signing Noon – 1 p.m. – Kids’ water polo (conducted by Fire Department), Roving Balloon Artist Noon – 4 p.m. – Inflatable obstacle course for kids 1 – 2 p.m. – Magician show Noon – 3 p.m. Corn Hole Tournament (pre-registration required - entry fee collected day of event) Noon – 3 p.m. – Historic Car Show (those displaying a vehicle must pre-register) 2 – 3 p.m. – Lock 4 – Barbershop Quartet & Roving Balloon Artist 1 – 3 p.m. – Softball game (co-ed) for adults (pre-registration encouraged)) 2 – 3 p.m. – Organized Kids’ games: sack race, water balloon toss, 3-legged race, wheel barrow race, etc. 3 – 6:30 p.m.– 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament -ages 14 and up (pre-registration required) 3 – 4 p.m. –Frametown - country western band performance 3 – 5 p.m. –Granger Historical Society Open House for guests (at 1261 Granger Rd.) 4 – 7 p.m. – DJ Tony Maroon – Sound Waves Entertainment 5 – 6:30 p.m.– Announcement of contests and results 4:30 – 7 p.m. – Steak Fry by Fire Department (need pre-sale ticket, available from Fire Dept. call 330-620-3377) 7 p.m.– 122nd Army Band outdoor concert (bring lawn chair if you wish) Approximately 9:45 p.m. – Fireworks (can be viewed from Highland Middle School parking lot)

Sunday, June 28: (All events at the Township Administration & Fire Dept. properties- 3717 Ridge Rd.) 10 –10:15 a.m. – Community Prayer around the flagpole at Township Administration Bldg. 10:15 a.m. – “Challenges & Choices” Inspirational Talk – Virgil Dominic, Former Cleveland TV newscaster 11:30 a.m. – Community Lunch -Free 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Photos taken for memory book, quilt block signing 12:30 p.m. – Closing Ceremonies – Results of Granger Quiz & Participation Challenge 12:30 p.m. on – Historical Society Open House for guests (at 1261 Granger Rd.)

See grangerhs.com for forms or stop at Medina County District Library – Highland Branch