HISTORY OF BLISSFIELD, OHIO
By Todd Fast
The Coshocton Tribune 1949
Snuggled peacefully in the Killbuck Valley, its neat white buildings rising almost magically out of the rolling hills, the little town of Blissfield, given initially impetus by the construction of the old C. A. & C. railroad late in the 19th century, maintains a quiet existence in a niche of western Clark Township.
Only two farms, boasting acre upon acre of corn and wheat, but few people, occupied the present town site before steel rails were extended thru the township, bringing with them prosperity and eventual growth.
The railroad, with its bustling passenger trains and busy freight carriers, changed the lonely farmland into a proud little community of 100 persons almost overnight.
Today, almost 60 years after its founding (1890), Blissfield has continued to hold its own in a modern world even though the passenger and thru freight lines have been removed by the Pennsylvania railroad long since.
A spur probes into the little village, carrying out sand and coal produced by its two principal industries and maintaining its contact with the main transportation routes in the state.
Steel cars still ply the gleaming rails to and from the town but the hustle and activity characteristic of its early railroad days have disappeared and a peaceful atmosphere prevails the village streets.
In 1821, long before the railroad became a profitable reality in the northern section of Coshocton County Andrew Weatherwax, a hardy farmer, bought some acres in Clark Township and started to cultivate the land. He was a glassblower by trade and had migrated from New York State.
It was he who owned the land upon which Blissfield was built and bestowed upon the little community its name. For 65 years after Mr. Weatherwax came to the county, few residents moved to the land near the site of the town. Some farms were established by the Mullet, Williamson, and Fox families, whose names have always dominated among the townspeople.
Finally expansion, in the guise of the Pennsylvania branch railroad line from Killbuck to Dresden occurred when the right-of-way was filled Dec. 27, 1887, and during the next few years, the “iron horse” brot in more people and a town was born.
A general store was started by W. H. Neal in 1892, now the Scheetz establishment, the oldest operating business in Blissfield. An earlier store owned by Mr. Hultz, burned down after a brief existence and a barber applied his trade for a brief time to the village.
Later Frank Long started a saw and planning mill and Koch and Bowers in two locations ran a blacksmith and wagon shop during its operation.
A one-story frame passenger station was built along the railroad tracks near the center of town and the railroad schedule makers added the name of Blissfield to their timetables. Industry was on the move in Blissfield during this early period of the 20th century and residents migrating from the eastern section of the United ‘States drifted in by rail and road to swell the community’s increasing population to the century mark.
Early in the 1930’s the bubble that had dictated Blissfield’s growth burst, when passenger trains ceased to travel along the Dresden branch, but disaster was averted when railroad officials decided to leave an extension line to the town.
In 1949, there are two main industries in Blissfield; the Ayers Mineral Co. and the H. P. Williamson strip mine. The first has been in existence for 27 years and the second was started just a few years ago. Molding sand for the Nation’s steel industries is the number one product of the Ayers Co. and diggers operate each day along the banks of the Killbuck. During the fall when demand for a winter supply of sand is large in the steel plants, business booms in the Ayers establishment.
About 15 carloads of substance are shipped out each week and 10 men are employed to supervise the various operation entailed. A couple of other sand sites were worked out earlier by the company, which maintains its main office in Zanesville.
The Williamson strip mine is engaged in removing valuable black coal from the hilltops over looking the town and six to 12 carloads of the mineral are shipped out of the mines each week.
Four men are employed to work the Williamson coal tipple along the tracks that parallel the Killbuck Creek east of the town, while independent truckers haul the coal from the open mines a mile from the railroad.
These are the companies that help maintain the status quo of the population and enterprise in the town. General stores owned by Kenneth Van Kannel and W. W. More provide competition for the Scheetz business. Mr. Moore maintains the post office franchise granted to the early settlers by the government.
The Blissfield School was built in 1912 to accommodate the increasing younger population of the town and grades one thru 12 were conducted until 20 years ago when the high school was removed for lack of pupils.
At the present time, about 60 youngsters are learning their fundamentals and Martin Guthrie has assumed the position of principal for the past few years. Blissfield residents have had their religious needs taken care of during the years the community has been in existence. First, before the town was laid out, the Hopewell Methodist church attracted the pious farmers to its doors each week.
Later a Methodist church started to hold services in the village, but they have long since ceased and the church building itself been torn down last year. The principle religious organization in the Clark township community is the Evangelical United Brethren denomination, started over 50 years ago and still boasting a large active membership Rev. J. Paul Sutherland is the present minister of the church.
To fill the social bill, the Women’s Christian Missionary Society of the church and the nearby Monroe grange has a large membership among Blissfield’s residents. Socials, reunions and homecomings in the summer months are other eagerly awaited events.
Thus Blissfield – minus the extensive transportation service that contributed to its growth-still thrives today, despite its loss.
As long as new industries like the coal mine and old businesses like the Ayers sand plant maintain their present pace and the town’s residents take pride in the neat appearance of their community, Blissfield will continue to grasp more firmly the prosperity that has been its heritage for the past 60 years.
Source taken from Micro-film at Coshocton Public Library without photograph added by WVHS staff. For more pictures of the area, please visit the gallery
Walhonding Valley Historical Society