A History of The Village

Written by Beverly Neighbor

Taken from the Fairfield Leader, 1976


About the year 1816, Job McNamee, an early settler in southern Walnut Township, gave two small tracts of land on which churches were to be erected.  The southern tract he gave to the primitive Baptist’s, the Northern tract was presented to the Methodist’s.  Log churches were erected on these adjoining tracts, the first of which was the Primitive Baptists.  In the year 1849 the community in the neighborhood of these churches became known as Hitedale.  In 1869 the Atlantic and Lake Erie Railroad was extended from Toledo to Pomeroy, the name was changed to Ohio Central Railroad with a branch extending to Columbus and completed in 1880, at the junction of this branch with the main line was the territory that is now Thurston, with the depot being called Bush Station.  This territory was once completely owned by George Bush, and knows as Bush’s Corners.  In 1878 the Atlantic and Erie Railroad system ran a line thru the community north to Millersport and thus calling it Bush City.  In 1880 the railroad lines were laid from Columbus.  This railroad division proceeded to change part of the town to Hadley Junction, presumably in honor of a railroad official.  Petitions of both names Hadley Junction and Bush city were rejected as town names in recognition of a Post Office because of the similarity to other town names already incorporated.  Frank Stokes erected the first dwelling; J.C. Mechlin co., the first merchant and L.H. Taylor kept the first hotel.


Being in need of a minister in the Methodist church, a Rev. Thurston, a resident of New Salem, came to the village regularly to conduct services.  Rev. Thurston found quite a place in the people’s hearts, giving him the honor of name-saking the hamlet.


In June of 1881 there were 14 dwellings when Mr. T.D. Ketner carried a petition from door to door, sending it to Washington for approval and on September 27, 1881 Thurston was recognized as a town for a post office.


Further activity came to this community in 1888 when natural gas was discovered.  A company was formed in Columbus to supply natural gas to the state capital. By January 1890 natural gas was being piped into Columbus from Thurston.


In the early 1890’s Thurston had a shirt-waist factory, east of the former Harley Hiles property.  A Mr. Morgan Grush tended the motors to run the machine.  The former Mrs. Maude Beery, the former Jewel Turley, the former Della Miller Wagner, and Mrs. Allie Reedy were among the employees.  Mrs. Reedy was 14 at the time, and still an active member of our community at 90 years of age.  The shirt factory burned down in 1905, which could be seen for miles.  During this era Frederick B. “Dad” Turley was the town blacksmith as well as a photographer and the Justice of the Peace.


The first school was a 2 room school east of the railroad tracks, a brick building that was later made into a dwelling and was destroyed by a tornado in 1953.  1901 was the first graduating class from the Walnut Township High School in Thurston.  There were 2 graduates in that first class, with students coming from Pleasantville, New Salem, and Millersport for their High School Education.  Before this the commencements were held at “Wooley Town”, later known as Summerland Beach.


In the early 1900’s Thurston had a large brick yard.  They also had 2 livery stables, one run by Ed Snyder, where Mr. Joe Jenks later had a blacksmith shop, and one in the north end of town run by Adam and Bill Crawford.  They also had an icehouse in behind what is now Bope Broyles Barber shop.  The ice was brought from Buckeye Lake and packed in sawdust.  They also specialized in cold beer and watermelon.  Henry Hartman had a covered wagon that he took to Lancaster for meat, etc.


In 1905, Mr. S.J. “Dick” Wright started a hay and grain business just east of the railroad and continued this until 1913 when he decided to change to a restaurant. He owned the restaurant until 1915 when he sold it to Charles Hodge.  Mr. Wright came back to Thurston in 1918 and bought his former restaurant, changed it to a general store and continued in business until 1928 at the same place.  This business was sold to Shadd Andrews, Ralph England and Ray “Sam” Bauman.  It was later run by Mr. Bauman as a general store for many years, in to the 1940’s.


In 1904 John Gurile bought the hotel located on the south side of Main Street west of the railroad tracks.  He bought this from a Mr. Nickum.  The Gurile family successfully ran this hotel and restaurant for many years.  Since that time there have been several owners of that restaurant.  In the 1930’s the Cherry family owned it, and introduce the long, “modern” soda fountain to the community.  Since then some of the owners were Mr. McCullough, Mrs. Copeland, Mr. Harriet Tidyman, Mr. Karl Glick, and at present Mr. And Mrs. Harold Raines.


Across Main Street from the hotel was another large hotel.  Mr. Grimes ran this in the early 1900’s then by Mr. John Culp and Mr. Howdyshell in 1916, later by Mr. Culp alone.  In 1926 Mr. And Mrs. Charles Ruckman bought it and continued the business until 1939.  This building was later razed and a dwelling built in its place.


During this same period there was a hotel run by Mr. George Cole, where Mrs. Charles Ruckman still has a rooming house with a few boarders.  At this era Thurston also had four grocery stores, one run by Elza Leitnaker, just west of the school buildings, the present home of the Keller Lime Service; The George Huhn Clothing and General Store, on the corner of High and Main; and the Charles Struthers store in the K of P building as well as the S.J. Wright store.


Thurston was also the site of two telephone companies.  The Citizens Telephone Co., located on the corner of High and Main and also the Buckeye Lake Home Telephone Co. which was in the present home of Mr. And Mrs. Raymond Taylor.  This was discontinued in 1931.


In 1905 Mr. Lafe Harter started a boat repair shop in the building at his home on Second Street.  In 1911 he built his own boat and raced it in the “Free for All’ race, which meant that you need not be a member of the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club.  Mr. Harter, with his home built “Trixie”, won the race.  Mr. Harter went from boat building into the auto business and his son, Ernest, is still in the auto business at the same place in Thurston.  Mr. Lafe Harter sold Harley Hiles one of the fist autos, the only auto Harley ever owned. 


In the 1910 era Thurston was the location for young Dr. Fishel.  He had his office in a two-room building in front of the home that is now the Baptist parsonage.  His office building was later moved to Summerland Beach and built into a cottage.  Dr. Fishel later moved to Pleasantville.


Around the turn of the century, Thurston was the scene of an annual Labor Day Celebration with foot races, ball games, a midway, slow bicycle races, and a large parade, which usually included the B.I.S. band, with the hometown folks trying to slip the boys in the band “goodies” to show their appreciation.  After the men took their wives to the school yard for the social they tried to sneak back to the sign which advertised “beer”, only to find it was an imitation, but no one told the other men as they arrived, letting them each find out for themselves.


In 1910, Miss Verah Miller started giving piano lessons in her home.  In 1911 some of her students were Leona England, Eva fisher, Clara Masheter, Elsie Cook, Elizabeth Whisman, and Sylvia Hartman.  Several of these ladies are still among our community: Miss Masheter, Mrs. Elsie Cook Fisher, Mrs. Elizabethe Whisman Gurile, and Sylvia Hartman England.  Mrs. Verah Miller Boman is still a resident of Thurston and, until a few years ago, continued her piano lessons.


In 1916, Charles Struthers used as his ad “Everything that’s new and late, we handle, if its up to date”, also groceries, dry goods, grain, cement and coal.   C.G. Struthers used as an advertisement to see how many times you could write “C.G. Struthers” on a postal card.  Aunt Cora Hiles won set of dishes in the competition.  Mrs. Hiles wove rugs in her home and sold them to the town people all of her life.  Her son, Haver Hiles, still has the loom and uses it regularly.  Mrs. Hiles was given the loom on her 17th birthday.


The Bauman England restaurant advertised, “Everything that’s good to eat, we handle, if it’s good to eat,” the Culp and Houdeshell restaurant ad read “Best eats for least money – open day and night.”  The Basores Ice Cream Parlor advertised, “Chairs for the ladies” and “If it isn’t Telling’s, it isn’t ice cream.”  Huhn’s Grocery advertised Rival Bread and all other products of “Twin City Bakery”.  The “City Barber” had C.V. Looker as proprietor.  The Depot Restaurant had hot and cold lunches, by owner J.C. Snyder.


The Depot Restaurant was bought by Mr. Rudisill.  In 1920, a young railroad engineer, Don Wolf, came into Thurston and bought the Depot Restaurant.  In a couple of years, he also bought the Bibler Bros. Taxi service and garage.  In 1920, Mr. Wolfe married Floe Gurile and throughout his lifetime made Thurston his home.  He was a sound businessman and later founded the Wolfe Coal Co. which is still in business with John Clum, son-in-law of Mr. And Mrs. Wolfe, as owner and manager.  Mrs. Wolfe is still an active member of our community.  It was Thurston’s grain and a loss for the railroads when Mr. Wolfe decided to make it his home.  He was a great humanitarian and benefactor to many in his lifetime.  Mr. Harry Turner had a feed store in a small building at the east end of Third Street.


In 1920, the Thurston Elevator was built and went into business with four owner, namely  E.L. Troup, James Kagey, Harry Turner and Frank Phipps.  Mr. Kagey was manager until 1931, when H. R. Kagey was manager until 1943 when Kaleb Ruffner assumed the management of the mill.  Mr. Ruffner returned in September of 1975 and the elevator is still in business.


In the early 1920’s, Thurston was the home of a very good amateur baseball team, which played in a field east of town.  Some of the managers and players were George Basore, Ray “Sam” Bauman, Leo Weidner and Lester Miller.


Thurston was incorporated in 1913.  In 1931, Mr. E.H. Griggs was Mayor with Mr. L.P. Leitnaker as clerk.  Thurston was a railroad center since it was the terminal for four divisions of the New York Central.  We have had some well-known long-term employees with the railroad.  Mr. W.A. Parrish, a native, worked for the railroad 36 years, most of which he was a telegraph operator in the village.  Mr. Parrish died in 1937.  In 1920 there were 14 passenger trains stopping at the Thurston Depot.  By the early 1930’s there were four passenger trains each day which stopped for the mail as well as the passengers.  The last passenger train stopped on June 2, 1950.  At an early period, at least 150 out of the 450 residents were working for the railroad.


Another important family in the History of Thurston was Carl and Virgia Hoover.  Mr. Hoover was born northwest of Thurston in 1895, moved into town in 1901, in 1913, at age 18, became yard clerk for N.Y.C., a job he held until he retired.  He was also Mayor of Thurston from 1947 until 1969.  He was County Democratic Central Committeeman from 1941 until his retirement in 1969.  Mrs. Hoover was postmaster and a practical nurse. She was never too busy to help with the birth of a child or any other emergency, night or day.


The grocery store located in the K of P building had several owners thru the years.  Mr. Charles Struthers had it for years until the Murphy Brothers, Albert and Joe bought it in 1919 and continued in business at this location until 1928.  Ralph Speaks and his family had the store from 1945 until his death in 1960, when his family continues to operate the General store until July 16, 1969 when the store was closed and a public auction held.  As far back as 1950 in a printed article Mr. Speaks noted the “old time village, with folks working in town and making it the center of their lives is a vanishing thing”.  Mr. Speaks came to Thurston in 1918 and was in the grocery business for 30 years.


George Gurile ran a restaurant where Bope Broyles barber shop is now located, when he went out of business during the depression Haver Hiles bought the fixtures for $35.00 for the restaurant.  Martin Speaks worked for Haver as a young man.  They served Morris and Ross Ice Cream.


In the early 1900’s Saturday night was a busy time for the hamlet of Thurston, due to the many passenger trains coming from many directions, bringing shoppers from all over to get their staples, it was hard to find a place to tie your horse and buggy, and though the trains brought prosperity to the town it also brought sadness for some families.  In 1904 an accident happened in which Frank Stokes was killed instantly, Levi England and Pearl Wagner were injured, the men, all Thurston residents were taking a big piece of timber on a hand-car to a bridge being constructed near Bremen, when a freight train came around a curve and ran them down.  In July 1919 Miss Eva Fisher, age 19, a night operator at the telephone office and a well known young lady, was struck by the engine of the T and O.C. passenger train, the young woman was in her Grant automobile, a watchman at the crossing tried to stop her but unfortunately was unable to do so.  She died a few hours later.  Miss Fisher was the Gazette’s representative at Thurston.  On Dec. 24, 1943, Alva Groves, age 62, and Mayor-elect of Thurston was killed at the crossing of 256 and the N.Y.C. railroad tracks.  Mr. Groves was to have taken office as Thurston’s mayor on December 31, 1943.  he was driving a 1936 Chevrolet truck.  The #9 passenger was northbound on its way to Columbus from Charleston, W. VA.  Mr. Groves was returning from a local barbershop.  He worked for the N.Y.C. railroad.  Thurston was the home of the freight office where furniture for the railroad was stored and transferred to railroad cars to be shipped to other railroad offices. 


We have had several long time barbers in Thurston, also.  Mr. C.V. Looker was a barber here around the time of 1910 to 1915.  We also had Charles Foulk for many, many years.  He was proud of the fact that he had cut hair for Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, while Mr. Foulk had a shop in Columbus.  Harry “Bope” Broyles has been in town since the late 30’s and is still in business with 50 years of experience.


Mr. Ora “Nick” Shetrone was our favorite iceman from 1924 until his death in 1944, when his son Waldo “Gus” Shetrone took over the business.  Nick and Gus were never too busy to chip us off a piece of ice.  The ice route ceased in 1946.  Gus is still an active businessman in our community.


Mr. Ellis Lawyer started a paint store in 1912.  He had this until his death and his son Homer Lawyer had it until his retirement in 1965.  The Lawyer family is noted all over the county for their paint abilities.


Our Walnut Township and Thurston High School has been blessed with many dedicated teachers and educators thru its history.  In 1901 W.M. Wikoff was superintendent, he served 2 years.  He was succeeded by M.E. Osbourne who was superintendent for 2 years, then A.F. Darbey and J.Q. Leckrone, and W.A. Matheny were each superintendent for one year, then Mr. Osbourne was again superintendent for many years.  Mr. Clayton Barden was superintendent for several years leaving the area in 1932.  Mr. Bryan Redd followed him, he was here in 1939.  In this time Mr. Trevor Jones was coach of all sports for 10 years from 1929 to 1939.  He took his basketball team to the district for six straight years, out of the ten from 1933 to 1939.  In 1939 his baseball team won the county tournament and went into the state, they were in the state semi-finals with Frederick “Lefty” Huffman pitching 3 games in 2 days, as Mr. Jones only had 10 men on the team.  Mr. Jones was especially anxious to get the games over as he was to be married in the next few days.  Mr. O.E. Holt came to us as principal of the T.H.S. in 1942, and became superintendent in 1943.  he found a special place in our hearts and remained here until the schools consolidated with Liberty Union schools in 1960.  He was then made elementary principal until his retirement in 1965.  After his unsuccessful retirement he returned to teaching as an elementary teacher for 5 years and finally as a tutor in the area.  Mr. And Mrs. Holt are loved and revered as members of our community.  Mr. Holt has been professional educator in the best sense of the expression.  He really retried after 49 years of a job well done.


There were four churches in Thurston, the old School or Primitive Baptist, the Methodist Protestant and Methodist Episcopal.  The Primitive Baptist was constituted in January 1816 and is still holding services with Elder Paul Jones as pastor.  The cemetery of this church is the burial ground for two young men who lost their lives in World War I.  They are Virgil Oscar Hite, who was a brother to Lulu May Weidner; and Arthur Stanley Miller.  The New School Baptist Church was organized in 1861.  The Methodist Protestant church was organized and built in 1890, and its first pastor was Rev. O.J. Watson.  The Methods Episcopal Church was organized March 11, 1892.  Their first minister was Rev. Sparks.  The Methodist Protestant Church was rebuilt and dedicated in 1905.  These two churches have since united to form the Thurston United Methodist Church.


The Knights of Pythias Lodge was instituted in Thurston on the 28th day of May 1890, with 30 charter members.  The Chicasaw Tribe, #100, IORM (International order of Red Men) *** see footnote below *** was instituted in Thurston on January 5, 1895, with 65 charter members.  The Harry Huston Post #272 of American Legion, of Thurston got its charter on November 28, 1919, organized by Fred Murphy with 16 charter members on its roll.  I was never an active lodge and most of our veterans joined the American Legion at Pleasantville.


The Thurston Post Office as previously stated was established on September 27, 1881.  John C. Mechling was the first Postmaster, 1881 to 1883; followed by Wm. H. Trinble 1883 to 1884, Jacob Ruffner 1884 to 1885; Linneaus P. Leitnaker 1885 to 1889; William F. Hood, 1889 to 1893; William Rudisill, 1893 to 1896; Elmer Hite 1896 to 1897; William F. Hood 1897 to 1902; Matthew Corbitt, 1902-1904; George Haver 1904 –1914;William Shaeffer, 1914-1916; Roy V. Snyder, 1916-1922, Mrs. Edith Basore, 1922-1925; Mrs. Sylia Knepper, 1925-1941; Mrs. Evelyn Fryman, 1941; Mrs. Virgia Hoover who was an able servant of the people from April 1941 to May 31, 1962; Mrs. Dorothy McDonald from June 1962 – March 1965; Mrs. Beverly J. Neighbor who received her appointment on March 12, 1965 and is Postmaster at the present time.  The Post Office has had several homes in its almost 100 years of being.  The first place was in a small grocery store of J.C. Mechling Co.  It was a small building south of the K of P Building.  In 1893 when Mr. Rudisill was postmaster it was in a small building on Main St., across from the Elza Leitnaker store, Mr. Rudisill also had a store with the post office.  This building was razed many years ago.  When Mr. Hood was postmaster the office was in a small building on the corner of Main and High streets, which had been the home of the Jim Weaver Hardware and later the Howard Garey Hardware.  This building was moved and made into a residence.  The post office was then moved to the site of the former Charles Foulk Barber Shop, while Mr. Haver was postmaster.  Mrs. Knepper built an addition to her home on Main Street and moved the post office there, when she retired the office was moved into the K of P building along with the Ralph Speaks grocery.  The post office remained there until January 1957 when Mr. And Mrs. Ralph McDonald erected a new building, the dedication and open house for the new facility was held in May 1957; this building is still leased to the government.


The officials of Thurston at this time are Clinton Ballmer, Mayor and Joanne Harter is clerk.  In the very near future these officials hope the first shovel of dirt will be turned for a water system for Thurston.


*** Footnote :  (Information from David Lintz - dlintz@redmen.org)  “There was no organization named International Order of Red Men. It should be Improved Order of Red Men.  The Knights of Pythias Lodge was instituted in Thurston on the 28th day of May 1890, with 30 charter members.  The Chicasaw Tribe, #100, IORM (International order of Red Men) was instituted in Thurston on January 5, 1895, with 65 charter members.  The Harry Huston Post #272 of American Legion, of Thurston got its charter on November 28, 1919, organized by Fred Murphy with 16 charter members on its roll.  It was never an active lodge and most of our veterans joined the American Legion at Pleasantville.”  Footnote added 11/15/2005 by Clerk Aaron Reedy.