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The Richland County – Shelby Chapter
Of The Ohio Genealogical Society

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Eli Wilson's Mill

 
Eli Wilson was born 1789 in Fairfield Co., Conn. and in 1807, married Fairfield Co., Conn. born (1790), Mabel Barnes. By 1817 they were the parents of Jennette, Harriett, and Hiram. Sometime in the early summer of 1818, Eli, his wife, and their three children arrived in what was to become Shelby. They had left their home in Connecticut not long after Stephen Marvin's group had departed. While there were other families living in the surrounding area, these two families composed the very first "Shelby" settlers. The Henry Whitneys arrived in 1819 and James Gamble four years later.
 
Eli purchased (c 1820) the NW1/4 (160 acres) of section 8 of what was to become Sharon Township. This 1/4 section encompassed what can be defined in today's terms as the area bounded on the north by Smiley Avenue, on the west by West Street, on the south by the W.W. Skiles Football Stadium (north end), and the east boundary would be about 100 feet east of High School Avenue. Not bad for $329.29.
 
Stephen Marvin built a log cabin on what is now North Gamble Street, probably near the current "Marvin" house (#57) . Eli Wilson built a log cabin for his family on a site that was close to the present location of the Dollar General Store on South Gamble Street.
 
"Eli Wilson, realizing the firm stand the new settlers had made in the tiny settlement, built a sawmill on the banks of the Black Fork, south of what is now West Main Street. And in time, the log cabins were partly displaced by small frame houses and buildings, for now a supply of sawed boards could be had.
 
"Like the (Gamble's) grist mill, Wilson's sawmill was crude and slow. But it did saw timber into planks and boards. In order to run the saw through a log, a nimble-footed man stood on a large rag wheel, resting his weight upon his hands, as he stamped his feet on strong pegs that encircled the perimeter of the wheel on one side, thus, making the wheel spin around, which in turn ran the carriage holding the log through for the cutting. It was crude and slow and tedious. And the workers heaped ridicule upon the slow-moving, man operated saw by saying, 'when the saw goes up today and comes down tomorrow, we'll get the sawing done'".*
 
Eli sold his property (c. 1833) on the west side of Shelby and purchased land on the east side and built a frame house (the Wilson Mansion) located at what is now 26 Mansfield Avenue. It originally faced west so that if he could persuade a railroad company to
route tracks through Shelby and could convince them that his proposed location would be the best, he could then watch the passing trains from his front door. After donating land to the railroad company for the construction of the line through Shelby, the big event
occurred on June of 1846 when what was to be the Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark (later the Baltimore & Ohio, and now the Ashland) Railroad became a reality for Shelby. Great festivities with fireworks and various euphoric displays were centered around Eli Wilson's home as the whole town celebrated this monumental event.
 
Eli died in June of 1869 and wife Mabel had passed away a bit earlier in December of 1868. Both were originally buried in the Wilson/May Cemetery whose land he and fellow settler Leonard May had donated to the township c. 1833. Both Eli and Mabel's stones were later moved to the new Oakland Cemetery.
 

* The Story of Early Shelby - Raymond Wilkinson, 1962

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