Ever hear of Cannonsburg, Hassan, Webster, Armorsville...
the story of Bluffton's neighboring ghost towns
A Bluffton News item from Oct. 29, 1896, tells that J.S. Jennings of Armorsville received a letter from his cousin, William Jennings Bryan, Democratic candidate for president.
Not quite three years later a Bluffton News legal notice published July 10, 1899, proclaimed Armorsville as “absolutely extinct.” Gone without a trace. J.S. Jennings was once a real person living in a real place called Armorsville.
You could find it just down the county line, north of Ada. Today it’s a ghost town. At the time of its death, or extinction, there existed no mourners, no visitation, no funeral and no final words of comfort.
None of it remains today. Even its cemetery disappeared, to where, no one knows. The graves might still be in place under a farmer’s field.
Armorsville isn’t the only ghost town on our invisible horizon. There are other places, each literally wiped off the map, existing only as spirits that once represented visions, hopes and efforts of pioneers who created them. Scant details remain of these settlements, today mostly crossroads in the country. Most of what is known of these ghost towns is buried in the pages of 1880-era county history books.
The descriptions are sparse. Yet, in their day they celebrated births, birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, holidays and funerals. But, for an assortment of reasons, life cut them short, usually in a slow death. Here’s a glimpse of these spirits.
A cemetery is all that remains of two Hancock County ghost towns. Cannonsburg, in Union Township, platted with 36 lots in 1839, became the largest of Bluffton’s area ghost towns. It had a post office, general store, two groceries, two blacksmiths, a hardware, two churches, a hotel, wagon shop, a doctor and about 75 residents. Unfortunately, the Pittsburg, Akron and Western Railroad did not include the town on its route from Bluffton to Arlington, crucial to its existence. Its post office closed in 1902.
Hassan, sometimes spelled Hasson, also in Orange Township, had its beginnings in 1836. At one time it had a post office, school, sawmill and at least one church. Its cemetery is all that remains today. And, just to the northwest of Arlington existed Houcktown and Ewings Corners.
A few communities located on the railroad between Bluffton and Arlington fared no better than Cannonsburg. Cordelia, also spelled Cordelta, within viewing distance of Cannonsburg, had its beginnings in 1883 when 33 lots were platted. At one time it had a post office and a railroad depot, which also housed a general store.
El Rose, also on the railroad just west of Cordelia, had a depot. It was also west of Langan, of which virtually nothing is known today, except that it and the Cordelia depot both operated until 1910. Reed’s Corners, mentioned in an 1886 county history book disappeared by 1900. It had a German Reformed Church and a school that appeared in an 1875 county atlas.
Bluffton’s Allen County closest ghost towns include Blue Lick in Bath Township, and Inora, in Monroe Township, whose remnant is the Truro Cemetery. It, too, was on the PA&W Railroad between Pandora and Columbus Grove. And, West Cairo, platted in 1848 faded at some point, never to be seen or heard of again. Or, did it drop its directional name and is now simply Cairo?
Riley Township in Putnam County once was home of a ghost town, which carried three different names. First known as Dukes, it was founded by a Dukes family in the 1830s. The post office was called Dukes from 1837 to 1851. There was a church on the north side of what is now State Route 12 and a town hall on the south side across from the church. The post office, from 1863 to 1891, was named Stanley. And, sometime during that era Stanley changed to Webster. Never platted, it was last spotted in the 1880 county atlas, but failed to reappear in the 1895 county atlas.
Not a ghost town, rather a ghost college, Crawfis College, once located between Pandora and Gilboa, just north of State Route 224, existed from 1889 to 1940. It included a brick two-story, 12-room building, with an auditorium, science lab, grade and recitation rooms, plus pioneers in Blanchard Township in 1831, bequeathed two grants and five acres for the school.
On the railroad between Bluffton and Pandora lay Steiner and Basinger, also spelled Bassingers, which were actually flag stops, found on several old railroad maps. While Pandora lives on it was earlier called Pendleton.
Proof of life
Here are brief Bluffton News items from three of these ghost locations, proving that life once existed there.
Hassan, Jan. 1, 1897 – Perry Walker and Miss Alice Hall, were married last Saturday evening at the bride’s sister’s, Mrs. A.J. Thompson, by Rev. Van Valkenburg. They made a neat appearance at Bethel Church Sunday where they were congratulated by their many friends.
Crawfis College, Jan. 1, 1897 – Mr. Walters of Crawfis College engaged a couple of men to cut wood for him. They worked a couple of days and then asked the loan of a horse and buggy to drive to Gilboa in the evening. Their request was granted, but they failed to return and Mr. Walters gave up the rig as lost until he received a letter from them saying that they had started for unknown parts and had left the horse and buggy at a Findlay livery barn.
Cannonsburg, Jan. 28, 1897 – On Thursday night a lot of groceries, tobacco and other merchandise were stolen from the general store of Geo. Mull, at Cannonsburg.