HISTORY OF BATH TOWNSHIP
There are 13,040 township governments in the United States; 1,309 townships in the State of Ohio; and nine townships in Summit County. This is the story of one of them.
The region now known as Bath Township became part of the United States when the Treaty of Fort Industry was signed on July 4, 1805. In this treaty the Wyandot, Ottawa, Chippewa, Munsee, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee Nations relinquished one-half million acres of land south of Lake Erie and west of the Cuyahoga River in northeastern Ohio. This land consisted of part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.
The first permanent Bath settlers, Jonathan Hale and Jason Hammond, were brothers-in-law who came from Connecticut five years later, and eight years after that, in 1818, the township was officially organized.
This history behind the township's name is an interesting story in itself. The area, originally known as simply Number 3, Range 12, of the Western Reserve, became Wheatfield and then Hammondsburgh, after Jason Hammond. The question of a new name came up at one of the town meetings, but discussion dragged on and was seemingly endless. Finally Jonathan Hale rose and exclaimed, "O, call it Jerusalem, Jericho, Bath, or anything but Hammondsburgh!" The motion was quickly passed and the township adopted the name of Bath, which, if nothing else, placed it first in the alphabetical listing of the county townships.
The township government was patterned after the local form of government familiar to the settlers from Connecticut and the other New England states. Three trustees, a clerk, and a justice of the peace served as the elected officials. The early township records have been lost, and only one of these first officials has been positively identified -- Dr. Henry Hutson, who served as the first Justice of the Peace. The first constable, who was appointed by the trustees, was Eleazer Rice. Partial records show that Jonathan Hale and Jason Hammond were early trustees, but the exact dates of their terms of office are not known.
The first constable, Eleazer Rice, was also involved in the first case of assault in the township. Eleazer was small in stature and not well liked. Two men, Lewis Hammond and Isaiah Fowler, had tipped over Eleazer's sled as a practical joke. They were summoned to appear before the Justice of the Peace, but upon reaching the outside of his house and seeing Eleazer, they lost their courage and took off in opposite directions. Eleazer unfortunately chose to chase the larger of the two, Lewis Hammond. When he caught up with him he leaped on Hammond's back, but Hammond, undaunted by the additional weight, continued running. When last seen he was still galloping through the woods.
The earliest available township records identifying the elected officials are trustee's records dating from 1865. Some of these early trustees included Gerry Pardee, Abijah Spencer, Roswell Hopkins, Thomas Pierson, H.H. Mack, Peter Miller, Luke Wuckoff, and Joseph Brimley. Holding the office of clerk during this period were W.H. Rozelle, John Spears, Abraham Harshey, G. Thorp, and John Davis. Other appointed offices included constables, road supervisors, and ditch supervisors. Originally part of Medina County, the Township became part of the newly formed Summit County in 1840.
The early township trustees concerned themselves mainly with the maintenance and upkeep of the roads, the town hall, and the cemetery. Although the trustees were not permitted to pass ordinances, they could levy taxes for upkeep, including road taxes. The early farmers either had to pay the road tax or periodically repair the road in front of their property with their farm equipment. Other duties which the trustees occasionally performed were buying groceries for the poorer families, and giving out bonuses to war veterans. State legislation later eliminated the trustees' power to perform these two services. Since the early trustees had to authorize anything dealing with roads, farmers even had to obtain the permission of the trustees to graze their cows along the road. An excerpt from the minutes of the trustees meeting held April 21, 1866, states: "This day the trustees granted the following permits for cattle to run at large in the highway: Benjamin Point, John C. Sallman, C. Smith, Oliver Thorp, W.A. Rozelle, and W.W. Williamson." Since the roads were, for the most part, self-maintained, and the maintenance cost of the town hall and cemetery was low, the early appropriations were small. A comparison of the 1967 and 1867 expenditures show that in 1867 $664.56 was spent while one hundred years later, $179,000.00 was needed.
The first regular fire station in Bath was organized in 1922. The Stoney Hill Fire Department, which was operated from 1935 to 1965, also served Bath with equipment bought and furnished by volunteer firefighters. Before these fire stations were established, bucket brigades and other haphazard techniques were the only methods for firefighting. This is the reason why few of the old mills and stores are still standing, with fires too often taking a toll on the wooden structures. As Bath continued to grow through the years, the importance of fire and police protection increased, with Bath operating its own autonomous police and fire departments, supported by levies from the residents.
With the exception of the justice of the peace, Bath retains the same governmental structure of 200 years ago – three elected township trustees and a fiscal officer (formerly the clerk). There is also a township administrator, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the township.
In addition to the police and fire departments, the other township departments providing services to the residents are:
Service Department, which is responsible for the maintenance of 60.55 miles of township dedicated roadways, township owned road equipment and non-contracted building services for the Bath Township Administration Complex (including Police and Fire Departments), the West Bath Road Building and the Ira Road Salt Facility. The Service Department works closely with the Parks Administrator and Cemetery Sexton, for five cemeteries, as needed with its nine full-time employees and one administrative assistant;
Parks Department, which maintains four distinct parks in the township – the Bath Baseball Park, with its eight ball fields ranging in size and use from youth to adult on almost 30 acres of land; Bath Community Park, Bath's oldest park founded in 1968 and offering a diversity of natural and recreational purposes with tennis and basketball courts soccer, lacrosse and football fields, picnic shelters and playground equipment, and wooded trails on its 41 acres. Previously known as the Bath Community Activity Center, the name was officially changed in November 2015 to Bath Community Park; Bath Hill Park, the community’s youngest park in the more densely populated south-eastern section of the township is a 16 acres oasis that includes two tennis courts, ½ basketball court, activity field, playground, picnic area, restrooms and parking with additional plans to add landscaping and a perimeter walk; and The Bath Nature Preserve, 411 acres that were formerly part of the Raymond Firestone estate and purchased beginning in 1997 and 1998. This acreage is a showcase of several environmental habitats – wetlands, woodlands, prairie, riparian, and old-field habitats, including a Tamarack bog and multi-use trails (hike, bike, nature and equestrian), all emphasizing limited intervention and minimal access to maintain ecological integrity throughout. This park is also the site of The University of Akron biological field station used for education, outreach, research and study; and
Zoning Department, which is responsible for land-use and development in the township and guided by Bath’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. That plan, completed in 2011 after years of research and discussion, is a well-delineated blueprint for implementation actions that guide future development in a manner that retains the open space design of Bath Township. Three citizen-appointed zoning boards – the Bath Zoning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Appearance Review Commission – help to direct the focus, actions and intent of this department. In 2005, Bath was one of 20 communities in this country recognized as “Nature-Friendly Communities” for its habitat protection and land-use planning efforts. In addition, the solid waste authority of the township also operates out of this office.
As of the 2000 Census, there were 9,635 people, 3,506 households, and 2,814 families residing in Bath Township, with 3,648 housing units, 92 percent of which were single-family dwelling units. The median income for a household in the township was $88,899, and the median income for a family was $99,202. (By 2010, the population in Bath had increased to 9,702.)
Other historical facts of interest include:
The Revere Local Schools District, based in the community, is annually recognized as one of the state’s highest performing school districts. Its student population varies from about 2,500 to 2,900 students;
Bath is part of a collaborative partnership with the cities of Akron and Fairlawn in a Joint Economic Development District that was approved by voters to eliminate the threat of annexation while providing for the extension of water and the collection of income tax in approved commercial areas of the community;
Bath Community Fund, an affiliate of the Akron Community Foundation, was created by Bath residents in 2014 as a permanent endowment to strengthening Bath for current and future generations. Through grant making, BCF is able to respond to community needs, help the less fortunate, support local nonprofits, and reinforce and preserve Bath’s historical and environmental legacy.