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June 2 is Founders' Day in West Chester
Just two decades after Ohio became the 17th state of the United States of America, a 35-square-mile section near the southwest corner of the Buckeye State officially took shape, forming what is now West Chester Township.
First, though, it would come to be known as Union Township.
In the beginning, the geographical territory we refer to as West Chester was wholly part of its current neighbor to the north, Liberty Township. In her book, A History of Union Township Butler County, Ohio, author Virginia Shewalter (pictured) writes that at the time of statehood in 1803, Butler County consisted of just five townships: Fairfield, Lemon, Liberty, Ross and St. Clair.
“Gradually the other townships were separated from these,” Shewalter explains. “Liberty Township encompassed Union Township, but on June 2, 1823, the county commissioners met and ‘petitions being presented for the division of Liberty Township, ordered that the prayer of said petition be granted, and that the new township be called by the name of Union Township, and that an election be held.’”
And so, with history as our guide, we mark June 2 as Founders’ Day in West Chester Township. Our community is poised to proudly celebrate its bicentennial anniversary in the summer of 2023.
What’s in a Name?
When her book was first published in 1979, Shewalter acknowledged that the name of “Union Township” was chosen for reasons unknown, and those remain to be seen. However, the name stuck for more than 100 years until residents voted to change it to “West Chester” in March of 2000, with the switch becoming official on June 28 of that year.
Leaders pushed for the change in order to more clearly claim the identity of their community, which had already been commonly referred to by locals as West Chester for many years, and to cut down on confusion between other American towns of identical namesake.
For instance, just 25 miles southeast of West Chester there is Union Township of Clermont County, Ohio, also considered part of the Greater Cincinnati region. One can imagine that, in the age before the Internet and GPS, many travelers on their way to West Chester would wind up in the wrong town after not-so-successfully locating Union Township on a map.
History Repeats Itself
West Chester is a name inherent to our community, dating all the way back to the early 19th century. It was used to designate one of the many little villages that make up our township – Gano, Maud, Pisgah, Port Union or Tylersville.
In the early 1800s, the village of West Chester in the area along Cincinnati Dayton Road was first known as Hogtown and later Mechanicsburgh. Settlers named it to match the trade industries popular here at the time until – not unlike times at the close of the 20th century – confusion became reason for change.
“On April 1, 1824, a post office was established, but for some reason the postal department gave this local branch the name of Chester, not Mechanicsburgh,” Shewalter writes.
“The use of the two names must have been confusing, for after two years it was decided to change the name of the village to that of the post office, Chester. West was added to Chester because the village was west of the Chester post office.”
According to Shewalter, our community’s first and oldest village made its first historic name change from Mechanicsburgh to West Chester on October 2, 1826. Fast forward approximately 174 years and the entire township would come to be known as West Chester.
Today, this particular area of West Chester Township is considered Olde West Chester and the rest, as they say, is history.
To learn more about the history of the community, purchase your copy of Virginia Shewalter’s, “A History of Union Township Butler County, Ohio,” from the West Chester ~ Union Township Historical Society.
In the Year 1823…
- President James Monroe, the fifth in the history of our country, serves his second term in office. He and George Washington remain the only presidents to win election or re-election unopposed.
- Ludwig van Beethoven finishes composing the Missa solemnis. Beethoven wears a red scarf and is said to be depicted working on the composition in one of the most recognizable portraits of the composer, done by artist Joseph Karl Stieler.
- Pope Pius VII, who crowned Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of France, dies in August at age 81.
- The Lancet, one of the world's leading general medical journals, is founded by English surgeon Thomas Wakley.
- The Reverend William Webb Ellis is credited with inventing the sport of rugby at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England. The county happens to be famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
- A Visit From St. Nicholas, otherwise referred to as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, is first published anonymously in December. The poem was credited to Clement Clarke Moore in 1837, but authorship remains disputed primarily by the family of Henry Livingston, Jr.
Celebrating our Bicentennial
In 2023, West Chester will celebrate its bicentennial year and we’re putting our “thinking caps” on to plan a year-long party. If you want to be a part of planning, or if you have some celebration ideas, please let us know. Complete a quick web form to get started >>