Dover’s Present and Future

Today Dover is a quiet small Midwestern town on the banks of the Tuscarawas River. Dover, like most small American towns, has grown and progressed in some ways and declined in other ways as time has moved on. Large employers like the steel and iron mills that gave the “iron valley” its name and before that the small businesses that provided goods and services that depended on the Ohio and Erie Canal have all vanished and left Dover as a community holding on by a thread as far as population growth and job creation are concerned. People have come and gone moving away to take jobs at factories either seeking other opportunity or retiring to a warmer climate to live out their golden years.

There is a silver lining though. As the population continues to age health care services will continue to become both more important and, though it can be difficult to imagine, more lucrative. Dover is home to Union Hospital Tuscarawas County’s largest employer. There is also a high chance that Dover city schools will soon be able to either build a new school on the outskirts of town or remodel the existing Dover High School building in the near future. In addition a new high way exit opened two years ago at the north end of town and changes have already begun to occur. A gas station was built and opened last year and a brand new rest home has been constructed and is now nearly ready to open. This progress has prompted some to suggest the city should build a Dover Fire Department satellite station somewhere in the north end in order to better serve both the new businesses and citizens moving in, and the traffic and perspective accidents on Interstate 77. All of these changes make Dover and the greater Tuscarawas County area more attractive for businesses and for people with more expendable incomes.  

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Memoir Reflection

Even though the subject of my interview Donald Little, my grandfather, did not live in Dover his entire life our discussion was still very informative. Don had lived and worked in Dover his entire adult life after his high school education and time in the Navy. He was very insightful into the lives of working people in the area, his friends and neighbors. Don also had the memories of his parents

From Right to left: my brother Andrew, me (Taylor), my brother Logan, grandfather Don, my cozen Brandon.

From left to right: my brother Andrew, me (Taylor), my brother Logan, grandfather Don, my cousin Brandon.

and grandparents so the stories were not limited to his 80 years as a Tuscarawas County citizen but they went all the way back to his grandfather delivering food to affluent Doveites decades before Don’s birth.

Some questions were also raised during and after my discussion with my grandfather. One of the most important questions I remember asking myself was “I wonder what my grandmothers perspective is on this topic.” For example while my grandfather was serving our county abroad on the U.S.S New Jersey what was my grandmother doing? I also considered other topics such as grocery shopping or other things that were traditionally seen as woman’s work. It’s not difficult to see that my grandparents stuck close to the ideas of gender roles in the 1950’s although my grandmother did work at a bank down town. As time has gone on my grandparents have reverted from many of their 1950’s gender roles they tend to share most of the work load in their older years. I also wished that I had more stories set in Dover from my grandfather’s childhood.  

An example of a positive reason to use oral sources to study and record history is the simple yet indispensable fact that the person witnessed an event or events as they occurred. This can be both a blessing and a curse though as individuals have their own biases and points of view that influence how they feel about topics of discussion. It is difficult to find an unbiased firsthand account. Memories can also be tricky because as time moves on culture, opinions on politics and ideas shift and evolve as people grow and new generations enter into the discourse.

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A Walk Down Iron Avenue

An important area that helps comprise the Dover community and is some distance away from our down town is the area that surrounds East Iron Avenue. This area has both history and new development. Most of the land was owned by the Reeves Family and was given the name “Iron Ave” because of the streets close proximity to the Reeves steel and iron mills and manufactories. The home in which the Reeves family lived is even located on East Iron hdr-directionsAvenue. The radio station named for J.E. Reeves, WJER is also on Iron Avenue. The area has become a mostly residential area and some of the homes surrounding the historic Reeves home museum were built by the Reeves family for their adult children to live in. The area is also very close to the Tuscarawas County fair grounds and the area is home to Tuscarawas County’s largest employer, Union Hospital. This area also has some fast food restaurants across the street from the Hospital.wjer

            Even as this area developed differently from the down town and other parts of Dover it also has some similarities. In most parts of town it would be difficult to look into developmental patterns without finding some trace of the Reeves family. People wanted to build homes here because of the history and old Victorian structures which stood along the street. The radio station was built here because of its connection to the Reeves family.

            The area developed differently than other parts of town in some ways though. For instance, the location of Union Hospital, the area’s biggest employer, certainly contributed to the fast food _Reeves_Home_Dover_restaurants and other stores that can be found along Iron Avenue. The road is also heavily traveled both by Doverites and New Philadelphians. Iron Avenue which turns into “the Boulevard” is one of the most traveled roads connecting the closely situated towns.

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Memories of Dover

My grandfather, Donald A. Little, was born on December 25th 1933 in his family home in Newcomerstown Ohio. He was raised and lived in Newcomerstown his entire childhood and later, after graduating high school and marrying his wife June M. Carny, my grandmother, on May 26th, 1955 he then joined the navy and was deployed on the U.S.S New Jersey for the duration of the Korean War.

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Don and June the day before their marriage

            Even though my grandfather had been born and raised in Newcomerstown that doesn’t mean that my family had no ties to Dover. “The Reeves family was very popular here and very influential as far as Dover and New Philadelphia’s concerned. My dad rode a bicycle and carried groceries to all these rich people from a little store in down town Dover. He was living out on a farm outside of Dover and went to school at a little red school house which is still standing. It’s not a school anymore, it’s a wine distribution or bar type assembly but it’s still there.”

            My grandfather’s oldest personal memory of Dover was when his brother Harry was sick and needed his tonsils taken out. “My brother had his tonsils taken out in the doctor’s office. We sat in the car and waited on em’ to take care of this little project and then after he was finished, why, he made sure he wasn’t going to bleed to death and they let him come down, we got in the car and went back home.” There were few reasons that Don and his family ever left Newcomerstown to come north to Dover or New Philadelphia “Except that they had a very nice park in New Phila, they had a big skating rink in a barn and it was very nice and a lot of fun… We did some shopping, they had better stores here, of course, bigger stores.”

            Growing up in Tuscarawas County in the 1930’s and 40’s Don remembered that “A lot of private people had coal mines and they used these little coal mine ponies and you talk about tough little horses, those are tough little horses, and mean, you didn’t play with them babies. They were mines just out in the country on peoples farms and a couple friends of mine had coal mines, deep mines they were, and they was somthen’ you didn’t want your kids just goin’ down in, just playin’ in because they may not come out.”

            Grandpa also remembered the effect on our family when Atwood Lake was created. “Atwood Lake has more meaning to us… than the other [nearby] lakes… because when they started making these lakes, Atwood is only one of many, where they took farms away from private ownership and gave you what they thought they were worth which wasn’t actually what realtors would have give you, if you were going to sell it and they just give you what they thought they could get away with and made lakes out of your farm, and you can move on. My grandpa had his farm taken away and he had to go find something else to do and he had to pack up and he actually went out west.”

            My grandfather has been a witness to a lot of local history, unfortunately I was not able to use all of the information in the video if you are especially interested in hearing everything my grandfather had to say I can email the video to you, just send me an email at tlitte@muskingum.edu.

            A special thanks to my grandpa for allowing me to record his memories.

 

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Canal Dover and The 1913 Flood

 

 

 

1913_Flood_Defiance_Bridge

Onlookers observe the 1913 flood as the unprecedentedly high water levels of the mighty Tuscarawas flows over a railroad bridge which spans the Tuscarawas river, just down stream from Tuscarawas Avenue. The city of Dover can be seen in the background of this photo.

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As the flood waters recede the bridges became more safe for sight seers to view mother natures destruction in the form of a once in a lifetime event the flood of 1913. On the far side of the river the Ohio and Erie Canal once meandered past the town. Now the river and the canal are one in the same. As the water rose in the river it destroyed the earthen wall that separated the bodies of water. The 1913 flood was a major catalyst to the decision to end the Canal.

 

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This photo depicts an individual surrounded by the river which has over flowed its banks by miles. We see what appears to be power lines in the background strung to wood poles, they probably carried either electric or telegraph signals or a combination of both suggesting that the combination of industry and agriculture that build Canal Dover was effectively bringing development and modern pleasures to the area.

 

 

 

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One of the most unprepared and most hard hit places in the Iron Valley to be damaged by the flood was the Reeves Rolling mill and the Reeves owned Dover Manufacturing Company. Even the Reeves family’s personal mansion and belongings were subject to the destruction of high water.

 

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Along with manufactories, steel rolling mills, and the mansion that were all owned by the Reeves family, the company housing neighborhood known as “Tin Town” which was inhabited by Reeves employees and sat on a flat low flood plain endured a particularly high amount of destruction. This photo depicts a Reeves employee’s home after the flood waters had receded.

 

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“In Dover its the Reeves…”

The modern history of the city of Dover is dominated by one name and one family, the Reeves. The IMG_20131007_170835_852Reeves family where the children and grandchildren of the wealthy industrialist Jeremiah E. Reeves and the Reeves family was very important in the development of Canal Dover, from a sleepy stop on the canal to a northern industrial town.  From the smokestack bearing that name which looms in the background of the daily life of the city, still today, to the Reeves home museum, to the Huntington Bank downtown which does not display a large Huntington Bank sign, instead, the buildings heading reads “Reeves Banking and Trust Company.” There are also many hidden and inconspicuous signs that point to the importance of the IMG_20131007_171602_405Reeves family including a series of old painted advertisements on brick buildings mainly on 3rd street in downtown Dover.

Of the three signs that I photographed two are advertisements, or at least references to the Reeves Banking and Trust Company and the last one is nearly unreadable. As a child I remember trying to decipher some of these signs during my daily rides on the school bus, but many people IMG_20131007_171444_004never even notice them. Some of the signs are well hidden by tree limbs now and all of them are at various degrees of where the worst of which are probably lost to history and the best are only partially readable.

The Reeves family branched out from their steel mills. The Reeves Banking and Trust Company was founded in 1903 by Jeremiah E. Reeves. The family also owned the Reeves Hotel in downtown New Philadelphia and they ran a lumber company in Tuscarawas County. Without Jeremiah ReevesIMG_20131007_171256_613 Dover and Tuscarawas County would not be recognizable to us. Between the steel mills, lumber yards, hotels, and banks, Reeves and his family contributed to the area more than anyone else ever could have. When Jeremiah passed away in 1920 his daughter Agnes (Reeves) Greer bought the new radio station and was granted the license in 1949. Agnes requested that the call letters for the radio station be WJER “JER” being her father’s initials. The legacy of the Reeves family lives on in every corner of the county, you just need to know where to look.

The only source used for this blog post was http://www.wjer.com/Information/StationHistory/tabid/72/Default.aspx

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Tuscarawas County and the 1850 census

Looking back at Tuscarawas County in the 1850s census we see that it was largely a rural county. It had little industry and throughout time and future censuses we discover that the population, the industry and other important factors, in many cases, developed either at the same rate many other ohio18500counties and the state as a whole did, or that it was even behind other areas.

            In exploring the U.S. census of 1850, one important thing caught my eye. Even though it is not evident in the map Tuscarawas County was a hot bed of new immigrants in 1850 in comparison to its neighbors.  In 1850 Tuscarawas County’s population was made up of 4,640 individuals who claimed to have been born in another ohio185000country. In contrast the vast majority of the County’s surrounding Tuscarawas County had relatively low number of people born outside the U.S. Wayne County recorded 1,135, Holmes County 1,532, Coshocton County 1,868, Guernsey County only 850, Harrison County only 822, Carroll County 1,399, and Tuscarawas County was bested only by its neighbor to the north, Stark County who recorded 5,997 people who were born out of the U.S.

            But why did these people come to Tuscarawas County and where did they come from?canal-enlarge_4

            One of the major contributors to this trend is of course the Ohio and Erie Canal which went through Tuscarawas County and Stark County, as well as Summit County, and Cuyahoga County, and into Lake Erie. Unfortunately the 1850 census did not include the countries of origin for those who were living in Tuscarawas County but were born abroad.

            My soul source for this post was http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu/php/county.php. 

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