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Montpelier Village

Montpelier Village Hall is located at 211 North Jonesville Street, Montpelier, OH 43543; phone: 419-485-5543.

Beginnings [1]

The water power offered by the St. Joseph River drew entrepreneurial people to the future site of Montpelier. Exact dates are not certain, but by 1845 John Bryner and Jesse Tucker had built a grist mill on what would become North Monroe Street just south of the river. A mill race running from east to west powered the mill with water backed up behind a mill dam located east of where Monroe (or Mill Street, as it would be known at first) crossed the river. The mill's location near the county's center and the suitability of the surrounding land for settlement must have been strong incentives for the mill founders to move beyond milling. In May of 1845, Tucker and Bryner had a town surveyed just south of their mill. Consisting of 41 lots and a public square, the new town was located entirely north of Main Street and extended eastward several blocks to around Cranberry Run, a small stream that flowed into the St. Joseph from the southeast.

Tradition holds that the new community was named for Montpelier, Vermont's capital, by a doctor who gave the surveyor a ride to the site of the proposed town. Eighteen forty-six saw establishment of Montpelier's first post office, something any ambitious town could not do without, and about the same time the community's school moved from an old log building into a frame structure. Development of the community was slow, however, with the population estimated at around 200 by 1853, and only about 400 more than a quarter-century later in 1880.

In the early 1870s, the Chicago and Canada Southern Railroad made a survey of a proposed route that would have passed through Montpelier. In anticipation of the growth that would occur as a result of the railroad construction, the citizens of Montpelier petitioned the county to incorporate the village. The Williams County Commissioners approved the petition in May, 1874, although the first election did not take place until the following April.

The failure of the Chicago and Canada Southern Railway to construct a railroad line through Montpelier was only a temporary setback, since the village would see the construction of a railroad within a few years. Nevertheless, the village was optimistic about its future and moved forward and purchased an old school for use as a town hall. It was repaired and moved to the public square, which was bounded by Monroe (originally Mill Street), Water, Madison (originally Main Street—an 1874 map shows two Main Streets, parallel and a block apart!), and Jonesville Street. The jail occupied the west side of the building, and the east side was used for public meetings. The original town plat included 41 lots, with the southern boundary formed by the north side of the current Main Street. A number of businesses were located south of town an oar works, a sawmill, a foundry, and a tannery, all close to the river. An ashery was one of Montpelier's first businesses, a facility where potash and pearlash were made (these were employed, among other uses, in soap-making). This business relied on local citizens to deliver wood ashes, which were traded for goods.

Montpelier's fortunes began to change significantly when the Detroit, Butler & St. Louis Railroad (later known as the Wabash and more recently as the Norfolk Southern) passed through the village in 1881. The railroad provided Montpelier with an efficient means of transportation for the area's agricultural products and its manufactured goods and it spurred rapid growth in the population as the village counted over 1200 people (nearly tripling the 1880 census figures) in the 1890 census.

After incorporation and the introduction of the railroad, Montpelier began to develop as a commercial and industrial community surrounded by prime agricultural land. The home at 307 North Monroe Street was reportedly the first general merchandise store in town, dating from the 1840s and operated by Conroy Mallory. The first post office was also located in part of the home. Montpelier's first hotel was the Empire Hotel built by Leonard Merry c. 1848 and located at the southeast corner of Madison and Monroe Streets. It was moved twice with the second move to a location on West Main Street near the river. The building was used as a feed store by 1916 and became the Farm Bureau offices in 1941. Rundown and no longer used, it was burned in 1981 to make way for new municipal garages.

Originally, the St. Joseph River along the west side of Montpelier followed a different course than the one today. It had a small island, which was used as a park, and one had to cross three bridges to enter the town from the west. In the early 1900s, the river was diverted and the island was eliminated, but even today it is possible to pick out the river's old course. It served as a source of both water and power for early industries.

  1. Jeff Darbee and Nancy Recchie, consultants, Benjamin D. Rickey & Company, Historic and Architectural Resources of Montpelier, Ohio, 1875-1950, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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