In 1991, Morenci native Elizabeth Thompson was known as the town’s historian. We spoke with her then to learn the origin of local street names. Following are her recollections.
By DAVID GREEN
There’s a bit of history on nearly every street corner in town—just look at the green and white sign on top of the post.
From Baker Street to Wilson, a large number of the city’s streets were named after early Morenci residents. Although there are no records describing the actual naming of roads, many family names match up with the streets.
Elizabeth Thompson, one of the few remaining reservoirs of knowledge about Morenci’s early days, contributed information for this article.
Baker Street—There were plenty of Bakers that helped build Morenci, although Elizabeth isn’t sure whether they were related.
Jacob Baker helped build the first bridge across Bean Creek in 1834, and the first town meeting was convened in his house in 1836. Baker later built a sawmill north of town.
By 1850, Hotel Temperance (Quiet Cottage Home) was in operation. Thomas Baker was the owner.
Perhaps the best possibility for the origin of Baker Street lies with Leander Baker who came to Morenci in 1859. He started a foundry that stood alongside what is now known as Baker Street.
“I think the Baker family owned a considerable amount of land over that way,” Elizabeth recalled.
Baldwin Street—Elias Baldwin arrived in the area in 1834 from Massachusetts, and spent the remainder of his life here. There was also a Cyrus Baldwin in Morenci who worked as a drayman (carted material with horse and wagon).
Burley—Although the name Burley doesn’t appear in any local history books, Elizabeth remembers the name.
“There was a family by the name of Burley,” she said, “probably back in the 1920s.”
Cawley Road—The signs now call it Cawley Street, but it was still known as Cawley Road not too many years ago. The one-block street, sandwiched between the two sections of Union Street, used to run across the Franklin Cawley farm.
“They owned a tremendous amount of land, much of what later became the northern part of the town, ” Elizabeth said.
Cawley, one of the city’s early settlers, built a sawmill and a grist mill, and opened the Morenci Exchange Hotel in 1847.
Clark Street—The northwest portion of the town was once known as Clarkville, says Elizabeth. Ed Clark and James Clark were in the brick and tile business in that area, and later came the furnace, stove and gas company.
There was also Ned Clark who became well acquainted with Henry Ford, Elizabeth said.
“When he discovered Ned Clark could make almost anything,” she said, “he used to come down here for help.”
Coomer Street—Arnold Coomer arrived from New York and settled in what is now Seneca Township. He came along with the area’s earliest settlers—Jacob Baker and Horace Garlick. He began construction of a log house and convinced the local natives to help him peel bark for the roof.
Greeley Street—There was a Greeley family here, Elizabeth recalled, but that’s all she knows about this one.
Page Street—“That was probably named after the Page family,” said Elizabeth. “In fact, I think old Mr. Page owned most of the land out there at one time.”
Salisbury Street—“They spell it wrong,” says Elizabeth. There might have been a cousin who went by Salisbury, she says, but the most well-known man by that name was C.S. Saulsbury who owned the big hotel at the corner of Main and North. He also served as village clerk in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
“I think some of the relatives lived across the creek in that vicinity,” reported Elizabeth.
The old Morenci Fair was always erected on the land of Jonathan Saulsbury in the northern part of the city.
Stephenson Street—In the 1870s, Andrew Stephenson donated a block of land to the village for a park (Stephenson Park, or South Park). He wanted a park to resemble the village squares of the eastern United States.
Wakefield Drive—It’s one of Morenci’s newer streets, but it’s named after one of the earliest residents. Dennis Wakefield helped build the mills with Cawley and Wilson in the settlement’s first decade. He eventually acquired more than 400 acres of land in Medina Township.
His son Charles worked in Pioneer, Ohio, for six years, then returned to Morenci in 1868 and opened a bank. His widow donated the land that became Wakefield Park in 1936.
Whitney Avenue—The Whitneys weren’t among the early settlers, Elizabeth said.
“I might be wrong about this...” she began. “Osa Metcalf had a business partner. They platted the land and named it after someone from the Whitney family.”
Wilson Street—Simon Wilson arrived in Medina Township in 1834, clearing the land from dense wilderness to build a house. He became the first township clerk, the first Sunday school teacher and the first school inspector. He moved into Morenci in 1866.
Miscellaneous—Bank Street isn’t named for a financial institution, says Elizabeth, but because of the embankment it runs along. Sometimes the creek would flood into that area.
Summit Street—Summit came from the fact the street was higher than the land down by the creek, she said.
• Liberty Street—“My mother always maintained she was not born on West Union Street,” said Elizabeth. “She was born on Liberty Street.”
Sometime later that one block section became part of Union.
“Maybe we should plat some land and come up with our own names,” suggested Morenci’s historian. “That would give them something to think about.”
Fayette’s streets show a mix of the old with the new. Although many streets were platted long ago in the early days of the community, a few were constructed in the last 50 years. Two others have new names.
Gamble and Industrial—Gamble Road was long known as County Road R and Industrial Parkway went by County Road S.
Kathy Fix doesn’t recall the date, but she has a newspaper clipping that tells of a contest sponsored through the school to name those two roads where they bordered the village.
Kathy’s mother, Vivien Ford, suggested Gamble Road to honor an early pioneer family. Edward Gamble came to America from England and settled in the Fayette area in 1845.
“It’s so appropriate that the new school was built on Gamble because the family was so interested in education,” Kathy said.
The Gamble children attended Fayette’s Normal University.
Pauline Jones came up with the name Industrial Parkway. Her suggestion wasn’t the only entry with the name “industrial,” but hers was the winner because of the addition of “parkway.”
The street takes in all of Fayette’s major industries and is also in view of the park.
Willard Court and Irene Court—Those are a pair of Fayette’s more modern streets. Gene Beaverson, the developer of the residential areas, named the streets after his parents.
He initially thought of naming them after the two children he had at the time, but the kids had a fit over that. Instead, he chose his parents and didn’t tell them until it was a done deal.Gamber Street—Henry and Polly Gamber arrived in the community from Seneca County, N.Y., in 1852. Henry bought several acres of property north of Main Street and his name remains on one of the streets to the north.
Allen Street—Dr. Joseph O. Allen was an important figure in Fayette’s early days.
The town’s only mill—a steam grist mill—was built in 1850 and Dr. Allen was a partner in the project. He was also Fayette’s first postmaster.
Joan and George streets—These two are part of the Zeigler Addition and are named after the former property owners, George and Joan Zeigler.
Rehn Drive—A Mr. Rehn (pronounced rain) of Toledo owned property on the south side of the village. When Fred Armstrong developed the area into a residential addition, he named one road after Mr. Rehn and he named the other two streets after his children, Cynthia and Gregory.
Grace Lane—Ed and Grace Figgins owned some property that Gene Beaverson developed. The street was named after Grace.
Spring Street—When there are questions about Fayette’s history, people often turn to John and Wanda Bacon for answers. That’s what Kathy Fix did to answer this query: Was there a spring on Spring Street? Wanda didn’t recall that being the case, but her husband, John, knew the answer. Yes, there were springs in that part of town.
Knowing that solved a long mystery for Gene Beaverson. He once sold a house on Spring Street that was on high ground. He expected it would have a dry basement, but that wasn’t the case at all.
Now he knows why.