Remember When... Featured

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Progress - noun ˈpräɡres/ forward or onward movement toward a destination.  It's also a verb, but not always.

One of our passions at is sharing the history of our community in a way that's interactive as well as informative.  This is what led to the creation of The Beavercreek Heritage Trail, our online 'tour' of both the city and township.  We've collected hundreds of images and many, many wonderful stories about not only the settling of Beavercreek, but also its growth into the community we love today.

What we discovered is that geography is as impactful as time as they relate to history.

As you look back at Beavercreek's 215 years, you'll discover farmers, inventors, legislators, teachers, business people, conservatives, liberals and innovators.  We've a long history of pushing the balance between sense of community and fierce independence.

Beaver Creek Township 1896 smallFollowing centuries as a fertile Shawnee hunting ground, the initial group of western settlers, Benjamin Whiteman, Peter Borders, Owen Davis, et al established the first little village on the banks of the Beaver Creek near the current intersection of US 35 and Factory Road.  Their purpose was establishing a mill to refine grain into meal.  Eleven years after the ratification of the United States Constitution, Benjamin built a small log cabin on the site.  Five years later, on May 10, 1803,  a group of associate judges met in the cabin to lay out the borders of Greene County for the brand new state of Ohio.

For decades, Beavercreek Township grew via small community outcroppings:

  • New Germany
  • Concord
  • Sunnyside
  • Frost's Station / Trebein
  • Zimmerman / Push-On
  • Alpha and others...

John HarbeinOf these Alpha became the most industrialized, primarily due to John Harbine - a migrant miller from Maryland who traveled to Beavercreek Township in 1828.  He purchased the 180 acres of land and cabin from Owen Davis and from there, built an impressive industrial complex along the Beaver Creek including a grist mill, oil mill, woolen mill and even a whiskey distillery!

In 1832 he began construction of a majestic Georgian Colonial home for his wife Hettie on the site, it sat back a long lane from the town of Alpha and was surrounded by 300 fruit trees!  The home  stayed in the Harbine family for 117 years before being purchased by the Heller family - who ultimately sold it to Greene County for use as a group home for struggling youth.

In 2015 the beautiful building was put up for sale without much fanfare - or even a sign.  Following a reboot, it sold.  It happens.

Since then, we've watched the paint begin to peel and the brick start to spall.  Inventory crept onto the lawn and its destiny became clearer by the day.

It's funny following the different social media groups that are community centric.  No matter the topic, somebody somewhere will bring up a 'Remember when...' moment.  Former Beavercreekers are the best at this!  They've seen their hometown grow from a rural bedroom community to the 50,000+ resident suburb it is today!  Some like it, others not-so-much.  Whether it was the burgers at the Beaver Grill or Scotties, the stories of 'The Mouse' or 'Wolfies' or simply who ran what street rod at Kil-Kare that weekend - the memories turn to conversations.

Progress the noun, or progress the verb. 

  • Farms became shopping malls.
  • North Fairfield Road has consumed the front yards of many as our travel needs expand.
  • Chain link fence will soon surround the entire neighborhood at Rock Drive.
  • Dozens of residents lost their homes to emminent domain in the 1970's, in return we all enjoy the conveniences of Interstate 675.

Harbine smallThis week, the beautiful mansion described above was razed and hauled away.  The foundation of the log cabin will soon be covered in asphalt for additional Mazda inventory.  It deserved better.


Being 'historical' isn't enough, nor is being on a historical registry.  The county commissioners were done with it, no one (kinda) else stepped up (in time) to repurpose it (according to the GCC minutes).  Retrofitting an old structure can be very costly.  It can also be very worth it.

This morning I asked myself, "What would John Harbine have done with a beautiful old structure that occupied an available area adjacent to his business?".  Likely the same as its current fate?  Could be - he was known as a visionary, a philanthropist, an industrialist as well as holding the reputation as a somewhat ruthless businessman.  What did he do with the old log cabin?  It may have been moved, it might have been burned, rotted away?  We may never know.

Whatever his faults, John Harbine had a conscience.  He believed in community building AND participation:

  • He paid surveyors to lay-out the town of Alpha.
  • He provided housing for the laborers in his mills.
  • He hired local residents in need of employment rather than cheaper sharecroppers.
  • He provided land for the needs of the community.
  • He was instrumental in the construction of the Alpha Church.
  • He believed in producing locally, even researching the manufacture of medications.

John Harbine was a practical man who utilized the resources around him.  For example, the Harbine distillery was constructed to make use of excess corn that would rot prior milling because of the ebb and flow of demand.  Another nearby structure was converted to a hog pen to consume the cooked mash disposed of through the distillation process.  The hogs then butchered at Leonard Barth's butcher shop and sold locally.  Supply-chain management, utilization of assets.  I highly doubt he'd have demolished the structure for a parking lot.

Times have changed, but have people?  Then like now, it depends upon the individual.  Some are preservationists seeking to retain history for future generations... others believe in an 'out with the old - in with the new' philosophy.

In Beavercreek, we're incredibly fortunate to have Wartinger Park where actual log cabins of early settlers were relocated, not to mention the Alpha Mill - both sites maintained by the Parks District.  There are dozens of privately owned historic homes in our community that you can find via The Beavercreek Heritage Trail as well.

StagecoachHouseBeavercreek has another historic building at risk.  The 'Stagecoach Inn' on Dayton-Xenia Road adjacent to Rotary Park has been for sale for years and falls further into disrepair everyday.  It has been a blacksmith shop for the down of Alpha, the interim upper school during the construction of the 1888 high school and purportedly a stop for the early Pony Express.  We all look elsewhere for solutions.  The city should buy it?  Not a chance.  Beavercreek is a limited-service city with no municipal tax, they operate on a very frugal budget to provide us the top-tier services we receive.  The Beavercreek Historical Society should acquire it?  No way, that's a group of loving volunteers who educate and remind us of our history - they're fantastic at their mission, but not financially backed for the acquisition nor maintenance of such a structure.  Should I buy it?  Should you?  Best-case scenario?  A business buys and rehabilitates the building for office space and perhaps develops the balance of the acreage.  Progress.

AlphaSeedAndGrain3 900The mill in Alpha needs repair and a new steel roof.  The Parks department maintains the land, but lacks the budget for structural renovation.  It'll likely require a grassroots effort to raise the funds necessary for the needed repairs - and probably an empathetic bid from a local contractor to perform the work.

I'm guilty of hedging toward the 'preservationist' mindset.  I love our hometown and respect how we got here.  I'm also a local REALTOR® and recognize that the 'highest and best use' of a parcel may not be maintaining a structure but replacing it, we're no longer a collection of 1800's villages.  Some are special though, like the Harbine House was.

Read 66 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 February 2018 14:30
Brett Williford

Re-introducing you to the Beavercreek you love... from 1803 to today!

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

Featured Image