Sugar Creek Township
Sugar-Creek Township is named for the stream that drains the township. When Stark County was formed in 1809, Sugar-Creek Township was attached to Canton Township. On March 4, 1816, the county commissioners declared it separate and from then on it was known as Sugar-Creek Township.
Today, the Village of Beach City, the Village of Brewster, the Village of Wilmot and the community known as Justus make up Sugar-Creek Township.
Village of Wilmot History
Wilmot recorded in 1836 under the name Milton, was the first village in Sugar-Creek Township. Records indicate that James Allen changed the town’s name to Wilmot in the late 1850’s to honor David Wilmot a Pennsylvania Congressman. Many of the towns early settlers were Scotch-Irish families from Pennsylvania.
The Beckett building was built in 1861, located on the north west corner of St. Rt. 62 and 250. Originally, a school for young women occupied the red brick building. It has also been a general store, cigar factory, an apartment building and was the site of The Beckett Candy Company.
The Gerlock building, situated beside the Beckett Candy Company building, is believed to be the oldest building in Wilmot. It was a sheet metal shop in the early days of Wilmot, having been built in 1837.
Wilmot was incorporated in 1891 with a population of 350 which dropped to 227 in 1920.
The Wilderness Center is a prominent nature complex, which lies a mile northwest of Wilmot. It had its origin in the spring of 1964 when the Canton Audubon Society was looking for property on which to establish an outdoor education center.
Today the Wilderness Center over 1000 acres scattered in Stark, Wayne, Carroll, Tuscarawas and Holmes Counties. The Center’s Interpretive Building is in Wilmot.
Wilmot is currently home to the Amish Door Restaurant and Inn at Amish Door.
Village of Beach City History
Beach City is located eighteen miles southwest of Canton. It is without industries, being purely a residential town.
Years ago, it was a center of home industries, including a canning factory, a handle factory, rubber factory, two wagon shops, three black-smith shops, a harness shop, a file shop a flour mill, and a grist mill. None of these industries remain and no new ones have come in to replace them.
The Falls House built in 1818 and at the time it was condemned in 1934, was one of the most historical sites in Stark County. The Muskingum Conservancy District condemned the property to make way for the construction of the Beach City Dam. At the time of its razing, it was the oldest continuously operated tavern in the state, serving patrons for 115 years. Three presidents stayed at the Falls House. Benjamin Harrison was so impressed by the fine fishing, hunting, and lovely scenery that he brought his bride, Caroline Lavinia Scott to the Falls House for their honeymoon. James A. Garfield and William McKinley were also guests there.
Camp Wanake is located in Sugar-Creek Township near Beach City. In 1944, the Evangelical United Brethren Churches bought property from Virgil Camp, which included a house and barn and seventy-five acres of apple orchards. Later this was increased to 297 acres when adjacent properties were purchased.
Short stays from one day to weeklong visits are available for children. Schools also participate in the outdoor education programs provided by Camp Wanake.
The creeks and small streams and rich soil of Sugar-Creek Township were perfect for agriculture of the early pioneers.
In 1806, coal was discovered in Stark County and so the second industry in Sugar-Creek Township became coal mining. There were about There were about 100 active coal mines in Stark County. The mines around Justus were the Fisher Mine, Elm Run Coal Company, and the tracks.
Brothers, William H. Justus and James Justus, were prominent in the early history of Massillon. The men were of Welsh and German ancestry, born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
In 1871 James Justus set up a sawmill to cut timber to make ties for the railroad, soon to be built in southwestern Stark County. Soon he was sawing logs for houses. The men who were building the houses began to call the little group of homes that emerged Justus, in honor of their boss.
In 1874, the Tuscarawas Valley and Wheeling began building another set of tracks about fifty yards to the east of the B&O. It is the same right of way used by the Ohio Central today. The two early railways used the same station. It was known as Justus Station to both railroad lines
A small village emerged when immigrants moved to the area to work in the mines. Two post offices, The Fairless Grocery, Dy’s Confectionery, and George Wilhelm’s General Store met the needs of the local community. None of these businesses remain.
In 1904, the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad needed a new roadway to bypass a giant hill or grade in the Massillon area. This grade, located at Sippo Heights, sometimes required three engines to pull the trains over the hump. A new cutoff was built which eliminated six miles from the Bolivar to Orrville run. Traveling from Bolivar and following the Sugar Creek Valley, they decided to build a yard at what is now Brewster.
Two hundred acres of land was purchased from George McFarren, R. W. Klingle, and Josiah Boughman. Work was started on the yards in 1904. By the latter part of 1906, twenty-five miles of track were completed.
In 1908, the railroad’s shop in Norwalk was destroyed by fire, and it was decided to build the new shop and a new division point in Brewster where there was plenty of room. On August 1, 1909 the railroad yards were complete and in operation. The locomotive shops were moved from Columbia yards to Brewster in mid-August of 1909 and work was progressing on the roundhouse. The powerhouse was built in the spring of 1910 and the Brewster shops were formally opened July 4, 1910.
The Village of Brewster, population of 350, was incorporated by the Stark County Commissioners on July 6, 1910. The first mayor was John H. Gephart and the first council members were J.F. Hill, J.W. Bidwell, Jesse Mizer, C.C. Summers, C.A. Horton and C.L. Breil.
Some of the early businesses and business owners in Brewster during this time were: Mike Belloni Grocery; The Brewster Building and Loan Company; Bidwell’s Hotel and Restaurant; Schott on the Square men’s clothing store operated by Eldon Schott; Bimeler Land Company; William J. Price operated a poolroom-news stand and confectionary; David Morrison operated a grocery store and butcher shop. Belloni grocery store is the only one of these businesses that remains in operation.
Brewster had the good fortune to receive one of its most respected and dedicated citizens at this time, Dr. William P. Hanna. In addition to his medical services, Dr. Hanna was helpful in founding the Brewster Methodist Church and was a life member of the Brewster Lions Club. He was a director and past president of the Brewster Building and Loan Company and a director of the Brewster Banking Company which later became a branch of the Peoples Merchants Trust Company. Dr. Hanna brought his wife to Brewster in 1911 and stayed until his death in 1965.
In 1914, the W & LE Railroad station was built and the brick depot and office building were erected in 1916. That same year the YMCA building- later the Wandle House- was dedicated.
The Wandle House was closed in 1975 after falling into disrepair. It sat vacant for a year before The Norfolk & Western Railway donated the building to the Brewster Sugar Creek Township Historical Society in 1976. Today, this historic building house the Brewster Sugar Creek Township Historical Society offices, museum and The Station Restaurant.
The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway continues its operations in Brewster. In addition to Belloni Foods, Brewster is also home to Brewster Cheese, Shearer’s Foods, and Brewster Dairy, The Station Restaurant, Just Ice Cream, McB Café, Tattered and Worn and a variety of other small businesses.
*Excerpts taken from The History of Sugar Creek Township published October 30, 2003.