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Fairlawn to celebrate Croghan with events, park rededication

2/20/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The marker that notes the significance of Col. George Croghan in the Fairlawn area will be set up again at Croghan Park when work there is completed this summer, according to Fairlawn officials.
Photo courtesy of city of Fairlawn
FAIRLAWN — Col. George Croghan slept here — or did he?

The namesake of Croghan Park in Fairlawn has long been considered to have spent a night in the vicinity of Smith Road in Fairlawn in 1813 on the way to Fort Stephenson during the War of 1812.

But Sharon Myers, president of the William Wetmore Chapter Daughters of 1812, who has been researching local involvement in the War of 1812, said it’s most likely Croghan’s detachment came through the area, but he wasn’t with them.

“Smith Road was extremely important,” Myers said. “It was the main east-west route for troops and supplies. That’s where Croghan comes into our area. But he was not going for supplies. A detachment of his company was camped out at [what is now] Macy’s.”

Fairlawn Mayor William Roth said he’s not heard that Croghan wasn’t with his troops before.

“It’s our understanding that they camped roughly where Croghan Park is, and the assumption is that he camped with them,” he said. “We’re honored to name the park after him.”

Regardless of whether or not the war hero rested his head in Fairlawn, Kentucky-born Croghan was one of the nation’s finest during the war between the U.S. and Britain 200 years ago. Myers, who said Croghan is one of her favorite historical figures from the war, along with Oliver Hazard Perry, will share information about Croghan at a presentation Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Fairlawn-Kiwanis Community Center, 3486 S. Smith Road.

Myers said Croghan was just 21 when he won the Battle of Fort Stephenson, in Fremont, and defeated the British and thousands of Native American warriors with a single cannon.

The event is the first leading up to a planned rededication of Croghan Park, which is 40 years old this year.

“We’re pretty excited,” Roth said. “It’s the 40th anniversary of the park, and we’re going to be doing a lot this year.”

Since Fairlawn is in the midst of improvements to the park that bears Croghan’s name, it seemed like a great time to celebrate the man and provide the opportunity to learn more about him, said Laurie Beisecker, director of the Fairlawn Parks and Recreation Department.

She added, however, the city only came to realize the significance of the anniversary by accident. Former Councilman Jim Swartz was cleaning out an office when he came upon a shovel that was used in the groundbreaking for the park. It was marked with the date, which prompted city officials to realize this year was a big anniversary for the park.

Beisecker also came to see residents are interested in Croghan and his history after a memorial to Croghan located at the corner of Sand Run Parkway and Miller Road was removed.

“Once the memorial came down, because of the work there, we started getting calls from people asking ‘What are you doing?’” Beisecker said.

Plans are still coming together for the summer rededication of the park, but Beisecker said the date is set for July 19.

“It’s going to be really neat,” she said.

Local dignitaries and elected officials will be on hand, and there will be activities for families, Beisecker said. Plans also call for military re-enactors to be at the site.

As for the park’s improvements, Beisecker said the pedestrian bridge is being replaced and a new rain garden will be installed. A pump system will help keep rainwater out of the park’s playing field, she added, directing it instead to the rain garden.

Roth said work has been on hold because of the weather, but if temperatures warm up in the coming weeks as predicted, the foundation will be prepared for the new bridge.

And of course, the Croghan memorial will be placed back at the corner.

Myers said the memorial also has an interesting history. It was originally on Smith Road at the current site of Summit Mall, but it was moved when the mall was built, she said.

The marker, dated 1954, was a project of the Portage Trail Chapter Daughters of 1812, Myers said.

Beisecker said she’s not sure what was at the park site before it became a park. The condition of the soil there is not suitable for building, which is why it was used for a park, she added.

Other monthly presentations highlighting local history and the War of 1812 will take place in the months leading up to this summer’s park dedication. On March 25, John Burke will speak on Capt. Wolf and Smith Road.

For more information, call 330-668-9515.

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