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Opinion

Library presents program on John R. Buchtel

11/29/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Guest Editorial

By Sherry Swisher

The Friends of Green Branch Library recently presented a program on John R. Buchtel. It was held at the Green Branch Library and narrated by B.J. Hutchison. 

John Buchtel was born in Green Township and had three brothers and one sister. At 22 years of age, his father gave him a 100-acre parcel of farmland with the understanding that the son would pay off the $700 encumbrance on the land. Two years later, he had successfully paid off the money and then sold the farm. Using the money from the sale, Mr. Buchtel bought 220 acres near Thornton Avenue in Akron. During the next 20 years, Mr. Buchtel sold the land on Thornton and bought 1,000 acres near Akron’s west side, which led him to become successful in the farming and lumber business. 

In 1856, Mr. Buchtel became a salesman for the Ball, Aultman Co. of Canton, which was the manufacturer of Ohio Mower and Reaper. Eight years later, Buchtel persuaded the company to build a branch factory in Akron. He supervised the construction of the building and became the first president of Buckeye Reaper and Mower, which grew quickly under his leadership. 

Akron became the center of the farm machinery industry. Buckeye Works brought great stimulation to the material growth and prosperity of Akron, and companies such as Akron Iron Works, Knife Works, The Paper Mill and the Rubber Works were the result. Mr. Buchtel was an early investor in the rubber company of Dr. Benjamin F. Goodrich, and he was also instrumental in forming a bank that was a major part of Akron’s industrial growth.

While Mr. Buchtel was busy being a farmer, banker and reaper maker, he was also lead donor towards what is now known as The University of Akron. He gave cash gifts, paid for students’ room and board, as well as books and furniture for dozens of needy students. In the 1870s, he served on a committee to establish a public library so that all the citizens of Akron could use it for free. He gave generously to the Akron Library Association. 

In 1877, Mr. Buchtel was partner and general manager of the Akron Iron Co. The company owned 2,000 acres of land in the Hocking Hills, which was rich with coal and iron ore. Buchtel took on the responsibility of developing the land and established an iron furnace in the area. The town of “Buchtel” grew up around the Akron Furnace. To help the town, he donated land for a community cemetery and two churches, personally financed a public school building and supported several fraternal organizations. 

Here are some other interesting bits about Mr. Buchtel. He was married to Elizabeth Davidson, from Pennsylvania.  He held a variety of offices: assessor and justice of the peace for Coventry Township, Township Trustee for Akron, and Trustee for A&M college (which is known today as The Ohio State University). 

In 1887, Mr. Buchtel suffered a stroke, which left his lower body paralyzed, and he spent the last five years of his life in a wheelchair. On May 23, 1892, Mr. Buchtel passed away, one year and one day after his wife.

At the end of the program, B.J. Hutchison then announced that an application has been submitted to the Ohio Historical Society to have a historical marker placed at the Green Branch Library in Mr. Buchtel’s name.

Sherry Swisher is the branch manager of the Green Branch Library.

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