Springs, then and now
Three months and 80 years into the Newss yearlong project examining
the last 200 years of local history, some themes are becoming clear. A
picture is emerging that shows that today Yellow Springs, in some ways,
is much like it was 150 years ago.
One of the fascinating things the project has shown is the influence individuals
or groups have had in shaping the town, and in some cases, history. William
Mills, for instance, helped found the village of Yellow Springs and bring
Antioch College here. He also brought the railroad to town, luring it
from its original path through Clifton. As the first president of Antioch,
Horace Mann helped get Antioch off the ground and championed the colleges
During the Civil War, Moncure D. Conway, a minister and abolitionist,
brought his familys slaves to Yellow Springs, where they could experience
freedom. Two of those former slaves, Dunmore and Eliza Gwinn, appear to
have prospered here and become prominent residents, helping to start with
other members of the Conway Colony the Anti-Slavery Church, which today
is the First Baptist Church. Olympia Brown, a member of Antiochs
Class of 1860, became a Universalist minister and a key figure in the
womens suffrage movement. Then theres Wheeling Gaunt, who
bought himself out of slavery, moved to Yellow Springs in the 1860s and
later bequeathed to the Village what today is Gaunt Park.
There were also the oddballs and dreamers: the Owenites, a commune of
about 100 families that lived in Yellow Springs for a year in the 1820s;
Marion Ross, the Antioch student who participated in the celebrated locomotive
chase Andrews Raid during the Civil War; Hugh Taylor
Birch, who dropped out of Antioch, became successful and wealthy and eventually
donated Glen Helen to Antioch.
Between 1803 and 1883, Yellow Springs was slowly becoming a community.
A downtown filled with shops was growing and was starting to serve as
a focal point of life. Organizations and clubs were forming. Like today,
the village relied on the tourists, or visitors, who would travel to town
to stay in the spas and resorts that were built around the Yellow Spring
and in the Glen. The tourist trade as well as the villages commercial
sector was influenced by the railroad that connected Yellow Springs to
major cities around the Midwest and East Coast.
The story of the Conway Colony shows that Yellow Springs was an accepting
place nearly 150 years ago. Though it struggled financially, Antioch was
at the forefront of providing equal education to men and women.
From the time Lewis Davis first came to Yellow Springs in 1803, people
and organizations, businesses and institutions, have stepped forward to
make this village the place that it is today. Many continue to be remembered,
and honored. This community has much experience to draw upon as we enter
a third century of challenges and celebrations.