History of Plain City
Plain City is a community steeped in history and brimming with small-town charm. Its captivating past tells a tale of resilience, community spirit, and the enduring pursuit of progress.
Its roots trace back to the Mingo and Wyandot Indians who inhabited the area before the arrival of European settlers in 1795. The settlement was known as Pleasant Valley, with an Indian settlement just north of present-day Plain City along the Big Darby Creek, which is named after Chief Darby of the Wyandot Indians.
In 1814, Isaac Bigelow journeyed from Pennsylvania to pay for the land he had purchased from his uncle. After returning to Pennsylvania to study medicine, he eventually settled in Pleasant Valley in 1818. Together with surveyor David Chapman, Bigelow laid out the town of Westminster on June 11, 1818. This date is Plain City’s official date of incorporation. The community was initially in Darby Township in Madison County, but when Union County was established in 1820, the county line was moved and Westminster found itself located within two counties. In 1823, the town underwent significant changes, including resurveying, expanded territory, and a name change to Pleasant Valley. In 1851, it was renamed to Plain City to distinguish it from other similarly named towns in Ohio.
Growth was slow in the early years of Plain City. The town had the advantage of being located on Post Road, over which many of the early emigrants moved their way west. But when the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad built a trunk-line through the town, business and manufacturing boomed. In 1868, the town limits were further expanded and by 1875, Plain City had five churches, a newspaper, a bank, mills, several dry goods, drug, and grocery stores, as well as various other shops.
In terms of public utilities, streetlights powered by coal and oil were installed in 1883, followed by water service in 1890. By 1904, an electric plant was operational. Additionally, an Amish settlement was established in 1896, attracting numerous Amish groups over the next century. The growth of Plain City and Central Ohio eventually led to the dissolution of the last remaining Amish settlement in 2011. Still, many Amish and Mennonite businesses remain, including the popular Der Dutchman Restaurant.
Plain City's historical significance is evident through its notable landmarks. The Farmers National Bank building, constructed in 1902, stands at the intersection of West Main Street and South Chillicothe Street and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1995. Another beloved landmark is the town clock located at 101 South Chillicothe Street, which was dedicated in November 1902.
By the late 1920s, Plain City had become a crucial railroad shipping point for livestock. Droves of sheep and cattle were driven through the town center to the pens and loading areas near the railroad depot on Maple Street.
Throughout the late 20th century, Plain City underwent a transformative period of growth and modernization. Despite this progress, the town managed to preserve its historical charm, with many architectural gems showcasing a blend of Victorian, Gothic Revival, and Colonial Revival styles.
Unfortunately, Plain City has faced its share of natural disasters during its history. The Big Darby Creek's tendency to flood resulted in major floods in 1913, 1937, and 1997, with the largest flood occurring in 1959. On June 12, 1912, a devastating tornado struck Plain City, nearly destroying the downtown business district and severely damaging the telephone system, electric plant, and clocktower. Another tornado hit on July 12, 1966, causing widespread damage, including the destruction of approximately 100 large oak trees in Pastime Park.
In recent years, Plain City has experienced rapid growth due to its proximity to Columbus and abundant employment opportunities. The 21st century has brought an influx of new housing developments, business growth, and the construction of new public facilities. It is expected that Plain City will officially attain city status in 2030, with a population exceeding 5,000.
Today, Plain City stands as a testament to its rich heritage while embracing modern advancements. The community remains deeply connected to its agricultural roots, with farms dotting the surrounding countryside and a vibrant farmers’ market showcasing local bounty. The strong sense of community and small-town values continue to shape the daily lives of its residents, fostering a warm and welcoming atmosphere that defines Plain City.