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Dresden, Ohio One Place Study

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Date: 10 Jul 2021 [unknown]
Location: Dresden, Ohiomap
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Dresden, Ohio One Place Study

This page is for the study regarding the history and occupants of Dresden, Ohio. The goal of this one place study is to chronicle the lives of all people who called Dresden home.

This is the start of expanding upon the Dresden Cemetery project. As of 10 July 2021, 3,598 people buried in the cemetery have profiles on WikiTree.

Dresden Church of the Nazarene

This profile is part of the Dresden, Ohio One Place Study.
{{One Place Study|place=Dresden, Ohio|category=Dresden, Ohio One Place Study}}


Continent: North America
Country: United States
State/Province: Ohio
County: Muskingum
GPS Coordinates: 40.121389, -82.013056
Elevation: 224.0 m or 734.9 feet

A History of Dresden

The history of settlements in Muskingum Valley and the Dresden area is interwoven. Events occurring in any one area effected it neighbors, and so, the history of Dresden reflects happenings in the general community that was within two to six miles of the town.

Viewing Dresden today, it is difficult to visualize the area as it appeared when settlement began in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Ohio's eastern hills were heavily forested and the only roads were game trails, used by both Indians and Settlers.

Before settlements began, contact with the Indian was made in the late 1700's by small groups of soldiers sent by the Federal Government to explore and map the region. One young soldier in the group was George Washington.

Dresden's locale was the site of several Indian towns, one of which bore the name Wakatomika, home of an Indian chief. Here also was located at least one Indian burial ground.

Travel through the wilderness was slow. Hills, marshy valleys, and lack of roads, made the area difficult to penetrate. Many who came, used natural waterways as far as possible. A family, including six children, made the 400-mile trip from Virginia with their belongings on the backs of two pack horses in 32 days.

Despite hardships they encountered, life in Ohio must have had a certain magic for the mother died at the age of 102 years.

Indians made their last stand in Northwest Ohio and the treaty they signed opened the territory for settlement. Newcomers began to arrive on the scene, seeking land, new homes and a new life.

Major Jonathan Cass had served America in the Revolutionary War with bravery and distinction. He saw action at Bunker Hill, the siege of Boston, Saratoga and Valley Forge. He served under General Anthony Wayne, fighting Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

For his years of military service, he received a number of warrants which entitled him to land in the territory from which Ohio and four other states would be formed. Purchasing additional warrants from others, he came west with 40 warrants, each good for 100 acres. He liked this general area and settled here.

Accompanied by Seth Adams, he came to the river valley just north of Dresden, where he claimed 4000 acres of fertile bottom land. He was later joined by his family. At his death, he was buried in a private plot but was transferred to Dresden's Cemetery in 1875.

Seth Adams became a well known area farmer and introduced the first blooded Merino sheep from Scotland. He is also credited with being the first to plant tomato seeds here.


Researching Ohio history, one finds gaps in written records which cover Ohio's early years. In the 1800's, writers who could talk with survivors of the pioneer years or those fortunate enough to have access to diaries of letters could paint a comprehensive picture of early life. But there are information gaps clouding the picture of certain years.

For instance: Records tell of a family named Cordray who settled here in 1802. The next recorded arrival is that of an Ogle family in 1804. It is almost a certainty that other families settled here during that two-year period.

In 1803, Ohio was granted statehood, the first to be carved from that section of America known as the Northwest Territory. When Muskingum County's boundaries were first drawn, its size and configuration was different from what they are today for then, Coshocton was part of Muskingum County.

In 1803, county commissioners sanctioned construction of a road, on the west side of the Muskingum River, between Zanesville, Dresden and Coshocton. In 1805, the first township elections were held. Offices filled were townships trustees, 'Overseers of the Poor, Fence Viewers,' appraisers and highway supervisor.

As the settlement which would become Dresden grew, craftsmen entered the area and some of the first were miller.

As you probably know, corn was discovered in the Americas, native only to our hemisphere. Corn kept pioneer families from starvation, as it had Indians earlier. Corn could be planted between tree stumps on newly cleared ground and some varieties became a food source within a few weeks of planting. It was picked and eaten, as we do today, in the 'Roasting' ear stage. Later, but before the drying stage, kennels were cut from the cob and added to pots of venison stew and potatoes.[1]

In 1805, a dam was erected on Wakatomika Creek to supply water for Willys Silliman's grist mill and sawmill. Seth Adams erected a 'crackermill' in 1808, just north of the present site of Longaberger's corporate office building on North Chestnut Street. Nearby, George Gerty built a grist and flour mill. In 1812, Daniel Stillwell ran a ferry where the Stillwell Bridge now stands, south of Adams Mills. The ferry was a flood victim in 1832 and traffic had to use one of several fords in the area.


In 1815, James Munro opened the area's first distillery and in 1816, Seth Adams and Laban Lemert erected homes in the settlement that became Dresden when platted in 1819. In the 1817-1818 period, Laban Lemert opened the first store and Charles Copeland built the first brick home. During that period, other stores were opened by Mssrs. Wilson and Jacobson and a log cabin became the first local tavern in 1818.

Although platted in 1819, Dresden wouldn't become an incorporated entity until 1825 and during that time, several neighboring communities came into being: Adams Mills, Knoxville, Nashport and Adamsville.

In 1820, Otho Miller arrived and opened Dresden's first blacksmith shop of record. By 1825, Doctor Brown was treating community ailments and in 1828, Samuel Frazeys bought Knoxville and renamed it Frazeysburg.

In 1828, Dresden's first school was housed in an 18 x 24 log cabin. It had such amenities as a pucheon floor and a huge fireplace in its southwest corner, which accepted six foot long logs.

Teachers made $12 per month and were boarded with students families.

In 1822, Lemert opened a second distillery, which would be followed by third, operated by Mr. Roop, in 1833.

Lest we leave the impression that all early settlers were drunks, an explanation is in order.

Poor roads and primitive transportation facilities limited the farmers area where he could sell his corn crop. Rather than have the corn spoil, it was turned into whiskey, a product that improved with age and one which had a ready market on the frontier.


From the time Ohio opened travel was restricted by horrible roads. One must remember that the road building materials and equipment we know did not exist then. They moved dirt with shovels and wheelbarrows. Sledge hammers were used to crush stone and it was used on roads in very thin layers.

If you’ve seen horse-drawn wagons with iron-rimmed wheels on dirt or stone surfaced roads, you know how the wheels cut into the stone and make ruts, rolling over the road. On dirt roads, ruts were deepened by each passing wagon. When it rained, they became quagmires of mud and chuck holes.

There is an interesting diary entry by a local farmer about road conditions in 1822: “With seasonal chores out of the way, I decided to take my com crop to the local grist mill. Because of road conditions, it required me 18 days and 80 trips to complete the task. My wagon upset twice. I lost one wheel and broke two axle trees. I guess I should have stayed home and made the crop into whiskey.”

Settlers raised and hunted for the food they ate. Wild game, and later, their livestock, put meat on the table. Corn, pumpkin, squash, sorghum and vegetables came from their gardens and later, their orchards would furnish fruit.

Farmers planted corn, and tried to raise more than their own needs, hoping to sell the surplus crop. But, without adequate storage facilities, rats, bugs, and worms, soon ruined stored grain. So, if winter roads made it impossible to take their grain to market, they made corn whiskey.

Ohio’s legislature would finally try to solve the state’s transportation problem by authorizing and funding construction of a canal system across the state, north to south. First to be built was the Ohio & Erie Canal, connecting Cleveland and Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Construction began July 4, 1825 and by August of 1830, the canal was in operation between Cleveland and Newark, Ohio.

The route was 1 1/2 miles north of Dresden and area residents petitioned to have the town connected to the system. The State Legislature heard them and a branch line was dug to connect the main canal to the Muskingum River at Dresden.[2]

By then, the town had 30 homes and would grow quickly as it became an important link in the canal system. At first, freight was transferred between canal boats and river steamers at Dresden, but later, steam-powered tug boats would tow canal barges between Dresden and Zanesville. The river route and steam-powered paddle boats offered fast and economical passage to Marietta and the Ohio River, offering easy access to eastern and southern markets.

Local farms produced large crops of corn, wheat, flax, wool, cattle, hogs and timber. Brine wells produced salt and local shops produced pottery and bricks from quality clays found in nearby hills.

Veins of hematite rock were mined and used by a Dresden smelting furnaces to produce with tons of pig iron per day.

Mills which ground wheat into flour and looms which wove fine woolen cloth were powered by water wheels.

Some veins of coal, found exposed on hillsides were extremely oily. Know as "cannel" coal, it could be lit with a match.

When it was ground and put into steam retorts, its oil was distilled and could be decanted into containers. Water-clear and thin, the oil found favor as a low cost replacement fuel for the more expensive olive and whale oil commonly used in lamps. Thus, coal oil, predecessor of kerosene, went to market as another export item to help Dresden's economy.

In 1932, Mr. Morgan Morgan arrived from Maryland to set up Dresden's first commercial weaving loom. Fine wool from local Merino sheep produced a high quality woolen cloth.

Churches were erected and various denominations began gathering their flocks.


In 1848, telegraph wires connected Dresden with every village and town the wires touched.

Through the 1850s, as more land was cleared and put into agricultural use, farming became the valley’s mainstay.

Where the Dresden branch joined the main canal, Nathan and Benjamin Webb opened a grain warehouse. Nearby, the Adams Brothers opened a store and, a short time later, Thomas Smith opened a tavern.

In the 30-year span between 1830 and 1860, before rail transportation became available, the Ohio Canal was the only economical, dependable and time predictable freight transportation for the area.

In a neighboring township, the area’s first moldboard plow began turning furrows for its owner.


In 1822, Dresden opened its first brick school brick building and Abraham Smith opened the second hotel. It’s odd that records note the second hotel but not the first.

In 1870, Dresden grain dealers shipped l00 railcars of corn in one week, an unheard of feat from an area of Dresden’s size.

The road between Zanesville, Dresden and Coshocton, was on the west side of the river. On its east side were thousands of acres of prime agricultural land.

When those farmers wanted to ship grain or produce, the crop had to come to Dresden for shipment to other markets. When the river level was normal, they could use the Stillwell ferry or the ford at Dresden.

During floods, the ferry couldn’t run and fording was out of the question. To add to their problems, if they used the ferry, a steep hill had to be negotiated where the ferry docked on the river’s east side.

A bridge was the obvious answer but the length and heighth of a span to keep the roadbed above flood stage would require support piers that were too costly and engineering-wise, improbable.

But, by 1850, cable suspension bridges became possible with the introduction of a high strength wire produced in France.

An engineer named George Roebling (who would later design and build the Brooklyn Bridge) built his first cable suspension bridge over the Ohio at Wheeling. Cable suspension could solve Dresden’s problem.

A company was formed to finance the project and when its stock didn’t sell, George Adams came to the rescue by financing the venture. His nephew, George Copeland, became the construction engineer.

Because of Roeblin’s success with cable trusses, Copeland asked him to design cables for the Dresden Bridge. They were woven on the site and the bridge opened to local traffic in 1853. Its cost was $26,000.

The cables, anchored deep in concrete piers at each end, passed over the top of high stone piers at the river’s edge to support the 1,000 foot span. Its floor was 15 feet lower than the present bridge. Truss work under the roadway was formed by wooden timbers placed in an X formation. A tollhouse was located at the Dresden end of the span.

A local man, Ernest Minner, remembers helping drive livestock to and from the Dresden railhead and when anything walked on the bridge, it swayed. There were no lateral trusses. Load and speed limits soon were posted. Nor more that 20 head of livestock on the span at one time. Speed limit was a slow walk.

Damaged beyond repair by the 1913 flood, it was replaced by the present steel eyebar suspension bridge.

Ohio’s 1913 flood is the benchmark by which all other floods in the state are compared. Why was it so destructive? What caused its waters to raise so high? An old newspaper of that time reveals 42 inches of rain fell on Ohio in seven days. A lot of water!

For years, a Dresden Main Street building had the 1913 high water mark painted on its side.[3]

From the earliest days of Dresden history, some residents built homes of distinction and beauty and several can still be seen.

The home of Jonathan Cass was a notable structure. Built on a knoll north of Dresden, and at the center of his 4,000 acres, Mulberry Grove was widely known for its finery. 1913’s flood also damaged it beyond repair. The remains were torn down and a frame house took its place.

Joseph Munro first settled in the area that would become Zanesville in 1798. He opened a trading post and traded with Indians for furs. Later, he married one of Cass’s daughters and purchased 400 acres from his father-in-law.

On that land, he built the area’s second brick home and operated a trading post in one of its rooms. His was the first area commercial distillery, built just south of his house along the river.

George Adams Sr. came to Dresden in 1808 with his two sons, George W. and Edward and built grist mills at Adams Mills and Dresden. The brothers were merchants. Buying goods in the Eastern states, they shipped them to Dresden via the canal. In reverse, farm products and flour ground in their mills was shipped to eastern markets.

As his fortunes increased, so did his real estate holdings and at one time George owned more than 14,000 acres. In 1855, he began building a brick mansion which he named Prospect Place. It had 23 rooms and its bathrooms featured lead and copper plumbing. Prospect Place rivaled in beauty any mansion in Ohio. Ornate mantels decorated fireplaces. Walls and ceilings were decorated with bas-relief plaster moldings and figurines and the top floor held a huge ball room. But before the family could move in, Prospect Place burned.

George had it rebuilt, just as it was before the fire. Prospect Place is still there on its knoll of land, just north of Dresden. Decaying from neglect and damaged by vandaIs, most of its interior beauty is now defaced or destroyed. Reconstruction is doubtful for the cost would be in the millions. In addition, there are few craftsmen who could now duplicate the plaster figures and designs.

When first platted, Dresden’s map showed 96 lots and its principal streets were Main and Mountain. Space was dedicated for a school and town cemetery. And most other streets were named not numbered, as many now are.

At the western edge of town was a swampy area which, needless to say, became a mosquito nursery during hot weather. Outbreaks of malaria fever were particularly hard on small children and many died of malaria before their eighth birthday.

In 1828, an exceptionally violent outbreak struck the town’s 128 residents and nine people died in one week. Although not known until years later that mosquitoes were responsible for the spread of malaria, the town drained the swamp.

Dresden’s smelting furnace was built on the canal bank at Muskingum Street. Bricks used to build the furnace were made locally. Each working day, it produced eight tons of pig iron from local ores.

Dresden also had a soap factory, machine shop, boot and saddle maker, a hat maker, a wagon maker and a stove foundry, plus a floating sawmill.

At the present time, Dresden, like a little old lady, is comfortable with its surroundings. The town has a good mix of industry and family homes. The pace of life is a little slower than in big towns. (Perhaps that's why so many come here after retirement.)[4]



  1. Rugh, Bob. "A History Of Dresden, Part 1," Dresden Village News (OH: Dresden, 9 August 1991), p. 11.
  2. Rugh, Bob, "A History of Dresden, Part 2." Dresden Village News (OH: Dresden, 16 August 1991), p. 11.
  3. Rugh, Bob, "A History of Dresden, Part 3." Dresden Village News (OH: Dresden, 23 August 1991), p. 11.
  4. Rugh, Bob, "A History of Dresden, Part 4." Dresden Village News (OH: Dresden, 30 August 1991), p. 11.

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