BIG PLAIN/CALIFORNIA, OHIO
Big Plain Store
COMPILED BY MARY LOU STIVERSON
Taken from The History of Madison County, Ohio - 1883 & 1915
Fairfield Township in Madison County encompasses a large area. This set of notes deals only with Big Plain. A newspaper story from the Enterprise in 1899 details a trip to Big Plain.
Big Plain was laid out in the spring of 1849, by Thomas Chappel, Robert Thomas & William D. Pringle. It was named California after the great lure of gold in the west. Near the town were large prairies called "big plains". When the post office was opened the name of the town became Big Plain as a town named California already existed in the state.
The town grew quickly for awhile. The first area doctor was Dr. Davis. Dr. Holmes built the first house in town and was the first doctor and postmaster. Peter Trout built the second. James Parks opened the first store and William Riley had the first blacksmith shop.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1852 on land deeded them by Robert Thomas. Early members: John F. Chenoweth, Charles Henderson, Charles Warner, Moses Ellsworth, Hezekiah Chenoweth, Andrew White, John Callander, Thomas Corder, Richard Johnson and ladies Rachel Bales and Sabina Hume.
The first school house to serve the area appears to have been built in 1836 and was a good log structure 20 feet square with a shingle roof. It sat on the ground where the Fitzgerald Cemetery sits today. The school was supported by subscriptions. Additionally, District #7 existed and was called the Cartmill District. District #5 was the Pringle School on the California and Lilly Chapel pike. Early buildings were of rude construction but in 1877, a large brick building was erected and there were 32 students. District #8, California was organized in 1854. The brick school was built for this district in 1879. There were 65 students.
A saw mill was situated on the land of Judge E.O. Fitzgerald. In 1915, there were three good general stores, three blacksmiths, three physicians, one steam tile factory and saw mill combined, one church (Methodist), a good brick schoolhouse and a good brick town house built in 1877.
The first burial place in Fairfield Twp. and, in fact, one of the first in the county was the Fitzgerald or Opossum Run Cemetery. First, it was a family cemetery and then a neighborhood cemetery when the land was owned by John Phebis (an early settler of the area). The first burial there was of a man from Chillicothe who was cutting timber for his house and was killed by a falling tree. It's thought this was about 1808. Isaac Woods died in 1812 at age 25. He was a soldier and had been with troops toward Sandusky and they were going home after a successful trip. The troops were celebrating their success when Isaac was accidently shot and killed. Some others buried there: James Blair, Joannah Clark, David Dennison and Richard Newland. (A complete listing of Fitzgerald Cemetery listings can be found by clicking the Genealogy tab on the library home page.) After Judge E.O. Fitzgerald became the owner of this land he set apart and fenced in one acre for burial purposes. In 1880, the township trustees received and took charge of it and bought 3/4 of an acre more.
NOTABLE CITIZENS OF BIG PLAIN
Judge Edward Fitzgerald
JOSEPH BENJAMIN, farmer.
ALFRED CARTMILL, farmer, son of Wm. & Isabel Cartmill, born 2/9/1819. Alfred taught school for 19 years. His first wife was Catharine Keller. After her passing, he wed Mrs. Margaret Freeman. Children: Grace, Clyde, Marcia, Gale Forest, M. Dell and Alfred Pearl. Mr. Cartmill owned at least 400 acres of land in the Big Plain area. In 1880 he erected a large brick home.
JOHN R. CHAMBERLAIN, farmer.
ELIJAH CHENOWETH, farmer and stock dealer.
THOMAS COX, farmer.
WILEY CREATH, farmer.
DAVID D. DOWNING, farmer.
JUDGE EDWARD FITZGERALD, farmer.
WILLIAM H. FITZGERALD, farmer.
JOHN H. GARDNER, Justice of the Peace and carpenter.
DR. CHARLES HIGGINS, physician and teacher. In 1868 he also began a drug business. In 1869 he bought a stock of groceries of Harvey & Bro. And moved in 1876 to his own building.
WILLIAM H. HILL, merchant, began as a farmer then learned the trade of plastering. He clerked in a store in Harrisburg, too. In 1915 he had a store in Big Plain with a good stock of merchandise.
RICHARD M. JOHNSON, farmer.
WILLIAM D. PRINGLE, farmer.
JAMES ALFRED PRINGLE, grain merchant and farmer.In the fall of 1877 he, with his brother Charles opened a business of buying and shipping grain at Lilly Chapel.
JOHN C. STRAIN, farmer.John was treasurer of Fairfield Twp. and postmaster in California.
ROBERT THOMAS, farmer, he helped lay out the town of California (Big Plain) and freely supported all village endeavors.
CHARLES R. WARNER, farmer.
DOCTOR BENJAMIN F. WELCH, physician.
FREDERICK L. YOUNG, farmer.
**Many burial locations of the above people can be found by clicking on the Genealogy section of our web page. Judge Fitzgerald's land/cemetery is now listed. In the near future the cemetery in Big Plain will be presented.
Genealogical Data collected and assimilated in part by Mary Lou Stiverson.