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History of Tipp City, Ohio

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Founded in 1840, Tipp City was once a hub of shipping and trading activity on the Erie Canal. The city was founded as Tippecanoe City and was named after presidential candidate William Henry Harrison's campaign nickname, Tippecanoe, which he received after leading his troops to defeat the Shawnee Indian leader Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.

The small town was located on the Miami and Erie Canal, a crucial waterway that paralleled the Great Miami River and provided a shipping lane north to Lake Erie and south to the Ohio River at Cincinnati. The canal passed just east of the downtown, and a small portion of the canal and one lock are still visible in Tipp's Canal Lock Park. Tippecanoe City eventually merged with Hyattsville, another small village to the west at the corner of Hyatt Street and State Route 571.

Eventually, the development of railway lines in the 1850's gave the canals direct competition, but they continued in operation until most of the Dayton-area canal system was damaged in the famous 1913 flood. Most municipalities decided not to repair their portions of the canal and the system fell into a state of disrepair.

The Tipp City Name - and where it came from

In the 1930's, confusion developed between Tippecanoe City and Tippecanoe, another small town in northern Ohio. Mail service complicated the issue as mail was sometimes delivered to the wrong town. In 1938, The U.S. Postal Service abbreviated the town's name to resolve the issue.  Local proponents of a name change back to the original Tippecanoe City have long been gathering signatures for a proposed petition to revert to the original name.

History of Tipp City - the Long Version

The year…1840.  The place….104 acres at the intersection of the Miami-Erie Canal and the road now called State Route 571.  It was here on the bank of the canal that a dreamer named John Clark sank the cornerstone for his fledgling city.  He could not have imagined how far the ripples would flow.  Envisioning a bustling city that would reap the profits of a strategic location on the busy waterway, Clark immediately mapped out the land.  The first plat was recorded that same year and contained 17 lots that flanked what is now First Street between Main and Plum Streets.  Clark built his home on the southeast corner of First and Main (now the home of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.)

In selling the lots, Clark requested that no log structures be erected.  Thus, the original buildings were constructed of frame and brick, many of which remain today.  The rich architectural legacy is passionately preserved by a restoration board that regulates exterior improvements and new construction in the historic district to maintain the integrity and charm of old Tippecanoe City.  Eighty-nine of the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The name “Tippecanoe” was derived from William Henry Harrison’s presidential campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!”  In honor of Mr. Harrison, John Clark called his city-to-be “Tippecanoe.”  A few years later, the citizens unofficially added “City” and it was called this until 1938 when the legal name was shortened to “Tipp City.”

From 1840 to 1850, Clark’s dream materialized.  Traffic along the Miami-Erie Canal was at its peak; the town was booming!  It was also wild and boisterous due to the unruly bunch of canal boat men!  The rowdy canal town was drowned out in the early 1850’s when the railroad came roaring in.  The first steam driven locomotive sped through Tippecanoe City on March 28, 1853 at an astounding 4 miles per hour.  By the 1880’s, commercial traffic on the canal had been eliminated while the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad kept chugging along.  John Clark may have miscalculated the importance of the canal but his choice of site was strategically located for growth.

In 1875, the residents of Hyattsville asked to be annexed to Tippecanoe City so that they might have better schools.  Hyattsville was an unincorporated town bordering Clark’s original plat on the west; what is now the intersection of Hyatt and Main Streets was its center.  The Miami County Commissioners approved the annexation and also further extended the village limits to include an area of two square miles.  Through annexation, the city had grown far beyond John Clark’s dream.

Take a look down Main Street and images of the past appear.  Now housing specialty shops, the Roller Mill has stood at the Tipp Canal Lock since 1839, turning out Snowball and Quality Flours in its daily grind.

In 1857, Sidney L. Chaffee, an 1840 New York transplant, provided a unique cultural contribution to the developing town by creating the Opera House on the third floor of what is now the Butler Building.  Originally known as the Chaffee Building, it is a classic example of Romanesque architecture, popular from 1806-1867.  The interior was opulently decorated in Victorian style and seated 600-800 people who were amused by elegant operas, concerts, recitals, traveling medicine and minstrel shows.  During the 1920’s, a professional basketball team, the Tippecanoe Triangles, actually played in the Opera House.  Today, the Opera House serves as a reminder that Tipp Citians enjoyed small town living with big city amenities.  They still do.

Further exploration reveals a kaleidoscope of architectural styles which chronicle the evolution of the city.  The old hotel on the northeast corner of Second and Main Streets reflects the Late Federal Influence of the 1850’s.  Adjacent to the east is the Burwell Building with its twin bay windows, reminiscent of the High Victorian period, circa 1880.  West of the Butler Building on the south side of Main Street is a fine example of Second Empire and Beau Art, erected in 1890.  The Monroe Township Building at Third and Main was built in 1917 in the Jacobean style.  The old engine house (1874) across the street is currently home to the Tipp City Area Chamber of Commerce.   Behind the restored facades are many fascinating stories.  The Tippecanoe Monroe-Bethel Historical Museum is the place to start the journey back in time.