Best known for its annual Circleville Pumpkin Show that has been an ongoing event since the very early 1900s. Circleville itself dates back to the early 1800s and was a stop on Ohio and Erie Canal and a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The town got its name because it was originally laid out in a series of concentric circles radiating out from an ancient mound located at the center.
However, this town layout, which looked good on a piece of paper, proved to be a bit difficult to implement with the actual topography of the land and in 1837 the Ohio General Assembly authorized the "Circleville Squaring Company" to convert Circleville into a conventional street layout grid with rectangular blocks. This was completed over a period of years and by 1856 the transformation was complete by 1856 making the new and improved Circleville one of the earliest known examples of urban redevelopment in the United States. There are still a few buildings here and there that were part of the original circular layout and have retained their curved walls. The original Indian mound is completely gone with no remaining traces. Sometimes the town is referred to as Round Town, but for most it is proudly called just Circleville.
In the 19th century, Circleville became a prosperous town, in part because of its location near the Scioto River and its proximity to the Ohio and Erie Canal which was about west of Circleville. Today, there still remains a 3 mile stretch of the canal along Canal Road.
Circleville also benefited from the growing network of railroads in the mid-nineteenth century. The combination of the canal and the railroads provided manufacturing growth in the community.
Most of Circleville's industries were related to local agriculture, including meat packing, canning, tanning, and milling. At one point Circleville was recognized as producing the largest amount of broomcorn in the United States (broomcorn is a type of sorghum used for making brooms).
Several Americans of note lived in Circleville at various points in their lives. One of Circleville's early residents was Caleb Atwater, who was noted for writing about the Native American earthworks in Ohio, including those at the original site of Circleville. He published one of the few descriptions of the Circleville mounds in his "Western Antiquities." Atwater also served as Circleville's first postmaster. He also was a champion of public education in the state of Ohio.
Benjamin Hanby, composer of "My Darling Nellie Gray" and "Up on the Housetops," grew up in the community, as did jazz musician Ted Lewis (see sidebar).
The Underground Railroad was very active in Circleville and Pickaway County. Between 1835 and 1860 clergymen William Hanby (Benjamin Hanby's father) and Immanuel Buchwalter, plus Phillip Doddridge, Colonel Samuel Moore and George Stanhope were conductors on the Underground Railroad operating through south-central Ohio, helping to move escaping slaves north to Canada.
Today there are 2 houses still standing that were stations on the Underground Railroad. One is the Moore House at Court and Mound Streets, and the Doddridge House at the southwest corner of Scioto and Mound Streets.
Big Gourd Capitol
Each year 1000s of visitors descend upon Circleville in search of the Great Pumpkin. You can't mention Circleville without also mentioning pumpkins. Circleville is known for the Circleville Pumpkin Show. This annual event is one of largest festivals in the state and aptly called "The Greatest Free Show in the World."
When Circleville was first plotted, it was laid out along the lines of a prehistoric earthwork, that at the time, early settlers were unsure of its meaning, or who constructed the earth in such a manner. The earthworks were described in a 1772 Boston magazine that described a 1,100 diameter circle connected to a 900 foot square. When Daniel Dreisbach platted the town, he used the center point of the large circle as the center of the town. The early inhabitants of the Circleville built an octagonal courthouse directly at the center of what is now the intersection of Court and Main Streets. The above illustration correctly depicts the circle's position.