If you've ever traveled to New England, you might notice a strong similarity between towns found there and Worthington. It's not that early were trying to copy the New England towns, it's because the first settlers were New Englanders that wanted a new life on the western frontier.
At that time central Ohio was still a wild and unsettled place. Early settlers lived in fear of Indian attacks, and as late as 1811 there was not one church, schoolhouse, pleasure carriage or bridge over any stream within 100 miles.
Colonel James Kilbourne was a leading promoter of the Scioto Company that was formed at Granby Connecticut in 1801. He wanted to establish a settlement between the Muskingum River and Great Miami River in the Ohio Country. James Kilbourne was elected president and Josiah Topping secretary. On August 30, 1802 James Kilbourne and Nathaniel Little arrived at Colonel Thomas Worthington’s home in Chillicothe, Ohio. They tentatively reserved land along the Scioto River on the Pickaway Plains for their new settlement.
Later that year, the Scioto Company again met in Granby, Connecticut and decided not to purchase the lands along the Scioto River on the Pickaway Plains, but rather to buy land 30 miles farther north from Dr. John Stanbery and his partner, an American Revolutionary War general, Jonathan Dayton. Sixteen thousand acres were purchased along the Whetstone River (now known as the Olentangy River) at $1.50 per acre.
In September 1803 the first settlers departed Connecticut by horse. Ezra Griswold was the lone settler who traveled by oxcart. With this he is officially the first settler of Worthington, beating his fellow Scioto Company men to the site. The 600 mile trip from New England to Worthington took 6 weeks to complete.
By December 1803, the area had been divided into 160, three quarter acre city lots with a five acre public green in the center of the village. Thirty seven persons bid between $53 and $0.25 to select a lot. Those who bid nothing were given a choice of the remaining lots. Farm lots, ranging from 20 to 130 acres and averaging 93 acres, were sold off in the same way. Both the Episcopal Church and Worthington Academy were given an 80 acre farm lot and 20 acre wood lot to provide financial support.
The Worthington Public Library actually began before the settlers left Granby, Connecticut. Prior to setting out for Ohio, Colonel James Kilbourne and 40 subscribers chipped in $2.00 each to finance a library for their new town, Worthington.
But you might wonder why Worthington was named Worthington and not Kilbourne? The answer lies in the friendship that Kilbourne had with Thomas Worthington and the help that Worthington provided Kilbourne in laying claim to the land.
Thomas Worthington was register of the land office for the area. In fact, Thomas Worthington made a very liberal donation to the Scioto Company to purchase the land. Worthington also helped Kilbourne in many different ways. It was for this reason that Kilbourne opted to call the new town Worthington.
By 1804, 20 families, a total 100 New Englanders had settled there. James Kilbourne is buried behind the Episcopal Church on the southeast corner of High Street and Dublin Granville Road. The grave of Col. Kilbourne is marked by a stone, on which he had cut prior to his death with the names of his family, including that of his second wife. She took exception to the cutting of her name upon a tombstone before her death, and directed that her remains should not be interred there. Her wish was observed, and her body now lies in Green Lawn Cemetery.
Every Saturday morning during the growing season, you'll find local farmers selling fresh produce and products along High Street in Old Worthington.
If you're looking for someplace to go, take a drive to the south side of Worthington, just east of High Street. It's called Rush Creek Village.
The village consists of 48 very un-traditional homes, all based loosely on Frank Lloyd Wright's style of architecture. While none of the homes were actually designed by Wright, they certainly have his flair for flat roofs, car-ports, and built-in furniture.