One interesting part of the history of northern Trumbull County is the story of the huge swamps that covered large parts of North Bloomfield Township. And an interesting story it is because of the development of that area.
Tim Rodgers, now living in Hubbard, has written an interesting history titled "Remembering Ruetenik Gardens" that presents a graphic picture of how the swamp came about and was finally developed. And since I grew up in Bloomfield, I have some faint recollections of conversations of people who were alive when part of the swamp was drained and developed.
Tim's history starts with a look at the geologic events that formed northeast Ohio and the swamp. His information indicates that the very flat area left by the glacier was poorly drained. Wet areas and some standing water allowed the growth of many types of plant life. Over thousands of years, the decaying plants developed into a swampy area much like a peat bog. It was a rich, black organic soil that, if drained, would grow crops abundantly.
Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the "swamp," as it was known, was almost impossible to get through. Many stories were told about men getting into the quicksand pockets in the swamp and never being found again, Tim's history relates.
When I was quite young, we had a small herd of Guernsey cows. Since milk from Guernseys was rich and yellow, we had neighbors that came to our home to buy their milk from us. Mom also made butter, cottage cheese and some cream that she sold.
One elderly neighbor, J.C. as he was known, lived across the road and would come over for his milk. He would sit in the kitchen and visit, sometimes I think longer than Mom liked. More often than not, his visits included stories remembering the past. He owned a farm on the Peniman Road that went up the western side of this swamp, so he had lots of stories and memories of all the problems that went into draining the swamp so it would be productive.
J.C. would tell stories about the rattlesnakes that lived in the swamp and the dangers from quicksand. With every story, I remember the rattlesnakes getting bigger and more abundant. One story was about a huge rattlesnake that was bigger around than a man's arm and more than 12 feet long.
According to Tim Rodger's history, a land development company was formed to dig a ditch to drain the swamp. The ditch was about 30 feet wide, 7 feet deep and 7 miles long. It drained water to the north from state Route 87 into Orwell Township, Rock Creek and finally into the Grand River.
To dredge the ditch, a large steam-powered dredge was built to do the work. According to one of J.C.' s stories, the first one of those dredges ran into quicksand near Route 87. It gradually sank down into the quicksand, and they were never able to save it, as I remember his story - or maybe it was just a legend?
As I remember, J.C. had lots of stories about the swamp and problems with dredging the ditch. Tim's history says the estimated cost of dredging the ditch and draining the swamp was $30,000, which was a lot of money back in 1912 and '13 when it was dug. It was probably finished by the end of 1913. Water in the ditch moved slowly but did drain the swamp so it could be farmed once the stumps and plant growth could be cleared.
The newly drained land was divided into sections and rented to individual farmers. They raised mostly vegetables such as potatoes, celery, asparagus, strawberries and onions. At one time the area was know as the "Onion Patch."
There is much more in Tim's history to share with you another time. He has also studied the swamps south of Route 87 and looked at their history. Yes, that area of eastern North Bloomfield has an interesting history.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.