Isaac Bigelow named postmaster on Aug. 17, 1843

The history of the Plain City post office is only slightly less confusing than the history of the Bigelow family, and when they come together the results can be mind numbing. But let’s have a go at it anyway.

The first post office in the Plain City area was part of the trading post which the Ewing brothers, James and Joshua, established on their land north of the present day town. James was the postmaster and the official name of the post office was Darby Creek. At first the trading post was south of Big Darby Creek, but it was later moved to the north side of the creek, which put it in Union County.

Sometime after Joshua’s death in 1823, Isaac Bigelow purchased the trading post and moved it to his town of Pleasant Valley, back into Madison County. He petitioned the Post Office Department to change the name of the post office from Darby Creek to Pleasant Valley, but the request was denied because there was already a Pleasant Valley post office in Morgan County, Ohio. If those sending correspondence or packages did not include “Darby Creek” in the address, their items were likely to end up in Morgan County. This confusion was the main reason why in 1871 the town’s name was changed by an act of the state legislature to Plain City. (There is also a Plain City, Utah, but fortunately it plays no part in this muddle.)

The Bigelows are one of those families that find a few good names and use them over and over to the eternal puzzlement and frustration of genealogists. Our local branch of the family began in 1774 when Israel Bigelow was born in Vermont. He married Eunice Kathan in 1792, studied medicine in Schenectady, New York and practiced in New York and Pennsylvania before coming to Ohio in 1828. Israel and Eunice were the parents of 12 children. Five of their eight sons followed their father’s footsteps and became physicians.

Isaac Bigelow, their eldest son, was born in New York state on Aug. 25, 1797. In 1814, when he was 17, he journeyed to Ohio on foot to pay for a plot of land his father had purchased. He returned to Pennsylvania and studied medicine with his father. He married in 1815 and in 1817 he and his wife Polly came to Champaign County, Ohio. In 1818, they moved to Darby Township in Madison County, where Isaac purchased land with the intention of starting a stock farm. However, observing the constant traffic east and west along the Post Road, and north and south on the Chillicothe Road, he decided to lay out a town at their crossing. He called the town Westminster, although informally it was often referred to as Bigelow’s Corners. In 1823 the name was changed to Pleasant Valley. Between 1823 and 1851 Bigelow made six additions to the village.

Isaac was a practicing physician until his father arrived in 1828, at which time he opened a general store. He also ran the first hotel, the Travelers’ Inn, on the southeast corner of what are now East Main and South Chillicothe streets. In 1838, he sold the inn to Samuel O. Weatherington (or Worthington). On the southwest corner, he built a cabin which he enlarged and improved over the years into a fine brick home. It was demolished in 1900 when the Farmers National Bank building was erected.

Dr. Daniel Kathan Bigelow, one of Isaac’s brothers, settled here in 1832. He had a farm just south of town and built a large brick house which was both his home and his office. (The house still stands at 407 S. Chillicothe St.) Dr. Daniel and his wife Lydia had 11 children. Daniel died in 1850 and his wife in 1854.

Daniel became postmaster of the Darby Creek post office on March 22, 1837 and served until Aug. 17, 1843, when his brother Isaac took over the position. It is not certain how long Isaac was postmaster. Most sources say he served “during Polk’s administration,” which ended in 1849.

As if the Darby Creek/Pleasant Valley business wasn’t confusing enough, consider this: Dr. Israel Bigelow had sons named Isaac, Daniel and Eliphaz. Isaac had sons named Israel and Eliphaz. Daniel had sons named Daniel and Israel Eliphaz. (The women’s names in the family repeat almost as bewilderingly.)

There are no known pictures of Isaac Bigelow. Dr. Isaac Bigelow died on April 10, 1857, in the town he had founded, having served it long and faithfully.

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Israel Eliphaz Bigelow was the nephew of Isaac Bigelow. He is Daniel Bigelow’s son, which has sometimes been mistakenly identified as his uncle Isaac, whom he was said to have resembled. Eliphaz Bigelow was the nephew of Isaac Bigelow. He is Daniel Bigelow’s son, which has sometimes been mistakenly identified as his uncle Isaac, whom he was said to have resembled. Contributed photo

By Rosemary Anderson

Plain City Times

Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.