Grid

Surveying the territory west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, imposed a variety of patterns on the land. William Utter in volume II of The State of Ohio: The Frontier State (1942) remarks that "Ohio was the meeting place of East and West. To the East was the area of systemless land location, to the West the sometimes monotonous checker-board extending to the Pacific. . . . The rectangular survey, so far as it applied to Ohio, included both five- and six-mile townships" (136). The Western Reserve was surveyed in five-mile squares, unique to the whole of the United States. In 1902, Alfred Matthews (Ohio and Her Western Reserve) speculated that "this regularity and convenience of size was of consequence to the Connecticut people, wonted as they were to the 'town meeting,' and enabled them to perfect the system and make the 'town' a unit of government of a degree which to-day prevails nowhere else as it does in northern Ohio, save in those States which were the original home of the idea." The grid appears even in the most ordinary of everyday nineteenth century objects. Using scraps from sewing projects, women fashioned quilts to be used either as daily bedding or in special cases as objects that indicated the virtuosity of their creator(s). A late nineteenth or early twentieth century quilt, in the collection of the Hiram Historical Society is an example of simple elements elevated to a complex geometric design. bluequilt.jpg It is not farfetched to see in this quilt the same sort of grid pattern that was chosen for the land survey of the Western Reserve of Connecticut. A mid-twentieth century quilt (also from the collection of the Hiram Historical Society), constructed by a quilting group that met in the Hiram Christian Church, is typical of the fancy quilts that were often displayed on special occasions rather than used as bed linens. quilt.jpg Each square of the quilt contains a basket fashioned from geometric pieces, in this case not from the scrapbag but purchased especially for the design. Though an example of quilting of the 1960s, the pattern has its source in the age-old tradition of American quilting.The obverse of this quilt contains its true treasure: the signatures of the women who had pieced and quilted it. messengerrydersign.jpg edithsignature.jpg coravincent.jpg Their names have been quite literally embroidered into the grid as lasting evidence of their having been a part of the geographical and social grid and fabric of the place! Schoolgirls were encouraged to perfect their sewing skills through cross-stitch needlework. Cross-stitch takes full advantage of the grid of closely woven linen for working letters and designs using small squares. Alphabet samplers are the most common examples of schoolgirl work, but a dated "show towel" in a private Hiram collection illustrates how the smallest squares add up to striking folk art designs. ensmingerfull.jpg Collection of E. Bixler, Hiram. Elisabeth was Mrs. Bixler's greatgrandmother. Elisabeth Ensminger's carefully wrought design was never meant to be used, but was intended to display her considerable skills as a young artist. A detail of one of the designs shows the way in which squares in series add up to a sophisticated motif. One consequence of the imposition of the grid on much of the Western Reserve, and particularly for Hiram Township, is that most roads follow its NS or EW orientation. It is said to be nearly impossible to get lost in daylight in most of the older settlements; if you know where the sun is, you can be certain where the road will take you. The spring and fall equinoxes are particularly hard on east-bound morning and west-bound evening drivers, for sunrise and sunset take place directly at the "end of the road"! Allyn Road, the northern boundary of both Hiram township and Portage County appears today much as it has during the 200 year history of the community. samplerdetail.jpg allynroad.jpg Allyn Road, looking west toward Hiram Rapids. Ryder Road, the western boundary between village and township, cuts through a hillier, less forested topography. Ryder Road, looking north and downhill toward State Route 82. Even farm lanes keep to the same orientation as more travelled ways. Here an overgrown lane on a farm east of Hiram at the intersection of Route 305 and Wheeler Road. Farm lane looking north.