A hundred years worth of community pride was on full display Sunday during a centennial picnic at South Amherst Community Park.
Mayor Dave Leshinski welcomed attendees amid scorching temperatures to enjoy grilled food, attractions for kids, and conversations with friends about the rich history of the small village once known as Whiskeyville.
“We only get to do this once every 100 years and I sincerely doubt I’ll be here for the next one,” he laughed. “Our forefathers had a vision and hopefully as we move toward the future we’ll also have a vision to continue the growth of our village and to serve our people.”
South Amherst was formally recognized as a village in 1918 and Fred Ruth was selected as its first mayor.
Settlers had first moved into the area in 1814. Reuben Webb found a home at the corner of what is now Quarry Road; Massachusetts lawyer “Captain” Eliphalet Redington’s land is now home to village hall.
The Whiskeyville moniker was earned through the 19th century and into the Prohibition era when local booze-runners thumbed their noses at federal law.
What came to be known as “blue Amherst” sandstone has been historically praised by the Ohio Geological Survey for its strength and durability, which put the raw material in high demand during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
By the 1870s, there were dozens of sandstone quarries in the township, from huge operations to small backyard pits.
The business caused a boom in settlement, especially by German and other Eastern European immigrants looking for work.
A dispute over usage of the Amherst name was settled in court and awarded to South Amherst’s larger neighbor, which was once known as North Amherst.
Today, the village is home to roughly 1,700 people, including South Amherst Community Park board member Sara Lalonde, who moved to South Amherst as an adult after hearing her parents share fond memories of growing up in the area.
“I bought a house here 13 years ago,” she said. “It’s a community with a lot of participation and just having that small-town feel is very inviting. Over the next 100 years, I hope we can all keep working together to let the younger generation know about the town’s history and find ways to keep improving things because it’s our home.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.