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Canton Greats

Developers
Famous Canton Developers
Canton owed much of its early population growth to these men who were able to envision a more fruitful and robust city. With this vision, they were able to bring in large corporations and jobs for many residents.

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Bezaleel Wells
Bezaleel Wells

Born in Baltimore, Bezaleel moved to Jefferson County, Ohio  and eventually platted Steubenville, Canton in Stark County and Madison in Wayne County. He was elected to the first state convention as one of the "35 "Ohio Fathers." He developed with three others the largest wool mill in the state, and imported over 5,000 Merino sheep. He was a judge, surveyor, land owner and manufacturer. As a member of the Ohio legislature he helped resolve a major Bank problem between Ohio and the Federal Government after the Panic of 1797. Shortly after Indians yielded land in the Treaty of Fort Industry, Bezaleel bought large tracts of land in the newly acquired territory. He platted the City of Canton , named after the Canton district of Baltimore, included lots, three of which were dedicated for a church, a school, and the Stark County Court House. A second plat in 1820 after sales of lots at horse races indicates the original owners of the properties. One of the largest land owners, John Shorb would work with him in platting Madison with hopes that  it would be the seat of Wayne County.  However, when Wooster won that seat, the Madison area was abandoned to later become the OARD campus of Ohio State University. Wells was a visionary and promised the unsold properties, over a hundred of them, would be sold by the county to pay for a new court house on a lot he gave to the city. He with John Shorb was involved in land development and several successful  enterprises including banks.  The original plat in 1805 indicates the numbering of the different lots, three of which were dedicated for a church, a school, and the Stark County Court House. A second plat in 1820 after sales of lots at horse races indicates the original owners of the properties.  Wells was a visionary and promised the unsold properties, over a hundred of them, would be sold by the county to pay for a new court house on a lot he gave to the city. He with John Shorb was involved in land development and several successful  enterprises including banks. 

 


John Shorb
John Shorb

John Shorb with Bezaleel Wells played a major role in the platting and marketing of Canton. Born in Zweibrücken, Germany,in 1758, he came to Baltimore in 1785 where he married Catherine Gross of Hohenzollern royalty, moving first to Steubenville in 1806. In 1807 he moved with his family - now three children- to Canton where he teamed with Bezaleel Wells in the marketing of Canton.That same year he was chosen on the state committee for developing a lottery to pay for the development of navigation of the Cuyahoga and Muskingum Rivers. John bought 13 lots in the newly platted town, and leased a store on the present site of the Canton Flower shop at 2nd and Market Southwest. Besides the thirteen lots within the newly platted town he bought 640 acres from High Avenue west and from Tusc. North to beyond Fulton. He joined others in forming the first bank, The Farmer's Bank, on his lot in the middle of the Court House block. Shortly after the land office moved to Canton, he built a store on the present Chase Bank plot. He engaged with Wells in the platting of Madison in Wayne County and when Wooster was chosen as County Seat, they abandoned the site. Later that area would become the Ohio State Agricultural Research Center. A devout Catholic, he invited  priests from Bardstown, Kentucky to celebrate Mass on his property. And then he gave a large plot of land on North Street -now 6th N.W.- and Plum-now Mckinley for St. John's Catholic Church. He provided the lumber and the land and while helping in the construction he was struck by a falling beam and died on July 24, 1824.  

Charles DoughertyCharles E. Dougherty

 

Charles Dougherty was born in Greentown, Ohio in 1850 where he attended public school. When he was nineteen, he walked to Canton with two dollars in his pocket. He planned to work to earn enough money for dental school. Ten years later he went off to Philadelphia to prepare a career in oral surgery. Graduating, he returned to Canton and practiced oral surgery for three years. After a severe nervous breakdown he was told by his physician in 1882 that he had less than a year to live. Dougherty decided to move to real estate and insurance. In a career which would extend to 60 more years, he was responsible for bringing four major factory developers to Canton.

He worked for the Board of Trade, a predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce in personally raising $100,000 to bring the Dueber-Hampden watch company to Canton. He negotiated the deal to bring the Timken Company here. He personally contacted William Irwin to bring a Rolling Steel plant to Canton, and he brought John Carnahan who developed several steel and tin related operations to Canton. The historian E.T. Heald indicates that Dougherty in both bringing business and platting and developing the city, extended the population of Canton from 30,000 to 130,000 in his lifetime. He was like the Ball, Aultman and Miller families who moved from Greentown to Canton because of access to the railroads.

 


Canton Great - Bill Powell

 

Bill Powell

Born in Minerva, Ohio in 1918, Powell had dreams from the time he was nine years old of owning his own golf course. After returning from the army after World War I, he saw that unlike in Europe, many golf courses were not open to blacks. Two black physicians were willing to finance his dream and he transformed a 78 acre dairy farm into a 9-hole golf course. He worked as a security guard while spending the rest of his time developing the course.

Opening in 1948, he concluded "you have to keep your eyes on the prize." His daughter Renee served as captain of the Ohio State women's golf team and joined the LPGA tour in 1967, In 1978 Bill opened the extended golf course with 18 holes. The family was awarded the Golf Family of the year in 1992, and received the award from Jack Nicklaus. Renee was awarded the PGA First Lady of Golf Award in 2003. In 2009 Bill received the prestigious PGA of America Distinguished Services Award. Two Presidents have received this award as well as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

 

 


Charles Babcock

Charles Babcock
Since he was twelve years old, "Charlie" Babcock had two ambitions, a career in baseball, and to serve as mayor of Canton. Advancing from the little leagues in Canton to the  semi-pro leagues in Cedar Rapids, he later served as an umpire locally and at times in the Mid-Atlantic league. He served as a recreation, and playground director in several different communities. After a stint in the Marines, he returned to managing in the semi-pro leagues and was listed as a territorial scout for the Cleveland Indians. He never forgot his desire to be a Mayor of Canton and in 1957 he defeated Gervis Brady for Mayor. He promised to complete I-77, to replace the obsolete city hall, and to update the Canton water system. He completed I-77, delayed through engineering problems, property acquisitions, disputed routing and financing. He went to New York  with consultant Ray Janson asking for a "signature" building incorporating local materials and labor. The architectural firm, Kelly and Gruzen designed a "curtain wall" building which after fifty years still appears as contemporary. A third major accomplishment was the updating of the present water system. Hiring an engineering firm, negotiating changes in state laws, Mayor Babcock facilitated the development of the Sugar Creek aquifer capable  of providing over 50,000,000 gallons a day enough water to supply all of Stark County. 

 

Ralph Hay

Ralph Hay
In downtown Canton, the Bow Federal building, sits on Lots 52, 53 andd 54 in the 1805 founder's plat of Canton. By 1855, Charles C. Martin had built a successful rope making business on the site and his son, William H. Martin inventor of the monoplane - once in the Smithsonian- was born there. By 1892, the Odd Fellows benevolent society had built a four story headquarter there. However in the 1920's a very successful auto dealer, Ralph Hay, was to make history in his Hupmobile showroom in the Odd Fellows building. In his desire to promote his business, and in his love for football, Ralph purchased the undefeated Canton Bulldogs in 1918 and pumped money into player salaries. Self proclaimed national champions with Jim Thorpe as their outstanding athlete, the Bulldogs did not play in 1918 because of World War I. Undefeated in 1919, the Bulldogs claimed a National Championship. As the Bulldogs were the team to beat, Ralph received requests from other teams to play them and saw the opportunity to organize.

Hays called a meeting in his downtown showroom of three other Ohio franchises, Akron, Cleveland and Dayton forming the American Professional Football Conference. Chosen as secretary, Ralph contacted ten other professional teams to form a true professional league. On September 17, 1920 the ten owners of the teams, Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Dayton, Hammond, Muncie, Rochester, Rock Island, Decatur and Racine met in the Hays Hupmobile showroom using running boards for chairs. They named the league the American Professional Football Assocation and nominated Ralph President. He convinced the organization that Jim Thorpe as President would bring prestige to the association. Thorpe served one year, and was followed by Joe Carr. Later that year Detroit, Buffalo and Columbus were included in the League and in 1922 the Conference changed its name to the National Football League. After winning the NFL title in 1922, Ralph sold the Bulldogs and in 1923 under coach, Guy Chamberlin, Canton won its back to back NFL championships. 

Because of Ralph's early passion for football and his investment in the Bulldogs, his meetings with other owners and his organizational role in developing the NFL on April 27th, 1961 Canton was selected by the NFL as the site for the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

 

 

 


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Canton Greats

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