Opening up the Way for Settlement
At the close of the Revolutionary War, the newly formed United States found itself with a shortage of currency, but possessing an abundance of land west and north of the Ohio River. Thus, the Congress paid its veterans with land grants of up to 100 acres in the Northwest Territory. With the settlement of the Greenville Treaty, settlement began to take place in what is now Morrow County.
In signing the Greenville Treaty, Native Americans gave up their lands south of a line that bisects Cardington along Boundary Street. Settlement began in the Cardington area after 1814 when the area was surveyed by John Milligan. Around the same year John and Jacob Foust cut a road from Delaware to Mansfield, thus opening the area for immigration.
The Countryside is Too Quiet
A wagon maker from Vermont made his way to this area, after finding farming life in Peru Township too quiet for his tastes. Isaac Bunker was reputed to be an ambitious, energetic man, accustomed to the bustle of eastern cities. After exploring the land, he settled on a site on the Whetstone River where he built a cabin in 1822. During the next five years, he constructed a brush dam across the river, errected grist and saw mills, a wagon shop, smithy, and foundry. The foundry is considered to be the county's first industrial enterprise.
Even before a village was laid out at Cardington, the settlement began establishing itself as a community. In 1823, the Quakers formed a school on the east edge of the township on what is now Rt. 42, and a post office was established in 1826. A library was established in 1830 by Slocum Bunker and his neighbors, although it was discontinued after a short time for lack of funds with which to purchase new books. The Ladies Public Library was created sometime around 1883.
By the time Cardington was laid out as a village in 1836, the village had numerous commercial establishments and several homes.
An era of growth and prosperity began in 1850 when William Shunk began to lobby village officials to allow railroad lines to pass through town. The railroad had been pledged to Mt. Gilead which failed to make good on its pledges of $50,000 in stock. One account claims that Shunk, already a successful businessman, sold the idea based on how much money the town could make.
Land leases and rights-of-way were sold, track was laid. An 1851 map shows the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad passing north through the western edge of the Village. The first year the CC&C operated through Cardington, its tax revenue to the Village was nearly $26,000!
Almost as quickly as the railroad was built, Cardington's skyline grew to include numerous three-story hotels, mercantiles, and many fashionable homes. Two hotels were established to handle the influx of train passengers stopping overnight who alighted from the trains to walk through a tree-lined park. The businesses needed to support a thriving agricultural economy continued to flourish as the railroad enabled farmers to transport their products to destinations north, east, and west. By 1900 the population of Cardington was 1300.
Cardington's skyline was forever altered on the afternoon of June 13, 1981 when a tornado ripped through town, destroying 100 year old commercial buildings and homes. Four people were killed and damages were estimated at $2,000,000.
Today: On the Move
Cardington is presently in the midsts of its second period of rapid growth. Driven by large industrial manufacturers, which provide a strong tax and employment base for the community, as well as population growth from Franklin and Delaware Counties, Cardington is entering a new era.
Residential and commercial development growth is increasing every year. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population of Cardington grew 5% between 2000 and 2003.