Little Ohio: A Nostalgic Look at the Buckeye State's Smallest Towns

Little Ohio: A Nostalgic Look at the Buckeye State's Smallest Towns

by Karen Robertson


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Ohio’s small towns have great stories.

Little Ohio presents 100 of the state’s tiniest towns and most miniature villages. With populations under 500, these charming and unique locations dot the entire state—from Lake Seneca in the Northwest corner to Neville, bordering the Ohio River and the state of Kentucky. Little Ohio even ventures into Lake Erie, telling the story of Put-in-Bay.

The selected locations help readers to appreciate the broader history of small-town life in Ohio. Yet each featured town boasts a distinct narrative, as unique as the citizens who call these places home. Some villages offer hundreds of years of history, such as Tarlton, laid out before Ohio had even gained statehood. Others were built with more expedience, such as Yankee Lake, a town that was incorporated simply so its founder could host dances on Sundays without breaking state law.

With full-color photographs, fun facts, and fascinating details about every locale, it’s almost as if you’re walking down Main Street, waving hello to folks who know you by name. These residents are innovators, hard workers, and—most of all—good neighbors. They’re people who have piled into small school houses to wait out roaring flood waters, rebuilt after disastrous fires took their homes, and captured bandits straight out of the Wild West.

Little Ohio, written by lifelong resident Karen Robertson, is for anyone who grew up in a small town and for everyone who takes pride in being called an Ohioan. It’s one book with one hundred places to love.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781591938491
Publisher: Adventure Publications, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/26/2019
Series: Tiny Towns
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 568,349
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Karen Robertson is proud to have been born and raised just outside the historic city of Cleveland, Ohio. Trading in the shores of Lake Erie for the banks of the Olentangy, Karen earned her master’s degree in Public History from the Ohio State University in 2015. She currently works as the Assistant Curator of Manuscripts at the Ohio History Connection, where she enjoys sharing the stories of Ohio's amazing history each day. When she isn't reading and writing about the past, Karen enjoys diving into a new board game with her husband, Jake, lacing up her tennis shoes for a run, or exploring the depths of her Netflix queue.

Read an Excerpt

63 Approx Founding: 1816

As a child, Governor James Middleton Cox’s parents taught him and his siblings that the saloon in the village was a negative influence. The Cox children weren’t even allowed to have playing cards in their house when growing up. As Cox said, “the diversion was usually history and geography tests.” Cox took this lesson to heart, and as Governor, he had the saloon in Jacksonburg “condemned as a fire menace and torn down by the state marshal.”

A Rural Lifestyle

Jacksonburg, Ohio, has been one of the smallest incorporated villages in the state for quite some time. Jacksonburg residents are interviewed often by local and national media because of their place on Ohio’s smallest village list. At its height, the village held 302 people, but by 1900 the population was 77. In 2000, it was around 67. While Jacksonburg is mostly populated by descendants of earlier citizens, the village also draws the occasional new resident looking for a rural way of life. Even as some residents leave, the population is maintained by this interest in the quiet, intimate lifestyle Jacksonburg provides.

Very few people run for office in Jacksonburg, and council seats are normally filled by write-ins. However, Jacksonburg is not ready to give up its politically independent status. As Mayor Michael Sword once told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “we want to keep the town’s identity.” Sword has been mayor since 1980.

Luckily for Jacksonburg’s residents, almost the entire village remains zoned A-1 by Wayne Township. Because of this, homes can only be built on two-acre plots, limiting the amount of development that can encroach upon this rural way of life.

From Jacksonburg to Columbus: A Governor is Born

The best-known citizen of Jacksonburg was James Middleton Cox, Ohio’s 46th and 48th governor. Cox was a lifelong Democrat, writing in his memoir that “there must have been some Democrats in the vicinity” when Jacksonburg was named, due to its taking of the name of President Andrew Jackson. Cox also served in the House of Representatives, and in 1920, he ran against Warren G. Harding for President of the United States (Harding was educated in another small town, Iberia, featured on page 88). The two men had quite a bit in common. Both were from Ohio, and both were known for successful careers in the newspaper business. Unfortunately for Cox, it was Harding that won the election.

James Middleton Cox was born in Jacksonburg in 1870. Both of his parents had also grown up in the small village. Cox maintained his grandfather’s family home well into his adulthood. Cox worked hard as a young boy on his parents’ farm, also taking on salaried positions as a janitor at his school and a sexton at his church by the age of 10. Despite the hard work, Cox maintained many positive memories of his child- hood, including running barefoot in the summer with “stone bruises,” maple sugar season, trips to Elk Creek for baptisms, McGuffey Readers from the nearby city of Oxford, and cold Sundays at church services hoping the wood fire would burn warmer.

As Cox describes it, he just happened to take the Butler County teacher’s examination on a whim. Surprised, he earned a two-year certificate, and Cox began teaching while delivering newspapers for his brother-in-law on Saturdays. Cox quickly switched gears and began working at the newspaper full-time, because, as he wrote, “printer’s ink had moved in my blood.” Beginning with the purchase of the Dayton Evening News in 1898, Cox built a media company that still provides daily news for much of Ohio’s Miami Valley.

Cox left a mark on the entire state of Ohio during his time as governor, but he also left a very personal mark on his hometown of Jacksonburg. A religious man since his childhood, Cox helped the Jacksonburg United Methodist Church build a new sanctuary in 1924, replacing the building where Cox had spent many a cold Sunday as a child. Based upon a gothic-style building Cox had seen in England, the building is still in use today.

Fifty Stagecoaches Each Night

Jacksonburg was first laid out in February 1816. The village quickly boomed, becoming an important stagecoach station on the path between Darke and Preble Counties and the city of Cincinnati. Upwards of 50 stagecoaches could be found at any given night outside Jacksonburg’s two hotels in the early nineteenth century. The town grew to accommodate its boom, at one point even providing a home to four tailors.

Technology quickly changed, and canals and railroads ruled the transportation industry. By the late 1800s, Jacksonburg’s economic boom had come to an end. The village transitioned into the quiet, rural hometown that it is today.

An Impromptu School Reunion

In 2013, upon the demolition of the Wayne School in Jacksonburg, a handful of former students showed up outside the construction gates to share memories. A construction worker unexpectedly found a time capsule buried by students almost 100 years earlier, in 1914. When the time capsule was opened and photographs found inside, one man on site exclaimed, “Hey, that’s my grandfather!”

Unfortunately, former students also shared a few sad memories of their time at Wayne School. In 1977, just over the Ohio River past Cincinnati, a deadly fire occurred at the Beverly Hills Supper Club on Memorial Day weekend. Thirteen of Jacksonburg’s residents perished in this fire, including an entire third of the Wayne School staff. Former students reminiscing around the construction site in 2013 recalled the impact these men and women had made on their lives.

When James Cox ran for the presidency against Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt served as Cox’s running mate. It was quite a star-studded campaign. Of the four men on the ticket (Cox with running mate Roosevelt and Harding with running mate Calvin Coolidge), only Cox would never make it to the Oval Office.

Table of Contents



Locator Map


  • Adelphi
  • Amesville
  • Beallsville
  • Belle Valley
  • Benton Ridge
  • Bentonville
  • Beulah Beach
  • Blandensburg
  • Bowersville
  • Brady Lake
  • Camp Dennison
  • Celeryville
  • Chesterhill
  • Chesterville
  • Clifton
  • Coalton
  • College Corner
  • Conesville
  • Coolville
  • Corwin
  • Cynthiana
  • Damascus
  • Deersville
  • East Fultonham
  • East Liberty
  • Flat Rock
  • Fletcher
  • Fort Jennings
  • Fort Seneca
  • Freeport
  • Fresno
  • Gilboa
  • Gist Settlement
  • Glenmont
  • Gratiot
  • Hanoverton
  • Harbor View
  • Harrod
  • Hartford
  • Holiday City
  • Hollansburg
  • Iberia
  • Jacksonburg
  • Kilbourne
  • Kipton
  • Lake Seneca
  • Leesville
  • Linndale
  • Lockbourne
  • Lockington
  • Lower Salem
  • Magnetic Springs
  • Martinsburg
  • Miamiville
  • Milledgeville
  • Millfield
  • Moscow
  • Mount Eaton
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Murray City
  • Neville
  • New Haven
  • New Riegel
  • New Weston
  • North Star
  • Norwich
  • Octa
  • Old Fort
  • Otway
  • Polk
  • Pulaski
  • Put-in-Bay
  • Quaker City
  • Rarden
  • Rockbridge
  • Rogers
  • Rudolph
  • Rushville
  • Rutland
  • Saint Johns
  • Savannah
  • Sinking Spring
  • South Vienna
  • Stafford
  • Stockdale
  • Sugar Bush Knolls
  • Sulphur Springs
  • Tarlton
  • Tiro
  • Unionville Center
  • Vaughnsville
  • Venedocia
  • West Farmington
  • Wharton
  • Willshire
  • Wilmot
  • Yankee Lake
  • Zaleski
  • Zanesfield
  • Zoar


Towns/Villages and their Respective Counties

About the Author

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