Getting To The Center of Centerville, Ohio

Centerville (aka Thurman), Gallia County, Ohio, is one of four towns that are, or have been called Centerville in the state, Aug. 19th, 2017. Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

How many Centervilles, does it take to get to the center of Ohio?

We all know that there are hundreds upon hundreds of towns with a street named Main. And thanks to the Simpsons, we know there are quite a few Springfields in America (33 in 25 different states). In general though it’s a pretty strong belief that each town is unique for its state. Or is it?

Many of you know I’m a sucker for historical markers, but maps may have been my first love. What really makes them great isn’t that they just get you places, but you get to discover things without even going to a place. So as I’m traveling, or cataloguing the photos I’ve taken, looking at maps is something I do often.

Welcome to Centerville, Gallia County, Ohio, this old barn sits right off U.S. Route 35 and is your reference point if you’re entering the town from the east, Aug. 19th, 2017. Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

Few things get me more excited than a good place name too. Grand Detour, Illinois? Yes, please, I’m turning to go there. Blue Earth County, Minnesota. Sign me up. Smith Center, Kansas (geographic center of the lower 48 states), you had me at hello. So while driving along U.S. Route 35 in southern Ohio, you know I’m going to turn off when I see a town called Centerville.

With an estimated population of 99 (as of 2017), Centerville, also known as Thurman (more on that later), didn’t have much to photograph. A cute old general store (Ruff’s Grocery) which wasn’t open when I drove through, a vacant school building that looks to be private property now, along with some homes, a post office and the old barn I photographed on the way in. Going through Centerville was a pretty quick trip.

What I did find interesting about Centerville/Thurman, happened later on when I searched the name the results came back for a much larger town. The town of Centerville in Montgomery County. A suburb of Dayton with over 22,000 residents. I doubled checked my notes thinking that maybe Centerville had a unique spelling like “Centreville”, but my notes and the GPS tag took me to a location on the map called “Centerville.”

Ruff’s Grocery in Centerville (aka Thurman), Ohio.

After a little searching I noticing a subtle link in the Wikipedia page on Centerville in Montgomery County, which is where I came across the fact that there are no less than 4 areas in Ohio that are currently, or have been referred to as Centerville. The first two are mentioned above, but all are hold overs from a time before U.S. Board of Geographic Names was formed in 1890.

The third would be Centerville of Belmont County, which was a community that was formed 1817 as the geographic center of Smith Township. While you won’t find Centerville marked on the map, all roads seem to lead to where it was. Including Centerville Jacobsburg Rd, Belmont Centerville Rd, Centerville Warnock Rd, and Armstrong Centerville Rd, which lead to the intersection of a community that houses the Centerville Fire Department.

The fourth town is currently know as Lees Creek in Clinton County, which has been called that since 1816, but was originally known as Centerville. There seems to be no current markers designating anything in that area with the name Centerville.

A fifth location in Ohio named Centerville was platted in 1851 on the edge of Wayne & Holmes County. Today it is nothing more than a few house at an intersection on teh county line, but if you take Main Street south out of Sherve, you’ll run into Centerville Rd which will take you there if you head west.

It appears that since the Centervilles of Wayne and Belmont Counties never incorporated and Lees Creek switched from the original Centerville name, the Board of Geographic Names never had to rule on their existence. However since both teh remaining towns were around before 1890, Centerville in Gallia County platted in 1835 and the larger Centerville in Montgomery County, by Dayton was formed in 1796, the board did rule on which one got to keep the Centerville name and it was the one in Montgomery County.

Red dots mark the 5 locations of Centervilles in Ohio.

I wasn’t able to find any information on why the board chose how it did, although I’m sure being larger and founded first weighed heavily into the decision. The end result is the smaller Centerville was in for a name change and that name became Thurman. A Wikipedia entry also makes reference to the village being recognized as Ridgeway by the board and a reference to the spelling possibly being “Centreville” at one point.

A map from the early 1900s I have clearly shows Thurman, but modern day electronic maps show Centerville as teh town in Gallia County, Ohio.

While my paper Rand McNally U.S. Atlases lists Thurman, and a vintage map from the early 1900s also lists Thurman, to this day a trip through the town can still be a little confusing as the post office refers to both Thurman and Centerville and the of course with the two most common maps used now days being Google & Apple, whom both list Centerville, not Thurman, you have to wonder if Thurman will need to change some street signs soon.

I think what might be even more surprising than giant tech companies on the West Coast messing up maps in Middle America, is that not one of the Centervilles is near that actual center of Ohio.

BONUS: The Simpsons did it!

While Wisconsin has at least 5 populated places in the state that go by the name Springfield, Ohio has a total of 11 Springfield Townships in the state.

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