Early Days of Norwalk
In 1816, the first plat of the village of Norwalk was surveyed by Almon Ruggles. This plat was altered to become the blocks along Main Street approximately from Church and Case east to about Prospect. In 1819 this plat was approved by the Common Pleas Court as far east as Milan and Woodlawn.
Platt Benedict was the first to permanently settle in the village of Norwalk in 1817, along with his wife Sally de Forest Benedict and their five children. He encouraged “mechanics” (carpenters, masons, cabinet makers, etc) to come to the new village. In 1818, Platt Benedict was named Postmaster.
Norwalk’s first weekly paper, The Norwalk Reporter, was issued in 1827. It merged with the new paper of the time, The Reflector, in 1830.
Norwalk village was incorporated in 1828. Sixty-nine men voted in the first election in 1828, when James Williams was elected the first mayor. An attorney by trade, Mr. Williams lived for many years in a frame house on the site of the Norwalk Theatre on East Main Street.
By the time the federal census of 1830 was taken, the population of Norwalk village had grown to 310. In 1831, Platt Benedict led a group of men and boys to dig up maples in the woods and plant them along Main Street. Twenty years later the town became known as The Maple City.
The 1880 federal census counted 5,704 people in Norwalk, which entitled the community to change its designation from “village” to “city” in 1881.
The Growth of Commerce
In 1833, the Bank of Norwalk opened with stock of $100,000. John Gardiner was its first clerk, who started the Norwalk National Bank in 1865, a direct ancestor of the Citizens Banking Company.
The Milan Canal opened in 1839, and plank roads were built across northern Ohio to facilitate moving grain wagons to and from Milan. The roads and canal brought retail trade for Norwalk merchants. In 1853, the Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland Railroad opened through Norwalk on the near north side. This became the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and eventually the New York Central & Penn Central. The 1853 railroad was the last link in the New York to Chicago rail system.