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History of Yellow Springs

Soon after Ohio became a state in 1803, Lewis Davis built the first log cabin in the Yellow Springs area. He went on to establish a trading post and general store serving those who were visiting the nearby medicinal springs. In 1827, Elisha Mills purchased the land, added more buildings, and established a flourishing health resort. This was continued by the Neff family in 1842 ultimately created a popular and sophisticated spa, later (1869), a magnificent but ill-fated hotel. During that time, as many as 5,000 people were known to visit the springs on a given summer weekend.

Judge William Mills, Elisha Mills' son, is recognized as the "founder" of the Village of Yellow Springs, which initially consisted of some 700 lots and 37 streets. The Mills plan for the Village has not been significantly altered in over 100 years. The planning of three 15-20-acre parks and other open spaces, such as gardens incorporated into this plan, shows that the value of open space was present from the Village's inception. By the mid 1850's, a flour mill, a grain elevator, two general stores, and a hotel were located at the intersection of Dayton and Corry Streets. Unfortunately, a series of disastrous fires wiped out some of these buildings just before the turn of the century. These events caused a gradual relocation of the business district to its present location along Xenia Avenue.

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The arrival of the Little Miami Railroad (1846) and the founding of Antioch, under the leadership of Horace Mann (1853)-both results of Mill’s entrepreneurial skill-began a period of rapid growth in the Village. Antioch, the first college to give an equal education to both men and women, originally consisted of the main building and two dormitories (North and South Halls.) The presidency of Arthur Morgan (1920’s) would be a turning point in its development and influence.

The arrival and settlement of the Conway Colony during the Civil War era added significantly to the Village's history; later, Yellow Springs would become one of the first towns to desegregate its schools. In 1929, the 900-acre parcel known as Glen Helen was donated to the college by Hugh Taylor Birch, a friend of Arthur Morgan. This helped create a philosophy of appreciation for the natural environment and strong advocacy for protecting surrounding open lands that have remained an important part of the Village.

In 1920 Yellow Springs was a quiet, conservative community with a population that for 50 years had fluctuated between 1,200 and 1,400 persons, consisting mostly of retired farmers. During that time, Antioch College had declined to a few dozen students and was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Village had no public water supply or sewer system and only two streets had superficial pavement.


The arrival of Arthur E. Morgan as president of Antioch College marked an important point in the life of the Village. Through his leadership and the conscious effort of residents, the college was rebuilt and the community transformed itself from a sleepy town into a flourishing village. His vision of the small town brought faculty and entrepreneurial leadership to the community.


The late 1940s and 50s saw the influx of many new students at the college, the expansion of activity at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and general economic conditions improved. This generated pressure to expand the village housing stock. Such developments as West Wood and Fair Acres took place north of Yellow Springs-Fairfield Pike. By the end of the 1960s, the population of the village was edging toward 5,000. The point at which village would become a city.

There were deep and general feelings that the Village of Yellow Springs did not want to become a city. This had happened to neighbor communities. This could drastically alter the character of the village. This would overshadow the rural small-town history of the community. The residents felt it was important to maintain the historic, small-town values of our village.

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