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September 2004
Bellville, Ohio
 

    Interchange 165 on Interstate 71 is marked as an exit for Bellville and Lexington. Bellville was named for Robert Bell, who laid out the first plat of land in the community. Later, someone must have decided that the name, Bellville, was just too plain. So an “e” was added to the Bell, changing it from a family name to French for “beautiful.” Later, good sense prevailed and that extraneous “e” was removed, but you can still find maps that use the prior spelling.

    During Bellville’s early years, there was no mail service. To get a letter, you had to travel to the post office in Mansfield, a journey that could take the better part of a day. Then, you had to pay the postmaster to get your mail: It cost you $.25 a piece. In today’s dollars, that would come to about three bucks per letter. For that kind of money, the letter had better be good.

    Bellville was the site of an Ohio gold rush. In 1853, Dr. James C. Lee discovered gold while panning in Dead Man’s Run, not far from here. Sounds like a place you’d find gold, doesn’t it: Dead Man’s Run. Well, this touched off lots of excitement but, then, nothing much followed. The gold Dr. Lee discovered was genuine enough, but it was Canadian gold contained in debris pushed down from Canada by a glacier thousands of years before. Apparently, there is no gold native to Ohio. The total value of Bellville gold: about $30. Bellville is not the only place in Ohio where such finds have been recorded.  At least 19 sites in Ohio have reported discoveries of gold, with a similar lack of significant follow through.

    A sidebar: James Lee, credited with starting the Bellville gold rush, was also the village’s first mayor. So maybe his “discovery” didn’t produce much gold; it sure did bring tourists. And for a town, tourists are as good as gold.

For more about Bellville and its surrounding communities, see the cassette for
I-71 South: Cleveland to Mansfield, OH or the CD for I-71 South: Cleveland to Columbus, OH (coming soon)

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