Village of Camden, Ohio
(written by Mary Reed and updated by Debbie Mason)
Camden is the hub of a rural community, serving the needs of both village residents and our outlying neighbors who farm thousands of acres of fertile fields. Camden is proud of its mostly rural heritage and our citizens help nurture that heritage with involvement in community improvement projects, youth sports programs, civic groups, schools, and diverse religious groups. Most recently, the community has come together to support the restoration of our 1889 Town Hall and Opera House, and are currently investigating options to construct a significant walking path for residents.
The Town Hall was once the center of activity for the village and for many decades hosted concerts, traveling entertainers, basketball games, talent shows, plays, dancing and roller skating (on a hardwood flooring that was salvaged and re-purposed for the present-day renovation). The building had been in use for nearly 100 years before suffering extensive damage by fire in 1988. Today, the Town Hall has been restored and houses the village offices & council meetings room, the Archives and the Camden Police Department. A second phase of renovation and restoration is planned for the top floor of the building, to provide an activity and event area.
Camden is guided by a six-member Village Council, a fiscal officer, village administrator and our Mayor. The town is further supported by a village Police Chief and deputies, and a volunteer fire department and emergency services. Within the village, the council serves more than 2,000 residents with a median household income of $42,277. In the surrounding area, there are 15 “Century Farms” that continue to be family owned and operated.
Camden is a valley community, situated at the intersection of two state highways 127 & 725 and along Seven Mile Creek on the east and a 900 foot hillcrest known as Devil’s Backbone on the west. Devil’s Backbone (along with other hilly areas surround Camden) is a well-known fossil field and is reputed to be the burial site for Miami Indian tribes. Legend has it that during the French and Indian Wars, the area was cursed by Chief Red Turtle with a warning to not disturb the graves, and that he had assigned ghost warriors to be on guard. Some claim they still patrol the area today.
Camden is centrally located in southwest Ohio, in Preble County and near the county seat, Eaton, to the north, the city of Dayton to the east, the city of Hamilton to the south, and the city of Oxford to the west. Many of our citizens are employed in these surrounding cities.
Our valley was once covered by dense forests and was part of hunting grounds shared by many Native American tribes, primarily the Miami Tribe which shares a name with nearby Miami University, located in Oxford. The abundant natural resources like timber and flowing streams quickly led to settlements and one of the earliest known interments was in 1777.
Native Americans roamed the forests and streams in our area until the incursion of settlers who were often following the advancement of General Anthony Wayne, and today, our residents continue to travel Wayne Trace Road and have an opportunity to see an historic marker, commemorating the trail blazed by General Anthony Wayne on his march north from Cincinnati. The trail became the main supply artery for frontier forts to the north. Mail couriers provided service in 1802 along the route, and local papers note that rural mail carriers were asked to whistle, so farmers would not have to listen for the mail wagon.
From sawmills and grist mills that sprang up along Seven Mile Creek, the area was soon settled and in 1818 a settlement known as Dover became a village. The village was later incorporated as Newcomb, and then renamed Camden in 1835 in honor of a Revolutionary War battle. Nearly 200 years ago, the first log school was constructed in 1820.
Our venerable fire department was established in 1866, and now, the Camden-Somers Township Fire & EMS continues to not only serve the village, but participates in local civic and social programs.
In 1889, when our Town Hall and Opera House was constructed, the Fire Dept. was housed on the ground floor. The village “pokey” was at the rear of the building and the original bars are retained on those windows today. The building was open for business just in time for the invention of basketball in 1891, and it hosted many boisterous games under coal oil and gas lighting since electricity did not find its way to the village until 1903. The oldest remaining church was established in 1900 and still stands at the corner of Central and Lafayette Streets. Today there are seven denominations of churches active in our community.
Camden is the birthplace of early 20th Century author Sherwood Anderson, as noted on a historical marker within the village.
A marker noting General Anthony Wayne’s campaign through Ohio is found a short distance outside the village on Wayne’s Trace Road.
From our rural roots, Camden has become a bedroom community for the surrounding cities, and is primarily a service-oriented economy of commuters. Although there are no fast-food enterprises, local restaurants flourish and other service businesses such as auto repair, banking, pharmacy, hardware, salons, antiques, foods and insurance are found along the streets at the heart of the village. Camden Medical Center offers primary care as well as state-of-the-art x-ray and imaging services.
A oft-used village library is part of a thriving county-wide cooperative that fulfills the needs of our citizens. Camden’s Archives are now located in the Town Hall and contains a multitude of historical objects and documents, that are presently being saved “to the cloud” by civic minded volunteers.
Camden is home to Woodland Trails, a 2000-acre Boy Scout retreat, serving more than 15,000 scouts in Southern Ohio. Local G&J Kartway hosted Grand National Go-Kart racing in 1969 and 1990 with international participants from Japan, Canada, Italy.
Prominently located along the western hillside, Cross’s Campground is a popular, scenic camping resort that welcomes visitors to the area year-round.
Hueston Woods State Park is within a short drive from the village as is Rush Run, a 1183 acre, 56 acre lake wildlife area, funded by hunting and fishing licenses.
In the Fall, Camden is the site of the popular Black Walnut Festival, featuring family-oriented fun, a parade, contests and a variety of vendors and food, including our famous Black Walnut Caramels.
Volunteer Civic Groups
These groups support our local activities and are the fabric of much of our social life:
- VFW Post 1577
- VFW Ladies Auxiliary Post 1577
- American Legion Post 377
- Justice Leibolt American Legion Auxiliary
- Camden Lions Club
- Delta Theta Tau Sorority (Delta Gamma Chapter)
- Camden Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons #159
- Camden Independent Order of Odd Fellows
- Somers Rebekah Lodge #125
- Daughters of America Somers Council #213