Village of Camden, Ohio by Mary Reed
Our village 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. At present, the community has come together to help restore our 1889 Town Hall and Opera House.
The town hall was the center of entertainment for the village for many decades, hosting basketball, talent contests, plays, dancing and skating – on the hardwood floor that has been salvaged and re-purposed for the present-day renovation. The building was in use for nearly 100 years but was extensively damaged by fire in 1988. Today, the Town Hall is being majestically restored with state-of-the-art communications and features and will once again become the heart of the village
Camden is guided by a six-member Village Council, a clerk/treasurer, and our Mayor, and is further supported by a village Police Chief and deputy, and a volunteer fire department and emergency squad. Within the village, the council serves 2,041 citizens with median household incomes of $42,277. In the surrounding area, there are 15 “Century Farms” that continue to be family owned and farmed.
Camden is a valley community, centered on two state highways and lies between Seven Mile Creek on the east and a 900 foot mountain known as Devil’s Backbone on the West. Devil’s Backbone is a well-known fossil field and is a burial site for Miami Indian tribes. During the French and Indian Wars, the area was cursed by Chief Red Turtle with a warning to not disturb the graves, and as legend has it, he assigned ghost warriors to be on guard, and who still patrol the area.
We are centrally located in Southwest Ohio, surrounded by the City of Eaton to the North, City of Dayton to the East, 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 tribes, primarily the Miami Tribe which has given its name to 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, as the Camden Volunteer Fire Dept., continues to not only serve the village, but also 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 eight denominations of churches active in our community.
In 1933, Camden native Myron Scott, founded the Soapbox Derby and is credited with naming Chevrolet’s Corvette sports car. A WPA project in 1935 created a water and sewer system to bring the village into the modern era.
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, 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 well-used village library is part of thriving county-wide cooperative that fulfills the needs of our citizens, and it also houses an archive of historical objects 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, and G&J Kartway, which 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 Black Walnut Festival, featuring family oriented fun with parades, 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 Chamber of Commerce
- 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