Although the Village of Bexley formally dates from 1908, the earliest known people to pass through the area were Native Americans referred to as the Adena. Artifacts of these people were discovered in a mound in the late 1800s near Alum Creek in the vicinity of what is now Wolfe Park. These items, carbon dated to 1 A.D and on loan from the Ohio History Connection, are displayed at the Bexley Historical Society.
Some of the earliest recorded white settlers to the area were David and Margaret Nelson and their children. In the late 1790s they built a log cabin and sawmill along Alum Creek. Later ancestors of the family built a brick home, which still stands on North Nelson Road.
Capital University and Camp Bushnell are two entities which can be identified as spurring the development of the area that became Bexley. Capital moved from downtown Columbus to land just east of Alum Creek in 1876. As the university grew, the population around the school also grew. One of the first buildings built on campus was Lehmann Hall, which was named in honor of Rev. Dr. Frederick Lehmann, president of Capital University at the time of the school’s relocation. Lehmann was a campus landmark from 1876-1989. Where it once stood is now Capital’s Front Lawn, an area used for university and community events.
Sunday visitors arrive at Camp Bushnell
In 1898, Camp Bushnell, named for Ohio Governor Asa Bushnell, was established as a mobilization camp for soldiers preparing for the Spanish-American War. To accommodate the almost 15,000+ soldiers brought to this tent city, water and sewer lines had to be installed. This infrastructure helped spur development once the camp was disbanded. The camp covered about 500 acres and was centered near Broad Street and Magnolia Avenue (now Drexel Avenue). Camp Bushnell in full operation from mid-April, 1898 to the end of May, 1898 and on a smaller scale from mid-June to August, 1898.
The Jeffrey home, designed by architect Frank Packard and completed in 1905, was home to Robert and Alice Jeffrey and their children. In 1941, the residence and its 34 acres were donated to the City of Bexley for community and recreational use.
By 1908, those living in the area surrounding Capital University determined that there was sufficient population to incorporate as a village. The homeowners north of Broad Street asked to be included. These two groups met on the terrace of the Jeffrey home. The residents from the university area proposed Village of Pleasant Ridge as the name for the new community, while James Kilbourne, whose home was on North Parkview Avenue, suggested Village of Bexley. Col. Kilbourne’s ancestors lived in Bexley, near London, England.
This map, taken from a larger map by Edie Mae Herrel, shows the western boundary of Bexley following the 1909 annexation
Bexley’s western boundary line, the center of Alum Creek from Livingston Avenue to north of Broad Street, was set at the time of the village incorporation in 1908. In 1909, a portion of land on South Parkview along with additional acreage west to Alum Creek, was annexed to Columbus. Some years later, only the Parkview Avenue acreage was annexed back into Bexley.
Bexley was declared a city in 1932 following the certification of the 1930 census. The northern, southern and western boundaries remained fairly close to those which were in place from the early years of the village. Cassady Avenue was the 1908 eastern edge of the village. Annexations saw that line move until the center of Gould Road became Bexley’s eastern limit.
Stephen Ludwig, mayor (1922-1936) at the time the village became a city, commented on the growth of the city,“Bexley,… went from a wide place in the road into a beautiful, well-governed, residential city, second to none in Ohio.”
-Nancy Beck, Bexley Historical Society
Mayors of Bexley
Village of Bexley Frank P. Holtzman 1908 - 1914 F.D. Chamberlain 1914 James T. Shepard 1915 Dr. A. C. Wolfe 1916 - 1921 Village of Bexley and City of Bexley Stephen E. Ludwig 1921 - 1936 City of Bexley William A. Schneider 1936 - 1967 Kenneth McClure 1967 - 1974 David Madison 1974 - 2008 John Brennan 2008 - 2012 Benjamin J. Kessler 2012 -