Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Christian Heyl: A First Settler of Columbus

Johann Christian Heyl (1788-1877), the first German and first Lutheran to settle in Columbus, was one of the original fifteen settlers of the city. A baker by trade, Heyl came to bake for the soldiers quartered in Franklinton during the War of 1812.

Christian married Esther Alspach (1792–1867) on May 8, 1814. He founded the city's first Lutheran Church and helped financially underwrite the German Theological Seminary, which later became Capital University.

An early civic leader, Heyl served on Columbus' City Council for fourteen years, was County Treasurer for eight years and an associate judge in the Court of Common Pleas for fourteen years. He was appointed to the first public school board and was the first chief of the Columbus Fire Department. His Sunbury Road home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Christian Heyl operated a hostelry at Rich and High streets for twenty-eight years in the early 1800s, first known as the Swan and later as Franklin House. Due to its close proximity to the Statehouse and location just north of the entrance to the National Road on High Street, it was a popular stop for members of the General Assembly and center of many civic events.

One notable event was the Great Squirrel Hunt. Heyl organized the hunt at a time when squirrels were overrunning Columbus and farmers' crops were threatened. On Saturday, August 31, 1822, at two in the afternoon, hunters gathered at the Franklin House and within hours collected 19,600 squirrel scalps.

Christian Heyl lived a good long life, passed December 3, 1877 and on Sunday, October 19, 2003, the Ohio Historical Society honored Judge Heyl by placing a Historical Marker in his honor in the courtyard of the Franklin County Courthouse in downtown Columbus. There is a street, Heyl Avenue and a school, Heyl Elementary, named after him.

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