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The History of Centerburg, Ohio

Visitors to the tiny village of Centerburg, Ohio are often charmed by its small-town atmosphere. But what many people don't know is that this historic community has a rich and fascinating history that goes back more than two centuries. From its early days as a thriving pioneer settlement, to its current status as a growing village, Centerburg has always been a unique and special place. Here is a brief overview of the village history.

A Brief History of Centerburg, Ohio:
The Founding

The history of Centerburg and Hilliar Township dates back to the post-Revolutionary War era. In 1796, the area was surveyed and set aside by the government as military bounty land. Land warrants were issued to compensate people who served in the Revolutionary War.

Some people believe that the first white man to live in Knox County was Andy Craig in 1804. Right after Ohio became a state, he settled down one half mile east of Mt. Vernon near Centre Run and the Kokosing River. He stayed there for 5 or 6 years.

Doctor Richard Hilliar, a migrant from England and educated in New York City, was not only the first settler in Centerburg, but the first physician as well. 

Hilliar was an energetic man who dreamed of developing and owning new territory. So with his wife, Anna and their five children, they loaded a covered wagon and traveled west in 1805. The journey was long and weary with dangers of Indians, bears and uncut roads and the Hilliars ended up in Zanesville. Not satisfied with that location, Hilliar struck out on his own, riding horseback, searching for many days of travel Hilliar came to this area to be known as Centerburg.


Dr. Hilliar liked what he saw when he purchased 1800 acres of military land from William Stanbery of Newark. The land had huge walnut and maple trees as well as running streams. He quickly built a log cabin in the southwest corner of Hilliar Township. Once his family arrived, he worked on clearing the land around his cabin.


The entire area was heavily forested in all directions, so people used trails that were made by animals or Native Americans and streams to travel. After roads were developed in 1809, the area began to grow. In 1810, settlers east of Mt. Liberty requested a road be built to Mt. Vernon which was granted. 


In August of 1818 Hilliar Township was established. The first election in the new township was September 15, 1818. There were 18 voters and they determined to vote as a block so as to give the township more clout. The voters included Jacob, James and William Houck, Joseph Jennings, John Borden, Benjamin Hilliar, Samuel Sickle, James Bell, James and John Sevete, Aaron Hill and John Davis. In 1822 there were 12 votes cast and 1832 showed 40 voters. By 1840 the population of the township was 1012. 

Edward Harkness surveyed and Stephen Sutton and Jacob Houck recorded the town of Centerburg in 1830. The original name of "Centreburgh" was chosen because it was located in the center of the township as well as the center of the state. Residents felt that it might become the capital of Ohio due to its ideal location.. The spelling of Centerburg changed sometime after 1893 when the "h" was first dropped. To this day, it is supposedly the only Centerburg in the entire United States.


In 1810, James and Jacob Houck, Joseph Jennings, George Hinton, Joseph Kerr, William Russell, William Reynolds, John Borden, and Elijah Dowell came to the area to hunt bears. They liked the area and decided to stay. Hilliar sold each of them plots of lands they selected.

The Houcks purchased a large plot of land from Dr. Hilliar and started Houck Settlement in the area of Dill Road and State Route 3. The first graveyard was established and is still there today.

Dr. Hilliar didn't get to enjoy his new home for very long. He got sick with tuberculosis and dropsy and passed away in September of 1811. He chose his own gravesite on his land near a cherry tree in the woods about 30 rods southwest of the Sunbury road (3-C highway). When he died, he was buried there without a marker, at his request. Hilliar said he didn't want anyone to say "Here lies old Doc Hilliar." He was the first person recorded as dying here and it was a tragic blow to the tiny settlement but the others forged on.

Accreditations & Sources

  • Special Thanks to

    • Candy McCraken & "A History Centerburg, Ohio" Publication Contributors



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