Photo courtesy of Vanessa L. McColly
Photo courtesy of Mike Wheeler
Meetings are the 3rd Monday of each month @ 7:30pm - Contact @ 419-310-5168
The village of Whartonsburg owes its initial start to the I.B. & W.R. Railroad. This beautiful clearing adjacent to the tracks was laid out by Samuel Rathburn in 1848. James B. James opened the first store, and also became the first postmaster of the Whartonsburg Post Office on July 20, 1852. What Mr. James also both promoted and advanced made his other accomplishments seem pale and paltry in comparison. You see, Mr. James mastered a nearly unique handshake. His firm grip and prolonged shake sealed the deal on many of his business transactions. It wasn’t just the hand, but the straight forward eye contact that solidified the business agreement. He expected no less from the person whose hand was being shaken.
In business agreements, it meant that a signed contract was no more valid in his mind. Both newcomers and friends soon realized the true significance of the “Wharton Shake”.
Dr. W. Chase understood the “Wharton Shake” and the value it added; enough so that he became the town’s first physician. John Sterling built the first mill, two additional sawmills, and the Wharton Boarding House were all solidified by that legendary “Wharton Shake”. The Whartonsburg Post Office closed on July 20, 1879, then opened on the next morning as the Wharton Post Office. The exchange of handshakes served as official notice that this tradition would transcend any trivial name change.
Well before 1900, both the Methodist Church and the Church of God promoted that hometown handshake as a Sunday morning ritual. That friendly extended hand almost seemed to whisper “I wish you and your family the blessings of health and prosperity”, whether you are in your Sunday best or in work clothes. It forged a bond which converted humans into neighbors, and neighbors into a tight knit community.
Today, while most of those old Wharton businesses exist only in the etchings of a previous time and dim photographs cherished by elders, both those two churches and the magnificent “Wharton Handshake” have not only endured, but prospered. Every year, we add new words to the dictionary and alter the old tried and true phrases to meet our current needs. Isn’t it nice to take comfort in knowing that the old handshake quietly proclaims a value as solid today as ever. And that commitment to being a good neighbor has embedded itself so deeply into fabric and fiber of Wharton and so many Wyandot County communities.
Yes, those of us who are even remotely connected with the village of Wharton have watched neighbors give without remembering and others who have received without forgetting. I suppose that serves to remind us that both mastering and abiding by the true meaning of the “Wharton Handshake” will forever be an asset of immeasurable value to all neighbors everywhere.
Officials of the Village of Wharton
- Mayor - Keith R. Kauble
- Clerk/Treasurer - Sally Grubbs