On a Small Town

To municipalities of various sizes, the Ohio River is home. Numerous cities, towns, villages, and hamlets occupy the banks of the 981 miles (1579 km) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois – but this post is about only one of them.

Neville, Ohio is a rural village along the Mighty Ohio in the southern part of my county (Clermont). Other than driving through it several times over the past 40 years, my history with Neville is nil. Founded in 1808 by Gen. Presley Neville, a Revolutionary War veteran. The US government established a post office there in Neville 10 years later – which is still operating today.

From the war memorial, to store names, to officials, certain families have dominated its history – but that’s normal in a small town. By 1880, Neville’s commercial district was vibrant as the population grew to 445.

Being along the Ohio River, Neville has battled its share of floods – especially the major floods of 1913, 1919, 1937, 1964, and 1997. The ‘97 flood the caused more than half of the population to move because, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bought land and demolished buildings so nobody would build again on those locations.

As a village, Neville depended on funding assistance from the Ohio’s Local Government Fund. In 2010, in order to balance the state’s budget, our newly elected governor slashed the fund’s existence. Besides saving the state money, the survival-of-the-fittest approach would force local governments to either streamline their expenditures to become part of the surrounding township or merge with another municipality.

In the last 10 years, about 10 governments have dissolved – the majority since the 2011. Ohio Auditor’s office gave Neville’s mayor a choice: vote to dissolve or eventually face a court-ordered dissolution.

Today, Neville’s population of 100 has a median income of about $31,000. No businesses exist within its boundaries … and the state of Ohio has a budget surplus. This past March 15th, voters in three more villages across Ohio faced the dissolution decision on the ballot.

Somerville (Butler County) will close its doors, but Smithfield (Jefferson County) and Neville thumbed their noses at the state in order to live another day – at least until the next dissolution vote.

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54 thoughts on “On a Small Town

  1. It seems sad, that things have to change with the times, and certainly whose who love that little village will hate to see the change. One can understand, though, why FEMA doesn’t want to keep going to the same rescue, year after year. And even though the government of a place is dissolved, doesn’t it keep its name….and its history?

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    • Cynthia,
      Good question – my guess is that the name stays after a dissolution. The signs may change to include “unincorporated” – but of all the little crossroads places with names, I’ve got the feeling the signs stay … but history can’t be taken away.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. From the outside this story seems harsh for all those smaller municipalities involved. I don’t know of an elected official who hasn’t slashed a line item that face criticism.
    Obviously the thought process was that each municipality must be able to exist or function on its own without state assistance, history be damned. I’m guessing one can make a case for each side if this argument but it doesn’t help the citizens of those municipalities. Thank you for the information.

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  3. Population of 100? Sounds scary for an introvert.

    Interesting to read about this town’s history. So much history around us, and yet many of us don’t take the time to learn it, myself included.

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    • Carrie,
      These small towns had a strong place back in the day, which was long before each of us were even glimmers in our parents eyes. Yet, things change over time. When driving in rural areas, I often wonder about “life back in time” when passing through a very small town. After all, it’s formation has a history.

      Meanwhile, I laughed at your scary comment. On the other hand, introvert bliss because fewer people to be bothered by.

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  4. Frank, there are 183 units in my Manhattan apartment building, so easily twice the population of Neville lives in my one building. I would call this observation food for thought, but maybe it’s more the equivalent of a Rolaid to ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny: as I read this, all I could picture was Mr. Sadler trying to buy up Green Gables from Marilla. Will Anne come to the rescue?

    Like most commenters so far, I’m unsure what to think. I feel for the people of the little town, and I can also see the issue the state faces. As with most things in which I’m not personally involved, I can only assume it’s more complicated all around than I can know. I hope the best thing happens for all. I do think it’s important to preserve our history.

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    • Erik,
      Towns like Neville exist throughout the country – and I imagine different levels of life support. No question, come have already been absorbed by the surrounding township/county, Good news is that history can’t be taken away.

      In terms of the state, what should the state do with the surplus? Assist its communities? Rebate all taxpayers? Invest it? All difficult questions.

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  6. I enjoyed Erik’s comment. (I had totally forgotten Mr. Sadler in Anne of Green Gables.) I also am not sure what to make of your post. There are small towns/boroughs in NJ–some with only 5 or 10 people, but probably many like mine with approximately 3,000. My borough shares police services with another town now.

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    • Merril,
      I grew up in a town of about 3000 – although I believe it’s under 2,000 today. Although a rural area, there is another town next to it as the corporation signs are separated by a matter of feet. From what I understand, the other town financially struggles more than mine. With deep rooted histories, I imagine consolidation talks cause hairs to stand up … after all, the schools did that almost 50 years ago – and some still have their shorts in a knot on that one. However, neither of the towns are what they once were.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. How sad, I love small towns, and we are currently looking for our new home in exactly that type of community (or in the forest surrounded by trees). When we take the road trip to Quebec, or north for camping, we try to take the not so common route, just so we can venture through the small towns, with so much history there, it is not something to forget.

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    • Catherine,
      Regardless what happens, history can’t be taken away. I grew up in a small town, but they come in different varieties. In this case, Neville is much smaller than that – after all, no businesses are there, therefore the only employer is the small post office.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true, I do wonder though, how many of us take the time to visit these places, and the plagues that are placed in such places. With our travelling we have seen the most fascinating things, and I have learned quite a lot more about our history (or reminded of the lost memory, due to age.)

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        • In order to clarify the size, small villages like Neville are numerous across the globe. One can stand at a small plaque or monument and wonder about the past while looking around and seeing many empty buildings and limited to no immediate human activity – yet, at the same time, wondering about and imagining the past.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Having passed through Neville, OH, many times on the grinding way to Cincinnati along Rt. 52 from Portsmouth, OH, before the construction of the Rt. 32 Appalachian Highway (and made even longer if there was a traffic jam after a horse race at River Downs), I never gave a thought to stopping to explore the village and its history. From your post I’m putting it on my Top 100 Bucket List in combination with my planned trip this summer to visit the John Rankin House in Ripley, OH.

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  9. It’s sad that Neville is in such decline… Its been through so much.. Thank you for sharing this piece of History .. So many villages here in the UK have lost their village industries, shops and post offices ..
    Have a good week Frank

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  10. Ohio is so beautiful as you fly over it, but I remember images of many of those floods. IF only we could learn to redirect/control flood water…(maybe someday like with perfection of solar energy – both resources may be critical before long)
    It is so sad to see the decline and disappearance of so many small towns here, too.
    It all comes down to money now – making it and costs. Didn’t know Ohio had a state fund to support small towns.(Will telecommunting ever kick in enough to save small places?)
    Enjoyed the history and glimpse of our past

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  11. Sad to read about the dissolution of this village – I’ve read about many across the US. I expect it will probably happen in Maine at some point, many small towns with small population and each having their own school system. At some point they can’t keep raising taxes on the townspeople. Perhaps Neville and others in its predicament will find that moving in with another township might enrich their well being and who knows heritage as well.

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    • Mary,
      Very said and this story is symbolic for so many villages around the country. In Neville’s case, they didn’t dissolve … well, at least not yet – but it’s probably a matter of time. The area is very rural, and Neville should fit in with the surrounding area.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true, Frank, and I was thinking along those lines after posting my comment. I think that as I’m getting older, I find myself being more and more interested in the past… but does that mean I should hang on to it? Half of me thinks yes, things must stay as they have always been… but then we’d have no progress at all. Can’t win either way really! 🙂

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  12. Wow. I did not realize this kind of thing went on today. I knew during the dust bowl days people were moved off their land but didn’t realize these dissolutions were a modern thing. Thanks, Frank.

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  13. A melancholic sign of the times. That rivers joins our two states- two states that have seen numerous river towns go by the wayside as industry has shifted, grown and moved away altogether. Ghost towns, real life ones with great stories if one takes the time to learn more.

    Thank you for this Frank.

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  14. I feel so badly for the people of Neville. Perhaps this happens in other states, too, but I’m unfamiliar with the practice. I’m not really sure I even understand it. In California there are cities and counties that go bankrupt, and I’m never exactly sure how it is they still keep going, but they don’t disappear or get taken over by a neighboring town. This is interesting, Frank. I like learning more about other regions and how differently problems are handled.

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