Brownhelm Township, Lorain County, Ohio

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Brownhelm Township, Lorain County, Ohio
Location of Brownhelm Township in Lorain County
Location of Brownhelm Township in Lorain County
Coordinates: 41°24′12″N 82°19′1″W / 41.40333°N 82.31694°W / 41.40333; -82.31694Coordinates: 41°24′12″N 82°19′1″W / 41.40333°N 82.31694°W / 41.40333; -82.31694
Country United States
State Ohio
County Lorain
 • Total 20.2 sq mi (52.2 km2)
 • Land 20.0 sq mi (51.9 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0.4 km2)
Elevation[1] 653 ft (199 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 7,782
 • Density 388.7/sq mi (150.1/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 44001
Area code(s) 440
FIPS code 39-09568[2]
GNIS feature ID 1086503[1]

Brownhelm Township is one of the eighteen townships of Lorain County, Ohio, United States. The 2000 census found 7,782 people in the township, 1,792 of whom lived in the unincorporated portions of the township.[3] Brownhelm was the first local government of any kind in the United States to elect a black man to public office; on April 2, 1855, John Mercer Langston, a black man from Virginia, became town clerk. He later became a United States Congressman.[4]


Located in northwestern Lorain County along the shores of Lake Erie, it borders the following townships and city:

Parts of the city of Vermilion are located in northern Brownhelm Township.

Name and history[edit]

  • Named by Col. Henry Brown, who had purchased this entire township in 1816 (at that time it being known only as "Town(ship) No. 6, in Range 19", a part of "Huron County" Ohio ). Col. Brown was "at the helm" of the settlement, and so he named his township 'Brownhelm'. (A later prominent local-historian denied the truth of the name's meaning, and instead theorized that the 'helm' was "undoubtedly" derived "from 'ham' an Old-Saxon word for home"; so most current historians simply repeat that historian's theory. But Col. Brown deserves full credit for indeed being "at the helm" of his planned community, and also for his choosing the name of his settlement to reflect that.) Most of the first settlers to his new community, had also come from Col. Brown's former home of Stockbridge, Mass. In addition to being "at the helm" of his pioneer settlement, Col. Brown became an Assistant-Judge of Lorain County, and was also instrumental in helping to organize two of the local colleges, Oberlin College ( he was also their first acting-President), and Western Reserve College (now named Case Western Reserve University).
  • The first settler arrived here in Fall of 1816, single young man Peter P. Pease (who later, with his wife and family, were also the first settlers in the village of Oberlin, Ohio). Stephen James and his sons, in June 1817, were the first family to arrive, although his daughters arrived in July, in company with the Levi Shepard family. Col. Henry Brown and his family was delayed in relocating from Stockbridge to his new settlement, until May 1818; by then, about a dozen families had already arrived here.
  • In 1855, Brownhelm Township gained notoriety throughout the U.S., when the township elected an African-American to government office. (The NY 'Syracuse Daily Journal', May 31, 1855, reported that "John Mercer Langston, a fugitive slave, has been elected clerk in Brownhelm township in Ohio"). Brownhelm's early residents had long been known for their strong anti-slavery stance; and Col. Henry Brown's home on the Lake shore, was often a final stop here on the "Underground Railway" before reaching Canada by boat.

[sources: County records and property-deeds of Huron County and Lorain County Ohio; and History of Lorain County, Williams 1879.]

Notable natives[edit]


The township is governed by a three-member board of trustees, who are elected in November of odd-numbered years to a four-year term beginning on the following January 1. Two are elected in the year after the presidential election and one is elected in the year before it. There is also an elected township fiscal officer,[5] who serves a four-year term beginning on April 1 of the year after the election, which is held in November of the year before the presidential election. Vacancies in the fiscal officership or on the board of trustees are filled by the remaining trustees.


  1. ^ a b "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ Lorain County, Ohio — Population by Places Estimates Ohio State University, 2007. Accessed 14 May 2007.
  4. ^ Kevin Merida, "The 'Obama before Obama'", The Washington Post, 7 June 2008. Accessed 26 Nov 2008.
  5. ^ §503.24, §505.01, and §507.01 of the Ohio Revised Code. Accessed 4/30/2009.

External links[edit]