When Driving down South Broadway Street in New Philadelphia today you don’t see too many remaining residences; however, one that does survive is connected to a family with historic roots in Tuscarawas County.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
Christian Espich (1766-1842) was born in Germany in 1766 where, in his youth, he attended seminary and learned medicine with plans to travel to America. He arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1786 and in 1788 he married Elizabeth Troxall (1768-1832). The couple moved to the Lehigh Valley where Christian took a post as a minister with the Lutheran church. The Espich’s moved west into Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania by 1800 where they lived for several years before they moved to New Philadelphia, Tuscarawas County in 1808. The couple, with their six children, built a log home on the “lower end” of Broadway near the river where he established the first Lutheran church in New Philadelphia in his home.
Christian and Elizabeth’s household in New Philadelphia included five sons and one daughter. Christian continued to minister in and around the county, served as a surgeon in an Ohio militia unit during the War of 1812, and served for a time as the county auditor. One of their sons, Charles Frederick Espich (1795-1868), married Rebecca Thomas (1902-1893) in 1821 and established himself as a successful landlord and hotelier in the city. Their family included six children born between 1824 and 1844; three daughters and three sons. The youngest of their sons was named Charles T. Espich (1830-1882).
Charles’ adventurous and patriotic streak showed itself when, at the age of 16, he enlisted as a musician in the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment called up to serve in the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848. Charles served with his regiment at its post along the Rio Grande River at Camargo, Mexico where it performed escort duty between there and Monterrey, Mexico. The regiment also took part in the fighting at the battles of Agua Fria and Buena Vista. After the war, Charles returned home to New Philadelphia where he lived and worked with his father until his marriage to Isabella Reneker (1839-1926) in 1861.
A month before he married Isabella, Charles enlisted for service during the Civil War as a Musician with the Regimental Band for the 51`st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He was only in this role a short while before taking a commission as a Lieutenant in the 80th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in December 1861. While he was away, Isabella gave birth to the couple’s only child, a son named Charles Wadsworth Espich (1862-1945). Charles served for a year before being discharged due to disability. He returned home to his family in the fall of 1862.
Charles’ military experience in two wars found him suitable for the post of town marshal and day watchman for the city, a role he performed for a number of years during the 1860s and 1870s. Charles, Isabella and their son acquired the property on the west side of the 200 block of South Broadway, a portion of Lot 9, sometime after his father’s death in 1868 and before 1876 (the year given in a later newspaper obituary). It is unclear if there was already a house on that lot when they purchased it, but the earliest map of the lot done in 1892 shows two frame homes fronting South Broadway on that lot.
The Espich house was depicted on the 1892 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map much as it is today; a two story frame house though without a porch. The same footprint is found on later Sanborne Fire Insurance Maps with the notable addition of the front porch added sometime before 1901. Given the era in which the house was likely built, it was probably built as a loosely interpreted version of the colonial revival style of architecture, though it resembles closely houses considered “National” style or the later popular “Four Square” style. It has the pyramidal, hipped roof and full-width front porch common of all these styles.
Charles Espich did not reside in the home on South Broadway for long though, dying unexpectedly in the spring of 1882 from heart failure. Isabella continued to live in the house after her husband’s death, though for a short while in the 1890s, she lived with her son Charles in Arkansas. Charles had married in 1893 and he and his family had relocated to Arkansas to pursue a career as a merchant. He eventually returned to New Philadelphia and, after 1910, took up residence with his family at his mother’s home on South Broadway.
When Isabella Reneker Espich died in March 1926 at the age of 87, the news of her death warranted almost a full column on the front page of the New Philadelphia Daily Times. Her longevity and her connection to one of the city’s first settler families, and her own family’s long history in the county, connected her to the city’s past in a way many other residents could not. Isabella died in the house “where she had resided for fifty years” and was the last of the Espich family to live there. After her death the house passed out of the family, but its association to New Philadelphia’s early history remains to this day.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.