VILLAGE WAS INCORPORATED IN YEAR 1846
OBERLIN SOCIETY WAS GOVERNING BODY FOR 13 YEARS
LOUIS HOLTSLANDER FIRST ELECTED MAYOR AND HENRY F. SMITH THE LAST
Oberlin, NOW OPERATING UNDER A CITY MANAGER FORM OF GOVERNMENT, THE MOST MODERN IN THESE DAYS, BEGAN ITS CAREER IN THE EARLY DAYS WITH A FORM OF GOVERNMENT MORE OR LESS UNIQUE IN CHARACTER AND MANUFACTURED AS DEVELOPMENTS DEMANDED. Prior to the incorporation of the village in 1846 there existed a township government for the trying of criminal offenses, but government of the village was in the hands of the Oberlin Society, a voluntary organization made up of early colonists and primarily planned for the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs.
The Oberlin Society was incorporated in February 1834. Some of its early actions were recommending employment of a minister for the village church, defeating a proposal that all colonists were at liberty to act with charter members of the association, defeating a motion to abandon the charter, considering a resolution for the incorporation of the village, selecting an individual to oversee the making and repairing of all roads in the village, appointing a committee to consider "the extent to which the charter of this society may be safely used under which to transact business." In this same year the society named a committee "to explore the route from Oberlin to the mouth of Black River and estimate if possible if it would be practicable to petition for a railroad from here to that place."
The Society did not attempt to pass formal ordinances but went on record in 1835 in a resolution saying: "We disapprove of permitting swine to run at large." A committee from the Society acted with the college in the laying out of the original burying place there. Our forefathers contented themselves for one year with their disapproval of permitting swine to run at large and then in March of 1836 passed a resolution attempting to govern such cases. In this same year assessors were named to lay a tax on property for the support of the pastor and for other necessary expense of the Society. In July of 1836 the Society took steps to raise $200 toward the construction of a road to Pittsfield. In August of this year Asahel Munger was directed to secure four ladders, two hooks, and two axes and deposit them in a public place for fire protection. The efforts of the Society were supplemented by meetings of colonists of the character of the town meeting of the early New England states. At these meetings resolutions were passed attempting to govern the sale of land in the village, promoting the interests of the schools, condemning the use of tobacco as "inconsistent with principles of this institution and the gospel" and later condemning the sale of tea and coffee.
On one or two occasions prior to the incorporation of the village by the Legislature in 1846, appeal was made by Oberlin residents for an action of this kind. The need was felt for a government of an elective character reflecting in greater degree the desires and opinions of all the citizens. Prejudice on the part of members of the Legislature toward Oberlin College and Colony, because of village attitude on the Negro question, delayed the final incorporation of the town. At the first election under the Charter Lewis Holtslander was chosen as mayor, serving for two years. Professor James H. Fairchild, later president of Oberlin College, was a member of the first council. Nominations were made by a town caucus, there being no party ballot in that day. This custom prevailed for more than seventy years.
As might have been expected of the Oberlin of early days, the second ordinance passed by council provided a penalty for selling liquor in the village. The first measure created the necessary officers for the transacting of business. One of the early ordinances provided a minimum fine of fifty cents for playing marbles in the streets.
In 1856, ten years after the village was chartered, there were only fourteen ordinances on the records, which shows a state of sanity on the part of the council, which might well by followed by higher legislative bodies in these times. In 1861 the total number of enactments was thirty-two. There are now more than one hundred and fifty ordinances of a permanent character on the village books.
Following is a list of those who have served as mayor of Oberlin since the village was chartered. They are given in order of their service: Lewis Holtslander, Isaac Jennings, O. R. Ryder, J. W. Merrill, Uriah Thompson, James Dascomb, David Brokaw, A. N. Beecher, Samuel Hendry, J. M. Ellis, Samuel Plumb, E. J. Goodrich, G. W. Shurtleff, W. H. Backus, Montraville Stone, George F. Hutchins, J. B. T. Marsh, J. B. Clarke, Charles A. Metcalf, Arden Dale, O. F. Carter, A. G. Comings, Alfred Fauver, M. G. Dick, Joseph Wolfe, C. P. Doolittle, J. D. Yocom, W. H. Phillips, H. F. Smith.
The Civil War time mayors were Samuel Hendry, J. M. Ellis, and Samuel Plumb. Their service covered the years from 1860 to 1865 inclusive. Arden Dale, Alfred Fauver, Joseph Wolfe, and O. F. Carter died while in office. Alfred Fauver had the longest term of continuous service. He was elected in 1896 and served until his death in 1904. J. D. Yocom served 1912-1918. H. F. Smith was the last elected mayor of the village.
At the general election in 1923 the city manager plan for Oberlin was approved by the voters by a vote of 540 to 423. The proposal which had the active support of the League of Women voters was mildly opposed by the majority of the Oberlin businessmen. The proposal was first made by Honorable A. G. Comings, a former mayor of the village and one of its most distinguished citizens. The plan was also ably supported by Professor Karl F. Geiser, of the faculty of Oberlin College, who was elected to the first council under the new system. It was necessary to plan and approve a Charter before the city manager form went into effect and the Federal plan under which the village had operated for many years came to a close with the year 1925. In December of that year Don Herrick of Albion, Michigan, was named as the first city manager. J. L. Edwards was made chairman of council and served as police justice. He was followed in this position by J. N. Stone, Earl R. Morris and Charles R. Comings. City manager Herrick tendered his resignation in February 1928, and was succeeded by L. A. Sears of Albion, Michigan, who still holds the position of city manager.
The present council is composed of Charles R. Comings, Walter Walker, Edward J. Sable, George F. Broadwell, and Professor J. C. McCullough. Mr. McCullough has been absent on leave from his work in the college and the village for about one year.