Groveport was created from two rival villages, Rarey’s Port and Wirt’s Grove, located on the Ohio and Erie Canal. No one could agree to the name of the new village, so in a compromise both names were combined to form Groveport . In those days, Groveport was home to world famous John Rarey, the original horse whisperer, widely known for his humane training techniques for horses.
Policing in Groveport began with the Village’s incorporation in 1847 when the newly formed Village Council appointed William James as the first Town Marshal. Reflecting the roughness of a canal era town, the village soon passed ordinances making it unlawful to race horses, fight, brawl, quarrel,shoot guns or otherwise disturb the peace of the village. They also built a calaboose (jail) which included a fenced in lot, where the Marshal could impound and sell any animals that he found running loose.
Early Marshals were either elected or appointed to serve one or two year terms. During times of increased needs, deputy marshals were appointed to assist the Marshal. Marshals were paid about seventy-five dollars a year. Due to the low pay, many of the early Marshals also held other jobs to supplement their incomes. Some served as Street Commissioners, watered down Main Street to keep the dust down in the summer months and turned the bridge over the Ohio and Erie Canal on Main Street, so the canal boats could pass. They also maintained and repaired the street lights on Main Street, lighting the oil lamps each night and extinguishing them at sun rise. Some even worked as custodians for Town Hall. Marshals continued to serve Groveport in either a full or part time basis until the mid 1960’s when growth in the village and at the nearby Lockbourne Air force Base led to concerns about traffic and crime in Groveport.
In 1966 Groveport abandoned its Marshal system and hired Albert Whipple as the village’s first Chief of Police. Chief Whipple is credited with building the Police Department from scratch. During his first year as Chief, he changed the name of the department from Town Marshals to Groveport Police. He also created a training academy for new officers, and established an auxiliary police force to supplement the full time officers. Chief Whipple secured a contract with the Madison Township trustees to provide police services for the entire township from 1968 thru 1971. Then known as the Groveport-Madison Police, our officers were responsible for protecting all of Madison Township including Canal Winchester. This doubled the force to ten full and part time officers and three full time dispatchers. Madison Township formed its own police department in 1972, leaving our officers to patrol within the village limits.
Whipple, an avid pilot brought in Paul W. Tibbetts as the “Pilot” for the department. Tibbetts was the famous World War II pilot that flew the Enola Gay and dropped the atomic bomb that ended the war, saving countless American lives. Tibbetts helped train the officers with firearms and pistol qualifications.
The Groveport Police Department staffing remained the same for several years, consisting of six or seven full time officers with a number of reserve and part-time officers to supplement coverage. Then in the early 1980’s the sleepy village of about 2500 people experienced a dynamic growth spurt that continues today. Our proximity to Rickenbacker International Airport and its associated Free Trade Zones has allowed Groveport to grow through the years. The village experienced growth by annexing land and forming several large industrial complexes and new residential housing. Groveport is home to several large companies including Staber Industries, Fed-Ex, Eddie Bauer, The Gap, Cardinal Health, Build-a-Bear, Kubota, Forward Air Freight, Komar Industries, and American Electric Power.
Today, the Groveport Police Department consists of twenty four (24) full time sworn personnel, four part time/Reserve Officers and two civilian employees. Groveport is a city with more than 5300 residents and covering over nine (9) square miles of territory and includes 88 lane miles of roadway. Groveport has been positioned for success since its founding. From the early days of the Ohio and Erie Canal to the Railroads, and inter-state highways to the world wide access of Rickenbacker International Airport, Groveport remains a cross-roads for transportation and commerce.
The City of Groveport and the Division of Police have a long history in Franklin County. We are interested in adding pictures, artifacts, and print information to our collection. If you have anything that will add to our history books please contact our police department historian, Officer Ernie Bell, at [email protected].