Originally called Drakesburg Square after settler Orasumus Drake, who arrived there in 1829, it was whittled down to about a third of an acre over the decades.
The remaining bit is roughly across state Route 88 from the Dollar General store, and most of it is taken up by the highway, former trustee John Zizka said.
“According to all records, including the tax maps, we owned it, but over the years there was never a deed produced for it,” former trustee Roy Martin said.
The original size of land was larger, and because adjoining property owners were in some cases using it and even building on it, the trustees asked the county prosecutor’s office to untangle the mess.
A judge ordered deeds to be created, which in turn allowed the trustees to sell bits of the land to the neighbors.
“There was no benefit to the township. It wasn’t big enough to build anything on it or do anything with,” Martin said.
“There’s a few feet on the northwest corner that is still ours, but the state has use of it. We did not get a deed for it,” Martin said. “We wanted the state to take that because that’s actually the [state Route 88] right of way, but the state wouldn’t take ownership of it, so that’s still kind of in limbo.”
According to Martin, the state “just didn’t want to do all the paperwork. They know it’s there.”
More kindly, Trustee Jeff Derthick said the lack of paperwork could be considered mere oversight. A resident who owns adjoining property is maintaining it, and is considering taking ownership via a quitclaim deed. If he gets it, his side yard will get bigger, even if by just those few feet, Derthick said.
“We’re not going to do anything. It doesn’t bother us in any way, shape or form,” Martin said.
Deedless township squares, circles or triangles may be more common than people know.
“The people owned the ground. There was never a deed. It was just on a map, but nobody ever did the paperwork to get a deed because the citizens owned it,” Derthick said.
Portage County Assistant Prosecutor Brett Bencze has worked on these cases and said the same.
“A lot of these townships have these very old public squares where title may or may not be clear. It seems like they typically don’t find out until there’s an issue and people go looking for it,” he said.