The Western Reserve was sparsely populated until the War of 1812. Word reached America in January of 1815 that the Treaty of Ghent had ended hostilities with England and Lake Erie was no longer a war zone. In June1815, David Stearns of Vermont became the first permanent white settler in what is today North Olmsted. (The site of his farm is marked with a plaque on the north side of Lorain Road, just west of Stearns Road.) Traveling for the first time through the region known as Butternut Ridge, Stearns saw "one vast field of wild flowers in full bloom, and so high that we could just see over them nicely when on our horses." Stearns' closest neighbor was James Geer who lived in the southwestern corner of the township. They spent the Fourth of July in 1816 clearing a two-mile trail from the Stearns farm to River Road (Columbia Road) on the western edge of Rocky River Valley. This crude path in the wilderness was the origin of Butternut Ridge Road which eventually extended into Lorain County.
A year later, the Briggs family arrived from Guilford, Vermont with their six children, Thomas and Abiah Briggs settled on land east of the Stearns homestead. Briggs would serve with Stearns as an officer in Lenox Town-ship which became Olmsted Township in 1830. Treasurer in 1828, Briggs and Postmaster Elias Frost in 1831 were Overseers for the Poor. In 1836 and 1843, Amos Briggs, a son, held the same position in the township.
A carpenter from Troy, New York, John Ames came to Olmsted in 1834. Two years later, Thomas Briggs hired him to build a new home to replace his cabin. Ames used the Greek Revival style which was popular in the nation during the early 19th Century. (Americans saw the style as symbolic of the ancient Athenian roots of their democracy.) Characteristics of the Greek Revival in the Briggs House include a symmetrical design, low-pitched gabled roof and front porch with columns. Typically, in northern Ohio, the houses' front was the gabled end with a roof line which formed a classical pediment. Ames built another Greek Revival house that survives today on Butternut Ridge Road. Variations of the style can be seen in two other structures which Ames helped to build: the Universalist Church on Porter Road in North Olmsted and the Barton Road Church.
The Briggs House remained in the family for over 130 years until being given to the society and moved to Frostville in 1969. Olmsted Historical Society members, Marion (Elliot) Crider and her brother, Will Elliot, are descendants of Thomas Briggs. Another member, Harry Crider, courted Marion while she lived in the house. Robert Crider, like his parents is also active in the society. He has made generous donations to restore the Barton Road Church.
The Briggs House today is a museum primarily displaying exhibits from the nation's wars. Karl Bartz's diorama of the prison on Johnson's Island is the center piece of the Civil War Room. The sixteen and a half acre prison was located in Sandusky Bay. During the prison's three and a half years of existence, over 10,000 Confederate officers spent time behind the stockade walls. Nearly 300 died and are buried in the Confederate Cemetery, today the only government owned land on the island. The 128th Ohio Volunteer Infantry guarded the prisoners. A local farmer serving with the regiment, William McDowell later joined Olmsted Post #634 of the Grand Army of the Republic which had a membership exceeding 70 veterans from Olmsted, Dover, Rockport, Middleburg and Columbia townships.
A number of artifacts unearthed by Bartz from Johnson's Island and Fredricksburg, Virginia are on display. Among the items of local Union soldiers are tintypes, Bibles, discharge papers and GAR medals. A private in the 15th Ohio Battery, Henry C. Merriam can be seen in one of the tintypes. He came down with chronic diarrhea while taking part in the Atlanta Campaign. Transferred from Georgia to a hospital in Indiana, Merriam died at the age of 17 years and was brought home for burial in Butternut Ridge Cemetery. Cassius V. Briggs, a descendant of Thomas Briggs, also served in the 15th Ohio Battery. Another victim of disease, he died in Bowling Green, Kentucky on January 10, 1863 Others in the cemetery who died from wounds or disease are Tracy Barns, Gilbert Fitch, William Lewis, Loring Stearns, Mortimer Paddock, Davis Webster and Ben Thompson. There is a headstone for Curtis Thompson, but he was buried in Tennessee. A total of 80 Civil War veterans are interned in North Olmsted's Butternut Ridge and Coe Ridge cemeteries. In Olmsted Falls, there are eleven veterans in Chestnut Grove and St. Mary's Church graveyards.