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one of the first African American country clubs in the United States

The Big Walnut Country Club location

The Big Walnut Country Club was located in Gahanna, Ohio. North of the Big Walnut Creek and Rocky Fork Creek intersection was a triangle of 18 acres where you would have found the Club. 


Records show this section was originally two parcels, but with similar histories, owners, and transfers.


During the Club’s operation, the owners of the two parcels were listed as Nimrod Allen, a founder of the Club, and the Rocky Fork Outing Club, which formed in 1925.




The two parcels where the Club was located, were owned by William Jones. His daughter, Cora Thurman (Jones), was the first African American graduate of Gahanna high school in 1913.


Prior to the establishment of the Big Walnut Country Club, William Arthur Method, Charles E. Jones, Elijah Arthur Calloway, and Leroy Hayes Godman formed an administrative body called the Rocky Fork Outing Club.


The Big Walnut Country Club filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Ohio "For the purpose of encouraging and promoting interest in aquatic and athletic sports by providing means and facilities for the accommodation, recreation, physical culture, pleasure, amusement and social intercourse of its members and their guests; and the acquiring by purchase, lease or otherwise of club-house, club-rooms and other equipment”. The Articles of Incorporation document was signed by founders, Nimrod Booker Allen, Charles E. Jones, John P. Bowles, Leroy Hayes Godman, William Arthur Method, William J. Woodlin, R. Milton Tribbitt.

The Big Walnut Country Club manager was Clifton Jones. 


The Club manager/director was Ernest Tate. Tate died October 25, 1955. His obituary was published in the Columbus Dispatch on October 26. Some local residents have a theory that when Tate passed away, the Club could not maintain operations and closed shortly after.


A Statement of Continued Existence was filed with the Secretary of State by the Rocky Fork Outing Club. Ray E. Hughes was listed as the Club's Statutory Agent. 

It is unclear exactly when and why the Big Walnut County Club ceased operation, but after failing to receive a statement of continued existence, the Secretary of State issued a cancellation of the Big Walnut Country Club.

theories why the Club ceased operation

Various theories offered by Gahanna residents and past members: 

  • Country Club poem, by O’Dell Simpson, 1983. The Columbus Metropolitan Library provided a copy of this poem titled "Country Club." It talks about a Country Club in Gahanna, which "had to quit taking Black people's cash...The State passed a new law they had kept stashed."


  • Club’s manager/director, Ernest Tate’s passing

  • A Deed of Easement was issued in 1960 for $1.00 to the Village of Gahanna. Some visitors to the Club recall discussions about an easement that ultimately restricted access to the driveway, parking lot, and club grounds and ultimately caused the closure of the Club. 


The Gahanna Park Board submitted a letter to the Gahanna Planning Commission requesting the land be designated for park usage.

A Statement of Continued Existence was filed with the Secretary of State by the Rocky Fork Outing Club. Ray E. Hughes was listed as the Club's Statutory Agent. 


The Franklin County Auditor listed John W. Johnson as the owner of both parcels where the Big Walnut Country Club was located. 


The Gahanna Law Director, Benjamin L. Clark,  sent a letter to Lawrence R. Curtis, the attorney administering the estate of John W. Johnson, Sr. expressing interest in acquiring the 18 2/3 acre piece of land to use for a park.


The land went to John W. Johnson’s children, John W. Johnson, Jr. and Joan Chischester.


November 24, the Franklin County Auditor listed the land as owned by the Village of Gahanna. 


The Village of Gahanna opened its first park, Friendship Park.

The Ohio Secretary of state issued a notice of cancellation to Ray Hughes, for the Rocky Fork Outing Club, after years of inactivity.


Today, you a can visit the site, which is now Friendship Park, located at 150 Oklahoma Ave. Gahanna, OH 43230. Owned and operated by the City of Gahanna

The Gahanna Historical Society is always seeking new members -- with your help,

we can grow and achieve more than we ever have before.  Click here to learn more!

to the following organizations for helping complete this project


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