Founded in 1842
Albany was incorporated as a village in 1842. The small rural village became one of several stops in Athens County for the Underground Railroad, as fugitives could come upriver on the Hocking River from the Ohio River. Free blacks, many of whom had migrated from the Upper South to escape its discrimination, also settled in the village in the mid-19th century.
To ensure the education of their children, African Americans from the county and state founded the private Albany Enterprise Academy in 1862. It was the first school in Athens County founded exclusively by and for African Americans. It operated until 1886. Founders included leaders of the black community such as Thomas Jefferson Furguson (co-founder of the Ohio Colored Teacher’s Association, member of the Albany City Council, and the first black to serve on a jury in Athens County), Cornelius Berry (father of Edward Berry of the Berry Hotel), Philip Clay, David Norman, Woodrow Wiley, and Jackson Wiley. A two-story building was constructed, and the school opened in 1864, with 49 students already enrolled.
The Enterprise Academy had in “excess of one hundred students” in its early years of operation (for comparison, about the same number then enrolled at Ohio University at the same time). With the increase in students, a second building for a girl’s dormitory was built in 1870. By the late 1870s, many blacks had left the area for work in larger cities and local public integrated schools were available. As a result, the Enterprise Academy suffered declining enrollment; it closed in 1886.
Find out more about the Enterprise Academy at this website.
In the predawn hours of May 2, 1911, one of the most disastrous fires to ever happen in the village destroyed an entire block in downtown Albany. Six stores, a hotel, and several residences burned to the ground. A strong wind helped the fire grow throughout the wood-framed structures. Within just an hour and a half all of the buildings on that side of Main Street were destroyed except for the post office and telephone building. The heat was so intense that buildings across the street were threatened and many windows were broken. Scores of men worked several hours to contain the fire and keep it from spreading further.
14 years earlier the other side of this block burned and most of those buildings were rebuilt with brick structures.