What’s in a name? Plenty here, if you were a Vail

MIDDLETOWN — The man Stephen Vail Middle School was named after wasn’t in the area long — seven years or so — but without his presence, there likely wouldn’t have been a Middletown at all.

The school named after Middletown’s founder will undergo a name change before next year. In a tight spot financially, the board of education recently approved a plan to carve over $5 million out of next year’s budget. Part of the plan includes the closing of George Verity Middle School, consolidating the seventh and eighth grades into what is now Vail Middle school. Verity’s closure is expected to save approximately $1.15 million per year, district officials have said.

To signify a new era and to get things off on level footing, a name change has been recommended for Vail.

But Stephen Vail’s legacy in Butler County is intact. Already 65 years old, Vail arrived in the area with his sons in 1800. Coming from New Jersey, he was the first to draw a plat of the city, and was the one to name it “Middletown.”

“Before Vail, this was just kind of a little stopping place along the Great Miami River,” said local historian Sam Ashworth. “There wasn’t much here.”

After arriving, Vail built mills on both sides of the Great Miami. Two years after he settled down in the area, he created an early layout of what would eventually become Middletown. He took the plat to the Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati, filing it there because there was no Butler County at the time.

In naming the town, Ashworth said Vail had obvious indicators in front of him. First, the location was right in between the Ohio cities of Cincinnati and Dayton. Second, Vail was from Middletown, N.J.

The city, now known as Middletown Twp., is located on the east end of the Garden State. NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams and rock musician Jon Bon Jovi also call it home.

After naming the city, Vail placed an advertisement in the Cincinnati newspaper about land for sale in Middletown. It was the first time the city’s name had ever appeared in print, Ashworth said.

Thus, the migration to the Middletown area began. Ashworth said the original town, only about four blocks, was largely comprised of what is now Main Street.

Ashworth said Vail died around age 70, but his sons and descendents owned land in the area of town which now enrolls students to Vail Middle School.

Today, the district is thinking of renaming the building Middletown Middle School, but are still taking suggestions from the public for possible alternatives.

Suggestions are to emailed to Vail Principal Michael Valenti at mvalenti@middletowncityschools.com.

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