By VICKIE MAYER
Venedocia’s official website proclaims the village to be the smallest in Ohio to have its own web page.
The site sprang to life in 1996 and, at that time, did establish the municipality as the first in either Van Wert County or neighboring Allen County, Ohio, to have one. Charles Good, the site’s creator, said that in 1996 he came across a book on basic HTML coding and decided it would be a fun public service to create a website about the village. He planned to show off its Welsh history and give residents a way to keep up to date on current events and local government.
“I went before the village council with my idea and told them that it would cost them nothing. They said ‘go for it.’” And he did.
Good is a semiretired Ohio State University of Lima professor. He moved to the village in 1977, with his wife, to raise their children.
Today, he continues to oversee the site because he considers it to be his service to the community.
“I’ve been given access to all the village archives and have scanned and posted all documents that I think might have some historical interest. For example, village council minutes all the way back to 1922 are available at www.venedocia.org,” he said.
Acting as webmaster and providing the public with access to historical documents has been a labor of love, and the community has nothing but good things to say about his efforts. The site has also proven useful to genealogy enthusiasts working on their family trees.
Venedocia occupies about one quarter square mile in area. It was settled around 1848 and incorporated in 1897 by immigrants from Wales who were looking for religious freedom and new opportunities. Many of these settlers encouraged others to take a chance on a new life in settlements in the U.S. as well.
One of them, Edward Bebb, is credited with establishing the town. His son, William Bebb, grew up to be the 19th governor, the 14th elected governor and the third native Ohioan to hold the office. The venedocia.org website has compiled detailed accountings of these first residents’ arduous tasks of clearing the land and warding off wild animals to carve out a good life on the frontier.
That heritage is still cherished and celebrated. The Welsh festival of song, Gymanfu Ganu, takes place every year on the Sunday evening of Labor Day weekend and has been an annual event since at least 1915. It’s the biggest event of the year in Venedocia. The festival’s origin can be traced back to the 12th Century in Wales, where the singing of hymns in four-part harmony began. During Gymanfu Ganu, people from all over Ohio and many other states swell the village to several times its usual population of just under 150.
Many say that they found their way to the event via the web page. Also available on the site are links to Wales and the Welsh culture. For visitors who would like to view the website in Welsh, a machine-generated translation is offered too.
A very inexpensive and pleasant place to live, Venedocia collects no local income tax and local valuation assessments are rather low. The village government adds to the pleasant atmosphere wherever it can. Snow plows not only plow the streets, for example, but also plow out the entrance to private driveways of village residents at no additional cost.
Originally www.venedocia.org was hosted by a free web hosting service, which was limited with respect to the size of their free sites and the types of files it would support. Because of the limitations, and at Good’s request, the village council agreed to pay for domain registration and web hosting to the tune of about $300 every five years. Good thinks that amount is low enough that it shouldn’t prohibit other communities, however small, from using the web to showcase what their towns have to offer.