While most historians associate the name of the City of Heath with the Pure Oil Refinery located within the city’s boundaries, few provide knowledge of the man whose name the city bears. Fletcher Heath had a brilliant financial mind, devoted most of his life to the study and practice of banking and finance, and served as a leader in the organization and management of larger corporations for forty years. He was born in Delaware County, Indiana, on December 31, 1863; married Bessie McCullough on January 20, 1897; and died in Oxford, Ohio, on August 30, 1936, from heart trouble and other complications. While Mr. Heath visited the local refinery, he never lived within Licking County.
In 1888, Fletcher Heath helped to organize the Miami Valley National Bank in Hamilton, Ohio; later served as vice president of the Seventh National Bank of New York City; and by 1914, joined forces with B. G. Dawes to form the Ohio Cities Gas Company. From the time Fletcher Heath met B. G. Dawes in the mid-1890s, the two complimented each other’s work. Together they purchased a number of rundown gas and electric properties throughout the country, rehabilitated them, and placed the properties on a profitable basis within twenty years. In the summer of 1913, they worked to resuscitate the Columbus Gas & Fuel Company, acquired a competing gas company in Columbus, and purchased the Springfield Gas Company. Two years later they also acquired the Dayton Gas Company. Along with what was originally known as the Newark Gas and Coke Company, the companies acquired by Fletcher Heath and B. G. Dawes became the Ohio Cities Gas Company from which the Pure Oil Company emerged.
In 1920, an oil refinery was constructed in Newark Township-South and began operation twenty-four hours a day without interruption. Since it was a tradition not to have two places named after the Dawes family, the new refinery took on the name of Heath. Eventually, even the railroad station located near the refinery became known as the Heath station. As time passed and residents of Newark Township-South decided in 1951-52 to incorporate, the identification with the Heath Refinery led to citizens naming the newly incorporated eight square miles the Village of Heath.
Fletcher Heath served as the financial director in charge of the legal, corporate, and accounting operations as well as vice president, secretary, and treasurer of the Ohio Cities Gas Company until 1927. Within a mere twenty-two years, he helped to guide the growth of the Pure Oil Company to fifty times its original size. Because his arduous duties demanded relief, he eventually relinquished the posts of treasurer and secretary, leaving him still to serve as director and vice president until his death.
Fletcher Heath was not only an astute financial advisor, but also a man whose tremendous knowledge commanded respect from scores of great men throughout this nation. Known by all to be a quiet, modest, and unassuming individual, he shunned the limelight. Only once was he pictured in the Pure Oil News during his lifetime, and that was without his knowledge. He was vitally interested in education and community efforts and contributed generously to both. In fact, he was known for his generosity and benevolence; and though he had no children of his own, he helped many young men in Oxford, Ohio, begin a business career. Those who knew him best said his cordial greeting, his cheerful smile, his unfailing wit, and his helping hand at all times would serve as a legacy for future generations. To show the high esteem in which Mr. Heath was held in his home community, all business houses were closed during the hour of his funeral and the city flag was at half-mast for two days. In addition to these honors, all Pure Oil telegraph lines were silent for five minutes during the funeral hour as a fitting tribute to a man who had served the company so devotedly.
We in the City of Heath are proud of the accomplishments of the man whose name the city bears and strive to demonstrate the traditions of progressiveness, educational and civic devotion, and cordiality that reflect Fletcher Heath.