Each town had its own stores, churches, schools, halls, post offices, and organizations. Each enjoyed periods of growth and suffered through floods, fires, and depressions. All survived the earthquakes of 1868 and 1906. Niles enjoyed a period of excitement from 1912 to 1916 when the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company made silent movies there. Bronco Billy, Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Evelyn Selbie, Wallace Beery, cowboys, Indians, and baseball players created an atmosphere of excitement and make believe.
Residents of Washington Township were united by geography and government but were separated into eight small towns. People visited freely and attended events throughout the township but retained a special loyalty to their own town. Organizations such as The Pioneer Society and some lodges and churches drew members from the entire township. Residents always joined forces to meet such dangers as floods, proposed legislation, and water shortage.
Building Union High School No. 2 at Centerville in 1892 became the greatest cultural, social, and economic force in the township. It was the hub of activities that joined people of all ages throughout the township. Students came from all eight towns to attend their high school. Generations of graduates went out to work in Washington Township with strong ties to their school. Many of the important events and meetings for the area were held at the high school. The musical, sports, and educational school programs drew people together and unified their efforts in a spirit of community service and improvement.
Orchards and vineyards replaced miles of grain fields. Disease wiped out most vineyards about 1900, and Prohibition devastated the wine industry. The water table dropped, crops had to be irrigated and a water shortage developed. Electricity was brought in to power industries, farms, and homes. Automobiles replaced buggies and wagons.
World War I interrupted life for many but was followed by a building boom in the Twenties. The stock market crash in 1929 threw the nation into a depression. Prices dropped, business slowed, unemployed workers went on relief, and farmers could not afford to sell their crops. The approach of World War II ended the depression and brought back development and economic prosperity.
Pearl Harbor changed everything for everybody. Many young men and women scattered around the world to fight the war. People of all ages worked in defense industries or on the farms. Life in Washington Township was filled with blackouts, Red Cross and defense programs, bond and scrap drives, price ceilings, restrictions, shortages, rationing, air raid signals, enlistments, draft calls, separations, and sad telegrams. All Japanese Americans were evacuated from the Township in May 1942. All development that was not part of the war effort was postponed.