While settlement of Wayne County
began before 1820, the area around Golden Gate was sparsely populated until the 1870’s. A few squatters living
primitive lives in the Wabash bottoms gave rise to the area’s nickname of “Barefoot”. In 1870,
David Leach (unrelated to Samuel Leech, the township’s namesake) began buying, clearing and draining bottom land in
the area. His sons, George and L.D., became prosperous farmers and merchants and founded the town. When the railroad
came through, one local landowner held out, insisting that he be paid in gold for his right-of-way. His demands were
met, and when the town was incorporated in 1897 it was known as Golden Gate . The town prospered in the early 1900’s
based on the clearing of the virgin timber in the bottoms. Several sawmills, a tile factory and the Carey and Stewart
stave mill provided employment as the town reached a population of nearly 500. As the timber ran out, the population
declined until the nearby discovery of oil in the late 1930’s provided a temporary increase.
A brick school was built in Golden
Gate around 1910. In 1934, a two-year high school program was added. The first teacher/principal was John Wagner,
followed by John Keiser and Lee Matheny. A 1945 commencement program lists 42 students, 27 of which were girls.
The high school was likely discontinued in the late 1940’s along with virtually all other 2-year high schools in the
state. A grade school was continued for number of years. Golden Gate students today attend Fairfield schools.
The brick Golden Gate school
still stands in 2007, although in a vacant and dilapidated state.