IX. Civil Jurisdiction - Erection of Hamilton County
History of Hamilton County Ohio
pages 65-70
transcribed by Laura Vogel

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               What constitutes a State?
Not high-raised battlements or labored mound,
               Thick wall or moated gate;
Not cities proud with spires and turrets crowned;
               Not bays and broad-armed ports,
Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies ride;
               Not starred and spangled courts,
Where low-browed baseness wafts perfume to pride.
               No; - men, high-minded men,
With powers as far above dull brutes endued,
               In forest, brake, or den,
As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude,---
               Men who their duties know,
But know their rights, and, knowing, dare maintain,
               Prevent the long-aimed blow,
And crush the tyrant while they rend the chain;---
               These constitute a State.
---Sir William JONES.


IN chapter IV it was remarked that upon some of the early maps of the territory which includes the present State of Ohio, a geographical district was marked and entitled "Iroquois," since the confederated tribes called by that generic name claimed jurisdiction over it. It is not probable that their government was represented here by satrap, praetor, viceroy, or other governor; but theirs is, we believe, the first authority distinctly recognized by geography or history. as existing over this region. One of the maps Of 1755 designates this as Tunasoruntic, or "the deer-hunting country," a part of "the country of the confederate Indians," covering the present territory of New York, Ohio, and Canada, and thus signifying about the same thing as the former "Iroquois."

The Ohio country, however, was long before this time claimed by the French, as an integral part of their great North American possessions, "New France," by virtue of the discoveries of her brave explorer, Robert, Cavalier de LA SALLE, and the earlier voyage (1640) of the Jesuit Fathers CHAREMONOT and BREBOEUF, along the south shore of, Lake Erie. With the Iroquois they were constantly at war, and the claims of the confederated tribes to the territory weighed nothing with the aggressive leaders of the French in the New World. When, some time in the first half of the eighteenth century, the French built a fort on the Iroquois lands near Niagara falls, the governor of Canada proclaimed their right of encroachment, saying that the Five Nations were not subjects of England, but rather of France, if subjects at all. But, by the treaty of Utrecht, April 11, 1713, Louis XIV, Le Grand Monarque, renounced in favor of England all right to the Iroquois country, reserving only the St. Lawrence and Mississippi valleys to France. Boundaries were so vaguely defined, however, that disputes easily and frequently arose concerning the territories owned by the respective powers; and in 1740, the very year after that in which the Ohio Land company of the WASHINGTONS, LEE, and others was organized under a grant from George II, to occupy half a million acres west of the Alleghanies, DE CELERON, the French commandant of Detroit, led an ex-

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pedition to the Ohio dispatched by the Marquis de la GAILISSONIERE, commander-in-chief of New France, buried a leaden tablet "at the confluence of the Ohio and Tchadakoin" (?) "as a monument of the renewal of possession which we have taken of the said river Ohio, and of all those that therein fall, and of all the lands on both sides, as far as the sources of said rivers" - a sweeping claim, truly. He ordered the English traders out of the country, and notified the governor of Pennsylvania that if they "should hereafter make their appearance on the Beautiful River, they would be treated without any delicacy." The territorial squabbles which then ensued led up to the French and Indian war of 1755-62, which closed by the cession to England, on the part of France, of Canada and all her American possessions east of the Mississippi, except some fishing stations. Thus the Ohio region at length passed into the undisputed possession of the British crown.

In 1766 (though some confidently say 17741), the British Parliament insisted upon the Ohio river as the southwestern boundary, and the Mississippi river as the western limit of the dominions of the English crown in this quarter. By this measure the entire northwest, or so much of it as afterwards became the Northwest Territory, was attached to the province of Quebec, and the tract that now constitutes the State of Ohio was nominally under its local administration.

In 1769 the colony of Virginia, by an enactment of the house of burgesses, attempted to extend its jurisdiction over the same territory, northwest of the river Ohio, by virtue of its royal grants. By that act the county of Botetourt was erected and named in honor of Lord BOTETOURT, governor of the colony. It was a vast county, about seven hundred miles long, with the Blue Ridge for its eastern boundary, and the Mississippi for its western boundary. It included large parts of the present States of West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and was the first county organization covering what is now Hamilton county. Fincastle, still the seat of county for the immensely reduced Botetourt county, was made the seat of justice; but so distant from it were the western regions of the great county, that the thoughtful burgesses inserted the following proviso in the creative act:
Whereas, The people situated on the Mississippi, in the said county of BOTETOURT, will be very remote from the court house, and must necessarily become a separate county as soon as their numbers are sufficient, which will probably happen in a short time, be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the inhabitants of that part of the said county of BOTETOURT which lies on the said waters, shall be exempted from the payment of any levies to be laid by the said county court for the purpose of building a court-house and prison for said county.

In 1776, the present territory of Ohio was included in what was known as the "District of West Augusta",2 but we are not informed to what State or county authority it was subordinated - though probably to that of Virginia, as was the Kentucky region at this time.

Government was still nominal, however, so far as the county organization was concerned, between the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers; and the Indians and few white settlers within those borders were entirely a law unto themselves. After the conquest of the Indiana and Illinois country by General George Rogers CLARK in 1778 the county of Illinois was erected by the Virginia legislature out of the great county of BOTETOURT, and included all the territory between the Pennsylvania line, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the northern lakes. Colonel John TODD was appointed the first county lieutenant and civil commandant of the county. He perished in the battle of Blue Licks, August 18,1782; and Timothy de MONTBRUN was named as his successor. At this time there were no white men in Ohio, except a few Indian traders, some French settlers on the Maumee, and the Moravian missionaries on the Tuscarawas.

After the title of the United States to the wide tract covered by Illinois county, acquired by the victories of the Revolution, had been perfected by the cession of claims to it by Virginia and other States and by Indian treaties, Congress took the next step, and an important one, in the civil organization of the country. Upon the thirteenth of July (a month which has been largely associated with human liberty in many ages of history), in the year 1787, the celebrated act entitled "An ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio," was passed by Congress. By this great organic act - "the last gift," as Chief Justice CHASE said, "of the Congress of the old Confederation to the country, and it was a fit consummation of their glorious labors"--- provision was made for various forms of territorial government to be adopted in succession, in due order of the advancement and development of the Western country. To quote Governor CHASE again: "When the settlers went into the wilderness, they found the law already there. It was impressed upon the soil itself, while it yet bore up nothing but the forest." This measure was succeeded, on the fifth of October of the same year, by the appointment by Congress of General Arthur ST. CLAIR as governor, and Major Winthrop SARGENT as secretary of the Northwest Territory. Soon after these appointments, three territorial judges were appointed - Samuel Holden PARSONS, James Mitchell VARNUM, and John ARMSTRONG. In January the last named, not having entered up on service, declined his appointment, which now fell to the Hon. John Cleves SYMMES, the hero of the Miami Purchase. The appointment of SYMMES to this high office gave much offence in some quarters, as it was supposed to add to his opportunities of making a great fortune in the new country. It is well known that Governor ST. CLAIR's appointment to the Northwest Territory was promoted by his friends, in the hope that he would use his position to relieve himself of pecuniary embarrassments. There is no evidence, however, that either he or Judge SYMMES prostituted the privileges of their places to such ends.

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All these appointments being made under the articles of confederation, they expired upon the adoption and operation of the Federal constitution. ST. CLAIR and SARGENT were reappointed to their respective places by President WASHINGTON, and confirmed by the senate on the twentieth of September, 1789. On the same day PARSONS and SYMMES were reappointed judges, with William BARTON as their associate. Meanwhile, on the ninth f July, 1788, the governor arrived at Marietta, and proceeded to organize the territory. He and the judges, of whom only VARNUM and PARSONS were present, constituted, under the ordinance, the territorial legislature. Their first law was proclaimed July 25th, and on the twenty-seventh Governor ST. CLAIR issued a proclamation establishing the county of Washington, to cover all the territory to which the Indian title had been extinguished between Lake Erie, the Ohio and Scioto rivers, and the Pennsylvania line, being a large part of the present State of Ohio. Marietta, the capital of the Territory, was made the seat of justice for Washington county. The next civil division proclaimed was

On the second of January, 1790, in the thirteenth month and second year ab urbe condita, the governor arrived at Losantiville. His august approach was duly heralded, and as he stepped ashore from his flat-boat, pirogue, or barge, he was received with a salute of fourteen guns, and fourteen more were fired as he moved with his suite to the embattled precincts of Fort Washington. He dispatched a message to North Bend for Judge SYMMES, who arrived the next day, and, after consultation, the ensuing day (the fourth) was signalized by the erection, as the Judge put it in a subsequent letter, of "this Purchase into a county." ST. CLAIR's proclamation established the following as the boundary lines of the new creation: "Beginning on the bank of the Ohio river, at the confluence of the Little Miami, and down said Ohio river to the mouth of the Big Miami, and up said Miami to the Standing Stone forks, or branch of said river, and thence with a line to be drawn due east to the Little Miami, and down said Little Miami to the place of beginning." This was a long and narrow county, decidedly inconvenient in shape, if it had been settled throughout all its borders; but it was no doubt formed in accordance with the suggestions of Judge SYMMES, and its northern boundary was much better defined than was that of the Miami Purchase at that time, or at any time until the patent for the Purchase was issued. The Judge writes: "His excellency complimented me with the honor of naming the county. I called it Hamilton county, after the Secretary of the Treasury"--- Colonel Alexander HAMILTON, the distinguished revolutionary and cabinet officer, now but thirty-three years old, in the prime of his powers, and considered the pride of the Federal party, perishing miserably fourteen and a half years afterwards, from a mortal wound received, in the duel with Aaron BURR. It is altogether probable that Judge SYMMES may have desired to do the secretary fitting honor; but it is also not impossible that, since the negotiations for the Purchase were still incomplete, and the duties of the late treasury board, in regard to the sales of the public lands, had now, under the new constitution and before the organization of the general land office, devolved upon the Secretary of the Treasury, he was also prompted by a lively sense of favors to come. He adds, in his notes of this affair: "The governor has made Losantiville the county town by the name of Cincinnata [thus SYMMES spells it, for reasons that will appear by and by], so that Losantiville will become extinct." ST. CLAIR soon afterwards made it the capital of the Northwest Territory, and in 1799 the first session of the territorial legislature was held there.

On the same day that Hamilton county was proclaimed commissions were issued by the governor for a county court of common pleas and general quarter sessions of the peace, for said county. Messrs. William MCMILLAN, William GOFORTH, and William WELLS - a triumvirate of WILLIAMS - were appointed judges of the court of common pleas and justices of the court of general quarter sessions of the peace. They were also appointed and commissioned as justices of the peace and of the quorum in said court. Other justices of the peace were appointed for the new county, in the persons of Benjamin STITES, our old Columbia pioneer, John Stites GANO, another Columbian, and Jacob TOPPING. J. BROWN, "Gent.," was commissioned sheriff "during the governor's pleasure;" Israel LUDLOW, esq., was made prothonotary to the court of common pleas and clerk of the court of general quarter sessions of the peace.

Some appointments were also made at this time to commands in the "First Regiment of Militia in the County of Hamilton." Israel LUDLOW, John S. GANO, James FLINN, and Gershorm GERARD, were commissioned as captains; Francis KENNEDY, John FERRIS, Luke FOSTER, and Brice VIRGIN, as lieutenants; and Scott TRAVERSE, Ephraim KIBBY, Elijah STITES, and John DUNLAP, as ensigns. Provision seems to have been made by these appointments for the formation of but four companies.

On the twenty-fourth of the following May the organization of the county was furthered by the appointment of William BURNET as register of deeds, and on the next fourteenth of December Mr. George MCCULLUM was added to the justices of the peace.

The boundaries of the county were afterwards changed by the governor, as the settlements widened; and its area was greatly enlarged. By his proclamation September 15, 1796, erecting Wayne county (now, as reduced, in Michigan), with Detroit as its seat of justice, ST. CLAIR described the eastern boundary of Hamilton county as a "due northern line from the lower Shawnees' town upon the Scioto river," which was a long remove to the eastward from the Little Miami.

By proclamation June 22, 1798, an alteration was made in the boundaries of Hamilton, Wayne, and Knox (now, as reduced, in Indiana) counties, by which the western line of Hamilton was laid down as follows:
The western boundary of the county of Hamilton shall begin at the spot an the bank of the Ohio river where the general boundary line between the lands of the United States and the Indian tribes, established at Greenville the third day of August, 1795, intersects the bank of that river, and run with the general boundary line to Fort Recovery,

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and from thence by a line to be drawn due north from Fort Recovery until it intersects the south boundary line of the county of Wayne; and the said line from the Ohio to Fort Recovery, and from thence to the southern boundary line of the county of Wayne, shall also be the eastern boundary of the county of Knox.

Fort Recovery was a stockade upon a bend of the Wabash, very near the present western boundary of Ohio and also near the line dividing Darke and Mercer counties. The mouth of the Kentucky river is at Carrollton, fifty miles in a direct line southwest of Cincinnati, though much further by the winding river. The treaty of Greenville defined the "general boundary line" mentioned above, as to run thence (from Fort Recovery) southwesterly in a direct line to the Ohio, so as to intersect the river opposite the mouth of Kentucke or Cuttawa river. Hamilton county, then, by this time, comprised a considerable triangular tract in the southeastern part of what is now the State of Indiana. It was a very large county that was enclosed between the east and west lines above described, the Ohio, and the southern boundary of Wayne county. It is estimated to have included five thousand square miles, or over three millions of acres, and to have been equal to about one-eighth part of the tract that became the State of Ohio.

Just before the creation of a number of new counties from its territory, by one of the first acts of the first State legislature, the county is said, somewhat vaguely, to have stretched from the Ohio one hundred miles northward to the headwaters of the Great Miami, and west ward from a meridian line drawn from the eastern sources of the Little Miami to the Ohio, to a meridian from the mouth of the Great Miami to the parallel drawn from the headwaters of that stream. These boundaries, if correctly stated, represent a vast enlargement of the original county, and included the present counties of Hamilton, Clermont, Warren, Butler, Montgomery, Preble, Darke, Miami, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, and Greene. The Western Annals, third edition, says that the county "comprehended the whole country contiguous to the Ohio, from the Hocking river to the Great Miami."

A gubernatorial proclamation, dated September 20, 1798, attached a part of Hamilton to Adams county ---

To begin on the bank of the Ohio, where Elk river, or Eagle creek, empties into the same, and run from thence due north until it intersects the boundary of the county of Ross, and all and singular the lands lying between said north line and Elk river, or Eagle creek, shall, after the said twentieth day of September next, be separated from the county of Hamilton and added to the county of Adams

From the great county of Hamilton, or from counties carved out of it, there are said to have been organized, by 1815, the counties of Clermont, Warren, Butler, Preble, Montgomery, Greene, Clinton, Champaign, Miami, and Darke. ST. CLAIR undertook to erect Belmont, Fairfield, and Clermont sometime before his resignation in 1802, but Congress refused to recognize his action, holding him not endowed with such power, in view of the existence of the territorial legislature. Early in 1802 the inhabitants of Hamilton residing north of the south boundary of the third or Military Range, petitioned Mr. Charles Willing BIRD, then secretary of the territory and acting governor in the absence of General ST. CLAIR, for a division of the county. He replied in a respectful letter, of the fifteenth of May, 1802, saying that he could not grant the petition, but promising that it should be laid before the territorial legislature and recommended to their serious consideration - which was undoubtedly the proper course in the premises.

The people in all the northern parts of Hamilton county, above a line pretty nearly the same as the present north boundary of the county, had their wishes promptly gratified. Part of the Northwest Territory became the State of Ohio in the winter of 1802-3; and one of the first acts passed by the new legislature, in session at Chillicothe, was that of March 24, 1803, erecting from Hamilton the counties of Warren (named from General Joseph WARREN, the Revolutionary hero), and Butler (named from General Richard BUTLER, also a distinguished Revolutionary and Indian fighter, who fell in ST. CLAIR's defeat); and from Hamilton and Ross the counties of Montgomery (named from General Richard MONTGOMERY, who fell in the attack on Quebec December 31, 1775), and Greene (named from General Nathaniel GREENE, still another hero of the Revolution). The act was to take effect May 1, 1803, which is therefore the proper natal day of these counties. In the separation of the new counties it was made lawful for the coroners, sheriffs, constables, and collectors of Hamilton and Ross counties "to make distress for all dues and officers' fees unpaid by the inhabitants within the bounds of any of the said new counties, at the time such division shall take place, and they shall be accountable in like manner as if this act had not been passed." The courts of Hamilton and Ross were to maintain jurisdiction in all actions pending at the time of the separation, try and determine them, issue process, and otherwise conclude the pending matters. Temporary seats of justice were established for the new counties. For Warren, at the house of Ephraim HATHAWAY, on Turtle creek; for Butler, at the house of John WARRENER, in Hamilton; for Montgomery, the house of George NEWCUM, in Dayton; and for Greene, the house of Owen DAVIES, on Beaver creek.

The boundaries of Butler county, that one of the new erections which is Hamilton's next neighbor on the north, were defined as follows: "Beginning at the southwest .corner of the county of Warren, running thence west to the State line; thence with the same north to a point due west from the middle of the fifth range of townships in the Miami Purchase; thence east to the northwest corner of the aforesaid county of Warren; thence bounded by the west line of the said county of Warren to the place of beginning." The south line thus described, being the boundary between the counties of Hamilton and Butler, appears not to have been satisfactory, no doubt owing to the irregularity in the early surveys, and the consequent cutting across many sections or parts of sections by a straight east and west line, and an act was passed by the legislature February 20, 1808, re-establishing the boundary line thus: "Beginning at the southwest corner of the county of Warren and at the southwest corner of section numbered, seven, in the

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third township of the second entire range of townships, in the Miami Purchase; thence westwardly along the line of said tier of sections to the Great Miami river; thence down the Miami river to the point where the line of the next original surveyed township strikes the same; thence along the said line to the west boundary of the State." This act allowed Hamilton county to retain the irregular north line to be seen upon the later as well as earlier maps.

Some of the townships of Hamilton county at or near its beginnings can hardly be identified now. There is not much trouble in recognizing Cincinnati, Columbia, Miami, Anderson, Colerain, and Springfield. "South Bend" included the tract which afterwards became Delhi and the major part of Green; and Dayton, Fairfield, Franklin, Ohio, Deerfield, Washington, and St. Clair, were no doubt on territory now belonging to other counties.

The erection of townships in the early day is among the most difficult topics for the local historian. Prior to the formation of the State constitution they were created in the several counties by order of the courts of general quarter sessions of the peace; after that by the county commissioners and the associate judges of the court of common pleas, acting with concurrent jurisdiction, until the act of the legislature of February 19, 1810, which gave the county commissioners the exclusive jurisdiction in the matter they have since retained. Sources of information are thus, in an old county, widely dispersed through the offices and records, and full and satisfactory data are exceedingly difficult, and in this instance probably impossible to reach. So long ago as 1839, near the middle year of the county's history, when it would seem to have been much easier to prosecute the inquiry than now, Mr. H. MCDOUGAL, then county auditor for Hamilton, in answer to a circular from the Hon. John BROUGH, State auditor, issued in pursuance of a legislative requirement of that year, reported as follows: "I find it almost impossible, from the data in my possession, to give all the required information. Most of the townships within the lines of this county were organized under the Territorial Government. I cannot tell when they were organized." He was able to furnish only the dates of the organization of Fulton and Storrs, respectively, as 1830 and 1835; and in regard to the former of these he was clearly mistaken, as Fulton appears in the list of townships so early as 1826, and it was created, as was also the township of SYMMES, at some time between 1820 and that year. The other township he mentions disappeared some years ago, through the growth of the city to the westward, which absorbed it; and Fulton was previously absorbed by its extension to the eastward; so that these two of the "second growth" townships are already wiped out.

The original townships in the old Hamilton county were only Cincinnati, Columbia, and Miami, the three representing the three settlements on the Ohio in the Purchase, and together extending the whole distance between the rivers, their north boundaries being at the Military Range, on a line six miles north of the present Springdale. The townships, named in the records, down to 1796-7, were, in the order of their mention: Cincinnati, Columbia, Miami, Anderson, Fairfield, Deerfield, Dayton, Iron Ridge (taken into Adams county in 1797), South Bend, Colerain, and Springfield.

Iron Ridge township was created on the application of Nathaniel MASSIE to the quarter-sessions court in 1793, to be received among the townships of the Hamilton county group. The request was granted, and officers for it duly appointed; but the township soon disappeared from Hamilton county history. It lay north of the Ohio river, east of White Oak creek, around the town of Manchester, in what is now Adams county.

Washington township is found mentioned in 1798, also Ohio and St. Clair; and Franklin township was recognized in 1797.

The following table of 1799 (which, of course, omits Iron Ridge, but includes all the others), representing the assessment for taxation on the several duplicates of the townships and their acting constables at that time, has some interest just here:
Columbia $660.56  James SPEARS.
Cincinnati 723.30  John BAILEY.
South Bend 55.69  Robert LEVY.
Miami 192.88  John WILKINSON.
Anderson 326.62  Josiah CROSSLY.
Colerain 106.81  Allan SHAW
Springfield 281.15  John PATTERSON 
Fairfield 260.48  Darius ORCUTT
Dayton 233.72  Samuel THOMPSON
Franklin 282.83  Enos POTTER
Deerfield 371.74  William SEARS
Washington 109.88  Isaac MILLER
Ohio 109.88  Isaac MILLER
St. Clair $134.72  John NEWCOMER
TOTAL $4,079.99  

Fairfield township was laid off by the quarter-sessions in 1795. It began at the northwest corner of Springfield township, thence north along the then Colerain six miles to its northeast corner; thence west to the Miami; thence up that stream to a meridian which is the eastern boundary of township numbered three, in the first entire range; thence south to Springfield; thence west six miles to the place of beginning. The brand of its cattle was ordered to be "H." Its first officers in 1795 were: John GREER, town clerk; William B. BRAWNES, constable; Patrick MOORE, overseer of the poor; Darius ORCUTT, supervisor of highways; Charles BRUIN, Patrick MOORE and William B. BRAWNES, viewers of enclosures and appraisers of damages. Fairfield is, of course, now in Butler county. Dayton, of the present county of Montgomery, was also established by the Hamilton County court in 1795. Benjamin VAN CLEVE says in his memoranda, published in MCBRIDE's Pioneer Biography, in a volume of the Ohio Valley Historical Series, that Dayton township included all the Miami country from the fifth range of townships upward. He took the returns of taxable property for it in 1801, and found three hundred and eighty-two free male persons over the age of twenty-one between the two Miamis, from the south line of the township to the heads of Mad river and the Great Miami. West of the latter stream there were twenty-

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eight such inhabitants in the township, and east of the Little Miami less than twenty. He received less than five dollars in fees for his immense toil and exposure in rendering this public service.

The names of some of the constables previous to this date have been preserved: Cincinnati township, Abraham CARY, 1797; Levi MCLEAN, 1798; Columbia, Amos MUNSON, 1796; James SPEARS, 1797-8; Miami, Andrew HILL, 1797-8; Anderson, Josiah CROSSLY, 1797-8; Fairfield, George CODD, 1797; Darius ORCUTT, 1798; Deerfield, Isaac LINDLY, 1797; Joshua DRAKE; Dayton, Cyrus OSBORN, 1797; James THOMPSON, 1798; Iron Ridge, Damon MCKINSEY, 1796; South Bend, Isaac WILSON, 1797; William CULLUM, 1798; Colerain, Allan SHAW, 1797; Springfield, James LOWES, 1797; Washington, Jacob WILLIAMS, 1798; Franklin, Jos. HENRY, 1798.

Colerain township was created in 1794, and Springfield in 1803. Cincinnati, Miami, and Springfield townships had important changes made in their boundaries in 1809, by the creation of Mill Creek and Green townships in that year. In 1800 Sycamore township appears to have been in existence. Whitewater township was erected in 1803, to include all the territory of Hamilton county west of the Great Miami river. Its boundaries were most elaborately defined the next year, when Crosby township was also mentioned, and probably erected at that time. This is about the sum of the knowledge possessed in this year of grace 1881, concerning the old townships of Hamilton county. But more may appear in, the township histories.

1 As Isaac SMUCKER, in Secretary of State's report for 1877.
2 BRYANT's Popular History of the United States, Vol. I., 610.

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