Francis Dunlevy

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The History of Warren County, Ohio

Francis Dunlevy



Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik on 27 Jan 2004

The History of Warren County Ohio
Part III. The History of Warren County by Josiah Morrow
Chapter VIII. The Distinguished Dead
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)
Related Links:
Biographical Index, Photo of tombstone at Baptist Graveyard (now called Pioneer Cemetery)


This distinguished pioneer was born near Winchester, Va., December 31, 1761. His father, Anthony Dunlevy, emigrated from Ireland about the year 1745, and afterward married Hannah White, a sister of Judge Alexander White, of Virginia. Of this marriage, there were four sons and four daughters, Francis being the eldest of the sons. About the year 1772, the family removed from Winchester to what was then supposed to be Western Virginia, on the west of the Alleghany Mountains, and settled near Catfish, in what is now Washington County, Penn. In this frontier settlement, during the Revolutionary war, there was great exposure to Indian depredations. The men of the new settlements were frequently called upon as volunteers, or by drafts, to serve in longer or shorter terms of military duty for the protection of the frontiers. Young Francis Dunlevy served no less than eight different times in campaigns against the Indians before he was twenty-one years old.

He volunteered as a private October 1, 1776, before he was fifteen years of age. His company erected a chain of block-houses on the Ohio River, above what is now Steubenville, and scouted in pairs up and down the Ohio River

for the distance of twelve miles. During this tour of duty, he was sent with others down the river twelve miles, and assisted in protecting a settlement at Decker’s Fort, in Virginia, while the inhabitants gathered their corn. This tour of duty lasted about seven weeks, and he was discharged on the 20th of December. In July, 1777, young Dunlevy served fourteen days in the militia at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) as a substitute for his father, who had been drafted for a month and had served the first half of it. The notorious Simon Girty was in the fort at this time and an officer of the militia, this being the year before he deserted to the Indians. In March, 1778, young Dunlevy again volunteered and served a short term; on the 15th of August, he was drafted, and served one month, and, in October, he again volunteered and served six weeks. He was again drafted on the 25th of August, 1779, and served about five weeks along the Alleghany River. In the spring of 1782, he again volunteered to serve against the hostile Indians, but the contemplated movement was abandoned, and he was permitted to return home in a few days.

The most remarkable event in the military life of Francis was his service in the disastrous campaign of Col. Crawford against Sandusky, in May and June, 1782. In Dunlevy’s declaration for a pension, made in 1832, and now on file in the pension office, he gave a clear and concise account of the expedition. This declaration is frequently cited in C. W. Butterfield’s history of Crawford’s campaign against Sandusky, in which work a fuller account of Dunlevy’s military services will be found than can be here given. At the battle of Sandusky, Dunlevy was engaged with an Indian of huge proportions. The Indian, as evening approached, crept carefully and cautiously toward Dunlevy through the top of a tree lately blown down and full of leaves. Getting near enough, as he supposed, he threw his tomahawk, but missed his aim and then escaped. This Indian was afterward recognized by Dunlevy, as he believed, in “Big Captain Johnny,” who, in the war of 1812, was with the friendly Shawnees at Wapakoneta. “In a campaign,” writes A. H. Dunlevy, ”in which I served under Gen. William Henry Harrison, in 1812 and 1813, I frequently saw this Indian. He must have been seven feet in height. He was as frightfully ugly as he was large.” In Howe’s Historical Collection of Ohio, it is stated that Dunlevy made his way, in company with two others, through the woods from the scene of Crawford’s defeat, without provisions, to Pittsburgh, but Mr. Butterfield states that Dunlevy’s application for a pension disproves the statement.

Although young Dunlevy’s school days were often broken into by his military duties for the protection of the homes of the whites, he managed to obtain a good education. In 1782, he was, for a short time at least, a pupil of Rev. Thaddeus Dodd’s Latin and mathematical “log-cabin” school in Washington County, Penn. He was then described as “a young man of superior talent and amiable disposition.” As soon as peace was secured, he went to Dickinson College. He became a fine classical and mathematical scholar, and could read and write the Latin language with ease. He was at one time a student of divinity under Rev. James Hoge, of Winchester, Va., and afterward taught a classical school in the same State.

About the year 1790, he moved with his father’s family to the vicinity of Washington, Ky. In 1792, he moved to Columbia, where he opened a classical school in connection with John Reily, afterward of Butler County. After Wayne’s victory, this school was moved up the Little Miami some ten miles. In 1797, he came to the vicinity of Lebanon and continued his school until 1801. It is believed that he was the first teacher of the ancient languages in the Miami Valley, and also the first in Warren County.

In September, 1799, a special election was held for the purpose of choosing

two additional members from Hamilton County in the Legislature of the Northwest Territory. Mr. Dunlevy believed that he was duly elected one of the two new Representatives, but the House, by a majority of one, decided against his claim to the office and gave the seat to Isaac Martin. This was probably the first contested election case north of the Ohio. At the regular election, in October of the next year, Mr. Dunlevy was elected one of the seven representatives from Hamilton County, and served in the Territorial Legislature, which met at Chillicothe November 23, 1801. In this legislature, he acted with the anti-Federalists, who opposed the continuance in power of the Territorial Governor, Arthur St. Clair, and who succeeded in securing for the Territory an early admission into the Union as a State. In 1802, he was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention, receiving the highest number of votes of nearly 100 persons voted for in Hamilton County. He took a prominent part in the proceedings of the convention.

One position taken by Mr. Dunlevy during the deliberations in framing the first constitution of Ohio deserved to be particularly noticed. Born in a Slave State and having himself seen the evils of slavery, he looked with abhorrence on every system of human bondage. In the convention, he not only voted against every attempt to introduce slavery in a modified form in the new State, but he went further, and was one of the minority who favored equal political rights for all men without regard to color. He voted in favor of the motion to strike out the word white from the constitution, so as to give the right of suffrage to colored men, but his principle of justice and human equality he did not live to see embodied in the constitution and laws of Ohio.

At the first election in the state, he was elected a member of the Senate in the Legislature. Before its adjournment, this body selected him one of the three President Judges of the Court of Common Pleas for the term of seven years. This position he held for fourteen years. His circuit was the Southwestern, and at first embraced ten counties. He rode on horseback over the ungraded and bridgeless roads of a new country, and displayed his indomitable energy in promptly meeting his appointments, sometimes swimming his horse over the swollen streams rather than fail in being present. In the fourteen years he was Judge, it is said, he never missed more than one court. In his early campaigns against the Indians and his extensive travels in new countries, he had become so expert a swimmer that he thought nothing of swimming the Ohio in its greatest flood.

At the close of his second term as Presiding Judge, being poor and having involved himself as security for some of his friends, he felt compelled to engage in the practice of law for the means of sustaining a large family dependent upon him. For more than ten years he was indefatigable in his legal pursuits, attending the courts of several of the surrounding counties. At the age of seventy, after more that fifty years of labor as a soldier, pioneer, legislator, framer of a State Constitution, Judge of Court and practicing lawyer, he retired, to spend in reading and study, the years which might be allotted him beyond threescore and ten.

Judge Dunlevy was an active and prominent member of the Baptist Church. Both his parents were zealous Presbyterians, and Francis being their eldest son, was intended for the ministry of that church. But while a student of divinity, he arrived at the conclusion that pedobaptism and sprinkling instead of immersion were unauthorized in the Scriptures. Much to the mortification of his parents, as well as his brother and sisters, he was compelled to become a Baptist. His brother John became a prominent Presbyterian preacher in Ohio and Kentucky, and afterward, a Shaker, being the author of “The Manifesto,” which is regarded as the strongest work ever written in support of the

doctrines of the Society of United Believers. Francis abandoned his intention of becoming a minister, believing he had not evidence of a special divine call to that office. He was a member of the Columbia Baptist Church, in 1792, and assisted in organizing the Miami Baptist Association, and, it is said, drew up the articles of faith agreed upon by that association. In the church at Lebanon, he had his membership for more than forty years. “He was a Calvinist, firm and unyielding, but without any tendency to Antinomianism. In the division of the church at Lebanon, in 1836, on the missionary question, he made a long and earnest appeal to the members, giving the history of the church from its organization. The anti-mission movement, he said, was but Antimomianism in principle, and a step in contradiction to the whole history of the Baptist denomination in Ohio. He warned the advocates of the anti-mission movement of the destructive consequences upon them as a Christian denomination. He told them that he had seen a similar stand taken by Baptist Churches in Virginia fifty years before that time, and the result was that in twenty years of less those churches had become almost extinct and that the same consequences would as surely befall those churches which would adopt anti-missionary sentiments.”

His opposition to slavery continued through his life. Being among the few of his time to avow openly and publicly the equality of all men, white and black, he was thereby subject to much odium and abuse. But he never flinched from embracing and avowing the truth, however unpopular. He was one of those who advocated liberal civil, religious and political privileges for all men of whatever name, country, color or religion.

In many respects, he was a remarkable man. Judge Burnet, who knew him well, describes him as “a veteran pioneer of talents, liberal education and unbending integrity.” He possessed a remarkable memory, retaining whatever he heard or read with great accuracy. He retained his mental faculties in undiminished strength to the last. The last years of his life were passed chiefly in reading. A translation of the Bible in Latin was his frequent companion. He died of pleurisy November 6, 1839, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

Francis Dunlevy was married at Columbia to Mary Craig in 1792. His children were Anthony Howard, a lawyer at Lebanon; John Craig, who practiced medicine at Hamilton, Ohio, for twenty years, and died in 1834; Rebecca White, who was married to Dr. Rigdon; Maria; Jane, who was married to Jacob Morris; and James Harvey, who was admitted to the bar in 1827, and made a tour through the South with his father, and died the same year in Louisiana.

The surname of the subject of this sketch was by him uniformly written ”Dunlavy,” and thus it is signed to the first constitution of Ohio, and in the journals of the courts over which he presided; but “Dunlevy” having been adopted by his descendants as the correct orthography of the family name, it has been followed in this work. On this point, the eldest son of Judge Dunlevy, writes: The family were originally from Spain. The name, which is properly Donlevy, has since been written variously, according to the vowel sounds of the different countries in which the family was scattered – sometimes Donlevy; by other, Dunlevy, and again, Dunlavy.”

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This page created 9 December 2003 and last updated 5 January, 2016
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