A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio
Pages 56 - 58

History of Butler County: The Earliest Account Of The Miami Country

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The earliest account we have of the Miami country is from the pen of Dr. Daniel DRAKE, a learned and successful practitioner of medicine in Cincinnati, who wrote a book descriptive of that city and the Miami country in 1815. He had evidently devoted much time and attention to the subject, and, as far as we may judge at this lenght of time, his accounts were accurate.

"The south-west corner of the state of Ohio," writes Dr. DRAKE, " is watered chiefly by two rivers, called the Great and Little Miamis. Their general course is southwest; their medium distance apart, twenty miles.

"The Great Miami is about one hundred and thirty yards wide for forty miles from its mouth; its headwaters, between forty and forty-four degrees north latitude, interlock with the Massassinaway, a branch of the Wabash, the Auglaize and St. Mary, branches of the Maumee, and the Scioto. It has generally a rapid current, but no considerable falls. It flows through a wide and fertile valley, which, in Spring and Autumn, is liable to partial inundation. Its principal tributary streams on the west are Loramie's Creek, which joins it about one hundred and thirty miles from its mouth; Stillwater, which enters it about fifty miles below; and Whitewater, which it receives within seven miles of the Ohio. The first of these is navigable for batteaux nearly twenty miles, and in this respect is superior to the others. On the east side of Mad River only is deserving of notice. This beautiful stream originates in a pond on the Indian boundary of 1795, and glides through a tract finely diversified with prairie and woodland. It is too shallow for navigation, but at all times furnishes water enough for the largest mills. Its mouth is nearly opposite that of Stillwater, and immediately above the town of Dayton. From this place to the Great Miami it is navigable, in moderate freshets, for keel and flat-bottom boats; in high floods the same navigation may be had from Loramie's Creek; but the frequent formation of new bars by the drifting of sand and gravel renders the navigation, even near its mouth, difficult in low water. This river has a number of islands. The largest is two miles above the town of Hamilton. It was formed, since the settlement of that place, by a portion of the river enlarging a millrace which ran into one of its branches, called Seven-mile. Near the village of Troy is a group of about twenty more, the principle of which is nearly three quarters of a mile long. The valley of the river, at this place, is a mile wide, and the banks are low and loose. The current among the islands is rapid, but the navigation is not entirely obstructed."

A few pages further on Dr. DRAKE gives description of Butler County. He says : "This county lies west of the one last described (Warren), and to the north of Hamilton. The Great Miami traverses it diagonally. The soil of the north-east and south-west quarters is said to be generally poor; that of the south-east and north-west fertile."

"Hamilton, the seat of justice, is situated twenty-five miles north-north-east of Cincinnati, on the east bank of the Miami. Its site is elavated, extensive, and beautiful; but near it, to the south, is a pond which has contributed much to the injury of health. The materials for building are neither very plentiful nor excellent. Good timber can not be had nearer than the neighboring hills; the limestone in the bed of the river is indifferent, but some better quarries have been opened in the uplands; the brick-clay yet discovered is inferior, abounding in fragments of limestone. The dwelling-houses, about seventy in number, are chiefly of wood; well-water is obtained at the debth of twenty-five feet.

"This town was laid off about the year 1794, and incorporated in 1810. The donations for public use are a square near the center of the village, for county purposes, and another for a church and cemetery. Its only public building is a stone jail. It has a post-office, an office for the collection of taxes on non-residents' lands in the western part of the State, and a printing-office, which issues a newspaper called the Miami Intelligencer.

"Rossville, lying on the west side of the river, opposite Hamilton, is a small place. Middletown, on the road from Hamilton to Franklin, is situated east of the river. Like most of the villages in the Miami country, it has a post-office. Oxford, in the western part of the county, has less population and improvement but more notoriety than either of them, from having been fixed on as the seat of a university. The land is held in trust by the Legislature, which, in 1810, enacted a law directing the lots to be disposed of on leases for ninety-nine years, renewable forever, at the rate of six percent per annum on the purchase-money, to be paid annually. Being on the frontier of the State, and almost surrounded by forest instead of cultivated country, it has received but little attention."

Apage is given to the value of land. "Within three miles of Cincinnati, at this time," he says, "the prices of good unimproved land are between fifty and one hundred and fifty dollars per acre, varying according to the distance. From this limit to the extent of twelve miles they decrease from thirty to ten. Near the principal villages of the Miami country it commands from twenty to forty dollars; in remoter situations it is from four to eight dollars - improvements in all cases advancing the price from twenty-five to one hundred percent. An average for the settled portions of the Miami country, still supposing the land fertile and uncultivated, at twelve.

"Of tracts that had the same local advantages, those alluvial or bottom lands that have been recently formed command the best price. The dry dry and fertile prairies are esteemed of equal value. Next to these are the uplands, supporting hackberry, pawpaw, honey locust, sugar-tree, and the different species of hickory, walnut, ash, buckeye, and elm. Immediately below these, in the scale of value, is the level clothed in beech timber, while that producing white and black oak chiefly commands the lowest price of all.

"These were not the prices in 1812; the war, by promoting immigration, having advanced the nominal value of land from twenty-five to thirty percent.

"The agriculture of this, as of other new countries, is not of the best kind. Too much reliance is placed on the extent and fertility of their fields by the farmers, who, in general, consider them a substitute for good tillage. They frequently plant double the quantity they can properly cultivate, and thus impoverish their lands and suffer them to become infested with briars and noxious weeds. The preservation of the forests of a country should be an object of attention in every stage of its settlement; and it would be good policy to clear and plant no more land in a new country than can be well cultivated.

"The most valuable timber trees are the white flowering locust, white, black, lowland chestnut and burroaks, black walnut, wild cherry, yellow poplar, blue and white ash, mulberry, honey lucust, shell-bark hickory,coffee-nut and beech; all of which, except the first, are common throughout the Miami country. Many other species, such as the sweet buckeye, sassafras, sugar-tree, reed maple, tinder-tree, and box-elder, are seldom used for timber; but are of great value in the mechanical arts. Experiance has shown that the timber of the Western country is softer, weaker, and less durable than that of the Atlantic States; which is no doubt owing to its more rapid growth in a fertile, calcareous soil and humid atmosphere.

"The most elegant flowering trees and shrubs are the folowing, which excel in the order of their enumeration: Dogwood, red-bud, white flowering locust, crabapple, honeysuckle, black haw, the different species of roses, plums, and haws, the buckeyes and yellow poplar, most of which are common, and for that reason are seldom transplanted into our streets and gardens.

"The beech, white oak, sugar-tree, and some kinds of walnut, hickory, and ash, are the most numerous of any trees in the Miami country. The flowering locust, abundant in Kentucky and along the Ohio, is rarely found more than twenty miles north of that river. The chesnut, persimmon, fox grape, and mountain chestnut oak, are still scarcer."

The following are given by the author as a catalogue of the forest trees then known to exist. Michaux, he says, names ninety kinds of trees in the United Staes which grow above fourty feet in height, while in the Miami country there are forty-five which attain to that elevation. According to the same authority, there are, in the Union, ninety species which rise above sixty feet; in this quarter there are at least an equal number which grow to that height. "Hence, it appears that the soil of this tract," remarks the doctor, "is superior to that of the United States generally, for it affords as many trees above sixty feet in height as all the States taken together, while it has only half the number of species." Here is the list of Dr. Drake:

Button tree, dogwood, swamp dogwood, alternate branched dogwood, rose or red willow, shrub teafoil, witch-hazel, fox grape, fall grape, Winter grape, ivy, New Jersy tea, Indian arrow wood, evergreen arrow wood, staff tree or bitter sweet, honeysuckle, gooseberry, black currant, slippery elm, white elm, common elder, red-berried elder, black haw, bladdernut tree, poison vine, sumach, stag's-horn sumach, lentiscus-leaved sumach, trifoliate sumach, common or fetid buckeye, sweet buckeye, marsh leather-wood, long-leaved vaccineum, sassafras, spice-wood, red-bud, coffee-tree, mock snow-ball, wild cherry, plum, haw, crab-apple, wild roses, swamp rose, blackberry, raspberry, wine bark, downy spiroea, black linden-tree, oblique-leaved linden, cucumber-tree, pawpaw-two varieties poplar- yellow and white, trumpet flower, flowering locust, St. Peter's wort, red mulberry, black bireh, common alder, beech, chestnut, hornbeam, hop hornbeam, black walnut, butternut, shellbark hickory, pig-nut, balsam hickory, hemlock, sycamore, burr oak, chestnut oak, mountain chestnut oak, upland willow tree, black oak, spanish oak, red oak, hazel-nut, American arbor vitae, rough-barked willow, ozier, mistletoe, prickly ash, cotton-tree, aspen, Canadian yew-tree, red cedar, sugar-tree, red or water maple, mountain maple, box-elder, hackberry, persimmon, honey locust, sour gum, white ash, swamp ash, greenbriar and blue ash.

Dr. DRAKE gives the following as the time for flowering and for the growth of vegetables in this country:

March 9th, commons becoming green; 10th, buds of the water maple beginning to open; buds of the lilac beginning to open; 11th, buds of the weeping willow beginning to open; 12th, buds of the gooseberry beginning to open; 16th, buds of the honeysuckle beginning to open; 30th, buds of peach-tree beginning to open; radishes, peas, and tongue-grass planted in the open air.

April 12th, peach-tree in full flower; buds of the privet beginning to open; 19th, buds of the cherry tree beginning to open; red currants beginning to flower; 22nd, buds of the flowering locust beginning to open; lilac in full flower; 24th, apple tree in full flower; 28th, dogwood in full flower.

May 13th, flowering locust in full blossom; 16th, Indian corn planted; honeysuckle beginning to flower.

June 8th, cherries beginning to ripen; raspberries beginning to ripen; 10th; strawberries beginning to ripen; red currants beginning to ripen; 28th, hay harvest.

July 8th, rye harvest begun; 14th, wheat harvest begun; 16th, blackberries ripe; 19th, unripe Indian corn in market; 22nd, Indian corn generally in flower; 25th, oat harvest.

August 9th; peaches in market.

September 16th, forests becoming variegated.

October 21st, Indian corn gathered; 26th, woods leafless.

In 1806, the weeping willow unfolded its leaves about the 20th of February.