A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio
Hamilton: Pages 295 - 298
Next page | Butler County Ohio | Cyclopeadia index page | Previous page


The town of Hamilton was incorporated by an act of the Legislature, passed in January, 1810, in pursuance of which law a president and three trustees were elected by the citizens, who proceeded to organize themselves and pass ordinances for the government and regulation of the town for four succeeding years. A considerable number of the citizens were opposed to the corporate regulations, and some irregularity occurring in their proceedings, no election was held in he year 1815, in consequence of which the corporations became forfeited and so remained until the year 1827, when the town was again incorporated, together with Rossville, under the name of "The towns of Hamilton and Rossville." The powers and duties of the corporation were vested in six trustees to be elected by the citizens, who should hold their office two years, and appoint out of their own body a president and recorder. The towns were divided into two districts or wards, Hamilton forming one and Rossville the other, the citizens to meet in their respective wards and each elect their trustees. The corporation were vested with power to levy a tax of not more than one-eighth of one per cent on the amount of the grand levy of the State. In May, 1827, the citizens met at their respective places of holding elections, those of Hamilton electing Doctor Loammi RIGDON and others, and the citizens of Rossville, Israel GREGG and others, as trustees, who afterwards met and appointed Israel GREGG president and Loammi RIGDON recorder. Under this corporations and manner of organization the towns continued to prosper, under a well regulated police, for four years. In January, 1830, the Legislature passed a law authorizing the corporation to grant licenses to grocers and retailers of spirituous liquors. In the course of time, jealousies springing up between the two towns, on the petition of the citizens of Rossville, the connection between them was dissolved by the Legislature, in February, 1831, and each erected into a separate corporation. In accordance with this amendatory law the citizens of Hamilton elected James O'CONNOR, John WOODS, John C. DUNLAVY, Jesse CORWIN, John M. MILLIKIN, and Henry S. EARHART, trustees, who organized themselves by appointing James O'CONNOR president and John M. MILLIKIN, recorder, who continued to exercise the duties of their office for the two succeeding years.

In February, 1833, the charter of the town of Hamilton was modified by an act of the Legislature, by which the government of the town was vested in a mayor and six trustees, to be elected by the citizens for the term of three years.

By this act the corporation were authorized to levy a tax of one-fourth of one per cent for corporation purposes. The citizens met in May, 1833, and elected James McBRIDE mayor and John WOODS and others trustees, who organized themselves and appointed John WOODS recorder. This board drew up and passed an entire new code of laws for the regulation and government of the town and commenced grading and improving the streets. On the 14th of February, 1835, the Legislature authorized the corporation to draw water from the basin, for the purpose of extinguishing fires, on which privilege being granted, the corporation, in 1836, laid pipes from the basin down Basin Street as far as Front Street, with pipes leading from them to fill two cisterns, constructed in the public square.

On the 7th of March, 1835, the Legislature passed a law, further modifying and amending the act of incorporation. By this law the name of the corporation was changed to that of "The town of Hamilton." They were authorized to levy a tax of one-half of one per cent on the grand levy of the State, for supplying the town with water and improving the streets. The act authorized them to borrow money, not exceeding fifteen hundred dollars; to appoint a wharfmaster; gave them the use of the county jail, and provided for filling the office of mayor, in case of vacancy.

The corporate powers of the town of Hamilton were vested in a mayor and six trustees. The mayor presided at the meetings of the board and was the judicial officer to carry into effect the ordinances passed by the board, and had all the powers vested in a justice of the peace, either in civil or criminal matters, throughout the town. In criminal cases the marshal might serve process in any part of Butler County. The corporation had power to appoint a recorder, a treasurer, marshal, wharfmaster, supervisor of streets and highways, inspector and measurer of wood, tanner's bark, lumber, and other articles of domestic growth, and regulate their duties. The corporation was vested with power to make ordinances and by-laws for establishing and regulating the market, organized fire companies, and provide for the extinguishment of fire; to regulate the streets, alleys and highways, and generally to make such ordinances and regulation for the safety, health, cleanliness and convenience of the citizens, as was usual in like corporations.


The population of Hamilton, as shown by census in 1810, was 242, and of Rossville 84. At the next decennial census, in 1820, it was all included under the name of Hamilton, and the population numbered 660 souls. In 1830, at the next census, the population of Hamilton had increased to 1,072, and Rossville again appeared with 629 inhabitants. There were 9 colored persons in Hamilton in 1810, in 1820, 33, and in 1830, 80. No colored persons were in Rossville at either date.

The Miami Intelligencer, No. 31, of February 23, 1815, advertised a new huckster-shop, in which cider, green and dried apples, whiskey, beer, tar and other accommodation, if called for could be had. Boots and shoes were made. The advertiser was James T. MORTON, corner of Front Street and the Diamond. Elihu LINE had lost a large ram, and Paul SANDERS had had a boy, named Briton WRIGHT, an apprentice at the pottery business, run away from him. He was seventeen years, stout made, dark skin and complexion, about five feet high, "much given to lying, and a little light-fingered." Whoever would take him up and return him would have six cents reward and no thanks. Those indebted to the late firm of KELSY & SMITH were invited to come forward and settle up. Absalom GOODNOUGH, at this new shop, on Front Street, sold boots and shoes. R. BIRCH, at the Hamilton brewery, refused to pay due-bill of sixty-one dollars and fifty cents, payable in barley. William MURRAY needed a hostler. Michael DELORAC, "being far advanced in age and unable to traverse the streets and by-roads of Hamilton in search of passengers and freight, but wishing to make an honest and honorable livelihood" by his calling, gave notice that his ferry was in complete repair, the flats new, and that good entertainment for man and horse could be procured. Preliminary articles of peace had just been brought over from Ghent.


The oldest resident of Hamilton, at this date, is Mrs. Ester KENNEDY. Her husband was a noted builder in his day, and came here to put up a house on the west side of the river, on the Seven-Mile Pike, near the corporation limits, known as the Rhea house. This was in 1812. While doing this, he boarded with William MURRAY, father of the late William MURRAY, who kept a tavern. Soon after this they built the house now standing on High Street, one door west of FYE's grocery. At this time, all business was done near the river, and chiefly on Front Street. The SUTHERLAND corner, now occupied by ROTHENBUSH & RATLIFF and Dr. S.H. MILLIKIN, was building, and was plastered by Mr. KENNEDY. Going up the street, there were no buildings until the present house of L.D. CAMPBELL was reached. John REILY had put up a part of the house three years before, and it was used as his dwelling and office. From that to Third Street was a pasture field, fenced in, in which Mr. REILY pastured his horses and cattle. The third and last house from the river was that built by Mr. KENNEDY for his own use. The woods had been cut down, and a clearing made from this site to the river. On the west side of Third Street was a clearing running down to the burying-ground of the town, near the Fourth Ward Park, while on the other side the forest commenced and extended eastward.

On FYE's corner stood a large, magnificent elm, beneath whose spreading branches divine service was held on Sunday. Half-way down the river, on the west side, was the old jail. The lower part of this was used as a jail, while justice was dealt out in the room above. Preaching was held in this building on the Lord's-day. Part of the palisades of the fort were still standing, near the river. There was no bridge there then. The stream must be crossed by ferries.

At the time of the war of 1812 Mr. KENNEDY was engaged in building the Hamilton House; that for many years, was the great resort for travelers. He was drafted into the service for six months, but secured a substitute, and finished the building. For nearly two years after their house had been completed, Mrs. KENNEDY carried water from Mr. REILY's well. There was then no resident lawyer except David K. ESTE, afterwards of Cincinnati. Mr. KENNEDY died in 1830.

In 1813 Isaac PAXTON, a veteran of WAYNE's wars, set up a shop in Hamilton as a silversmith. In 1814 Pierson SAYRE settled on Lot 120, on Front Street, between Dayton and Stable Streets.


In 1814 there came to Hamilton from Canada a fine handsome man of about fifty years of age, who was a shoemaker. He engaged board at the house of Major MURRAY, and soon went to work. His name was Jacob FOREMAN. He talked little, and no one knew anything of his past history. He seemed brooding over past troubles. In the month of June, 1815, Mr. MURRAY having engaged a farmer named OLIVER to bring him a load of wood from where the gas works now are, but which was then covered by the original forest, requested FOREMAN to go out there and help load the wagon, which he willingly did. When it was loaded, OLIVER started back imagining the shoemaker was walking in the rear. When the wood was unloaded, however, he was not on hand to render assistance, nor did he come in soon after. Mr. MURRAY had noticed that he appeared low spirited, and feared that some accident had happened to him. Waiting a reasonable time, they then began a search, and continued it until late that night. The next morning, Sunday, it was again begun, and was joined by every man and boy in the village. Placing a man on each rod of ground, they started near where the railroad track now is and moved forward until they reach the ground just below the infirmary hill. Here FOREMAN was found hidden in the top of an old oak, blown in a recent tempest. He was alive and uninjured, but said he had tried at various times during the night to hang himself with a grape vine, failing in which he went to sleep.

He went home with Mr. MURRAY, washed and shaved himself, and dressed himself in his best clothes, and at supper time seemed to be in better spirits than for weeks past. After a nights rest he was up early the next morning, when he ate a hearty breakfast. Shortly after this meal, however he went up stairs, and standing on the landing, deliberately cut his throat from ear to ear, almost severing his head from his shoulders. In this condition he walked down stairs, tried to open the door leading to the dining-room, but failed, and fell in a moment, after trying the latch, dead upon the floor. The noise attracted the attention of the inmates of the house, who opened the door, and were horrified to find the corpse.

There was an immense assembly at the funeral, as the story had been noised abroad through the country. The interment was made in the Sycamore Grove. Shortly after the burial the body was exhumed by the physicians, the flesh removed, the bones boiled, bleached, articulated, and the skeleton of the first suicide in Hamilton hung for many years in the residence of one of Hamilton's early physicians.


The Fourth of July, 1814, was celebrated at Hamilton. About one o'clock the Declaration of Independence was read, and an oration delivered at the court-house, after which a procession was formed and marched to Wayne's Spring, about a third of a mile below town, to partake of a dinner, to be provided for the occasion. James HEATON, William MURRAY, and David LATHAM were the committee of arrangements. Friends in the country were cordially invited to attend.


When William MURRAY was a boy, or from 1810 to 1820, the business of the town was done along the river bank, between the two ferries, one of which crossed the river at the foot of what is now known as Dayton Street, and the other at that point where the old bridge was situated. This ground is now covered with shops. A large market-house also stood on High Street. Rossville contained but a very few houses.

The first printing-office was opened and the first paper printed in 1814 in the old building then standing on the south-west corner of Dayton and Water Streets. This paper was the Miami Intelligencer.

This house of Mr. MURRAY stood on the opposite SNIDER's paper-mill, and the lot is now used by that mill. It was destroyed by fire in 1839. Colonel CAMPBELL's present residence was built by John REED in 1808. Mr. REED was at that time boarding with Mr. MURRAY's father. The SUTHERLAND corner, now occupied by ROTHENBUSH & RATLIFF, was built in 1810-11. The court-house was commenced in the year 1813, and completed in 1815.

SCHMIDTMANN's corner, now called the Central House, was built in 1816, a portion of the original structure still standing.

The first brick houses were built in 1817-18 on High Street, near FRECHTLING's new store, and were known as the "brick row."

The covered bridge, washed away in 1866, was commenced in 1818, but was not completed until the latter part of the next year.

Masonic Hall, corner of Third and Dayton Streets, was our first school-house. This building was put up in 1817. There was a little log cabin, standing near where the United Presbyterian Church now stands, which was taught by a Presbyterian preacher. The village of Hamilton never attained to the dignity of a town until the Miami canal was dug. Soon after this was cut through in 1826, the place began to grow and became much healthier. Before, it was no uncommon thing for every body to be sick with chills and fever, so that often there were not enough well to take care of the sick.


In the year 1800, when about twenty years old, Edward MURPHY came to Hamilton, then a village containing but a few rudely constructed buildings of wood, and commenced work at blacksmithing. At this time there were but two smith shops in the place, the one owned by Samuel DORCUS, the other by Mr. WILES. After peace was declared in 1815 he was engaged in blacksmithing in Hamilton, where for fifty years he followed his vocation. Prominent among those with whom he was early associated in the business relations of early life were Isaac WATSON and Jeremiah MANSUR. Other names with whom he associated were John REILY, John SUTHERLAND, Joseph HOUGH, Thomas BLAIR, John PIERSON, Ludlow PIERSON, Anderson SPENCER, Sheriff McCLELLAN, Michael DELORAC, and James MILL, who built the first brick house in Hamilton.


The BIGHAM family was an important and influential one in this county at a very early period. The father of the family, William BIGHAM was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, November 1, 1752, and was married to Mary REED in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1779. He made two trips to the West; first, in 1795, and again in 1801, purchasing, in the first expedition, land in Cincinnati and near to it and also in Hamilton. He came West to reside in 1809, when he brought to Cincinnati his wife, four sonsóDavid, George R., James, and William; and two daughters, Mary and Judith. One daughter was married in Pennsylvania, and two near Cincinnati. In the Spring of 1810 he settled on a large tract of land on the Miami River above the town, where he died on the 4th of September, 1815. He was a member and an efficient ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, and was considered the father of that denomination in this place. By his will he gave a considerable sum to the Presbyterians to aid in erecting a house of worship, which two years after his death, was done.

David BIGHAM, his son, was born in Pennsylvania, April 3, 1788, and came out here with his father on his second visit. He intended to study for the ministry, but was prevented by a cancer, which however, was subsequently cured. He was twice married. His first union was to Miss BEARDSLEY, of Westchester, and his second to Mrs. Susan CUMMINS, daughter of John LUDLOW, by whom he had six children. He was a man of high moral and intellectual character, and was ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church for thirty-one years, having been elected in 1815, at the time of the death of his father. His home was the resort of the first men of the country. His house was noted for its hospitality, and it was ever open to his friends. He kept up his studies, and his knowledge of Latin and Greek rendered his society useful and much sought after by the clergy and others. He built a residence and a woolen factory, which he conducted until his death, February 17, 1847. The city of Hamilton afterward bought a large tract of the old homestead, and it is now used as Greenwood Cemetery.

George R. BIGHAM, his brother, resided with his father, inheriting the homestead and a portion of his father's land, where he remained until the year 1834, then removing to a house previously erected in Hamilton. In June, 1822, he accepted the appointment of county surveyor, to succeed James HEATON, who had been appointed in 1803. These duties he filled until October, 1836, when he was succeeded by Ludwick BEST. He was remarkable for the minute accuracy of his surveys, and spent much time, after his office had expired, in practice. He was one of those employed to make the first survey of the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. In 1838 he entered into partnership with William Wilson, but after eight or nine years the firm failed for a large amount. The debts were paid in full, but took Mr. BIGHAM's entire fortune to do it. In October 1852, he was taken ill, and died on the 14th of that month. He had all his life long been a Presbyterian, being one of the members who organized the first Presbyterian Church, and at the time of his death was the last survivor of those who aided in its formation, and who still lived here. He was twice married; first to Margaret GORMLEY, and second, to Margaret COOK. The daughter of the first marriage, Margaret, married Dr. A.B. NIXON, now of California.

Of George R. BIGHAM's brother and sisters, Mary married Robert TAYLOR, of Rossville, and soon after died; Judith married David DICK; James was married, first, to Catherine SCOBEY, and second, Martha DICK; and William married Martha C. ROSS. He was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church, being the third from the same family.