A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio
Oxford Township: Pages 508 - 513
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Oxford had for her first settler James M. DORSEY, William LUDLOW, John SMITH, son of Jacob SMITH of Green County, Moses CRUME, James PARKER, Seth BATES, George DAVIS, Robert MORRIS, Levi LEE, Stephen MINOR, Walter DICKINSON, Abraham YORK, William ALLEN, Thomas LONGLEY, Benjamin JONES, Aaron JONES, James RATLIFF, Elias FARR, Sylvester LYONS, James BECK, and Philip WIGGINS. These men constituted what might be properly called the first settlers. But there were others whose influence was as great. Zachariah DE WITT settled here in 1808 or 1810; Colonel Samuel BEELER, Captain West BONNERY and his son Wales B., coming here about 1816; 'Squire CRAWFORD, a merchant, in 1822, justice of the peace for forty years; ' Squire SUTTON, now 81 years of age, for 36 years a justice of the peace; Eleazar HOAG, settling on Four-mile in 1810, being a school-teacher by profession' Ethan S. WESTON, recently deceased, a remarkable man for his age; Thomas CRAVEN, an early Baptist preacher here in 1812; John MOLLYNEAUX, a merchant; Joseph WARD, here in 1822; John DEMOSS and John PARSONS; Elijah FAY and Christopher GIRTON, the latter already mentioned as having a mill on Indian Creek; Henry LEWIS, a merchant; John ABEL, Deacon WHITE, and Thomas MCCULLOUGH, the latter the first white male child born in the twp, and others. 'Squire DORSEY was a well-informed early citizen.

Below is given a letter from Dr. John W. KEELY, now of Indianapolis. We publish it in his own language, because it will better illustrate those pioneer times:

"I lived all my life, up to 1836, in the town of Oxford, save the first year and a half. My father, John KEELY, a brick and stone mason by trade, was induced by one Merrikin BOND to remove from Cincinnati to Oxford, some time in 1817. My oldest brother, William, died in his eleventh year, on the 2d of May, 1818, and was the first one that was buried in the old graveyard, down by the railroad depot. P "Speaking of the grave-yard, reminds me of an inscription upon the tombstone of Mrs. Phebe MORRIS, wife of David MORRIS, a deist. A good many years ago he had a conversation with the Rev. William H. RAPER, who was on the Oxford circuit in 1820 or 1821. Mrs. MORRIS was then sick, and desired to converse with a minister. Mr. MORRIS would not agree that Mr. RAPER should talk personally with his wife, but agreed that the minister should visit the sick lady and converse with him in her presence in regard to the differences in Christianity and Deism. The conversation was had, and at one point she put in a word as to the reasonableness of Mr. RAPER's argument. This threw MORRIS into a passion, and resulted in breaking off the conversation, and the forbidding Mr. RAPER the privilege of administering to the dying woman the consolations of religion. Mrs. MORRIS, I think, had been persuaded to adopt the principles of her husband, but in her last sickness had fears, and desired the presence and services of a minister of the Gospel. The following is the inscription I copied from the tombstone years ago, after my conversation with Mr. RAPER:

" '1821--Mrs. Phebe MORRIS, wife of David MORRIS, died September 6, in the 23d year of her age. She recognized the doctrine of the infiinte perfectibliliy of the human mind, and believed that to be happy we must be virtuous; and to be virtuous, we must do something to mitigate the woes and increase the happiness of others. To her husband she was most affectionate. To her friends, generous and kind. To her enemies, cold and indifferent. Her greatest desire was the cultivation of her mind. Her principal amusement was reading, and her favorite books "Godwin's Political Justice" and "Condorcet's Human Mind." Her fate and untimely death, which occurred September 6, 1821, was brought about by affliction, which was borne to the last moments of her existence with patience and philosophic fortitude, perhaps never excelled. '

"A man by the name of KITCHEN, I think, was a blacksmith in Oxford, and local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1820, or thereabouts. Joseph SHIRK was a blacksmith from my earliest recollections. He built a house, a brick building, in which he lived, on the corner of High Street, north of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. SHIRK was also a Baptist preacher, an man of sterling integrity and a good citizen.

"Among the early merchants I call to mind BONNEY, CHAMBERLAIN, and CHITTENDEN. The former was also a kind of dealer in real estate and loaned money by taking the interest in advance. Among the tavern-keepers I only remember WELLER, father of John B. WELLER, once governor of California; also a man by the name of CHAUNCY, from Maryland. His wife was regarded as one of the finest cooks in town. John MCGONIGLE also kept a tavern and boarding-house. John HUSTON was a carpenter and builder, employing a great number of hands. He planned and built what was known as the Mansion House, and was a man of integrity and enterprise. the Mansion House was the principal hotel for many years.

"Of Dr. BISHOP I can say nothing but good. If he was not a good man there is no use of looking for good men in this world. The Rev. Henry LITTLE, who died in Madison, IN, a few months ago, became pastor of the Oxford Presbyterian Church in or about the beginning of the year 1830. He had not been there long before a very remarkable awakening took place in the Church and throughout the community. A great many young people professed conversion and united with the Church. The Presbyterians, under the pastorate of Mr. LITTLE, held a camp-meeting in a beautiful grove in the north-west corner of the corporation of the town of Oxford, beginning on the first day of September, 1831. It was on Thursday that the first service was held. I have a very pleasant memory of that meeting, the services of which I attended every day, for the reason that it was on the Sabbath, the fourth day of September, 1831, that I was converted down in a big cornfield just north of the camp-ground. The memory of that time is precious to me, and as fresh as though it had transpired but a week since. Of the ministers who assisted in the meeting I can recall only a few: Mr. LITTLE, Mr. GRAVES, Dr. BLACKBURN, of KY, and Dr. BISHOP. On the day the meeting closed, as they were singing a farewell hymn, Robert Morris, familiarly known as Robby MORRIS, who was a member of the New Lights' Church, became very much excited and began to shout quite loudly. Mr. GRAVES and Dr. BISHOP were sitting almost touching each other. Mr. GRAVES made some very severe remarks on the disorder, but the doctor touched him with his elbow and said, 'Charity, brother, charity.'

"Among the early Universalist preachers of Oxford, in 1832 or 1833, was Jonathan KIDWELL, a man of dark-gray eyes and a keen caricaturist.

"My first recollections of Sunday-schools begin with about 1824, when I was eight years old. It was a union school, and ws held in the south-west corner of the University building, over the ground floor. My father, John KEELY, was the superintendent of that school for many years. It was a primitive affair when compared with the schools of the present day. The exercises consisted of reading the Scriptures, singing, recital of verses which had been memorized, and prayers. It often happened that there was not sufficient time to hear all the verses that had been memorized. One girl, I remember, memorized nearly the entire New Testament. Her name was Laura CROSS. The scholars were rewarded as follows: For ten verses, a plain white Scripture ticket; when ten of these were obtained the scholar was entitled to a pink ticket, and so on.

"The Presbyterians for many years occupied the chapel of the University for church purposes.

"Dr. BISHOP was, I think, the most popular and successful president the college ever had. Prof. MCFARLAND was the only Methodist prefessor, as I now remember, that was ever employed in the University.

"Mr. MARKLE carried on the tailoring business for many years; also Thomas DOLLAHAN, William H. WOODRUFF, and WIlliam LANGE. Early in life the last named was very intemperate. He removed to the village of Camden, reformed, was converted, united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, became a local ordained preacher, and died a Christian over forty years ago. I attended a two days' meeting held by the Rev. Moses CRUME, in the village, and was entertained at Mr. LOGUE's. Danforth WETHERBY was an early citizen of Oxford. He was also a local preacher, and a man of more than ordinary ability.

"I must not forget to mention Peter SAMPSON, an early Methodist, a colored man. He and his wife were members of the Church and very good people. Thomas ROLLINS and wife; he was a mulatto, and a man of very dignified bearing.

"John BAUGHMAN, a young man working at the tanning business, was converted at my father's house. He afterward became a preacher of some note. Nehemiah GRIFFTHS, living near Oxford, also became a successful preacher, but died early. The Rev. Samuel BROMER lived in Oxford at an early day. I think he ran a carding machine. It afterwards went into the hands of the Roots, who manufactured cloths and hat felts. P "On the first day of February, 1834, Charles W. SWAIN gave me license to exhort, and on the ninth day of April, 1834, I was recommended for license to preach as a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church. I was then nineteen and nine days old.

"Philip D. MATSON came to Oxford somewhere near 1832. He and John FERGUSON were tinners by trade. They formed a copartnership and remained together for thirty or forty years. They never, I am told, had any falling out; got along pleasantly and amicably, and wound up their joint interests, MATSON retiring, some years ago. These men lived and worked as brothers. They are both respectable men, loved and admired by all good people."

In the year 1811 the trustees of the Miami University made an appropriation for the erection of a school building on the University Square, which ws to be used for the time being by the citizens fo the township as an English school. This house was situated about fifteen rods west of where the college bulding has since been erected. It was built of large hewed logs, about twenty by thirty feet, one story high, with a stone fire-place and chimney in each end. The building was completed so far as to be occupied in December of that year; and the citizens of the township having selected James M. DORSEY as the teacher of the school, in the same month he moved into the building. There was a partition run through the house, divinding it into two rooms. DORSEY lived with his family in the room at one end and taught the school in the other room. At that time there was no settlement on any in-lot in the town, and not a road of any description leading to where the town was laid out, and it is believed that not a stick of timber had been cut from any in-lot except what was used in the erection of the school-house. In 1824 a second story was added to the building and prepared for a residence for Robert H. BISHOP, then apppointed preseident of the University, in which he and his family resided for many years. The first settlers in the town of Oxford were John TAYLOR, James M. DORSEY, Merrikin BOND, John C. IRWIN, Jacob WEBB, Skillman ALGER, Enoch SIMPSON, Fergus MITCHELL, and Daniel HOPKINS.

About the year 1815 William MCMECHAN, then but a few months from Ireland, put up the first shingled roof house in the town. This building was a two-story hewed log house, and stood on the north side of High Street, on the lots next west of the lots granted for public purposes. James CARLISLE moved into this house and kept a tavern, the first in Oxford, in 1816. His wife was Harriet, a daughter of Mrs. GREER, of Hamilton. Her sister Belle married Joseph S. BENHAM, then a lawyer of Hamilton, afterwards of Cincinnati. The talented Harriet PRENTICE of Louisville, KY, is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. BENHAM, and consequently niece of Mrs. CARLISLE, who died at Defiance, OH. Sometime afterwards Samuel MCCULLOUGH erected a row of frame buildings east of the public ground, in which he kept a tavern until the time of his death, but his widow continued the business for some time thereafter.

For her leading tavern-keepers after Samuel MCCULLOUGH and his good wife, Oxford had Calvin WARD, here more than 55 years ago, in a two-story log house, which was weatherboarded, in the southern part of the town. WARD continued in this business many years. He was followed by Mr. THOMPSON, who kept in the same building, and at the same time had a museum, the first in Oxford. After THOMPSON gave up his business the old house was used for a dwelling, but is now gone.

After Mrs. Elizabeth MCCULLOUGH ceased to entertain travelers, Ludwick WELLER followed in the same property. He was the father of John B. WELLER. Mr. CHANCY came in after WELLER, who remained about ten years. CHANCY was superseded by DAWSON, also in the MCCULLOUGH property. Mr. DAWSON left about twenty years ago, after which the tavern-stand was converted into a business block.

The Mansion House was built about 1830, by J. R. HUSTON, who, unfortunately, died before the house was completed. Harry LEWIS and Colonel FRENCH bought and completed the house, the latter keeping hotel in the building for a short time. ROBERTS & DEWITT then rented the house, continuing in the hotel business for several years. These men were followed by William MCCHESNEY, here a good many years, and Isaac WORDEN. Jaems WORDEN, his son, is now a leader of the famous Chautauqua Sunday-school. WORDEN was very poor while here, and it is told that many a guest, before he could get his meal, had to advance the money. At the sale of Lewis & French, Daniel CORWIN bought the property, and in turn sold to P. H. CONE, who, during the late war, and before and after, was engaged in hotel-keeping. Mr. CONE afterwards sold the house, and it is now used for business purposes.

The Davis Hotel was built by Ludwick WELLER. After him came James ADAMS, here for three or four years, and Roswell HAZLETON, who remained with the people for twenty successive seasons. In 1872 Thomas MCCULLOGH bought the stand, but the present owner is Mayor B. B. DAVIS, who has held that office since 1869, and who now conducts it as a public boarding-house under the name of the Girard House. The schools have been noticed somewhat, but Mr. W. H. STEWART kindly furnishes this information:

"In 1817 Dr. BLACKLEACH taught a school in the house our marshal now lives in. 'Squire W. B. BONNEY and Godwin DORSEY were among the scholars. About 1833, 'Squire BONNEY and a Mr. MORRSION taught a public school in the building now known as the old Catholic Church. Lyman HARDIN succeeded 'Squire BONNEY. Sometime after this the board of education purchased the present site, and erected a building of our rooms. Among the superintendents, or principals, we find the names of Mr. LONGNECKER, Henry BROWN, Charles P. DINNIS, and J. W. ZELLER. The latter served seven years, and was followed by F. D. DAVIS, who superintended four years. In 1874 W. H. STEWART, of Connersville, IN, was elected superintendent. The Miami University having closed, the board of education thought it advisable to open a high school which, in part, might take the place of the preparatory department of the University. This high school has been in operation for eight years, and is now more popular than ever before. The course of study is that pursued in the Cincinnati schools, with the exception of the high school, where a few modifications are made."

We add to the history of the taverns this card:

"Thankful for past favors and wishing those favors continued, the subscriber has at considerable expense repaired and enlarged his house in the town of Oxford for the accommodation of travelers. From his experience and strict personal attention he reasonably expects a share of the public patronage, and flatters himself that he will render satisfaction to all who may please to favor him with a call. The stage from Hamilton arrives at this house on Mondays and Fridays, and leaves at one o'clock P.M., for Brookville, via Bath Springs, when desired; and returns Tuesdays and Saturdays, and leaves at eight o'clock A. M., for Hamilton. Hacks or single horses can be had at all times by travelers or visitors. A. STILSON.

"OXFORD, OHIO, May 20, 1830"

We add another equally as interesting:


"John MCGONIGLE respectfully informs his friends and the public generally, that he has opened a house of entertainment in Oxford, Butler County, Ohio. This house is situated on High Street, near the center of the town, commanding a full view of the college yard and buildings of the Miami University. The house is large and convenient, with stabling and out- building nearly new, and in excellent repair. His bar is amply supplied with choice liquors; his larder will be well furnished and care taken to make the table acceptable. Every attention will be given to render the traveler or visitor comfortable who may favor him with a call. Carriages and hacks for parties wishing to visit the Bath Springs or other places in the neighborhood will be at all times available."

From a memorandum we take the following:

"OXFORD, OHIO, October 20, 1828.--Candles had to be lit in this place at dinner on Sunday, the 19th inst., the air being darkened by an unusual quantity of smoke arising from the woods, which are on fire in this community."

A V. FLAGG was a citizen of Oxford for twenty-five or thirty years, during which time he engaged in the business of a blacksmith. FLAGG was here about sixty years ago. The lot where the blacksmith's shop stood is now owned by John STERNS. The shop is now occupied as a shoe-shop. E. E. SMITH was here forty years ago, in the same branch of business, in a frame building. B. B. DAVIS, another blacksmith, was engaged in blacksmithing in Oxford for twenty years, where Mrs. S. V. HILL now lives. DAVIS was a strong Methodist; he died in Indiana. J. JELLIES was also a similar mechanic, on the ground where Charles WATT now is. Jacob BRANDENBURG has been here for forty years. Edward FRENCH was a smith on lot No. 43, but left many years ago. John KIRKWOOD was another blacksmith in Oxford fifty years in the past. William PROCTER, a colored smith, was a mechanic in this village in 1830. He was shot by two drunken soldiers some time during the war, who, in turn, were killed the same night by some of the citizens.

Oxford Twp had for its first distillery one situated on lot No. 42, in the village of Oxford. This still-house was owned by Samuel MCCULLOUGH, who was from PA. MCCULLOUGH came here from the mill which bore his name, on the Big Miami above Hamilton. One of the largest distilling establishments in the western half of Butler County was owned by Robert RICHEY, more than fifty years ago, half a mile north of the public square, in Oxford. This still-house was in operation for about twenty years. From RICHEY the farm on which the still-house stood passed into the hands of the Rev. Mr. BRAINARD. The widow of James ADAMS now owns the main part of the northern half of the old RICHEY farm.

Joseph MORRIS, who lived three miles north-west of Oxford, on a farm, made the hauling of whisky to Cincinnati a business at an early day. In returning he brought with him a load of groceries. It took one week to make the trip. The old RICHEY still-house was torn down and converted into business houses.

David SWING had the first tannery in Oxford, located on lot No. 28, in 1815. SWING was a Yankee; after carrying on the tanning business for about twenty years, he abandoned his tannery. Dr. BOUDE, who died in Il, had another on lot No. 33; also, A. W. IRWIN, son of David IRWIN, on lot No. 240, forty years ago. The present owners are SURFACE & FLANAGAN.

Joshua DAVIS, a well-known man in the town of Oxford, built a large carriage factory in the place twenty-four years ago' it was a frame building, and stood on lot No. 88. It had a front of eighty-eight feet, sixty-six feet long, and was two stories high. This shop was an extensive affair, containing all the departments necessary for such work. The renters of this establishment were Thomas DAVIS and George RUSSELL. In 1879 this house burned, with a total los of $3,000. In 1859 Mr. DAVIS also lost a store and other buildings, by incendiarism, valued at $1,500.

In 1872 the Davis Hall was erected, which is three stories high, and is seventy-eight by seventy-eight feet. The Odd Fellows' hall occupies the third story in part. Three firms were connected in the erection of this building, Joshua FRY and George MUNNS, Joshua DAVIS and the Odd Fellows. This is the best block in Oxford and cost over $12,000. The hall will seat over five hundred people.

On the north-east corner of the public square a very large stable was at one time built out of the frame-work of the RICHEY still-house. This house had a front of fifty feet. A very large and extensive business was carried on in the way of trading, buying, and barter generally. This was called the Gabriel Cathcart block.

In 1820 George SIPLE had a distillery on Indian Creek, on Section 31. This establishment had what was known as a wooden still. SIPLE failed in business in 1844. Below, on the same section, David GRAY had a like affair. John WILSON, on Four-mile Creek, was engaged in the same work, but had for his distiller a William BANE, now of RIchmond, IN. BANE was a great fiddler. In the evenings many of the young men of the surrounding country gathered in to hear his music. This still-house had the reputation of being haunted with ghosts. People came for fifty miles to see the sights. It finally resulted in pickets being posted to watch BANE, who was suspected of being concerned in the matter. On a certain occasion, as the ghost was skipping over the whisky barrels, an ax was thrown through the sheet which the creature wore. It passed very near to BANE's breast, and ever after the ghost was not to be seen.

Risking some things already mentioned perhaps by Dr. KEELY, we give an outline of who the store-keepers have been. In 1828 West BONNEY was here, where the Citizens' Bank now is. The same year John SMITH was also a country merchant in the frame house now used for a bakery. John JOHNSON was here at the same time, and continued for twenty years. Charles SPINNINGS was where William H. JOHNSON now lives, about the same time, remaining for some ten years. The old store-house has since been greatly remodeled. Harry LEWIS was also in the same branch of trade, in a frame building where Shera & Brother are now. Mr. LEWIS remained in this vocation for fifteen years. Ross CHAMBERLAIN occupied two or three houses in as many years. He went from Oxford to California. Colonel Jacob OGLE was a storekeeper for two or three years where the Oxford Bank now is, many years ago; he was followed by Ratliff & Meridith, in the same house for a year or two. In 1840 'Squire CRAWFORD, who had also been with the people for many years previous, was a merchant. He held the office of justice of the peace for several terms, and died in Oxford three or four years since. Abraham J. CHITTENDEN was here in 1825 in a little frame house on the corner of Cathcart's block. CHITTENDEN removed to Il. Mr. DOLLAHAN was before CHITTENDEN, in a little frame north of the public square. Merrikin BOND was also a very early merchant. Robert MOLLYNEAUX was here in 1830, on the corner opposite the Cathcart block.

Invincible Odd Fellows' Lodge, No. 108, of Oxford, was chartered April 21, 1848, with the following members: Wm. T. SMITH, Sm. BROOKS, G. W. CHURCHILL, G. W. KEELY, I. I. KEELY, and S. C. PEARCE, and was instituted on the 7th of June of the same year. The first meetings of the organization were held in the third story of the Mansion House, after which they leased for twenty years the Irving building. After this they were for three or four years in the Chatten Hall. The present house was erected the same year as the Davis Hall. For the present officer, Spring of 1882, this lodge had S. P. MURRAY, N. G.; John A. MORROW, V. G.; H. D. GATH, R. S.; D. P. BEATON, P. S.; W. L. LANE, Treasurer. There are about sixty-five active members, with a usual attendance of about twenty-five, many of them living at a distance, which prevents their presence.