mvvig_pioneers

Welcome to
MIDDLETOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
"Linking the Past with the Present for the Future"

Miami Valley Vignettes
by George C. Crout

Pioneers and the Next Generation
 

Johnny Appleseed's Seeds Mike Fink's Keelboats Paddy's Run
The Blue Ball Log Cabin Days The Indian Captive
Indian Root Doctors Ministerial Lands Witches and Witchcraft
Horse Thief's Whipping Washington and Stanhope Canvas Caravans
Banks and Banking At the End of the Road East View of Springfield
Sign of the Golden Lamb Central View, Lebanon Ye Olde Taverns
Street View in Germantown Kissing Bridges By Wind and Steam
To Dig a Ditch Little Miami Railroad The Red Ear
Corn and Pork LeSourd of LeSourdsville Bamboo Harris of Elk Creek
Free - Gratis Mayor of Centerville The Shaker Curse
Carlisle Station O.K. for Harrison Ohio's First First Lady
Queen City of the West Wedding of Two Towns The Lions of Franklin
The Three R's The Medicine Man Come to the Fair
The Phantom Bugler Harveys of Harveysburg Felicity's Forty-Niners
Rain on the Roof The Honey-Bee Man Country Doctor

 


Johnny Appleseed's Seeds

Born in 1770 in Massachusetts, John Chapman is remembered as Johnny Appleseed. Upon the death of his mother, and his father away at war, Johnny was taken in by kind relatives. As a boy he enjoyed listening to stories of the wild Ohio country, dreaming of the time when he could join the emigrants on the westward trail. In 1792 he left home settling for a time near a small outpost, named Pittsburgh. Here he began his career as a nurseryman.

Sensing the need for fruit trees in the new Ohio land, Johnny gathered apple seeds from cider mills and set up small nurseries. He sold his seedlings to those going West, charging only what the buyer could afford to pay, giving them to those who had no money. The year 1800 found him in the Ohio country, and in the years to come he was to establish nurseries throughout the state, including those in the Miami Valley counties of Champagne, Clark, Logan and Butler.

This kind, simple man was loved by Indians and pioneers alike and was a special friend of children. When they saw this strangely dressed man who wore a buttonless shirt, covering a Bible held in by suspenders, holding up his worn trousers, they rushed to greet him. Johnny usually wore a tin pot on his head, serving him both as a shelter from the elements and as a useful cooking utensil.

Johnny carried more than appleseeds in his leather knapsack; he also had small religious books, Testaments, and would even take a Bible apart and lend out the individual books. He was a missionary for a Christian church, helping to establish one of his belief, in Cincinnati.

With the opening of the Miami-Erie Canal, Johnny began to travel on its boats, carrying his seeds and seedlings with him. He would distribute them along the route of the canal.


Mike Fink's Keelboats

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Great Miami River was a navigable river. Most of the boats were crudely built flatboats and went only one way - downstream. But a few of the river craft were carefully constructed and could be poled against the current to go upstream - these were called keelboats. They varied in length from 40 to 80 feet and from 7 to 10 feet wide. Long and narrow they moved fast, requiring the roughest and toughest of men to pole them up the rivers.

The keelboat could ascend the Great Miami to Loramie Creek and some went even farther north. Cargo was often carried across the land, known as a portage, between the Great Miami to the St. Mary's River and then up the Maumee River to Lake Erie, thus providing a north-south route across the state.

The best known keelboat captain was the legendary Mike Fink, who referred to himself as being "half wild horse and half alligator. " His trade mark was a red feather stuck in the band of an old hat. From the time he was 12 years old, he had used a gun, becoming the best marksman in the Ohio country. When shooting matches were advertised, there was often a note at the bottom, which stated that the contest excluded Mike Fink. Mike could drive a nail with a bullet, or put two bullets in the same hole of a target.

Mike's owned two keelboats which made their way up and down the rivers of the West. He went wherever a cargo was to be delivered at a profit. In the very early years, before dams were built across the Great Miami, Mike Fink could be seen on its waters. However, stagecoaches and big freight wagons soon took over the trade. When the steamboat appeared on the Ohio River, Mike Fink knew that Ohio had become too civilized for him. One day in 1815 Mike Fink just packed up and moved farther West.


Paddy's Run

Few realize that the first Welsh settlement in Ohio was made in Morgan Township, Butler County. It was located in the picturesque valley of Paddy's Run, a tributary of the Great Miami River. Paddy's Run was not named for a Welshman, but an unlucky Irishman, who was a scout attached to General Anthony Wayne's army. According to the legend the Irishman drowned in the creek which bears his name. Later in 1831 a post office was set up and letters from Wales arrived at Paddy's Run without any difficulty. The village is now known as Shandon, a more dignified name.
The first settler of Paddy's Run was Edward Bebb, who bought his land from a Squatter, and then a second time from the U.S. government, when its official purchase became possible in 1801. Bebb married in 1802 and the first child's name was William, who is said to have been the first white child born on the west side of the Great Miami River in Butler County.

William Bebb, as a boy, helped clear the land. He was taught by his mother. In 1826 he became the first teacher at Paddy's Run School and two years later opened a boarding school in the wilderness, known as the Sycamore Grove School. The schoolboys were encouraged to build their own cabins and a creek served as their running water. Since their teacher was also a justice of peace, court cases were tried in the schoolroom, as the pupils observed the proceedings from their desks. This was the beginning of a law career for many of them. The teacher went on to become a lawyer himself, and later a politician. In 1846 that teacher, William Bebb, became Governor of Ohio.

His boyhood home is now the centerpiece of Bebb Park in western Butler County. Here have been assembled several pioneer log cabins and homes, which can be toured by the visitor.


The Blue Ball

With the signing of the Treaty of Greenville, farmers began to lay claim to the best lands of the Miami Valley. It wasn't long until many small hamlets were settled at a crossroads. Typical of one of these was Blue Ball, stradling the Warren-Butler County line. The first man to come into the area was Samuel Dick who purchased a section of land, on which a creek began. The stream was given the name Dicks Creek, a tributary of the Great Miami River. In 1796 Joseph Parks purchased the section of land north of Dick's property, built a crude log cabin, which he replaced as his residence with a brick house in 1803. Parks donated an acre of his land for a church and cemetery, which is still along Union Road.
Around 1800 a log cabin schoolhouse was built. By 1815 the Great Miami Turnpike was under construction, which was the most direct route between Cincinnati and Dayton. Then came the stagecoach. This brought trade to the small community, and a tavern was built to offer accommodations to the travelers. The village had been called by the distinguished name of Guilford, after a Cincinnati lawyer. But the tavern owner put up In "the Forties." a sign with a big blue ball painted on it. This was the custom in those days for many pioneers could not read or write, but they could identify a place by its sign. Stage coach drivers began to call the stop, Blue Ball, the name stuck, and in 1844 appeared on its postmark. The stage coach stop, south of Blue Ball was known as the Red Onion at the town of Monroe, founded in 1819.

Between 1850 and 1900 Blue Ball continued to grow and to serve the immediate area with a tavern, grocery, doctor's office, and an important blacksmith's shop operated by Jeremiah Squier, and then by his son, Edward. This shop has been recreated as part of the exhibits of the Warren County Historical Museum, located at Harmon Hall in Lebanon.


Log Cabin Days

Keeping house in pioneer days in a log cabin, smaller than the average family room in today's home, was not an easy task. While there were no windows to wash in the early cabins, as greased paper was substituted for the very expensive window glass which had to be transported over the mountains, there was plenty to do. The pioneer woman worked about fifteen hours a day. The old frontier saying was a truism: "A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done."

The pioneer woman helped tan the bear skins, which were spread over the floor as rugs, or put on the bed as covering. She grew and gathered vegetables fresh from her garden. She picked apples to make into apple butter, press into cider, or to cut into pieces to dry in the sun for winter's use.

From deerskin, she fashioned moccasins, hunting shirts and leggings for her family. She made shirts and pants from material which she had spun, woven, dyed and fashioned herself. From the linen, woven from flax and hemp fibers grown in the fields, and from the wool off the sheep, the pioneer mother made her own cloth. The spinning wheel and loom were in every home. With the roots and hulls of butternuts, and walnuts or berries the cloth was dyed.

While not preparing a meal over the fireplace, women found time to work in the fields at critical times. They also reared large families. They were often worn out physically, and died young. Others lived long fives such as Judith Kemper, wife of the Rev. James Kemper, the first settled minister in Cincinnati. She became the mother of 15 children. In 1804 the Kempers built a log house for their large family, which is the oldest house still standing in the Miami Purchase. It is located at the Zoological Gardens.


The Indian Captive

Many descendants of Catharine Schaeffer still live in the area around the village of Germantown. She was the mother of eight children, and many grandchildren, to whom she often told her story as an Indian captive.

Catharine was born in 1745 in the German community of Berks County, Pennsylvania. One day while her parents were out harvesting a crop in the field, a group of Indians sneeked up to the house. Here Catherine, who was about ten years old at the time, and her baby sister, were playing. One Indian rushed toward the baby and snatched her up. By that time her mother had run in from the field. Seeing the Indian with the baby, the mother rushed toward the warrior with her rake, struck him over the head. Enraged the warrior killed the mother, overpowered the father and took the three captive. After a time the Indians freed the father and the baby sister, but kept Catherine. She was assigned to care for an old Indian Chief, who treated her as a daughter, and taught her the Indian language.

Several years passed. While out gathering wood one day, Catharine came upon a party of white men. Recognizing her as a white captive, the men rescued her, and she was reunited with her father in Berks County. Upon the death of her father, and Peter, her husband, whom she had married, she migrated westward with her eight children to Twin Valley in 1804, just as Germantown was being settled. She cared for her family, and helped many of her neighbors. She was often a nurse to the pioneers, using her knowledge of the medicinal value of roots and herbs that she had been taught by the Indians. She also served as an interpreter for the white man and the Indians, for many lived in the Twin Valley at that time.

She died in 1818 and lies buried in the old graveyard of the Lutheran Church in Germantown.


Indian Root Doctors

The first doctors to practice medicine in the Miami Valley were known as Indian Root Doctors. Undoubtedly they all had a copy of the first medical book published in the valley. It was written in 1812 by Rev. Peter Smith and carried the title, "Indian Doctor's Dispensatory." In the book, Rev. Smith gave medical advice, often recommending one of his various bottled remedies. All were well-laced with alcohol. On every label, being a minister, he also included a blessing. He spent his last years in a home along Donnell's Creek near Springfield.

At times Rev. Smith would reveal one of his secret formulas, such as the recipe found in a Cincinnati newspaper, "The Liberty Bell," Jan. 11, 1815. To make this particular tonic he advised, "taking Snakeroot, columbo root, vinegar, a large handful of nails, a pound of sugar and a half pint of whiskey." This mixture was to be boiled in a gallon of water until the whole mixture was reduced to a pint of pain killer.

Some of the Indian root medicines actually did work, for they contained ingredients of medicinal value. Dr. Daniel Drake, an early physician of Cincinnati published a Est of useful medicinal barks, roots, oils, flowers and leaves, native to the Miami Valley which were useful to cure some illnesses. The Shakers of Union Village became noted for their botanical medicines, such as Shakers Fluid Extract of Sarasaparilla. They grew a great variety of plants and herbs which were shipped around the country.

Dr. Cotton was one of the first Indian root doctors in the middle Miami Valley, and he would travel for miles to reach a patient. The home of this black physician was a log cabin on Indian Creek in Butler County. He died in 1820.


Ministerial Lands

It happened only once in U.S. history. When the Ohio Company and the Symmes Purchase tracts were laid out, Section 29 of each surveyed township was reserved for the support of religion. A 1/36th part of all townships were declared Ministerial lands and the rent from these lands were to be used in support of a minister for each community. The principal was never to be paid, but the interest on the valuation was to be paid each year, making up the Ministerial fund. As administered, the money was divided among the different church groups in proportion to their membership. Congress, realizing that in subsidizing established religious groups it had violated the Constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state, never again set aside such lands. Only in recent years was the program finally ended.
The Territorial government encouraged the pioneers to settle these townships, otherwise they became unoccupied lands with Indian settlers. The government offered these reserved lands on a 99-year lease basis with a fixed yearly rental. In 1817 the leases were made renewable forever.

Rev. Wilson Thompson, A Baptist minister writes in his autobiography of making his home on such land - Section 29, Oxford Township, Butler County. His farm had 60 acres for which he paid $10.80 a year. He bought out the original settler in 1815 for $150. In addition to 20 acres of cleared land, the site included a good log cabin, a log barn and a corn crib. Rev. Thompson went to work, repaired and enlarged the log cabin, planted an orchard and put up other outbuildings.

Being a circuit-riding minister, he soon wanted to be nearer the center of his circuit, which included churches at Mill Creek, Pleasant Run, Springfield and Mt. Pleasant, north of Poasttown. He sold out his lease and moved to a farm near New Burlington.


Witches and Witchcraft

In the late 18th Century, a family lived near Bethel in Clermont County, that believed in witchcraft. They argued that their daughters were harassed by an old witch, who caused them to misbehave. The Hildebrand family had tried to rid their home of the witch, using remedies suggested by friends. On one occasion, with a large bag made of home-spun hnsey-woolsey, they thought they had finally caught the witch. Then they put the bag on the ground and cut it into a hundred pieces with a sharp axe, burning the shreds. But the witch still continued to taunt them.

The family then decided the witch lived in the form of a neighbor, Nancy Evans. So they brought formal accusations against her, but there were no laws in the Northwest Territory governing such a case - lawmakers hadn't forseen witchcraft as a problem. However, many settlers recalled the witchcraft trials of New England.

So it was decided to settle the case in the old method of Colonial Days. It was held that if a witch were weighed on a large scales against the Holy Bible - the accused on one end, the Bible on the other - that a true witch could never tip the beam. The, unofficial sentence was read by a Justice of Peace: "Nancy Evans, thou art weighed against the Bible to try thee against witchcraftry and diabolical practices."

Being done in the name of the law and the Word of God, all agreed to abide by the outcome. So Nancy took her place at one end of the beam, and a Bible was placed on the other end. Immediately Nancy, being much heavier, and no witch at all, easily sank to the ground, freeing herself from the false charge.

Another charge of witchcraft was later brought against an elderly woman in the Mill Creek Valley of Hamilton County, which was the last such charge made in the Miami Valley.


Horse Thief's Whipping

Early one morning, sometime in 1813, a boarder at a Hamilton tavern walked out to the stable only to discover that his horse had been stolen. He reported it to Sheriff James McBride. Within a few days, the Sheriff had tracked down the thief, finding the missing horse. The horse thief was taken before Judge Dunlevy and proven guilty. In those days there was no state penitentiary and an accepted punishment for such an act was a public whipping with a cowhide whip. The Judge sentenced the horse thief to 39 lashes.

Sheriff McBride took his prisoner to j ail and since there had never been a public whipping in Butler County, went out to purchase a good cowhide whip. Now the Sheriff's wife was opposed to such cruel punishment, so after the Sheriff had put the whip in the closet, she took it out, secretly soaking it in a pan of grease to soften it.

The news of the public whipping spread like wildfire, and the day before the sentence was to be executed, people began flocking into the county seat from as far away as 60 miles. The Sheriff who also was opposed to such punishment, did not want it to become a public spectacle, but he had to carry out the court's order. On the appointed day, Sheriff McBride rose very early, took out his whip and ordered the prisoner tied to the post. Just as the sun was rising, he placed the 39 lashes.

Some had anticipated that the Sheriff would make such a move, and a large crowd was on hand to witness the whipping so the Sheriff had to lay it on. But many of the out-of-town visitors, tired from the long trip the day before, slept late and missed the whipping.

The horse thief's back was not so badly bruised due to the Sheriff's wife's trick, and soon healed. The thief, as ordered, left the county, never to return. This was the only such whipping in the county's history.


Washington and Stanhope

At a crossroads called Heathtown in Champaign County is an old cemetery in which the man who knew George Washington best, is buried. He served Washington everyday, through the entire American Revolution and his two-term Presidency. He returned with him to Mt. Vernon and stood over his death bed waiting the end, which came on Dec. 14, 1799.

As a reward for his years of loyal and devoted service, Washington's will provided for his longtime valet - Richard Stanhope. A relationship that began as master-servant, developed into one of friendship. Washington's will provided that Stanhope, not only be given his freedom, but a United States land grant of 400 rich acres of Ohio land to which Washington had laid claim.

Richard Stanhope arrived in Champaign County in 1808 and found many black settlers already there. The county welcomed him and the other hard-working black pioneers. Stanhope did well developing his 400 acres in Goshen Township, and was soon a wealthy man. He also had the ability to locate underground water, and became a professional well digger, a most important job before the days of running water.

Stanhope lived for many years in the Miami Valley, for his death did not occur until the Civil War. He died in 1862 at the age of 114, and was the father of 27 children.

Newspaper and magazine reporters sought Stanhope out on his large farm because of his intimate and interesting stories of George Washington. He loved to recall these personal stories of the "Father of his Country," whom he greatly admired. He was the last link in the Miami Valley between Washington and the American Revolutionary War.


Banks and Banking

Dayton's oldest bank was organized Feb. 10, 1814 as the Dayton Manufacturing Company. Its first large loan was granted to the federal government to help finance the War of 1812. The bank survived under various reorganizations to become one of the major financial institutions of the Miami Valley today.

Valentine Winters was to become the major influence on the bank, giving it a valley-wide reputation for honesty and integrity. He was the son of Rev. Thomas Winters, born in Maryland in 1778. He migrated to Ohio with his family and became the minister of the Germantown Reformed Church. One of his eleven children was Valentine. Valentine Winters as a young boy helped make brick in the Twin Valley Village, and then went to Dayton to seek his fortune. Beginning as Cashier, he worked his way up to the presidency of the Dayton Bank, the name under which Dayton's oldest bank later did business. In 1857 the bank again changed its name to Valentine Winters and Son Bank.

However, this was not the Miami Valley's first bank. It was organized at Cincinnati in 1803 as the Miami Exporting Company. Despite several reorganizations this bank closed forever in 1842. In 1814 the Lebanon Miami Banking Company was organized. In 1817 the Bank of Hamilton was incorporated. In 1816 a Waynesville bank opened its doors, as did the Bank of Xenia.

Most Miami Valley Banks trace their beginning to later dates. In 1842 the first bank was organized in Urbana. In 1846 the Mad River Valley Bank opened at Springfield. A bank opened in Sidney in 1854. The Dunfee Bank opened at Bellefontaine in 1849, and the Oglesby and Barnitz Bank in Middletown in 1850. When the National Banking Act of 1863 was passed, many new banks came into being such as the First National Banks of Middletown and Hamilton now the merged First National Bank of Southwestern Ohio.


Canvas Caravans

Drawn by six, strong draft horses, the prairie schooners made their way from the Miami Valley to the East coast, and then back again. Often traveling in a group, Conestoga wagons with white canvas tops swaying in the wind, and the sturdy heavy Yankee wagons carried the valley's first commerce. As the rich soils of Ohio began to produce a surplus of corn, wheat and other crops, a way had to be found to get flour, cornmeal and pork to market. These products of the farm could be traded for needed staples of the pioneer.

While a most expensive means of transportation, these wagons became important during the first quarter of the 19th century - before the canal era. Dams obstructed travel on the rivers, and low-water periods also hindered such travel. Overturned boats also were a loss.

The schooner's stout body, or bed, was made of hardwood and seasoned hardwoods, thus practically indestructable. Three teams usually furnished the necessary power. The driver rode in a saddle on the wheel-horse - the first horse, or "near" horse on the wagon's left front side. From the saddle horse, the driver controlled the lead horse, which was first in line on the left side. The driver used only one line, which was attached to the leader. Seated on the saddle horse, he controlled all six horses. The leader and the near wheel horse were highly prized by the teamsters.

These canvas caravans delivered many thousands of tons of country produce to the East and returned with needed merchandise. By 1795 a dirt road led all the way from Cincinnati to Dayton along the east side of the Great Miami River. In 1808 the Bullskin Trace crossed the northern part of the Miami Valley. In 1811 a state road was cut through to Troy. The traffic became heavy on the National Road and the Great Miami Turnpike.


At the End of the Road

It was first known as "The Town at the End of the Road," but developed into one of the great cities of the Miami Valley. In January 1838 the National Road reached Springfield. Since Indiana was slow in extending it, not until 1850 had it crossed Indiana, reaching Vandalia, Illinois in 1852.

The National Road was begun by the U.S. government in 1811 at Cumberland, Maryland. First known as the Cumberland Road, it ended at the Ohio River in 1818. In 1825 Congress appropriated the money to extend the road across Ohio. The roadway was 66 feet wide, built of layers of broken stone with culverts and stone bridges. Much of the stone was shipped in by canal boat. It cost about $3500 a mile to build. Toll gates were erected every 10 miles, and tolls collected to maintain it.

Severe penalties were imposed for vandalism. Damage to the road, its bridges or even its milestones, could result in a $500 fine and 30 days in the dungeon of a jail with a diet of bread and water. Hoping to save their business, packhorsemen bitterly fought building the road, even attacking the construction crews, and sometimes overturning wagons and stagecoaches using it.

The National Road made Springfield the trading center of the northern Miami Valley, giving it the edge over Urbana and Piqua. Springfield's population shot up from 1,080 in 1830 to 5,108 just 20 years later.


East View of Springfield

It later became Route 40 and is now paralleled by Interstate 70. The Miami Valley now has several major highways. Interstate 75, within the shadow of old Route 25 is the major North-South artery. Making a diagonal line from Cincinnati to Columbus is Interstate 71. Interstate 275 circles Cincinnati and links Interstate 71, 74, and 75.


Sign of the Golden Lamb

The famous English author, Charles Dickens, stepped off a steamboat's gang plank at Cincinnati on an April day in 1842. He and his wife were on a tour of the U.S. After spending a few days in the Queen City, then the largest city in the West with 45,000 people, Dickens took a stagecoach northward. Stagecoach travel was slow, with the horses making an average of six miles per hour, and usually behind schedule. By the time the driver reached Lebanon, the coach was about two hours late, according to this famous passenger's record, which was later recorded in a book, entitled, American Notes.

Dickens alighted from the stagecoach. He was a little man in a brown, frock coat and a beaver hat with a fuzzy scarf wrapped around his neck. Walking into the Golden Lamb, which is still in operation as Ohio's oldest inn, Dickens demanded some whiskey. The owner, Calvin Bradley, informed him that liquor was no longer sold at his "temperance" hotel. An angry Dickens stomped out and walked down the street to Wiles' Tavern where he was served. Later Dickens returned to the Golden Lamb to enjoy a good dinner.

After the meal, several Lebanon citizens called on the distinguished author. Even at that time his books were widely read, and the next year he was to write the immortal, Christmas Caro4 introducing the world to Scrooge. The next morning Dickens and his wife climbed aboard the stage heading for Columbus. Between the state capital and Sandusky, Dickens experienced a rough ride over corduroy roads that ran through swamps and forests.


Central View, Lebanon

The Golden Lamb still remains much as it was when Dickens made his visit, with a room bearing his name. The inn today has 18 rooms available to travelers furnished with antiques, and restaurant facilities for over 400 in nine dining rooms. The Golden Lamb is a living museum.


Ye Olde Taverns

Second in Ohio only to the Golden Lamb is the Florentine Hotel located in the historic downtown section of the village of Germantown. When it opened for business in 1816, German was still spoken on the town's streets, and it was known as the Germantown Hotel. As the town prospered, so did the hotel, which by 1860 had two brick additions attached to the original frame structure.

According to historians, Ohio's first real lager beer was brewed by Frederick German at Germantown in 1830 and sold at the bar of the hotel. After 1864 patrons were able to buy high quality locally produced whiskey made by David Rohrer at his Mudlick Distillery located a mile southwest of Germantown.


Street View in Germantown


The aromatic smoke in the old tavern room was from cigars made in Germantown by a manufacturers just a half block down the street. The town was a noted tobacco center, importing some Havana and Connecticut tobacco to add to the flavor of the three million cigars produced each year.

The Germantown Turnpike, now Route 4, was a busy highway, and regular stage lines unloaded their passengers at the hotel while the horses were stabled in the back for a rest. Citizens were alerted to a stage's arrival by the bells jangling from the harnesses. Cattle drivers and teamsters also stopped for refreshments, food and lodging.

Almost forty owners have kept the old hotel open during the many years. Its latest proprietors completely renovated the old landmark, restoring its old fireplaces and antiques. A visit there now transports the guest back almost two centuries, to the very beginning of the settlement of the Miami Valley.

Twenty-Mile House at Loveland was built in 1802, and became a stagecoach stop as early as 1810. Restored to its original decor, it now serves good country dinners. Symmes Tavern at Fairfield opened in 1852 as an important stage stop. Later it became a private residence, but in 1946 was remodeled and opened again for public dining.


Kissing Bridges

Over thirty covered bridges are still standing in ten of the counties of the Miami Valley. The oldest one, still useable spans Seven Mile Creek on the old Camden Road, just off Route 127. It is the Orlistus Roberts Bridge, the last of the double-barrelled spans. It has three arched trusses of oak and poplar, a type of bridge rarely seen in the U.S. In pioneer days, hundreds of these bridges were built.

The reason for covering the bridges were many. Wooden bridges lasted longer if covered, for the trusses were protected. Horses and cattle were easier to coax across a covered bridge, for they found such a crossing less frightening. In the winter when most people traveled by sleigh or hauled goods on sleds, these bridges being covered, were paved with snow to keep the traffic sliding along.

The Roberts Bridge was on a major toll road leading from Cincinnati through Hamilton to Somerville, Camden and Eaton. It was used as the pioneers moved northward to settle lands in Ohio and Indiana. The Roberts Bridge was located on the Roberts farm, with the timber being cut and hewn on the farm itself. Robert, in addition to being a good farmer, was a skilled craftsman and carpenter. The bridge was built in 1829.

Some of the bridges across the Great Miami River had to be very long, for the river was wide. After dark, robbers found these bridges a good place to hide and rob honest travelers, and being so dark, it was hard to identify the thieves.

Young people found the covered bridges offered privacy for courting. A young man often stopped his horses and buggy in the middle of a covered bridge to steal a kiss. Older people became impatient when such couples held up the traffic, but were often tolerant remembering that as young people they had stopped on the bridge with similar ideas in mind. Such bridges were often called "kissing bridges."


By Wind and Steam

Ohioans once built ships that sailed the seven seas. A naval hero of the Revolutionary War, Commodore Abraham Whipple settled near Marietta. With timber from hardwood forests, he directed the building of the brig, the "St. Clair," a two-masted, 110 ton vessel.
This did not long go unnoticed by the people of Cincinnati, who crowded the riverfront to watch it sail down the Ohio. In 1805 Cincinnati began to build barges rigged with two masts, and two years later the "Kentucky Packet" built in the Queen City delivered a cargo to New Orleans, and returned to home port using sails. It was the first such boat to make the return voyage up the Ohio River and over the falls.

But it was only a few years later that the newly invented steamboat was to appear at Cincinnati. Nicholas Roosevelt and a group of promoters organized the Ohio Steamboat Navigation Company in 1810. They had built the "New Orleans," similar to Fulton's successful "Clermont" - the first steamboat ever built.

One day in March, 1811, Roosevelt and his bride, as its only passengers, left the port of Pittsburgh. While hundreds predicted they would never reach Cincinnati, after two days they appeared at the public landing. Then they went on to Louisville and finally south to New Orleans. They had proven that the Ohio River could be conquered by the new steamboat. But the "New Orleans" never returned to Cincinnati, remaining in service between Natchez and New Orleans, as it did not have enough power to buck the strong, upstream current. It remained for Henry Schreve to design an engine and steamboat that could make the return trip.

With steamboat navigation underway, Cincinnati developed into a major shipbuilding center. Between 1811 and 1836 its craftsmen built 164 steamboats, and by 1850 it was the shipbuilding center of the West.


To Dig a Ditch

The name of Gov. DeWitt Clinton appears on the historical markers placed at the entrances to Middletown, causing some travelers to inquire why a New York Governor should be so honored.
DeWitt Clinton was the guest of the village of Middletown on July 21, 1825, where he lifted the first spadeful of sod that marked the official beginning of the Miami-Erie Canal that was to eventually link the Ohio River with Lake Erie. This canal opened up world markets to the produce of the rich farmland of the Miami Valley, which had been plagued with great crop surpluses.

Gov. Clinton's whole political career was based upon opening the West through federal government grants to build transportation arteries. The canals were part of his plan of what was known as internal improvements. He believed transportation facilities - roads, canals and waterways - could be a major factor in building a strong and united nation. He also realized it would bring prosperity to the wilderness farmer, and gain his support for a strong federal government.

So little wonder DeWitt Clinton, a handsome, robust man was greeted with great enthusiasm when he arrived in Middletown. Cannon boomed to announce his approaching the town, then the bells rang out. As he rode down the streets, crowds pushed out into the roadway. Ladies watched from the windows waving snowy, white handkerchiefs. Children spread flowers before his carriage.

By 11 o'clock in the morning when official ceremonies began at Daniel Doty's farm, across which the pioneer had granted a right-of-way for the canal, thousands were on hand from all over the Miami Valley. The distinguished party for the ground-breaking also included Gov. Jeremiah Morrow of Ohio; Gen. William Henry Harrison; former Gov. E. A. Brown; and several top canal officials.


Little Miami Railroad

By the end of 1830, 30 miles of railroad track had been laid in the United States. Some of the people of Ohio realized the locomotive represented a major advance in transportation, being faster and more dependable than the canal, and cheaper than wagon or stagecoach. In 1825 citizens of Sandusky proposed a railroad to make its way through the woods to Dayton. In 1832 the state granted a charter for the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad. A year later plans were afoot in the Miami Valley for a line which would begin at Springfield, then go south to Xenia, and down the valley of the Little Miami River to Cincinnati, connecting with the northern line. It became known as the Little Miami Railroad.

Raising money to build the road and obtaining the right-of-way took several years, but finally on Dec. 14, 1841 the first train rolled over the 15-mile section of the Little Miami Railroad between Cincinnati and Milford which had been completed. The new four-wheeled, 12-ton locomotive, christened the "Governor Morrow" pulled a 30-passenger coach, a 20-passenger side-seat car, and a freight car or two. It left Cincinnati at 11 A.M., arrived in Milford where the guests ate lunch, while local townspeople enjoyed a short ride on the train. The return trip to the Queen City was made in an hour, causing a reporter on board to note that "we whirled along at a rapid pace."

The Little Miami Railroad was constructed as the money became available, with the tracks reaching Xenia in 1845 and Springfield in 1846. Meanwhile the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad finally reached the Springfield station in 1848, which meant railroad tracks now connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River. In 1851 the Mad River line was extended from Springfield to Dayton. In the same year the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad was built in the valley of the Great Miami River. By 1860 Ohio had 3,000 miles of railroad tracks.


The Red Ear

In the first half of the 19th Century, the biggest social event of late fall was the corn husking bee, and its most coveted prize, the red ear of corn. By the 1830's the Miami Valley was no longer a frontier land, and the raisings of log cabins was an event of the past. Log houses and brick houses were appearing, which required more skilled work crews. A new social activity was needed to bring the isolated farmers together. The husking bee became the most widely celebrated festival. After the corn was cut, put into shocks, and had time to dry, it was shucked and the ears were hauled into the barn. The corn was laid in one long pile on the barn floor.

Then the word was sent out that there would be a husking bee at a particular farm with the date announced. Just hearing the news was considered an invitation. From a five-mile radius, the whole neighborhood assembled on the given date. Two captains were chosen and they each assembled their gang of huskers. A pole divided the pile with each captain agreeing as to its fair location. Then the two sides went to work.

The prize for the winning team was a three gallon jug of hard cider, which the captain shared with his workers. The captain of the losing side was buried in a pile of corn husks. Then the workers and their families all adjourned for a big supper of pot-pie, roast pig, and all the trimmings of a feast.

After an enormous dinner and dessert, came the square dance. The young men who had gathered honestly, or otherwise, the red ears, began to collect their prizes. Each man with a red ear could obtain a kiss from his favorite girl, and if all went well, he escorted his special girl home, and perhaps collected another free kiss. It is said that Cupid, that mischievous busy-body, attended every husking bee. Other social events included singing schools and quilting bees.


Corn and Pork

It has been known as Indian maize, hackleberry, calico and gourdseed corn, and had thrived on Miami Valley soils for hundreds of years. Through most of the history of the valley corn has been the major crop, but now each year more and more soy beans are being planted.

Farmers have been important in the Miami Valley and agriculture will remain a major industry in the rich land as long as people eat. The Miami Valley usually produces about onefourth of Ohio's corn crop.

As early as 1837 the Hendrickson family of Butler County produced a new variety of corn distinguished by its large ears, deep grains and small cobs. It was sweet, too, and produced a half gallon more whiskey per barrel than any other variety. Stills scattered throughout the valley in early years, converted millions of bushels of the grain into alcohol. Christopher Leaming of Hamilton County experimented with corn producing the Leaming Yellow Dent variety.

In 1851 Butler County harvested 2,650,000 bushels of corn giving it first place in the state in production. In 1861 the Miami Valley grew 20 million bushels of corn. While hay and corn furnished the energy for horses that pulled the equipment on the farm, it was the common pig that ate most of the corn.

Pork was the preferred meat of the early Americans and lard the favorite shortening. This led to a great pork packing industry in the Miami Valley. Droves of hogs were driven to market and slaughtered in pork houses. Pork was cut up and packed in salt brine and shipped out in barrels. Cured hams from the valley found their way to the East coast and on to Europe. Cincinnati became so prominent in pork packing that the Queen City became known as Porkopolis. Since so much animal fat was available at Cincinnati, this by-product was used by Proctor and Gamble in the manufacture of soap, still a major industry.


LeSourd of LeSourdsville

Despite the fact that the amusement park is now called "Americana," the village in which it is located is LeSourdsville, as it has been for almost a century and a half.

It received its name from a Frenchman, Benjamin LeSourd, whose father had come to America as a member of the military unit commanded by Gen. LaFayette during the American Revolution. LeSourd's son migrated westward and in 1836 purchased 100 acres of land along the Hamilton-Middletown Pike. He platted his town between the pike and the Miami-Erie Canal, which ran along its western boundary. Then he built a general store, which he operated for several years. Soon other businesses opened. There were three taverns, including the popular one called the Red Buck Tavern. There was a blacksmith shop, and a large warehouse. Nearby were a saw mill and a woolen mill along Gregory Creek.

The main industry, however, was that of ice storage. The ice was cut off a large 22-acre lake, which was filled to the desired depth with water drawn off the canal. During the winter some 100 men were kept busy cutting and storing ice in the three big ice houses. The ice was packed in sawdust brought in canal boats from the timber region of northern Ohio. In the summer the ice was shipped south by canal to Cincinnati where some was consumed, with the rest put on riverboats and sold along the riVE!r ports as far south as New Orleans.

A railroad was built in 1884, which due to its winding ways was given the name of the Pumpkin Vine Line. A section of that railroad is still in use by Armco, Inc.

Lek'Sourdsville remained a quaint, quiet little village and most of its business moved to larger surrounding cities. Edgar Streifthau saw its potential as a regional amusement park. In 1921 he opened it as LeSourdsville Park, then years later he started Fantasy Farm.


Bamboo Harris of Elk Creek

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which set up the first government for the territory north of the Ohio River, provided that slavery be prohibited in this land. The first state Constitution of Ohio also forbade slavery. Black people were slow to come to Ohio, and by 1850 only 25,000 were listed in the state's Census figures, half of whom were natives.

A few free black men came early to Ohio seeking a better life. One of these was Bamboo Harris who arrived in Madison Township, Butler County in the year 1800. Just at that time the pioneers had begun to farm the rich soil, which was so fertile that it produced bumper crops of corn and wheat. The problems that the farmers faced was lack of a mill to grind the corn into meal and the wheat into flour. The nearest water-powered grist mill was the Round Bottom Mill at Columbia, now a part of Cincinnati. This meant that farmers had to make a long journey through unfriendly Indian lands to get to the mill.

One black man rode into Butler County with an unusual talent. He was an engineer, and in his head carried the plans of a grist mill, and in his hands the skills necessary to build and operate one. Under Harris's direction, the pioneers came together and helped him construct a grist mill along the flowing waters of Elk Creek, near what became the village of Miltonville.

Harris operated the mill successfully for over a half century and became one of the area's best known and respected citizens. He was a member in good standing of the Prairie Baptist Church. When he died his friends gathered at the little country church to pay him honor, and he still rests in the village cemetery on the hill at Miltonville. A large apartment complex in nearby Hamilton bears his name.


Free - Gratis

There is only one Gratis in the U.S. and it lies along Route 122 in Preble County. During its first 75 years, the village had a more prestigious name - Winchester. This was in honor of a military leader of the American Revolution and the War of 1812 - General James Winchester. When a post office was established in the village, the postal authorities asked the citizens to pick another name. There was already a Winchester in Ohio, and two places with the same name caused confusion. Winchester residents did the obvious thing by naming the village Gratis, after the township in which they were located.

In doing this they brought attention to another interesting story of why a township was named Gratis, which according to the dictionary simply means, free, for nothing. Gratis township was originally to be part of Lanier Township, which now lies to its north. It was named after Alexander Lanier, its first clerk of courts. When the County Commissioners created Lanier Township, a group from the extreme southeastern corner of Preble County, complained that Lanier was too large and too far for citizens to go to the polls to vote, and transact other business. Their leader, Samuel Stubbs, was a persuasive speaker. He pleaded before the Commissioners for the creation of a new township. He closed with these words: "We think we are right in making this request, and we think we ought to have a township gratis."

The clerk of the Board after conferring with the Commissioners announced, "Let him have it, and call it Gratis."

Gratis Township now had Gratis village. The old turnpike between Winchester and Middletown, known for almost a century as the Winchester Pike, also received a new name when it became simply, Route 122.


Mayor of Centerville

There was a time when the Mayor of Centerville had so little to do that a group of his friends hired a trespasser to violate the law, so His Honor, the Mayor, could swing his gavel and hold court.

Centerville was twice incorporated first in 1830 and later in 1879. Where the Dayton-Lebanon and the MiamisburgCenterville Turnpikes crossed, a small village grew up, being first platted in 1814. Centerville was the descriptive name chosen, becoming a post mark in 1815. It sets on the highest point of land between Dayton and Lebanon, located midway between Stringtown and Woodburn. In 1850 the Census counted 326 residents. It was a quiet, law-abiding small town, where not much criminal activity took place.

After its second incorporation, Samuel S. Robbins was elected Mayor. To give the Mayor some work, a group of his friends made up a contrived case. They took up a collection, and offered the purse to a horseman, who promised to violate the law and arouse the wrath of the Mayor. It was against the law in Centerville for a horse to walk on the paved sidewalk - a very practical and wise law. So the hired offender led his horse right down the sidewalk under the nose of the Mayor.

The Mayor rose to the occasion, rushed and arrested the violator of one of Centerville's Ordinances. The offender was brought into court. While the crime was not of magnitude to jail the criminal, as the Mayor would have preferred, he did levy a stiff fine of 50 cents. The offender had to pay the fine out of the money given him to commit the crime.

Times have changed and Centerville has grown into a city of about 20,000 people. On its outskirts is the big Dayton Mall, and it also has a big shopping center. The old turnpikes are now crowded highways in every direction.


The Shaker Curse

Back in 1820 the citizens of Lebanon had big plans for the future, dreaming that their pleasant little village might grow into the biggest city in Ohio. But that was before the Shakers put their curse on Lebanon. Since this strange religious sect was thought to have intercommunication with the world of spirits, many took the Curse seriously.

Usually a kindly people who minded their own business, the Shakers operated their farms located on 4,000 acres of Warren County's choice farm land, just west of Lebanon. But their strange beliefs of communal living caused consternation in the towns around Union Village. Between 1808 and 1820 the Shakers were invaded by seven mobs, and then decided it was time to respond in their own way. The people of Lebanon had led the campaign against the Shakers, hoping to get them to move out of the county.

One evening, during a meeting, a Shaker brother had a vision, and told the assembly that the Spirit ordered that the Shakers put a Curse on Lebanon. Two messengers were chosen for the task, Francis Bedle and Richard McNemar, the Shaker leaders. Early one morning in 1820, the two men rode to Lebanon on horseback. They paraded up and down its streets, waving their broad-rimmed hats and crying out loudly, "Woe on all prosecutors." Thus they put the Shaker Curse on Lebanon, and for many years the town progressed very slowly, and even the skeptics shuttered when the Curse was mentioned.

Now the people of Dayton and its newspapers had been kind in their remarks about the Shakers. So on the afternoon of the same day that the Curse was put on Lebanon, the Shaker messengers rode into Dayton. They appeared on its streets praising the town and announcing, "Blessings on all kindly souls." In 1820 Lebanon had a population of 1,079 and Dayton, 1,000. Today Lebanon has 8,000 people and Dayton around 240,000.


Carlisle Station

Despite the warnings of his New Hampshire friends, that he would be murdered in Ohio, or starve to death, young George Carlisle came West in 1818 to seek his fortune. Arriving safely in the Miami Valley, he wrote home. He stated that he was amazed at the number of people emigrating to Ohio, especially elderly people who tugged through the rocks, hills and dales with cheerful spirits. He observed that most of the wealthy men in the Miami Valley were those who had come early, purchased land, and held it long enough to sell at a profit.

Carlisle reported that land in Ohio would produce more than that of New England with half the labor. After traveling around the valley and stopping at Hamilton and Lebanon, Carlisle decided to open a general store in Cincinnati.

Carlisle was convinced that with hard work, money could be accumulated. He invested the profits from his store in various enterprises, one being railroads. The Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad was under construction, so he decided to purchase a large tract of land along the railroad line. It was near the New Jersey Settlement, across the river from Franklin. He saw it as a good site for a town. It already had a church, which had been organized in 1813, and a blacksmith shop, which made for a sense of community. Most of the inhabitants had emigrated from New Jersey.

Carlisle platted the town, and as he predicted, it prospered. A post office was set up using the postmark, Carlisle, and a general store was opened. The business center was the large freight depot, which was built to serve the rich Twin Creek Valley. Having no railroad of its own at the time, Carlisle station became the outlet for Germantown and the adjoining Montgomery County area. Eventually other rail lines ran through Carlisle, adding to its importance as a shipping center.


O.K. for Harrison

While there are several versions of how the expression O.K. came into use as a part of the American language, it may have originated here in the Miami Valley. It all goes back to the political campaign of 1840. When the Whig party nominated the favorite hero of the West, General William Henry Harrison, no man was more respected than he. Appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory in 1791 by President George Washington, in 1800 he was promoted to the Governnorship of the Indian Territory. Then he was put in charge of the successful Western Campaign against both the Indians and British during the War of 1812. After that he became a member of Congress.

In 1840 he ran for the presidency. Ohio had never seen such a campaign. General Harrison lived at North Bend near Cincinnati, and while his home was a long way from a log cabin, Harrison's campaign symbols became the log cabin and the buckeye. During the summer and fall the campaign became more heated. Harrison traveled up and down the Miami Valley making political speeches, some over two hours long, before great crowds. There was a gigantic rally at Dayton, but the largest of all was on Sept. 15, 1840 at Urbana. Here a calvacade miles long met the General to escort him to the public square.

In the crowd at Urbana were delegations from many northern Miami Valley communities, who arrived in all kinds of vehicles. They carried flags, emblems and banners, many homemade containing political slogans. On one banner was the slogan: "The People is O-L-L K-0-R-R-E-C-T." There were a few poor spellers and grammarians in those days, too! Anyway it amused those passing by, and other banners were made shortening the slogan to "People is O.K." Thus amid a political rally, O.K. was added to the American language.


Ohio's First First Lady

She was the beloved wife of a President from Ohio, yet she never lived in the White House. She outlived her husband and nine of her ten children. She became the grandmother of another Ohio president, Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893), a graduate of Miami University.

Anna Symmes Harrison lived a long and eventful life. Born in 1775 at the beginning of the American Revolution, her mother died a short time after Anna's birth. When the British captured Morristown, New Jersey, the Symmes' hometown, John Cleves Symmes, her father, fearing for young Anna's life, sneaked her through enemy fines to the safety of her grandmother's house. It should be noted that this is the same Judge John Cleves Symmes who made the famous Miami Purchase that marked the beginning of the permanent settlement of the Miami Valley.

After the war, Anna's father took her with him to Ohio, where she met and fell in love with the dashing Lieutenant, William Henry Harrison. Destined for fame, Harrison was appointed Governor of the Indiana Territory and built a beautiful home for his bride at Grouseland at Vincinnes. The home built to withstand Indian attacks was called the "White House of the West." With the coming of the War of 1812, Harrison left the Governor's chair to take up his sword and lead the frontiersmen in the successful war against the Indians and the British.

Anna was sent back to the safety of the Symmes's home at North Bend on the Ohio River, where she cared for her ten children and aging father. After the war, General Harrison returned to North Bend, a national hero, and was elected congressman. Anna entertained hundreds of important visitors and is said to have served 365 hams a year at her dinner table. When her husband was elected President, she was ill and could not accompany him to the White House. President Harrison died of pneumonia after a brief 32-day term - the first Ohio man in the White House.


Queen City of the West

"Cincinnati is the largest city in the West and its hills present to the eye of the beholder one continuous ridge." So wrote Charles Cist in 1841 when he began to call Cincinnati the Queen City. It was a poem using the term by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that pinned that proud title on the city forever.

By 1840 Cincinnati was not only the main city of the Miami Valley, but of the whole midwest. Historian Cist stated that over 1125 miles of canals, railroads and turnpikes led to the Queen City, and that the transportation network was enlarging each year. The cost of building these arteries was put at $12 million. This was in addition to the natural route, the Ohio River. In 1840 hundreds of steamboats tied up at Cincinnati.

The Miami Canal ran south from Dayton through West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Franklin, Middletown, and Hamilton to Cincinnati. The Cincinnati and Hamilton Turnpike was a McAdam Road, paved by a new process at that time of asphalt mixed with gravel, the invention of a man named McAdam. By stagecoach Cincinnati was 502 miles from Washington City, and 650 miles from New York City, via the Erie Canal.

In 1840 Cincinnati had a population of 46,338 of whom over 14,000 were of German descent. In comparison the same 1840 Census showed Cleveland with only 6,071 population. Not until 1900 did Cleveland overtake the Queen City as Ohio's largest city. Finally in 1970 Columbus surpassed Cincinnati in population, leaving it third in population in Ohio. However, Cincinnati is more than an Ohio city, it is a tri-state city, the commercial and cultural center of a large surrounding area. It is still the major city of the Miami Valley, with its heart at Fountain Square.


Wedding of Two Towns

A county newspaper reported on April 3, 1854 an unusual, but important marriage in the Miami Valley. The notice stated: "The wedding of Mr. Alexander Hamilton and Miss Rossville took place in the Butler County Courthouse. From this day Rossville will no longer be called by that name, but be known as First Ward, Hamilton, Ohio."

The first proposal by old Alexander Hamilton was made back in 1845, but Miss Rossvffle, the daughter of James Ross, was very shy and coy. She was awed by such a noted suitor, but was afraid she would lose her identity and independence if she accepted. However, both had many friends, who felt that the two would make an ideal match. Both were small towns, but united in marriage, they would be an important city. Although the two had been inseparable since childhood, they had often quarreled and made up. Mr. Hamilton was at times overbearing, and Miss Rossville was headstrong and interested in Women's Rights.

But when their friends voted, they supported the marriage, so Miss Rossville became Mrs. Hamilton. Miss Rossville, the daughter of a U.S. Senator was born March 14, 1804. Her husband was born at Fort Hamilton in 1794, and his stepfather, John Cleves Symmes, had owned the land between the Little and Great Miami Rivers.

Israel Ludlow laid out the land around Fort Hamilton in 1794, planning to call the town itself, Fairfield. This same name was given to a township in 1803 when Butler County was split off from Hamilton County. Fairfield township was wholly within the Symmes Purchase, bounded on the north and west by the Great Miami River. In 1867 the County Commissioners cut off Hamilton from Fairfield as well as St. Clair townships.

Despite Hamilton's courting of Fairfield Township, as its population grew, it decided to remain single, and Fairfield Townshp incorporated itself as a city. Today is the third largest city in Butler County.


The Lions of Franklin

During the first decade of the 19th Century, a ferry boat was used to take people and vehicles across the Great Miami River. It was a big raft propelled by hand-over-hand pulling of a rope attached to trees on each bank. The first large bridge in southwestern Ohio was the one over the Scioto at Chillicothe built in 1815, and this gave the people at Hamilton and Rossville an idea. They chartered a bridge company and in 1819 the first covered bridge was built across the Great Miami River.
Soon other communities decided to build similar bridges across the Great Miami River, including Franklin. William Barkelow's ferry boat was not always reliable. The people of Franklin formed a private company and the covered bridge was constructed. This bridge became unsafe after years of use and pounding by the high waters. Citizens demanded a free bridge and took up subscriptions to build one, and then received matching county funds. So in 1848 a double-barreled truss bridge was built, but it lasted only 25 years.

County Commissioners then agreed to build a new suspension bridge, 365 feet long, 20 feet wide. Each of the four towers rose to 38 feet. Seven-inch steel cables supported the span. The builders, J.W. Shipman Company of Cincinnati, donated four massive iron lions, and these became a symbol of Franklin's bridge. When the suspension bridge was made unsafe by constant heavy auto and truck traffic, it was decided to build a new reinforced concrete bridge, which was dedicated in 1935. However, the lions were not retired, but were placed at the entrances to guard the new bridge.

The lions became a symbol of Franklin, one of Miami Valley's oldest cities. Platted in 1796 by Gen. William C. Schenck its name honors one of America's greatest men. After a slow start, the canal and railroad gave impetus to its growth, and it became a manufacturing city specializing in paper. Now it is the largest city in Warren County.


The Three R's

During the last century and well into this one, students learned the basic fundamentals from textbooks which were written by Ohio educators. P.R. Spencer, who gave the nation the fancy Spencerian system of handwriting, and Thomas W. Harvey who set the standards for English grammar, were from Northern Ohio. Harvey's books, however, were published in Cincinnati.

A Cincinnati mathematician wrote a series of texts which made arithmetic understandable to elementary pupils. Joseph Ray was a professor at Woodward College, later becoming its president. In addition to his work at the Cincinnati college, he was a state leader in education. Ray compiled a set of three texts in mathematics, taking the student from simple processes to advanced ones. His third book was used in both high school and colleges. The series was published in Cincinnati. Even after his death in 1865, the Ray textbook series dominated the textbook field in mathematics until the early 1900's.

Of the 3 R's, the basic fundamentals of learning - reading, riting and 'rithmetic - reading is first in importance. It was at his Oxford home, now maintained as a Museum by Miami University, that William Holmes McGuffey compiled his famous set of graded readers. These books became the nation's standard reading series, as well as the accepted method of teaching reading. The McGuffey readers were printed in Cincinnati. For almost 100 years only the Bible surpassed this famous textbook series in the number of copies printed. A statue of McGuffey is located on the Miami University Campus in front of McGuffey Hall.

The educator who fought for free public education for all American youth, ended his career at an Ohio college - Antioch. Horace Mann set up a course of study at the college which attempted to make a college education of more practical value to a student. As its first president his college was open to both men and women, white and black.


The Medicine Man

Dr. Daniel Drake received the first medical diploma ever issued in the Miami Valley. After serving as an apprentice to Cincinnati's leading physician, at the age of 19, Daniel Drake was granted the prized diploma in 1819. Drake's father, however, felt that his son's preparation was not sufficient, and sent him to Philadelphia for advanced medical instruction.

Upon completing his work, Dr. Drake returned to Cincinnati. He thought that a medical college should be established in the city, and persuaded the Ohio legislature to charter such an institution. Since it did not have the authority to grant a doctor's degree, only a diploma, Dr. Drake approached the trustees of Miami University. Under its charter issued in 1809 Miami University could grant such a degree. On Feb. 22, 1831 Miami University's Medical College was announced and its faculty appointed. Its College of Medicine was scheduled to open at a Cincinnati location the following fall. Realizing that the Medical College of Ohio could not survive such competition from Miami's very strong faculty and its degree, a merger was worked out.

After further problems, Dr. Drake decided to leave Cincinnati and join the faculty of Transylvania at Lexington. He returned to Cincinnati and built a reputation, not only as a doctor, but a civic and business leader. He continued his interest in medical education in the city, and wrote an important medical text. As a result of his effort the Cincinnati medical colleges eventually became the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, one of the nation's noted medical schools. Dr. Daniel Drake also established the first hospital in the Miami Valley, founded in 1821. It evolved into what today is the Cincinnati General Hospital, and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.


Come to the Fair

In 1850 the first All-Ohio State Fair was held, not in Columbus, but in Cincinnati. Even before the idea of fairs had become popular, several counties and even towns had held them. Butler County held its first fair at Hamilton in 1831 and Warren County, one in Lebanon the same year. Montgomery County's first fair was in 1839. In 1853 the Ohio General Assembly gave each county agricultural society the authority to buy land for county fair. Since fairs promoted competition among farmers to improve livestock and farming methods, they served an educational purpose.

A farm magazine, the "Ohio Cultivator," put out its first issue in 1845, telling farmers of the latest news in agriculture. It aroused interest in creating an Ohio State Board of Agriculture. This board proposed the State Fair be held in early October, 1850. The site chosen was that of old Camp Washington, along the banks of the Miami-Erie Canal. It must have been a grand event, with hundreds of exhibits under a giant tent. There were booths with waving flags and streamers. People came by way of wagons, carriages and canal packet, and some on the new railroad from Columbus and Xenia, which offered a direct service to the Fairgrounds.

For almost 25 years, so that all sections of Ohio could enjoy a fair, the All-State Fair was held in different cities. By 1874 the railroads had developed a network tying every section of the state to the capital city, Columbus, so it was decided to make it the permanent home of the annual State Fair. In 1886 it moved to its present site.

Each year has seen the fair get bigger and better. A century ago, it was a farmer's show, but today it is for everyone. Many entertainers appear. Some Ohioans, such as Bob Hope, who have become famous in the show world, return to their home state to perform at the Ohio State Fair.
 


The Phantom Bugler

All have heard of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, who although he never finished the trip, became a folk hero, whose exploits have been kept alive by the famous poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Little known is the poem by the same writer, entitled, "Victor Galbraith." It also recalls a dramatic story in American history.

Like Paul Revere, Victor Galbraith was a real person. He was born at Middletown. Son of a deceased school teacher, he had to decide whether to join the volunteers to fight in the Mexican War, or to stay home to care for his widowed and aging mother. He had to choose between duty to family and duty to country.

Victor decided his duty to America should come first, so he enlisted. Having musical talent, he was chosen as company bugler, which in those days was an important post. As a member of Capt. Meares' Company of Mounted Volunteers, he rode into Monterey, Mexico. The soldiers often gathered around the campfire to sing and listen to music. A Portuguese woman, who played the guitar well, provided much of the entertainment, and Victor Galbraith, being a musician himself, became her friend.

However, some military information was being leaked to the enemy, and an officer, without investigation, immediately accused the Company bugler, as giving such to the young lady. Before long Victor Galbraith was standing at a Court MEirtial and declared guilty. Galbraith's official service record's final notation read: "Dec. 29, 1847 - By sentence of General Court Martial, shot to death."

Victor Galbraith was shot just a few hours before a pardon arrived based upon an investigation that had proven him innocent. Upon hearing of this miscarriage of justice, Longfellow was so incensed, he wrote the poem. It implied that even after his death, the bugle could be heard, played by a phantom bugler - Victor Galbraith.


Harveys of Harveysburg

Many black people escaped from states south of the Ohio River to freedom. Fearing that they might be caught by kidnappers and bounty hunters and returned South, thousands found their way to Canada. Miami Valley sympathizers helped them escape by means of the Underground Railroad - secret routes across the state with safe hiding places for rest and with food along the way.

However, some black citizens settled in Ohio. One such settlement was at Harveysburg, in northwestern Warren County, along the east bank of Caesar's Creek. The stream itself was named for a free black settler who lived along its shore in pioneer times. Today Caesar's Creek is a state park area, including a large lake which covers 2830 acres in Warren, Clinton and Greene counties, accessible from Routes 73, 42 and 380.

Since William Harvey drew up the plat for the town which was on his land, it was named in his honor. On it recorded in 1829, the State Road formed the Main Street, with the road to Middletown the principal cross street.

Harvey's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Harvey, felt that black children should receive an education. In 1831 she opened a school for them. It included grades 1 through 12, with 26 pupils enrolled the first year. The two-room, white brick building is still standing and is being preserved as Ohio's first free school for black students. The school prospered and black pupils found their way there from throughout the area. In 1846 the school found a patron in Stephen Wall, a Southern plantation owner, who believed slavery to be wrong. He freed eight children and sent them to the Harveysburg School, giving the school $1000 for each one and presenting it a $15,000 gift. Elizabeth Harvey devoted most of her life to the cause of free education for black children.


Felicity's Forty-Niners

That men are still fascinated by the lure of gold is shown by the demand for that precious metal today. It all began back in 1849 when gold was discovered in California. When the news reached the Miami Valley, hundreds of its young men rushed to the gold fields. Typical of such groups was one that started out from the village of Felicity in Clermont County. The story of the expedition is found in a collection of letters written by James D. Turner, its leader.

They left Felicity in March 1850, arriving at New Orleans on the 26th. Here they booked passage on a sailing vessel for the Isthmus of Panama. They crossed Panama by way of a river, using a boat which they had purchased at New Orleans and transported with them. Arriving on the West coast of Panama, they booked passage on a vessel headed for San Francisco. Once there, they lost no time boarding a steamboat for Sacramento. By July 1850 the men were out prospecting for the precious gold nuggets, making their headquarters at Nevada City.

Turner was shocked by the lawlessness of the West and the primitive living conditions in a gold-rush town. When mining proved too hard and unprofitable, Turner decided to go into business. While he first made a good profit, a group of angry immigrants set fire to the town, burning down most of the business section, including Turner's store. With a large debt to repay, and having no insurance, he returned to prospecting with little success.

Turner watched his group from Felicity slowly lose their health and succumb to various diseases, such as typhoid and cholera. On Aug. 7, 1851 just 17 months after the party started West, Mrs. Lucy Turner received a letter from her husband's closest friend, which began: "Dear Madame, I must convey to you the first sad intelligence of your great loss. . ." Turner was buried in a $30 coffin in a graveyard on a hill overlooking Nevada City, where he rests to this very day.


Rain on the Roof

With modern, insulated homes, few hear the sound of the pit-pat of rain on the roof. Wooden shingles that once echoed the sound of falling rain have long since disappeared. But there was a time that a boy sleeping under a low cottage roof was lulled to sleep by the gently falling rain.
A Miami Valley poet, Coates Kinney, who lived in Springboro, recalled such an experience. As a youth in the 1840's young Kinney worked at the John Mullin's farm, located northeast of the village. One night it was raining so hard that he could not return home. He was invited by the Mullins to stay overnight, and sleep in the extra bed in the loft of the cabin. All that was between him and the rain was the slanting roof made of one-inch boards, covered with wooden shingles.

Enthralled as he listened to the patter of the rain on the roof, the next morning he jotted down the idea for a poem. Sometime later while visiting a relative at Spring Valley, the thought came back to him. On his way home that evening, along the lower road leading to Waynesville, he sat down to rest on a large rock, located near the old Buckeye School, along the north side of the road. He took out his pencil and notes, and completed the poem. His poem "Rain on the Roof " first appeared in 1849 in a Cincinnati weekly magazine, the "Great West." It became very popular, and was reproduced in type more than any other poem ever written by a Miami Valley poet. It was set to music and sung throughout the English-speaking world. Even the rock on which Coates Kinney wrote the poem became a landmark, named Kinney Rock.

Coates Kinney went on to a distinguished career. During the Civil War he rose to the rank of Colonel. He became editor of the Xenia News, continued to publish poetry, finally being recognized as the poet laureate of the state of Ohio. He was also a state Senator.

His poem began:

How sweet to press the pillow
Of a cottage chamber bed
And he listening to the rain drops
On the low roof overhead.
 


The Honey-Bee Man

Although the annual Honey Bee Festival is celebrated each year at Lebanon, it was at Oxford where the Bee-Man lived, making those experiments that revolutionized bee-keeping.

Lorenzo L. Langstroth, a retired minister, moved to Oxford in 1859 and purchased a large brick home, still known as the Langstroth House. The site once consisted of ten acres and was an ideal place to keep bees. The Bee-Man planted a row of' Linden trees along the street and apple trees throughout his property. On his land he sowed buckwheat and clover seed, using one acre of ground for a formal garden, filled with the flowers which bees like best - he called it his honey garden.

Near his house was a shed where Langstroth conducted his experiments and made his comb frames. He invented the first, practical movable comb bee-hive. He employed two carpenters who did nothing but make these hives which were sold and. shipped across the U.S. While living at Oxford, Langstroth developed a new strain of bees, and shipped the queens as far as, 1500 miles by mail service.

Langstroth was the author of America's first important, book on bee-keeping. It was published in 1853, and became a. classic in its field. The volume was titled, Langstroth on the Honey Bee. He also wrote articles for the professional bee.. keeping in Ohio and the nation.

Until his death in 1895, he never profited from his writings; or his inventions, as many infringed on his copyrights and patents. He lived his last few years at his daughter's home in Dayton. He is buried there in Woodlawn Cemetery, where his stone is inscribed: "The Father of American Beekeeping."


Country Doctor

Today well-educated doctors prescribe the most modern. miracle drugs, and use the most complicated hospital equipment to diagnose an illness. But they cannot give the personal, dedicated care of the old country doctor, who thought nothing of making a house call every day for three months, or more, if necessary. He took time to stop and talk, to counsel and to become a close friend of his patients. To him a bedside manner, meant sitting beside a bed of a critically ill patient.

One of the best-known country doctors of the past century, and typical of many, was the good, Dr. Abraham Iler of Blue Ball. Although his office was located in a small village, he treated the people of the surrounding farm area in Butler and Warren Counties. A graduate of the Ohio Medical College of Cincinnati, he set up practice in 1851, taking time off to serve as a surgeon in the Civil War. He returned to his practice after the war continuing it until 1902, and for special patients beyond that.

When he began practicing medicine, Dr. Iler treated both man and beast, in fact, some of his mixtures, such as liniment, he applied to both. However, he was happy when a veterinarian located in his area, and he could specialize in people. Dr. Iler's ledgers are in a museum, and reveal many facts about his practice. When he began practice, the charge for a house call which involved travel by horse and buggy, was $1. This was raised to $1.50 in later years, but this fee included the medicine prescribed. Before a drug store was opened in the area, Dr. Iler kept on hand such simple remedies as cough drops, liniment, castor oil, and epsom salts which he sold for 25 cents each. Before a dentist came, Dr. Iler also pulled teeth, at 50 cents each. Vaccination cost 50 cents. The biggest fee charged was for the delivery of a baby, which was a standard $10, with no extra fee for twins.


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Last Update  04/17/2007
1982 Middletown Historical Society