Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



Springfield in 1852

From Directory of the City of Springfield
John W. Kees & Co., Springfield. 1852


A BRIEF SKETCH OF SPRINGFIELD

Springfield, the seat of justice for Clark county, is pleasantly situated on the national road, and on the south side of Buck creek about a mile from its junction with Mad river, and is forty-two miles west of Columbus, 134 southwest from Sandusky city, to whcih it is connected by the Mad river and Lake Erie railroad; and 84 miles northeast from Cincinnati, to which it has access by two railroads — the Little Miami and the Dayton and Cincinnati railroads. It has also telegraphic communications, by means of the O'Reily and Morse lines, with all the eastern cities, and the most important places in the United States and Canada. Its water privileges for manufacturing are abundant; and already the water power furnished by Buck creek and Mill run has been greatly improved by the erection of a large number of factories, mills and machine shops. Its building resources are unlimited. There are several limestone quarries on the banks of Buck creek, which supply stone and lime in great quantitites; and the surrounding country affords much of the timber, such as oak, walnut, ash and poplar, necessary in building. Its means of moral and intellectual improvement have developed themselves in the number of its churches, of which there are now twelve; in its institutions of learning, such as a college, an academy, a female seminary and a number of common schools; an extensive reading room, at which various newspapers and periodicals throughout the Union are received. Besides, there are three printing offices, from which papers are issued; a general carrier of Cincinnati daily papers, and two book stores that furnish a general assortment of standard and miscellaneous works. Springfield is also supplied with a very good tri-weekly market, where all the luxuries of the surrounding country can be obtained. Few inland towns excel this place in the amount of their business transactions,as is manifested in the number of the different establishments, stores, shops and warehouses. These are some of the present advantages and prospects of this city, and we now propose to notice a few facts connected with its early history.

Fifty-three years ago the site now occupied by this city was covered with forest trees, hazel and plum thickets, and small undergrowth. The little rivulet, Mill run, which now divides the town into two parts, wended its course through these beautiful forests until its waters united with those of Buck creek. The soil for some distance on the southern and western side of this stream was of a boggy, or what was usually called a wet prairie; while on the northern and eastern it was more elevated and hilly. Not a house nor a sign of a dwelling was any where visible, the Indians, having their station at Piqua, (now Boston,) five miles west of Springfield, had neither wigwams nor tents, nor did they lay claim to the place only as a hunting ground. Bears, deer, turkeys and other wild game were found in abundance in this vicinity, which caused it for several years to be a place of resort for the Indian as well as the white hunter.

Among the early settlers of Springfield and its vicinity, can properly be named David Lowry, in 1795; John Humphreys and James Demint, in 1799, Griffith Foos, in 1801, Walter Smallwood, in 1804.

Mr. Lowry, the year after his arrival here, (1796,) assisted two men of the names of Kreb and Brown, in raising the first crop of corn in the neighborhood of Springfield. In the year 1800, he built the first flatboat "that ever navigated the Big Miami river from Dayton down." It was on this boat that he made the first shipment of provisions from this county to New Orleans. Mr. Lowry also assisted in surveying the first public road from this place to Dayton, which was as early as 1801, or thereabouts.

Mr. John Humphreys came to what is now Clark county with Gen. Simon Kenton, in the year already named. With them emigrated six families from Kentucky, and they made their settlement in the vicinity north of Springfield. In August of the same year, (1799,) a fort was erected by this party on the ground then occupied by them. Fourteen cabins were raised, and partly finished, as a blockhouse station.

Mr. James Demint, the proprietor of the land on which the original town plat was laid out, came with his family, and made the first settlement and built the first house in the present limits of this city. It was a log house, and was situated on the north bank of Buck creek, close to the west side of the Urbana road. He also built a small distillery a few years afterwards between the Urbana road and where Mr. Ward's bridge now is. Mr. Demint was an emigrant from Kentucky, and is said to have been a very rough, fearless, though warm-hearted and hospitable man.

On March 17, 1801, Mr. Demint, assisted by Mr. G. Foos and Col. Dougherty, a young surveyor, commenced the work of laying out the first town plat. This town plat was bounded on the south by the section line, which runs east and west, near the first alley west of Market street. It extended north a little beyond North street, and east a few rods east of Spring street. The number of lots it contained was about eighty-two. The original names of the principal streets, as designated in this plat, have been changed; thus, for instance, what was then Main is now called Columbia street; and what is now termed Main was then known as South street. It would seem from this plat to have been the intention of Demint that the town should be built on the bottom, near the creek. The title Springfield was suggested by Mrs. Simon Kenton to James Demint, on account of the many delightful and valuable springs found within and around the spot located for the town.

After Mr. Demint had finished laying out this plat, Mr. Foos and party, having previously set out from Franklinton, Franklin county, Ohio, in search of a healthy location, and being highly pleased with the general aspect of the country, and concluding to settle here, returned to the Scioto valley for their families. In their removal to this place, they made the first wagon track into Springfield from that direction. They were four and a half days moving from Franklinton, (about forty miles,) and were obliged to cut their way through, there being neither a vestige of a road nor a sign of a bridge. In crossing the Big Darby they were compelled to transport their goods upon horses, and then draw their wagons across with ropes, whilst some of the party swam by the sides of the wagons to prevent them from upsetting. Mr. Foos, in the same year of his arrival, built the first house on the south side of Buck creek, and the first within the original town plat, directly opposite the present National hotel. It was a log house, and was opened by Mr. Foos as a tevern, in June, 1801, and he continued it as such until 10th of May, 1814. This was the first public house, and Mr. Foos the first landlord in this place.

The total number of houses at the date of Mr. Smallwood's arrival here, (1804) was about a dozen, all built of logs. They were situated as follows: one near the southeast corner of main and Market streets, in which G. B. Fields had a cabinet shop, the first of the kind in Springfield; opposite was a log cooper shop owned by John Reed, a log house on the northeast corner of said streets, which was occupied as a public house, at different times by sundry persons, the first of whom was an old colored man by the name of Toney; another where Mr. Rhinehart's row now stands, which was occupied by a Mr. Stowe, as a grocery establishment; another near the south east corner of Limestone and Main streets, a large two story log house near the southeast corner of High and Limestone streets, occupied at one time by the notorious Joel Walker, and which was frequently used in cases of alarms on account of the Indians, as a block house station; another large two story hewed log house, a few rods east of the present residence of Gen. Anthony; Col. Dougherty's house near the northeast corner of Main and Limestone streets; further down towards the public square was another, in which two Frenchmen, of the names of Le Roy and De Grab kept the first dry goods store. Mr. Foos' tavern and one or two others completed the number.

At this period there was a small valley a few rods west of the present Presbyterian church, through which Mill run flowed, which was crossed by a foot log. The west bank of the run, for several rods back, was exceedingly muddy and miry. The east bank was quite steep. There was also quite a hill and one or two springs where Murray's row is now situated. Near the National was quite another elevation, and a little further east and further down towards the brewery, was a slough, into which the streams from several springs emptied themselves.

The morals of the people were, at this time, in a comparatively low state. As is generally the case in all new settlements, the means of moral and intellectual improvement were few. Churches had not been built, schools had not been established, the voice of the minister was seldom heard. Drunkenness, street fighting, horse races and the like were customary scenes. The Sabbath, too, was spent by many in hunting, fishing and visiting. But as the town increased in population and business importance, there was a gradual improvement in the morals of the people.

The first frame house in Springfield was built by Samuel Simonton, in 1806, on the well known Buckeye corner. On the sixth of May, of this year, a tornado about thirty yards wide passed through this place, and so injured this frame house that the owner was obliged to reduce its comtemplated height one story. It also slightly impaired a number of log cabins, and threw down several fences.

The first school was opened as early as 1806, by Nath'l Pickered, in a log cabin, near the northeast corner of Main and Market streets.

The first preaching was held in Mr. Foos' tavern, as early as 1803, first by a Rev. Thomas, a Baptist minister, and afterwards by ministers of other evangelical denominations. The first church organization was that of the Methodist Episcopal church, with between a dozen and eighteen members, in the fall of 1806, or, as Mr. Foos thinks, in 1809. They held their meetings in Pinkered's school house, and Revs. Saile and Cobler, of the Miami (M.E.,) circuit, which included Springfield within its bounds, were the first to minster unto them in holy things.

The first church edifice was built in 1811, by the religious denomination called "New Lights," or "Christians," on the south part of the lot now occupied by the hotel west of Mill run and south of Main street. It was a log building, and was a free place of worship for other religious denominations.

During the first few years in the early history of Springfield, the inhabitants were frequently disturbed by alarms of indians coming against them with hostile intentions. At all such times the inhabitants assembled at some convenient log house, and kept watch until the alarm subsided. In the fall of 1807, a white man named Myers having been killed near Urbana, by one or more strolling Indians, and the assembling of a large number of tribes under Tecumseh, quite an alarm was excited, which caused some of the inhabitants to leave the place. Mr. Foos' tavern was turned into a fort, and the citizens there assembled for protection. A demand being made for the murderers, a council was finally agreed upon, which was held in a grove a little north of the present National hotel, on the ground now occupied by Jas. Wallace's residence. Tecumseh appeared at this council, and made a fluent speech. Gen. Whiteman, Maj. More and Capt. Ward were also in attendance. It was clearly shown, at this council, that Tecumseh and party were innocent of the murder of the man Myers. The council terminated, and peace and security were guarantied to the inhabitants of the village. The Indians remained three days after the council closed, spending their time in games and various amusements, in which Tecumseh generally excelled.

In the war of 1812-13, there were frequent reports of the British and Indians about to make an attack on the town, which caused the inhabitants to assemble and make ready to meet the foe; but these reports, in every case proved false. During the war large numbers of United States troops passed through this place. Among them was Ball's squadron.

The first postmaster in this place, was John Dougherty, who held the office in 1804, and our well known citizen, James R. Wallace was the post boy, who then brought the great northwestern mail on horseback from Cincinnati to this village. From 1828 until the era of railroads, the mail was carried in four horse coaches. The present postmaster is I. Hendershott, and the prominent mails are now received by railroads.

Springfield was the temporary seat of justice of Champaign county, about the year 1806 or 1807, and the first court, (which was a supreme court,) was held in a two story log house, which then stood near what is now the southeast corner of Limestone and High streets. The only case before this court then was that of Robert Rennick for the murder of an Indian, for whom a verdict of "not guilty," was rendered.

The first president judge of the court of common pleas for this county, was Frederick Grimke, Esq.; first associate Judges, Daniel McKinnon, Jos. Tatman and Jos. Layton; first sheriff, C.T. Ward, by appointment; first clerk fo the court, John Layton, pro tem., who was followed by Thos. Armstrong; first auditor, John Dougherty; first recorder, David Kizer, who recorded the first warranty deed, April 16, 1818; first treasurer, Jno. Ambler; first prosecuting attonrey, Henry Bacon, pro tem., who was followed by Geo. W. Jewett; first master in chancery, Zephaniah Platt; first commissioner, John Black; first county surveyor, William Wilson; first coroner, John Hunt.

The first justice of the peace elected in the township of Springfield was Squire Mullholland, who resided west of town, near where A. Repert now has his grist mill.

By an act of the state legislature in its session of 1817-18, the county of Clark, (named thus in honor of Gen. George Rogers Clark,) was formed from the counties of Champaign, Madison and Greene, and this town, which was previously a part of Champaign county, became the seat of justice for Clark.

On the 23d of January, 1826, Springfield was incorporated as the "town of Springfield;" and Jas. L. Torbet, Esq., was first elected president, and S. Henkle Recorder, under its charter.

In February, 1850, a city charter was granted by the legislature, and a vote of the citizens, for its adoption or rejection was taken on the first Monday of May following, which resulted in its adoption by a vote of 386 to 63. On the 24th of May, the following gentlemen were elected the first officers under the new charter.

Mayor — James M. Hunt, Esq.
Councilmen — Harvey Vinal, Alexander Ramsey, John C. Filler, C.D. M'Laughlin, John Householder and Daniel V. Huben.
Marshal — Martin Cary.