Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



John Paul


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 254


In the history of Bethel Township will be found an account of what is thought by many to have been the first settlement in this county.

There is just enough mystery hanging over this circumstance to make it exceedingly interesting, and to prompt us to dig deeper and search further for the missing threads in the fabric; there are details and particulars connected with this case which are not proper materials for use by this generation of writers. Leaving this semi-traditional event to stand in its doubt-enshrowded condition, the first undoubted and well-established permanent settlement in this county by David Lowry and Jonathan Donnel is reached, and is thus narrated by the venerable Dr. John Ludlow.

It may be remarked that this is probably the best account of the circumstance, now in existence, as after four months of close attention to this and kindred subjects, nothing new or important has been found to add to this article. Mr. Ludlow knew these men and conversed with them, and that with the view of recording what he heard, and had witnessed:

"It is with the aid of my own recollections of David Lowry, Griffith Foos, Jonah Baldwin, Maddox Fisher and others among the early settlers of the town and vicinity, and the frequent conversations I have had with them, and also with my father, relating to the early settlement of the country, that I am enabled to furnish some valuable information relating to the early history thereof. My recollection of the town and country is quite distinct as far back as the year 1818. I have also been aided in this work by the use of a small pamphlet published here in 1852,* but have been compelled to make several corrections in its statements from information I have gained from persons connected with the incidents related. In giving my own recollections of the men and women connected with this history, I beg the indulgence of surviving friends.

"The first white man known to have settled here in the present limits of Clark County, were David Lowry and Jonathan Donnel. Mr. Lowry came to Ohio from Pennsylvania in the spring of 1795, and immediately engaged at Cincinnati to serve for three months as assistant in carrying provisions for the western army, under Gen. Anthony Wayne. At the expiration of this service, he joined a surveying party under Israel Ludlow (partner to Mathias Denman in forming the town of Cincinnati). The object of this company was to lay off the Government lands of the Miami country into sections for entry and sale, the land office being located at Fort Washington, or the village of Cincinnati. It was late on Saturday evening, in the forepart of the summer of 1795, that the company came to a place on Mad River, near to what was afterward called the Broad Ford, and not far from the present village of Enon, where they remained till the following Monday. During the intervening time, Mr. Lowry and Jonathan Donnel, who was one of the party, wandered about viewing the surrounding country.

They managed to cross to the opposite side of the river, where they became highly pleased with the rich alluvial soil, in which their feet sank over their shoes as they walked.

The majestic trees, which stood thick upon the ground, furnished a continuous shade, and they passed over the broad bottom land to the rising ground where Donnel's Creek breaks through the hills into the bottom lands of Mad River. they wandered along the margin of the hills extending east, where they beheld for the first time the beautiful springs of clear water, from which they afterward drank during so many years of their lives. They became so highly pleased with this delightful scenery in its wild and uncultivated state, that they both determined, if possible, to make it their future home. They resolved to say nothing to their companions of what they had discovered. The whole party set out on Monday morning, and, when their survey was completed, returned to Cincinnati. While at Cincinnati after their surveying excursion, Lowrey and Donnel learned that a man by the name of Patten Shorts had purchased and entered all that beautiful section of country with which they were so highly delighted, and that Shorts was in want of a surveyor to aid him in fixing the boundaries of his land.

Mr. Lowry urged his friend Donnel to offer his services and take the "golden opportunity," as Mr. Lowry said to possess the favorite land they both so much coveted. Donnels entered upon the work with Shorts, and while thus engaged purchased for himself and Lowry the land they admired, and, in the fall of 1795, Donnel and Lowry established themselves on their lands, Lowry's choice being near the mouth of Donnel Creek, thus named for him by his friend Donnel. The home of Mr. Donnel was farther east, where a large spring gushes from the hillside, and runs across the rich and broad bottom-land of Mad River.

The new settlers found the woods filled with bear, deer, wild turkeys and other wild game. After the erection of their houses with the aid of no other tools than an ax and an auger, they took up their residence in the great wilderness of Ohio, being the first known white citizens within the present limits of Clark County. There are doubtless some who will remember the comfort and contentment afforded to the occupants of these primitive houses, such as were erected by Lowry and Donnel; erected within a few days to last for a whole life time; how the door, made of a few split boards, often squeaked with a peculiar coarse noise as the latch-string was pulled, and the door swung open on its rude wooden hinges.

These houses were quite dry and warm in winter, and their thick logs rendered them cool during the heat of summer. The ample fire-place and chimney afforded sufficient ventilation for health, and some of Ohio's brightest sons have gained the foundation of their greatness by study before their ample log fires. After Lowry and Donnel had thus prepared a shelter for themselves and families, they commenced the work of providing bear and deer meat for food during the winter. In the course of this winter, Lowry killed seventeen bears, and during the course of his life thought he had killed as many as a thousand deer.

The new settlers found themselves in the midst of the Shawnee Indians, of whom Tecumseh was the chief. Their camp fires were often built near the cabins of Lowry and Donnel, and they managed to live with them on terms of friendship, and they frequently exchanged with each other such articles as each had to spare. Lowry spent much of his time in hunting with them, and they would often spend several days and nights in the woods together; and when Mr. Lowry would sometimes get lost in the wilderness, they would convey him to his cabin again, and by their many acts of kindness toward him convinced him of the sincerity of their kindness and friendship. On one accasion, however, they took offense at him, on account of his superior skill while engaged with them in their favorite sport of wrestling, and loaded a gun with the seeming intention of shooting him, but Lowry displayed so much courage at their threats, that their wrath was turned into the most extravagant demonstrations of admiration, while they took him up in their arms and carried him about the camp, exclaiming, "Brave man! brave man!"

The records of the Government Land Office show that this territory was surveyed by Israel Ludlow in 1801. Many persons have been unable to reconcile the apparent discrepancy between the two dates, 1795 and 1801. All such persons are reminded that according to all accounts these surveys were in progress for at least twelve years, and that the date above mentioned was that of the completion of the work.

The lines known as "exterior" (range and township lines) were run first, and it is not unlikely that these lines were being located by the party with which Lowry and Donnel were connected in 1795.

Their Saturday night camp was not far from a prominent and important "corner," i.e., the intersection of a range line with a township line, technically called a "township corner."

Those who are familiar with the practice of surveyors in the field know that such points are selected for camping or halting places, other things being favorable, oftener than non-relative sites. A glance at the map of Clark county will discover such a "corner" near the village of Enon, and not far from where the party is reported to have found themselves on that early summer evening in 1795.

The descendants of David Lowry are among the first and most estimable of the present inhabitants of the county, and reside upon the site of the early experiences of Lowry and Donnel. From them it is learned that their father brought his aged parents with him in the fall of 1795, and that these old people died within a few years afterward, and were buried in the "Minich" graveyard.

A search through this yard was rewarded by the discovery of a fallen tombstone bearing this inscription:

DAVID LOWRY, *
Died 1800, aged 76 years.
LETTICE, wife of
DAVID LOWRY,
Died 1797, aged 65

This fairly establishes the facts and dates as already given, and brings us to the next settlement in order of time.

This has been stated by different writers, during the last thirty years, in the following words, and while the paragraph is somewhat hackneyed, it containes about all that can be said in regard to this settlement:

In 1796, two persons, named Kreb and Brown, came into the neighborhood; their camp was beyond the deep cut, near the second crossing of the Dayton Railroad. With them Lowry exchanged works, that is, he hunted and fished to secure food for them, while they cultivated and raised the first corn crop in the vicinity of Springfield.

The location was on lands now owned by the Sintz family , and is within a few rods of the west end of Bridge No. 20, on the C., C., C. & I. R. R. The only evidence of any of the old establishment now remaining is an apple tree, which is the only one left of a score or so which were planted by the first settlers on the spot.*

It has even been asserted that these trees were found by Kreb and Brown when they came here, and they therefore built their cabin there. "Johnny Appleseed" has also been charged with planting the trees.

This Kreb and Brown station is in the extreme northeast corner of Mad River Township, and was therefore the first settlement in that subdivision.

The next in order was the arrival of James Galloway, a blacksmith, at Mad River Township in 1798.

"John Humphreys and Simon Kenton, together with six other families, came to the county from Kentucky in 1799. In summer, a fort was built by them near Mad River Bridge, on the National road, west of Springfield. Fourteen cabins were raised and partly finihsed, and a block-house retreat thus made in case of Indian hostility."

The above is not new, but will answer for a base upon which to rest a few necessary remarks.

The "six other families" were James Demint, Philip Jarbo, William Ward, John Richards, William Moore and one other now unknown.

Humphreys and Demint settled in Springfield, while Kenton and the others abandoned the block-house business and went up the valley and settled in Moorefield Township.

In 1800, John Judy settled in Harmony.

Joseph Coffee came to Pleasant in 1802.

In the year 1804, Abraham Inlow made the first improvement in Green Township.

Pike Township was first settled by Samuel and Andrew Black, in 1806.

In 1807, George Buffenbarger came to Madison.

German Township was "squatted" upon by Storms, Adams and Cowshick, who were afterward bought out by the first regular settlers named Charles Rector and Archibald McKindley. No date of this settlement has been found, it having probably disappeared with the early generation of men who made the "history."


* Sketch of Springfield by R. C. Woodward
* This was David Lowry, senior, as distinguished from David Lowry, the pioneer.
* A former writer says the first orchard planted in the county, and probably the State, was set out near George Sintz's quarry. The trees were carried in horseback from Pittsburgh. Many of them are still standing.














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