The Mad River Valley Pioneer and Historical Association
From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 360
The Mad River Valley Pioneer and Historical Association was the name of an organization which was formed in May, 1870. Its existence as an active society was of short duration, but it developed a great deal of valuable historical matter while it did exist. "The Early Settlement of Springfield" was the title of a paper prepared by Dr. John Ludlow, and read before this body in January, 1871. Dr. Ludlow's article has been used here and there throughout this work, and was invaluable as a source of information.
The Battle of Piqua, by Thomas F. McGrew, Esq., was one of this class of papers, though not prepared until within the present year; yet, as will be seen, Mr. McGrew was one of the prime movers in this association.
As the proceedings of the society were of a decidedly historical nature, the details of the first meeting are given entire, at the risk of being tedious. Many of the incidents mentioned in the opening address have been alluded to in other parts of this volume, yet the same facts related by different persons will never be treated quite alike, and one author thereby becomes "confirmation strong" for another.
This association has held no meetings for several years, though its books and papers are yet in the hands of some of its former officers who now reside here.
A permanent organization of the Mad River Valley Pioneer and Historical Association was effected at its first regular meeting, held in the rooms of the Young Men's Christian Association on May 3, 1870. The name "Mad River Valley" was inserted in lieu of "Clark County," which had been determined upon at the first meeting. The chair was occupied by Thomas F. McGrew, Esq. The Rev. A. H. Bassett delivered the inaugural address:
Mr. President: To rescue from oblivion interesting facts and important information would seem a duty which we owe to those who come after us. The present is indebted to the past; so the present should provide for the future. To-day has the benefit of yesterday's observations and experiences; so should to-day preserve and carry forward its accumulated information for the benefit of to-morrow.
Our American continent, which we are wont to term our Western World, is eminently a land of rapid development and marvelous progress. Our forefathers and foremothers were men and women of great toil, and patience, and endurance, and perseverance. They began at the sterile Plymouth Rock, making it a fruitful field. Then, they erected there a State, diminutive in size, but of mammoth enterprise, and a very empire in resources and population. Then they proceeded to found and build and people State after State in their westward progress, not stopping for mountain barriers or for savage opposition. As they advanced, they had to penetrate vast forests and traverse great mountain ranges, with or without roads, and with or without teams, carrying fire-arms to secure game for their sustenance and to protect themselves from savage assaults. They constructed boats for crossing our great rivers, and even for navigating them for many hundreds of miles (downward). Selecting the sites for their dwellings and for their prospective towns, they wielded the echoing ax to fell the timbers of the dense woodlands, and constructed substantial but rude dwellings of primitive materials. The labor and hardship and exposure they went through would to us seem incalculable, as unendurable; but they heeded it not. Their methods, their experiences, their sufferings, their exploits, we have loved to hear them relate. But alas! many of them have passed away. And again, alas! many of them have left no record of their thrilling story, of their eventful and adventurous life. of our own city, within a very few months or years, the following-named venerable citizens have taken their departure: Col. Werden, Col. Baker, Gen. Anthony, Gen. Mason, Judge Torbett, Dr. Hendershott, Squire Spining, Father Kills, Father Barnett, Father Schindler, Father Watkins, and a score — it may be scores — of others.
But it is yet fortunate that some of the fathers are still with us. We have amongst us honored citizens, whose memories are not in pioneer associations, who have lively remembrances of the primitive and backwoods experiences. If we have not living old physicians, who used to click the spring lance, and bleed the patient in every fever, we have some old ministers, as Bishop Morris and Dr. Brown, who used to be pioneer itinerants, at half paid allowance (not to say salary), which would not to-day keep your clergyman in books and periodicals. If we have not Judges who used to preside in log court houses, or lawyers who used to collect their fees in coon-skins and maple sugar, we have those of different professions who used to attend school (if at all) in houses of unhewn logs, with puncheon floors, mud chimneys, and window-lights of greased paper. We have among us men who were soldiers in the war of 1812, who used gun-flints, and carried punk and a tinder-box for striking fire, for percussion caps and friction matches were unknown. We have still among us many who used to be happy in log-cabin houses; who used to hunt deer and wild turkeys for provisions; who used to thrash their grain and shell their corn by hand, beat it to a degree of fineness in a log mortar, with a stone pestle. The generation has not passed away of men who knew no reaper but the sickle, no mower but the scythe, no threshing-machine but the flail, no cider-mill but the home-made press. The men are here who saw nearly, if not quite, the first steamboat on the Ohio, who witnessed the beginning of your canals, your macadamized roads, your railways and your telegraphs. Yes, you have yet pioneers in your midst whose memories, as we have said, are rich in story of the past, filled to the brim with incidents and experiences of thrilling interest. Then, whilst we yet have them amongst us, let us, as opportunity may serve, gather around them and listen to their simple and unvarnished narrative, for it will have the eloquence of personal realization.
Here, now, is one of the objects of this association: We would supply a sensible lack, i.e., one means of public entertainment which has not yet been brought before our community. We have no lack of concerts, festivals, fairs or picnics. We are amply favored with the visits of the menagerie, the circus troupe, the dramatic corps, the minstrel band. And our graver and more sensible courses of popular lectures furnish literary entertainment, and sometimes amusing pastime. But, to make up the variety, you need a pioneer association, to furnish you the entertainment of an occasional evening in the personal recitals of such as can tell you about the past of our now well-fixed and prosperous country, and State and city. The pioneers are passing away. Let us ask them to relate to us their story before they go hence. And let us make reasonable haste to do this, as their time may be short.
Another object of this association is to answer the purpose of an historical society, to gather facts, documents and relics for preservation, that we may leave intelligible and useful records for the inspection and benefit of coming generations.
We have evidence that the ancients, from remotest ages, used to erect monuments to perpetuate the knowledge of events. And, as they knew not the art of printing, they were accustomed to engrave their historic facts upon the enduring marble. A great many ancient records in this form are extant, some in a wonderful state of preservation. And modern oriental researches are continually bringing to light additional marble chapters of this ancient history. All this evidences the wisest forethought in the men of the primal ages. It seems that they even thought of us, though then unborn, and did us the great favor to send down to us these simple, primitive records. The value now placed upon them is inestimable.
Grateful, then, to the ancients for their forethought toward us, should we not learn from them with our ten-fold increased advantages to convey records forward to posterity? The very winds are daily sweeping away many leaves of important information, which should be snatched, as it were, from destruction, and laid away for future inspection and use. And for what you may do in this regard, the men and women of hereafter, whom you and I may not live to see, will rise up and call you blessed.
Then, let us make a beginning of an historical collection — books, papers, manuscripts, fragments, relics, antiquities, curiosities, or what not, pertaining to the history of our country; and its accumulations will soon produce archives which will do credit to our city and county, and be of unending benefit to coming generations.
In the principal counties throughout the State, pioneer associations have been formed and are in active operation — wide awake in the matter. Let us not be behind the times. Do we not consider Clark County one of the best? Are we not wont to regard Springfield the very garden spot of Ohio? Would we not scorn to fall behind in intelligence, or in enterprise in any respect? We think we have cause to feel proud of our improvements and of our achievements in mechanical and manufacturing enterprises. It is indeed said that we boast much of our progress, and of the extensive amount of our industrial products sent abroad to all quarters under heaven. This is well. Let no man stop us of this boasting. But we have been lacking of one cause of boasting. Up to this time, it has been said that Clark County has no pioneer association, no antiquarian society, no historical club. Please, sir, let us have an end to this. Never again, after to-day, let such a thing be said of Clark County. I trust you will so decide, and that this community will sustain you with its hearty amen and its prompt co-operation.
I need not ask, are our people generally aware that Clark County, of which we are citizens, contains some historical localities of rare interest? We have just at hand the famed Mad River. I have been curious to learn, and have made considerable search to ascertain, the origin of that unique name. You may smile at my simplicity, as I confess that for many years I had an idea that this river derived its name from the appellation given to Gen. Anthony Wayne, as Mad River Valley was partly the theater of his important operations. On account of his characteristics of uncommon daring and bravery, he received the epithet, "Mad Anthony." But I have had to relinquish this supposition, so long entertained, for my researches have brought to light but one explanation — that given by Timothy Flint, in one of his volumes of Western History. He represents Mad River as thus named because of the furious character of its current! Now, it so happens that I have not traveled extensively enough up and down the stream to discover its furious portions. It has usually appeared quite calm and unassuming when I have met with it.
Long before the settlement by whites, one hundred years ago, and how much longer I presume no living man knoweth, there was an Indian town called Piqua, situated on the opposite side of Mad River, five or more miles below this point. I think this was the original Piqua, as may appear presently. The name (Piqua), in the Shawnee, is said to signify a man that sprang up out of the ashes. Now, some of us white men may have had such antecedents as this, and we might not relish being reminded of it. This Piqua, on Mad River, was a place of much consequence for the time, extending for more than three miles up and down the margin of the river. Its reputation as a headquarters of the Shawnee tribe was known far abroad. And even before the settlement of Ohio, as long ago as 1780, an army of a thousand men was raised in Kentucky, and, under command of Gen. George Rogers Clark, came out through the wilderness (for there was no white settlement even at Cincinnati), all the way to the Piqua town, on Mad River, to subdue and destroy it. On their way, they came to the old Chillicothe town, on the Little Miami, which was at the spot you now call Oldtown, a little this side of Xenia. (But then there was no Xenia, mind you.) Apprised of their approach, the Indians had not only abandoned the place, but had set fire to their houses, and nearly all were consumed. The army pursued the Indian road from Chillicothe across to Piqua, probably passing where Enon now stands. You know there is an ancient mound in that vicinity. To be brief, Piqua and its forts were destroyed. And the army, having fulfilled its mission, retraced its steps to Kentucky, and was forthwith disbanded. Just here, observe, we are honoring the memory of Gen. G. R. Clark, who led this army, by calling after him the name of our county.
Meanwhile, it seems the Indians were dispersed from Old Piqua, and went over to the Great Miami and built another Piqua, which still survives, and the white man's edition of it they now call "City."
About the year 1768 or 1769, little more than a hundred years ago, at Piqua, on Mad River, Tecumseh was born. He must have been a half-grown lad at the time his native town was destroyed; old enough, however, to be an observer of the sad scene, and to receive his impressions of the affair. It was natural, if not meritorious, in him, that he should be loyal to his nation and strive to repel the encroachments of the whites. He grew to be a leading and influential chief and warrior. It is said that he traveled so extensively as to visit all the tribes east of the Mississippi, from Mackinaw to Georgia, to endeavor to unite all in a planned combination against the American Government. It seems that, in the Indian style, he was a natural orator, and sometimes wielded a marked power with his eloquence. But his plans were foiled, and had to be given up. In the year 1812, he was induced to become an ally of the British army. They made him a Brigadier General, and it is said he was in every battle in the Northwest, except that of Tippecanoe, until he fell in the battle of the Thames, 1813, as was believed, from a pistol shot from the hand of Richard M. Johnson. Gen. Tecumseh, though an Indian, and though he did not please Gen. Harrison, had his noble traits of character. It is particularly represented that he behaved with great humanity toward our men at the siege of Fort Meigs.
When Gen. Proctor had abandoned the American prisoners to the ferocity and tomahawks of the savages, one great Indian chief, Tecumseh, came rushing in, and exerted his authority to arrest the massacre; and, meeting a Chippewa chief who would not desist for persuasion or threats, he buried his tomahawk in his head. Tecumseh fell in his prime — in his forty-fourth year. Now, be it remembered that this Tecumseh, celebrated throughout two great nations, beside his own people, had his birthplace here on Mad river, in our very vicinity. If we are not proud of this association of ideas, I apprehend we have no cause to be ashamed of it. I know not why we have not given his name to something, if it were only a way station or a back street. We have certainly immortalized the names of some meaner white men. I have passed through important towns named Tecumseh in other States, hundreds of miles from the birthplace of the warrior. He was certainly a shrewd and brave man; and, viewed from his standpoint, was a man of principle. Could he rise from the dead and appear among us, I apprehend we would have to give him amnesty, though a red man, and I think he would be a pretty popular fellow. Had I assurance of a second, I would move that we yet set up the name of Tecumseh somewhere in Clark County.
But, pardon me, I have gone beyond my intention when I set out. I had no purpose to give a sketch of Tecumseh, or of our local history. There is a rich theme for some gentleman more competent than your present speaker. I desired it should be suggested to this community, as many may not be aware of it, that Clark County, Ohio, is rich in historical associatons. And, this being the case, it is a lack which is not creditable to us that we have in existence no organization of the character of a pioneer, or antiquarian, or historical society. I am gratified to know that we have among us intelligent and honored citizens, who have lived nearly or quite all their lives in this section, some who were living in this valley whilst Tecumseh was yet living, and whilst his tribe was yet residing, or at least wandering, in Ohio, and not far distant. And I do not despair of finding out some one of our old settlers who has actually seen Tecumseh. The inquiry would not be an unworthy one. My old friend, John R. Crain, of Bethel Township (I wish it were called Tecumseh), who was postmaster in Springfield thirty years ago, informs me that he was born on the very farm where he now has his home, more than half a century ago, and this is at the very locality of old Piqua town. Had I not, in time past, repeatedly visited the place, I should certainly now desire to make an excursion to look upon the famed spot. Through the kindness of a member of the family of Mr. Crain, I am furnished with some ancient relics from the battle-ground of old Piqua. He informs me also, as I trust I may use the freedom to mention, that Gen. J. W. Keifer was also born in the same vicinity; and Mr. Shellabarger, too, had his birthplace but a short distance from there, on the opposite side of the river. These gentlemen, I doubt not, would be able to communicate many circumstances of interest, historical, or, at least, national, connected with the old Piqua locality. Many other citizens, doubtless, are also possessed of facts and incidents, historical or antiquarian, pertaining to the Mad River Valley or some other portion of the State. I trust these will become enlisted in behalf of this association, and will be induced to give us hereafter their views and their narrations for the entertainment of the public.
I pray you that you go not back from this movement. Let it be a success and a perpetuity. And let us not forget that all should be done in God's fear, and to the glory of His name.
After the conclusion of the address, W. W. Beach, from the committee appointed for that purpose, reported that the constitution, which was unanimously adopted, and signed by a majority of those present. The by-laws were also unanimously adopted.
Battle of Piqua
Early Clark County
George Rogers Clark
Education in Clark County
Indians in Clark County
The National Road
Springfield in 1852
Springfield in 1863
SHS 1951 Yearbook
Then & Now