The southern boundary of the county, as established by this act, was a west line from the place of beginning. This line, when run, passed through the tier of sections south of the present boundary line, dividing farms, and struck the Miami River in the Colerain bend, about a mile south of the present county line. To remedy this inconvenience, the Legislature passed a law on the 20th of January, 1808, to establish the line between Hamilton and Butler Counties. (Laws of Ohio, Vol. VI, page 19.) By this act the line was established, beginning at the southeast corner of Butler County, as mentioned in the first act; thence westwardly along the line of the tier of sections to the Great Miami River; thence down the Miami River to the point where the line of the next original surveyed township, on the west side of the river, strikes the same; thence west along that line to the western boundary of the State.
This is the present line between the counties of Butler and Hamilton.
On the 15th day of February, 1808, the Legislature established the county of Preble, (Laws of Ohio, Vol. VI, page 164) and made its south boundary a line beginning at the southwest corner of the sixth township in the first range east of the meridian drawn from the month of the Great Miami River (the northwest corner of the college township); thence east along the township line to the range line between the third and fourth ranges; thus cutting off from the county of Butler, on the north, about one tier and a half of sections. The north boundary line of Butler County, as originally established, struck the Miami River on the west side, about two miles above the town of Franklin, opposite where the protection wall, on the east side of the river above VANDERVEER's mill, has since been made, at the time the Miami Canal was constructed. On the 30th of January, 1815, the Legislature passed a law attaching that part of Butler County which lay within the first and second fractional townships in the fifth range to the county of Warren, (Laws of Ohio, Vol. XIII, page 109.) and which now comprehends that portion of Franklin Township, Warren County, lying west of the Great Miami River; thus reducing the county of Butler to its present dimensions.
This county was named Butler after General Richard BUTLER, a heroic soldier of the Revolution. He distinguished himself on more than one occasion in a remarkable manner. He was a native of Pennsylvania, and was one of a family of brothers who were active in the Revolutionary struggle. He lost his life in the memorable defeat of St. Clair (ST.CLAIR) by the Indians, as is told more fully elsewhere.
At the same session that the county of Butler was established by the Legislature, a resolution was passed on the 15th day of April, 1803, appointing James SILVERS, Benjamin STITES, and David SUTTON commissioners to examine and select the most proper place for the seat of justice of Butler County.
These commissioners, having given twenty days' notice of their time and place of meeting, met at the town of Hamilton early in the month of July, 1803, and having taken an oath, as required by the law establishing seats of justice, proceeded to the duties incumbent on them. Several places were proposed to the commissioners as eligible sites for the seat of justice. Amongst the most prominent of them was a beautiful situation immediately on the west bank of the Miami River, about four miles above the town of Hamilton, called the "High Bank tract," then owned by William McCLELLAN and George P. TORRENCE, adjoining to where the late John WILSON formerly lived.
A company, composed of Jacob BURNET, John SUTHERLAND, Henry BROWN, James SMITH, and William RUFFIN, owned a large tract of land on the west side of the Miami River, opposite the town of Hamilton, including the situation where the town of Rossville (now known as West Hamilton) was afterward laid. They proposed the ground where Rossville now is as an eligible site for the seat of justice.
Israel LUDLOW, the proprietor of the town of Hamilton, submitted to the commissioners the following proposition in writing:
"I will give for the use of the county a square for public buildings, agreeably to the plan recorded of the town of Hamilton; also a square for the church and burying-ground, consisting of eight town lots, together with the commons in front of the town, for public uses -- such as boat-yards etc. in case the honorable commissioners should conceive the town of Hamilton a convenient and suitable place for the seat of justice; and will also pay two hundred dollars toward the erection of a court-house.
"(Signed) Israel LUDLOW."
The commissioners having examined the different places proposed, after due deliberation decided in favor of the town of Hamilton as the most eligible place for holding the several courts, accepted the proposition of Mr. LUDLOW, and established the seat of justice at Hamilton, of which they made report to the Court of Common Pleas, then in session, on the 15th day of July, 1803.
Israel LUDLOW died on the 21st of January, 1804, before complying with the proposition made to the commissioners. However, afterwards Charlotte Chambers LUDLOW, John LUDLOW, and James FINDLAY, surviving administrators of Israel LUDLOW, petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County for leave to complete the contract, on which the court rendered a decree at the December term, 1808; in pursuance of which decree the administrators paid to the county of Butler the sum of two hundred dollars, and executed a deed for the square of ground at present occupied by the courthouse and public buildings, being in-lots Nos. 95, 96, 97, and 98, in the town, and also a square for the burying-ground, being in-lots Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16, 29, 30, 31, and 32.
The first associate judges appointed by the Legislature for the county of Butler were James DUNN, John GREER, and John KITCHEL. They met at Hamilton on the 10th day of May, 1803, and held their first Court of Quarter Session at the house of John TORRENCE, who then kept a tavern in the house standing on the corner of Dayton and Water Streets, on lot No. 132. This house is still standing, and owned by Henry S. EARHART, who has occupied it as a family residence for many years. It was built by John TORRENCE, and was the first frame building erected in the town of Hamilton outside of the garrison. Although this house was built more than eighty years ago, the frame-work is as solid and firm, apparently, as it was half a century since. The siding or weatherboarding was of black walnut, and was sawed by means of a whip-saw. Every nail used in putting on the siding and roof was made to order by a blacksmith then residing in Hamilton. The judges at this session appointed John REILY their clerk pro tem., divided the county into five townships, and ordered an election to be held in the several townships on the 1st day of June then next, for the election of a sheriff and coroner for the county of Butler, to serve until the general election in October. (Laws of Ohio, Vol. 1, page 69.)
On the 1st day of June, 1803, the associate judges commenced the second session of the Court of Quarter Sessions at the same place in Hamilton. At this session a statement of votes given for sheriff and coroner at the election held on the 1st day of June was returned to the judges, by which it appeared that James BLACKBURN was elected sheriff and Samuel DILLON coroner.
The first regular term of the Court of Common Pleas for Butler County, at which cases were tried, was commenced on Tuesday, the 12th day of July, 1803, at the house of John TORRENCE, in Hamilton. The court was composed of Francis DUNLEVY, president judge; James DUNN, John GREER, John KITCHEL, associate judges; Daniel SYMMES prosecuting attorney for the State; James BLACKBURN, sheriff; John REILY, clerk. The grand jury, being the first impaneled in the county of Butler, were:
1. David ENOCH, Foreman.
2. James WATSON.
3. John SCOTT.
4. Samuel DICK.
5. William CROOKS.
6. James SCOTT.
7. Matthew RICHARDSON.
8. Robert LYTLE.
9. Moses VAIL.
10. James McCLURE.
11. Andrew CHRISTY.
12. Benjamin LINE.
13. Solomon LINE.
14. John McDONALD.
At this term John REILY was appointed clerk of the Court of Common Pleas; July 13, 1803, James HEATON was appointed county surveyor for the county of Butler; July 14, 1803, Joseph F. RANDOLPH was appointed county treasurer; and on the same day the court made an order that the building lately occupied and used by the troops of the garrison as a magazine should be assigned to be the jail for Butler County.
The first term of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio for Butler County. was held at Hamilton on the 11th day of October 1803, by Samuel HUNTINGDON and William SPRIGG, judges; John REILY, clerk; Arthur ST. CLAIR, prosecuting attorney for the State; William MCCLELLAN, sheriff.
As previously noted, the Court of Quarter Sessions, at their meeting of Tuesday, May 10, 1803, established the boundaries of townships as follows:
These were the original townships.
On the 21st day of January, 1804, the Legislature passed a law to provide for the incorporation of townships. (Laws of Ohio, Vol. 11, page 93.) This law empowered the commissioners of the county to alter the boundaries of townships and to set off new townships. At a meeting on June 11, 1804, consisting of the following persons, Ezekiel BALL, Matthew RICHARDSON, and Solomon LINE, John REILY was appointed their clerk.
On the petition of a number of the inhabitants of St. Clair Township, December 2, 1805, Wayne Township was erected as follows:
This seems to be the only record of the matter preserved in the books of the county commissioners. Union was the last township erected, except Hamilton. That was so made after its erection as a city and union with Rossville.
The judges' seat was a rough platform made of unplaned boards, erected at the north end of the building. A long table, similar to a carpenter's work-bench, was placed in front of the judges' seat -- around which the lawyers were accommodated with benches made of slabs, for seats. The remaining space was occupied by suitors, witnesses, and spectators. In this building the sessions of the court were held from the year 1803 until the year 1810.
The Court of Common Pleas, as previously stated, at their July term, 1803, assigned the building which had previously been used by the troops of the United States stationed at Fort Hamilton as a magazine, to be the county jail. The roof came to a point in the center. Standing isolated from any other building, it was, of course, very insecure. Escapes were almost as frequent as commitments. In the year 1808 two persons were confined in this prison -- one of them, named Henry WASON, a wild, drinking Irishman, somewhat notorious at that time, who had been committed for disorderly conduct or a breach of the peace. Having by some means procured a stone, he commenced beating against the door, and finally, putting his arm out of the aperture, he beat off the padlock, opened the door, and came out, leaving the other prisoner, who was chained to the floor, still in confinement. He went directly to the clerk's office, which was only a few rods distant, and told the clerk to inform the sheriff; and get him to take care of that d---d horse-thief who was in jail; for he was determined to stay no longer in such company; and he, accordingly, went to his home. No further notice was taken of him. This building was the only jail of Butler County from the year 1803 until the year 1809.
The clerk's office was kept in a small log building which stood south Of where the fort was situated, and outside the line of pickets. It had originally been erected for a storehouse or sutler's shop by some trader attached to the garrison at the time the fort was occupied by the army. It stood on lot No. 66, a few rods south of where the United Presbyterian Church now stands. It was built of logs about twenty feet long by eighteen feet wide, and two stories high, with a porch to each story, fronting on the alley. The lower room was the office; the upper apartment was occupied as a lodging-room. The building was afterward remodeled, reduced to one story, and tenanted by a German family.
In this building the offices of the Court of Common Pleas and Supreme Court, the commissioner's office, the recorder's office, and the post-office were kept by John REILY from the time of the organization of the county until some time in the year 1809. Here, in court times, when the court was not in session, and in the evenings, assembled the judges, the lawyers, and the picked men of the county. It was, in fact, head-quarters, where all the best society met to spend their leisure hours and enjoy themselves with entertaining conversation.
In the year 1809 Mr. REILY removed his office to the south room of his private residence, which he had erected, and just then completed, on lot No. 99, on the east of the public square where he kept his office until the year 1824, when, the present brick offices on the public square having been built by the county and completed ready for the accommodation of the offices; Mr. REILY removed his office to that building.
The first building erected on the public square was a jail. Soon after the seat of justice was established at Hamilton, a subscription paper was drawn up and put in circulation for the purpose of raising funds to aid the county in erecting public buildings. It was numerously subscribed by citizens of the county and others having an interest in the prosperity of the town. Subscriptions were received in money, whisky, or grain, stone, lime, brick, timber, merchandise mechanical work, labor, and hauling." The amount subscribed was about $1,500. In October, 1804, the commissioners of the county appointed Benjamin F. RANDOLPH and Celadon SYMMES to make collections on the subscriptions obtained. However, it was long before they were all collected. Some of them remained unpaid as late as the year 1815.
On the thirtieth day of September, 1805, Ezekiel BALL Matthew RICHARDSON and Solomon LINE commissioners of the county of Butler, made a contract with John TORRENCE and John WINGATE to furnish the materials and build a jail for the county on the south side of the public square. The building was to be of stone, thirty three feet by twenty-two, two stories high, and to be erected and inclosed by the first day of September, 1806, for the sum of $1,600. The contractors erected and inclosed the building, according to their agreement, by the Fall of 1806.
The finishing and completing of the interior of the building, securing and adapting it in a manner suitable for a jail was not included in their bargain, but was an additional expense, and required some time to be effected, so that it was not ready for the reception of prisoners until December, 1808. The inside walls of the prison were lined with logs about a foot square, laid close together on which was a lining of two-inch oak-plank, well secured with iron spikes. The floor and ceiling were of hewed logs, placed in the same manner as the sides, so that the whole was very secure against escapes. The lower story was divided into three apartments, having a cell in the middle for a dungeon. The upper story was divided into two rooms for debtors.
On the second day of February, 1807, the commissioners of Butler County made a contract with William SQUIER to put up a building adjoining the jail, already erected, for the accommodation of the jailer and his family; the building to be of stone, thirty-three feet by thirty, and two stories high, corresponding with width and height of the jail then erected; the whole making a building fifty feet long by thirty-three feet wide. Mr. SQUIER was to furnish all the materials, and have the building entirely completed, according to the plan laid down, by the 1st of December, 1807, for which he was to be paid the sum of $1,690. Mr. SQUIER, however, not prosecuting the work with vigor, did not complete the job by the time stipulated in his contract. It was the beginning of the year 1810 before the building was entirely completed, ready for the reception of the jailer and his family.
The building was divided by a hall running across the building between the prison and the other portion of it, which was divided into two apartments in the lower story for the occupancy of the jailer and his family. The upper story, over the jailer's apartments, was fitted to accommodate the sittings of the courts, in which room the courts were held from the year 1810 until the year 1817.
At the time this building was erected the numerous fine stone-quarries now known to exist in the neighborhood of Hamilton had not been discovered. The only stone then attainable was procured from the bed of the Miami River, and was generally of small size and of an inferior quality. The mechanical art of building had not then acquired the perfection to which it has since attained, and the whole work appears to have been executed without a sufficient regard to that strength and durability necessary to render a building designed for a prison entirely secure. While it was occupied as a prison some escapes were made by means of breaches through the walls where the fire-places were, which subjected the county to considerable expense. The whole building, in its architectural appearance and in its internal economy and arrangement, presented neither a model of elegance or convenience.
The present jail was built by Alexander P. MILLER, to whom the contract was awarded on the 4th of March, 1846. It cost $8,581, and was finished and accepted on the 9th of August, 1848. The old jail was sold at public auction on the 15th of July to Robert F. DUFFIELD for one hundred and ninety-four dollars, by whom it was pulled down and removed. The jail, as it now exists, is a stone structure two stories high, about fifty feet by ninety, presenting a handsome appearance. The front of the building is occupied for a residence by the sheriff, and the rear is appropriated to the detention of prisoners. This room is about forty-five feet square, with a solid stone floor, and lined with boiler iron for twelve feet high.
It has ten cells, situated in the center of the room, five on each side. There is no provision for women in the building other than is afforded by a small and insecure room on the second story.
On the twentieth day of November, 1813, the commissioners of the county contracted with John E. SCOTT to furnish all the materials and erect and finish a courthouse, according to a plan that had been drawn and agreed upon, to be completed by the expiration of the year 1816, for the sum of $9,000. He entered upon the execution of the work immediately, and had it completed by the time stipulated in the contract. The building was of brick, erected on a stone foundation. It was fifty-four feet long by forty-four feet wide, and two stories high. The lower story, twenty feet high, was fitted up for the court-room, having the judges' seat on the south. The main entrance was by a door on the north; there was also a door on the east and another on the west side of the building, and a private door on the south, near the southwest corner, to communicate with the jail. The second story was eighteen feet in height, divided into a hall and four rooms, for the accommodation of the grand and petit juries, and for such other purposes as might be required On the top of the building, in the center of the roof, which was hipped on all four sides; was a cupola, surmounted with an iron spire, on which were two balls of gilded copper. The height from the ground to the uppermost ball was one hundred and ten feet.
The contract price for building the court-house, as before mentioned, was $9,000. However, on the application of the contractor, who alleged that he had lost money on the job, the Legislature, at their session of 1817-18, passed a law authorizing the commissioners of Butler County to make a further allowance to the contractor not exceeding one thousand dollars, if, in their judgment, on an examination of the accounts of his expenditures, it should appear that he had sustained a loss on the contract. The commissioners, on an examination of the account of his expenditures in erecting the building made the allowance authorized by law, and accordingly, on the twelfth day of October, 1818, they paid him the further sum of one thousand dollars, making the whole cost of the court-house $10,000. The sittings of the courts were transferred from the old stone building, and the first court was held in the new courthouse at the April term, 1817.
In the cupola was suspended a fine-toned bell, which was used not only for the assembling of the court, but on other public occasions, and tolled at the funerals of respectable citizens. It was also, for a number of years, rung regularly every day at nine o'clock in the morning, at twelve o'clock at noon, and at nine o'clock in the evening, by a person employed for that purpose, who was regularly paid for that service from a fund raised by voluntary subscription of the citizens of the town.
The plan and arrangement of the courthouse being considered inconvenient and not well suited for the accommodation of the court and those in attendance on that tribunal, the commissioners of the county, in the year 1836, resolved to make an alteration and improvement of the building, and for that purpose employed William H. BARTLETT, a carpenter then residing in Hamilton, to superintend and carry into effect the plan of the alteration, which was immediately commenced by him, and completed, in the manner in which the building remains at present, by the termination of the year 1837. The courthouse, as at present modeled and arranged, is fifty-four feet in length from north to south by forty-four feet in width from east to west, with a portico of ten feet projection in front on the north, with four columns of brick, plastered with hydraulic cement. The columns. are of the Grecian-Ionic order, thirty-two feet in height, supporting a cornice and pediment of the same order. On the north end of the building is a handsome cupola, surmounted by a figure of Justice, holding a sword and balance. The whole height from the ground to the top of the figure on the cupola is one hundred and eleven feet. The court-room is in the second story, which was finished in very neat and elegant style. The judges' seat is on the south side of the court-room, with a gallery on the north. The lower story is divided into four apartments. The most northern one, at the general entrance, is occupied as an anteroom, in which is the stairway leading to the vestibule of the courtroom In the northwest corner is a room occupied as a sheriff's office. The remaining southern part is fitted up for the accommodation of the coroner and for grand jury rooms, The whole expense of the new modeling and alteration of the building made under the superintendence of Mr. BARTLETT amounted to the sum of $15,919. Some remodeling and alteration was done about ten years ago.
In the cupola is suspended a fine-toned bell, the same which formerly hung in the cupola of the old court house. Between 1830 and 1840 a fine clock was purchased and placed in the cupola, having a face on each side of the square, pointing out the lapse of time, and striking the hours on a bell as they pass. The clock cost one thousand dollars, which was paid for by the voluntary contributions of the citizens of the place.
In February, 1820, the commissioners of the county contracted with Pierson SAYRE for furnishing the materials and building two public offices on the public ground for the accommodation of the county offices, to be erected, one on the east and one on the west of the courthouse some distance therefrom, and in line with the front of that building; to be of brick, one story high; each forty feet long by twenty feet wide, with a stone foundation; each building to be divided into two apartments, and made fire-proof. The contract price for building them was $2,486. They were completed, ready for the reception of the offices, by the year 1822. The manner in which the offices were made fire-proof was by laying a floor of boards on the upper joists which supported the ceiling. On this was laid a course of brick, which was covered with a layer of sand or clay, six or eight inches deep. The wood-work of the doors and windows was covered with sheet-iron. The floors were first laid with brick.
In the year 1836 an addition of twenty-three feet was built to the office on the west of the court-house, and the whole building raised to two stories in height. The work was done by Thomas M. THOMAS, and cost $1,500. In the year 1837 a similar addition was made to the building on the east of the court-house by Jacob H. ELERICK, at a cost of $1,820. Thus each building, as it stands at present, is sixty-three feet long by twenty feet wide, and two stories high, divided into suitable apartments on each floor. The whole cost of these offices, thus far, amounted to the sum of $5,806. Some additional sums were, necessarily, afterwards expended in fitting up the rooms for the better accommodation of the offices. In the year 1877 an addition was erected to the west building for the use of the treasurer and county commissioners. The foundations are of the best quarry stone, and the building is two stories high, of brick. It is about twenty feet square.
In 1858 the commissioners caused complete fire-proof apartments to be constructed in the interior of the buildings one for each -- the auditor, treasurer, recorder, and Probate Court.
The rooms on the first floor of the east building are assigned to the clerk of the court for his office. The rooms on the second floor, over the clerk's office, are occupied by the Probate Court. The east room, on the lower floor of the west building, is the county treasurer's office. The west room is the recorder's office; and the auditor's and commissioners' offices are on the upper floor of the building.
In the Summer of the year 1817 the public square was inclosed with an open board fence made of mulberry posts and poplar plank. The materials were furnished and the fence put up by Daniel KEYTE for $1.25 per panel of ten feet.
In 1838 the commissioners of the county had the public square inclosed with a fence of iron railing, except a small portion on the east and west adjoining the streets, which is left outside the inclosure. The foundation is a wall built of limestone, sunk two feet below the surface of the ground. Above the surface there is a wall built of large, well-dressed and cut limestone, brought from the quarries near Dayton, having a coping of the same material, on which is placed the fence, a neat and strong iron railing, with gates at the proper positions, appropriately ornamented. The whole length of the inclosure is one thousand and seventy-one feet. Daniel SKINNER, of Hamilton, executed and put up the iron work; Mr. DOYLE, of Dayton, put up the stone foundation. The work was begun in the Summer of 1838, but was not completed until June, 1839. The cost was $7,293.84. The square has been graded and planted. with ornamental trees, presenting a beautiful prospect, not surpassed by any in the State of Ohio.