Next page | Butler County Ohio | Cyclopeadia index page | Previous page

The only lawyer residing in Hamilton at that time was William CORRY, whose office was in the same room in which Mr REILY kept his. Mr. REILY was appointed the first recorder of Butler County in 1803, and held the position until May, 1811, when he was succeeded by James HEATON, who had been the first county surveyor.

Mr. REILY was also clerk of the board of county commissioners- from 1803 to 1819, when he resigned. His sterling qualities and thorough practical knowledge of the routine of the office gave him a great influence with the successive boards. In fact, during the time he held the position he had the chief management and control of the finances of the county, and conducted them with great prudence.

In 1804; under the administration of Thomas Jefferson, a post-office was established in Hamilton, of which Mr. REILY was appointed postmaster. His commission was signed by Gideon GRANGER, postmaster-general, and bears date August 2, 1804. This was then the western-most post-office north of the Ohio. He held this place until July, 1832, when he resigned, being succeeded by James B. THOMAS. In 1809, when Oxford University was founded. Mr. REILY was made a trustee, and served in that capacity for many years. He was its president until the organization of the college in 1824, when by law the president of the college, by virtue of his office, became president of the board of trustees. He was always a warm friend of this institution, attending the meetings of the board with regularity. For years his name appears in the newspapers as secretary. He resigned his trusteeship in 1840, on account of advanced age and the inconvenience of being so often absent from home.

Mr. REILY was a man of the utmost regularity of habits. He came to his room at a certain hour, and departed from it at a certain hour. His papers were all methodically filed away, and he could at any time refer to any paper with which he had any thing to do, although it might have been a quarter of a century before. He trusted nothing to another person which it was possible himself to do. He held office many years, and during the whole course of his life his integrity and veracity were never questioned, nor does the writer recollect in any of the old newspapers whose files he has examined an attack upon his character - an exemption which no one else enjoyed. His judgment was excellent, his memory good, his patriotism of the highest. He took part in the Revolution while still a mere boy; he was an actor in the scenes of pioneer life when in early manhood, and he discharged important trusts to his fellow-men when he had reached the maturity of his powers. He was frequently a trustee of estates or guardian of children, and occupied other fiduciary positions. He was educated in the Presbyterian faith, and liberally contributed to the support of that denomination. He also gave largely to other Churches.

His death occurred in Hamilton on the 7th of June. 1850. He was then eighty-seven years of age. He had enjoyed good health nearly all his life, and his death was not preceded by any long sickness. The decease was announced to the Court of Common Pleas, which was then in session, by Governor BEBB, who paid a feeling tribute to his memory. Resolutions were adopted by the bar, which were ordered to he entered upon the journal of the court, and adjournment then took place.

He died on Friday. On Sunday a discourse was pronounced by the Rev. William DAVIDSON, of the United Presbyterian Church, and the body was conveyed to its last resting-place in Greenwood Cemetery, which had been opened only a short time before. The attendance at the funeral was vast. People came from every township in the county, as well as from over the border and from Indiana. The solemnities were rendered more impressive by the presence of many old men, who had been associated with him in the foundation of the commonwealth which had now grown so great.

The constitutional convention was at that time in session at Columbus. On Tuesday, June 11th, Judge Elijah VANCE, a member of the convention from Butler County, arose and said:
"Mr. Speaker, -- I have been induced, sir, by a letter which has been placed in my hands by an honorable member of this convention, to announce to this body the decease of Mr. John REILY, late of Butler County. It is known, perhaps, to every member upon this floor that the deceased was one of the members of the convention which framed the present constitution of Ohio; and that he had been for many years a citizen of the Northwest Territory or the State of Ohio."

After giving a detailed sketch of the life and public services of Mr. REILY, the judge continued:

"He was a man of many peculiarities, but of the most strict and uncompromising integrity. In every department of life he was faithful and scrupulously honest. It is an incident worthy of profound contemplation that, at the very period of time in which our people are seeking to enlarge the sphere of constitutional liberty -- while they are about to bid farewell to the constitution under which they have lived and prospered for near fifty years, and to seek enlarged blessings under a new form -- the mind that so largely aided in diffusing these blessings under the guarantee afforded by organic law, has been remodeled, regenerated, and prepared for usefulness in a wider and better sphere of existence.

"Mr. Speaker, I offer for adoption the following resolutions

"Resolved, That this convention has heard with deep sensibility the annunciation of the death of John REILY, Esquire, late of the county of Butler, a soldier of the Revolution, one of the early pioneers of the West, one who filled important trusts under the territorial government and one of the framers of the present constitution of Ohio.

"Resolved That this convention deeply sympathize with the family of the deceased on this melancholy occasion.

"Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions, signed by the president and secretary of this convention, be forwarded to the family of the deceased."

Judge George J. SMITH, a member of the convention from Warren County, then rose and said:
"Mr. President, -- I hope I may be pardoned for rising to make a few remarks by way of seconding the resolutions offered by the honorable member from Butler. I live in an adjoining county to that in which the deceased resided, and have been intimately acquainted with him for a period of some thirty years. I first became acquainted with Mr. REILY about the year 1821, just after I had commenced the practice of law, and was uniformly in the habit of attending the courts of Butler County, in the practice of my profession, whilst he was clerk of the Court of Common Pleas and of the Supreme Court of that county. I know that I speak the sentiments of every member of the profession who had the good fortune and the pleasure of practicing in the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County during the time he was clerk of the court, when I bear witness to the urbanity of his demeanor and the politeness and courtesy which he always bestowed upon every member, and especially upon the younger members of the profession. Toward the latter his deportment was peculiarly kind and paternal.

"In some respects Mr. REILY was a most extraordinary man; and, as. the gentleman from Butler has well remarked, in the qualities of punctuality and honesty and the most strict and marked integrity I do not think he had his superior anywhere. During the whole period of my service on the bench of the Court of Common Pleas he was clerk of the court, which brought us into official relation. During more than thirty years that he served as clerk of the court, he discharged his duties with the strictest fidelity and utmost punctuality. Indeed, as a clerk he was a model. As an instance of his rigid punctuality, he never knowingly permitted any large amount of fees to accumulate in his office without paying them over to those who were entitled to receive them. This was a rule with Mr. REILY which, in my opinion, made him an exception to any other gentleman I have known who filled that office. He did not usually wait until the witnesses or other persons having money collected in his office would call for it, but would seek opportunities of searching for the claimant, and sending it to him as soon as collected. I mention this as an instance of his scrupulous honesty.

"I have heard it remarked by some of the older citizens of Butler, who from an early day have been familiar with the fiscal concerns of that county, that to Mr. REILY, more than to any other man, was to be attributed the correct and prudent manner in which the fiscal concerns of that county were always managed during the period in which Mr. REILY, to a very considerable extent, had their oversight and management. Such was the care and attention which he bestowed in the discharge of the duties of every office he was called to fill that no one ever complained of his neglecting or omitting his official duties.

"I had the pleasure of an interview with Mr. REILY in the month of March last, at his own residence. I have been uniformly in the habit, since, from the infirmities of age, he has been almost wholly confined to his house, of calling on him on all proper occasions when visiting the town in which he resided. The interview to which I refer was after the passage of the law of the last session of the General Assembly which has called this assembly together. Mr. REILY was emphatically a gentleman of the old school. He had his principles and opinions, and was firm in the maintenance of them; at the same time paying due respect and regard to the opinions of others. On the occasion referred to he spoke of his Revolutionary services, and of the proceedings of the convention of 1802. He looked forward with deep interest to the proceedings of this convention, and remarked to me that, although he felt the inconveniences and defects of the present constitution, still he looked forward with some forebodings as to what might be the result of the deliberations of this convention. At the same time that he acknowledged the defects in the existing constitution, he was apprehensive that, amidst the turmoil and excitement of contending parties, the public good might be sacrificed to party feeling, and the organic law of the State despoiled of some of its essential provisions. Mr. REILY, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, was not a partisan. He never obtruded his opinions upon any one. When he formed opinions he maintained them upon all proper occasions with becoming firmness and commendable modesty.

"If I am not mistaken, he was originally attached to the Federal party. My impression is (though in this I may be in error) that at one period he supported the claims of General JACKSON for the presidency. It is proper, also, to remark that in his latter years he was attached to the Whig party. But no one ever heard him condemn any man, or set of men, for entertaining and expressing political opinions different from his own. He was perfectly tolerant and gentlemanly in his deportment toward every person with whom he came in contact, amiable and courteous in his manners and in all his social relations. Full of years, honored and respected by all who knew him, he has gone from among us. But his memory will live after him, highly esteemed as he was when living, and revered when dead. Respectable for his intelligence and official qualifications -- permit me, Mr. President, to say that, in my estimation, the crowning glory of his life was his spotless purity, his scrupulous honesty, and his unsullied integrity. He lived and died a humble, pious Christian."

Mr. Edward ARCHBOLD, a member of the convention from Monroe County, rose and said that, though an entire stranger to the deceased, he joined heartily in the honorable testimonials which had been offered by the gentlemen from Butler and Warren. He had learned that there were but four or five members of the convention which framed the present constitution of Ohio now living, and that from the time he was returned a delegate to this convention till he came up to this place he had indulged the idea of obtaining the services of some one of these time-honored survivors to preside during the preliminary organization, and perform those duties which were so ably discharged by his friend, the senior member from the county of Wayne (Mr. LARWELL). He had thought that while such a thing would constitute an appropriate expression of respect for those honored and honorable representatives of the past, it might also reflect a very wholesome influence upon the convention itself.

The resolutions presented by Judge VANCE were then unanimously passed, and a copy of them was forwarded to the family of the deceased.

Mr. John LARWELL then moved that, as a further testimonial of respect for the memory of the deceased, the convention now adjourn, which was carried.

Mr. REILY was married on the sixth day of February, 1808, to Miss Nancy HUNTER, a daughter of Joseph HUNTER, who was living in the neighborhood of Hamilton. Mrs. REILY died July 18, 1881. They had three sons and two daughters. Joseph H. REILY, who was born November 8, 1809, was educated at the Miami University. He possessed a natural taste for art, and painted many portraits and landscapes, which are still in the possession of our older families. He died at Hamilton, on the twentieth day of March, 1849, in the same room in which he was born.

James REILY was born July 3, 1811, and was graduated at the Miami University in 1829. He studied law with John WOODS of Hamilton, and practiced for a while in Mississippi but went from there to Texas. During the short life of that republic as a separate government he was sent to Washington as its minister-plenipotentiary. He became a large landholder, and at the beginning of the Rebellion entered the Confederate service. He was killed at the head of his regiment, when leading them at the battle of Bayou Teche, in 1863. He married a niece of Henry CLAY, a Miss ROSS, who is now also dead.

Robert REILY was born June 1, 1820, and was in mercantile business in Cincinnati. In the war of the Rebellion he was a field officer in the Seventy-fifth Ohio Infantry doing much fighting, and receiving deserved encomiums. On the 30th of April, 1862, at the battle of Chancellorsville, REILY, who was then the colonel of the regiment, received a severe wound at the close of the day, of which he died on the 5th of May, 1863. His troops had been handled admirably, and there was a universal manifestation of regret at his loss.

Caroline REILY, the oldest daughter, died in infancy. The younger, Jane H. REILY, who was born October 9, 1815, is still living. She is the wife of Lewis D. CAMPBELL, formerly Member of Congress, and one of the most influential men in the nation. A full sketch of him will be found elsewhere. Mrs. REILY made her home with him and her daughter until her decease.


Richard BUTLER, after whom this county was named, was born in Ireland. With his brothers, he came to America before 1760, and was for a long time in the Indian trade. Just before the outbreak of the American War he was settled in Pennsylvania, where his courage and knowledge of character made him a man of influence. It was a matter of great importance to persuade the Indians not to take up arms against us, and as agent and interpreter he went to Fort Pitt, in April, 1776, hoping to dissuade the Six Nations from entering the field as our antagonists. They were the most powerful of all the Indian tribes, and had been able to maintain their independence against both the French and English. With the latter, however, they had formed an alliance at the close of the war that added Canada to the British dominions, and, while not unfriendly to the Americans it was feared that the solicitations of English agents would finally turn them from neutrals into enemies. Mr. BUTLER met the Indians in formal conference, and during their meetings delivered three speeches, two to KIOSOLA, the leading Indian chief, and one to the Delawares, who were in a sense subsidiary to the Iroquois. His efforts were for the time successful; KIOSOLA declared himself in favor of the Americans, and every thing promised prosperously, but the current of feeling was too strong for the chief, and he and the Six Nations finally drifted into an alliance with the English, a movement which proved in the end fatal to the confederated tribes.

BUTLER was made a lieutenant-colonel of the Pennsylvania line at the beginning of the war, and in the Spring of 1777 was lieutenant-colonel of MORGAN's rifle corps, which was present at the battle of Saratoga, and distinguished himself by his conduct on several occasions. He was in the battle of Monmouth While with a detachment commanded by General LAFAYETTE, near Williamsburg, Virginia, on the 26th of January, 1781, he attacked Colonel SIMCOE's rangers, gaining the advantage. He held the rank of colonel of the Ninth Pennsylvania regiment at the close of the war, and acted as a commissioner in settling affairs with the Indians at about that time. He took up his residence in Carlisle, where with General IRVINE and General ARMSTRONG, and a few others, an agreeable society was formed. In conjunction with these officers, he quelled a mutiny at Fort Pitt. In 1784 he was one of the United States commissioners at a treaty held at Fort Stanwix, New York. His fellow commissioners were Oliver WOLCOTT, of Connecticut, and Arthur LEE, of Virginia. It does not appear that they had any particular knowledge of the Indian character, and the bulk of the business fell upon General BUTLER. New York State sent a commissioner, Peter SCHUYLER, to protect her interests, as the chief portion of the lands which were indisputably in the possession of the Six Nations were within her limits, and for all west of New York a treaty some twenty years old was in existence. The United States commissioners adopted a very high and lofty tone to the Indians and but for the conciliatory policy adopted by New York in her treatment it is probable an Indian warfare would have broken out, retarding the settlement of Western New York, as, at the same time Indian troubles did the territory northwest of the Ohio. The Indians advocated their side at this meeting with much ability.

General BUTLER subsequently attended at Fort McIntosh, and in September, 1785, left his home in Carlisle to proceed to the Miami, where it was thought desirable a treaty should be made. He kept a journal, which is full of interesting matter. From it we learn that the journey was down the river, and occupied considerable time. James MONROE, afterward President, and then a Member of Congress, accompanied him a considerable part of the way. Three months after starting, at the mouth of the Great Miami, a treaty was concluded between the American commissioners -- General PARSONS, General BUTLER, and General CLARK- and several tribes of Indians. The honors were with General BUTLER, who delivered the principal address to the Indians. Tradition has imparted to this scene some startling particulars not to be found corroborated in history.

In 1791 he joined the expedition of ST.CLAIR, together with a brother, Colonel BUTLER. He was appointed second in command and was charged with the arrangements necessary for the recruiting service. He established a rendezvous at Baltimore, and several points in Pennsylvania Those enlisted east of the mountains assembled at Carlisle where they were disciplined and prepared to march for the West. He joined the army at Fort Hamilton, on the 27th of September, and the army was set in motion on the 4th of October, being led by General BUTLER. They crossed the river by wading. At Fort Hamilton, General ST. CLAIR issued an order prohibiting more than two or three women for each company from proceeding with the army. This, however, was disregarded, and when the men commenced crossing the river they also plunged into the stream, but the water being deep, their progress was considerably obstructed by their clothes. Many of them got out of the water on the artillery carriages, and rode over astride of the cannon.

We have elsewhere given an account of the march to the fatal field where ST. CLAIR's army was destroyed. General BUTLER had been active and vigilant, and when the attack came, on the 4th of November, fought bravely. He and General ST. CLAIR were continually going up and down the lines. As one of them went up one line, the other was going down the other line. About an hour after the charge made by Major Thomas BUTLER's troops, General Richard BUTLER was mortally wounded, when passing on the left of that battalion. Four soldiers put him in a blanket, and carried him back to have his wounds dressed by a surgeon. They placed him in a sitting posture on the blanket, leaning against a tree. He was vomiting blood at the time. Almost immediately afterward, while the surgeon was examining General BUTLER's wounds, a single Indian, who had penetrated the ranks of the regiment, darted forward, and tomahawked and scalped the general before his attendants were aware and could interfere.

Such was the end of life to this brave soldier. He came of a patriotic family, three of his brothers having been in the service of the United States, fighting nobly for us. His son has caused his journal to be published; and the other descendants of the family have filled high stations in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

General ST. CLAIR.

Arthur ST.CLAIR, once governor of the Northwest Territory, and a soldier of the Revolution, was a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he was born in the year 1735. He received a classical education, and afterward studied medicine: He became a surgeon in the British army, and in that capacity crossed the ocean. He served under WOLFE, at Quebec, actively participating in the fighting when that city was taken, and previously being in General AMHERST's army, as a member of the Sixtieth British Regiment at the taking of Louisbourg, in 1758. After the peace with France, in 1763, he was assigned to the command of Fort Ligonier, in Western Pennsylvania, receiving there a grant of a thousand acres of land. In 1771 he was commissioned as a justice of the peace of Bedford County, and by virtue of his office sat as one of the judges. In 1773, upon the organization of Western Pennsylvania into the county of Westmoreland, Arthur ST. CLAIR was appointed prothonotary, or clerk of the court. ST. CLAIR also represented the PENN family in the western portion of the colony, a highly honorable position. When the war broke out, he espoused the cause of the colonists, and was appointed a colonel of Continentals. In six weeks he was ready for the field. A month after the Declaration of Independence he was appointed a brigadier-general, and served as such in the battles of Princeton and Trenton. The next year he was made a major-general and placed in command of Fort Ticonderoga, which, though garrisoned by two thousand men, he abandoned at the approach of BURGOYNE. For this action he was charged with incapacity and cowardice, but after a thorough investigation of the circumstances by a court-martial, he was honorably acquitted, and Congress, by a unanimous vote, indorsed the decision -- his action, however unpopular, being justified as a wise one, since an attempt to hold the works must have resulted in defeat, with a useless sacrifice of men whose services were needed elsewhere. He served during the following years in various parts of the country, and was present at Yorktown in 1781, at the surrender of CORNWALLIS. Subsequently, he joined the army of General GREENE, in the South, and when the war closed returned to his home in Ligonier, and engaged in the labors of his farm. In 1786 he was appointed a delegate to the Continental Congress, and was soon after chosen president of that august body. After the passage of an act for the government of the Northwest Territory, he was appointed the governor, coming to Cincinnati, then Fort Washington, and organizing the county of Hamilton, in 1790. In 1791 he commanded the expedition known by his name, which had for its object the punishment of the Indians who lived on the table-land between the Lake and the Ohio River.

"General. STCLAIR," says Mr. SMUCKER, "received elaborate instructions from General KNOX, the Secretary of War, and in April proceeded to Pittsburg to complete arrangements for raising his army and organizing it. General Richard BUTLER, of Pennsylvania, a gallant officer in the Revolution, who served with honor in MORGAN's rifle corps, and was the ranking officer of the Pennsylvania levies, was appointed the second officer in ST. CLAIR's army. He was actively engaged, in the Spring and early Summer, in recruiting. Slowly the troops gathered at Fort Washington and Ludlow Station, six miles distant, when, on the 17th of September, being then 2,300 strong, they marched forward and built Fort Hamilton, the first in the chain of forts to the Maumee, being distant twenty-two miles from Fort Washington. On the 12th of October they commenced the erection of Fort Jefferson, forty-four miles from Fort Hamilton, within the present county of Darke, six miles from Greenville, the county seat. On the 24th of October the march was resumed, the fort having been completed. The commander-in-chief was suffering from sickness, provisions were not abundant, the roads were wet and heavy, the militia were daily deserting, and circumstances generally were unfavorable for a successful campaign, the effective men now numbering only 1,500, not including those that were garrisoning Forts Hamilton and Jefferson and those looking after the deserters unit guarding the supply-trains Such being the condition of things on the evening of November 3rd when the army was encamped on a branch of the Wabash, now in Mercer County, Ohio, within a mile or two of the Indiana State line and in the south-western part of the county, five miles distant from the Darke County line. Here, on the morning of November 4, 1791, was defeated and fearfully cut up the army of General ST. CLAIR by probably about 2,000 Indians, the militia being first attacked, who gave way. The right wing or first line was commanded by General BUTLER, and the second line by Colonel DARKE. The militia under the command of Colonel OLDHAM had been marched across the small, fordable stream, a tributary of the Wabash, and encamped on high ground, about four hundred yards distant from the first line, or right wing, commanded by General BUTLER, and about seventy yards further from the second line, under command of Colonel DARKE.

"The battle commenced early in the morning, and continued three or four hours. General ST. CLAIR was evidently surprised, both as to the time of the attack and as to the strength of the enemy. He had no idea that the wily savages were present in such overwhelming numbers. In the last personal interview had with President WASHINGTON, ST.CLAIR was reminded by him of the character of the enemy he was to encounter, and was, moreover, earnestly and repeatedly admonished against being surprised. No marvel, therefore, at the strong and emphatic expressions and very unusual manifestations of grief and disappointment by the President when hearing of the disastrous defeat of his former gallant and esteemed companion in arms, and of the almost total destruction of his army.

It may be urged in extenuation that General ST. CLAIR failed, from some cause, to obtain a knowledge of certain facts that were reported to Colonel OLDHAM and General BUTLER by Captain SLOO, as the result of reconnoitering outside of the camp until midnight, and which facts were well calculated to raise the presumption of the presence of the enemy in considerable strength. Had the information obtained by Captain SLOO been communicated promptly to the commander-in-chief he would probably have been more vigilant.