The original Indian name of the Miami River was Te-wighte-wa. It is so named on an old map of the county engraved in the year 1762, dedicated to General AMHERST, then commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America. Te-wighte-wa was also the original name of the Miami tribe of Indians. On the first intercourse of the whites with them the old Indians of the Miami tribe called themselves by that name. According to some old books we find that the Miami River was sometimes known as Rocky River, or Stony River.
Hamilton is situated in 39 degrees 26' north latitude, and 84 degrees 31' west longitude from London, or 7 degrees 29' west from the City of Washington. The upper plain, hwere the cour house and principal improvements of the town are located, is about thirty-four feet above the surface of the water in the Miami River at its comon stage. The soil is alluvial, resting on a strata of gravel at least forty feet think, tthat being the greatest depth to which the earth has been penetrated. Pure water is everywhere to be obtained in abundance by digging to a level with the water in the river. The water in the wells rises and falls with the Miami, hence it is presumed that they are supplied by water filtering through gravel from the river. The water obtained is clear and cool, but strongly ipregnated with lime, so mjch so that tea-kettles and other culinary vessels in which it is boiled soon aquire a coating of lime on the inside, which requires to be frequently removed. It is not know to contain any other foreign substance in any considerable quantity.
The alluvial plain on which the city of Hamilton is situated extends back about a mile and a falf from the river to the base of the hills, which ultimately rise to about the height of 250 to 350 feet about the plain. The hills run in a southwardly direction, then gradually incline to the southeast, presenting a level plain or valley between them and the river at and below Hamilton.
The site where Hamilton now stands, previous to being occupied by General ST.CLAIR's army, was mostly covered with a dense forest of timber, with thick underbrush. About a mile to the south was a pond covering about 100 acres of land, evidently the bed of the Miami River at no very remote period.
The tract of land lying between this pond and the river comprehended about 600 acres, and was at that time a beautiful meadow covered with high grass. Above the fort, in what is now the upper part of the town, was also a beautiful prairie of 40 or 50 acres.
Indigging cellars in the northern part of the town of Hamilton, in the year 1855, two teeth of the mastodon were found near each other embedded in the gravel, about 5 feet below the surface of the ground, bearing testimony that this huge animal at some former time dwelt in the forests in the vicinity. At the time of the first settlement of the country vast herds of deer and elk roamed through the woods, and numbrs of other kinds of game were very abundant, and remained so for some time afterwards.
In the south part of the town, near the old burying ground on the corner of lot number 44, or on the west side of Third Street, and just north of the Junction Railway, was a mound of earth 4 feet high and 30 feet diameter. On removing it for the erection of a building, the bones of two human skeletons were found, with some flint arrow points and other stone implements. The hills in the neighborhood of Hamilton are composed of first a rich fertile mould, then loam, intermixed with loose stones, and underneath interstratifications of blue limestone and marl in places.
When the regular army was increased, after the defeat of General St.CLAIR, General KNOX, then Secretary of War, sent to Mr. Jonathan CASS, then a private citizen, a commission as major in the army. This commission was wholly unexpected and unsolicited, but was given by General KNOX in recognition of long and faithful military service and soldierly character and bearing of one whom he knew personally. The personal presence of Major CASS was most striking and commanding; he had the look of one born to command. In height he was nearly or quite six feet, of perfect form, without superfluous flesh, black hair and piercing black eyes, and commanding brow. He joined his command at Winchester, VA, taking his family with him, excepting his oldest son, Lewis, who was left at Exeter, that he might continue his studies at "Phillips Academy." From Winchester he was ordered to take command at Fort Franklin, on the Alleghany River, in PA, north of Pittsburg. His route to his new command was via Fort Cumberland, and across the Alleghany Mountains, and along "Braddock's road" to Pittsburg, and thence up the Alleghany River in barges. From Fort Franklin he was ordered to Fort Washington (Cincinnati), to which point he went about the Fall of 1793, taking his family with him excepting son Lewis, who still remained at "Phillips Exeter Academy." He remained in command at Fort Washington nearly all the time that he was with the army of General WAYNE. In 1794 and 1795 he was at Fort Hamilton. While in charge of a rconnoitering part, his horse, in jumping over the trunk of a prostrate tree, fell, and in coming down fell upon and broke one of Major CASS's legs below the knee. In consequence of bad surgery, the wounded leg never healed, and required daily dressing for about 35 years, and was painful all that period. It finally caused premature death, at the age of 77. His widow followed about 5 years later. In consequence of this injury, he was for a time so disabled from military duty that he was granted a leave of absence, and went with his family to Exeter, New Hampshire, traveling by a northern route. He went from Cincinnati to Detroit via Fort Wayne, Indiana (then "Block House No. 10"), descending the river from Fort Wayne to Lake Erie, and coasting thence to Detroit. From Detroit he went by boat ot Oswego, and thence to Albany; from Albany to Boston. This was in the year 1795 or 1796. In the year 1799 he was so far relieved from suffering that he applied for "orders," and was sent to Wilmington, Delaware, but was soon after ordered to the command at Winchester, VA, at that time a principal recruiting station.
In the year 1800 he tendered his resignation as an officer of the army. The Secretary of War accepted it, to take effect at the end of the year. In the meantime he was granted a "leave of absence" to the date hsi resignation was accepted.
The choice of the 4000 acre tracts of land in the United States military district in Ohio (west of the Ohio River, east of the Scioto, north of latitude 40 degrees, and south of the Greenville treaty line), was decided by a lottery, drawn in Philadelphia in 1799 while Major CASS was stationed at Wilmington, Delaware. He drew No. 1. He commissioned Bazaleel WELLS, surveyor, of Steubenville, Ohio, to make a selection for him, and the latter chose the section at the mouth of Walkatomaka Creek, on the Muskingum River, 15 miles due north of Zanesville, Ohio, and for his services received 400 acres off of the north-west cornerof the section selected. No. 2 was drawn by Thomas BACKUS, who "located" the section at the mouth of Whetstone Creek, above Columbus, on the Scioto.
As soon as Major CASS received his "leave of absence" he proceeded with his family (excepting his oldest son, Lewis, who was left in Wilmington, Delaware, in charge of a Latin grammar school) to take possession of his purchase of lands in Ohio. The warrants which were given in payment of those lands were purchased in the open market in Philadelphia. He came West by way of Cumberland and Pittsburg, stopping long enough at the last named place to make purchases of furniture, farm implements, supplies, etc., for his new home. He descended the Ohio River to Marietta in a "broad-horn" boat. At Marietta he transferred his family and effects into large canoes, called pirogues, and thus ascended the Muskingum River about 100 miles, disembarking on his own lands. On arriving there he found several families from Maryland and Western Virginia living on the ground, each having a few acres in cultivation. On this farm Major CASS lived the remainder of his days, which terminated in September, 1830, in the 76th year of his age. As before stated, his death was premature, having been caused by 35 years of suffering, occasioned by an injury in the military service of his country.
Fort Hamilton remained occupied as a garrison until some time in the Summer of the year 1796, when the public stores, and property belonging to the garrison, were sold at public auction, and the fort abandoned. The line, however, where the pickets stood could be distinctly traced, and some of the buildings of the garrison remained standing as late as the year 1812. They have been seen by persons still living.
On the 27th of July, 1795, Jonathan DAYTON conveyed to Israel LUDLOW the fractional section, number 2, in township 1, range 3, and on the 17th of December, 1794 (sic), Israel LUDLOW laid out a town on this ground, in the immediate vicinity of Fort Hamilton, and gave it the name of Fairfield. The name was, however, shortly afterwards changed to that of Hamilton, in remembrance of the fort, which name it bears at present. The whole number of lots in the present plan of the town were not laid out at that time, but additional ones were laid off afterward, from time to time, as persons proposed to purchase, or circumstances seemed to require.
Darius C. ORCUTT, who then resided at Hamilton, was agent for Mr. LUDLOW, to lay out lots and contract with persons wishing to purchase. He was one of the early pioneers of the country. He was a pack-horse master with ST.CLAIR's army, and was on the ground on the day of the disastrous defeat. He was one of the second couple married in the Miami country. He was united at Cincinnati to Miss Sally McHENRY, in 1790. (The first couple married were Daniel SHOEMAKER to Miss Elsie ROSS, a few days before.) Mr. ORCUTT owned lot No. 145 in Hamilton, on which he built a hewed log house, which was afterward weatherboarded. It is the same house where Major William MURRAY lived, but was removed fifty years after, in consequence of the works of the Hydraulic Canal Company encroaching on the site. Mr. ORCUTT afterwards lived a long time in Rossville, was constable of St. Clair Township many years, and finally died in the vicinity of Hamilton in indigent circumstances.
Shortly after the town was laid out, a few persons purchased lots and settled in the place. The first settlers were Darius C. ORCUTT, John GREER, William McCLELLAN, John SUTHERLAND, John TORRENCE, Benjamin F. RANDOLPH, Benjamin DAVIS, Isaac WILES, Andrew CHRISTY, and William HUBBERT. The first part of the town of Hamilton being originally laid out under the territorial government, there was then no law requiring town plats to be placed on record, consequently it was not recorded at the time. Afterwards, on the twenty-eighth day of April, 1802, Israel LUDLOW placed the plat of the town on the records of Hamilton County at Cincinnati, where it may be found, in book E, No. w, page 57. This recorded plat only comprehended entire inlots from No. 1 to No. 221, 12 fractional lots, and outlots from No. 1 to No. 30. The most northerly blocks of lots in the town numbered from No. 222 to No. 242, inclusive, and outlots Nos. 31, 32, and 33 are not laid down on that plat, nor are they recorded; hence the presumption is, that they were laid out after the first town plat was placed on record. According to the original plan of the town of Hamilton, placed on record by Israel LUDLOW, "the streets are sixty-six feet wide, except High Street, which is ninety-nine feet wide; alleys sixteen feet wide. The entire town lots are six poles by twelve, containing seventy-two square poles each. Entire outlots contain each four acres." However, the original survey, by which the town was laid out, was made with a two-pole chain, three inches and a half or more too long. Hence, it has ever since been the practice of surveyors, in measuring lots in Hamilton, to add three and a half inches to each two poles of measure, in order to correspond with the lots as originally laid out, and leave the improvements of individuals upon the ground which they believed they had originally purchased.
This circumstance was early known to the proprietor, but, having sold a number of lots in different parts of the town, to individuals who had made improvements upon them, he instructed his agents to survey and lay out the lots in such a manner that each person should have the ground on which he had made his improvements.
Some time afterwards, wen General WILKINSON had gone to the south with the army, Peyton SHORT sued out from the Court of Common Pleas fo Butler County a writ of attachment against WILKINSON for debt, and attached his interest in this ground, which was afterwards sold on the attachment on the 16th of April, 1806, and William CORRY and John REILY became the purchasers for one hundred and twenty-five dollars. The deed made to them by the auditors appointed by the court bears date the fourth day of May, 1806.
William CORRY and John REILY afterwards, on the fourth day of October, 1811, sold and conveyed their interest, being the one equal undivided halfof the garrison tract, to Lawrence CAVENAUGH for five hundred dollars, and Lawrence CAVENAUGH afterwards conveyed the interest which he had thus acquired to this ground to the guardians of the minor heirs of Israel LUDLOW, deceased, for the use and benefit of the heirs.
On the fifteenth day of September, 1817, Samuel W. DAVIES, Griffin YEATMAN, and Stephen McFARLAND, guardians fo the heirs of Israel LUDLOW, laid out this ground, together with all that comprehended between High Street and Basin Street, and between Front Street and the Miami River, into town lots as an addition to the town of Hamilton. They are numbered from 243 to 262, inclusive, with four fractional lots on the river. They were offered at public sale on the ground in 1817, and brought high prices. Lot No. 251, on the corner of High and Front Streets, sold for $1,700.
On the 13th of November, 1826, William MURRAY laid out an addition to the town of Hamilton, on the Miami Canal, then in the course of construction, on a part of his farm situated in the south-west part of section No. 32, in township No. 2, of range 3, M. R. These lots were laid out on both sides of the canal, and extending westwardly along High Street, from where the Basin was, to near the outlots on the original plan of Hamilton. They were numbered from No. 1 to No. 62, inclusive, and called East Hamilton. The place soon afterwards acquired the sobriquet of Debbysville, after Mrs. MURRAY, by which name it was occasionally called for many years. Mr. MURRAY at first held his lots at so high a price that but few would purchase.
Notwithstanding, he sold a few, and when the canal was completed to Middletown, and navigation commenced, business appeared to increase for a time. Some houses were built. The office of the collector of tolls on the canal was established at that place. Pierson SAYRE, the first collector, built a house and lived there, and after him William BLAIR. Two taverns were begun, one by Benjamin ENYEART. William BLAIR opened a commission warehouse, and Alexander DELORAC kept a coffee-house and nine-pin alley; a blacksmith shop was soon added, and then, in the estimate of its projectors, it was a full-fledged town. The distance from Hamilton proper was a pleasant walk on the basin bank when it was constructed; the coffee-house and nine-pin alley of Mr. DELORAC were frequently visited by citizens of the place, but unfortunately, thery were consumed by fire, with al the refreshments and attractions which they contained, which put an end to that species of amusement. The basin was constructed in 1830. The collector's office removed to the west end of the basin in 1830, and the business of the place declined and dwindled away so as to be of little or no consequence. At the September term of the Court of Common Pleas for Butler County, in 1837, on the application of William MURRAY, Jr. (the late William MURRAY), who had then inherited the property, a decree was made by the court, vacating that portion of the town plat which had not previously been sold out to individuals.
In March, 1838, James C. LUDLOW subdivided four acres on outlot No. 12, and that portion of outlot 15 lying south of the basin, including a portion of ground lying on the east, into building lots, as a further addition to the town. They arenumbered from No. 1 to No 37, inclusive, and three lots of a larger size, called outlots. But few of them sere sold by the original proprietor.
The Hamilton and Rossville Hydraulic Company, having it in contemplation to construct their canal, to bring the water to their manufactories, through that ground on the river in front of the town, which had been designated on the original plan of the town as commons, doubts were entertained that, should that measure be carried into effect, whether it would not vitiate the original grant, by appropriating the premises to other purposes than that intended by the grant, and consequently that the surviving heirs of the original proprietor would claim and appropriate the property to their individual use. Under these considerations, by mutual agreement between the heirs of Israel LUDLOW, the Hamilton and Rossville Hydrolic Company, and the corporation of Hamilton, the premises were laid out into town lots on the second day of March, 1843, and by an order made by the Court of Common Pleas at their March term, 1843, it was decreed that the heirs of Israel LUDLOW should have one half of the lots lying south of the north side of Buckeye Street, and one-third part of that portion of the lots lying north of Buckeye Street. The town of Hamilton ws to have the remaining one-third of the lots lying north of Buckeye Street, and accordingly partition was made of the property amongst the parties in this manner.
The lots laid out are on the river bank in front of the inlots, heretofore laid out, extending from the north to the south line of the town, and are numbered from No. 263 to No. 311. Many of these lots in the lower part lie wholly on the river beach, and those in the upper part are so narrow, extending into the river, as to be of little or no value.
The lots lying between the bridge and Buckeye Street are the only ones of sufficient dimensions to be occupied advantageously for manufacturing purposes.
On the fifteenth day of August, 1843, Doctor Jacob HITTELL laid out a few lots in original outlots, No. 1, on the west side of Front Street, and adjoining on the south of the inlots heretofore laid out. They are numbered from No. 1 to No. 11, inclusive.
On the third day of November, 1843, the original outlots numbered 22, 25, and 28, through which the eastern branch of the hydraulic canal passes, were subdivided into building lots by William H. BARTLETT, John WOODS, John W. ERWIN, Cyrus FALCONER, William BEBB, and Evan R. BEBB. The lots are numbered from No. 1 to No. 79, inclusive, and denominated "The hydraulic addition to the town of Hamilton."