As soon as it was known that this would become the capital of the county a paper was circulated for subscription to build a county jail. Benjamin F. RANDOLF and Celadon SYMMES were the agents of the county in collecting the money, which was not all got together for ten years. The building, which was of stone, was begun in 1805 and finished in 1806. It cost $1,600, a little more than the subscriptions. The paper circulated reads thus:
Be it known by these presents, that we, the subscribers, do each and severally and separately firmly bind and obligate ourselves or heirs and assigns, to the county of Butler, in the State of Ohio, for the different sums annexed to each and every name in the particular articles herein descried; viz, money, stone brick, lime, lumber, mechanical work, labor hauling, etc., etc., etc., --to be appropriated to the only use of said county to erect pubick buildings and such other purposes of the commonwealth said county may deem necessary. The same sums subscribed shall be recoverable at law by the trustees appointed for that and other publcik purposes in said county providing that the seat of justice of said county be county of Butler—otherwise to be void and of no effect. In witness whereof we, the subscriber, have severally and separately set our names with the sums annexed thereto, this eighteenth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three.
The sums subscribed are to be considered in dollars.
The fort was opposite the place where the bridge over the Miami River has since been built, extending from Hydraulic Street to the site of the United Presbyterian Church, and from the river as far east as the ground on which the Universalist Church is built. The ground east of the fort extending as far as Second Street, including the public square and High Street, had been occupied as a burying-ground for the garrison, and numerous rude grave-stone and graves were dotted over the surface. A natural terrace, eight or ten feet high, ran along the west side of Front Street, separating the upper from the lower plane. When this bank was excavated in grading High Street, several skeletons were taken up entire, and many human bones disinterred, which were all removed and buried. Many more, doubtless, lie in the space. As late as 1812 a paling inclosing a single grave stood in the middle of High Street, opposite the Hamilton Hotel, but was removed that year.
The inhabitants of Hamilton, when Mr. REILY came here, were few in number, and composed chiefly of soldiers and other persons who had been attached to WAYNE's army, and had remained here when that army was disbanded at the close of the campaign. These persons lacking energy and enterprise, spoiled for pioneer work by military camp life, and in many cased dissipated and immoral, were not the class of citizens best calculated to promote the rapid improvement of the place.
Few houses had been erected. A two-story frame house stood in the center of High Street, not far from the present bridge. It was the old house erected by General WILKINSON for the accommodation of the officers of his army. In this house William McCLELLAN kept a tavern. Above it, extending from near the river to the east line of the pickets, was a row of stables, built of round hickory logs with bark peeled off, which were originally used for the horses of the officers and the cavalry, and afterward as stables for the tavern. The artificers' shops stood further to the north, near where the hydraulic race how is. The magazine stood in the south angle of the garrison and some other dilapidated buildings were in and around the locality of the fort. There was a well of excellent water, which is still in use, a few feet west of the dwelling of John W. SOHN, over which there was then a large wheel for drawing water.
John TORRENCE kept a tavern at the corner of Dayton and Water Streets, in the house now owned and formerly occupied by Henry S. EARHART. Mr. TORRENCE died in 1807, but his widow continued the business—even for years after she became the wife of John WINGATE. She was the daughter of Captain Robert BENHAM, whose adventures are frequently mentioned in the early history of the county, and a sister of Joseph S. BENHAM, formerly a prominent lawyer of Hamilton. On the lot opposite, on the north side of the street, was a log-house, which was built by Darius C. ORCUTT, and then occupied as a boarding-house by Mrs. GRIFFEN, a sister of Abner ENOCH.
Issac STANLEY afterward kept a tavern with the sign of a Black Horse, on Front Street, in an old log-house, in the upper part of the town.
John SUTHERLAND kept a store in a house on the east side of Front Street, between Dayton and Hydraulic Streets, and carried on an extensive trade with the Indians. It is now torn down. In the upper part of the town were several cabins, in which lived James HEATON, Isaac WILES, George HARLAN, William HERBERT, and George SNYDER.
John WINGATE commenced a store in a log-house where St. Mary's Catholic Church now stands, where he failed in 1806. Thomas and Joseph HOUGH continued the business; and after the death of the former, it was successfully occupied by HOUGH & BLAIR, and KELSEY & SMITH, for the same purpose. Nearly opposite, on the south side of the street, lived Thomas McCULLOUGH and Dr. Jacob LEWIS. In the south part of the town resided John GREENE, Azarias THORN, Barney McCARRON, Benjamin DAVIS, Ludlow PIERSON, and perhaps others not now recollected.
On the west bank of the Miami River was a solitary log-house, occupied by Archibald TALBERT, who kept a tavern and the ferry. The town of Rossville was not then in existence. It was surveyed and laid out by Mr. REILY in 1804.
Isaac STANLEY also kept a tavern in an old log home in the upper part of the town, which stood on lot No. 162, on Front Street. He was a justice of the peace as well as a tavern keeper, and kept his office in the barroom (the only room in the house, except a little log hut standing back, occupied as a kitchen). Her he dispensed justice and whiskey for several years.
A store was kept by John SUTHERLAND, on Front Street, between Stable and Dayton Streets.
Messrs. Joseph HOUGH and Thomas BLAIR had a store near the south-west corner of the public square. It was kept in an old log house standing on the lot now owned by the Catholic Church. John REILY, the clerk of the court, kept his office in a log house in the lower part of the town, as mentioned in a previous chapter. Azarias THORN lived on lot No. 9, in the lower part of the town. After his death the same house was owned and occupied by Oliver STEVENS. Mrs. Greer lived in a log house, isolated, in the brushy wood near the north-east corner of Second and High Streets.
Widow DAVIS lived in a very old log house which stood on the corner of the alley and Front Street. Barney McCARRON lived in a cabin in the south part of the town.
Doctor Daniel MILLIKIN, the only physician in the place, lived in a house on the bank of the river, above Major MURRAY's Tavern. In the same neighborhood also lived James HEATON, Isaac WILES, George SNYDER, William HERBERT, and George HARLAN, with perhaps, some others.
William CORRY, the only lawyer in the place, kept his office in the same building with the clerk of the court. Several others lawyers, however, regularly attended the courts at Hamilton. At that time, nearly all that part of Hamilton lying east of Front Street was an impenetrable thicket, covered with small, scrubby oaks, blackjacks, vines, and hazel bushes. True, paths and road were in some places cut through them, to admit a free passage, but aside from these underbrush was so thick that it was only in some places a person could make his way through them, or see a rabbit at the distance of a few paces. This was then the case from SUTHERLAND's corner to the Hamilton Hotel, and eastwardly to where the canal now is and southwardly as far as the town lots extend.
At that time it was common to meet with Indians in the streets of Hamilton almost every day, who came to trade their furs and peltries with the storekeepers. In 1808 a band of seventy or eighty Indians encamped in the lower part of Rossville, and remained more than a week. When they got liquor they frequently became intoxicated, and were then very troublesome. One night, when a number of hem were intoxicated, Mr. McBRIDE took a seat on the bank of the river, concealed from their view, and remained a considerable time, watching the squaws taking the drunken Indians across the river, at the ford opposite the lower part of the town, to their camp, on the other side of the river. Two squaws would take hold of an Indian, one on each side, and conduct him across the stream, singing a slow monotonous song as they waded through the water.
The improvements in Rossville were then still fewer than in Hamilton. There was a log house hear where the west end of the bridge now is, occupied as a tavern and ferry-house. It was kept by Colonel James MILLS, afterwards by John HALL, and years afterward by Lewis P. SAYRE. Michael DELORAC kept a tavern and ferry. The tavern was kept in a house in what was then the upper part of Rossville.
Some years afterward Isaac FALCONER built a house on the corner of Main and Front Streets, where he kept a tavern many years. These, with two or three log houses in the lower part, comprehended the extent of improvement. Brushwood, elder bushes, and high weeds occupied the remaining part of the town. In those days it was customary at court time, and on election and other public days for great numbers of the people from the country to come to town, business or no business, and to devote their time to drinking and noisy revelry. There were no temperance societies in those days. Every man who had any pretensions to gentility must be hail-fellow well met with every one—must at least call for his half-pint of whiskey, which in the taverns, was then measured out to customers in small half-pint and gill green bottles, like vinegar cruets.
The upper part of the town of Hamilton, north of Dayton Street, was a beautiful natural prairie, unimproved and uninclosed, except a few straggling cabins near the bank of the river, pastured by the town cows and sheep. The race-course was on this common. Though now fallen into disrepute, horse-racing was, in those times, a favorite amusement, and an affair of all-engrossing interest. Every business or pursuit was neglected during its continuance. On public days—indeed, on almost every Saturday—the streets and commons in the upper part of the town were converted in racepaths. The race-course comprehended the common from Second to Fourth Streets. At Second Street, a short distance north of where the Roman Catholic Church is now built, was erected a scaffold, elevated a little above the heads of the people, where stood the judges of the race.
On grand occasions the plain within the course and near it was occupied with temporary booths, erected with forks and covered with boughs, just cut and brought from the woods.
Here every thing was said, done, sold, eaten, and drank. Here was Black YORK, with his fiddle and his votaries, making the dust fly with a four-handed, or otherwise four-footed reel, and every fifteen or twenty minutes was a rush to some part or other to witness a fisticuff.
Amongst the bustling crowd of jockeys were assembled all grades and classes of people, from the highest to the lowest. Justices of the peace and other civil officers of the county were there. Even judges of the court mingled with the crowd, and sometimes presided at those contests of speed between the ponies of the neighborhood. But public opinion has undergone a change. It now attaches odium to what in former times were regarded as only venial errors.
Balls and dancing parties were frequent. Though the inhabitants of the town were few in number on these occasions, the youth and beauty of the county would assemble, and many a long Winter night did they amuse themselves "on the light fantastic toe," measuring time to the sweet strains of VANZANT's fiddle, until broad daylight would warn them that it was time to retire. These ball wee generally held at WINGATE's or MURRAY's tavern. Sometimes there were social dancing parties at the widow DAVIS's, but in times of sleighing they were always held at Mother BROADBURY's, two miles from Hamilton, on the Cincinnati road, where Wilkeson BEATY formerly lived, in Section 35.
John REILY was clerk of the courts and agent for the proprietors of the town of Rossville; John SUTHERLAND was a storekeeper, as were Joseph HOUGH and Thomas BLAIR; William MURRAY kept a hotel, and so did John TORRENCE and John WINGATE; William McCLELLAN kept a public house; Lawrence CAVANAUGH was a man of some means; William HUBBERT was a proprietor of the town of Rossville; Isaac STANLEY kept a hotel; John GREER was an associate judge, and James HEATON, was the county surveyor. The other names from this side of the river were George SNIDER, Anderson SPENCER, Thomas SPENCER, Oliver STEPHENS, Captain Azarias THORN, Daniel HILL, Paul BANNELL, William RIDDLE, Isaac WILES, Gardner VAUGHN, George HARLAN, Mrs. DAVIS, Barnabas McCARRON, Mr. HAGAN, and Hugh WILSON.
In Rossville, there were Michael DELORAC, father of Alexander DELORAC; John ASTON, Robert TAYLOR, John TAYLOR, John HALL, Isaac MOSS, James ROSS, Archibald TALBERT, the ferryman; Moses CONNER, Leonard GARVER, Samuel SPIVEY and Samuel AYRES. This gives twelve names for Rossville, and twenty-eight for Hamilton, which, at the usual rate computation, would give for the population of Rossville sixty persons, and for Hamilton one hundred and forty.
The first marriage in Butler County, after its erection, was by Celadon SYMMES, and the fortunate parties were Jacob SAMPLE and Jane HUESTON. This was on the 8th of September, 1803. Marriages had undoubtedly taken place before this, but they were under the jurisdiction of Hamilton County, and are there recorded, if anywhere.
Mr. BIRCH came to Hamilton in 1810 or 1811. He first occupied the south room of the house now owned by Mrs. R. TAPSCOTT, and which was built in 1810 by Joseph HOUGH, deceased. Subsequently, and before the brewery was built, Mr. BIRCH resided in a small house built by himself on the west side of the road leading to Cincinnati, and some two hundred yards north of the pond. The old brewery was built about 1813 or 1814.
The "duplicate" for 1805 consists of about twelve papers of folio paper without rules, lines, or printed heads. While the paper is yellow from age, the ink is as clear and black as though it was fresh only yesterday from the ink-stand. On the back of the duplicate, in the hold handwriting of John REILY, is the indorsement: "A Duplicate of Taxes on Land for the year 1805, amounting to dollars, 871.64.2"
The duplicate was divided into two parts: the first part containing the registry of non-resident land owners, and the second part the registry of those who were in possession. Of land owners the duplicate show non-residents 64, owning 27,277 acres. Residents 310, owning 87,398 acres. Total 374, owning 117,125 acres. Among the largest non-resident land owners were Elias BOUDINOT, after whom Boudinot Street, first Ward is named, who held 1,994 acres in sections 13, 14, 20, 21, and 25, in Lemon Township; Elijah BRUSH, 1,065 in sections 8, 9, 16, and 17, Lemon Township; John N. CUMMINS, 1,240 acres in Fairfield; William H. HARRISON, afterward President of the United States, 640 acres, all of section 33, Union Township; Henry RAY, 1,895 acres in St. Clair Township; Benjamin SCUDDER, who held 640 acres in sections 27 and 33 in Liberty Township, which is still owned in great part by his heirs; John Cleves SYMMES, 640 acres in Fairfield township; Jonathan DAYTON, 2,130 acres in Liberty and Fairfield.
Of resident land owners, David BEATTY held 885 acres in Fairfield and Hanover; Daniel DOTY, 295 in Lemon; Samuel DICKEY, of Prairie, 400 acres; and Samuel DICKEY, of Elk Creek, 370 acres; Ralph W. HUNT, of Lemon, held 2,600 acres in Lemon; Matthew HUESTON, father-in-law of Robert HARPER, held 1,543 in Fairfield; Thomas KYLE held section 28, Lemon Township; Solomon LINE held 934 acres in Fairfield; Enos POTTER held 640 acres in sections 23 and 27, Lemon; Celadon SYMMES held 4,631 acres in Fairfield; and Joel WILLIAM held 2,505 acres in St. Clair and Ross. Land at that time was divided for taxation into three grades. What was called first quality was taxed $1 per 100 acres; second quality, 75 cent per 100 acres; third quality, 50 cents per 100 acres. There was of first quality, 21,914 acres; second quality, 78,709 acres; and third quality, 16,502 acres; total, 117,125 acres; and the total taxes assessed on this land amounted to the enormous sum of $871.64.2
The smallest tax on the duplicate was assessed against John REILY, who held a few lots in Hamilton, Williamsburg, Cincinnati and Deerfield. His lots in Hamilton embraced one acre of ground, and are now occupied in part by Colonel CAMPBELL as a residence, and the entire tax on all of Mr. REILY's property in 1805 was two cents and seven mills! The largest resident tax payer was Celadon SYMMES, $21.67.9; after him Joel WILLIAMS, $18.64; then Samuel DICK, $18.07, on 3,703 acres in what is now Ross; next, John N. CUMMINS, $15.81.