The minutes of the Ohio Conference give as the bounds of the Miami District in 1813, Cincinnati, Mad River, Xenia, Scioto, and Deer Creek. Solomon LAYDEN was presiding elder. The appointments were Cincinnati, Little Miami, Lawrenceburg, White Water and Oxford.
In 1817 Miami District extended to Piqua. David SHARP was the presiding elder.
The Rev. Samuel WEST was appointed to travel on the Miami Circuit in the Fall of the year 1818, continuing for one year. When he came to that circuit there was no Methodist preaching in Hamilton, nor was there any organized society of that denomination in the place. But as he traveled around the circuit he passed through Hamilton occasionally, and having been previously acquainted with Thomas SINNARD, who then lived in Hamilton, Mr. SINNARD invited Mr. WEST to make an appointment and preach in that town, which he did the brick house, then standing on lot No. 140, at the intersection of Third and Dayton Streets, and continued to preach regularly as he passed around his circuit. Towards the close of the year Mr. WEST formed a society consisting of the following persons: Thomas SINNARD and his wife, Aaron JEWELL and his wife, Mrs. John CALDWELL, and Miss Lydia JONES—six in number. These were all at the time he formed the society. At the close of Mr. WEST's year on the circuit, in the Fall of the year 1819, Hamilton and Rossville, were made a station and Mr. WEST appointed to it. During that year he preached in the brick school-house above mentioned, and in DELORAC's warehouse in Rossville, and occasionally at SCHOOLEY's.
It was in that same year that the first Methodist meeting-house was built. It was commenced about six months after Mr. WEST began his stated labors, and was finished under his superintendence before the year closed, and left ready for his successor to enter with a society of over sixty members. Jacob RICKART was the carpenter and Samuel MESSICK the bricklayer.
This building was erected on the east half of inlot No. 58, on Ludlow Street, between Second and Third Streets. It was of brick, forty-two feet long by thirty-two feet wide, and cost about thirteen hundred dollars. The land was a gift from John WOODS, although the deed stands in the name of John McCLEARY and wife. Its date is February 11, 1820, and it was made to Samuel MESSICK, John BLACKALL, John MOORHEAD, George J. WHITE, Aaron JEWELL, Jacob RICKART, and James O'CONNER, trustees.
Among the first members of the Church were John BLACKALL and wife, later Hannah CLARK, from Albany, New York; Eli GREEN and wife, Thomas SINNARD and wife, Samuel WING and wife, Aaron JEWLL and wife and mother, Daniel THOMPSON, Elizabeth CALDWELL, John MESSICK, Julia VAN HOOK, Susan STEPHENS, Catherine MANSFIELD, Joseph HOUGH and Jane, his wife, Fanny VANDERGRIFF, Charles BEELER, formerly of the Presbyterian church, and Helen his wife, colored; Mary LEACH, William LEACH, John LEACH, Jacob RICKART, Samuel MESSICK, John W. MOOREHEAD, George J. WHITE, James O'CONNER and wife, Daniel THOMPSON and wife, David CLARK and wife, Charity LYNCH, Rev. Dr. LYNCH, Mrs. John WOODS, Mr. LYNCH and a sister, George P. BELL and wife, Mrs. J. WATKINS, Jacob GANGUS, Mary HOUGH, afterwards, Mrs. John M. MILLIKIN; Robert SMITH and wife, I. SEEBRING, and John THOMAS and wife. These had been gathered in up to the year 1821; in that year the Church had 65 members.
In 1814 the Miami District included Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg, White Water, Mad River, Xenia, Piqua and Oxford. The appointments nearest to Hamilton were in
1814--Cincinnati and Miami, Joseph OGLESBY and John WATERMAN; John SALE, Presiding Elder. 1815--Miami Circuit, Alexander CUMMINS and Russel BIGELOW. 1816--Miami Circuit, Abbott GODDARD and William P. FINLEY; Moses CRUME, Presiding elder. 1817--Benjamin LAWRENCE; Moses CRUME, Presiding Elder. 1818--Samuel WEST, Henry MATTHEWS; John SALE, Presiding Elder. 1819--Hamilton and Rossville, Samuel WEST; Walter GRIFFITH, Presiding Elder. 1820--Henry BAKER; Walter GRIFFITH, Presiding Elder. 1821--John. P. DURBIN; Alexander CUMMINS, Presiding Elder. 1822--Henry BAKER; Alexander CUMMINS, Presiding Elder. 1823--Thomas HITT, John STANGE, Presiding Elder. 1824--Miami Circuit, John P. TAYLOR, Augustus EDDY; John COLLINS, Presiding Elder. 1825--A.S. McCLAIN, John P. TAYLOR. 1826--A.M. LORING, John COLLINS, Presiding Elder. 1827--William SIMMONS, D.D. DAVISSON; Greenbury R. JONES, Presiding Elder. 1828--Hamilton, John A.BAUGHMAN, Greenbury R. JONES, Presiding Elder. 1829--John A. BAUGHMAN, Greenbury R. JONES, Presiding Elder. 1830--Robert O. SPENCER; Greenbury R. JONES, Presiding Elder. 1831--G.R. JONES; J.B. FINLEY, Presiding Elder. 1832--William SIMMONS; J.B. FINLEY, Presiding Elder. 1833--E. ZIMMERMAN, T.A. MORRIS, Presiding Elder. 1834--J.J. HILL, Daniel POE, William B. CHRISTIE, Presiding Elder. 1835 and 1836--S.A. LATTA. 1837 and 1838--W.D. BARNET. 1839--David REED 1840 and 1841--C.W. SWAIN. 1842--David WHITCOMB. 1843--W.R. ANDERSON. 1844--A.M. LORRAIN. 1845--M. DUSTIN 1846 and 1847--Augustus BROWN. 1848 and 1849--Augustus EDDY. 1850. 1851, AND 1852--W.H. LAWDER. 1853--W.R. DAVIS. 1854--J.J. HILL. 1855--Moses SMITH. 1856--E.B. NICHOLSON. 1857, 1858, and 1859--C.R. LOVELL. 1860--A. LOWREY. 1861 and 1862--W.H. LAWDER. 1863--Moses SMITH. 1864, 1865, AND 1866--J.J. THOMPSON. 1867--Charles FERGUSON. 1868, 1869, and 1870--W.I FEE. 1871, 1872 and 1873--D.J. STARR. 1874, 1875 and 1876--T. J. HARRIS. 1877 and 1878--G.H. DART. 1879--Granville MOODY. 1880, 1881, AND 1882--T.S. COWDEN.
Rev. A.W. ELLIOTT and Father WETHERBY were also her as superannuated preachers, and Daniel THOMPSON and Mr. VAN HAGEN as local preachers.
In the month of March, 1833, a report was made to the society saying that a gentleman had offered to convey them another lot of land, west of the old one, on condition that a parsonage should be erected, but as the society was about to build a new house of worship, they saw difficulties in the way. The gift, however, was accepted, and efforts were made to erect a suitable church in order to accommodate the increased number of people. A subscription paper was put into circulation, and funds were raised sufficient to erect the building. The meeting-house was to be turned into a parsonage. This scheme met with the approbation of the gentleman referred to, John WOODS, and was accordingly carried into execution. The deed was made out to Jacob RICKART, Aaron JEWEL, Daniel THOMPSON, Thomas SINNARD, George, P. BELL, Jacob ELERICK, Joseph F. RANDOLF, Thomas BERRY, and John RINEHART, and was dated February 12, 1833.
The second building, which was begun in the year 1833,a neat, substantial structure, was of brick, sixty feet long by forty-five feet wide, with a gallery, and was capable of seating from seven to eight hundred persons. Its cost was about $4,800.
The old building was occupied as a carpenter shop by Peter MYERS until the 5th of March, 1839, when both the new and the old church were burned. The shop was filled with shavings as dry as powder, and when Mr. MYERS arrived there in the morning he lighted a match to make a fire in the stove. Some of the fire fell among the shavings, and in less than a minute the whole was in flames. He took up a board and tried to knock out the fire, but without success, as each effort he made only served to scatter the flames, so that he could hardly get out without being himself burned. The alarm was given, but as there was no engine in town no effective resistance be offered, and the members and citizens stood helplessly by and saw the edifice which had cost them so much labor and toil burnt to the ground. There were two ministers on the ground, the preacher in charge, The Rev. David REED, and the Rev. James B. FINLEY, who was staying at Mr. Reed's house. Mr. FINLEY was not disposed to see the fire gain so easy a conquest, and accordingly began throwing on water from a bucket, but soon desisted.
This calamity was most sensibly felt. The Methodists had been before the public with subscriptions for building two houses, and beside this had lost some of their best members by removal, others shortly after following. Among these were Aaron JEWELL, Thomas BERRY, Daniel THOMPSON, and David CLARK, known as Jersey CLARK, a great fisherman, who was always on hand, and generally dressed in a fisher's coat.
July 1, 1839, the trustees met, and the Rev. Charles W. SWAIN, the stationed preacher, was chosen president of the board of trustees, Philip BERRY being elected a member of the board.
In October, leave was asked and obtained of the commissioners to hold public services in the court-house. Services were also held in the old Presbyterian Church in Rossville, which stood on the lot where the First Ward High School now is.
Subscriptions were taken up by the Rev. A.W. ELLIOTT, George P. BELL, Eli GREEN, J.P. MOORE, George W. McADAMS, D. DAVISON, P.F. CHEESMAN, Thomas SINNARD, H. WATSON, the Rev. William ANDERSON, J.W. DAVIS, Philip BERRY, John RINEHART, and others, and by a vigorous effort the house was raised and partly finished, so as to occupy the upper room for Church purposes, leaving the basement and gallery unfinished, in the Summer of 1840. The debt of the Church at that time was between six and seven thousand dollars. In addition to what the building would naturally have cost, there was the expense of rebuilding one of the walls, which had been blown down by a gale of wind while the building was in process of erection. After this was paid the Church went on with its repairs, alteration, and improvements, until it was nearly finished. In June, 1868, the trustees resolved to remodel the walls inside, and six thousand dollars were obtained to begin the work. W.I FEE, W.A.L KIRK, G.M. FLENNER, and S.K. LIGHTER, were appointed a committee to supervise the work.
At that time the house was lower than at present. The front doors, three in number, were on a level with the water table, which was five feet above ground, with a platform running across the whole front of the building, on a level with the audience-room, which was ascended by board steps from the ground. Under this platform was a door entering the basement, beside doors entering from each side into a hall, dividing the basement into two parts, the south part for the use of the Sunday-school, and the north part intended for class-rooms. These steps and platforms had somewhat decayed, and had to be replaced by others or an entrance obtained some other way.
The plan of the building adopted was designed by Joseph LASHHORN.
The money collected in 1839 and 1840 went to pay the following bills:
Brown J. MYERS, carpenter work $1,499.00 GLADMAN, stone mason 587.00 LASHORN, for lumber 1,869.54 Brown J. MYERS, brick 1,807.54 Brown J. MYERS, rebuilding, (blown down) 16.63 LASHORN, for glass 70.75 Jesse CRANE, nails 31.25 Jasper SNYDER, painting 110.00 Bricklaying 903.00 LASHORN, for sundries 364.07 Arthur W. ELLIOT, traveling expenses 414.00And enough other sundries was incorporated to bring the total bill up to $8,426.07.
It is a brick building, forty feet long by fifty-five feet wide with a basement story of stone, The entrance is by doors on the north side into a vestibule. The pulpit and altar are on the south end. Three aisles run the whole length of the building, and the residue is divided into a number of pews, having a gallery on the north end. The whole is capable of seating comfortably one thousand persons.
The building has a plain roof, without steeple or cupola, but the whole edifice is in good taste and presents a handsome appearance. The whole cost was $7,339.77.
In the early history of church going in this neighborhood, instrumental music was not favored, and the sexes sat apart in church. The Methodists then dressed with exceeding plainness. When Mr. GODDARD was in Hamilton he thought that a singing-school would kill any revival. It was said that when a revival of religion commenced, the devil was sure to come along with a singing master under his arm and drop him down where he would do the most harm. When Dr. LATTA was in charge he encouraged the formation of a choir, which made considerable progress, but this innovation could not be endured by the Rev. David REED, his successor. Shortly after his pastorate began, he took his stand in the pulpit and gave out the hymn. The leader soon had tune selected, and the choir was turning over the leaves in their note-books to find the page. Noticing this, the pastor inquired what those people were turning over the leaves of their books for; it put him in mind of a hen scratching the leaves to make a nest. This rather stunned the leader, while the ladies began to look for the shortest way down from the gallery. It is needless to say that the pastor had the leading of the singing to do himself for a while, and the congregation had the opportunity of learning the tune called Pisgah, that being a favorite with him.
Several of the older members seeing that opposition was useless, would sit during the singing with their elbows on the seat before them, with their fingers in their ears to stop the sound. On one occasion, at a Sunday-school celebration, the committee had reported among the hymns to be used America, "My Country, 'T is of Thee," but some objected from conscientious scruples, and the whole work of the committee was laid aside.
The days of this feeling, however, have passed away, and as much attention is now paid to music there as in any Church in this city. Among those who were prominent in the singing in years gone by were Samuel JONES, Stephen E. GIFFEN, and John S. WILES. The latter taught by the patent notes. The books used included the Old Measure Harmonist, the Sharon, the Harp, Cythera, the Standard, the Musical Leaves, Western Lyre, and other.
The Sunday-school began operations about the time the first church was built, in 1820. The Rev. Dr. MILEY, who was learning the saddler's trade with Mr. KING in the year 1828, when he was fourteen years of age, attended that school, under the Rev. Dr. BAUGHMAN. He did not recollect the name of the superintendent. Among the workers in the school the doctor named Mrs. GREEN, Jane BLACKALL, now Mrs. McADAMS, John W. MESSICK, and Thomas BERRY. In the Autumn of 1834 Thomas BERRY was superintendent. The names of superintendents can only be given from memory, without regularity: B.F. RALEIGH, David THOMPSN, John S. WILES, Lawrence SMITH, John OSBORN, Joseph CURTIS, Philip BERRY, J.W. DAVIS, Professor STARR, Thomas FITTON, G.M. FLENNER, S.M. GRIFFIS, James FITTON, David GARY, John McCLEAN.
The parsonage was built in 1859, and the roof of the church was put on at the same time. It was erected by a building committee consisting of J. CURTIS, Joseph LASHHORN, and J.K. DAVIS. S.R. LIGHTER was the architect. The reported cost of the whole work was two thousand four hundred and seventy-nine dollars and eighty cents. The parsonage now stands on the church lot.
Theatrical performances began in Hamilton in the year 1821, with the BLANCHARD family. No particulars have been preserved of their playing. In 1822 a Thespian company was organized here, consisted of home talent, and giving occasional performances. We give a couple of their programs.
On Tuesday evening, May 6th, will be presented by the Hamilton Thespian Society, the celebrated Tragedy of George Barnwell In five acts, by George LILLO, Esq., after which will be performed a Comic Opera, in two acts, written by COLEMAN, Jr., author of the "Iron Chest," "Mountaineers," etc, called "Love Laughs at Locksmiths" For characters, etc., see bills. Hamilton, May 5, 1823.
On Tuesday evening, 8th of August, 1823, will be presented and performed by the Hamilton Thespian Society, a celebrated Comedy, in two acts, written by James KINNEY, esq., author of "Matrimony," "Ella Rosenburgh," etc., called "Raising the Wind." After the Comedy will be performed for the second time (by particular request) a celebrated Interlude, called "The Tailor in High Life." The evening's entertainment to conclude with the very laughable Farce of "Miss in Her Teens." For particulars, see bills.
In the year 1822 Edwin FORREST, who had been an amateur performer in theatricals in Philadelphia, and who was very young, accepted an engagement with the manager of a company which was to play in Pittsburg and Cincinnati. It was his first trip as a professional, and he reaped little money from it for the company broke up at Cincinnati, and the members were left to shift for themselves the best way they could. Mr. FORREST conceived the idea that Hamilton, twenty-three miles distant, would afford him shelter for a few days and, having hired an old horse and a tumble-down wagon, he set out from that city with Mrs. And Miss RIDDLE, well-known performers, seated in the rude conveyance, while he walked on foot. When he arrived in this place he found that there was a Thespian Society existing here, and with it he arranged for a first appearance. The theater was a barn situated where the Catholic Church now is, on Dayton Street, the upper part being fitted up for a theater. William MURRAY, who died lately, was the doorkeeper, and took the money. The members of the company were Charles K. SMITH, John M. MILLIKIN, William B. VANHOOK, Stephen MILLIKIN, Lorenzo LATHAM, and others. Before the RIDDLEs came here all the female parts were represented by boys following the usage of the Shakespearean drama.
The opening night came, and with it the best people of the town, who were found at early candle-light, crowding the little candle-lit barn. At least 300 people were present, and FORREST received a regular ovation. The receipts on the opening night were, perhaps, fifty dollars, his portion of this sum being highly satisfactory to the "star," who little dreamed that in later years one thousand dollars a night would be his terms.
During his stay in Hamilton the theater was crowded nightly, and such plays as "Raising the Wind" and "Miss in her 'Teens" constituted the programmes.
It need not be said that all theater-loving people were pleased. A local critic contributed his views of the performance to the Miami Intelligencer:
"The arrival in town of Mr. FORREST, Mrs. and Miss RIDDLE, and other performers, is hailed with pleasure by every admirer of drama.
"On Thursday evening last, the 30th of July, in the character of 'Richard,' Mr. FORREST certainly acquitted himself with the greatest degree of credit, as the applause manifested by a crowded house, from the moment he appeared on the stage until the close of the selected scenes from that tragedy, and the frequent and unanimous bursts of admiration throughout, evinced that his unrivaled performance had made a deep impression on the minds of the auditory. In the preceding afterpiece as well as the comedy, on Saturday evening, he did well. His imitations of the most celebrated actors of the present century were inimitable. In fine, for the general manner of his performance, he merits the greatest praise through it is thought he excels in personating the tragedian.
"The celebrated tragedy of 'Douglas' in which Mr. FORREST performs the principal and most difficult part, is announced for next Tuesday evening. Those who may have had the pleasure of seeing him in the character of 'Richard' will know how to appreciate the present opportunity of witnessing the display of Mr. FORREST's talents. It being the last night, it is presumed the liberality of citizens will induce them to bestow an ample share of substantial applause on this deserving actor, to remunerate him and his companions for their trouble and expense.
"The other gentlemen, undoubtedly, deserve much praise. Mrs. and Miss RIDDLE's performances require no comment—their merits are well known—they appear desirous to please on all occasions."
The last night of performance the following bill was given:
On Tuesday evening, August 5th, will be presented Home's celebrated tragedy of (with new Scenery, Dress, and Decorations) "Douglass;' or the "Noble Shepherd." Young Norval, Mr. FORREST Lady Randolph, Mrs. RIDDLE Goldsmith's "Harlequin Epilogue." (In character,) Mr. FORREST. Song, "Robin Adair" Miss RIDDLE Fancy Dance, by Miss RIDDLE The evening's entertainment to conclude with the burlesque farce of "Sylvester Daggerwood;" or "The Mad Dunstable Actor." Sylvester Appolonius Dionysius Daggerwood Mr. FORREST Fustian (an author) Mr. DAVIS Prompter Mr. GEORGE
Mr. FORREST ever afterwards retained kindly recollections of this place, although he was unable to pay all his indebtedness. He owed Mr. COOPER, with whom he boarded, a small sum, and gave his due bill for the amount. It was afterwards paid, and the paper was found among those preserved by him until his death. In ALGER's "Life of FORREST," a fac-simile if this due bill can be seen.
From Hamilton, according to Mr. MURRAY, the party went to Dayton, Franklin, Lebanon, and one or two other towns near by, but found business so dull that at Lebanon FORREST pawned his stage dresses for money to forward the ladies of the company to Newport, and the rest walked to the Kentucky village. On their way they found a stream to cross, and being penniless, the men swam to the other side. Too proud to beg, they stole corn and roasted it. FORREST afterwards said that the "corn was as hard as Pharaoh's heart." On reaching Newport, the company played "Douglass," and "Miss in her 'Teens" to a seven-dollar house. The little band kept together for several months thereafter, with but poor success, and at last FORREST, who had been refused an engagement by Sol. SMITH (whose brothers and sisters lived in Hamilton at the time), then organizing a dramatic company, joined a circus as leaper and vaulter, in which he had always been proficient. In the circus-ring SMITH found the boy actor (for when FORREST played in the Thespian Hall, as related above, he was but eighteen years old), and coaxed him back into his legitimate profession. His onward and upward career since those days is a matter of history, and out of place in these recollections of incidents in the early days of our city.
The same Fall an exhibition of living animals was here. Their programme
Hamilton, September 8, 1828.
The theatrical company still seemed to exist in 1828. A bill of theirs said that eh "Hamilton Thespian Association" would perform in the room above the Hamilton Coffee House, November 15, "Coleman's much admired comedy, 'Love Laughs at Locksmith's' and the laughable after piece of 'Dick, the Apprentice.'"
The city fathers were disposed the next year to discourage any dramatic performance; they passed an ordinance to prohibit stage playing within the towns of Hamilton and Rossville. It read:
"Be it ordained by the trustees and citizens of Hamilton and Rossville, that if any person who is not a resident of the towns of Hamilton and Rossville, shall publicly act or be concerned in publicly acting or exhibiting any stage, play, or scene, or any play or scene usually acted in theaters, such person shall forfeit and pay therefor a sum not exceeding ten dollars, nor less than five dollars, to be collected in the same manner as fines for offenses against 'an ordinance to prevent certain misdemeanors within the towns of Hamilton and Rossville.' Provided that the president of the board of trustees of the corporation may grant a license to any person to act, or exhibit any stage, play or plays, upon his paying to the treasurer of the corporation a sum not less than two dollars, nor more than five dollars, for each time of acting or exhibiting the same, to be fixed at the discretion of the president. James O'CONNER, President. Caleb DeCAMP, Recorder.