As stated elsewhere, the Court of Quarter Sessions, at their meeting, on Tuesday, May 10, 1803, established Fairfield as one of the original townships. It lies wholly within SYMMES's is purchase, and is bounded on the north and west by the Miami River; on the east by Liberty and Union Townships; and on the south by Hamilton County. All the boundary-lines of Fairfield are irregular, except the eastern.
The history of Fairfield Township is very intimately connected with the city of Hamilton, which place, until a few years ago, was part of the township proper. All the first settlers naturally made Hamilton a trading-point for small supplies, and when provisions or dry-goods were needed in larger quantities, Cincinnati was visited. A load of whisky, corn, wheat, or any other commodity, was always sure to bring a good price in the Queen City.
The north-eastern portion of the township is somewhat broken, but when tilled properly produces good crops. The soil is a loam of from six inches to three feet in depth. From the neighborhood of FLENNER's Corner southward the surface is gently undulating. Fine buildings are very noticeable, which are indications of a prosperous community. The country round about JONES's Station, SCHENCK's Station, and SYMMES's Corner is well adapted to all kinds of agricultural pursuits. Barley, corn, and wheat is grown in large quantities, and the acreage is steadily increasing. In the region of the "Big Pond" a deep, black, heavy soil, almost inexhaustible, extends for three miles east and west, and very nearly the same distance from north to south. This, now the richest portion of the township, was once though the poorest, but has been drained and cultivated, until it now brings a very high price.
No creeks of any considerable size flow through Fairfield, yet it is well drained by natural streams, artificial ditches, and tiling. The lack of large creeks prevented any mills in the interior of the township from running regularly by water power, though along the Miami excellent mill sites were found and utilized. Above PINNEY's mill, at the mouth of Bank Lick Creek, a stream which takes its rise in Colerain Township, Hamilton County, and which is very rapid in its current, an "old stone mill" was built as early as 1810. Joel WILLIAMS, a Yankee mill-wright from the East, acted as the builder. This stream takes its name from the fact that in the early settlement of the country deer frequented it to drink the peculiar water which in some places flows from its banks. The mill was a stone building about thirty by thirty-five feet, one story high. The grinding machinery was propelled by an undershot or breast wheel; a race carried the water from some distance above. The walls were about twelve feet high and eighteen inches thick; the stone were taken from the bed of the stream. For years this mill called together many of the people in the township. It finally ceased to be a profitable establishment, and for years thereafter stood idle. Some fifteen years ago the building was torn away and now the mill site can hardly be found.
In 1833 Thomas ALSTON owned and operated a fulling-mill of considerable importance, also a carding-machine, about one-half mile below GRAHAM's grist-mill on the Miami, or rather on a race from the Miami, in Section 15. Pike ALSTON, his grandfather, had, in 1836, a grist-mill, what in subsequent history was called GRAHAM's mill, on the same race. At the death of Thomas ALSTON, in 1837 or 1838, the fulling-mill ceased to go on, except in cases of extreme necessity. All traces of the establishment have disappeared.
GRAHAM's mill was built in 1810, or thereabouts, by Jeptha GARRIGUS. It was subsequently known as JACKSON's mill, and then in 1834 or 1835 became generally known as GRAHAM's mill or mills. Mr. GRAHAM at about the same date erected a large paper-mill on the race, which he carried on successfully for a number of years. In 1856 or 1857, Major John H. MILLIKIN bought the mill seat and buildings at sheriff's sale, and one year thereafter sold to M.P. ALSTON. The grist-mill continued to run up to 1870. The ALSTON fulling-mill and carding-machine, the GRAHAM paper and grist-mill, were all on the same race. The later ceased to exist about the same time. They stood almost opposite the old county residence of Isaac ANDERSON.
John and Henry TRABER built about 1818 a two-story frame grist-mill one mile below Hamilton, on the Miami, which continued to run up to 1835. Both of the TRABERs were mill-wrights and men of large acquaintance. Peregrine ORNDORFF had a grist-mill in St. Clair Township, opposite TRABER's mill, which, in 1836, belonged also to the TRABER brothers. The same dam answered for both establishments, though the St. Clair mill was fed by a race, and was in partial operation in 1855. Both of theses mills were built about the same time.
BIGHAM's mill was built about seventy years ago by some unknown mill-wright, though the father of Thomas McCULLOUGH, now of Oxford, was perhaps the original owner. For many years it was the only mill of considerable importance in the north-east corner of Fairfield. Settlers came a distance of ten and fifteen miles frequently to have their corn ground at this pioneer mill; and many of them related how the half bushel of corn was put in one end of a sack and a large stone in the other, to make it balance. Many customers remained over night at McCULLOUGH's (or BIGHAM's) mill in order to be on time in the morning, or to save a ride through the woods of half a dozen or more miles before sunrise. The establishment stood in the north-west corner of Section 26.
Moody DAVIS owned a grist and saw mill on the Big Miami in 1815, where the water enters the hydraulic, but the mill-wright is unknown. This mill continued to run up to the time the hydraulic was built. The present is a part of the original dam.
Below BIGHAM's grist-mill a short distance a saw-mill was in operation at one time, about 1835. It was built by the BIGHAMs, but lasted for only a few years.
In 1812 or 1815, John ALLEN built a grist-mill on the Big Miami, in the south-west corner of the township. This mill continued to run up to about 1840. Moody DAVIS and William DYE were among the millers, though not owners. Mr. ALLEN sold the property to Peter SPRINGER, who partly rebuilt it, and did a good business for about fifteen years. There are a few remnants of the old mill left.
There were no mills in Butler County before 1804 of which there is any accurate knowledge. When it was necessary to have corn ground the hand-mill was resorted to, which in most cases answered the purpose very well. The mortar and pestle were common implements among many of the pioneers, especially those who came from the South. The grater was also found in many a household. It was made by perforating a piece of semicircular tin from the concave side, and nailing its edges to a block of wood. The soft corn was rubbed against the rough edges of the holes, while the meal fell through them on a slanting board and down into a bowl or cloth placed there for its reception. The hand-mill was never used a great deal by the early citizens of Fairfield. But it was better than the mortar and pestle.
Some of the water-mills were of that description denominated tub-mills. They consisted of a perpendicular shaft, to the lower end of which a horizontal wheel of about four or five feet was attached. The upper end passed through the bed stone and carried the runner after the manner of a trundle-head.
Still-houses were numerous in early times. In 1817 Thomas HUNTER owned one of these establishments a quarter of a mile east of SYMMES's Corner, which he carried on four or five years. The capacity of this still-house was one barrel per day, or one hundred and twenty-five bushels of corn for the same length of time. HUNTER's meal was ground at ALSTON's mill; the whisky was hauled to Cincinnati by ox-teams, four or six to a wagon. On Major MILLIKIN's farm, sixty rods from the north-west corner of his place, the Sheeleys built a still-house about 1810, near a spring, which they carried on successfully for eight or ten years. Daniel MILLIKIN had another on the island above Hamilton (which he bought in 1816 or 1817, of the St. Clair heirs), which he opened in 1817 and continued to run up to 1825. The house was a frame building.
There was a similar establishment in 1825 near the former residence of A.P. MILLER. This building was a log-house.
In 1807, a log dwelling-house, which stood a quarter of a mile east of ALSTON's mill, was converted into a school building. The fire-place extended entirely across one end of the house, and accommodated a back-log eighteen feet in length. Nearly all the back-sticks were burned off in the middle, and then pushed towards the center of the fire-place for the finishing process. This house disappeared many years ago. Mr. FAG was among the first teachers. He had a way of punishing the scholars by splitting a stick and then placing the culprit's ear in the middle to have it pinched. The scholars took delight in fastening the teacher out in those days. This building was supplemented by a frame, which occupied a site a little south-east of the log-house, erected in 1819 or 1820. This house was used until the present brick took its place, some ten years ago.
Two hundred yards south-east of the Auburn Methodist Episcopal Church, a log school-house was erected in 1820, or thereabouts. It was consumed by fire in 1825. Joseph WORK was an early teacher; also Mr. AIKENS. There have been two houses at this place. The first stood near the second, and was erected about five years before it.
The Fairfield Baptist Church was in operation in 1800, being the earliest church in the township, and the next to the earliest in the county. It was a hewed log-house, capable of seating about two hundred persons, and was placed in the south-west corner of the yard. The land on which the church stood was taken from Moses LYONS's farm and comprised about two acres. Mr. LYONS and James CLAWSON were among the members half a century ago. The former has been dead these many years.
At one time a division took place in the Church, in common with nearly all other Baptist congregations, which resulted in a New School Baptist Church. This new organization held their services for a good while in the house where John FLENNER now lives, but they never built a regular place of worship. After some losses in membership by deaths and removals, another house, a frame, was built on James CLAWSON's farm. This resulted in the abandonment of the old hewed log-house except for funeral purposes. Mr. CHILDERS, Wilson THOMPSON, and Mr. MOTT were among the early preachers.
Eli STICKLE was the first blacksmith in the village, and was here in 1836. He was followed by George WEAVER, David THOMPSON, Wm. MILLER, the latter being in business during the late war. The house in which these men carried on their trade now belongs to the founder of the village.
Among the first landholders in this neighborhood were Moses LINE, who in 1836, owned one hundred and ninety acres in the western half of Section No. 15, upon part of which the Fairfield Baptist Church stood; Henry LINE fifty acres in the southern part of the same section. Sarah RANDOLPH, James DAVIS, and Benjamin F. RANDOLPH each owned over one hundred acres in Section 15, in 1836. Fractional Section No. 15 was owned by John ALLEN, Benjamin F. RANDOLPH, Vincent DAVIS, and Nathan WOODRUFF. These men altogether owned a little over two hundred and nine acres.
Section 10, in Liberty Township, was settled by David FLENNER, who owned two hundred and sixty acres; Leonard SWINGLER, who owned eighty acres; Vincent DAVIS, who owned eighty, and John SMALLEY, who owned one hundred and sixty acres. These latter three owned the eastern half of the section. Where the Hamilton and Middletown road crosses the township line, Thomas CLAYTON owned forty acres, north-west corner of Section 9; east of him was Henry HERR, with one hundred acres; and Sarah CUMMINGS, with one hundred acres. The middle portion of the same section was owned by William DYE, one hundred and fifty acres; Absalom CUMMINGS, fifty acres, and Nathan M. MILLER, fifty acres. William DYE, John LINE, Levi MOORE, Sen., and Levi MOORE, Jr., owned the remaining portion of Section 9. These men made up the settlers in the neighborhood of Flenner's Corner in 1836. The Corner is on the county road dividing Fairfield from Liberty Township, which follows the line from ALLEN's old mill on the Miami, with the exception of about a third of a mile, to DAVIS's steam saw-mill on the head branch of Mill Creek.
Section 29, of Fairfield Township, was set aside as the ministerial section. It was owned in 1836 as follows: M. BRENNAN, forty acres; John WOODS, forty acres; O. MOUDY, eighty acres; John DERROUGH, one hundred and sixty -- all the western half. The eastern half of the section was owned by M. BRENNAN, eighty; John GILMORE, eighty; Aaron L. SCHENCK, one hundred and sixty acres. The Miami Canal passes through Section No. 29 from west to east.
About the time the paper-mills were in full operation a Methodist Episcopal Church was organized near the proposed village. The exact date of its organization is not precisely known, but the best evidence places the time at 1843. There were only a few male members, Joseph LASHORN being the most prominent. It was a branch of the Methodist Church in Hamilton. Five or six years after the society was established, LASHORN removed to Hamilton, from which time the Church began to lose its influence. David BRANT was also an early male member. Both he and LASHORN are dead. The house, a handsome brick, was built by the members and by the contributions of the neighbors. John HAGEMAN gave about one acre of land for the church site and burial purposes. In 1876 Rev. F.G. GRIGSBY, a United Brethren clergyman of the Mt. Pleasant circuit, began to preach at this point. A Church was organized, and the building, which was becoming very much dilapidated, was repaired. The Methodist society has ceased to exist.
Immediately after the Methodists organized a Church at Fair Play, or Black Bottom, a Sunday-school was opened up under the management of Alexander HUNTER, who was at that time not a member of the Church. His wife, Nancy, also rendered much valuable assistance. She was a Methodist. Her husband subsequently became one, however. There is a good Sabbath-school carried on at this point at present, and Church services are held with considerable regularity.
Among the owners of land near Black Bottom in 1836 were Michael HAGEMAN, John HART, Prudence COOK, William MAXWELL, Mary Ann MAXWELL, Cornelius SWIM, Jane PIATT, James CORNELIUS, John SPEAR, the latter three owning the land between the Bayou and the river; Thomas COOPER, David BRANT, Philip H. HOWARD, Joseph GROOMS, Robert COOPER, and Benjamin ALSTON.
For the first school-house, JONES's Station had an old-fashioned frame building, which occupied a site on the ground used at the present time for school purposes. It was there more than fifty years ago. Joseph WALKER gave one-fourth of an acre for the school. The house was about twenty-two by thirty feet. It has since been removed, and is now the property of Enoch CHAMBERS, but is occupied as a tenant house.
The second school building was a brick, erected in 1850, or thereabouts, and occupied the same site as the old frame. This house was very nearly the same size as the frame. About nine years ago this building was divided into two rooms, in order to have two teachers, and more thoroughly to advance the village education. It was soon found necessary, however, to build a new house. The present building was therefore erected in 1875 at a cost of $4,500. The accommodations are excellent, and the instruction as good as any in the county.
Mr. LONG, a man who was much beloved by the pupils, was, perhaps the most noted teacher in the old frame. William MACK, a distinguished lawyer and politician of Terre Haute, Indiana, was, in his youth, a scholar in the same building. Many a prosperous farmer and business man and their wives, now of the county, obtained their early education here.
The Valley Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church at JONES's Station was begun about 1840 by ministers of different denominations holding meetings in the old school-house. These meetings continued without any decided improvement until in February, 1866, when a protracted effort was made by Rev. Daniel GRIFFIS, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, then assigned to what is now called Port Union circuit. Twenty members were added to the Church at this meeting. These, with others, at once made an effort to erect a church building, which was attended with such success that in September following a house was dedicated which cost $1,750.
Two years before this time, under the inspiration of Miss Jennie COOPER (now Mrs. Joseph MACH), a Sunday-school, which proved very prosperous, had been organized.
The large contributors in the building-fund were Enoch CHAMBERS, Thomas SLADE, William and Thomas WALL, Jacob SHAFER, and others with equally benevolent hearts. The original trustees were Enoch CHAMBERS, S.D. SPELLMAN, William WHITLOCK, Thomas SLADE, and William WALL.
The ministers who have been assigned to this circuit (Port Union) have been as follows: 1. Levi WHITE, in 1859, for two years, at a salary of $450, assisted by Mr. KECK for one year and by Daniel GRIFFIS for one year; 2. G.W. FEE, for two years, at a salary of $470, assisted by William HARTLEY for one year and D.J. STARR for one year; 3. A. MURPHY, for two years, at a salary of $470 per annum; 4. J.P. WATERHOUSE, one year, at a salary of $400; 5. A. BOWERS, for two years; 6. Rev. Mr. PIERCE, R.M. THOMPSON, H. LAWTON, W.B. JACKSON, three years, at a salary of $700. Rev. W. H. BLACK served for three years, at a salary of $800; J. PIERSON, for one year, and the same pay. E. BURDSALL met the wants of the Church for three years, at $800 per year.
The Pleasant View United Brethren Church was organized in 1850. Isaac and Joseph MORRIS and others were among the organizers. The house, a brick, was erected in 1857. This society takes its name from the fact that the church occupies one of the handsomest sites in the county. Revs. Eli HUFFMAN and Wm. NICHOLAS were the first preachers. Among the early members were Joseph K. MORRIS and wife, Isaac K. MORRIS and wife, Aaron LEWIS and wife, John NIXON and wife, Mary BYERS, Thomas WOODS, and Daniel COLEMAN. There are at present standing over forty members. The Sunday-school was organized in 1852, and has since been a means of much good in the community.
The first school-house was built of logs, about 1835. The second house was built in 1851. The third was built in 1870, and stands jut across the road from where the others were.
The greater part of Section 15, upon which JONES's Station stands, in 1836 was owned by a few persons. John F. CARMICHAEL owned two hundred and twenty-nine acres, extending through the central portion of the section from east to west; Sarah WALKER owned one hundred acres on the south; Jesse HUNT owned two hundred and twenty-nine acres in the north-western corner; the north-western corner was divided among Margaret VANNATTA, Mary TOLBERT, Elisha CARR, and Aaron VANNATA. There were two large springs on this section at the time of the above ownership.