There are a few persons who, in reading this book, will not join with the author in wishing it had been executed earlier. The original records of settlement are lost, and those who first braved the trials of the wilderness are now all dead, without transmitting their recollections to a younger and more curious generation. Who were the original pioneers, what their motives for coming here, why the local names were given as they are, who the families were which were left behind, and by what slow steps an unbroken wilderness was transformed into a peaceful and highly cultivated agricultural region, looking to the eye longer settled than the neighborhood of Plymouth, in Massachusetts, or Jamestown, in Virginia, can never be fully told. We have, fortunately, been able to obtain a portion of the recollections of the older inhabitants in the manuscripts of James MCBRIDE, and have been assisted by the letters and memoranda of a few others, but the greater portion of the history of the earlier part of this century and of the last decade of the eighteenth century, is lost beyond recovery. No art known to the writer has been able to charm it within his reach, and no succeeding annalist will be able to supply the missing links. Begun twenty years ago, the fathers of each hamlet might have been consulted; many of the first buildings were preserved, and the printed and written documents to be consulted were more numerous. The West is passing on to that stage in which there is no recovery of the past, and our heroes, as noble as those mentioned by WINSLOW, WINTHROP, or SMITH, are lost to the contemplation of those who in future days will desire to know what manner of men they were, and how they made the beginnings of our commonwealth.
Much, however, has been retained here by pious hands that other localities did not have. The origin of Cincinnati or of Lexington will never be made better known than that of Hamilton. At an age when antiquaries were uncommon, and few facilities were afforded of pursuing their investigations, James MCBRIDE was gathering from the recollections of those who preceded him accounts of their adventures with the Indians , in WAYNE's and ST. CLAIR's armies, and as settlers along the banks of the Miami. These narratives were minute and full; they were derived from contemporaries who had themselves been concerned in these affairs. They were revised and compared with other relations, and they were set down with a desire to have nothing but the truth exhibited- a quality rare at any age or in any country, but fortunately for us, the distinguishing feature of MCBRIDE's mind. Next to these in value were the newspapers preserved by the daughters of C.K. SMITH, and those to be found in the auditor's office. Although the files are not complete, they afford a vast repertory of information, extending from 1820 down to the present day. In records of the county, kept in the various public offices, are documents bearing on many phases of frontier life, and it is these sources the historian must chiefly resort. Few pamphlets of early times have been preserved, as the great collection which was made of these valuable sheets in the first half of the century were sent to paper-mill, as is related in the body of this book.
Prominent among those who have favored us with their advice and help must be placed Mrs. Laura MCBRIDE STEMBEL, daughter of the historian, who gave us permission to use any of the manuscripts of her father, and the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, which is the custodian of these invaluable annals of Butler County. Much assistance has been derived from Robert CLARKE, the accomplished bibliophilist, in the indication of sources of knowledge, and for permission to make liberal extracts from a previously published work by Mr. MCBRIDE; and to John M. NEWTON, of the Mercantile Library, an enthusiastic student of Ohio's local history. In Hamilton our chief acknowledgments are due to Major John M. MILLIKIN and Dr. Cyrus FALCONER, who have, with unwearied zeal, sought to place the editor in possession of their vast stores of information. To John W. ERWIN our obligations are likewise deep. General Ferdinand VAN DERVEER, Henry L. MOREY, James E. CAMPBELL, J.P. MACLEAN, Henry S. EARHART, Joshua DELAPLANE, and Ezra POTTER have each labored to make this work an authority, and our thanks are due to them. Mrs. Marcella S. WEBB kindly placed at our disposal the rich and valuable collection made by her father; and the county officials, particularly Deputy Auditors Richard BROWN and T.E. CRIDER, have spent much time in researches in our favor. In Middletown we must acknowledge the services rendered by John R. SHAFOR, Joseph SUTPHIN, and Francis J. TYTUS; in Oxford, those of Dr. George W. KEELY; in Morgan, those of Evan EVANS and Abner FRANCIS, Jr.; and in Westchester, those of Major W.W. ELLIOT. Besides these, a host of friends have contributed in a lesser degree, but each affording something valuable.
During a residence of more than a year in Butler County, the editor received the kindest assistance from all with whom he was brought in contact. He was freely lent many valuable books, and was aided in all ways; and he cannot let this occasion go by without expressing his personal obligations.