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Union Township


Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 2 May 2005


The History of Warren County Ohio
Part IV Township Histories
Union Township
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)


Union Township was organized January 3, 1815, from Turtle Creek and Deerfield. The following were the original boundaries: "Beginning on the Little Miami River at the northeast corner of fractional Section 12, in the north boundary line of the second entire range; thence west with the said line to the southeast corner of Section 19, Township 4, and Range 3; thence north with the section lines to the southwest corner of Section 21, in Township 4, and Range 3; thence in a direct line to the northeast corner of said Section 21; thence with the section lines east to the northeast corner of the fractional Section 3, on the Little Miami River, in Township 5, Range 3; thence down the river with the meanders thereof, to the place of beginning." In 1860, nine sections from the eastern part of Union were added to Salem Township. The present eastern boundary line of the township is the section line bounding Sections 19, 20 and 21 on the east.

As Union Township now is, it is the smallest township in the county. It contains fifteen entire sections and six fractional sections. The number of acres in the three smallest townships of the county, as taken from the County Auditor's books in 1880, were as follows: Massie, 13,622; Salem, 13,459; Union, 11,970.

Deerfield, now South Lebanon, is one of the oldest towns of Warren County. The time of its first settlement is not known with certainty. It is probable that the town was laid out in 1795, and the first settlement commenced in the spring of 1796. Tradition holds that the colony which established Mounts' Station, two miles further up the river, found a single cabin on the site of Deerfield, as they passed up the Little Miami. Tradition fixes the time of the settlement at Mounts' Station as the Autumn of 1795. Rev. James Smith, whose journal is quoted in the general county history, was in Deerfield in October, 1797, and records the fact that "it is a new town, having been settled since spring twelfth month," that is the spring of 1796. This accords with the statement in Howe's Historical Collections, which fixes the settlement at Bedle's Station in September, 1795, and says: "Shortly after, a settlement was commenced at Deerfield, by Gen. David Sutton, Capt. Nathan Kelly and others." In a series of articles on the early history of Lebanon and vicinity, published in 1867, A. H Dunlevy says: "In my first number, I stated upon the authority of another who was among the first settlers, that Deerfield, Franklin and Waynesville, as well as Bedle's Station, had small settlements in 1795. Upon further examination, I am now satisfied that this was a mistake, and that Bedle's Station alone was settled in 1795, and that not till September of that year." According to

the inscriptions on tombstones in the Old Graveyard, at Deerfield, Nathan Kelly emigrated from Pennsylvania in 1791, and settled at Deerfield in 1797; and Andrew Lytle, who was one of the first settlers at Deerfield, settled in Warren County in 1796.

No block-house or fortification for protection against the Indians, was built at Deerfield. The fortified stations along the Little Miami were as follows:

Cavolt's Station, at Round Bottom, twelve miles up the river from its mouth, and a little below the present site of Milford. It was erected by Abraham Cavolt, in 1789 or 1790, and is believed to have been the first station, properly so called, erected in the Miami Valley.

Gerard's Station, sometimes called Gerard and Martin's Station, was about two miles from the mouth of the Little Miami, and was erected about 1790.

Clemens' Station was on Round Bottom, about one-half mile below Cavolt's.

The last of the stations about Cincinnati are believed to have been McFarland's, near the site of Pleasant Ridge; and Bedle's Station, near the site of Union Village. The former of these was erected in the spring of 1795, and the latter in the autumn of the same year. Mounts' Station, as the settlement of William Mounts above Deerfield was sometimes called, was not a fortified station.

Waldsmith's Mill was attended by early settlers of Deerfield and vicinity. It was not far from Miamiville, and built by a German named Christian Waldsmith. who emigrated from Pennsylvania in 1796. The mill was so far completed in the Autumn of 1797, that Waldsmith started one run of stones for grinding, and two copper stills, for making whisky.

The plat of the town of Deerfield, was not placed on record at Cincinnati for six or seven years after the town was laid out. On December 6, 1800, the Legislature of the Northwest Territory passed an act requiring the original proprietor or proprietors of such towns, as had already been laid out in the Territory, to cause an accurate map or plat of the same to be recorded in the County Recorder's office, within one year from the day on which the act took effect, May 1, 1801. A failure to comply with the requirement of the act was punishable with a fine of $1,000.

The plats of the three towns which had been laid out within the present limits of Warren County prior to the passage of this act, were received by the County Recorder at Cincinnati for record as follows: Deerfield, April 23, 1802; Waynesville, April 28, 1802; Franklin, August, 12, 1802.

The description and certificate accompanying the plat of Deerfield, as recorded, are as follows:

A Plan of the Town of Deerfield in Hamilton County, Territory North West of the Ohio situate lying and being in the First Fractional Section and in Section No. 2 in the Fourth Township of the Third Entire Range. Town lots are 8 poles on the River and 10 poles back. Lots 77, 78, 91 and 92 are Public Lots. Streets are all East and West and all three poles wide except one which is the Main street and four poles wide, with streets parallel thereto running North and South three poles wide. Lots numbered 9, 10, 11, 20, 27, 30, 31, 38, 37, 44, 45, 46, 47, 51, 55, 57, 68, 69, 70, 71, 87, 98, 99, 100, 105, 107, 108, 113 and 65 were given to the first settlers of said Town, the residue of said lots except the public lots for sale. John S. Gano, Benjamin Stites Sr. and Benjamin Stites Jr. hereby present the fore-going plat to be recorded, containing one hundred and forty-four half-acre lots.

For John S. Gano, Benjamin Stites, Sr. and Benjamin Stites Jr.

Hamilton County. }  

. Be it remembered that on the twenty-third day of April, 1802, personally appeared before me the undersigned one of the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas within and for the County aforesaid, Aaron Goforth, who being duly sworn deposeth and saith that

the within is a true and accurate map of the Town Lots of the Town of Deerfield in said County, as he the said Aaron verily believes.
Sworn and subscribed before me the day and year first above mentioned.
Received and recorded 23d of April, 1802.

The earliest deeds for lots in Deerfield were executed by John Stites Gano as follows : On April 14, 1797, to John Kreker, Lots 70 and 107; to Peter Keever, for Lots 71 and 118; to Elnathan Cory for Lots 47 and one out-lot; to Thomas Cory for Lot 32 and one outlet. The consideration expressed in all these deeds is $2. On the same day, Gano executed to Isaac Lindley in consideration of $10 a deed for Lots 65 and 66 and one outlet of four acres; and to Martin Keever, in consideration of $10 a deed for Lots 105 and 111 and two outlots. On June 20, 1797, James Cory received a deed for Lots 22, 26 and 27, consideration $5.

At the beginning of the present century, Deerfield was the most important place on the Little Miami above Columbia. It was made a stopping-place for many of the early settlers in different parts of the county. Early emigrants frequently left their families at Deerfield while the first improvements were being made on their new farms.

Capt. Nathan Kelly, Capt. Ephraim Kibby and Andrew Lytle, whose names appear elsewhere in this work, were among the early permanent settlers at Deerfield.

William Snook came from New Jersey and settled in the township in 1801, and the following year his brother, John M. Snook, also settled here. The latter was a Captain in the war of 1812.

Ignatius Brown, who was for three terms an Associate Judge of Warren County, was an early settler at Deerfield, and he is said to have taught the first school at that place.

David Fox, Sr., settled on Muddy Creek, west of Deerfield, about 1797 or 1798. He lived on the farm, on which he settled, until his death. In connection with his son Absalom, he built a grist-mill on Turtle Creek and operated a copper still. In the Fellowship Churchyard are tombstones with these inscriptions: " David Fox, died January 23, 1847, aged eighty-two years six months and sixteen days." "Sarah, wife of David Fox, died June 7, 1850, aged eighty-two years eight months and twenty-six days." David Fox was accompanied on his removal to this township by his brother Jonathan and his brother-in-law, Sampson Sergeant.

Capt. John Spencer settled on Turtle Creek on Section 9, near the northern boundary of this township, in 1796. His wife, Ann Spencer, was a daughter of Capt. Robert Benham. Capt. Spencer served in the war of 1812, and died April 22, 1835.

James Venard came from the vicinity of Harper's Ferry, Va., and settled on what is now known as the Daniel Hufford farm. The date of his settlement is not known, but his youngest son, William H., who is still living in this township, one of the oldest of the living natives of Warren County, was born near Deerfield May 3, 1798. James Venard brought with him his wife, Nancy Graham, two sons, John and Francis, Jr., his father, Francis, Sr., and his mother. The family was remarkable for longevity. Francis, Sr., lived to be about one hundred and three years of age: his wife about one hundred; they were both buried at Deerfield. Their children all lived to the age of about ninety-five years, and died at nearly the same age. Two brothers of James Venard, Thomas and Stephen, settled in the vicinity of Utica about 1798.

Gen. David Sutton was an early settler and for many years the best-known citizen of Deerfield. He was a native of Hunterdon County, N. J. The


date of his settlement at Deerfield is unknown. He kept one of the first taverns at that place, and at his house elections for Deerfield Township were appointed to be held, both under the Territorial and early State governments. On the organization of Warren County, he was appointed the first Clerk of Court, and held that position for twelve years, from 1803 to 1815. He was a Representative in the Legislature in 1816, 1818 and 1823. At the commencement of the war with England in 1812, he left the duties of his office as Clerk of Court to the charge of John Grigg, afterward a distinguished book-publisher of Philadelphia, raised a company and went into the service of the Government as Captain in the first army that was raised in Ohio. He was soon afterward elected Colonel at Urbana. He was for many years a General of the militia. In politics he was originally an Anti-Federalist or Jeffersonian Democrat, and, on the formation of new parties in 1828, he became an adherent of the Jackson party. At the time of his death, he was the Democratic candidate for State Senator from Warren County. He died September 15, 1834. in the sixty-eighth year of his age, and was buried at Deerfield.

James Benham was born in Washington Co., Penn. August 9, 1784, and died in this township at the age of eighty-five years and sixteen days. His father, Peter Benham, removed with his family to the present site of Newport, Ky., in the winter of 1793-94, where he stopped on a tract of land belonging to Capt. Robert Benham. The next year, Peter Benham returned to Pennsylvania on business and died there, leaving in Kentucky his widow and five children, James, John, Peter, and two daughters, afterward Mrs. Thompson Lamb and Mrs. Nathan Smith. The widow removed to lands near Turtle Creek, purchased with the proceeds of Peter's estate. She died in 1805, when her eldest son, James, was just twenty-one years old. At his mother's request, he promised her not to marry until his young sisters were grown up, and to keep them together. True to his promise, he remained single until 1818, when he married Miss Mary Robinson; in 1821, he married Miss Mary Russell, and in 1827 he married Mrs. Lydia Irwin. By his first two marriages he had no children; by his third wife, his children were James I., Mrs. Rebecca Snook, Mrs. Martha Stokes and Mrs. Lizzie Bone. James Benham was twice elected Justice of the Peace, but he never sought office. His long life was passed as a quiet farmer; in politics he was a Whig, and afterward a Republican; in religion he was for the last forty or fifty years of his life a Universalist. Gen. Durbin Ward, who was the intimate friend of James Benham wrote soon after his death: "The writer who knew him as the highest type of humanity—an honest man—and who loved him for nearly thirty years, mourns the loss of the wisest man he ever knew, and whose daily life he would be glad to be good and great enough to follow as an example."

This township was within the region through which the earlier settlers at Columbia, Cavolt's Station and other settlements ranged the woods on the hunt for straggling Indians. The frontiersmen spoke of hunting and killing Indians as they would of wolves, bears or other wild animals. Col. Whittlesey, of Cleveland, writes as follows: "In 1844, I spent an evening with Benjamin Stites, Jr., of Madisonville, Ohio, the son of Benjamin Stites who settled at Columbia, near Cincinnati, in 1788. Benjamin, Jr., was then a boy, but soon grew up to be a woodsman and an Indian fighter. Going over the incidents of the pioneer days, he said the settlers of Columbia agreed to pay $30 in trade for every Indian scalp. He related an instance of a man receiving a mare under this arrangement. I met another old man who then lived near Covington on the Kentucky side of the Ohio, who said he had often gone up the Miami on a hunt for scalps. With most of these hunters, the bounty

was a minor consideration. The hatred of the red man was a much stronger motive."

No more pleasant description of the woods of the Little Miami in the early spring-time, as they appeared to the first immigrants, has been published than that contained in the following paragraph from the Narrative of Rev. O. M. Spencer, who was familiar with the country as early as 1790, and for eight months in the years 1792 and 1793 was a captive among the Indians:

I have often thought that our first Western winters were much milder, our springs earlier, and our autumns longer than they now are. On the last of February, some of the trees were putting forth their foliage; in March, the red-bud, the hawthorn and the dogwood, in full bloom, checkered the hills, displaying their beautiful colors of rose and lily; and in April, the ground was covered with May apple, bloodroot, ginseng, violets and a great variety of herbs and flowers. Flocks of parroquets were seen, decked in their rich plumage of green and gold. Birds of various species, and of every hue, were flitting from tree to tree, and the beautiful redbird, and the untaught songster of the West, made the woods vocal with their melody. Now might be heard the plaintive wail of the dove, and now the rumbling drum of the partridge, or the loud gobble of the turkey. Here might be seen the clumsy bear, doggedly moving off, or urged by pursuit into a laboring gollop, retreating to his citadel in the top of some lofty tree; or approached suddenly, raising himself erect in the attitude of defense, facing his enemy and waiting his approach; there the timid deer, watchfully resting, or cautiously feeding, or aroused from his thicket, gracefully bounding oft, then stopping, erecting his stately head and for a moment gazing around, or snuffing the air to ascertain his enemy, instantly springing off, clearing logs and bushes at a bound, and soon distancing his pursuers. It seemed an earthly paradise; and but for apprehension of the wily copperhead, who lay silently coiled among the leaves, or beneath the plants waiting to strike his victim; the horrid rattlesnake, who, more chivalrous, however, with head erect amidst its ample folds, prepared to dart upon his foe, generously with the loud noise of his rattle, apprised him of danger; and the still more fearful and insidious savage, who, crawling upon the ground, or noiselessly approaching behind trees and thickets, sped the deadly shaft or fatal bullet, you might have fancied you were in the confines of Eden or the borders of Elysium.

The following is an extract from the journal of Rev. John Kobler giving an account of the first sermon by a regularly ordained Methodist minister preached in Warren County:

WEDNESDAY, August 8, 1798

In the afternoon, rode some miles up the Miami River to a small village called Deerfield, where I suppose there might reside ten or fifteen families. On arrival there, was Invited into a house to see a sick man, whom I found to be a Quaker. Asked if I should pray with him and his family. He said "No." Reasoned with him on the necessity and propriety of prayer, and enforced the words of St. James—"Is any afflicted, let him pray;" but he would hear no reason, said he was raised among the Friends and that I should not pray. Had with me a letter of introduction to a man who resided in the place who was supposed would receive the Gospel in his house. When this was presented to him, he treated both the message and messenger with utter contempt, saying his house was no place for preaching. Here I went from house to house making inquiry; at last heard that the man above mentioned had a son living in the place, and that his wife was actually a Methodist—hastened on to the son's house, but found that the old man had been there before me, and given them their charge, by using his utmost influence to bolt and bar every door and heart against me. Indeed, this son had sent word, I afterward understood, that if any of our preachers came through these borders, he wished them to be sent to his house. Finally I heard of a Baptist in the place to whom I applied, who received me cordially— his name was Sutton. Lord grant that he and his family may find mercy at that day! for "when I was a stranger he took me in, hungry and he fed me, thirsty and he gave me drink." Next day, at an early hour, his house was filled with attentive hearers to whom I shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. Rode on six miles further and preached at 4 o'clock at a Mr. C.'s. The place was called Turtle Creek settlement. Here the preacher delivered his message with life and energy, and although the Gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God, yet this company was hard, untouched, unmoved. Then said the speaker, "surely I have labored in vain, and spent my strength for naught and in vain, yet my judgment is with the Lord and my work is with my God." Spent this evening in retirement, and some hours in solemn, fervent prayer to to Almighty God for the gift of His Holy Spirit.

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