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Early Settlements


Transcription contributed by Leah L. Furnas 30 April 2005


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


The first settlement, or rather, the first cabin as a nucleus, around which the pioneers began to locate, was built by William Smalley and his brother, Benjamin Smalley, in 1797, on the southeast bank of Todd’s Fork, where Charles E. Hadley now lives, one mile west of Clarksville. A double cabin was erected. The cabins were in the verge of extensive bottom lands, the Little East Fork on the south and extending up Todd’s Fork many miles. These cabins were about fifty rods west of the Clinton County line (though Warren County, till 1810, extended east to Wilmington).

The two brothers hacked a road from somewhere near Columbia, and brought their families and few household necessaries they were possessed of to the cabins, arriving in the fore part of the day. They unpacked their goods, placed them in the huts, and returned to Columbia for the remainder of their

property, leaving their lives and children in the wilderness with strict injunctions to show no signs of fear if any Indians came.

That night eight Indians came to their cabin to stay all night; their request was granted, and it was so arranged to let them as far as possible occupy one of the cabins. One of the men, a stalwart fellow, took his position in the part occupied by the Mrs. Smalleys, laid on the earthen floor, his motions being very restless and suspicious. Mrs. William Smalley kept herself awake by rocking a rude cradle all night while lying on her bed. Late in the night, the Indian got up, stirred the fire, lit his pipe, took a long and leisurely smoke, lay down and slept quietly the remainder of the night. In the morning, they all departed. If there is any truth in the old adage that it is an omen of good luck to have visitors the first day on moving to a new house, it was surely verified in this case. Their nearest neighbor was James Miranda, about nine miles distant direct, at the mouth of Todd’s Fork.

In 1801, John Barkley built a hut about three-fourths of a mile south of Smalley; the place is now designated by a thicket and a bunch of tansey, but the location not being desirable, he, in 1802, built a hewed-log house where John B. McCray’s house now stands. The house was raised with the help of eleven men- James Miranda, William Smalley, Benjamin Smalley, Archie Henderson (a half brother), Owen Todd, Aaron Sewell, John Sewell- the three latter having settled some five miles east in what is now Clinton County, are remembered as being of the number.

At just what time Nebo Gaunt settled on the Little Miami is not known, but he built the first mill in the township (at the site of Freeport) in 1802. He was an ingenious man, and could work as millwright, carpenter, wagonmaker, blacksmith, etc., with facility. He afterward built a two-story frame house, and made nearly all the nails used in its construction.

Samuel Pidgeon and Marmaduke Mills settled in 1805, the former where his grandson, Samuel Pidgeon, now lives, and the latter on the hill near the present road to Harveysburg. George Hidey settled prior to that time on what is known as the Hidey farm, where his descendants still reside.

William Trotter settled about 1798 or 1799 on what is now the College Township road, where Aaron Ertle now lives. His relatives claim his settlement in 1796 or 1797, but this is evidently incorrect. He was a soldier of the Revolution. Ezra Robertson, his brother-in-law, settled in Turtle Creek Township in 1799, and removed to this township shortly after, and settled on the opposite side of Stony Run, near where Allen Shawhan now lives; the spot is designated by a Lombardy poplar. He also was a soldier of the Revolution, and both were from Maryland.

A. W. Trotter, of Indiana, writes concerning his grandfather, in a letter dated August 3, 1881, to H. H. Robertson, Fort Ancient, as follows: “William Trotter was born in Maryland in 1769, and his wife in New Jersey in 1771. When he moved to that settlement, a man named Dutton, at Millgrove, was his nearest neighbor. After this-I don’t know how long-Andrew Brandstater and Joseph Robertson moved into the settlement. The nearest mill was Stubbs’, about eight miles below, on the Miami, which was very convenient. There were plenty of Indians when he settled in Ohio and for years afterward. They frequently came for different articles of food, always bringing some article of their own manufacture in exchange. Uncle Andy Trotter says the first thing he ever wore on his feet was a pair of moccasins made by an old squaw. His post office was for years at Lebanon. The deer he killed would amount to hundreds; he also killed scores of bears, the most of which were killed in the hickory flats, but the bears were killed in all parts of the county and in adjoining counties.”

Andrew Guttery purchased land at the point opposite Millgrove in 1803, and had a settlement made on the lands, but it is not now known who first settled on it. He was a soldier of the war of 1812; he built a flat-boat at Millgrove, took a load down the Mississippi and died in the State of Mississippi.

These appear to be the earliest settlements made in the township by men who came to stay. Although only these few are mentioned as settlers, we will remark that at the same time the country was filling up by backwoodsmen, adventurers, leasers, squatters and hunters, who settled for the time being at any desirable spot, stayed as long as they were satisfied with the location and then went to another place as their fancy or interest suggested. To give an idea of their numbers I will give one instance. On a tract of land on Todd’s Fork, purchased by James Harris and others, in 1809, containing 1,000 acres, seventeen families were located; none of their descendants now remain among us to tell whence they came or where they went, but they mostly turned their faces westward.

In 1805, John Adamson settled on the College Township road, near and opposite Lewellyn Williams, in the angle where Fort Ancient & Clarksville pike diverges southeast from the old road. Arba Alexander soon after owned and settled at the same place. Timothy Titus settled in 1806, on the north side of Chillicothe road, where James Meloy now owns, in a half-faced camp. As soon as he got matters a little regulated, he set up a blacksmith shop. This was the first shop of the kind in the township, except Nebo Gaunt’s. It is supposed William McCray settled in the vicinity the same year. Jacob Garretson, father-in-law of Timothy Titus, settled north of Union Church about the same time. James Villars settled in 1807, where Eli Kirk now lives, and erected a distillery, but removed to Clinton County in 1813. In 1806, William Smalley built a mill near his house on the creek, of sufficient capacity for the neighborhood; he had also a small distillery, which was kept in operation but a few years. A man named Hagerman was the millwright, who put the works in the mill. Smalley also built a brick house in 1811, James Abbott doing the carpenter work.

This was the first brick house in the township, and is now occupied, with some alterations, by Charles E. Hadley. Some seven or eight houses were erected at the cross-roads, which gave it the appearance of a country village, but all have disappeared except the brick. Benjamin Smalley removed east to about the present county line, and set up a blacksmith-shop. One Shockley was the smith, and many anecdotes are told of his rude mechanism.

In 1803 or 1804, several persons came to the Trotter settlement-Thomas Diakin, from Virginia to Kentucky, thence to this settlement; Andrew Brandstater, Thomas Woodsides, Sylvanus Clark and John Souard, a tailor, being of the number.

Ude Carter came in 1804; Dixon Smoot about the same time. South of Trotter’s about a mile, some families settled on Lick Run, but in what year is not known, but probably from 1804 to 1807, Simon Shoemaker, Jacob Littleton, Henry Stites, Henry Hollingsworth being named among them. John Bowser and Samuel Bowser were distillers. John Cox settled near the mouth of Stone Run on the Miami; in attempting to swim the river at the foot of the Narrows he was drowned.

The settlement at Mather’s Mill, on the Miami, on the Lebanon & Wilmington road, was earlier than 1807, David Van Schoyck and Lewis Rees being there before that time. Lewis Rees built the mill in 1807, when it was disposed of to Richard Mather, who settled there the same year. George Zentmire settled the same year some distance below the mill, and built the dam for Mather. His cabin was by a spring below the mill. In addition to the mill

Richard Mather set up a store and smith shop; he brought with him Jacob Ashmead and Richard Taylor as millers. Jacob Horn, a blacksmith; Jacob Longstreth, storekeeper; Samuel Couden, an Irishman; John Frazee and others came the same reason. George Zentmire was a Virginian of German descent, spoke the German language fluently and was a Revolutionary soldier.

In 1806, David Farris removed from Virginia with a large family, on packhorses, and settled first on the Little East Fork, near the fort in Tribbey’s bottom, and, in 1808, purchased 400 acres, mostly in Warren County, and settled on the Bull Skin road. He was a chair-maker and furnished the settlers with chairs, some of which are still in use or kept as relics of early and honest workmanship. Prior to this, or about the same time, George McManis settled one mile south of Farris, and James Garrison and Jeremiah Brackney farther south on the same road at the farms now occupied by John Cleaver and Thomas McCray. George Shin also settled at about the same time near by, on the Goshen pike. William Nickerson came from North Carolina to Kentucky, thence to Ohio, and, in 1809, settled on Todd’s Fork, about three miles below Smalleys. In 1814, he and a daughter, aged fourteen, died of the cold plague; both were buried in the same grave. Thomas Emily settled prior to 1810, near where there is now a graveyard on Emily’s Run. Elisha Cast settled about the same time on Todd’s Fork, below Smalley’s, south of the Chillicothe road, now the Penquite farm; he was from North Carolina. About 1812, the settlers began to encroach on the swamps, there being roads leading through them, making their settlement more convenient. There were some four or five families who squatted at Springhill-Hester and Solomon Reel only being remembered.

James Wilkerson, who was a Revolutionary soldier, was born in Virginia November 29, 1758, and there married Sarah Moore. He moved to Kentucky from Virginia, and, in 1805, came to Ohio; he settled on the College Township road (which was laid out in 1804) in a field now owned by Jesse Urton; he brought a family of nine children, three sons and six daughters. About 1809 or 1810, he gave his farm to his daughters and purchased land on “The Knobs,” on the west brow of the hill, on the Lebanon & Wilmington road. He built a distillery at the foot of the hill, which was operated for many years, making mostly peach and apple brandy. This gave place, in 1860, to a steam saw-mill, built by his son John and grandson James H. His three sons, William, John and James, located on lands near his distillery about the time of his settlement there. In a religious meeting, held in Flat Fork Schoolhouse, about 1827, the aged father, James Wilkerson, arose and said he could no longer conscienciously carry on a distillery. He died December 4, 1834, his wife dying July 17, 1841; his son William had a distillery near where George H. Wilkerson now lives, but it was discontinued in 1820. John erected a distillery for making apple brandy near the present residence of William Reynolds, in 1841, which was continued but a few years. John died January 24, 1868, his wife, Elizabeth (Farris) Wilkerson, dying in July, 1870. One daughter, Mrs. Perry G. Mills, and a grandson, Horace B., and his sister Melissa, wife of Bayless N. Settlemire, are all that remain in the township.

About 1812, James Farris settled on the Clarksville road, the place now being owned by Dr. Z. T. Garland. John and William White settled on the same road farther southeast, in 1815.

John Barkley, Jr., built a cabin in the spring of 1816 near where William Villars now lives. The farm now occupied by Paul Williams was bought, about 1812, by John Hadley, of North Carolina, and leased. Afterward, about 1825, Thomas Daughtery owned it; afterward Israel Dennison, and still later, Samuel Williams, father of the present occupant.

It will not be improper to a state in this place that the flat fork at this farm was formerly spanned by a rude bridge more than twenty rods long, with puncheon floor. Some years after, it was replaced by another, 135 Feet in length, by Samuel Louden and John L. Williams, at the expense of the county. At present, a bridge of twenty-feet span answers all purposes and the land is cultivated up to it, where water once stood two or three feet or more in depth. This will suffice for the Springhill settlement.

We will now return to the Mather settlement on the river, then return eastward along the Wilmington road. The Mather family have removed to various parts, one son, Joseph, living on the Wilmington road, in Clinton County. George Zentmire purchased a farm on the river below Freeport, where he died May 20, 1836; his wife, Elizabeth Dunn, died February 18, 1854. Their family, four sons and four daughters, are scattered, one son, Rev. Samuel Zentmire, living at Morrow. The river at this time was amply stocked with fish; brush drags were made to be used as seines, and great quantities were obtained. Fifteen or more deer in one herd was a common sight. Many of the oldest inhabitants assert with great earnestness, that a fight with Indians on the Zentmire farm, and also a short distance above Freeport, took place some time previous to the first settlement, but no direct evidence of such events can be obtained. On the hill east of the river, Joel Drake settled, in 1815, where John Wilkerson now lives; he was from Southampton County, Va., and was a soldier of the Revolution, taking part at Yorktown and witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis; he and his brother, Jordan Drake, left Virginia in 1807, and encountered a terrible tornado after crossing the Ohio. They arrived at Anderson’s Fork (they supposed at the time), in Clinton County, now Snowhill; but milk sickness prevailing, they disposed of their property and removed to Warren County and settled on the head of Olive Branch in 1815, Jordan Drake settling near by where Samuel Craig now lives. Jordan Drake raised a large family, his daughter in law, Mrs. John W. Drake, and his grandson, Henry M. Drake, remaining in this township. Joel Drake was an active and influential member of the Methodist Episcopal Church; his death occurred in 1841.

About the same time, 1815, Jonathan Friar, William Friar and Thomas Friar settled in the vicinity, and, not long after, Asa Burge, John Hall. Adam Barnes and _____ McFall; and farther east, in 1814, William Chenoweth settled where Amos Warwick now lives. On the opposite side of the road John Weeks settled, in 1818, on part of Chenoweth’s land, now owned by the heirs of William Wilson and George H. Thomas.

Who first settled where David Farris now lives, I am not informed; he is the son of David Farris, who settled in 1808 in the eastern part of the township, and moved to the present site in 1828, opening a large farm; he is now in his eighty-third year, hale and hearty.

David Robertson settled prior to Farris on the farm now occupied by his son, Ezra Robertson. Henry and Jonathan Sherwood moved to the township in 1833; Samuel French settled in 1820, and built a stone house, in 1832, since owned by Nathan Clark, now by John Van Horn. William Murray, from Maryland, settled on the west side of the Miami in 1815, where Michael Maher now resides; he moved to this township in 1832, where Alexander Harlan now lives. Himself and George Rankins, on the 26th of December, cut and carried the logs, built a house and moved in the next day; he was foreman at the carding-mill while it was in operation at Freeport; shoemaker, farmer and soldier in the war of 1812; two of his sons reside on farms on the hills east of Freeport.

We return to the settlement on Todd’s Fork and the Montgomery road to mention a few settlers who located there subsequent to 1812.


Thomas Kephart was born in Loudoun County, Va., February 24, 1784; his wife, Mary Skinner, was born September 4, 1788; they were married March 5, 1808, came to Ohio in 1812, and settled on Todd’s Fork near the southern line of the township; he was a farmer and miller, and, for over sixteen years, ran the Stubbs’ mill, at Millgrove; he returned to his farm in 1835, and died May 10, 1861; his wife died January 16, 1873.

Richard Riley settled south of the creek in this vicinity in 1814; he was from North Carolina; they packed their goods on one horse, his wife riding the horse and carrying the baby. For some years the wild cats killed their pigs and lambs. Mr. Riley was born December 5, 1792, and died April 4, 1851; his wife, now the widow of Capt. James Humphreys, resides on the farm.

The McCray family, from Virginia, settled in the vicinity in 1813. There were seven brothers – Hugh, Daniel, Christy, Joseph, Andrew, Armstrong and William, the latter coming some years previous. They settled at different points southeast of the creek and were industrious and useful citizens.

James Humphreys was born on the Delaware River May 26, 1792; came to Centerville in 1815, and, in the same year, to this township; he settled where Charles Urton now lives; he was a farmer and boatman; at one time prior to 1826, he went to New Orleans with Capt. Titus. He had the confidence of the people and held various minor offices; he was Captain of the Salem Rifle Guards, a volunteer company, for several years; he died February 9, 1879, in the eighty-seventh year of his age.

James Penquite, of Culpeper County, Va., was born October 7, 1782, came down the Ohio in a flat-boat, in 1817, and settled near the Bull Skin road; he died December 5, 1835.

Thomas Urton, a Revolutionary soldier, came from Culpeper County, Va., in 1818, and improved the farm where John Cleaver now lives.

Robert Cree was born in Greene County, Penn., April 2, 1790; came to Ohio in 1811 and married Eleanor Barkley November 27, 1811; he settled where Ephraim Castello now owns, set up a blacksmith shop, and followed farming, flat-boating, wagoning and smithing. In 1828, he removed to the Montgomery road, where James Stanfield now lives. His wife died September 23, 1845, and he married Ann Mitchell; he was enterprising and respected.

John Grey settled where Lydia Morrow now lives, about 1815.

William Morrow, born in Vermont in 1794, came to Ohio with his father in 1816; married Susan Nickerson in 1819, and settled on the Bull Skin road near where Miles Hadley now lives; he moved to the John Grey farm by Union Church in 1829, and died in 1861; he was a soldier of the war of 1812, and participated in the battle of Plattsburg. After coming to Ohio, he followed teaching school for some years, afterward farming and wagoning in winter. His wife, Lydia (Williams) Morrow, resides on the homestead.

Timothy Titus, spoken of previously as an early settler, made a number of trips to New Orleans with flat-boats, and died in Mississippi with the yellow fever in 1826; he served two campaigns in the war of 1812 as Captain, and was Justice of the Peace from the organization of the township till his death.

William Guttery moved to Turtle Creek Township in 1803, to Washington in 1814 or 1815, and settled where his son Benjamin now lives.

Samuel Bowman, from Kentucky, served in the war of 1812, came to Ohio in 1816, married Mary Skinner September 1, 1817, and died in 1862, aged seventy-three. His widow lives on the homestead on the Montgomery pike, in her eighty-ninth year.

John Cowden settled in 1822 on the old Montgomery road near the southern boundary of the township; he was killed by the falling of a tree.

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The settling of the swampy space along, the College Township road, which extends from Robert Cree's to Fort Ancient, is next in order, going westward.

In 1804, Smalley's and Trotter's were the only dwellings in this locality. Charles D. Hampton, M. D., appears to have been the first west of Crees', but at what date he came is not known. He was from Pennsylvania, and, probably, settled in 1814, near where E. T. M. Williams now lives, but afterward settled on the road where Alfred Van Doren resides; he moved to Clarksville in 1819, and was the first physician; he with his family and some others left, in 1825, and joined the Shakers at Union Village.

John L. Williams, of Bucks County, Penn., settled on the Hampton place in 1822; the lands are now occupied by his sons, E. T. M. and Lewellyn.

James Morrow, a native of Vermont, came to New Jersey, and thence to Ohio, in 1818, and settled on this road, but went to Clarksville a few years after.

John Vandoren, of New Jersey, moved to Cincinnati in 1814, and settled where William Vandoren now lives, in 1818; he was a carpenter by trade, and kept a tavern; he died December 4, 1826.

In the midst of the swamp, in 1818, Zachariah and James Ward, from Loudoun County, Va., settled, the former on the road, the latter where Amos Dunn resides; they were coopers, and, the land being heavily timbered with fine oaks, they were enabled, by patience and perseverance, to clear the land, which is now of more than average quality. Several of their descendants are in the vicinity.

Thomas Dunn, of Virginia, of German descent, born June 11, 1772, came to Portsmouth in 1803, and settled east of Fort Ancient in 1812; he was a wheelwright and farmer and have five sons and seven daughters.

There were other old settlers in the vicinity, of whom little can be learned. Among them are Daniel Williams, James Frazee, Mr. Miller and others.

Jeremiah Mills, a son of a Revolutionary soldier of the same name, was a native of Essex County, Va.; he served three months in the Revolution and also aided in suppressing the whisky insurrection in Pennsylvania; he married Abigail Bryant, and, in 1802, came to Cincinnati; in 1810, he moved to Dayton, and, during the war of 1812, wagoned supplies to the army. He afterward engaged as a pioneer in clearing land and making brick, and, in 1818, moved to Washington Township, where he settled on land at the head of Stony Run; he erected a distillery below Trotter’s, which was operated but for a few years; he died December 11, 1860; his son, Jere Mills, Esq., of Freeport, is the only one of his four daughters and one son that remain in the township.

Daniel Swallow, of Dutch and English descent, from Bucks County, Penn., came to Butler County, in 1813, and to Washington Township in 1815; he settled on the head of Lick Run, one-third of a mile east of William H. Strout’s farm. He planted the first, and probably the only, nursery ever planted in the township, and did much to improve the quality of the fruit in this locality; he moved to Montgomery County, Ill., in 1832.

The Flat Fork swamps north and west of Springhill remained a solitude until about 1840, when the Harrises, John Hadley and John Wilkerson opened up their lands, and, in 1844, Lukens, Hatten, the Warwicks, William Thompson and others made improvements, and now this section will compare favorably with any other part of the township.

There are many worthy men that, for a number of years, were useful and

respected citizens of the township, whom it would give us pleasure to mention. Some moved to other parts or retired from active life, among them Capt. William H. Hamilton, for nine years County Commissioner, and Henry Sherwood, who held the same office eighteen years – the former now a resident of Lebanon, the latter of Waynesville. Both were Township Trustees several terms while here.

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