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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Early County Settlements And The Swamps

Dallas Bogan on 22 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland:Heritage Press, 1979) page 22
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Early swamps in the County of Warren and surrounding areas were probably as much a hindrance for settlement as the great forests. These stagnations lay in places where we would least expect them. The early settlers of Cincinnati found swampland extended through the entire range of the town.
Jacob Burnet, a young lawyer, went to Cincinnati to practice law in 1796; eight years after the town had been settled. He found that during the summer and fall months, the people were given to attacks of ague and recurrent fever.
A few years later, Daniel Drake went to the young town to study medicine and found in one spot a low belt of wet ground. It had been beaver ponds, and was still annually filled with water. He says in another tract in front of Fort Washington (Cincinnati) was still another pond in which ducks and other waterfowl were regularly shot.
Lebanon, in its early days, would seem to have been well drained by the two branches of Turtlecreek. Dr. Daniel Drake's visit to the town, shortly after it was founded, thought its site was free from ponds, marshes and other social forms of disease.
In contrast, A.H. Dunlevy says that there were three parcels of wet and marshy ground on the original plat. He believed the circumstances contaminated the water of the wells in the oldest part of the town.
Swamps, bogs and marshes were common in the entire country when it was new. The Miami Valley, a well-drained area, was not without its swampy places. Most every farm had some sort of drainage problem. It would seem that the swamplands would be low and close to the running water sources. But, according to the early topographers, the wettest and most marshy land was found on the highlands separating the main water- courses, while the driest land lay along the boundary of the streams.
Ohio geologists have expressed similar facts stating that: "The highest lands in the State and the summits from which the streams flow in different directions are not so well drained as those on the lower lands and on the slopes."
The divide between the valleys of two rivers is usually not a dry ridge but often level and wet ground. The pioneers, in traveling westward from Lebanon through Warren County, found a sizable piece of swampy ground belonging to the Shakers. Part of the drainage of this swamp found its way to the Little Miami, and part to the Great Miami. Wet miry land, bogs and swamps in the early settlement of the country were typical of watersheds that had any large span of surface.
The summit receives only rainwater while the lower regions are often deluged with the drainage of the land lying above it. This accumulation of water thus tends to wash away obstacles, and to cut channels that completely drain any ponds or swamps, which have at one time been formed. The higher swamps and pond water supply were responsible for the even stage of water throughout the seasons. The many springs that have been found on the lower levels also take their fresh water from this supply.
Before the clearing of the forests, many little flour and saw mills stood on the tiny streams, which supplied waterpower for running them much of the year. The machinery of these mills was simple and low-cost and the dams were effortlessly built of logs and brush. The farmers would work the mills during the rainy season and farm during the dry seasons.
Washington Township was long delayed in its development and settlement because of the swamplands. Squire Samuel Harris says in his history of the township that the highest lands in the township lay very near its center. On this portion of land was a marsh called Sweet Gum Swamp. These waters moved northward by a slow stream into Flat Fork, which empties into Caesar's Creek.
Flat Fork swamplands were not developed until 1840 when John Hadley, John Wilkerson and the Harrisses opened farms upon it, which resulted in land favorably with any other in the township.
The largest body of flat and wetlands in the County was located amongst the original forests of Harlan Township. This condition caused the township to have a sparse population during its first years of organization, delaying the first roads through it.
The first road law set up by the County Commissioners was in 1809, six years after the organization of the County. An answer to the settlement of the township lay in the clearing of the forests. A drainage system was set up and the township land proved to be amongst the most worthy in the County.

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