Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan
|Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004|
|Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 130|
|Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan|
Rose Marie Springman is undoubtedly the foremost historian
of modern times in the vicinity of Mason. Her book, Around Mason, Ohio: A Story
is possibly one of the most complete accounts of a town history this writer
has read. She also chronicled an abstract concerning the town's history during
the 1965 sesquicentennial celebration of the village's founding.
The writer first inserted an article (August 29, 1993), which outlined Mason as one of the first settlements in Warren County. I intentionally stopped during the year 1835. It is during this time period that we shall continue. With Mrs. Springman's kind permission, I shall now draw from these works.
Mason was incorporated in January 1839, and the residents officially accepted it in March 1840. An election was immediately held and Mason Seward was elected as the first Mayor. Other elected officials were: Recorder, Joseph Paulding; Treasurer, Peter Voorhis, Marshall; William Walker; Trustees, Ezra Dawson, Abram Durrell, Stephen Murphy and Ephriam Meighan. All held their offices for a period of ten years, until the next scheduled election.
One point of interest that intrigued me was the fact that Deerfield Township had amongst its citizen's official Overseers of the Poor. These gentlemen were appointed to oversee the welfare of the population and those ill adapted to earning a living. This type person was actually sold on a yearly basis to the lowest bidder. The Overseers could also force undesirables and oppressive persons to leave the township.
Mason was conveniently situated on the road from Cincinnati to Columbus. A newspaper clipping of 1897 details the "early" wagon trains that passed through the village. The article described in effect:
"The principle freight from New York to Cincinnati was hauled in wagons of four, six, or eight horses and these large trains sometimes filled every hotel and stable in the village. Saloons were then unknown; every little house kept root beer, ginger ale and sometimes small beer, but the liquid refreshments were always found in the 'tavern.'
"The crack of the whip and the encouraging work of the driver was hailed by the citizens with interest, as it meant meals for man and beast, and in many cases, liberal portions of the overenjoyment."
The early settlers of Mason, primarily because of the personnel, and most assuredly because of the caustic road conditions, were to become self-sufficient. Sawmills, gristmills and every other type enterprise were founded and operated by the locals. A gristmill was in operation by the 1850's, its wheels being powered by Muddy Creek. Sight Mahan operated a sawmill.
Raising his own broomcorn, Billy Thompkins made and supplied brooms for the town. He was also the village gardener, and was said to have amused the villagers with his "English" brogue. Mr. Scofield built and sold chairs from his own shop. Peter Walsh owned and operated the "wagon- maker" shop. The village shoemakers were Ellis Kitchel and "Old Man" Hutchinson. Squire VanDyke was the owner/operator of a jewelry shop and a gun shop. He was said to have been an expert in both professions. "Ole Josie" Bursk ran a blacksmith shop. He had the reputation of keeping five fires going at one time during working hours. John Thompkins in the form of ginger cakes and cider provided snack time substances. Eliza Backus and a Mrs. Farmer were confectioners, no doubt with a knack for this vocation.
The general store had its place in every community. William Leitch, William White, Benton Holdcomb, J.G. Murphy and William S. Dodds owned such enterprises in Mason. A writer who signed himself "The Old Gray Head," wrote during the period of the nineties that: "The present stores are palaces in comparison to the dark, low ceilinged, 7 X 9 business rooms of old where the dry goods man sold sugar, calico, old rye, pine tar, turpentine and nails, in fact, everything from a needle to a threshing machine."
Of course every community had its own slaughterhouse. Peter Wikoff and James Bowyer operated the one in Mason. It was said that they sometimes carried as much as $20,000 in their pockets at one time for their business transactions.
Distilleries were scattered about in the County, four or five being in the vicinity of Mason. Corn and rye liquor were considered a commonplace drink. The early marketer at forty cents a gallon advertised good rye whiskey.
Mason was well known for their two potter shops, folks coming from near and far to the village for their pottery. William Jared and Silas Ballard owned these establishments. Jared was claimed to have killed a Negro man and promptly exited the village. Residents claimed the ghost of the murdered man was occasionally seen about town.
Mason played an important roll in the Civil War (1861-1865). Deerfield Township sent a total of 212 men into the military ranks. Most served in Company A, 69th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The names of the volunteers in this Regiment, and other personnel, are listed in Beers History, pages 644 and 645.
Skipping to the 1870's, we find the population of Mason to be about 400. The town government was at this time paid on a yearly wage basis, the salaries being: the Mayor, $9.80; the Marshal, $15.00; the Street Commissioner, $21.00; and Council Members, $9.00.
In 1874, the first jail was built at a cost of $143.00. Also the same year, the council purchased its own printing press, complete with supplies, at a cost of $28.60
Expenditures for the town government in 1875 were $372.59. The mayor received a raise of 20 cents, which elevated his annual salary to $10.00.
Rent for a meeting room for the council was approved at a figure of $5.00 per year.
The first jury trial in Mason was held in 1876. A dozen streetlights were installed on Main Street in the summer of 1877, the total cost being $118.34. The lamp lighter was salaried at $4.00 per month for his daily chore. Also in this year, the first enclosure was built in which to keep stray hogs, cattle, horses and mules.
Mason, like many other towns in the County, had atrocious roads. Main Street was often referred to by the citizens as the "Mason Jars." A town law required all the men in town to donate two days' work per year on the streets. This was practiced well into the Twentieth Century.
A railroad was next in line for the village. The Cincinnati & Northern Railway Company completed a three-foot gauge railroad from Cincinnati thru Mason, and on to Lebanon in May 1881. Mason residents were jubilant concerning this new form of transportation through their town. This railroad was later, in 1894, widened to a standard gauge (4 ft. 8 1/2 in.), and was renamed the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern.
The budget for the year 1882 included a general fund of $200.00, a street fund of $100.00, and a police fund of $50.00. An engineer had been hired the previous year for a fee of $137.00 to set grades and plat the streets. Frank Bone, County Engineer, in 1882, was employed to provide curb line markers.
Council passed an ordinance in 1883, to forbid the playing of baseball and marbles in the corporation. A fine of $2.00 was imposed, along with a 24-hour jail sentence to violators.
George Ettrick built the red brick building on the corner of Main and West Streets in 1887. It housed a clothing store and the Mason Bank on the first floor, the second floor being the location of the Mason Opera House. A place of elegance and amusement were provided for the townspeople in the "Gay Nineties," as well as visitors to the Opera House. A seating capacity of over 300 was housed in this exquisite building.
High school commencement programs, musical recitals, dances and the Mason Dramatic Club, all used the Opera House as a gathering place for their particular activity. Town activities were all centered around this fine establishment, until the school auditorium was constructed on East Street in 1937.
A team of horses and wagon moved ever so slowly in delivering the first bank vault into the town of Mason in 1888. The event actually caused a sensation amongst the townspeople as they viewed the careful unloading of this equipment and its installation.
In 1921, the First National Bank and The Mason Bank merged, the subsequent name being the First Mason Bank.
There is much more to write about this quaint little city, but we shall stop at this time, and perhaps at another time, finish the rest of the story.
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