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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Warren County And Its Beginning

Dallas Bogan on 13 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Part I

Warren County was established by an act of the first General Assembly of the State of Ohio, passed March 24, 1803. Out of the large territory of Hamilton County, as it then existed, Warren, Butler and Montgomery Counties were formed by one act, and by the same act the county of Greene was formed out of Hamilton and Ross.
Warren County contains nearly exactly 400 square miles. Originally this county contained no territory west of the Great Miami. After Clinton was formed (1815) it was found to contain less than 400 square miles (both Ohio Constitutions provided that no new county was to contain less than 400 square miles). In 1815, the Legislature took 11 square miles, being a strip along the eastern boundary (Eaton Township) about half a mile wide, from Warren and added it to Clinton and at the same time detached from Butler a small tract west of the Great Miami and attached it to Warren. This gave to both Clinton and Warren the area of 400 square miles that was constitutionally called for.

Virginia, in 1784, gave up her rights of the western territory to the General Government. This opened up the lands for future purchases. John Cleves Symmes, an ex-member of Congress and Chief Justice of the State of New Jersey, applied for purchase rights of the lands between the two Miami Rivers. This tract originally called for a total of 2,000,000 acres, but when his contract was made to Congress this amount was reduced to 1,000,000 acres. It was then found that there were only approximately 600,000 acres from the head of the Miami Rivers to the mouth. The monetary exchange was only for about half of that acreage; consequently Symmes received a deed for only 311,682 acres. The northern boundary of Symmes Purchase runs along an east/west line, passing from a point on the Little Miami, a short distance from Freeport (Oregon/ Oregonia), to the Great Miami River, about three miles below downtown Middletown (it closely parallels Todhunter Road in Butler County). This line parallels an east/west course parallel to Emmons Road for a short distance and also the line follows closely the Monroe Road line in Lebanon. Thus, the line north of this was later called Congress Lands and sold for $2.00 per acre and Symmes bought the line below this for 66 2/3 cents per acre. This acquisition was called the Symmes Purchase.
The price to be paid for this tract was two-thirds of a dollar (66 2/3 cents) per acre, payable in certificates of debt due from the United States. How the price came to be fixed at 66 2/3 cents per acre is explained by the fact that the Government estimated the value of the lands at one dollar per acre, but as they were to be sold in very large tracts, one-third of the price was to be deducted for poor land and land covered by water. The Symmes Purchase contained more good land than any other tract of the same scope in the State.

In the prospectus of the terms of the sale and settlement of his purchase, issued at Trenton N.J., November 25, 1787, Symmes announced that after May 1, 1788, the price of land would be $1.00 an acre, and, after November 1, 1788, still higher.

Symmes exceeded his patent authority by selling lands that he had no deeds to. His unauthorized sales extended past the line, which was surveyed one-mile (east/west) north of Lebanon. Waynesville, Franklin and Dayton were included in this area.

The first deed for land in Warren County recorded at Cincinnati was from John Cleves Symmes to Moses Kitchel of Morris County, N.J., for an entire section (640 acres) in Deerfield Township, near Kings Mills. It was dated April 10, 1795, and the consideration for the 640 acres was $425 "in certificates of debt due from the United States." This was exactly the price Symmes had paid the Government, two-thirds of a dollar per acre, payable in certificates of greatly depreciated value.

The Virginia Military or Reservation Lands were all the lands on the east side of the Little Miami and running east to the Scioto River. This came about by the act of Virginia to deliver on its promise to give bounties in land to her troops in the Revolutionary War. Virginia reserved this land when she ceded to the United States all her claims to the lands northwest of the Ohio River. The United States received no money for these lands though the President of the United States signed the patents for them.
The land promised by the Continental Congress in 1776 was as follows: for a Colonel, 500 acres; for a Lieutenant Colonel, 450 acres; for a Major, 400 acres; for a Captain, 300 acres; for a Lieutenant, 200 acres; and for a non-commissioned officer or a private soldier, 100 acres. Four years later, on August 12, 1780, the Continental Congress resolved to extend the land resolution so as to give a Major General 1,100 acres and Brigadier General 850 acres.

Most persons holding the Virginia Military lands never saw them. Frequently the surveys were large, declaring often for more than a thousand acres and sometimes for three of four thousand. The surveyors constantly ran the acreage over the allotted numbers. For instance, Reverend James Smith purchased in Virginia a survey at the mouth of Caesar's Creek calling for 1,666 acres, but it was found to contain 2,000 acres. Benjamin Butterworth bought a survey between Fosters and Loveland for 1,000 acres and it was surveyed out at 1,500 acres. The survey in which Bethel, located in Clermont County, is located calls for 4,000 acres, but this tract contains over 6,000 acres. Through the carelessness of the early surveyors the Government was cheated out of thousands of acres.

A Virginia statute, which in turn paid the surveyors, was affixed so payment would be in tobacco. The fee for surveying and platting one thousand acres was a payment of 320 pounds of tobacco. There was so much risk in surveying these early lands that deals were made between the owners and surveyors. Sometimes a land warrant was issued to the surveyor containing one- fourth, one-third and sometimes as much as one-half of the land surveyed.

The first land entry recorded in Warren County was an entry recorded in the name of Clement Read. Read had his choice of all the lands in the county east of the Little Miami. The land chosen extends along the river about a mile and a half above Corwin. In describing the land, its estimated distance below the Old Chillicothe in Greene County is given and reference is made to the road cut by General George Rogers Clark in his expedition against the Indians in 1780 and also to an old sugar camp of the Indians on the land entered. The entry was recorded as such:

"August 1, 1787--Clement Read (heir) enters 1,333 acres of land, part of Military Warrant No. 46, on the east side of the Little Miami River, supposed to be about fourteen miles below Old Chillicothe town: Beginning 400 poles below the first old sugar camp above where Clark's war road crosses the river, to run up the river 550 poles when reduced to a straight line, thence at right angles for quantity."

This land remained unsurveyed for more than seven years. In November 1794, Nathaniel Massie for whom Massie Township was named surveyed it.

The Congress Lands are described as all the northwestern part of the county, west of the Great Miami and north of Symmes`s Purchase. They are so called because they were sold to purchasers by the United States directly in conformity with the laws of Congress. Most of the surveying of the Congress Lands was surveyed into townships of six miles square by the surveyors of the Government, however, only the lands in Warren County west of the Great Miami was surveyed by the Government. All the lands between the Miamis were surveyed into townships and sections, but surveyors employed by Judge Symmes and not by the Government did this work. The work of the Government surveyors was much more accurate than that done between the Miamis.

The method of surveying called for each six miles square to be called a township. Each township was divided into thirty-six squares called sections. This system was invented in the United States. Ohio was the first State to employ it. Each section was intended to contain 640 acres and each township 36 sections. Sections could be divided into quarter sections containing 160 acres.

The organizations of the townships are as follows:

Deerfield, May 10, 1803.
Franklin, May 10, 1803.
Wayne, May 10, 1803.
Hamilton, May 10, 1803.
Turtlecreek, August 15, 1804.
Salem, June 24, 1813.
Union, January 3, 1815.
Clearcreek, October 17, 1815.
Washington, June 8, 1818.
Massie, October 10, 1850.
Harlan, March 16, 1860.

There were 122 surveys made in Warren County, many of which were made as late as 1831 or 1832. The surveys listed in this county are as such: Nathaniel Massie, 57; Gen. Wm. Lytle, 38; James Galloway, Jr., 6; John O'Bannon, 3; Duncan McArthur, 1; and the remaining 17 were made by various surveyors at a later date.
A township called Eaton was organized June 28, 1806, composed of territory then in the northeast part of Warren County, but nine years later when Clinton County was formed, this territory became a part of that county.

Part II

Before the land could be used and roads built much toil and labor were involved in the clearing of the lands. Warren County was covered with massive forests. The labor involved in cutting down of one tree with a diameter of three feet took more time and elbow grease than several trees with a smaller diameter. The branches of these fallen trees were cut off, gathered and piled so that the burning procedure could be applied. Most areas were cleared by cutting down the smaller trees and by deadening the larger trees by girdling them with the axe, thus letting the still standing trees decay and fall. The final clearing of the land was, more or less, delayed for up to ten years. In the early settlements there were either clearings or deadenings.

The clearing of the land would increase its value. At this time land in northern and central Ohio would sell for $2.50 per acre but a tract of five acres cleared and with a rail fence around it would cost $50.00.

The pioneer was a most productive individual. He and his family were willing to work for many years to produce what was to be his farm and of course his home. Also in the struggle was the creation of his first crude home.

After the huts were made as comfortable as possible, logs were gotten out for the cabins that were generally put up one and a half stories high. When this much had been accomplished, neighbors would join in hauling logs, poles, puncheons [a slab of timber, or a piece of a split log, with the face roughly dressed, used for flooring or could be used as a short upright timber in framing] and clapboards [a long board, thicker along one edge than along the other, used basically in the covering of outer walls] on bobs and drags, to the cabin sites, and in raising. Puncheons were split for the floors; doors were cut out of the logs on one side of the cabins, and clapboard doors were hung upon wooden hinges, fastened with a wooden latch. The latchstring always hung out. The roof was of clapboards, held down by weight poles. The chimney was built of sticks and mud. The upper floor was laid with loose clapboards, and a short ladder was used to go up and down. Wooden pins were used to fasten the timbers, nails or spikes were not to be had. The beds were constructed by driving two stakes between the floor puncheons, poles were placed in the forks and one end between the cracks of the logs; across these poles clapboards were laid for the bottom of the bed, and dried grass and pelts spread over it. Tables were made of a split slab, with four legs set in auger-holes; three- legged stools and benches were made in the same manner; pins were driven in the walls, on which clapboards rested for shelves or mantels. Clothing was hung on pegs around the cabin, and the rifle, powder horn and short pouch hung upon buckhorns over the chimney- piece. This, the primitive log cabin, roomy and comfortable, the home of the pioneers of Miami Valley--the first buildings erected by the whites anywhere in this region. Windows were not needed until winter. As the cabins were not chinked and daubed, plenty of light came in between the logs and by the open door. Feed for the horses and cattle was scarce, but they could find good pickings in the grassy patches and the young sprouts in the thickets. The settlers had no great variety of provisions, and were often reduced to a single dish of broiled venison or wild turkey. This, however, arose, not from the scarcity of game, but from the fact that they could not spare the time to go into the woods hunting until the supply of meat was fully exhausted. Their determination to establish themselves in their new homes never wavered, and they, in good heart, met and conquered every hardship. Corn, turnips, potatoes and tobacco were harvested the first season; nuts were gathered for winter use; wild grass and fodder was stacked for the stock; so that the little settlement was well supplied with the necessaries and some luxuries for the winter in the woods.

The many means of living or survival accompanied the early pioneers. With no means of manufacture or simply to say, "everything was done by hand" was a true statement. The next four articles will explain somewhat the methods of living within their means.

It should be noted that a "spider" was the handiest and most commonly used of all pioneer-cooking utensils. It was just like a skillet, except that it had a very long handle. It also had legs attached to it and could be set right over the fire. There was also an iron rim on the cover, so that hot coals could be piled under the spider and on the top of the lid. No flame was allowed to blaze around it. Deep iron kettles, which the pioneers brought with them, were highly treasured, because for many years iron was not available west of the Alleghenies. The griddle was much like the spider, but had no legs or cover.

Soapmaking was a process in which the early pioneers settled into in the spring of the year. At this time enough soap was made to last through the year. Wood ashes saved during the winter were put into a barrel. Water was poured through the ashes and allowed to trickle out through a hole in the bottom. This brown liquid or "lye" was then boiled in a large kettle with fats and grease saved from the year's cooking and butchering. The mixture was cooked slowly until it thickened to form a soft, jellylike, yellow soap.

Candlemaking was a much-needed skill since the pioneers depended upon this means of light for their night hours. The wicks were made of rolled cotton, silky down from milkweeds, or tow string, which were slipped over a candle rod and dipped in melted tallow. The tallow clung to the wick and hardened. The dipping continued until the candles had become thick enough. Later, tin molds were used and as many as six, eight, or more candles could be made at once. The melted tallow was poured into the molds and then allowed to cool around the homemade wicks.

Homemade clothes were worn by most of the pioneers. Deerskins and pelts of fur-bearing animals often were used. Later, when the settlers began to raise sheep, the wool was sheared, washed, combed, carded, and spun into yarn. A dye was made from berries, leaves, and bark. The yarn was dyed before it was woven into cloth on a loom. Learning to spin and weave was part of every pioneer girl's education.

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This page created 13 September 2004 and last updated 25 January, 2015
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