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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The Building Begins

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

Our early pioneers found the new lands of Warren County filled with forests and swamps. These hearty people found only wilderness trails to follow. These trails were blazed (marked) by the notching of trees and the piling of stones that followed them. Wagons and coaches did not come into general use until after 1800 because of the narrow paths that existed. Cutting down trees and placing them side by side allowed the pioneers to cross the many mudholes. The streams were passable only at fords (shallow places).

The early settlers found not only an abundance of forests but also a great many swamp areas. The southeastern portion of Warren County was especially of a swampy nature because of its flat surface. Many trees in this area kept the sunlight out which inhibited drying of the soil. The trees more commonly found in this wet area were: the swamp Spanish oak, white oak, burr oak, swamp white oak, the red or swamp maple, the beech and the elm.

The swamp lands are invariably found at the head of water courses, and from their peculiar situations are easily reclaimed. It has generally been found that as the fallen timber and other obstructions are removed, these lands become fit for cultivation. In a reclaimed state they are inexhaustible in fertility.

A good portion of Washington Township, Warren County, consisted of swamp lands which long delayed its settlement. Squire Samuel Harris, in his history of the township, says that the highest lands of the township lie not far from its center, and on this high land was a swamp called Sweet Gum Swamp. The waters from this swamp moved slowly northward by a sluggish stream into Flat Fork which empties into Caesar's Creek. The Flat Fork swamps remained a wilderness until 1840 when the Harrises, John Hadley and John Wilkerson opened up farms upon it, and soon the land was found to compare favorably with any other in the township.
Harlan Township, when covered with the original forest, held the largest body of flat and wet lands in this county. These wet lands caused the township to have a sparse population for many years after the organization of the county and long delayed the making of a good road through it. The county commissioners laid out the first road established by authority of law in the township in 1809, six years after the organization of the county. These wet lands, it was after- ward found, could be easily reclaimed by clearing the forests and making artificial drains and proved among the most valuable and fertile in the township.
In J.A. Runyan's history of Harlan Township he states, that in 1807, John Liggett and his party were settled in the township. They had to hack their way from Mounts Station on the Little Miami River to near where Rossburg is now. Until permanent roads were built these ways of travel were used. In 1809, a road was laid out by County Commissioners from Waldsmith's Mill, near Milford, to Smalley's Mill, on Todd's Fork, near present Clarksville. William Runyan, James Hill, John Leaman and others were the petitioners.

Also, in 1809, a road was laid out from McCray's Mill (later Stubb's Mill, three miles west of Morrow), by way of First Creek to the Salt Works in Clermont County.
In 1810, Isaac Stubbs petitioned for and was granted permission to build a road from Millgrove, by way of Roachester, Todds Fork, Second Creek, to Goodpastures on First Creek, and there to intersect the road from McCray's Mill to the Salt Works.

Hamilton Township's first pike was The Cincinnati, Montgomery and Hopkinsville pike. This pike passed through the northern part of the township via Hopkinsville and Zoar; it was graded in the year 1835.

"State Roads" was the name given to the more important highways in Ohio. The roads were set up on the so called "Three Per Cent" fund as described earlier. This fund, in 1820, amounted to $59,000 for the entire state, with Warren County's share amounting to $1,000.

"A list of state roads in Warren County, the amount appropriated, and under whose direction the money was to be expended in 1820 is described below.
On the State Road from Chillicothe to the center of the College Township west of the Great Miami (Oxford), for the part west of Lebanon, $50, William Boal.
On the same road, for the part east of Lebanon, $50, John T. Jack.
On the State Road from Lebanon by way of Jacob D. Lowe's to Cincinnati, $150, William Coulson.
On the State Road leading thru Waynesville, $100, Noah Haines.
On the State Road from Waynesville to Wilmington, $30, Noah Haines.
On the State Road from Lebanon to Hamilton, $75, Jonathon Tullis.
On the State Road from Lebanon to Wilmington, $100, James Wilkerson.
On the State Road from Chillicothe by James Hopkins tavern (Hopkinsville), east of the Little Miami, $145, John Hopkins.
On the State Road leading from Lebanon to Williamsburg, by way of Deerfield (South Lebanon), $50, John Hopkins.
On the State Road leading from Lebanon to Dayton, as far as Benjamin Carty's, $50; and from Carty's north, $25; and on the road from Carty's toward Xenia, $25, Henry King.
On the State Road from Dayton to Cincinnati, which passes Franklin, $100, Samuel Caldwell."

"State Roads," as they were called, were not entirely satisfactory in terms of roads as we know them today. Mud roads was a more suitable name for these avenues of travel. Bridges were few and the ups and downs of the hills were atrocious. Teams of eight horses were generally required if any load at all was to be hauled. A four horse team was required to simply draw an empty wagon if conditions were wet and miry. James Flint describes in his "Letters From Amerca," a bridge in Highland County as "nothing more than two long trees thrown over the stream, about eight feet apart, with split or round pieces of timber laid across these, side by side."

The corduroy road was possibly the first attempt at surfacing or simply keeping out of the mud. This was especially important through the swampy lands. The method used was made by cutting logs, laying them crosswise; later on the logs were split and the flat side was positioned in an upward fashion. Another experiment was tried by laying planks or rails length- wise to the road so as to form tracks for the wagon wheels. This experiment was tried on what was called the Wooster Pike which ran from Cincinnati to Goshen. The tested trial section of the road was from Milford to Goshen. This proved disastrous and the planks were taken up and these areas were filled with stone.

The Legislative Act of 1817 only opened the door for turnpikes. Only two turnpikes had been constructed out of Cincinnati up to 1835. One was twelve miles long to Milford and the other, fifteen miles to Sharonville. The Milford road, of which only five miles were complete, started collecting tolls in 1831. Toll gates were placed on the Sharonville road in 1833.

The Law of 1817, stated which materials were to be used in the construction of the early turnpikes. Perhaps the greatest discovery of the times was the use of the "macadam" type of highway. This was the discovery of John Loudon McAdam. He was the first man to recognize that dry soil supports the weight of traffic, and that pavement is useful only for forming a smooth surface and keeping the soil dry. His macadam pavements consisted of crushed rock packed into thin layers.

In the six years from 1832 to 1837, more turnpike companies were incorporated than at any other time in the history of the State.

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This page created 13 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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