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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Bellbrook, Ohio: Settled ca. 1797

Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
Original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

In the County of Greene, just above Warren, we find nestled in a peaceful little valley the old village of Bellbrook. This quaint and historic little community sits alone and is left undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
The sound of the blacksmith with his everlasting song of metal against metal; the loud blare of the stagecoach driver's horn announcing its arrival; the old folks gathering around the fire at James Clancey's tavern discussing the days' happenings; all in another time, all preserved in the writings of the many who took time to care.
While we are discussing another time, perhaps we should go back a little further to a time when a dream of our first President began to undertake reality.
George Washington, while touring the Old Northwest Territory, perhaps envisioned the great lands west of the Alleghenies as a place of residence for the exploding population in the eastern United States.
The Ordinance of 1787 was the Act that annexed Ohio as well as Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin to the United States.
But, this legislative maneuver could not be utilized until peace with the Native Americans could be established. With Anthony Wayne's victory at The Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1784, and the signing of the Peace Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795, the settlers could finally locate to the lands of the great Miami country.
As settlers began their trek through the Miami Valley, and small towns developed, a cry for the improvement of roads was called for, and, consequently, laws were introduced which called for the building and upkeep of these avenues of travel.
Before the road laws were legislated and improvements began, the Pinckney Road, or Trail, was the first path accessible to the pioneers from Fort Washington (Cincinnati) to Bellbrook. It ran from the Queen City to Lebanon, passed through Bellbrook on Main Street, proceeded north toward Alpha and passed by Pinckney Pond, in which the road was supposedly so named.
Imagine the first settlers of Bellbrook traveling along this mere path to the small settlement on the Ohio, purchasing supplies and articles of which they could not produce, and making the return trip. The constant threat of wild beasts, the blowing snows of winter, the blaring heat of a hot August day, lightning and thunder, wind and sleet, all compounded to ask us why they did it.
Joseph C. Vance first settled the general vicinity of Bellbrook in the spring of 1797, just two short years after the Treaty of Peace. He bought land along the east side of Main Street and constructed a log cabin on what was to become the southeast corner of Main and Walnut Streets. His son, Joseph, was elected Governor of Ohio in 1836.
James Snoden, who later became an associate judge in the county, became the second landowner, making his purchase in 1799.
James Clancey was another of the early pioneers on the site of Bellbrook, removing to the area prior to 1803.
Upon investigation, the water was supposedly so possessed with mystical powers that news of its existence spread to all points. It was said the water could cure almost anything physical. The small village of Bellbrook was instantly thrust into the limelight. Immediately, a two-story building so-named the Magnetic Spring Hotel was built. The spring brought forth seven or eight hundred jugs of water daily. A traction car line soon began running to and from the town, filling the hotel with guests from near and far. Individuals came in wheelchairs, horse and buggy, and any means of transportation in which to try the "magic water."
In 1896 the hotel and the "spring of cure" was destroyed by fire. People still pretended the water was "magnetic" until around 1903. The mystique of the miracle spring of the small village of Bellbrook was over.
Bellbrook, as with many other communities, has its own identity and history. The downtown section still remains as it always has, the still visible landmarks, the never changing atmosphere, and the friendliness of the people.
Mr. Vance was appointed director of the new county seat of Xenia, promptly sold all his holdings, and moved to the new village.
James Clancey possibly acquired the log home of Mr. Vance, as it was here that the first election in Sugarcreek Township was held in June 1803. It also served as the building in which Rev. James Armstrong preached to the followers of Associate Reform Presbyterians, and additionally, it served as the place for the first township organization.
As in many small communities in Ohio in the days of the pioneer and his family, one local building became the center of all activities, thus, James Clancey decided to open up a tavern. He erected a splendid hewed log building in the front section of his log cabin home, all complete with a tavern sign. He received a license and presumably began business in 1816, after the laying-out of the village of Bellbrook. In 1820 Clancey sold his business and moved to Flat Rock, Indiana, where he spent the rest of his days.
Henry Opdyke and Stephen Bell assumed residency of Sugarcreek Township in 1814, buying the land which comprises the western section of Bellbrook from James Snoden. They joined with James Clancey and discussed the concept of laying out a town on this site.
On February 9, 1816, a plat layout was presented to James McBride, Justice of the Peace for Sugarcreek Township, in which he made an entry to the State of Ohio. The day following, Josiah Grover, the Greene County recorder, registered the plat and certificate.
While all towns have reasoning behind their founding names, we shall note that tradition has it that amongst the names that were suggested for Bellbrook were, "Opdykeville" and "Clanceyville." However, it was suggested by Henry Opdyke that the name "Bellbrook" be so used, in honor of Stephen Bell, and the fact that Little Sugar Creek ran through the village.
Eighty-four lots were laid out in the original plan, in which twenty were north of Walnut Street, twenty-four between Walnut and Franklin Streets, and forty between Franklin and South Streets.
A notice was placed in the "Ohio Vehicle," a newspaper published at Xenia, announcing the sale of lots in the "Town of Bellbrook," dated September 19, 1815. The only dwelling in town at that time was the Clancey tavern. Soon people migrated to the beautiful little valley, built their homes and took up residence. Among these were: John McLean, Captain Nathan Lamme, John C. Hale; Ephriam Bowman, James Barrett, James Webb, blacksmith; David Black, Daniel Lewis, Joseph Gillespie; Aaron Flowers, John Bell and Moses Mills. As the town began to grow in population, additions were added, the primary ones in 1830, 1841 and 1849.
Possibly one of the most intriguing happenings in Bellbrook was the discovery of the "Magnetic Springs." About the year 1883, Andrew Byrd, employed as a builder, was busy remodeling a church. He had placed his tools in water overnight and found that they were instantly magnetized.

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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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