A History & Biographical Cyclopedia Butler County, Ohio - 1882
PIONEERS AND SOLDIERS.
John REILY a member of the constitutional convention which formed the organic law of Ohio, a brave soldier, and a devoted patriot, was born in Chester County Pennsylvania, on the tenth day of April, 1763. His career is interwoven with the whole history of Butler County and Ohio. Mr. REILY's parents were farmers, and removed with him to Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia, when he was about five or six years of age. Just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary war, this was on the frontier line of settlements, and the pioneers were much exposed to attacks from Indians, who were bloodthirsty and revengeful. Their lands had been taken from them by the whites, and a continual warfare existed between them and the strangers, as far west as Kentucky, which was then just receiving its first emigrants. In each neighborhood a block-house, answering the purpose of a fort, was erected, to which all the families fled when danger seemed near. In October, 1774, a battle was fought at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River, between the Indian chief CORNSTALK and his warriors, and the Virginia troops under the command of General Andrew LEWIS. Mr. REILY distinctly remembered this, although he was at the time only eleven years old, as well as the circumstance that the family retreated for protection to a small fort near Staunton.
The youth matured early in those days. It was necessary to cultivate a habit of self-reliance, as each man needed all his faculties about him. At seventeen, John REILY felt the duty of taking his part in the great struggle which was going on between his countrymen and the armies of Great Britain. He joined the Southern Department, then under the command of Nathaniel GREENE, the Quaker general, who had been appointed to the command on the 22d of October, 1780. The movements of that army were numerous. It made long marches, it fought many battles, it contested every inch of ground, and finally compelled CORNWALLIS to retreat for reinforcements to Yorktown, where later on he was captured by the united American and French forces.
The first battle in which Mr. REILY took an active part was that of Guifford Court-house, which was fought on the 15th of March, 1781. There were about forty-four hundred on the American side, thirty-one hundred of whom were raw militia or half-equipped regulars, and on the enemy's side there were two thousand four hundred regular troops. They lost six hundred killed and wounded, while the Americans had four hundred and fifty killed and wounded, with eight hundred missing. The British also captured several cannon. They claimed the victory, but had no such decided preponderance that they could afford to wait and gather the fruits, and a few days later began to retreat, closely pursued by General GREENE.
Camden was the next battle. It was a severe and hard-fought contest, in which GREENE received the worst of it. He consequently withdrew, but CORNWALLIS was not in sufficient spirits to follow. Shortly after, he burned his works at Camden, and retreated to the North.
Soon after this, the American army invested the town of Ninety-six, which had been strongly fortified. Learning that Lord RAWDON was approaching, GREENE determined to carry the works by assault, and made the attempt; but it failed, after much slaughter. The last affair of consequence in which Mr. REILY was engaged was the battle of Eutaw Springs, in South Carolina, on the 8th of September. The Americans attacked the British with great spirit, early in the morning, which was met with courage and determination. After a long hand-to-hand conflict, LEE, who had turned the British left flank, charged them in the rear. They yielded, and their line was completely broken. The company to which Mr. REILY belonged, heated with patriotic fire, pursued them so vigorously that they were divided from their own troops, so that they had to make a wide circuit. The day was so distressingly hot that when the company came to a brook on their way back, they rushed into the stream up to their knees, and dipped the water with their hands, to assuage their thirst. There was a large number engaged on each side, about two thousand. This engagement. terminated the active efforts of the British in that portion of the country, and practically was the end of the Southern campaign. The army soon after was dissolved, and Mr. REILY, after eighteen months of service, was discharged, with a certificate of honorable service, signed by George WASHINGTON himself.
He returned to his home in Virginia, where he remained about two years. Then, becoming excited by the favorable accounts of the West, which was just then getting settled, he left his father's home in Virginia, and went out to Kentucky He had not yet reached twenty-one years of age. His sister lived at that time in Danville, Lincoln County, and at her house he remained for five or six years, making it his home. He labored on the farm each Summer and Winter, excepting when he was employed as a carpenter, although he had never regularly learned that trade. He also made plows, harrows, and other agricultural implements for the use of the settlers, and during the last year of his residence in Kentucky he taught an English school. The settlement of Ohio was then just commencing, and Mr. REILY concluded to cast in his lot with those who were beginning the new commonwealth. He came to Columbia, now the eastern part of Cincinnati, on the 18th of December, 1789.
That place was begun by Major Benjamin STITES. There was little provision in the neighborhood, and the colonists were obliged to gather roots and bear grass for food. The roots of the latter were pounded up into a kind of flour, which served as a substitute in making bread. Several settlers who were in Columbia subsequently became residents of Butler County, among others Mr. Benjamin RANDOLPH and Mr. James SEWARD. An attack being made on DUNLAP's Station, now Colerain, on the 10th of January, 1791, the patriotic citizens of Columbia turned out in their defense, and among them was Mr. REILY. They armed themselves with rifles, and, mounted on the best horses that could he procured, set out for the relief of the settlement. Mr. REILY and Thomas MOORE, who was afterward of Butler County, were directed to proceed a short distance in advance, as pickets, to give notice if the enemy should appear. On reaching the fort, they found that the siege had been abandoned, and that the garrison had sustained but little injury. There had been a vigorous effort to take the place by assault, but the attack had been frustrated.
On the 21st of June, 1790, Mr. REILY opened an English school at Columbia, which was the first one taught in the place (or, indeed, in the whole Miami country), which he continued as long as he resided there. In 1791, Francis DUNLEVY, who was afterward the first judge of the Court of Common Pleas in this county, joined Mr. REILY at Columbia, and took part in the conduct of his school. Mr. DUNLEVY taught the classical department, and Mr. REILY the English. This they continued for some time, but it was finally abandoned when Mr. REILY found other and more active occupations. Judge DUNLEVY afterward removed to Warren County, where he lived until 1839.
After ST. CLAIR's defeat, General WILKINSON issued a call for volunteers to accompany an expedition he was about to send out for the purpose of burying the dead. A company was formed at Columbia, under command of Captain John S. GANO, of which Mr. REILY was a member. They were joined by two other companies at Fort Washington, and by two hundred regular soldiers. In one of these companies William Henry HARRISON, afterward President, was an ensign. They started on the 25th of January General James WILKINSON commanding. There was a very heavy snow on the ground, which obliged them to take sleds along, to carry their provisions and baggage. The first night they encamped near the present site of the college at College Hill, seven miles from the city; the next morning . they arrived at Fort Hamilton, where they stayed a couple of days. John S. GANO acted as major. On the 28th they crossed the river, with their horses and baggage, on the ice, about where the Junction railroad now bridges the river. They took the old trace opened up by General ST.CLAIR, and that night encamped at Seven-mile Creek. The next day they reached Fort Jefferson, which was under the charge of Captain S SHAYLOR.
At this place General WILKINSON issued an order announcing that, in consequence of the depth of the snow and the seventy of the weather, he would abandon one object of the expedition, which was to destroy an Indian town, on a branch of the Wabash, fifteen miles below ST. CLAIR's battle-ground, directing the return of the regular soldiers, who were on foot, to Fort Washington, as they would not be needed, and stating that he would proceed with the mounted volunteers and the public sleds to the battle-ground, for the purpose of bringing away such artillery and other property as might be recovered.
The next day they continued their search, and encamped within eight miles of their destination. On the ensuing day, at eleven o'clock, they arrived at the field of the disastrous defeat, and encamped where ST.CLAIR's artillery had stood, with a view of beating down the snow to facilitate their finding the object of their search -- cannon and corpses. On their last day's march, when within four miles of the field of battle, where the pursuit had ceased, the scene, even though covered with snow, was most melancholy. The bodies of the slain laid strewed along the road and in the woods on each side. Many of them had been dragged from under the snow and mutilated by wild beasts. One of the party counted seventy-eight bodies between the point where the pursuit terminated and the battle-field No doubt there were many more who, finding themselves disabled, crawled to a distance, out of sight of the road, and there perished. The great body of the slain were within an area of forty acres. The snow being deep, the bodies could be discovered only by the elevation of the snow where they lay. They had been scalped and stripped of all their clothing that was of any value. Scarcely any could be identified, as their bodies were blackened by frost and exposure, although there were few signs of decay, the Winter having been unusually early and severe. Major GANO and others supposed one corpse to be that of General Richard BUTLER, and had little doubt as to its identity. It lay in a group of the slain, where evidently had been the thickest of the carnage.
Having dug a large pit -- a work of much labor, as they were poorly supplied with spades and other implements -- they proceeded to collect and bury the frozen bodies. Probably not more than one-half, however, were interred, as they worked at it only on the day of their arrival. They were so numerous, however, that when all were piled together and covered with earth, it raised a considerable mound. Here, in the silent gloom of the beech woods, reposes many a heart which once beat warm to every impulse of honor and noble feeling which elevates our race.
They found that the artillery, with the exception of one six-pounder, had been dismounted and carried off or secreted, and some of the carriages had been burned. After encamping on the ground nearly two days and two nights, the party returned to Cincinnati; taking with them the field-piece above mentioned, two uninjured guncarriages, the irons of the carriages that were burnt, and a few muskets. Many of the volunteers were badly frostbitten on the march. Mr. REILY said the snow was so deep that in moving about it gave them great annoyance by getting in at the top of their leggings.
In 1791 Mr. REILY had purchased a tract of land, about seven miles from Cincinnati, in the same quarter-section on a part of which the town of Carthage has since been laid out. In 1793 he gave up his interest in the school at Columbia to his friend Mr. DUNLEVY, and associated with himself Mr. PRIOR, the two owning land near each other, and prosecuting their improvements jointly. All did not go well with them, however. Their horses were soon stolen, and they suffered other injuries from the Indians. They had not been long at this new business when Mr. PRIOR undertook to make a trip from Fort Washington to Fort Hamilton, in company with others. On their way, the men were attacked by the Indians, and Mr. PRIOR was killed.
Mr. REILY was left alone, and concluded to abandon farming He returned to Columbia, and resumed teaching, which he continued until April, 1794, when he went to Cincinnati, and was employed in the office of General John S. GANO, then clerk of the Court of Hamilton County. Here he remained until 1799, acting as deputy, and conducting a large portion of the business of the office. In this situation he received high encomiums from the attorneys and others who had business with the court; for the neatness and accuracy with which his books were kept.
The people of the Territory held their first election for representatives to the General Assembly in 1799, and those elected began their sessions at Cincinnati on the 16th of September. John REILY was elected clerk, and served as such until their adjournment on the 19th of December following. He acted in the like capacity for the next two sessions, and was heartily esteemed by those with whom he was associated. He devoted his entire time to the duties of his office, filling them with ability and discretion.
When Cincinnati had a charter granted to it, John REILY was made one of the town trustees, and at the first meeting he was elected the clerk and collector. He became one of the stockholders of the first public library in the Northwest, and, sixty years after, was the next to the last survivor. He was made one of the receivers of money for the United States arising out. of the claims of persons residing on SYMMES's purchase for relief, and with William GOFORTH was appointed a hoard to hear and determine such claims. Mr. REILY acted as clerk of this board, made a map of the country where the claims lay, prepared the report on the claims adjudicated, and entered those allowed on the map and the record. The next year he was renewed in the same office, Dr. John SELMAN being his associate.
In 1802 the Congress of the United States passed "an act to enable the people of the eastern division of the territory northwest of the river Ohio to form a constitution and State government, and for the admission of such State into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, and for other purposes," which was approved the .30th of April. The law fixed the boundaries of the State, and authorized the citizens within its limits to elect representatives to a convention to form a constitution. The election was held on the second Tuesday of October following, and the convention met in Chillicothe on the first Monday of November. Mr. REILY was elected one of the representatives of Hamilton County, which then embraced Butler; and, though he did not take much part in the debates, his industry and. strict attention to business, and the confidence placed by his fellow-members in his judgment and experience, gave him a very perceptible influence in the convention. That body continued in session twenty-nine days, and formed the first constitution of the State. It met with the approbation of the people, and they lived under it many years.
Mr. REILY moved to Hamilton in 1803, being the agent of the proprietors of Rossville, and resided here until the time of his death. Some of the buildings of the old fort were yet standing, and many of the pickets which had made the inclosure were still to be seen. The inhabitants of the town were few in number, and had been chiefly soldiers of the various armies. After the erection of the county of Butler Mr. REILY acted as the clerk of the court. He held the office under successive reappointments until the fourteenth day of March, 1840, a period of nearly thirty-seven years, when he declined further service. He was also clerk of the Supreme Court of Butler County from the 11th of October, 1803, until the 3d of May, 1842, when he resigned. Judge BURNET states that this was a longer term than any other person had held such an office, with the exception of Mr. Hugh BOYLE, of Fairfield County.
The only lawyer residing in Hamilton at that time was William CORRY, whose office was in the same room in which Mr REILY kept his. Mr. REILY was appointed the first recorder of Butler County in 1803, and held the position until May, 1811, when he was succeeded by James HEATON, who had been the first county surveyor.
Mr. REILY was also clerk of the board of county commissioners- from 1803 to 1819, when he resigned. His sterling qualities and thorough practical knowledge of the routine of the office gave him a great influence with the successive boards. In fact, during the time he held the position he had the chief management and control of the finances of the county, and conducted them with great prudence.
In 1804; under the administration of Thomas Jefferson, a post-office was established in Hamilton, of which Mr. REILY was appointed postmaster. His commission was signed by Gideon GRANGER, postmaster-general, and bears date August 2, 1804. This was then the western-most post-office north of the Ohio. He held this place until July, 1832, when he resigned, being succeeded by James B. THOMAS. In 1809, when Oxford University was founded. Mr. REILY was made a trustee, and served in that capacity for many years. He was its president until the organization of the college in 1824, when by law the president of the college, by virtue of his office, became president of the board of trustees. He was always a warm friend of this institution, attending the meetings of the board with regularity. For years his name appears in the newspapers as secretary. He resigned his trusteeship in 1840, on account of advanced age and the inconvenience of being so often absent from home.
Mr. REILY was a man of the utmost regularity of habits. He came to his room at a certain hour, and departed from it at a certain hour. His papers were all methodically filed away, and he could at any time refer to any paper with which he had any thing to do, although it might have been a quarter of a century before. He trusted nothing to another person which it was possible himself to do. He held office many years, and during the whole course of his life his integrity and veracity were never questioned, nor does the writer recollect in any of the old newspapers whose files he has examined an attack upon his character - an exemption which no one else enjoyed. His judgment was excellent, his memory good, his patriotism of the highest. He took part in the Revolution while still a mere boy; he was an actor in the scenes of pioneer life when in early manhood, and he discharged important trusts to his fellow-men when he had reached the maturity of his powers. He was frequently a trustee of estates or guardian of children, and occupied other fiduciary positions. He was educated in the Presbyterian faith, and liberally contributed to the support of that denomination. He also gave largely to other Churches.
His death occurred in Hamilton on the 7th of June. 1850. He was then eighty-seven years of age. He had enjoyed good health nearly all his life, and his death was not preceded by any long sickness. The decease was announced to the Court of Common Pleas, which was then in session, by Governor BEBB, who paid a feeling tribute to his memory. Resolutions were adopted by the bar, which were ordered to he entered upon the journal of the court, and adjournment then took place.
He died on Friday. On Sunday a discourse was pronounced by the Rev. William DAVIDSON, of the United Presbyterian Church, and the body was conveyed to its last resting-place in Greenwood Cemetery, which had been opened only a short time before. The attendance at the funeral was vast. People came from every township in the county, as well as from over the border and from Indiana. The solemnities were rendered more impressive by the presence of many old men, who had been associated with him in the foundation of the commonwealth which had now grown so great.
The constitutional convention was at that time in session at Columbus. On Tuesday, June 11th, Judge Elijah VANCE, a member of the convention from Butler County, arose and said: "Mr. Speaker, -- I have been induced, sir, by a letter which has been placed in my hands by an honorable member of this convention, to announce to this body the decease of Mr. John REILY, late of Butler County. It is known, perhaps, to every member upon this floor that the deceased was one of the members of the convention which framed the present constitution of Ohio; and that he had been for many years a citizen of the Northwest Territory or the State of Ohio."
After giving a detailed sketch of the life and public services of Mr. REILY, the judge continued:
"He was a man of many peculiarities, but of the most strict and uncompromising integrity. In every department of life he was faithful and scrupulously honest. It is an incident worthy of profound contemplation that, at the very period of time in which our people are seeking to enlarge the sphere of constitutional liberty -- while they are about to bid farewell to the constitution under which they have lived and prospered for near fifty years, and to seek enlarged blessings under a new form -- the mind that so largely aided in diffusing these blessings under the guarantee afforded by organic law, has been remodeled, regenerated, and prepared for usefulness in a wider and better sphere of existence.
"Mr. Speaker, I offer for adoption the following resolutions
"Resolved, That this convention has heard with deep sensibility the annunciation of the death of John REILY, Esquire, late of the county of Butler, a soldier of the Revolution, one of the early pioneers of the West, one who filled important trusts under the territorial government and one of the framers of the present constitution of Ohio.
"Resolved That this convention deeply sympathize with the family of the deceased on this melancholy occasion.
"Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions, signed by the president and secretary of this convention, be forwarded to the family of the deceased."
Judge George J. SMITH, a member of the convention from Warren County, then rose and said: "Mr. President, -- I hope I may be pardoned for rising to make a few remarks by way of seconding the resolutions offered by the honorable member from Butler. I live in an adjoining county to that in which the deceased resided, and have been intimately acquainted with him for a period of some thirty years. I first became acquainted with Mr. REILY about the year 1821, just after I had commenced the practice of law, and was uniformly in the habit of attending the courts of Butler County, in the practice of my profession, whilst he was clerk of the Court of Common Pleas and of the Supreme Court of that county. I know that I speak the sentiments of every member of the profession who had the good fortune and the pleasure of practicing in the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County during the time he was clerk of the court, when I bear witness to the urbanity of his demeanor and the politeness and courtesy which he always bestowed upon every member, and especially upon the younger members of the profession. Toward the latter his deportment was peculiarly kind and paternal.
"In some respects Mr. REILY was a most extraordinary man; and, as. the gentleman from Butler has well remarked, in the qualities of punctuality and honesty and the most strict and marked integrity I do not think he had his superior anywhere. During the whole period of my service on the bench of the Court of Common Pleas he was clerk of the court, which brought us into official relation. During more than thirty years that he served as clerk of the court, he discharged his duties with the strictest fidelity and utmost punctuality. Indeed, as a clerk he was a model. As an instance of his rigid punctuality, he never knowingly permitted any large amount of fees to accumulate in his office without paying them over to those who were entitled to receive them. This was a rule with Mr. REILY which, in my opinion, made him an exception to any other gentleman I have known who filled that office. He did not usually wait until the witnesses or other persons having money collected in his office would call for it, but would seek opportunities of searching for the claimant, and sending it to him as soon as collected. I mention this as an instance of his scrupulous honesty.
"I have heard it remarked by some of the older citizens of Butler, who from an early day have been familiar with the fiscal concerns of that county, that to Mr. REILY, more than to any other man, was to be attributed the correct and prudent manner in which the fiscal concerns of that county were always managed during the period in which Mr. REILY, to a very considerable extent, had their oversight and management. Such was the care and attention which he bestowed in the discharge of the duties of every office he was called to fill that no one ever complained of his neglecting or omitting his official duties.
"I had the pleasure of an interview with Mr. REILY in the month of March last, at his own residence. I have been uniformly in the habit, since, from the infirmities of age, he has been almost wholly confined to his house, of calling on him on all proper occasions when visiting the town in which he resided. The interview to which I refer was after the passage of the law of the last session of the General Assembly which has called this assembly together. Mr. REILY was emphatically a gentleman of the old school. He had his principles and opinions, and was firm in the maintenance of them; at the same time paying due respect and regard to the opinions of others. On the occasion referred to he spoke of his Revolutionary services, and of the proceedings of the convention of 1802. He looked forward with deep interest to the proceedings of this convention, and remarked to me that, although he felt the inconveniences and defects of the present constitution, still he looked forward with some forebodings as to what might be the result of the deliberations of this convention. At the same time that he acknowledged the defects in the existing constitution, he was apprehensive that, amidst the turmoil and excitement of contending parties, the public good might be sacrificed to party feeling, and the organic law of the State despoiled of some of its essential provisions. Mr. REILY, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, was not a partisan. He never obtruded his opinions upon any one. When he formed opinions he maintained them upon all proper occasions with becoming firmness and commendable modesty.
"If I am not mistaken, he was originally attached to the Federal party. My impression is (though in this I may be in error) that at one period he supported the claims of General JACKSON for the presidency. It is proper, also, to remark that in his latter years he was attached to the Whig party. But no one ever heard him condemn any man, or set of men, for entertaining and expressing political opinions different from his own. He was perfectly tolerant and gentlemanly in his deportment toward every person with whom he came in contact, amiable and courteous in his manners and in all his social relations. Full of years, honored and respected by all who knew him, he has gone from among us. But his memory will live after him, highly esteemed as he was when living, and revered when dead. Respectable for his intelligence and official qualifications -- permit me, Mr. President, to say that, in my estimation, the crowning glory of his life was his spotless purity, his scrupulous honesty, and his unsullied integrity. He lived and died a humble, pious Christian."
Mr. Edward ARCHBOLD, a member of the convention from Monroe County, rose and said that, though an entire stranger to the deceased, he joined heartily in the honorable testimonials which had been offered by the gentlemen from Butler and Warren. He had learned that there were but four or five members of the convention which framed the present constitution of Ohio now living, and that from the time he was returned a delegate to this convention till he came up to this place he had indulged the idea of obtaining the services of some one of these time-honored survivors to preside during the preliminary organization, and perform those duties which were so ably discharged by his friend, the senior member from the county of Wayne (Mr. LARWELL). He had thought that while such a thing would constitute an appropriate expression of respect for those honored and honorable representatives of the past, it might also reflect a very wholesome influence upon the convention itself.
The resolutions presented by Judge VANCE were then unanimously passed, and a copy of them was forwarded to the family of the deceased.
Mr. John LARWELL then moved that, as a further testimonial of respect for the memory of the deceased, the convention now adjourn, which was carried.
Mr. REILY was married on the sixth day of February, 1808, to Miss Nancy HUNTER, a daughter of Joseph HUNTER, who was living in the neighborhood of Hamilton. Mrs. REILY died July 18, 1881. They had three sons and two daughters. Joseph H. REILY, who was born November 8, 1809, was educated at the Miami University. He possessed a natural taste for art, and painted many portraits and landscapes, which are still in the possession of our older families. He died at Hamilton, on the twentieth day of March, 1849, in the same room in which he was born.
James REILY was born July 3, 1811, and was graduated at the Miami University in 1829. He studied law with John WOODS of Hamilton, and practiced for a while in Mississippi but went from there to Texas. During the short life of that republic as a separate government he was sent to Washington as its minister-plenipotentiary. He became a large landholder, and at the beginning of the Rebellion entered the Confederate service. He was killed at the head of his regiment, when leading them at the battle of Bayou Teche, in 1863. He married a niece of Henry CLAY, a Miss ROSS, who is now also dead.
Robert REILY was born June 1, 1820, and was in mercantile business in Cincinnati. In the war of the Rebellion he was a field officer in the Seventy-fifth Ohio Infantry doing much fighting, and receiving deserved encomiums. On the 30th of April, 1862, at the battle of Chancellorsville, REILY, who was then the colonel of the regiment, received a severe wound at the close of the day, of which he died on the 5th of May, 1863. His troops had been handled admirably, and there was a universal manifestation of regret at his loss.
Caroline REILY, the oldest daughter, died in infancy. The younger, Jane H. REILY, who was born October 9, 1815, is still living. She is the wife of Lewis D. CAMPBELL, formerly Member of Congress, and one of the most influential men in the nation. A full sketch of him will be found elsewhere. Mrs. REILY made her home with him and her daughter until her decease.