Historical Collections of Ohio: Pages 746-758
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...THE FIRST SETTLEMENTS.
The beautiful country between the Miamis had been so infested by the Indians, that it was avoided by the whites, and its settlement might have been procrastinated for years, but for the discovery and enterprise of Major Benjamin STITES, a trader from New Jersey. In the summer of 1786, SITTES happened to be at Washington, just back of Limestone, now Maysville, where he headed a party of Kentuckians in pursuit of some Indians who had stolen some horses. They followed for some days; the latter escaped, but STITES gained by it a view of the rich valleys of the Great and Little Miami as far up as the site of Xenia. With this knowledge, and charmed by the beauty of the country, he hurried back to New Jersey, and revealed his discovery to Judge John Cleves SYMMES, of Trenton, at that time a member or Congress and a man of great influence. This result was the formation of a company of twenty-four gentlemen of the State, similar to that of the Ohio Company, as proprietors of the proposed purchase. Among these were General Jonathan DAYTON, Elias BOUDINOT, and Dr. WITHERSPOON, as well as SYMMES and STITES. SYMMES, in August of next year, 1787, petitioned Congress for a grant of the land, but before the bargain was closed he made arrangements with STITES to sell him 10,000 acres of the best land.
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SETTLEMENT OF COLUMBIA.
The settlers were superior men. Among them were Col. SPENCER, Major GANO, Judge GOFORTH, Francis DUNLAVY, Major KIBBERY, Rev. John SMITH, Judge FOSTER, Columbus BROWN, Mr. HUBBELL, Capt. FLINN, Jacob WHITE and John RILEY, and for several years the settlement was the most populous and successful.
Two or three blockhouses era first erected for the protection of the women and children, and then log-cabins for the families. The boats in which they had come from Maysville, then Limestone, where broken up and used from the doors, floors, etc., to these rude buildings. They had at that time no trouble from the Indians, which arose from the fact that they were then gathered at Fort Harmar to make a treaty with the whites. Wild game was plenty, but their breadstuffs and salt soon gave out, and as a substitute they occasionally used various roots, taken from native plant, the bear grass especially when the spring of 1789 opened their prospects grew brighter. The fine bottoms on the Little Miami had long been cultivated by the savages, and were found mellow as ash heaps. The men worked in divisions, one-half keeping guard with their rifles while the other worked, changing their employments morning and afternoon.
Turkey Bottom, on the Little Miami, one and a half miles above Columbia, was a clearing in area of a square mile, for a long while, and supplied both Columbia and the garrison at Fort Washington at Cincinnati with corn for a season. From nine acres of Turkey Bottom, the tradition goes, the enormous crop of 963 bushels were gathered the very first season.
Before this the women and children from Columbia early visited Turkey Bottom to scratch up the bulbous roots of the bear grass. There they boiled, washed, dried on smooth boards, and finally pounded into a species of flour, which served as a tolerable substitute for making various baking operations. Many of the families subsisted for a time entirely on the roots of the bear grass; and there was great suffering for provisions until they could grow corn.
Settlement of Cincinnati.
DENMAN the next summer associates with him two gentlemen of Lexington, Ky., each having one-third interest, Col. Robert PATTERSON and John FILSON. The first was a gallant soldier of the Indian wars, and John FILSON, a school-master and surveyor, and author of various works upon the West, of which he had been an explorer, one of the “the Discover, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky,” published in 1784; also a map of the same. FILSON was to survey the site and lay it out into lots, thirty in-lots of half an acre and thirty out-lots for four acres to be given thirty settlers of their paying $1.50 for deed and survey. He called the proposed town Losantiville, a name formed by him from the Latin “os” mouth, the Greek, “anti,” opposite, and the French “ville,” city, from its position opposite the mouth of the Licking river. And this name is retained until the advent of Gov. ST. CLAIR, January 2, 1790, who, being a member of the old Revolutionary army Society of Cincinnatus, expressed a desire the name should be changed to Cincinnati, when his wish was complied with.
Preliminary Exploration.—In September, 1788, a large party, embracing SYMMES, STITIES, DENMAN, PATTERSON, FILSON, LUDLOW with others, in all about sixty men, left Limestone to visit the new Miami Purchase of SYMMES. They landed at the mouth of the Great Miami, and explored the country from some distance back from that and North Bend, at which point SYMMES then decided to make a settlement. The party surveyed
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On this trip FILSON became separated from his companions while in the rear of North Bend and was never heard of, having doubtless been killed by the Indians, a fate of which he always seemed to have a presentiment. Israel LUDLOW, who had intended to act as surveyor for SYMMES, now accepted FILSON’S interest, and assumed his duties in laying out Losantiville.
Landing at Cincinnati.—On the 24th of December, 1788 DENMAN and PATTERSON, with twenty-six others, left Limestone in a boat to found Losantiville. After much difficulty and danger from floating ice in the river, they arrived at the spot on or about the 28th, the exact being in dispute. The precise spot of their landing was an inlet at the foot of Sycamore street, later known as Yeatman’s Cove.
LUDLOW laid out the town. On the 7th of January ensuing the settlers by lottery decided on their choice of donation lots, the same being given to each in fee simple on condition: 1. Raising two crops successively, and not less than an acre for each crop. 2. Building within two years a house equal to twenty-five feet square, one and half stories high, with brick, stone or clay chimney, each to stand in front of their lots. The following is a list of the settlers who so agreed, thirty in number: Samuel BLACKBORN, Sylvester WHITE, Joseph THRONTON, John VANCE, James DUMONT, --- FULTON, Elijah MARTIN, Isaac VAN METER, Thomas GISSEL, David MCCLEVER, --- DAVISION, Matthew CAMPBELL, James MONSON, James, MCCONNELL, Noah BADGELY, James CARPENTER, Samuel MOONEY, James CAMPBELL, Isaac FREEMAN, Scott TRAVERSE, Benjamin DUMONT, Jesse STWWART, Henry BECHTLE, Richard STEWARD, Luther KITCHNELL, Ephraim KIBBEY, Henry LIDNSEY, John PORTER, Daniel SHOEMAKER, Joel WILLIAMS.
The thirty in-lots in general terms comprised the space back from the standing between Main street and Broadway, and there was the town began.
The North Bend settlement was the third within the SYMMES Purchase, and was made under the immediate care of Judge SYMMES. He called it North Bend because it is the most northerly bend on the Ohio west of the Kanawha. The Judge with his party of adventurers left Limestone January 29, 1789, only about a month after that of DENMAN at Cincinnati, and two months after that of STITES at Columbia. The history of this with other connecting historical items we extracted from Burnet’s Notes:
The party, on their passage down the river, were obstructed, delayed and exposed to imminent danger from floating ice, which covered the river. They, however, reached the Bend, the place of their destination, in safety, early in February. The first object of the Judge was to found a city at that place, which had received the name of North Bend, from the fact that it was the most northern bend in the Ohio river below the mouth of the Great Kanawhia.
The water-craft used in descending the Ohio, in those primitive times, were flat-boats mode of green oak plank, fastened by wooden pins to a frame of timber, and caulked with tow, or any other pliant substance that could be procured. Boats similarly con-structed on the northern waters were then called arks, but on the western rivers they were denominated Kentucky boats. The ma-terials of which they were composed were found to be of great utility in the construc-tion of temporary buildings for safety, and for protection from the inclemency of the weather, after they had arrived at their destination.
At the earnest solicitation of the Judge, General HARMAR sent Captain KEARSEY with forty-eight rank and file, to protect the improvements just commencing in the Miami country. This detachment reached Lime-stone in December, 1788, and in a few days after, Captain KEARSEY sent a part of his command in advance, as a guard to protect the pioneers under Major STITES, at the Little Miami, where they arrived soon after. Mr. SYMMES and his party, accompanied by Cap-tain KEARSEY, landed at Columbia, on their passage down the river, and the detachment previously sent to that place joined their -company. They then proceeded to the Bend, and landed about the first or second of Feb-ruary. When they left Limestone, it was the purpose of Captain KEARSEY to occupy the fort built at the mouth of the Miami, by a detachment of United States troops, who afterwards descended the river to the falls.
That purpose was defeated by the flood in the river, which had spread over the low grounds and tendered it difficult to reach the fort. Captain KEARSEY, however, was anxious to make the attempt, but the Judge would not consent to it; he was, of course, much disappointed, and greatly displeased. When he set out on the expedition, expecting to find a fort ready built to receive him, he did not provide the implements necessary to construct one. Thus disappointed and dis-pleased, he resolved that he would not build a new work, but would leave the Bend and join the garrison at Louisville.
In pursuance of that resolution, he em-barked early in March, and descended the river with his command. The Judge imme-diately wrote to Major WILLIS, commandant of the garrison at the Falls, complaining of the conduct of Captain KEARSEY, representing the exposed situation of the Miami settlement, stating the indications of hostility manifested by the Indians, and requesting a guard to be sent to the Bend. This request
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SYMMES CITY LAID OUT—The surface of the ground where the Judge and his party had landed was above the reach of the water, and sufficiently level to admit of a convenient settlement. He therefore deter-mined, for the immediate accommodation of his party, to lay out a village at that place, and to suspend, for the present, the execution of his purpose, as to the city, of which he had given notice, until satisfactory information could be obtained in regard to the comparative advantages of different places in the vicinity. The determination, however of laying out such a city, was not abandoned, but was executed in the succeeding year on a magnificent scale. It included the village, and extended from the Ohio across the pen-insula to the Miami river. This city, which was certainly a beautiful one, on paper, was
called Symmes, and for a time was a subject of conversation and of criticism but it soon ceased to be remembered—even its name was forgotten, and the settlement continued to be
called North Bend. Since then, that village has been distinguished as the residence and the home of the soldier and statesman, William Henry HARRISON, whose remains now repose in a humble vault on one of its beau-tiful hills.
In conformity with a stipulation made at Limestone, every individual belonging to the party received a donation lot, which he was required to improve, as the condition of
obtaining a title. As the number of these ad-venturers increased in consequence of the protection afforded by the military, the Judge was induced to lay out another village, six or seven miles higher up the river, which he called South Bend, where he disposed of some donation lots; but that project failed. And in a few years the village was deserted and converted into a farm.
Indian Interviews. —During these transactions, the Judge was visited by a number of Indians from a camp in the neighborhood of Stites’ settlement. One of them, a Shawnee
chief, had many complaints to make of frauds practiced on them by white traders, who for-tunately had no connection with the pioneers. After several conversations, and some small presents, he professed to be satisfied with the
explanation he had received, and gave assur-ances that the Indians would trade with the white men as friends.
In one of their interviews, the Judge told him he had been commissioned and sent out to their country, by the thirteen fires, in the sprit of friendship and kindness and that he was instructed to treat them as friends and brothers. In proof of this he showed them the flag of the Union, with its stars and stripes and also his commission, having the great seal of the United States attached to it exhibiting the American eagle, with the olive branches in one claw, emblematical of peace, and the instrument of war and death in the other. He explained the meaning of those symbols to their satisfaction, though at first the chief seemed to think they were not very striking emblems either of peace or friend-ship but before be departed from the Bend, he gave assurances of the most friendly character. Yet, when they left their camp to return to their towns, they carried off a number of horses belonging to the Columbia settlement, to compensate for the injuries done
them by wandering traders, who had no part or lot with the pioneers. These depredations having been repeated, a party was sent out in pursuit, who followed the trail of the Indians a considerable distance, when they dis-covered fresh signs, and sent Captain FLINN, one of their party, in advance, to reconnoitre. He had not proceeded far before he was sur-prised, taken prisoner, and carried to the Indian camp. Not liking the movements he saw going on which seemed to indicate per-sonal violence, in regard to himself, and having great confidence in his activity and strength, at a favorable moment he sprang from the camp, made his escape, and joined his party. The Indians, fearing an ambuscade, did not pursue. The party possessed themselves of several horses belonging to the Indians, and returned to Columbia. In a few days, the Indians brought in Captain FLINN’S rifle, and begged Major STITES to re-store their horses—alleging that they were innocent of the depredations laid to their charge. After some further explanations, the matter was amicably settled, and the horses were given up.
The three principal settlements of the Miami country, although they had one gen-eral object, and were threatened by one common danger, yet there existed a strong spirit of rivalry between them—each feeling a pride in the prosperity of the little colony to which be belonged. That spirit produced a strong influence on the feelings of the pioneers of the different villages, and produced an esprit du corps, scarcely to be expected under circumstances so critical and dangerous as those which threatened them. At first it was a matter of doubt which of the rivals, Columbia, Cincinnati or North Bend, would eventually become the chief seat of business.
That, however, lasted but a short time. The garrison having been established at Cin-cinnati made it the headquarters and the depot of the army. In addition to this, as soon as the county courts of the territory were organized, it was made the seat of jus-tice of Hamilton county. These advantages convinced everybody that it was destined to become the emporium of the Miami country
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Occasionally, small lots of provision were brought down the river by emigrants, and sometimes were transported on pack-horses, from Lexington, at a heavy expense, and not without danger. But supplies, thus procured, were beyond the reach of those destitute persons now referred to.
Stations Established.—Having endured these privations as long as they could be borne, the more resolute of them determined to brave the consequences of moving on to their lands. To accomplish the object with the least exposure, those whose lands were in the same neighborhood united as one family; and on that principle, a number of associations were formed, amounting to a dozen or more who went out resolved to maintain their positions.
Each party erected a strong block-house, near to which their cabins were put up, and the whole was enclosed by strong log pickets. This being done, they commenced clearing their lands, and preparing for planting their crops. During the day, while they were at work, one person was placed as a sentinel, to warn them of approaching danger. At sun-set they retired to the block-house and their cabins, taking everything of value within the pickets. In this manner they proceeded front day to day, and week to week, till their improvements were sufficiently extensive to support their families. During this time, they depended for subsistence on wild game, obtained at some hazard, more than on the scanty supplies they were able to procure from the settlements on the river.
In a short time these stations gave pro-tection and food to a large number of destitute families. After they were established, the Indians became less annoying to the settle-ments on the Ohio, as part of their time was employed in watching the stations. The former, however, did not escape, but endured their share of the fruits of savage hostility. In fact, no place or situation was exempt from danger. The safety of the pioneer de-pended on his means of defense, and on per-petual vigilance.
The Indians viewed those stations with great jealousy, as they had the appearance of permanent military establishments, intended to retain possession of their country. In that view they were correct and it was fortunate for the settlers that the Indians wanted either the skill or the means of demolishing them.
The truth of the matter is, their great error consisted in permitting those works to be constructed at all. They might have pre-vented it with great ease, but they appeared not to be aware of the serious consequences which were to result, until it was too late to act with effect. Several attacks were, however, made at different, times, with an apparent determination to destroy them; but they failed in every instance. The assault made on the station erected by Captain Jacob WHITE, a pioneer of much energy and enterprise, at the third crossing of Mill creek from Cincinnati, on the old Hamilton road was resolute and daring but it was gallantly met and successfully repelled. During the attack, which was in the night, Captain WHITE add killed a warrior, who fell so near the block-house, that his companions could not remove his body. The next morn-ing it was brought in, and judging from his stature, as reported by the inmates, he might have claimed descent from a race of giants. On examining the ground in the vicinity of the block-house, the appearances of blood indicated that the assailants had suffered severely.
DUNLAP’S STATION ATTACKED —In the winter of 1790—1, an attack was made, with a strong party, amounting, probably, to four or five hundred, on Dunlap’s station, at Colerain. The block-house at that place was occupied by a small number of United States troops, commanded by Col. KINGSBURY, then a subal-tern in the army. The fort was furnished with a piece of artillery, which was an object of terror to the Indians yet that did not de-ter them from an attempt to effect their pur-pose. Time attack was violent, and for some time the station was in imminent danger.
The savages were led by the notorious Simon GIRTY, and outnumbered the garrison, at least, ten to one. The works were entirely of wood, and the only obstacle between the assailants and the assailed was a picket of logs, that might have been demolished, with a loss not exceeding, probably, twenty or thirty lives. The garrison displayed unusual gallantry—they frequently exposed their persons above the pickets to insult and provoke the assailants; and judging from the facts reported, they conducted with as much folly as bravery.
Col. John WALLACE, of Cincinnati, one of the earliest arid bravest of the pioneers, and
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He joined the party, and led them to the station by the same route lie had traveled from it; but before they arrived, the Indians had taken their departure. It was afterwards ascertained that Mr. Abner HUNT a respect-able citizen of New Jersey, who was on a surveying tour in the neighborhood of Colerain, at the time of the attack, was killed before he could reach the fort. His body was afterward found, shockingly mangled.
The Indians tied HUNT to a sapling, within sight of the garrison, who distinctly heard his screams and built a large fire so near as to scorch him inflicting the most acute pain then, as his flesh, from the action of the fire and the frequent application of live coals, be-came less sensible making deep incisions in his limbs as if to renew his sensibility of
pain; answering his cries for water, to allay the extreme thirst caused by burning, by fresh tortures; and, finally, when, exhausted and fainting, death seemed approaching to release the wretched prisoner, terminating his sufferings by applying flaming brands to his naked bowels.’"
EARLY BEGINNINGS OF CINCINNATI.
Fort Washington was built in the fall of 1789 by Major DOUGHTY, the com-mander of a body of troops sent by Gen. HARMAR from Fort Harmar with discre-tionary power to locate a fort in the Miami country. The site selected was a little east of Broadway just outside of the village limits, and where Third street now crosses it. The fort was a solid, substantial fortress of hewn timber about 180 feet square with block-houses at the four angles and two stories high. Fifteen acres were then reserved there by government. It was the most important and extensive military work then in time Territories, and figured largely in the Indian wars of the period. Gen. HARMAR arrived and took command late in December, its garrison then comprising seventy men.
In January, 1790, Gen. Arthur ST. CLAIR , then governor of the Northwest Territory, arrived at Cincinnati to organize the county of Hamilton. In the succeeding fall Gen. HARMAR marched from Fort Washington on his expedition against the Indians of the Northwest. In the following year (1791) the unfortunate army of ST CLAIR marched from the same place. On his return, ST. CLAIR gave Major ZEIGLER the command of Fort Washington and repaired to Philadelphia, soon after the latter was succeeded by Col. WILKINSON. This year Cincinnati had little increase in its population. About one-half of the inhabitants were attached to the army of ST. CLAIR, and many killed in the defeat.
In 1792 about fifty persons were added by immigration to the population of Cincinnati, and a house of worship erected. In the spring following the troops which had been recruited for WAYNE’S army landed at Cincinnati and encamped on the bank of the river, between the village of Cincinnati and Mill creek. To that encampment Wayne gave the name of “Hobson’s Choice,” it being the only suitable place for that object. This was just west of Central avenue. Here he remained several months, constantly drilling his troops, and then moved on to a spot now in Darke county, where he erected Fort Greenville. In the fall, after the army had left, the small-pox broke out in the garrison at Fort Washington, and spread with so much malignity that nearly one-third of the soldiers and citizens fell victims. In July, 1794, the army left Fort Greenville, and on the
Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol. I
Henry Howe, LL.D.
C.J. Krihbiel & Co., Printers and Binders, 1888
ranscribed by Joan Asche
for Hamilton Co., Ohio Genealogy & History Web site
Hamilton County Section
©2003 by Tina Hursh & Linda Boorom