From The History of Montgomery County, Ohio by W. H. Beers & Company 1882

Brookville Historical Society, Inc. 2003

HARRISON TOWNSHIP

The geographical position of Harrison Township is nearly central. To the north of it are the townships of Butler, Randolph and Wayne; to its east Mad River and Van Buren; to the south Miami, and to the west Jefferson and Madison. It was established May 17, 1841, at a special session of the Commissioners, and the first election ordered to be held at the blacksmith shop of Samuel Puterbaugh, on the road leading from Dayton to Union, June 28, 1841. The township is very irregular, varying in width from one mile at the extreme south to over five miles at the north, this being caused by its eastern boundary following the windings of the great Miami River. Its greatest length is nine miles, and within its area are twenty-four full and eleven fractional sections of land, which were formerly a part of Dayton Township. It is well watered by the rivers Stillwater and Great Miami, and Wolf Creek, the former and latter streams flowing in a southeasterly direction across its domain and emptying into the Great Miami at Dayton. This, like all other subdivisions of the county, has its share of good and well-constructed pikes leading to the many towns and villages in the various parts of the county and connecting with the through roads to all parts of the country at large. The surface of the country is in main level; however, in some portions it is a little hilly or broken, ridges or bluffs abounding along the streams, the greater bluffs occurring west of the Stillwater being in Sections 5 and 8. The soil is a sandy clay, and in the river bottoms is found the usual black loam. The staple productions are corn and wheat. The timber does not differ materially from that in general of the county; oak, hickory, ash, sugar, walnut, and some beech are found. Sugar was the prevailing timber at an early day; then, too, there was considerable of hackberry, which grew very large, but in later years died out rapidly. Many most excellent springs abound in this region; so numerous are they in the Stillwater region that west of that stream there is one on nearly every farm, which in some instances attracted the early settlers. The farms are well improved and are under a high state of cultivation, and one viewing the country cannot help being impressed by the great number of substantial farm residences and commodious barns, and inferring that its people are rich and industrious. The population, as shown by the census of 1880, is 2,667. There is but one voting place in the township, it being located on the John Summer's land, just north of the corporation limits of West Dayton, where a township house was erected in 1877, at a cost of $1,000. The political complexion of the inhabitants is Democratic, as the following figures will show: At the election for President and Vice President of the United States, held November 2, 1880, the number of votes polled was 612, 329 of which were Democratic, 281 Republican and 2 Greenback. The October election just prior made the following exhibit : Number of votes polled, 637; Democratic, 355; Republican, 281; Prohibition, 1. There is a small settlement of Gypsies in the township, an account of whom is given in the general history of the county. The country bordering on the present limits of Dayton began to be settled on the close of the eighteenth century, far in the spring of 1799. John Miller, with wife and family, emigrated from Kentucky and settled on a tract of land in Section 32, and later entered 120 acres in that section. Mr. Miller was born in Westmoreland County, Penn., December 30, 1766, and in early manhood removed to Kentucky. After a residence of some years on the land early above, he removed several miles north of Dayton, on what is now known as the Samuel Wamples farm, on which he resided the remainder of his life. In his religious views, Miller was a Presbyterian, and in Kentucky was a member of the "Cherry Springs Congregation." He was one of the earliest trustees and elders of the first Presbyterian Church of Dayton. The record shows him a faithful and attentive officer of the church, and the tradition is that he was an exemplary and influential citizen. His death occurred October 17, 1825, when the family moved west, saving one daughter, Sarah, who was the wife of Obediah B. Conover, whom she married April 13, 1814. Mr. Conover located in Dayton in the year 1812, and there engaged in the manufacture of wagons, plows and farming implements.

In the same vicinity, about the year 1801, William King, who in the strictest sense was a pioneer, entered over 500 acres of land in that Section (32). Mr. King was one of eight children of a well-to-do farmer of Pennsylvania, where our subject was born. The death of his father and the former civil troubles resulting from the Revolutionary war so marred, his prospects that upon reaching manhood he found himself almost penniless, and determined to retrieve his fortunes in the then far West. With him to resolve was to execute, so taking with him his young wife, who was Nancy (Waugh), left for Kentucky amid the lamentations of friends, who declared "he might as well go out of the world." He located near Lexington, where his five children--Victor, John, Samuel, Susan and Jane--were born. Dissatisfied with Kentucky, on account of slavery, he determined to brave the hardships of pioneer life in Ohio, rather than rear his children under such influences. Possessed of a vigorous constitution, indomitable will and fearless courage, he procured a team, placed his worldly effects, with his family, in his wagon, started on his journey, crossed the Ohio and, as it were, shaking the very dust of slavery from his feet, and pursued his way through the wilderness until he reached Dayton, which, of course, then presented but a few cabins amid surrounding forests. Crossing the Miami River, he cut his way through unbroken forests and located on the site above described, where he pitched his tent with but one dollar in his pocket; but he went to work with a stout heart, determined to owe no man anything. The site selected became his permanent residence and is still occupied by his descendants. Father King, as he was called, was among the original members of the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, and ever remained a consistent Christian and zealous worker in the cause of Christ, and was for many years the ruling elder in the church. He lived to be one hundred years of age, lacking three months only.

For the above sketches we are indebted to the compiler of the history of the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton.

In 1801, from Shenandoah County, Va., emigrated John Neff and family, consisting of wife and the following named children: Christopher, Henry, Abraham, Daniel, John, Elizabeth, Ester, Barbara and Mary. Mr. Neff entered 1,800 acres of land in the northeastern part of the township lying next to the Great Miami River, namely, Sections 11 and 15, and fractional Sections 12, 13 and 14. This proved a fine selection. In Section 15, near the present site of the railroad bridge, the rude log cabin was erected and pioneer life begun. Mr. Neff's neighbors were then the Locks, Hamars and Morrises, who occupied cabins on the opposite side of the river, in what is now Mad River Township. Of the Neff children, Abraham was in the war of 1812. He was united in marriage with Mary Spuce in the year 1808, and there were born to them Lewis, John, Henry, Sylvester, George and Lydia. Lewis, better known as "Squire Neff," was born in the township in the year 1810, and has ever since resided in the same vicinity. He is now a Justice of the Peace, and has been for these many years. John Neff, the pioneer, gave to each of his sons 200 acres, and to each daughter 100 acres of land. The immediate family lived and died on that land. The parents of Squire Neff died, the father in 1847, and the mother in 1879, the latter being in her ninety-fourth year. Both are buried in the grave-yard at Beardshear Chapel.

About the year 1802, Daniel Miller, a Pennsylvanian, in company with Stephen Ullery, came out on horseback to the vicinity of Dayton, prospecting for land, and on Wolf Creek, in Section 30, there lived in a cabin on the present site of the toll-gate, Billy Mason, who had evidently only "squatted," as it were, neither entering nor renting the land. He had been there several years, inasmuch as on the arrival of Miller and Ullery, quite a clearing had been made. Miller liked the location of this tract, and on learning that Mason had not entered it, and did not intend to, left with his mind fully made up that it would be his if not already entered. On leaving, he informed Mason of his purpose, and desired him to continue his clearing, and if it could be obtained by him, he would pay Mason for the work performed. Suffice to say, that Miller found the land unbought, and at once entered the same. Ullery went farther west into what is now Madison Township. The following year, Miller, with his family, consisting of wife, Susannah (Bowman) and his children, by name Catharine and Ester, in company with George Kunz, came to the site of the Mason cabin which had been vacated on notice, and now became the Miller home. Later was added to the family the children, Peggie, Daniel, Sarah and Joseph. In his religious views, Mr. Miller was a German Baptist.

On the present site of Jacob Swank's mill, on Wolf Creek, Mr. Miller, about the year 1804, or 1805, erected a saw-mill and, during the same year, added a gristmill. Of this family, none are living but Ester, who is the wife of Isaac Long and resides on the southeast quarter of Section 19. Mr. Long belongs to the pioneer families of Montgomery County, his parents coming from Virginia in the year 1804 and settling in Madison Township a year later, where Isaac was born in the year 1806. He was married in 1830, and moved upon the farm he now occupies, where he has ever since resided. When he began clearing that farm, he hauled cord wood to Dayton and received for it from $1.25 to $1.50 per cord. Returning to Daniel Miller, we will state that in two or three years after his arrival he built quite a fine two-story hewed log house, a short distance south of the cabin on the same quarter section. He built the present Henry Flory house, which is situated on the original entry, where Miller lived and died. He became an extensive land owner, possessing several hundred acres in the county, leaving his children well fixed in life. The boys all settled and remained in the township, and played their part in converting the wilderness of their boyhood into the fine farms of the present. This same year, from the State of Virginia, came George Beardshear, who had married Mary Neff, a daughter of John Neff, previously spoken of, and settled on 100 acres of land entered by Neff (now the Mrs. E. Beardshear's farm). The children of this couple were Catharine, David, John, Isaac, Samuel, Regina and Polly, all settling in the township, and their descendants here are numerous. Joseph Kennedy, a native of Lancaster County, Penn., born in 1775, emigrated to Ohio in 1803. He stopped for a year or two on Clear Creek, in Warren County, thence proceeded north into what is now Harrison Township and purchased a few acres of land from an uncle; who had previously entered several hundred acres along Stillwater, in the northern part of the township. Mr. Kennedy- married Nancy Kerr, then a resident of that vicinity and a native of Virginia, born in 1797. Their children were Ruth, Martha, Gilbert, John and Joseph. The latter two are residing on fine farms, where their boyhood days were passed. Father Kennedy was a very enterprising and active business man. During the war of 1812, on several occasions, he took supplies to the soldiers.

In the King neighborhood, as early as 1804, were residing the families of Robert Wilson, consisting of wife, Martha, and one daughter, Malinda, who were from Kentucky; Alexander McConnell and wife (Rebecca Thompson), with their children, William, Robert Linsy, Alexander and Jefferson, likewise from Kentucky; and John Richey, with family, but of what it consisted or from whence it came we are not able to state. The above respecting these families is traditional only; however, the fact of Richey and Wilson being in the county is established by record. Richey owned 100 acres of land in Section 32 in the year 1805. Capt. Robinson, from Virginia, and family were early settlers in the northern part of the township. This we learn from an old settler, who remembers the fact of the "Captain" living there when he came in the year 1812. The records show that Andrew Robinson owned Section 5 in 1805, and the inference is that Andrew and the "Captain" were one. John Reed, from Bourbon County, Ky., settled in Section 9 in the year 1806, where he lived for a while, then entered a part of Section 4. His wife was Sarah McCan, and the children were John, James, William, Thomas, Margaret, Sarah and Jane. The boys lived in that vicinity for many years; now all are dead. John Wolf and wife (Catharine Sowerbier) emigrated from Maryland, in company with Ludwick Spuce, in 1804. Both were men of families, and stopped for a year or two on land owned by Lock, in what is now Madison Township. The land is better known as that of the Philips', heirs. Wolf then moved on Wolf Creek, where he remained until about the year 1808, when he settled on the school section (16) in the township under consideration. Here John Jr. was born in 1810, where he now resides. The Wolf children were Elizabeth, Mary, Jacob, John and George. The mother and father died in the years 1844 and 1848 respectively. About the year 1809, from near Wellsville, Va., came John Kerr and wife (Ruth Mahall), and settled on what is now the Rice farm, just east of Stillwater, on land purchased by the uncle of Joseph Kennedy, heretofore referred to, whose name was Wilson. The Kerr children were William, Nancy, John, James and Madison. Benjamin Cox, Robert McCleary and Joseph Meeker were all early settlers. Cox was a Kentuckian and a soldier of the Revolutionary war, and earlier than 1812 lived in Section 14. He had a large family. McCleary resided on the George Hicks farm prior to 1812. Meeker then lived on Section 10, with his family, which was large. In the year 1812, William George lived in fractional Section 22, and soon thereafter built a grist and saw-mill about one mile north of the mouth of Stillwater, which was operated until his death and then went down. Mr. George was one of the early County Surveyors. John H. Williams, in the year 1812, purchased the original John Miller tract, 120 acres in Section 32; and also 100 acres of a Mr. Mason, the latter being in Section 33. Mr. Williams was a native of Dover, Del., and in early manhood went to North Carolina and thence to Kentucky, where he married Jane Crothers. In 1799, they immigrated to what later became Warren County, stopping at Franklin, where they remained until about 1802, when Mr. Williams moved his family into what is now Madison Township of this county, and entered a quarter section of land, now known as the Wilson Sloan farm. When Williams went to Cincinnati to enter the above land, the old "blockhouse" at Hole's Station was the only house to be seen from the road between the two cities. He was a millwright and built for Daniel Miller the "old mill." By his union with Miss Crothers, eight children were born, viz.: James L., Mary, Sarah, Lucinda, Harbert, Susan C., Anna M. and Elizabeth. The mother died in 1817. Mr. Williams' second wife was a Mrs. Boal, who died in 1822, leaving one child, Eliza J. His third wife was Mrs. McConnell, by whom he had one child, Francis. Father Williams died in 1841, and his remains rest in Woodlawn Cemetery. John and Elizabeth (McCan) Bell, the former of Pennsylvania and the latter of Scotland, emigrated in an early day to Bourbon County, Ky., and in 1804 removed to Clark County, in this State, settling a little below "Old Piqua." In 1806, they returned to Kentucky, and in 1812 again came to Ohio, and located where since has been built Miami City.

In 1815, Mr. Bell moved on Section 16, leasing the southwest quarter, which he improved, living thereon five years; thence he went to Section 21, where he remained ten years, and thence removed to Indiana, and there both parents died. Their children were Thomas, Sarah, Margaret, William, Elizabeth, Jane, John M. and Anna.

John M., a worthy and esteemed citizen of the township, and to whom the writer is indebted for much of the early history of Harrison, was born in Bourbon County, Ky., in 1802. He was united in marriage with Catharine Robinson in 1827, and to them was born a son--John H. Mr. Bell's second marriage was to Mary Lowry. His death occurred January 14, 1882, it being the result of an accident happening on the track of the Dayton & Michigan Railroad, near the bridge over the Miami. He was walking along the track when struck by the beam of the locomotive of a passing train, and so injured that death soon followed. Thus passed away one of the pioneers of Montgomery County, of which he was a resident nearly three-quarters of a century, and, being a man of close observation, good memory and extended reading, was familiar with the history of the county, and of the Miami Valley.

In the fall of 1818, John Kaufman and family, coming from Rockingham County, Va., purchased 400 acres of land lying southwest of Dayton, of one Linsey, paying for it $22 per acre. A portion of the same land is now the Jacob Niebert farm. Neibert was a son-in-law of Kaufman. About this time came John Parks and Wm. Wilson, brothers-in-law, from Kentucky, and settled along Stillwater in Sections 8 and 9, and Henry Protzman from Hagerstown, Md., buying land of George B. Holt and George Harris.

The pioneer families differed, as do their descendants, in form of worship. We have observed that some of the very early families were Presbyterians, and worshiped in the then hamlet of Dayton. As churches were then, organized almost with the laying out of the hamlet or village, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the pioneers for some distance thereabout, as did the families of Miller and King, went thither to worship. In localities farther remote from Dayton, church societies were organized, and it was found expedient at first to unite, irrespective of sect, and worship harmoniously together. Dwellings were freely opened, and the groves, "which were God's first temples," were appropriated in the summer. Later, schoolhouses were used, and finally sufficient strength was obtained, and meeting-houses built.

The Old-school Baptists were here organized early, and often held meetings at the "Neff cabin." Among the early families of this persuasion were John Wolf and wife, Ludwick Spuce and wife, Daniel Neff and wife, and George Beardshear. Jacob Mulford was one of the pioneer ministers. The partial membership just given is of resident members. In later years, people and ministers of that denomination came from other parts of the country to attend series of meetings, as is customary among them. Next in order was organized a society of Methodists, but in the absence of records, it is impossible to fix the dates the organizations were effected, or give anything like a detailed history of others. The early itinerant Methodist ministers of this entire region, who rode the circuit of miles in circumference, taking six weeks to traverse it, were the pioneer preachers. Such names as Revs. Arthur Elliott, Daniel Hitt, John Collinson, James Findley and John Collins would be familiar to the pioneer Methodists, could they but hear them. Among this denomination were the families of Reeds, Meekers, Parsons, Lowreys and Riggs.

The first meeting-house was erected by the Methodist society, assisted in part by the Baptist brethren, on ground deeded by Joseph Meeker. It was a one-story frame building, and stood near the present brick, and was called "Ebenezer" Church. It was built by subscription about the year 1820, the Baptists contributing with the understanding that they were to hold services there one Sabbath in each month. Both societies so worshiped for several years, when it was found that they could not get along together, as the Baptists advanced doctrines to which the Methodists took exceptions, and the latter closed the doors on them. This led to the building of a separate house by the Baptists in 1828 and 1829, of hewed logs, on ground deeded by Abraham Neff. Here they worshiped until 1871, the year the present one-story brick was erected. The pastor of the charge in 1829 was Rev. John Guthridge, who preached the dedicatory sermon that spring. In 1871, Rev. Height was the pastor in charge. The membership is now small, numbering about one dozen only, meetings being, held once a month, Rev. John Biggs, of Delaware County, officiating. The Methodists continued holding services in the "old frame" until the year 1860, when the present one-story brick building was erected in the eastern part of Section 9. It is in Concord Circuit. Present membership about fifty. The history of the German Baptist Society of this township is the same as that given in the general history of the county and in the adjoining districts. The one-story brick in Section 18, near the Madison Township line, was built in 1853, on ground purchased of Jacob Mumma. It is known as the Stillwater Church, and was organized at an early period. It has a membership of over 100. Elder Abraham Flory is now in charge. Just prior to the building of this church, there stood a similar house a little over the line in Madison Township, which had been recently built, and was about ready for occupancy when destroyed by fire. And still another, years prior, was built in that vicinity, and had been torn down on account of its being, too small. There is quite a large graveyard at the present church, and interments were made there over a half century ago. Miami Chapel United Brethren Church, situated south of Dayton, in Section 4, was organized in this wise: In 1849, Henry Shoup, then a resident of that neighborhood, and of the United Brethren persuasion, obtained from Simon McClure, an agent for a large tract of land there, a donation of three acres of ground for the purpose of erecting a church and laying out a burying-ground. Mainly through the efforts of John Dodds, in 1849, a small one-story brick church was built, and a church organization effected with three members, namely John Dodds, Frederick Shoup and Edith Olinger, under Rev. William Miller, Dodds being the only one of the three now living. Prior to this, several families occasionally held services at the residence of Shoup and in the schoolhouse, Revs. Robinson and W. W. Davis preaching. In 1851, the building was enlarged to its present size. The following year, there came a great revival, and the membership was increased to ninety, all of whom remained faithful. The chapel is a neat little building, having a belfry and bell, and the adjoining graveyard is a pretty spot and well cared for. The first burials there were Mrs. Frederick Shoup and the wife of Abraham Nicholas. The present pastor is Rev. E. W. Bowers. Shiloh Springs Christian Church, located in the northeastern part of Section 7, was organized in April, 1853, by Rev. Alexander McClain. Peter Kaufman and wife Nancy, Jacob Heikes and wife Mary, were the original members. The building, a one-story- brick, was erected in the summer of 1853; paid for at once, and dedicated Christmas Day, by Rev. N. Summerville. One acre of ground was deeded for church and graveyard by Peter Kaufman. A protracted meeting began on the day of dedication, lasting several weeks, and the membership was increased to forty-two. The following-named ministers have served the charge and in the order given: Alexander McClain, Reeder, William Jay, --- Furnas, H. G. Rush, Daniel Brewer and C. W. Choate, the present incumbent. Present membership, sixty-six. The church was remodeled and enlarged in 1881. The graveyard is beautifully located and well studded with evergreens. The first interment in it was a young babe, next was a child of Jacob Heikes, in January, 1854, Beardshear Chapel, a United Brethren Church, located in the eastern part of Section 15, was organized in the summer of 1860, by Rev. Swain Corsan. The original members were John and Elizabeth Beardshear, George W. Ensley, Mahala Ensley, Daniel and Lydia Tresler, Regina Beardshear. Martha Beardshear, Clarisa Smith, Samuel McCord, Elizabeth Brenner and Ellen Miller. The church building is a one-story brick, and was erected in 1853, at a cost of about $1,700. The ground upon which it stands was bought of Sylvester Neff. John Beardshear was instrumental in organizing and building the church, hence the name. It was dedicated August 26, 1860, by the Rev. W. J. Shuey, of Dayton. Membership now about twenty-three; pastor, Rev. T. F. Bushong. There is quite an extensive graveyard at the church, beautifully situated on the brow of a hill, overlooking a passing stream. It is dotted over with shrubbery, and many neat monuments mark the spot where lie the bodies of loved ones. It comprises nearly two acres of ground. The original tract, one acre, was bought of Daniel Neff; about the year 1843, for a neighborhood burying-ground, and was placed in the hands of three Trustees--Daniel Booher, John Neff and G. W. Ensley, by whom it was laid out into lots sixteen feet square. Later, two additions were made to it, the land having been purchased of the Neff heirs. The remains of Dayton Lowrey were the first interred there. It is now pretty well filled up.

In the northeastern quarter of Section 9 is situated quite an old graveyard. The ground was deeded by George Drill, and was regularly laid out into lots. A number of the pioneers of the northern part of the township were buried in it. The schools of the township are excellent; there are eleven districts, and thirteen teachers are employed. There is in each district a good substantial brick schoolhouse, three of which have two rooms each, and two of them are two-story buildings. The average time that school is held during the year is nine months. The school property is valued at $25,500. Board of Education, as follows: President, Jesse Martindale; Clerk, John Siebenthales; E. L. Showers, M. K. Wenger, John H. Bell, W. B. King, H. C. Mumma, John D. Rider, John A. Smith, J. B. Mumma, Henry Flory and W. G. Turner. Section 16 was leased up to within a few years of 1838, when three-quarters of it were sold. The remaining quarter is still unsold, and is occupied by Martin Wolf, the rent being used toward the support of schools.

As early as 1810, a schoolhouse was standing on the McConnell farm. The "masters" of that early period, and in the order given, were Abner Crothers, John King and Robert McConnell. About the year 1816, Squire Bell assisted in building a schoolhouse in Section 10 (near the center); William Cox was the first teacher. The branches taught were reading, writing and Pike's arithmetic. Robert Mercer taught later. Tuition, $1.50 per scholar a quarter. This embraced the school district between the Miami and Stillwater, extending up to what was then Randolph, now Butler, Township. There were about one hundred and sixty scholars in the district. At that date, there were only three or four schoolhouses in the township, one of which stood on the Capt. Brier place, now the Seiber farm. Victor King was an early teacher at that house, Daniel Miller, as was said above, built, about the year 1804 or 1805, a saw and grist mill, which stood on the site of the Jacob Swank Mill on Wolf Creek. The grist mill was a frame building in which were two runs of stone; later, Miller purchased a French set of buhrs in Cincinnati. Both mills were burned in 1825 or 1826, but were rebuilt shortly afterward. The Swank Mill is in part the mill rebuilt by Miller, but has since been remodeled. The saw-mill was torn down many years ago. Mr. Miller in later years operated a copper still and made a great deal of liquor; Isaac Long was the distiller. Judge William George built a grist and saw mill on Stillwater, about one mile from its mouth, during the war of 1812. Joseph Kennedy, on coming to this State, brought a copper still, which he put in operation soon after his arrival. John Parks and William Wilson erected a grist-mill on Stillwater in Section 9, about the year 1820, possibly a little earlier. Squire Bell assisted in digging the race. George Uembaugh afterward bought the mill property, and added a saw-mill; both were operated by Uembaugh until his death. The grist-mill was remodeled by Michael Schantz. The same is now owned and carried on by Michael Shaefer, of Dayton. Prior to -1830, David Rhodabaugh carried on distilling in Section 7, on the John Kaufman farm. Later, Peter Kaufman operated the same still. Charles Haskin built a saw-mill in Section 3, in the southern part of the township, on land now owned by V. Winters. This was in 1838 or 1839. The water-power at that point was very fine; the fall was great, and the power could have been made superior to any about Dayton. This mill was carried away by high water in 1847.

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