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

Brookville Historical Society, Inc. 2003


There is perhaps no township of Montgomery County so closely identified with the early history and subsequent growth of Dayton as Mad River, and although it was one of the last townships erected, its pioneer history begins with the settlement at the mouth of the stream whose name it bears. It was not until May 24, 1841, that Mad River was cut off from Dayton Township, and its present boundaries established. The first election was held on Monday, May 28, 1841, at the tavern of John Cox, in Section 27, on the road leading from Dayton to Zenia, and this old building is still in a fair state of preservation. This subdivision is very irregular on its western boundary, which follows the meanderings of the Great Miami to the mouth of Mad River, and then the corporation line of Dayton until the northern boundary line of Van Buren Township is reached, the latter forming its southern boundary; on the east lies Greene County, and to the north Wayne Township. It varies from one-half mile to six miles in length, and from three to five and a half miles in width, and is watered by the Great Miami and Mad Rivers, with a few small branches flowing into the latter stream. The soil along the rivers is a rich, black loam, while the uplands are of a sandy clay nature, and as a whole are second to none, in value and productiveness. The products and timber do not differ materially from that of the county in general, and its roads will compare favorably with its sister townships. Five railroads pass through Mad River Township, and we might say that there is scarcely a farm in the township out of sight of these monuments of civilization and the spirit of progress they represent. Owing to its close proximity to Dayton, many of its citizens have been prominently identified with the development and prosperity of that city, while many Daytonians have built them houses within its limits, thus assisting in beautifying and increasing the value of its lands. In Section 27 is located the large fruit farm of Nicholas Ohmer, containing 104 acres handsomely improved and covered with all classes of vines and fruit-growing trees. This is said to be the finest fruit-farm in Ohio, and adds much to the wealth and reputation of Mad River Township.


A town named Oakland was laid out by Daniel Beckel, a prominent citizen of Dayton. July 27, 1854, on Section 27, Township 2, Range 7, and May 19,1856, Mr. Beckel and J. P. Ohmer made an addition to the former plat, the latter gentle man laying out a second addition May 21, 1857. This, like many other projected towns, has never existed except on paper, yet the time may come when Oakland will be within the corporation limits of Dayton, and it requires no stretch of the imagination to predict that such will come to pass inside of the time that it has taken Dayton to reach its present dimensions. No other towns have ever been platted in Mad River Township, though the hamlet of Harshmanville is the nearest approach to a village of which the township can boast. Here settled one of the pioneers whose family became prominent in county affairs, and after whom the place was called in honor of the enterprise, energy and public spirit exhibited by the founder of the family and his descendants toward the growth and development of the Mad River Valley. Few families of Montgomery County are better or more favorably known than the Harshmans, and to them is honestly due much of its present prosperity.


In the general history of Montgomery County is given an elaborate record of the surveying parties who traversed this region of the country and also the names of those intrepid pioneers of civilization who composed those parties and who subsequently made their homes and spent their lives in this vicinity. Of the colony who started from Cincinnati in March, 1796, arriving at the mouth of Mad River in April of that year, but three settled inside the present limits of Mad River Township, viz., William Hamer, William Gahagan and James Morris - the latter forming one of the party headed by Col. George Newcom, and Gahagan with the party that came on the boat in charge of Samuel Thompson.

William Hamer owned a pair of horses and a wagon, and in this way traveled from Cincinnati to his new home. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary, and six children, Solomon, Thomas, Nancy, Elizabeth, Sarah and Polly; also two friends, Jonathan and Edward Mercer. It was a long, cold and dangerous journey through the woods, up the narrow trace which had been partially cut out by the Cooper surveying corps the preceding year, but these were not the men to flinch when duty called them, and their indomitable spirits never flagged under the many hardships which they were called upon to undergo. Passing over the many incidents of the journey from Cincinnati to the mouth of Mad River, which are fully spoken of in the general history, we come to the record of the first settlers of Mad River Township.

William Hamer was born in Maryland about the year 1750, there grew to manhood and married. In the spring of 1792, with his wife, Mary, and children, he moved West, coming flown the Ohio to Cincinnati in a flatboat, built by him self and son, Solomon. Upon reaching Cincinnati, they took the lumber of which the boat was made and built a cabin, in which the family lived until March, 1796, when they started for Dayton. Mr. Hamer was a local Methodist preacher, and thinking that in the Symmes purchase, as in the settlement of the Ohio Company at Marietta. Section 29 would be given by the proprietors for religious purposes, he kept on up Mad River and located on that section. In this view he was mistaken, and afterward had to pay $2 per acre, like the rest of the settlers. He built his cabin on the top of the hill, just south of where the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus & Indiana and the Toledo, Detroit & Buffalo Railroads cross the Springfield pike; being assisted by his son Solomon and William Gahagan; and for half a century afterward that hill was known throughout this valley as "Hamer's Hill." His wife, Mary, bore him eleven children-Solomon was at their settlement here sixteen years old; Thomas was six years old; Nancy after ward married William Gahagan; Elizabeth married William C. Lowry; Sarah was married in November, 1801, to David Lowry, who lived up Mad River, near the mouth of Donnel's Creek, where she died in August, 1810; Polly married Joseph Culbertson, of Miami County. On the 9th day of December, 1796, Dayton Hamer was born at his father's cabin on Hamer's Hill, and was the first child born in the Dayton settlement, and no doubt in Montgomery County; he married Catherine Haney, moved to Illinois, then to California, where he died many years ago. William Hamer, Jr., married Hannah Culbertson, and moved to Indiana; Susan married a Mr. Krider; Ruth married Abram Wagoner; Ellen died unmarried. Mary, wife of William Hamer, died at the homestead on "Hamer's Hill," August 9, 1825, aged sixty-three years. Mr. Hamer married the second time, and subsequently met with an accident on his way to Cincinnati, in the summer of 1827, from the effects of which he died shortly afterward.

William Gahagan was a brave and patriotic Irishman, who loved the land of his adoption, and hated that flag which was the emblem of oppression in his native isle. In 1793, he came in Wayne's Legion from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, and served with that army through the campaigns of 1794 and 1795. He and Benjamin Van Cleve were comrades, and in May, 1794, they made a trip down the Ohio to Fort Massac, with contractor's supplies, returning in July to the army. After the Greenville treaty, he at once engaged with the surveyor, Capt. John Dunlap, who was making preparations for field work in the Mad River country, and acted as hunter for that surveyor's party. He selected land up Mad River, and for some years made his home at William Hamer's cabin, afterward marrying Nancy Hamer. About 1804 or 1805, they moved into Miami County, settling upon land that he owned south of Troy, known as Gahagan's Prairie, and was closely identified with the settlement and progress of that portion of Miami County. His wife, Nancy, died, and he married a Mrs. Tennery, dying in Troy, about 1845.

James Morris, a native of Pennsylvania, came west to Fort Harmar, and was on the expedition under Gen. Harmar in 1790. He left Cincinnati in March, 1796, as one of the party headed by George Newcom. He settled on land north of Dayton, on the Great Miami, in Mad River Township, followed farming, was twice married, but died childless.

Robert Edgar was born in Staunton, Va., February 8, 1770, his father, Robert, having emigrated from Ireland in 1739, and settled in that State. About 1780, the family removed to near Wheeling, West Va., where, about 1790, the father was killed by the Indians. Soon afterward, our subject settled up the estate and in company with his brother and sister came down the Ohio on a flatboat to Cincinnati, where he arrived in 1795, and the following year joined the Dayton settlement at the mouth of Mad River. He was married in Hamilton County, September 27, 1798, to Mrs. Margaret Kirkwood, nee Gillespie, widow of David Kirkwood, of which union were born the following children: George, Jane A., Robert A., Samuel D., William G., Mary and John F. The mother was born in Philadelphia, April 6, 1772, and was an estimable, worthy woman, who watched carefully over the interests of her household. For some years after coming to Dayton, Mr. Edgar lived in the town, built and managed a mill for D. C. Cooper, but finally a farm in Section 33, Mad River Township, since known as the "Edgar farm;" and there raised his family. In the war of 1812, he went out in defense of the frontier settlements, and his son, John F., has now in his possession the sword which his father carried in that struggle. Mr. Edgar was one of the influential men among the early settlers, and died December 19, 1838, his wife surviving him six years, dying November 25, 1844; both were members of the Presbyterian Church.

Valentine Oyler came from Canada to Ohio in 1796, was a Tory, and had to leave his native State, Maryland, during the Revolutionary war and fly to the English dominions. We find that in the tax duplicate for the year 1798, of Dayton Township, Valentine Oyler's name appears as the miller of Daniel C. Cooper. So it is evident that he was here at an earlier date. He finally settled in Section 21, on the "Woodman farm," and raised a family. He was the grandfather of D. W. Pottle, and his youngest son; Samuel, died near Hagerstown, Ind., in 1875. These facts came from some papers left by Peter Lemon, who had collected material with a view of writing a history of Mad River Township.

Andrew Lock was another of the earliest settlers, as we find his name in the, tax duplicate of Dayton Township for the year 1798, his tax being $1.37½. He entered 640 acres of land in Sections 5 and 11, immediately north of the mouth of Mad River, along the Miami, in what is now Mad River Township, and there died in an early day. A portion of this land is now owned by the Phillips heirs, and, where the Troy pike crosses the Great Miami, was known among the first settlers as Lock's Ford.

Among the next to locate in this township were two brothers named William and Henry Robinson, who settled near the site of Harries' Mills about 1800, and there built one of the early- mills of the county, the latter brother being the principal in this enterprise. William was a miller by trade and a Presbyterian preacher, preaching for the New Lights at Beavertown and Presbyterians at Dayton. Henry subsequently removed to Indiana, where he died. He had a large family, the sons being Henry, Coleman and Samuel.

We now come to a pioneer who was, without doubt, the most prominent and influential man among the first settlers of Mad River Township. There were, in fact, few of the pioneer fathers who did more toward building up this county and encouraging its speedy settlement than Judge Isaac Spinning. He was born in New Jersey, October 3, 1759, and there married Catherine Pierson, a native of the same State, born March 11, 1767. They subsequently came west to Cincinnati, settling near that point, from where they removed; in 1801, to Mad River Township, locating in the eastern part of the township, where Mr. Spinning owned 960 acres of very fine land in Sections 17 and 18. Their children were Pierson, who in 1812, settled in Springfield; Anna M. (who married the Rev. Peter Monfort); George G., who died young; Charles H.; Phoebe D. (who became the wife of the Rev. David Monfort), George B., Mary P. (who married Dr. Job Haines) Charlotte C. (who died in early girlhood); Harriet, who married Prof. W. H. McGuffey, and Susan J. (who became the wife of Andrew Calhoun). In May, 1803, Mr. Spinning was appointed one of the Associate Judges of Montgomery County, and held that position until his death, which occurred at the home of his son-in-law, Dr. Job Haines, of Dayton, December 24, 1825, his wife having died September 6, 1818. Judge Spinning entered the Revolutionary army when but seventeen years old, serving faithfully in that battle for human rights and liberty, against English oppression and tyranny. His funeral was an imposing one for that early day, and six Revolutionary heroes laid his body away in its last resting place, they being selected as pall-bearers in honor of the cause for which all had risked their lives.

From the recollections of Charles H. Spinning, deceased--one of Judge Spinning's sons--we learned that when they came to Mad River Township, a man named Stanley Miller had a cabin and a young orchard about a mile southwest of where his father settled, some of the stumps of the apple trees being yet visible. Mr. Spinning says: "I was then eight years old and remember there was a cabin on the bank of Mad River, a few rods above where William Harries' flouring-mill now stands; about eighty rods south of that there was a small cabin and a very small tanyard of two or three vats, and about one-quarter of a mile west of this tanyard was a little overshot mill, on a small branch that runs near where Camp Corwin was located, crossing the railroad at 'Tate's Hill.' Mr. Hamer, a Methodist preacher, lived in a small cabin on what; was then called 'Hamer's Hill.' I also think there was a cabin on the school section near where George Kemp's house now stands." Thus writes one who was old enough when he came to vividly remember much of the earliest records and events transpiring at that day in the neighborhood. For two or three years after Judge Spinning settled in Mad River Township, there seems to have been a lull in emigration to this subdivision, as we do not hear of any others who came at this time. In 1805, an exodus seems to have taken place, and the settlers came pouring in from the East and South, among whom stands prominent the name of Jonathan Harshman, a native of Maryland, born December 21, 1781. Upon reaching manhood, he removed to Kentucky, but, disliking the institution of slavery, he came to Ohio in 1805, and bought forty acres of land in Section 22, where J. Clinton Wilson now resides. For this he paid $30, and traded a silver watch for a copper still, which was located on a spring. Here he lived until the close of the war of 1812, then removed to where George Harshman now resides, and there built a brick house some years later. He took a leading place in milling and distilling, and under that head will be found a history of his manufacturing career. In 1808, he was married to Susannah Rench, who bore him the following children, viz.: Elizabeth, Catherine, Jonathan, Mary, John, Joseph, George, Susannah and Reuben. Mrs. Harshman died December 5, 1839, her husband surviving her nearly eleven years, dying March 31, 1850. The descendants and connections of this pioneer are among the foremost families of the county, anti have always held the leading positions in its mercantile, manufacturing and professional circles.

Shortly before the date of the above settlement, John Rench and wife, Elizabeth, with Mr. Staley and wife (the latter a sister of Mrs. Rench), settled at the present site of Harshmanville. They came from Pennsylvania, and Rench built the first house at the above-mentioned burg, but at what particular date we are unable to state.

Martin Houser and wife, Barbara Neff, came from Shenandoah County, Va., in the year 1805. They were married in the "Old Dominion," and upon coming to this county settled in Section 25, also owning land across the Miami, in what is now Harrison Township. Their children were Henry, John, Martin, Daniel, Jacob, Isaac, Polly and Katie. Father Houser died February 23, 1842, and his wife January 8, 1844, both being buried in the Beardshear graveyard. Prior to 1805; Edward and Elizabeth Mercer, also Jacob and Elizabeth Replogle, settled in the Houser neighborhood, while Rev. Thomas Winters and Benjamin Kizer lived on Section 16. Kizer came from Kentucky to this township in 1805, and after a few years' residence removed to Butler Township, and in 1828 to the Cooper stone quarries on the Shakertown road. His son, Daniel, was born in Mad River Township, April 2, 1807. In October, 1833, he married Eliza Warner, and in 1835 purchased eighty-five, acres of land from Lewis Broadwell, adjoining the city of Dayton, and there died October 17, 1869. A sketch of Rev. Winters will be found in German Township. In 1805, Henry Butt and Jacob Rothamel lived on the School Section 16, the former coming from Frederick County, Md., with the Lemon family.

Peter Lemon, a native of Frederick County, Md., came to Mad River Township in 1805, and settled where Oakland was afterward laid out. His sons were John, Jacob, David and Peter, and the daughters Catherine (who married a Stutsman), Susan (who married Samuel Booher), Margaret- (became the wife of Daniel Stutsman), Elizabeth (the wife of William Cox), and Mary (married Conrad Dodrad). Mr. Lemon began the preparation of a history of Mad River Township, but did not finish the work intended, yet he collected many facts, and his papers mention that sixteen families arrived in this township at one time in the year 1805. All stopped in Section 27, on the Lemon farm, until they bought land and erected cabins, which were built in one day- and occupied the next. There were ninety-six persons in these sixteen families, but four of whom were living, as far as Mr. Lemon knew of, in 1875, as follow: John Banker, John Waid, Jonathan Lemon and Peter Lemon (the latter has since died).

James Grimes, with his mother and five sisters, emigrated from Rockbridge County, Va., in 1805, coming in a six-horse wagon, via Crab Orchard, Ky., crossing the Ohio River at Cincinnati, thence up to what is now Greene County. He was then a single man, just arrived at his majority, and entered 500 acres of land, and in 1807 operated a copper still. In 1809, lie sold the land, and purchased a section in the north part of Mad River Township, now known as the Davis farm. In the year 1811, Grimes went to the mouth of the Scioto River, and, loading two flatboats with bacon, apples and flour, went to New Orleans, where, unable to sell his produce to advantage, he took the cargo to the West India Islands, was absent thirteen months and made on the trip $1,300. He returned in 1812, and shortly afterward married Edith Williamson, and settled on Section 20, who bore him eight children, viz.: John, William, James, Martha, Asa, Henry, Mary B. and Franklin. In 1852, Father Grimes sold his farm to John Harries and moved to Darke County, dying in Greenville in 1853. In 1816, he sold 160 acres of Section 20 to David Duncan, who soon afterward built a brick house, the first erected in the neighborhood, which is still standing. The five sisters who came with James Grimes in 1805 were Betsey, Peggie, Polly, Annie and Martha. The first mentioned married Edward Newcom, Peggie a Mr. Campbell, Polly a Mr. Crawford, Annie a Mr. McConahew and Martha a Mr. Fulton. William Grimes, who is now a merchant in Dayton, was born on the homestead in Section 20 in 1818, and assisted in clearing up the land. In 1840, he married Sarah Dougherty. Another of the leading pioneer families of Mad River Township are the Kemps, who are descended from Lewis and Elizabeth (Lyons) Kemp, natives of Frederick County, Md., who, with a family of eight children, left their native State in 1806, and came to Montgomery County, Ohio, purchasing Section 22 and a portion of 29, in this township, paying for the same $10 per acre. Their children were Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, David, Samuel, Mary, Catherine and Margaret, all of whom settled in the neighborhood. The mother, Elizabeth, died April 13, 1827, aged seventy-two years and eleven days. Mr. Kemp surviving her fifteen years, dying December 24, 1842, aged eighty-two years five months and fourteen days. Joseph, the third eldest son and father of George Kemp, of Dayton, was born in Frederick County, Md., April 6, 1788, served in the war of 1812 as an Ensign in Capt. Van Cleve's company and died October 5, 1824. John and Elizabeth Booher came the same year as the Kemps, and settled in Mad River Township. About the year 1800, Philip Wagner and family came from Rockingham County, Va., by flatboat to Columbia. They remained in that vicinity several years, then removed into Montgomery County, settling in the neighborhood of where the Soldiers' Home is now located, and there Philip, Sr., died. His children were John, Jacob, Daniel, William, Susan, Betsy, Polly and Philip. In 1810, the last mentioned bought a tract of land of about three hundred and fifteen acres in Sections 19 and 24, Mad River Township, married Ester Bowman, who bore him eight children, viz.: John, Sarah, Benjamin, Polly, Catherine, William, Philip and Jacob, three of whom now reside in the township. Another son of Philip, Sr.--viz., John--married Ester Croll about the year 1808, settled on land adjoining his brother Philip's, which he bought of a man named Rosier, and raised a large family, all of whom left this vicinity at an early day. In the year 1804, John Dille, a native of Virginia, with his wife, Elizabeth, and three children--Ann, Betsy and Samuel--came from Kentucky to this township, settling in Section 19, where they had born to them four children, viz.: Isaac, Eleanor, John and Brice. All of this family are dead but Isaac and Brice, who reside in Dayton. Two years after John's settlement, his parent s, Samuel and Ann Dille, also his brothers, Rickey, Samuel and Brice, emigrated from the "Dille Bottom," near Wheeling, Va., and settled on land adjoining his, in Mad River Township. Soon after the last Dille settlement was made, three other families; relatives of the above, came from the same part of Virginia, viz.: John and Polly (Dille) Bodley, Asa and Rebecca (Dille) Griffith, James and Polly (Dille) Jones, all of whom had families and settled in the same neighborhood as the Dilles. None of the above are now residents of Mad River, having moved away many years ago. Another of the earliest settlers of the Dille neighborhood was Robert Coleman, who gave the ground upon which the first schoolhouse in that vicinity was erected. At what precise date he came we are unable to state, but it is evident that he was living there prior to 1806. George Frybarger, a native of Germany, settled in Section 21 in the year 1805, where he died in 1812. He came from his native land to the colonies about 1776, locating in Frederick County, Md., from whence he came to Ohio. He was married twice, each wife bearing him two children, viz.: George, Martin, Valentine and Annie. The mother of the last two died in 1829. The best known of this family was Valentine, who was born on the old homestead in Mad River Township November 17, 1805, and there nearly all his life was passed. He was married to Elizabeth Hosier April 14, 1831, who bore him ten children. For many years he was engaged in quarrying and furnishing stone for building purposes. He died July 22, 1873, and his wife August 24, 1874, both dying as they had lived, faithful adherents of the Reformed Church.

We know of no more appropriate way of closing an account of some of the early settlers of Mad River Township than by giving a brief sketch of its oldest living settler. Levan Cottom was born in Worcester County, Md., March 3, 1793, of parents Thomas and Pricilla (Cottingham) Cottom, natives of the same State. He came to Montgomery County, with his parents and an uncle, William Cottingham in May, 1807. Both were men of families, and all lived during that summer on forty acres of land owned by William Hamer, and removing to land adjoining that in the fall. Both tracts were in what is now Mad River Township. In the spring of 1808, the Cottoms again changed quarters; going on land owned by James Finley. In 1812, Levan became a resident of Dayton, where he lived, save several years which were passed in the immediate vicinity, until 1834, when he removed just north of the city, in Section 28, Harrison Township. In 1832, he was married to Pricilla Tyler, of this county, and to them were born two sons, David D. and James B. The parents, Thomas Cottom and wife, died in 1842. How great the change as witnessed by this venerable pioneer


Mad River is a fine mill stream, and it is said that the river between Springfield and Dayton has a fall of 150 feet, and that twenty or twenty-five years ago there were between the two towns thirteen distilleries, making 17,500 gallons of whisky every twenty-four hours, a sufficient amount of fluid to run a four-foot pair of buhrs the year around. At a very early day, there was much distilling done throughout this township, many of the first settlers having a copper still, with a capacity of twelve to fifteen bushels per day. Of these, there were four in Section 22. Jonathan Harshman had one on the original forty acres purchased by him; Lewis Kemp had one on the old homestead; Jacob Kemp operated a still where D. Cosler now resides, and Joseph Kemp, one oil the Barbara Steele farm, all of which were on springs, and in operation as early as 1815. William Hamer, Sr., had a still on his farm, it stood north of the present house on that hill; David Lemon had one on the Oakland farm, and William Hamer, Jr., had a still on Section 23. It was William Hamer, Sr., who built the first mill in the Miami Valley, north of the fourth range of townships. It was a small tub-mill for grinding corn, and stood just east of the canal bridge, where Water street is now located in Dayton. The water was brought across from the mouth of Mad River by a small race and the tail race followed the present course of the canal. About the year 1800, or soon after, Henry Robinson built a small flour-mill in Section 23, where Harries is now located, and this, no doubt, was the first mill erected inside the present limits of Mad River Township. Along about this time, a small overshot mill was built on McConnell's Creek, in Section 23, immediately, south of where the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati &Indianapolis Railroad crosses the Springfield pike. In 1810 or 1811, Judge Isaac Spinning gave to John Rench and a Mr. Staley twenty acres of land with water-power, on condition that they would build a mill; which they immediately did, but were not able to carry it on very long, and Jonathan Harshman took it off their hands. It was operated as a flouring-mill until 1848, then changed to an oil-mill, and has continued as such to the present. This business was carried on by Jonathan Harshman until 1840, then by his three sons, George, Jonathan and Joseph, until 1859, when it went into the hands of the first-mentioned, and has ever since been operated by him, its present capacity being five barrels of linseed oil per day. In 1832, Jonathan Harshman erected a frame distillery having a capacity of 500 bushels per day, and in 1848 the building was remodeled and enlarged by George Harshman, and destroyed by fire in October, 1878. In the year 1842, Jonathan Harshman built a three and a halt' storied brick flouring-mill, which he called "Union Mills;" and this enterprise also belongs to George Harshman. The present saw-mill was erected by George Harshman in 1866; it has a capacity of 3,000 feet of lumber per day. He has a large three-story brick elevator, built in the summer of 1879 for storing corn, also an extensive cooper shop where the barrels for the mills are manufactured. John Roberts built a large grist-mill, three stories in height, on the Great Miami River, in the northwestern part of the township, about the year 1820. It next went into the hands of John Shroyer; then into the possession of William Reel, who paid for it and forty acres of land, including water-power, mill privileges, etc., $5,000. Later on it fell into the hands of Grimes, Black & Shroyer, and was afterward owned by James Grimes, who, in the summer of 1843, erected a saw-mill near by. About the year 1819 or 1820, Joseph and Charles Bosson erected a cotton and weaving-mill at "Smithville" on Mad River. This mill stood where the present saw-mill of William Harries now is; but the Bosson Bros. sold out in 1824 and subsequently removed to Tennessee. The next man who figured as miller and manufacturer in this locality was George W. Smith, a native of Staunton, Va., who came to Dayton in 1804. He purchased his interest at "Smithville" (now Harries), principally from Henry Robinson, in 1824, but also bought the Bosson Mills, and conducted milling, distilling, and the manufacture of cotton yarns, carpet warp, etc. About 1835, improved machinery was introduced into the cotton-mill, and in 1848 the property was sold to Smith & Harries, but after some years the manufacture of cotton yarns was abandoned, and the machinery sold. In the year 1825, George Kneisly, a native of Lancaster County, Penn., came to the Harries neighborhood on Mad River, and purchased sixty acres of land with water-power from Dayton Hamer. He had previously lived in Greene County, and there carried on an oil -mill. Immediately after purchasing his land, he erected a saw-mill, then a "corn-cracker," which he soon converted into a flouring-mill by adding two sets of buhrs, making three in all. He then built an oil-mill, and next a small distillery with a capacity of twenty-five bushels per day, which he increased to sixty. These mills were about one-half mile below Harries, where the Hydraulic now crosses the road. Mr. Kneisly leased land with water-power, for ten years, to Alexander Phillips & Co., who erected a two and a half storied frame paper-mill, about 1830, probably the first institution of that kind in the county. This company carried it on during the ten years' lease, and on its expiration the mill was removed to Dayton by the Hydraulic Company. In November, 1841, Kneisly's flour and saw mill burned down; the latter was rebuilt and one stone put in, making a chopping-mill, but about 1843 Kneisly sold out to the Hydraulic Company, and died in Miami County in 1851. One of the early distilleries was operated in Section 24 by Philip Wagner, and in 1829 Samuel Rohrer had one on his farm in Section 30. Martin Rohrer operated a still in Section 19, and John Compton ran one in Section 13, afterward owned by Warren Munger. In 1848, William Harries went to the present site of the mills, at which time the old frame now used by him as a corn-mill was occupied in the manufacture of cotton yarns, and was originally the old Robinson flouring-mill. Mr. Harries changed it from a cotton to a flouring-mill, thus bringing it back to its original uses. When he moved there, a distillery stood on the site of the present one, and in 1853 he built the saw-mill. The following year the present distillery was erected by Mr. Harries, and was the largest in the county, and second largest in the district. When constructed, its chimney was over one hundred feet high, but about the year 1856, forty feet were blown off in a storm, and a German employee killed thereby. In 1870, Mr. Harries built the large four-storied brick flouring-mill now operated by him at a cost of $20,000. It has four run of stones, and a capacity of 100 barrels of flour per day.


The oldest burial-place in Mad River Township is located in the northeast corner of Section 22, about one acre of ground having been donated by Lewis Kemp, in 1815, for that purpose. Previous to the above date, no regular graveyard existed in the township, and burials were made in any convenient spot selected by the friends of the deceased, or else the body was taken to a cemetery outside of the present limits of Mad River. The Kemp Graveyard was the place of sepulture for that section of the county for many years, and a large number of the pioneers rest there, among whom are the Kemps, Sumans and Cramers. The first person buried in this ground was John R. Harshman, about 1816 or 1817, but his remains were subsequently removed to the Harshman Graveyard. From all appearances there have been no burials in the Kemp ground for many years, and it has been allowed to go into decay, wearing a look of neglect and disorder. Another of the old burial-places of Mad River is the Dille Graveyard, in Section 19, located on a hill near a strip of woodland. Some burials are yet made there; otherwise it is about in the same condition as the Kemp ground. The Harshman Graveyard is located in the northeast corner of Section 23, on the ground given by Jonathan Harshman, about 1833, for burial purposes. The first interment was made in August, 1834, in the person of Mary H. Gorman, wife of George Gorman, and daughter of Jonathan and Susannah Harshman. The graveyard contains probably one-half acre of land, one half of which is the Harshman lot, inclosed by a neat iron fence and marked by a handsome granite monument.


One of the very early schoolhouses erected in this township was the one known and designated as the "Kemp Schoolhouse," built in the year 1815. This was a log building, and stood on Section 22, a little south of the graveyard. One acre of ground was donated by Lewis Kemp, November 7, 1815, upon which to locate a graveyard and school, and the house was built by subscription, the following-named persons subscribing the amount set opposite their respective names:

Joseph Kemp.......................


Jonathan Harshman ................


Jacob Kemp........................


Alexander Snodgrass.................


Robert McReynolds.................


Jacob Rothamel......................


Henry Robinson, in plank.........


Henry Butt..........................


Joseph and John Rench.............


Isaac Kemp..........................


John Jordan........................


David Kemp.........................


David Rench.......................


William Krise........................


Adam Gerlough, Jr. ................


Samuel Oyler.........................


John Rike..........................


John Cyphers........................


James Gillespie.....................


Mean & Bell, in stone................


John Roby.........................


George Newcom .....................


John M. Kaig.......................


J. E. Cottingham....................


Jacob Trueman.....................


William Owens, two days work, or...


Jacob Caley........................


Samuel Heffley, one gallon whisky..


Leonard Broadstreet................


The deed and subscription list is in the possession of George Kemp, of Dayton, from whom we gathered the above items, and Isaac Kemp was the first teacher who taught school in that building. Another early schoolhouse built prior to 1815, stood on the George Newcom tract, in the north part of Section 27, and another was opposite the one now at Harshmanville, which is the third brick school building erected on that site. A very early schoolhouse was erected in Section 19, on land donated by Robert Coleman one of the pioneers of that locality. One of the earliest schoolhouses was located on the farm of Henry Robinson, and was known as the "Robinson Schoolhouse." Samuel Newcom and Norman Fenn taught there at an early day. Many other schools were taught, of which mention might be made, but these will suffice to demonstrate the difficulties undergone by the pioneer fathers of the Mad River Valley, for the purpose of giving their children an education, even be it ever so crude and meager. Those schoolhouses were not of the modern type, common to every district in Ohio, but rude log structures, many of them with slab floors, seats and desks, and greased paper windows; in fact, the pioneer cabin so often described by the writers of the pioneer days. The township can now boast of six school districts, and a fractional district, four of which contain handsome two-storied brick buildings, of two rooms each, with two teachers, while Districts No. 3 and 6 have neat one-storied brick structures of one room each. In the last school year, there has been expended for education in Mad River Township, the sum of $3,948.12, which speaks well for the enterprise of its people.


The close proximity of this township to Dayton and other church points accounts, perhaps, for the absence of any church building within its boundaries. Here settled one of the first preachers of Montgomery County, viz., William Hamer, and meetings were held in private houses and school buildings by the Methodists and New Lights, who were the most numerous until the advent of the Shakers, who were recruited principally from former Presbyterians. A full account of this society will be found in Van Buren Township history. William Robinson, a Presbyterian preacher, who settled in Mad River in 1800, no doubt held meetings in this township at an early day, as he preached in Dayton and Beavertown to the Presbyterians and New Lights. Outside of the above facts, there is nothing to relate about the religious history of Mad River, and, therefore, nothing can be written.


In the war of 1812, Camp Meigs was located on Section 30, north of Mad River. It was from this point that Gen. Hull started on the march which ended with his disgraceful surrender at Detroit. An old settler has told us that when Hull's army moved north, the wolves, which had previously been very troublesome, followed in the army's track and never returned, which led him to suggest that, perhaps, they also had surrendered to the British. In the summer of 1861, Camp Corwin was located on "Hamer's Hill," in Section 29, near the railroad crossing and Hydraulic. Thus Mad River Township has become somewhat noted as having been selected as a camping ground in two wars, by which fact it will ever be remembered as closely identified with the Nation's history, and those two gigantic struggles in the cause of freedom, and for the preservation of national life.


The political complexion of Mad River has never been very decided, the vote sometimes going Democratic and again Whig, Know-Nothing or Republican. In the last Presidential election, Garfield carried the township by a small majority. The following gentlemen have served as officials of Mad River since its organization in 1841 up to the present, some of whom have occupied the position several consecutive terms, while others have had intervals between their terms of service.


John Snodgrass, Augustus C. Miller, Jonas Simmons, William Shroyer, Jonas Simmons, Henry Morse, Charles S. Allen, Z. G. Weddle, James Kelly, J. McLain Smith, John Stroup.


Irwin Snodgrass, Benjamin Wagner, W. J. Harker, J. F. Snodgrass, Benjamin Wagner, Joseph Dille, Jacob Wagner, A. W. Eaton, Lewis A. Kemp, J. W. Kemp, Christian Rohrer. J. W. Kemp, James M. Keefer.


Jonathan Harshman, Jr., Henry Lewton, Jonathan Harshman, John Snodgrass, William Harries, Samuel Rohrer, Archibald Butt, Josephus Dille, Z. G. Weddle, Archibald Butt, A. B. Mohler, Josephus Dille, William P. Huffman, Samuel R. Harshman, William P. Huffman, Samuel R. Harshman.

Brookville Historical Society, Inc. 2003

1999 - 2009 Brookville Historical Society, Inc.