History of Hamilton Township, Franklin County OH

From: History of Franklin County, Ohio
By: Opha Moore
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka - Indianapolis, 1930


Hamilton Township lies in the southern tier of townships, stretching from Marion Township and the limits of the city of Columbus to the Pickaway County line, and being bounded on the west by the Scioto River and on the east by Madison Township. Indeed, the city of Columbus is already encroaching on its territory on the north, and the Chillicothe pike, which traverses it from north to south and is as handsomely paved as a city street, is closely built up by gardeners and persons employed in the city. The soil of almost the entire township is as rich corn land as could be found anywhere. In the Scioto bottoms this cereal attains enormous size and produces extraordinary crops and the land is so rich that it lends itself most readily to the efforts of the forced production of vegetables for the city market. In the southern part of the township the corn is invariably a week or two in advance of the corn in the eastern part of Franklin County and much more than that in advance of corn in the hilly country farther east. Bisected by the Chillicothe Pike, known in this section as South High Street, is one of the most famous farms in the country, that assembled and developed by the late Dr. Samuel B. Hartman, who made many millions by the manufacture and sale of a patent medicine. This farm at one time contained in the neighborhood of five thousand acres and, although some tracts have been sold, is still of mammoth proportions for this section of the Union. Every branch of agriculture and stockraising which was feasible was represented at this model farm, which, in its scientific developments, almost approached the importance of an agricultural experiment station. The Hartman horses, cattle and poultry were shown at all the big agricultural fairs and stock shows and won their full share of the prizes. The Hartman mule teams, four, six and eight to the hitch and so trained that they could be guided with a "jerk line," were the admiration of everybody who loved harness animals. Dr Hartman was anxious to obtain for his farm the famous twenty mule team used in advertising borax products throughout the country and offered what was then the enormous sum of $20,000 for the well trained hitch, but the offer was refused. A small village, sufficient to itself, with every convenience, was built up at farm headquarters and Dr. Hartman constructed an electric railway south from the southern extremity of Columbus along the Chillicothe Pike to this village and beyond it for the convenience of his employes and the people associated with the farm life. This electric line, succumbing before the competition of the gasoline omnibus, was abandoned and scrapped in 1929.

The lands in Hamilton Townhip came into the market in 1800 and the township has always played an important part in the life of the county. The township originally formed a part of Liberty and Harrison Townships, whose names and organization were long since lost, and was organized under its present name in 1807. When Marion Township was formed the two northern tiers of sections in Hamilton were detached and became a part of the new township. Among the first settlers were John Dill, Michael Fisher, Percival Adams, Thomas Morris, James Culbertson, George W. Williams, Robert Shannon and his six sons, the Weatheringtons, the Stewarts, the Stombaughs and the Johnstons. Part of the old Johnston farm on the Groveport Pike was still in the possession of Washington Johnston, a descendent of a pioneer of that name and a prominent actor in the Democratic politics of the county, until his death a few years ago, and the Weatherington farm at Valley Crossing still bears its original name and is owned in the family. This farm was the scene in 1893 of the mysterious death of Frank Shepherd, a young divinity student who had just graduated at Ohio State University and whose almost destroyed body was found in the ashes of a straw stack that had evidently been set fire to hide the evidences of the crime.

The Ohio Canal, which ran through the township, gave it advantages of commerce and made Lockbourne, a village of 302 inhabitants on the east bank of Big Walnut Creek near its confluence with the Scioto, of considerable importance in the days of canal transportation. The canal was long ago abandoned but there are still to be seen small sections of it near Groveport and its course is still marked with the remains of locks and berm banks. Close to Lockbourne were formerly the remains of a prehistoric fort which have been almost obliterated by the plow and several Indian mounds are still to be seen in the township. Between Lockbourne and Shadeville, to the north of a beautiful road which in its windings follows the old trail along the creek banks, is one of the most impressive cemeteries in Central Ohio. It is on rolling ground, the highest point of which forms a beautifully sloping hill, and here are laid many of those iron men of the pioneer race and their wives and children.

The township is bountifully watered by the Scioto on the west and the Big Walnut, originally known as the Gahanna River, in the southeastern corner. Both these streams at time of freshet overflow the surrounding country, carrying away crops occasionally, but the richness of their bottom lands more than counterbalances this occasional loss. Despite the fact of its being thickly populated, the township has but two incorporated villages, Lockbourne and Shadeville, the latter with a population of 201, according to the 1930 census. The Hocking Valley and the Norfolk and Western Railroad cross the township and at their intersection, which is an important transfer station, there is a considerable hamlet, Valley Crossing, but it is not incorporated.

The richness of the soil early attracted pioneers to the township after the first settlers had established the proof of its value for farming and among these was Alexander Harrison, Sr., who had served throughout the War of Independence and was one of the guards at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, at the time of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Samuel Purse11, who arrived from Pennsylvania in 1809, was famed as a "mighty Nimrod," and was one of those who furnished game for the neighborhood. Asa Dunn, another early arrival, settled where Shadeville now stands and started a corn mill and distillery, both of which met a need of the times. Michael Stimmel and his wife, with two children, came from Virginia in 1810 riding the entire distance on horseback, each carrying a child. Their descendants formed an influential and well known family and are still represented in the county's life. The name is preserved as the title of one of the well traveled highways of the township. Sarah Fisher, wife of Michael Fisher, was the mother of the first child born in the township. The birth was in the year 1800 and the child afterward became the wife of Arthur O'Harra, another name that has been carried down through the years. There were doubtless earlier burials in the beautiful Walnut Hill burying ground, mentioned above, but the earliest that is marked with a stone was that of John Hornbacker, who died in February, 1811.

The first road was naturally laid out along the trail between Chillicothe and Franldinton, now known as South High Street, and on this a tavern, the first in the township, was built by George W. Williams. Schools, when first established, were long held in private log cabins, the teachers being paid under the old subscription plan and including men and women whose names are still remembered. Among them were John Lusk, Samuel Clark, Andrew Armstrong and Ellen Toppin.

The clerical was represented before the medical profession, although in the river bottoms the ague took its toll of suffering before the forests were cleared off and the land drained. Rev. James Quinn, a circuit rider of the old, enthusiastic type, was piloted into the wilderness of Ezekiel Hills in 1804 and established a Methodist society. Rev. M. Foster, of the Evangelical Lutheran denomination, came in 1812 and remained two years, holding meetings at the cabins of the settlers. In 1812 Rev. Charles Henkel of the same sect entered the community and in 1821 under his leadership a church of logs was built. This organization has been kept up ever since and is now represented by the St. Matthews Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Methodists put up a frame meeting house in 1833 and in 1856 a Methodist congregation was organized at Shadeville. In 1843 the United Brethren built a church at Lockbourne, but later, meeting much opposition from the rougher element which was attracted by the canal system, disbanded and the church building became the Lockbourne town hall. Among the long line of physicians who have practised in the township may be mentioned Dr. Jeremiah Clark, the first on the scene; Dr. Holbrook, the first practitioner in Lockbourne; Dr. J. R. Marshall, who represented the county in the General Assembly of the state from 1866 to 1868; Dr. Davis, the first in Shadeville; Drs. N. Boales, Carl, H. L. Cheney, Carney, R. G. McLane, I. N. Robinson, H. C. Blake, M. A. Boner, W. I Scott, O. P. Brinker, M. M. Stimmel and W. H. Blake.

The little village of Shadeville was laid out by A. G. Hibbs, and named in honor of his wife, whose maiden name was Shade. The name of the village, in the days of the speaking theater, was used frequently on the stage by topical singers of visiting vaudeville troupes according to an ancient custom of the class. Shadeville has a pretty location and for many years was able to boast an excellent tavern.

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