|Spring Creek Township, lying west of
Brown, is bounded northward by Shelby County, westward by Washington Township
and south by Staunton. It contains no incorporated towns, though a large
collection of shops and houses within its borders; across the Miami River
opposite Piqua has been called East Piqua. There was no more inviting prospect
to the early settlers than Spring Creek Township. Well watered and well
wooded, it seemed an ideal place for a home, and thither the discriminating
emigrants flocked. It was chosen as the permanent abode of the first white
settler of the county, John Hilliard who came from New Jersey in 1792.
Hilliard first located somewhere in West Virginia, but, not liking the
locality, turned his face towards Ohio and after a brief residence in Hamilton
County, not far from where Cincinnati now stands, he finally took up land
in Spring Creek Township. The latter move he made in 1797.
At that time the whole region embraced by this township was an unbroken forest. Game of every kind roamed wild through the sylvan solitudes and roving bands of Indians sought the region as a hunting ground. About the time of Hilliard's coming, a busy little Frenchman, named Latour, put up a trading store and dickered with the Indians for furs etc. The trader, who was a sort human will-o-the-wisp, did not make his residence permanent, so it was left for Hilliard to become the first permanent white settler in the township. He put up his cabin and cleared the land, bringing up his family in the new home.
John Hilliard's first house was a bark affair, rude and not altogether comfortable. This called for a more substantial home, and one was built from round poles. It was an improvement on the first attempt at house building. The roof of this house was of rude clap-boards and the chimney a most inartistic pile of mud and sticks; the floor was partially covered with puncheon plank, while, in lieu of a door, a large old quilt hung, curtain-like, over the aperture, which answered the purposes of ingress and egress. In this primitive house, if house the structure may be called, the Hilliards made themselves as comfortable as possible. The family was almost entirely shut off from the real comforts of life. The nearest mill for some time was at Dayton, then but a collection of cabins, and the grinding of the grist necessitated a long and toilsome journey through the wilderness. It is believed that the unremitting toil of this pioneer shortened his life, for after a few years of labor he was carried to his grave by his few neighbors who had followed him into the Spring Creek wilderness.
It was one of the most pathetic and strangest funerals in the forests of the Miami. The white mourners were accompanied to the grave by a number of friendly Indians, who gazed with awe upon the burial rites, something entirely new to them. After the burial the Indians collected in little groups and for a while discussed the affair, then stole silently into the forest and disappeared. Not until several years had passed did the Hilliards possess any white neighbors. At last, in 1804, the Dilbones came. This family met with a tragic ending so far as its heads are concerned, Mr.Dilbone and wife being killed by the Indians during the War of 1812, an event narrated in another part of this work. The Dilbones were Pennsylvanians and were an industrious class of people. Mrs. Dilbone was one of the first flax spinners in the county, and she famous for her dexterity in this direction. It will be remembered that the couple were attacked while laboring in a flax field near their humble home.
William Frost left North Carolina in 1805 and settled in Spring Creek Township. He brought with him some of the habits peculiar to the region from which he emigrated. He was fond of hunting, and was celebrated for his skill with the rifle. His son Ebenezer is said to be the second white child born in Spring Creek Township. In the same year that witnessed the coming of the Frosts, John R. McKinney entered the township. McKinney a bachelor, who after a while of living alone and without much effort on the young lady's part, he was captured by Miss Jane Scott. This was probably one of the first matches made in Spring Creek Township and doubtless one of the happiest, for McKinney's log cabin was soon exchanged for a more pretentious house, and the love and skill of his wife made life pleasant for him. From Maryland in 1808 came John Millhouse, and the same year Gardner Bobo cleared some ground for a farm. These settlers were followed by Mathias Scudder, Uriah Blue, James L. McKiniaey, Dennis Lindley and Henry Millhouse. These people settled, not in one locality but scattered out and established themselves in different parts of the township. The better homes of the settlers were to be seen in every direction. They took pride in the building of their homes; they patterned after one another and soon had dwelling places supplied with not a few convenience for the times. A writer speaking of this period of the settlement of Spring Creek Township says:
At this period domesticated animals were quite numerous, especially hogs were raised by the farmers in considerable abundance. The markets being distant and no railroads in the country, the hogs were driven through to Baltimore, Pittsburg and Philadelphia, and much of the way being through miry woods, many weeks were required to make the journey and return. Owing to the fact that fences were not kept up by the early settlers, their stock roamed the woods at large and hogs, especially not being easily distinguished from others of their own kind, became at times mixed with those belonging to a different herd, and in attempting to separate them it was necessary to put an end to numerous disputes which arose over the ownership of the stock.
A system of marking was agreed upon, so that every man had his own mark by which he could distinguish his stock from that of his neighbor, which always bore a different mark from his own. These marks were deposited with the township clerk, so that afterwards all disputes were settled by referring to his book, which contained such declarations as the following: "This is to certify that the marks used by Uriah Blue for the year 1815 will be two slits on the upper side of the right ear." Another reads: "The mark used by Gardnor Bobo for the year 1815 will be a notch cut in the tip of the left ear." This usually settled the matter and from that time no trouble was experienced from this source.
This same system was in vogue in other parts of the county, as the old Clerk's books will show, especially in those divisions which lie east of the river.
During the Indian troubles which grew out of our second war with England one or more block-houses were erected in the township. One was built on the Hilliard farm and in after years was used by the farmer as a barn. The close of the war was followed by added immigration into this locality, which had been checked by hostilities. Samuel Wiley came from Maryland with one of the largest families that emigrated to the county. It consisted of sixteen children, an emphatic declaration that the Wileys were not partial to "race suicide." Following the Wileys came the Kearns, Furrows, Hendershots, Gateses, Webbs, Jacksons, Floyds, Deweeses and many others whose family names are household words in the township at the present day.
The township was formally instituted in 1814 with the following duly elected officers: Trustees- Heiary Orbison, James L. McKinney, Uriah Blue; clerk- Lewis Deweese; treasurer- David Floyd; constables- John Wilson and Jacob Gates; lister-(assessor)- Jobn Webb. Business was light for the township officials for some years and they had little or nothing to do. However, as the population and general business increased, the needs of the township augmented until now it is regarded as one of the busiest and most important rural divisions of the county.
Spring Creek Township, owing to it's natural water supply, became the site of many of the first mills, grist and otherwise, of the county. These mills were much needed by the people, as the nearest even were miles away and necessitated long journeys, which broke into the daily farm work. James McKinney put up corn-cracker mill on Spring Creek and Silas Manning operated another. A Mr Ross combined a grist-mill with a cardingmill about 1830 and operated it success fully. Samuel Wiley erected the first sawmill on Spring Creek in 1815 and sawed lumber for the first frame houses in the township. His example was followed by Elias Manning and Doctor Jackson. Several small distilleries also were erected and their output was either shipped out of the county or consumed within its limits.
Rossville, opposite the northern limits of Piqua, and Shawneetown to the east of the same city, both separated from it by the Great Miami, are the only towns in Spring Creek Township. Neither is incorporated. Rossville dates back to 1840, and Shawneetown was laid out about the same time. Both towns have been overshadowed by the growth of Piqua, of which city they are now suburbs. Spring Creek Township has long been noted for its excellent and well cultivated farms, its graded turnpikes, good country schools, a good class of citizens, intelligent and progressive, and in fact for a thousand and one other things that go toward keeping it in the front rank of township governments.
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