Miami County, Ohio Genealogical Researchers -- Sponsored by the Computerized Heritage Association


    WILLIAM GAHAGAN, soldier hero and pioneer of Montgomery and Miami Counties. Of this historical character we have received the following account through one of his descendants:

    Of good Scotch Irish stock he bad been reared under Presbyterian influences in Western Pennsylvania, and when nineteen years old came down the river to join Wayne's army, in which be served with distinction through the war. In the spring of 1794 we find him with Benjamin Van Cleve in charge of a portion of a fleet of twelve boats under Captain Hugh Wilson, commissary of an expedition under escort of a detachment of troops carrying provisions and supplies from Cincinnati to Fort Massac. Young Gahagan, a dashing fellow, fearless and possessing a level head that carried him through every emergency, was bearer of duplicate dispatches from General Wayne to Fort Washington to be forwarded to authorities in Washington City. While passing from Fort Loramie down the Miami, his horse was disabled by a shot from a lurking foe, who, seeing that be had not killed Gahagan, fled precipitately. Gahagan, mindful of his responsibility as a messenger, made the rest of the journey on foot, eighty-five miles, to Cincinnati; for which service he received the highest commendation on his return to the army. With the same rifle that he carried on that lonely, perilous journey, he fought in the ranks to final victory under Wayne on the Maumee, and it ever rested in a conspicuous place in his cabin at Dayton, and for forty years was a war relic in his home near Troy.

    Upon honorable discharge from the army at the close of the war Mr. Gahagan took service with former comrades Van Cleve and Mercer, as hunter for the corps of surveyors under Captain John Dunlap, running township and range lines between the Miami and Mad Rivers, and later in the field work west of the Miami, from Fort Hamilton to Fort Recovery. In the spring of 1796 he came with the Thompson, Van Cleve and McClure families, sharing privations and perils that bound them in close friendship for life Mr. Gahagan was the jolly man of the party of first settlers and his popularity increased with the growth of the settlement, he being universally liked for his good natured ways and readiness to lend a helping hand whenever occasion offered in the ten years of his residence here and in the Mad River neighborhood.

    One of the conditions named to induce the State commissioner to make Dayton the county seat was that Main Street, from the river to Fifth Street, should be cleared of timber and graded. The trunks of trees hauled from clearing the street were rolled into the mud, then in places three logs high earth was filled in and the road graded. Mr. Gahagan became overseer of the work, at first free of charge, then under pay by contract.

    Finding that he could not push his contract to completion, Mr. Gahagan and family moved to Miami County, he having entered a section of prairie and timber land which came to be known as "Gahagan Prairie," on the Miami across from the, "Dutch Station" Staunton, and immediately east of the site of the present city of Troy. This was the ground where ten years before his faithful horse was shot and from whence be started on his journey to Cincinnati on foot. This prairie had been tilled by the Indians , then beginning with the spring of 1799, by John Knoop, Benjamin Knoop, Henry Gerard, Benjamin Hamlet and John Tilden for five years, when Mr. Gahagan and family took possession in 1805. The deed to the land was not issued to him until four years later and was signed December 1, 1809, by James Madison, president of the United States. A few years later he purchased a large tract of land upon which the business portion of Troy now stands.

    The Gahagan land, being so favorably located, no great effort was required to influence the commissioners to purchase thirty acres at nominal price to establish Troy, in the center of his heavy timber as the seat of justice for Miami County.

    Mr. and Mrs. Gahagan decided to unite with others in forming a Methodist class and building a meeting-house in Troy, and they donated a lot on the corner of Main and Clay Streets for the purpose.

    They donated to the village for burying grounds the four-acre lot on which now stands the Eastern Schoolhouse, the ground to revert to his heirs when abandoned as a place of burial. When the time came for establishing a larger cemetery, the heirs of William H., John Gahagan and Polly Clark decided that the old burying ground should remain public property and donated by their father. The friends of the deceased, who were living, removed all their own dead, and those unclaimed were removed by the city, so that the grounds were cleared ready for the new school building, and a playground for the children. The beautiful grove of forest trees was left undisturbed, a part of the grounds were filled, graded and other trees planted thereon. It is one of the attractive school grounds in the city and is known as the Forest School Building.

    He also assisted in establishing Rose Hill Cemetery, north of town, and in which lie his remains, the grave being marked by a plain limestone slab which bears his name, William Gahagan. Although he had been a member of the Presbyterian congregation at Dayton, and of the Methodist congregation at Troy, he did not become a member of either church.

    In the winter of 1803-04 he married Nancy Hamer, daughter of William Hamer, the first Methodist class leader in the Dayton settlement. His first child, William Hamer Gahagan, was born March 16, 1805, in Dayton, Montgomery County.

    Two other sons, John and Solomon, and one daughter, Polly, were born in Miami County. They lived and died on the land inherited from their father, who braved the perils of frontier life to make their home.

    William Hamer, the first born, married Hester Culbertson, whom he always called "Hetty Pet;" to them were born five children: Anna, who married David Cory, of New Carlisle, has two sons living, Thomas Harrison, and Edward Everett. Two other daughters, Mary and Jane, married two Peterson brothers, Alexander, and William. Jane had three children, "Hetty Pet, " Harry Gahagan and Clarence Wilson Peterson. Emma Gahagan married James Moorhead of New Carlisle in 1864, and died in Troy, 1908. The only son who lived to manhood was William Henry Harrison Gahagan, born November 14, 1835. He married Hannah Smith of New Carlisle. Of their three children, the oldest, Walter Hamer, is a civil engineer and contractor of New York City, and has twin sons, William Corthell and Frederick Mussen, and two daughters, Helen and Lillian. The oldest daughter, Mary Gahagan, married George Clyde, son of Judge W. J. Clyde of Troy, and Bessie Gahagan married C W. Schaible, of Troy. The twin sons of Walter Hamer Gahagan are the only ones to perpetuate the name and memory of their great-great-grandfather, William Gahagan, pioneer, and one of the founders of the county seat of Miami County-honored hero of General Wayne's army.

    John Gahagan left one daughter, Clara Maria Gahagan, who was married to William Senour, of Kentucky, in 1853, and left one son, John Gahagan Senour, born July 4, 1854, died April 21, 1904. He was for many years a prominent physician in the city of Troy. He left one living child, Laura Beall Senour, direct descendant of William Gahagan, who died in 1845.

    Solomon, third son of William and Nancy Hamer Gahagan, went to New Orleans with a boatload of produce, loading the boat on the Great Miami River on their own ground. He never was heard front afterwards. A diligent search by William failed to find any trace of his movements after he pushed off from shore at their own landing. It was generally supposed he bad been robbed and murdered by some of the numerous pirates who infested the rivers and preyed upon the shippers.

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