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

      From the 1880 History of Miami County Ohio
    • pages 384-392

    Inasmuch as Staunton was the first place of settlement permanently maintained in this county, and the nucleus around which all subsequent settlements clustered, and, by natural sequence, the starting-point and reservoir from which the greater portion of the earlier county history has been drawn, it was, therefore, unavoidably blended and absorbed in the same, leaving facts for an individual history almost as anaemic as King Psammis' mummy, in Coesar's reply to Clodius, over the Greek girl, Zoe. Staunton should not, therefore, be jealous or feel slighted if she loses the luster of individual history in the more exalted flame of the initial point of county history.

    Aside from this, Staunton possesses several features taking precedence over all others in Miami County. She has the greatest length of territory, the longest sea shore, the first plotted town, the first seat of justice, the oldest graveyard, the County Infirmary, all of which are good cause whereof to be proud. Her infirmary, as a county institution, has been fully represented in the county history. The little "Dutch Station," the embryo settlement of the now noble county, has been given a prominent place in the general history. Her noble pioneer fathers-the Knoops, Gerards, Hamlets and Tilders, of 1798-these brave men pushed their way through an unbroken wilderness, amid all the dangers of wild beasts and wilder Indians, established a little cluster of cabins, cleared out each a patch of ground, went out armed to the prairie near by to cultivate a little crop of corn, and anxiously watched and waited for the tide of immigration to flow toward them, which hope was realized in the following spring by the advent of John, Abner and Nathaniel Gerard, Joseph Coe, Uriah BIue and Abram Hathaway, who increased the strength, comfort and social elevation of the little forest settlement. As the Indian retired and apprehensions caused by his presence subsided, settlements sprang up, clearings were made, crops put out and improvements carried on. The soil, once cleared of its heavy timber, was admirably adapted to the growth of all the cereals necessary to the support of an increasing population.

    Game of all kinds was abundant, and, indeed, some of the smaller kinds, such as squirrels and coons, abounded in such profusion as to be a great annoyance to the small farmers, frequently destroying half the crop. Wolves, also, were bold in their attacks upon the few sheep the pioneers brought with them for the purpose of manufacturing home clothing. In 1800, a number of Canadian Frenchmen came to Staunton, or, by some authorities, they were said to have been in this locality previous to those first mentioned. We know that the French were in equivocal possession of all this country since 1749, and it is quite likely that these were stragglers of that nationality, and the fact that Peter Felix, one of them, was an old Indian trader, strengthed the hypothesis, and this, carried out, might establish the settlement of Staunton Township to still more remote antiquity. Simon Landry was also of this number. Felix subsequently became the first tdvernkeeper in Staunton, having made enough money off the Indians to build a good house. It is related of him that he demanded for one needle the price of a coon skin, equal to $1, which, if true, explains his wealth and the means of obtaining it. Levi Martin and family, whose wife was scalped by the Indians, a full account of which is given in the early county history, was an early pioneer, and, as might be supposed, cultivate no warm feeling for the red man. During the year 1807, Amariah Smalley entered one quarter of Section 15, erected a cabin, cleared out a garden spot, put up a blacksmith-shop, and pounded on, through life, until his last fire went out, at the age of eighty. John Defrees entered 160 acres in Section 28 in 1806. He left the old State of Virginia to seek a home and wealth in the forests of Ohio, and lived, for a great number of years, on the farm that his own labor wrested from the woods. During the same year, Henry Marshall came from Kentucky to this place and lived here till over eighty years of age.

    William McCampbell, a Virginian, and weaver by profession; located on the northwest quarter of Section 22 in 1807. He was of great benefit to the surrounding settlements in furnishing wearing material; and, in appreciation of his services, and the good impression he made, they elected him Justice of the Peace in 1809, which offlce he filled thirty years.

    In 1807, Jacob Riddle entered Section 10, and by hard labor, combined with economy, succeeded in wringing a fortune from the soil. Sections 4 and 16 seem not to have pleased the eye of the early pioneer, for, while all others were taken up, they remained under forest primitiveness till 1820. William and James'Clark came from Virginia and entered Section 27, in 1808. Nine years after, John Gilmore entered the northwest quarter of section 21 ; the northeast quarter was taken up by F. Hilliard, of Virginia, in 1820, who lived upon the old homestead until more than fourscore. The southwest quarter was purchased by John Julian, of Maryland, in 1806. Section 9 was taken by John Deweese, of Pennsylvania, in 1806.

    In 1807, Uriah Blue, Richard Winans and Rev. David Clark settled on Section 14. William Jones anedated this nine years in settling on a part of Section 18. During the same year Lewis Deweese selected a part; of Section 8, cleared out a patch of ground, built a cabin, and erected a log tannery, and, perhaps, started the first tannery in the county, a very necessary element, too, of comfort, as leather was high and was mostly purchased at Cincinnati.

    As has been said previously, the first settlements in Staunton Township were made by the Knoops and Michael Carver, who came from Pennsylvania in 1799. One year later, Carver purchased a half- section of J. C. Symmes, at $2.50 per acre. At this period, civilization had not yet reached this region, which for miles was one vast forest, inhabited only by stragling bands of Indians. There was a great spirit of rivalry manifested between this portion of the county and the upper part, in the location of the seat of justice, which was carried to such an extent as to sever the social ties in great part.

    We shall give two or three interviews with old settlers, as they tell it, somewhat, so that it may savor of their own individuality and carry the reader back to them.

    Gen. John Webb: "I was present at the first court held at Staunton. The first schoolhouse was located where the Piqua road crosses Spring Creek."

    Isaac Rollins: "During the war of 1812, a fort was built on the farm now owned by myself, which was often resorted to by the neighbors for protection. Father (Jonathan Rollins) bought this farm in 1815, at which time there were no meeting--houses in the township. Among the early preachers were Nathan Worley, of the Christian denomination, Samuel Deweese, Presbyterian, and Abbott Goddard, a Methodist. Raper Chapel was built about thirty-five, years ago. In early times, they would hold meetings wherever there was a large log-house. The Orbisons and the Frenchs were our nearest neighbors. Father came here from Vermont during the popular cry, I Go to Ohio. One day father sent me after the horses, which had strayed away, when I saw about ten deer in the meadow. Being but a small boy, I was very much alarmed, and ran back to the cabin and told father and mother about the animals with big horns that I saw. In those days, the game we killed furnished the most of our living. There were some bears, for I remember having seen one. It is generally supposed that at one time there were plenty of buffalo in this county.

    "Two-thirds of the old pioneers wore buckskin pantaloons. I remember Tom Rogers, the great hunter, who lived in two sycamore trees in the woods. He wore long gray whiskers, a skull-cap and buckskin breeches. Rodsy Church was built over fifty years ago. I remember the high pulpit, which was first painted green."

    Mrs. James Dye (now living in Troy): "I am a daughter of John M. and Elizabeth Dye. The Cumminses, Morpheys and Metcalfs were among the early settlers of Staunton Township. I was born in 1800, and married in 1818, and settled near the Elizabeth Township line, on land now owned by Mack Hart. The Indians often came to our cabin, but never disturbed anything. We made our own sugar, and would often take sugar-water, yeast, sassafras and spices and make beer, which was a favorite beverage of the Indians.

    At one time, my father-in-law, Stephen Dye, obtained a half- barrel of cider from a man living below Dayton, which was, perhaps, the first ever brought to this settlement, and possibly, to the county. I remember once while my husband, myself and children were returning from visit to his father's, we were attacked by wolves. We were on horseback, and the wolves were very close to their heels, and my husband barely succeeded in getting into a place of security. When he returned with a gun, they had given up the chase and skulked away. I can remember well when calico was $1 a yard."

    In early times, the squirrels were very troublesome here, even destroying the corn crop sometimes the shocks of corn would seem almost alive with them, and well-beaten paths would be made through the flelds, and from the shocks to the bordering forest, to which the provident little animals would carry the ears of corn for future use. If a man could make a living and pay taxes, he was considered very fortunate. Cincinnati was the nearest market, to which wheat and pork were taken by wagon, over the mud roads through the woods. The nearest mill was Freeman's, below Tippecanoe, and Dye's, near Casstown. One of the old spinning- wheels is now in the possession of Mr. Ramsey, with which their home-spun clothing was made from flax and wool. They would buy leather in Cincinnati, and traveling shoemakers would go from house to house and make up the stock. Sometimes the early settlers would drive horses as far as South Carolina, in order to get money to pay for their land. At other times, they would build flat-boats, load them with produce, and float down the Miami, Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans, sell their produce, dispose of their boat and walk back. Children of course went barefooted , they hardly knew what shoes were made for.

    As has been noticed, the Knoops and Carvers were among the earliest settlers here; the Carver family were much annoyed by the Indians. Once, while Mr. Carver was hauling wood on a sled, a drunken Indian came along, who, by his peculiar gestures and capers, so frightened the horses, that it was by the utmost endeavors they were restrained from running away. The Indian seemed to enjoy it immensely, which so exasperated Mr. Carver that he struck him with a stake, knocking at once all the whisky and romance out of him. Indians frequently camped on Carver's place. Once they came with a white woman they had captured when a little child in some place in Pennsylvania. This woman refused to leave the Indians, married one of them, and brought up a family of red- skins. The Indians in the neighborhood would do nothing but hunt, and beg bread and whisky from the whites.

    Joseph Skinner came here in 1806, and, being rather ingenious, and seeing the necessities of the people, built one of those original machines called a corn cracker. While this was a source of some emolument to him, it was a great accommodation to his neighbors, as corn bread was really the staff of life; and this, with pork and beans in connection with milk, make a meal, which, as Isaac Walton would say "Is too good for anybody but honest men." Section 4 was early settled by the Knoops, and has remained with the same since, now a very. fine piece of land, transformed from the dense forest out of which it was literally hewn into its present beautiful fields of waving grain. C. and D. Lefevre came from Pennsylvania and cleared up a home on Lost Creek, and have ever since been worthy and useful citizens of this township. William Shell located on Section 10, in 1812. Daniel Nowland on Section 13, 1821. The following year, J. L. Meredith settled on Section 17. Immigration from this on, poured with increasing rapidity. We shall therefore advert to other features that should be brought into clearer relief.

    Bounded on the west by the Miami, whose rich basin furnishes the richest and most fertile soil, it naturally follows, that numerous tributaries penetrate its borders, chief among which we may mention Lost Creek and Spring Creek, the former of which enters the township near the center of Section 4, passing, diagonally through the southeast corner of the same, enters Section 3 near the center, flowing southwest to near the west side thereof, when it flows a little east of South out of the township.

    Spring Creek enters near the center of Section 10, north, flows nearly south to the lower border of Section 9, thence southwest, emptying into the Miami in Section 19. In addition to these there are, south of Staunton, three considerable streams flowing into the river; above Staunton, there are six, all forming rich bottom lands. Thus we observe that, with the whole western border laved by the Miami, and otherwise intersected by ten streams, Staunton possesses very fine natural resources in the direction of pasturage and agriculture, indeed, second to none in the county. Her crops of corn, wheat, oats and barley, consequently, are very heavy, and her citizens prosperous.

    To afford facilities for the transportation of her produce, and inter-commercial relations, she has transformed the old blazed path and corduroy bridge for excellent pikes, roads and bridges, along which the traveler can pass the darkest night, and during the wettest season, with ease and safety.

    Running along the. dividing line between Staunton Township and Spring Creek we have the free Pike, named after these townships, intersecting the pike from Staunton to Piqua. One mile south and parallel with the former, is the Piqua and Lost Creek pike, extending the fall width of the township.

    Still lower down is the Troy and Urbana pike, running from Troy in a broken line northeastwardly across the township. Again, on the south, extends the Troy and Casstown pike, intersecting the township transversely near the center, and passing through the town of Staunton. Still lower down passes the Troy and Springfield Pike, running through the lands of J. and J. H. Knoop and the Enyeart's. Passing from-the lower end, on the east side comes the Troy and Dayton Pike, running nearly north, bearing west to intersect the former pike on the lands of Abner Enyeart, and pass over the river on the bridge near Benjamin Enyeart's.

    The Dayton & Michigan Railroad enters the township from the north, in the extreme northeast corner of Section 28, and passing in a straight line a little east of south, until near the river, when it deflects to the southwest, crosses the same and passes through Troy, and on down to Dayton, connecting with railroad for Cincinnati and all other important points north and south.

    The churches of Staunton Township, which formerly consisted of log huts, have been replaced by more modern structures, and the routine of transition and improvement is so generally alike in all townships, that it is not necessary to particularize. Some of the old churches have been mentioned in the interviews with Mrs, Dye, John Webb and others, and our information being limited in regard to both church history and schools in this township, we are obliged to omit a more extended notice of them in this connection. The old Staunton Cemetery, formerly situated where the Eastern School building, now stands in Troy, was abandoned and most of the bodies exhumed and re-interred in the Riverside Cemetery, north of Troy, on a beautiful spot fronted by a highrolling ridge sloping from the river toward the north. Stones may be seen of plain and unpretentious design, recording deaths as far back as 1810, when the lonely pioneer watched alone by the bed side of his wife or his child, or the mother pillowed the head of her only child as it breathed away its soul, and as its spirit took its untrammeled flight to the source from which it emanated, the grief-stricken parent watched alone the little piece of clay until it was forever laid away. We next introduce the old Baptist Church at Staunton.

    "To-day, while the knell of the bell assembles a congregation of church going people to the worship of God according to the dictates of their own conscience, where there are none to molest or make afraid, let us remember the days of our Miami, our mater familia, where the only sanctuary was the hearth-stone of a log-cabin, and worship was conducted at the peril of life. For it was amidst circumstances like these our ancestors planted the first Gospel church of Miami, and raised the banner of Immanuel at Staunton, which place afterward became the temporary seat of justice for the county.

    Henry Gerard, of Pennsylvania, in connection with four others moved near the present site of Staunton in the spring of 1798, and established there a station, for the security of their families. In the following year, Nathaniel Gerard and wife moved to this settlement from Pennsylvania, where they held their membership in the Red Stone Baptist Church. ln 1801, Mr. William Knight, and his wife Priscilla, moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio, and settled on Lost Creek, near this station. In the spring of 1804, Moses Winters moved his family from North Carolina to Ohio and settled on Honey Creek not far from this little village. In 1801, Mr. Stephen Dye, and Mehitable his wife, came from Pennsylvania, where they were members of the Red Stone Church, and made their home on the Miami within the boundary of the station.

    These God-like men of yore, though few in number, were strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Th Christian religion preserved in its pristine purity and honored in its efficacy, imbued their hearts and minds with a deep sense of their obligations to the Church of Christ, and their duty to propagate the Apostolic doctrine. Without consulting secular interest they felt that the cause of Christ must be sustained, and, therefore, with all the fortitude of a Christian hero, they went forth boldly and magnanimously to plant the first Gospel seed in a hitherto barren land. They left their own pleasant homes and social circles, to go into a land of nought, and to worship God upon the evening air. No frescoed walls or gas-lit streets adorned our pilgrim fathers' home; would that some to-day knew the deprivations and sacrifices of their predecessors, but "behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face." In midst of nocturnal darkness, lo the morning star appears. It was a bright Saturday morning on the 3d of November, 1804, in a country new and wild, when the last standing oak, the one that sheltered the old cabin door, rustled its autumn leaves in silent memory of the past, and the only dayspring to usher in a new era, was the distant, mournful cooing of the turtle dove. that a little band of seven believers met as Christian sentinels, with muskets by their side, to constitute a Baptist Church. The place selected was the house of Stephen Dye the people present to organize a church, were Moses Winters, Nathaniel Gerard, Stephen Dye, William Knight, Elizabeth Winters, Mary Gerard, Mehitable Dye. This band of believers became a church with all the power and authority delegated to the chosen people of God. To them, what a day of joy was this; when the hallowed shrine of Christianity was again accessible; when the halos of better days encircled them. Two ministers being present, Elder Joshua Carmon and Elder John Smith, a feast of fat things was enjoyed.

    We stop here to give the minutes of the church after its constitution. Staunton Baptist Church, Saturday, December 1, 1804. Church met according to appointment, and after services, proceeded to business. Chose Bro. William Knight as Moderator, and Bro. Henry Gerard for Writing Clerk. Thus the church was formed, and is now in running operation. The Apostolic rule of church government was theirs. Upon the basis of the primitive Christian church, theirs was built. They had the Bible for their guide, and, no doubt the Word of God was precious in those days, and good sermons were appreciated by unbelievers. But it was not without difficulty that services were conducted, for the few lonely cabins were scattered over a large area of country, and the sentiment of the red man was:

    "I scorn your proffered treaty.
    Your pale face I defy."

    But they went forth in the name of the Lord of Hosts and claimed the victory, and victory came. The Lord blessed them day by day, until their little dwellings were not copious enough to entertain the crowds that came, and they began to contemplate the conveniences and appropriateness of a sanctuary.

    But at this time they were unable to make any advancements toward the building of such a house.

    It appears that Elders John Smith and Thomas Childers had supplied the church with preaching occasionally., since its organization, but the books do not show that they ever received any compensation for their labors.

    In 1806, the church was visited by Elder John Thomas. We presume this visit was not to secure a pastorate, but a mere gratuitous call, something not, unusual in those days.

    Staunton being the seat of justice, naturally constituted the Baptist Church,. the grand metropolis of evangelization throughout the whole region round about. At one of the regular meetings about this time, Bro. H. Stites, was, by his own request, granted the privilege to act as missionary for the church. By virtue of a request presented on February 23, 1811, by the members residing near the Wilson settlement, (now Lost Creek) the church concluded to strike them off as an arm of Staunton, and allow them the privilege of transacting their own business, providing it be done according to the rules of said church. In June, 1816, Lost Creek was constituted a separate church.

    It appears that among other Apostolic usages, the deacons were always ordained, in the early history of the church. Sister Sarah Statler, the oldest member now living (1873), was baptized into church fellowship in 1817. Many other prominent members might be mentioned with profit and interest, could their true chronology be obtained.

    The same necessity of meeting from house to house, prevailed until the year 1818, when it was resolved to build a church. Measures were taken, therefore, immediately, and a committee appointed to select a suitable location, to ascertain the price of the same, and report to the church. In April of the following, year, the deacons reported that they had procured the lots of land which the church requested them to purchase, and the terms, $50 ; one-half to be paid in six weeks from date, the balance in one year from contract, the deed to be given in June. In 1822, the house was completed, and on the 25th of May, was for the first time opened for service, and a glorious service it was.

    The church was duly recognized by Elder Gutridge, who was the only minister present. On the following day (Sabbath), the church met and set apart Bro. Corbly Martin, to the work of the Gospel ministry, by ordination. So, now, with their new house and new preacher, the people had reasons to be encouraged and to hope for days of prosperity.

    A strange subject for Baptist people presented itself about this time, and caused considerable discussion. Some members were in favor of introducing into the service the practice of "feet washing," but, the majority being opposed, it was deferred from meeting to meeting, until it died out. A slight disagreement arose in 1824, in regard to the Philadelphia Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, which resulted in the exclusion of all the members except two, who were pro-mission this left the church a pure and unadulterated anti-con-mission.

    About this time, Bro. Joshua Deweese was licensed to exercise his gifts of preaching in a public manner. In l833, Bro. Enos French was granted the same privilege. In 1833, meetings were begun in Troy, held on the second Saturday of each month. In March, a church was established there, which was fully recognized May 10, 1834. In February, 1834, Lewis was licensed to preach. In April, 1834 the "Staunton Branch at New Carlisle" was organized, recognized in February. In September, Bro. Enos French was ordained by laying on of hands. The Staunton Church, growing weak, was removed to Casstown and the name changed to Casstown Baptist Church. This was accomplished by granting letters of dimission to all the members of Staunton Church except one, who was left to hold the, church property and deed the same into the hands of the church at Casstown; but we have not heard whatever became of that one, whether he united with the Casstown Church on experience, or deeded away his right and title to all churches.

    Some few other changes were made, and, at the present, the church in Casstown, the outgrowth of the old church in Staunton, has a neat little house, worth about $1,800, and a membership of eighty-four. We have given this church in full, because it was the first and the largest and the only one of which we could obtain any facts for its history. We aim not to be partial, neither are we sectarian. We have copied very nearly the minutes in the above history.

    Among, first things in this township, we may mention that Peter Felix was the first Indian trader, the first man who could sell a needle for a dollar, the first who could make an Indian believe the needle-maker had died and that he had the last ones, the first man who owned the house in which the first court was, held in this county. The Dutch Station was the first place of settlement, Staunton was the first town in the county and the first seat of justice, Jane Gerard Deweese was the first white female child, and J. Knoop was the first male child born in Staunton Township, dating back to 1800. William McCampbell was the first Justice, elected in 1809. The first school teacher was Isaac Gerard. The first ministers were James Frazer and John Stapleton. Peter Landre was one of the first Coopers. William Dye and Amariah Smalley were the first blacksmiths. Lewis Deweese was one of the first tanners. Felix was the first and Abram Dye the second tavernkeeper. Joseph Skinner was the first to erect a corn-cracker. From a consideration of all these initial points, in which Staunton Township claims precedence over all others in the county, we see no reason why she should be any the less proud of her record, even if some of her sisters have outgrown her. They have yet to acknowledge their allegiance to her and reverence her as their alma mater.

    Return to the 1880 History

    Copyright © 1998 by Computerized Heritage Association.
    All Rights Reserved.