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Montgomery Co., Ohio
History & Genealogy

History of City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio
by Rev. A. W. Drury
- Vol. 1 -

Chapter VIII


pg. 821

     This township is situated in the southeastern corner of Montgomery County.  At the first it extended seven miles north and south and from the Green county line to the Miami river.  In 1829, it lost the western part of its territory by the formation of Miami township, the line of division being the same then as at the present time.  In 1841, it lost a tier of sections on the north, the same being included in Van Buren township, then formed.  The present area of the township is thirty-six square miles.  From the fact that many of the first settlers of Montgomery is thirty-six square miles.  From the fact that many of the first settlers of Montgomery county came by way of the Little Miami river and Lebanon, Washington township was reached and settled earlier than other parts of the county, with the exception of the vicinity of Dayton and a narrow stretch of territory along the Great Miami.  As a matter of fact, Washington township became settled much more rapidly and closely than any other part of the county.
     About two months after the settlement was made at Dayton in 1896, a number of prospectors from Kentucky are said to have come into the present territory of Washington township to spy out the land.  Of their number, Benjamin Robbins selected the southwest quarter of section 25 in township 2, range 6.  Another member of the party, Aaron Nutt, selected the east half of the same section.  Benjamin Robbins also later purchased land to the south of his first section.  Benjamin Robbins also later purchased land to the south of his first purchase.  The land immediately to the south of the land purchased by Nutt was bought by Benjamin Wallingsford.  Centerville is located at the angle where these different tracts join.  Benjamin Archer, a member of the original party selected a little more than five hundred and twelve acres in section 19 of township 2, range 6, this land lying just northeast of Centerville.  A considerable part of the land in Washington township had been sold to original purchasers by Judge Symmes from 1796 and 1798.  When he forfeited his title to the government, the land thus purchased was resold, those having contracts with Judge Symmes having preemption privileges; that is, they could have the first opportunity to purchase the land at two dollars per acre.  A considerable amount of land was purchased in Washington township under these preemption rights in 1801, that being the earliest time that the land could be bought directly from the government.  Other lands for the sale of which Judge Symmes had entered into no contracts were also bought at this same early period.  By 1810 or 1812, nearly all the land of the township was under private ownership.
     Dr. John Hole early purchased large tracts in the township.  December 25, 1801, he purchased three hundred and sixteen acres and a fraction in township 1, range 6, section 2, about three miles northwest of Centerville.  At the same time, he purchased sixty acres to the north of the tract named, thus securing land on both sides of Hole's creek.  These were preempton tracts, it being thus evident that he was an original purchaser from Judge Symmes.  At the same time that he made these purchases he purchased the entire section immediately to the east of these tracts.  Dr. Hole is believed to have settled in the western part of the tracts named about 1797.  Here, on the creek afterward known as Hole's creek, he continued to reside until his death in 1813.  He erected the first two sawmills in the township.  He practiced medicine over a wide territory.
     December 26, 1801, John Ewing purchased about six hundred and forty acres in section 33, township 2, range 6.  The following year, he purchased fifty acres additional in the same section, said section overrunning the usual size of a section to that extent.  As all of this land consisted of preemption lots, it must have been previously purchased, probably by Mr. Ewing, several years before.
     The pioneers already named became prominent in the history of Washington township and of Montgomery county as well.  John Ewing and Benjamin Archer became associate judges of the common pleas court.  Other citizens of the township likewise rose to prominence.
     Clearing the land was the first work to be performed by the first settlers.  Down to the present time, agricultural pursuits have mainly engaged the energies of the people.  Mills and factories, however, in the early days had a prominence difficult to appreciate at this time.  The History of Montgomery County, published in 1882, for which Joseph Nutt, the son of Aaron Nutt, furnished the account of Washington township, gives a lengthy and minute description of the flouring mills, sawmills, cotton mills, woolenmills, tanneries, foundries, and so forth in operation in the township in an early day.  The most of these mills were on one or the other of the two branches of Hole's creek.  The larger number of them were on the northern branch, which is called Little Hole's creek.  The Cincinnati directory of 1819 gives an extended account of the woolen mill on Little Hole's creek at a point where the town of Woodburn was platted.  The account says that in 1819 the value of the products of the factory for one year was sixty thousand dollars, that twelve hundred spindles were in use, that forty hands were employed and that power looms had been secured which would soon he in operation.  Tradition has it that the main factory building was a five-story brick building with a stone basement.  In connection with the factory mill, a carding mill, a foundry, a machine shop and a little later a cotton printing establishment were in operation.  Samuel Gerard was the genius who was back of these industries.  He brought model machines with him from England at a time when it was unlawful to transport them to America, and constructed new machine for the various forms of manufacture to be carried on.  At first, the most of the factory work was done by hand.  At the time when prospects were the most encouraging, a change in the tariff laws of the United States led to the importing of goods from abroad cheaper than they could be manufactured in America.  The result was that the various enterprises were involved in failure.  The expensive machinery was sold and distributed to different places, where it became the basis for various manufacturing enterprises.  George McElwee, who became connected with manufacturing interests at Miamisburg and later at Dayton, was superintendent of the foundry.  Michael Cassady, who was later connected with manufacturing at Miamisburg and other places, was a son-in-law of Gerard, and with some of the machinery of the dismantled factory laid the foundation for different manufacturing interests.
     A number of the four or five mills at different points on Little Hole's creek received their water power from large springs on one side or the other of the creek.  Usually, the water was held back by dams, thus forming large ponds, which could be drawn on when the water supply was not so abundant.  In some cases, dams were thrown across the channel of the creek and the water was led by a race to where the mills or factories were operated.
     The first election held in the county was June 21, 1803, at which ninety-five votes were cast for governor.


     The first plat of Centerville filed in the records of Montgomery county was made October 25, 1814, though it is said that plats were made and lots sold as early as 1805 or even 1803.  The first store in Centerville was kept by Aaron Nutt, Sr., having been established in 1811.  John Archer is said to have opened the first tavern in Centerville.  The most famous one, however, was that of Enos Doolittle.  John Archer was appointed first postmaster March 1, 1815.  Enos Doolittle succeeded him in 1823.  The town has been twice incorporated, once in 1830, and again in 1879.  The first officers under the earlier incorporation were: Samuel S. Robbins, Mayor; Henry W. Reider, marshal; and Robert G. McEwen, clerk.  The first officials under the new incorporation were: President of the Council, William Dodd; Trustees, Dr. W. H. Lamme and Dr. S. G. Stewart, Clerk and Treasurer, Joseph Nutt;  and Marshal, Joseph Loy.
     The present village officers are: Mayor, L. E. Bradford; Clerk, Elmer Montgomery; Treasurer, Arthur Koon; Marshal, John Mehan; Members of Council, Harry Brown, S. M. Davis, B. A. Dill, Milton Sheehan, D. B. Stansell and Mason Williamson.  The population is estimated at three hundred and fifty.  R. M. Pine is the present postmaster.  He has held that position twenty-four years, with the exception of the two terms when Cleveland was president.
     Centerville is a sightly village.  It occupies the highest point on the Dayton and Lebanon turnpike on the divide between the two Miamis.  It is well supplied with stores, which meet the wants of the village and the surrounding country.  It has extensive stone quarries from which large quantities of stone are shipped to surrounding places.  It has the advantages of two macadamized roads, the Miamisburg and Centerville and the Dayton and Lebanon.  Somewhat removed from the village is the station on the Dayton, Lebanon & Cincinnati railroad.  A large creamery stands adjacent to the village.
     The village is well provided with schools, the township high school being located within its limits.  The new township hall, dedicated in July, 1909, is a commodious and stately building.  It was erected at a cost of fourteen thousand dollars and is an object of pride and satisfaction to the village and township.  At the dedication of the hall, many memories of earlier times were revived.  It was recalled that in December, 1822, Samuel Robbins deeded the lot on which the town hall was built to Enos Doolittle for the sum of four hundred dollars, and that the south part of the famous Doolittle tavern was erected on the lot not long after that time.  Enos Doolittle came to Centerville in 1820.  He kept a store in the building before referred to until 1832, when he opened the tavern which became noted as one of the best west of the Alleghenies.  He built an addition to the house in 1839, making a commodious and convenient house.  The dining room was especially well planned, being a room forty feet long and twenty feet wide.  This rooms was used as a dining room or ball room, for the tavern was the center of the social life of the community.  Mrs. J. L. Brown of Centerville, on the occasion of the dedication of the hall, read an interesting historical paper from which the following extract is taken:
     "Mrs. Bancroft, the only living child of Enos Doolittle, in a letter of recent date to Mr. Samuel Nutt says: 'Being a mere child, in my early teens, when my home was broken up, I cannot remember much of the early history of that home.  Yet I have with me always the sweet memory of my good father's cordial welcome to all who came within that hospital home.  Afflicted as he was with an incurable malady, paralysis, he was ever cheerful and kind, and the unpretentious inn was known, far and wide, as a veritable "Traveler's Rest."  Many celebrities, among whom I remember William H. Harrison, Thomas Corwin and Henry Clay, rested  here.  William H. Harrison spent the night of September 9, 1840, in our home.  On the morning of September 10th, all was bustle and excitement.  It seemed that all the men, and many women, too, were going to the whig convention to be held at Dayton that day.  In 1842 Henry Clay with a colored servant, a novelty in Centerville at that time, spent the night with us.  I felt quite honored because I had a cordial hand shake of those famous men, and very likely I gloated over it, child like, you know.  Before the days of railroads, many people traveled in their own private conveyances, and found comfort in our simple home.  I learned that our first home was to give place to a town hall.  So now, that home is no more and I am all that is left of that happy family.  I am eighty years young - hale and hearty.' "
     Rev. Charles McDaniel, a Baptist missionary, was the first minister in Washington township.  It is said that a church was built in 1799 under the labors of Elder Daniel Clark.  In 1802 the Baptists built a church out of hewed logs on Sugar creek.  The Baptist congregation on Sugar creek for many years was a great factor in the religious life of the community.  At present there is a Baptist church in Centerville.  It is not strong.  Occasional services are conducted for the benefit of the congregation by Dayton Baptist pastors.
     The old-school Baptists, formerly strong at Centerville, have ceased to be.  Their church property was sold in 1909.
     The Methodist Episcopal church has a larger number of adherents in Washington township than any other denomination.  The first Methodist sermon was preached in a cabin in 1809 by Rev. John Collins.  The first house of worship erected was a log church.  The second house of worship was likewise a log church, erected three miles south of Centerville about 1814, the appointment being called Rehobeth.  A little later a log church was erected about three miles southeast of Centerville on Sugar creek.  For a number of years the Washington township congregations were served by a succession of zealous preachers.  In 1833 the Methodist congregation erected a stone church in Centerville, which continued to be sued until 1867, when a brick church costing twelve thousand dollars took its place.  The congregation, in 1909, numbered three hundred members.  The present pastor is Rev. Samuel Campbell.


     The town of Woodburn was platted April 9, 1817.  When the mills along Little Hole's creek were in operation, it grew to be a thriving town with large prospects.  But with the removal of the mills, it fell into decay.  Now, the passerby beholds only a lonely church used only for funeral or like occasions where once the thriving village stood.  The church was erected by the Christian denotation.  An inscription in the gable bears date 1846.
     In 1865, Russia sent an agent to the United States to inquire into the principals and workings of our government.  As a matter of course, he came to Ohio, and, not finding just what he wanted at Columbus, he came down to Dayton.  At Dayton, he said he wanted to get at the very bottom of the matter, and asked what township was the best governed.  "Washington township, of course," responded the county officials.  So he went out, taking a letter of introduction to the treasurer, and spent some time examining the township books.


     JOHN HOLE, a direct descendant of Alfred the Great of England, was born in Essex count (near Newark), New Jersey, in 1755, being among the youngest of the family of the eleven children of Jacob Hole and a grandson of Daniel Hole, who immigrated to this country from England in the latter part of the sixteenth century, locating in New York City.  A few years later the family removed to the new state of New Jersey, where was destined to be born in laqter years the subject of this sketch.
     Young Hole received a meagre education up to the age of eleven years, when he was selected by the Hole family physician and in 1766 was sent to this doctor, a very prominent German physician of Newark, New Jersey to Germany, where he was educated both in a literary way and also received his medical training.  (History does not give us the name of this noted German physician, nor is the date of his receiving the medical degree obtainable.)  Immediately upon his return to America in 1775 he was appointed surgeon's mate to the Fifth Pennsylvania battalion, commanded by  Col. Robert McGraw, which position he filled with distinction.  He also served as surgeon on the staff of Gens. Montgomery and Arnold.  He was present at the battles of Bunker Hill, Quebec and Montmorency.  He served during the entire Revolutionary war.
     Dr. Hole was married to Miss Massee Ludlow of Essex county, New Jersey, August 4, 1778, and to this union were born four boys and seven girls.  His wife died near Centerville, Ohio, July 25, 1842.  For eight years or till 1786 he practiced medicine in Essex county, New Jersey, but during the latter part of this year he came down the Ohio river in a flat-bottomed boat and located in Mason county, Kentucky, just a few miles from the present city of Maysville with the intention of taking up some government land.  After a few months' residence here his wife became dissatisfied, and they then moved on to a point near Lexington.  He moved to Cincinnati in 17989.  In 1797 he moved to the present territory of Montgomery county and located on the creek that bears his name within the present limits of Washington township.  It was probably his influence that named the township and also the county.  Here he practiced medicine for the next seven or eight years.
     He built sawmills, gristmills and incidentally practiced medicine and surgery.  He made frequent trips far and wide to Hole's station up the Miami valley as far as Sidney, east as far as Springfield and Xenia, south to Hamilton and Fort Washington and west to the Indiana state line.
     Socially he had entertained Washington, Jefferson and the best society of the Revolutionary times in his Jersey home.  He was a Baptist in faith.
     A plain sandstone in the old cemetery at Centerville records "Doctor John Hole, died January 6, 1813, in the fifty-eighth year of his age."

   NATHANIEL STRONG, of sturdy English stock, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, January 24, 1783.  His medical training was received in New York city and Heskimur, New York.
     He practiced his profession in New York state up to the outbreak of the War of 1812, and enlisted as surgeon and serving during the war, then came west and located in Centerville, Ohio in the spring of 1814.  Previous to his coming to Ohio, Dr. Strong had traveled quite extensively and made a trip around the world as a ship's surgeon.  Upon his location in Centerville he at once entered upon his professional career which proved to be one of the most varied and interesting this county has ever had.
     Dr. Strong  was married to Miss Hannah Davis of Centerville in November 1824 who died in 1833.  To this union was born one son who later became the gallant Col. Hiram Strong who fell mortally wounded at Chickamauga.
     On May 25, 1824, Dr. Strong was elected treasurer of the newly organized Montgomery and Clark county Medical association which office he filled for a number of years.  He died October 18, 1867.  The inscription on the stone at his grave in the Centerville cemetery reads, "A man of high integrity, a citizen of great usefulness, a physician of eminent skill."

DR. JACOB S. MULFORDThe parents of the subject of this sketch came from New Jersey and settled in Washington township in 1798.  Young Mulford was placed under the instruction of Dr. Mason of Lebanon, who was a preacher as well as a doctor and also received the influence of Dr. Hole, and read medicine under Dr. Strong.  In 1817 and 1818 he attended lectures at the old Curtis Medical college, a botanico-medical institute.  While practicing medicine in Washington township, he also, as a Baptist minister, did much preaching.  In 1836 Dr. Mulford located in Lebanon and in 1838 in Dayton.
     He died May 4, 1844.  He was especially noted for his success in treating epidemic diseases.

DR. JULIUS S. TAYLOR, after graduating at Jefferson Medical college, and after several years of practice, came to Centerville, about 1840, and there remained for three years.  He then followed his profession at West Carrollton, four or five years, and then moved to Dayton, where he remained until 1864, then removing to Kankakee, Illinois, where he died in 1891.  He was a man of great a versatility and of high public spirit.  In the science of medicine he had a national reputation.

MORDECAI BOON ELGIN, one of the most successful medical practitioners that Washington township ever had was born February 24, 1824.  His parents located on a farm, one mile south of Centerville in 1825.  He studied medicine under Dr. Strong, and completed a course in Rush Medical college in 1847.  After ten years of practice elsewhere, he located on the old homestead near Centerville.  Here for twenty years his practice was large and exacting.  In 1867 he removed from the township.  He died in Spring Valley in 1883.
     The physicians who came to Washington township and those who there grew up under the influence of the early physicians, were men of high order, well equipped for their profession and of commanding influence in the community.  A summary will be given of leading facts of physicians not noticed above.

ANDREW BARRETT PRICE, born in Washington township in 1803, apprenticed to Dr. Strong in 1826, completed a medical course in Cincinnati in 1829, located in Centerville where he continued to practice for ten years, afterward practiced elsewhere, died in 1878.

WAYLAMB PERRY JAMES, born Feb. 1, 1817, graduated in medicine 1847, after practicing in various places, located in Centerville in 1856. remained in practice here until his death in 1862.

DENNIS McCARTHY, born in 1821 in London, Ontario, graduated in the Bottanico Medical college in Cincinnati in 1849, at once began practice in Centerville, removed to Dayton in 1854, died in 1908.

WILLIAM H. LAMB, born in Washington township, July 26, 1826, studied medicine under Dr. Strong, completed a regular course in medicine with some interruptions.  Practiced in Centerville until the time of his death in 1889.

COMLY JESSOP born March 29, 1829, completed medical course in 1853, practiced in Centerville from 1855 to 1865; died in 1875.

EVERETT  J. MOORE, born in Waterford, London county, Virginia, 1860, graduated in medicine 1886, located in Centerville and built up a large practice, died in 1891.

SAMUEL GRAVES STEWART, born October 1, 1845, graduated in medicine in 1873 and located in Centerville, where he continued in practice fourteen years; now resides in Topeka, Kansas.

HUGH ALEXANDER, pioneer doctor, practicing in Centerville and near Woodburn for nearly forty years, died in 1862.

Two physicians occupy the medical field in Washington township at the present time, both residing in Centerville.  Of these Dr. B. W. DUDLEY KEEFER, received his medical education at Dartmouth and Miami medical colleges, graduating from the latter in 1884.  in 1890, he took up the practice of medicine at Centerville, where he is still in active practice.

The other physician located at Centerville, is C. D. SLAGLE, M. D., who has an extensive and remunerative practice.  He graduated from Starling Medical college in March, 1897, and is now in his twelfth year at Centerville..D





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