Springfield, Ohio

History and Genealogy



The First Book Store — Nichols


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 465


By Oscar T. Martin

The culture of the intellectual faculty was but of little moment among the hardy pioneers, but, as the forests began to dwindle and the comforts of civilized life to appear, men began to read and study. The multiplication of books by the improvements in the printing-press brought them to the fireside of every family. A taste for intellectual pursuits began to be developed. A copy of "Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress," or that cheerful work, "Fox's Book of Martyrs," a volume of sermons, or of the "Spectator," no longer supplied the increasing want. The demand must be supplied. To John D. Nichols, a native of the Bay State, is due the credit of inaugurating the book trade. In the winter of 1830-31, Mr. Nichols brought a stock of books and stationery from Cincinnati, shipping by canal to Dayton, thence by wagon here. His store became the center of news and a great attraction. it provided a successful venture, and an indication that the people were keeping up to the age. Mr. Nichols had, in the fall of 1825, been a book agent, soliciting subscriptions to the "History of All Religions" and "Butler's Universal History," making a tour on foot from Columbus to Worthington, thence to Urbana, Bellefontaine, Sidney, Dayton, returning by Springfield and London; and, in the spring of 1826, making the same trip in a one-horse wagon, delivering the books and receiving pay for the same. He was thus probably the first book agent in this part of the State. Mr. Nichols, in 1827 and 1828, was engaged in publishing several books at Cincinnati, Ohio, among them a "Life of Gen. Jackson" and the "Western Medical Journal," both of which, in mechanical execution and ability of its contents, would compare favorably with similar publications of a much later date. In 1828 and 1829, Mr. Nichols published the Saturday Evening Chronicle, in Cincinnati, a literary journal, of which E. D. Mansfield, Esq., was editor.


The Cholera


The vigilance of the early authorities of the town might be a lesson to those in power at this later day. It was by the adoption of effective sanitary measures Springfield escaped the visitation of that terrible scourge which, during the year 1832, and also the year following, desolated so many homes in the cities and towns of the West. The approach of the dreaded visitor induced the citizens to take prompt action at once. So a meeting of citizens was called for the 13th of July, 1832, for the purpose of adopting measures to cleanse the town of all filth and nuisances. They passed resolutions requesting the Council of the town to enforce all ordinances and regulations which would purify the streets and alleys. They divided the town into four districts, and appointed a committee of three for each district, whose duty it was to aid the municipal authorities in thus enforcing all resolutions and ordinances of the Council. A committee of three persons was also appointed to solicit funds to pay the necessary expenses. The danger was, by these precautionary efforts, happily averted from the town. But the county was not as fortunate, as the village of New Carlisle lost thirty-three of its inhabitants by the scourge.

The organization of a lyceum, or literary society, for the intellectual improvement of its members, was accomplished in November, 1832. On the 22d of that month, at a meeting of citizens called for the purpose, E. H. Cumming presided, with John A. Warder as Secretary. Messrs. Charles Anthony, E. H. Cumming and M. M. Henkle were appointed a committee to prepare and report a constitution and a code of by-laws; on the 29th of the same month, at an adjourned meeting, the report of this committee was presented, and, after full consideration and amendment, it was adopted.

The first regular meeting of the Springfield Lyceum was held on the 11th day of December, in the Presbyterian Church. An introductory lecture was delivered by Samuel Ells, a young man of fine talent, who was a graduate of Hamilton College, New York. He was then teaching what was called the Springfield Classical School, and was much interested in forwarding and sustaining the lyceum. At the same meeting, there was a debate upon the question, "Is the reading of novels beneficial?" John M. Gallagher was Secretary of this meeting. This society was well sustained, its meetings being held principally during the winter season. In 1849, it was re-organized. A large and convenient reading room was added, at which access could be had to the library, and to the current newspapers, received from different parts of the Union. In December of the same year, Horace Greeley delivered the opening lecture of a course which had been previously arranged. These lectures were continued for several years.

The town was continually adding to its dimensions and numbers. It now (1832) contained a population of 1,250, of whom there were sixty-one colored. There were 180 dwelling houses, a court house, Clerk's office and jail, four churches, all of which were well attended, one paper, one grist and one carding and fulling mill, one brewery and one distillery, sixteen dry-goods stores and one book store, five groceries and three taverns, one printing office, which issued a weekly paper. There were also six practicing physicians and five lawyers, attending to the physical and legal demands of the people. There had been erected and completed, during the twelve months previous, fifty-one buildings, of which three were of brick, seven one-story, sixteen two-story, one three-story; of frame, eleven one-story and sixteen two-story.

The great national thoroughfare known as the National road was opened in the year 1832 through Springfield. The excellence of the work on this improvement, and the durability of the structures on it, have made it a lasting monument to the Government which prosecuted it. It became necessary to place a culvert over Mill Run on South street, which aided greatly in improving that locality. This road at once placed Springfield on the great thoroughfare, a principal point of stoppage for all travelers East and West, and brought it into notice among the enterprising and growing places of the State. In the decade of years closing with 1840, there was but little which the historian notes of sufficient moment for record. There was a steady increase of population from 1,080 to 2,094, an extension of the limits of the town, an encroachment of business houses upon the suburbs, a change in the style and character of the new buildings, and an improvement of the old. A corresponding change is also observable in the habits and character of the people. The primitive modes of life, the uncouth, uncultured manners of the pioneers, disappear with the forests. There is a higher regard for morals, and a stricter observance of the Sabbath, while daily brawls have grown less frequent. The dress of the citizen, his intercourse with his fellows, and social relations, are toned with a higher culture, and correspond to the civilization to which they have attained. An appreciation of learning and literature has awakened an interest in the outside world. men began to read and think more, and the prosperity of the future city began to be assured.

The anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence was celebrated in the village of Springfield July 4, 1832. The citizens formed a procession, under the lead of Maj. Charles Anthony, preceded by the Springfield Band, and escorted by Capt. Cook's cavalry. They marched to the Presbyterian Church, where an oration was delivered by Rev. M. M. Henkle. A dinner was prepared by Col. Hunt in the grove south of the village. Among the toasts responded to on this occasion were the following, by Dr. Isaac Hendershott: "Nullification and the non-protective system, the hemlock and night-shade of Southern culture, exotics of baneful tendency, which can never be engrafted on true American stock."

Benjamin C. Hathaway offered the following: "Our Republic! all men are born free and equal, and are endowed with certain inalienable rights. May she act in accordance with those sublime truths! may she burst asunder the manacle of the slave! may she respect the rights of the poor Indian! Let us restrain, not the liberty, but the licentiousness, of the press. Then, emphatically, shall she become the type of duration and the emblem of eternity, and milllions yet unborn shall rise up and exclaim, Esto Perpetua!"