Springfield, Ohio

History and Genealogy



The First Brick House


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 452


By Oscar T. Martin

As the rude log cabins gave way to the more substantial frame dwelling, so the latter in time was compelled to give place under the advancing steps of improvement to the enduring brick structure. It is a mooted question who is entitled to the credit of building the first brick house in the limits of the town. Respectable authority gives it to John Ambler, and equally authentic sources say that William Ross, who assisted David Lowry in making pork barrels in Dayton, should have the honor. It is stated that Ross erected a two-story brick house on the southeast corner of Main and Market streets, that it was first occupied by him as a dwelling and store, and then as a tavern which was widely known as "Ross' Tavern." This building was standing as late as 1869, when it was removed to give place to the more modern edifice erected in that year by Ridenour & Coblentz. On the other side of this not vitally important question is the statement that John Ambler made and burnt the brick that went into Ross' house as well as his own, which he built on the north side of Main street, about half way between Factory and Mechanic streets, in 1815, about six months, it is asserted, before the Ross house was erected. Mr. Ambler's dwelling is standing at this date and is now occupied by Mr. C. A. Davis. Freeman Vicory hauled the bricks for this house. About this time, Maddox Fisher built the two-story brick house adjoining the public square, as marked in Demint's plat, which remained standing until torn down by James D. Stewart, who erected thereon his present residence. Mr. Fisher intended this building for a store as well as a dwelling, but subsequently used it for the latter alone.


Additional Church Edifices

As we have seen, the Methodist Episcopal Church organized the first religious society, so that this pioneer denomination was the first to erect, in 1814, a church edifice for their exclusive use. It was a large frame building and stood on the northwest corner of Market and North streets, and was used as a place of worship for twenty years, when it was converted into a dwelling. At the time this building was erected and for fifteen years thereafter, the lots in that part of the town were not inclosed, but were covered with scrub oak, hazel bushes and plum trees. The foot paths which led to the church followed irregular lines, that were the most convenient for the villagers. The Second Methodist Church was not built until 1834.

Open air meetings were held in a grove near the first Methodist Church, at which some of the noted preachers of the day were present. Lorenzo Dow, an eccentric itinerant, delivered a sermon here. While he was earnestly pointing out the way of salvation to an interested audience, some graceless boys climbed a tree overlooking the audience. Dow had his attention attracted by the noise, and, stopping short, he turned to the boys and said:

"Zaccheus he climbed a tree
His end to see
If those lads would repent and believe
They too should their salvation receive."

Volunteers for Harrison

The war spirit strongly animated the loyal people of the country, and when Gov. Meigs issued his call for volunteers to hasten the relief of Gen. Harrison, who, in the month of December, 1813, with his army, was besieged at Fort Meigs by the British army and a band of Indians under Tecumseh, the response was met by the enlistment of many volunteers. James Shipman undertook to raise a company of citizen soldiers. He obtained a number of names of volunteers who agreed to meet him at Urbana. When the day for marching came, Mr. Shipman's recruits failed ot come to time. Nothing daunted, however, he went to Urbana alone, and, with one Thomas McCartney, whom he met on the way, joined Capt. McCord's cavalry company at Urbana. A number of other volunteers also hastened to the relief of Fort Meigs, going by the way of Troy and Piqua, among whom was Cooper Ludlow, father of John Ludlow.


Smith's Academy

One of the characters of the village, who established at this time a seat of learning which became famous for miles as "Smith's School," was a stout, sturdy Englishman named Samuel Smith. He kept a pay school in a frame building on the north side of Main street, on the west bank of Mill Run. He was a man of stern discipline, who did not "spare the rod" to "spoil the child," and neither the age or sex of his pupils was respected in administering punishment. He designated two or three "monitors" over his forty or fifty scholars, to whom he gave the audible instruction, "if they disobey the rules, knock them down, kill 'em or drag 'em to me." To catch a disobedient boy by the hair of the head, and drag him to the middle of the room and lay on the blows thick and fast, was no uncommon mode of punishment. His classical learning allowed him to indulge in the humor of dignifying some of his scholars with such appellations as "Mark Antony," "Pompey," "Julius Cæsar," etc. His assistant was his wife, a tall, angular, sharp-featured Yankee woman, who taught the smaller children at their residence near the school. Smith was wont to amuse his scholars by marvelous tales of Yankee land, which he narrated with a serenity that led his younger hearers to believe in their absolute verity. He gave instances of the rough land and hard soil of Vermont, so hard that a farmer there was obliged to use a team of fifty yoke of oxen in breaking up a new piece of land with a plow, and the land so hilly that one-half of the oxen hung by their necks between the hills while plowing. That the climate was so variable that a big ox went into a lake to drink, one mild day in winter, and was frozen fast while drinking by a sudden change in the weather, that the ox walked up the mountain carrying with it the whole frozen lake, and the next day, when a thaw came, the ice melted, causing a great flood, with immense destruction of life and property.

The bottle was a favorite companion, and when warmed by a liberal use of it, Smith's stories grew Munchausen like in their exaggerations. It became a habit of the people to call any story of doubtful veracity one of Smith's lies.

It was a custom in those days for the boys to "lock out" the schoolmaster about the holidays from the schoolhouse, until he paid the usual penalty of a treat with apples, cakes, etc. The larger boys of Smith's school attempted an affair of this kind, but were matched by the master, who mounted the roof, and throwing a handful of brimstone down the chimney into the huge fire of logs burning there, placed a board over the top, to the great discomfiture of the boys, who soon opened the windows and beat a hasty retreat. In later years, Smith gave up his bottle and died at an advanced age, respected as a useful citizen.