Springfield, Ohio

History and Genealogy



The First Church Building


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 449


By Oscar T. Martin

The interest which had been created in religious worship by the Methodist Church led members of other sects to similar efforts. During the winter of 1810-11, the "New Lights" (as they were then called) or Christian denomination, were successful in a revival of religion. This led to an organization of a New Lights or Christian Society. The members felt strong enough to begin the erection of a church. A general call was made upon the citizens of the place, which met with a hearty response. Mr. Griffith Foos gave toward this building a fine young horse valued at $10, which seems to have been a fair price for a horse at that time. As all the citizens, irrespective of their tendency or affiliation with other sects, contributed to a common fund for the erection of a church edifice, it was determined to make it a free church for all denominations. This catholic spirit was in accord with the general character of the pioneers, who opposed exclusiveness or caste in religion as in society. The site selected was on the south side of the lot west of Mill Run, and south of Main street, just in the rear of Funk's building. It was built of hewed logs about twenty by thirty feet in size. The pulpit opposite the door was made of rough, unpainted boards, and stood high up from the floor. The ground around the building for several yards south was dry and slightly elevated and neatly sodded. In the midst of this lawn stood three or four large spreading burr oaks, which gave the tempting shade in summer. Near the church door lay a large gray bowlder upon which many a saint and sinner sat. In 1818, this church was used as a schoolhouse, but, in 1825, it had been converted into a mere shelter for hogs and cattle.

The same sect, the New Lights, also had a camp meeting here about this time which attracted to it, with those who attended for devout purposes, a large number of depraved men, who were riotous in their conduct and disgraceful in their behavior. One person in particular attracted attention. His name was Jack Eels, said to have been the wickedest man in the neighborhood. He visited the camp meeting one day somewhat intoxicated, and began to make fun of the worshipers, especially of the peculiar "jerks" which characterized many who were converted. Jack said it was all a sham. But the jerks (whether from the influence of liquor or not, the veracious historian does not state), prostrated him so completely that his friends were obliged to carry him home in an exhausted condition.


A Seat of Justice


Before the Legislature organized the county of Clark, the temporary seat of justice for the county of which it was then a part was Springfield, and the place for holding court was the house of George Fithian. The Presiding Judge of the first Court of Common Pleas was Francis Dunlevy. John Reynolds, Samuel McCullough and John Runyan were the first Associate Judges. Arthur St. Clair was Prosecuting Attorney, John Daugherty, Sheriff, and Joseph C. Vance, Clerk. The first grand jury was composed of the following citizens of the county: Joseph Layton, Adam McPherson, Jonathan Daniels, John Humphreys, John Reed, Daniel McKinnon, Thomas Davis, William Powell, Justis Jones, Christopher Wood, Caleb Carter, William Chapman, John Clark, John Lafferty, Robert Rennick. Among the first Petit Jurors were Paul Huston, Charles Rector, Jacob Minturn, James Reed, James Bishop and Abel Crainford.

In September, 1805, the court was organized for the transaction of business. The first case tried was "The State of Ohio vs. Taylor," who had been indicted for threatening to burn the barn of Griffith Foos. At the first session of the Supreme Court held in 1805, the Judges were Samuel Huntington, Chief Justice, with William Sprigg and Daniel Symmes, Associate Justices. This court was held in a two-story log house which then stood in an open common near the southeast corner of High and Limestone streets. The only criminal case tried before this court was "The State against Isaac Bracken, Archibald Dawden and Robert Rennick," upon an indictment for an assault upon an Indian named Kanawa Tuckow. The defendants pleaded not guilty, and taking issue "for plea put themselves upon God and their country." The jury was composed of William McDonald, Sampson Talbott, Justis Jones, George Croft and others. The attorney for the defendants was Joshua Collett, who afterward was one of the Judges of the Supreme Court. The defendants were found not guilty, having proven that the Indian was a very bad and dangerous character and had persisted in occupying Rennick's land in opposition to his wishes. As an illustration of the bitter prejudice which existed at this time among the settlers against the Indians, one of the jurors of the case, before the trial openly declared that he would never bring in a verdict against a white man for assaulting an Indian.