Springfield, Ohio

History and Genealogy



Springfield as a County Seat


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 454


By Oscar T. Martin

The village had now grown of sufficient importance, and its relations to the adjacent territory were such as to justify the State Legislature in constructing from the adjoining counties of Champaign, Madison and Green a separate county. By an act of that body passed March 1, 1818, the county of Clark was thus formed, and so named in honor of Gen. Rogers Clark, who defeated the Shawanese and Mingo Indians in the battle at their town on Mad River, called Piqua or New Boston. The particulars attending the organization of the county more properly belongs to the history of the county, to which the reader is referred. It will be sufficient to state here that the accomplishment of this advance movement was due largely to the efforts of Maddox Fisher, who, as a successful lobbyist, visited Chillicothe where the Legislature was in session, and by perservering effort finally succeeded in having the bill passed, which also provided that Springfield should be the county seat. An attempt was made to have the county seat located at New Boston, the reputed birthplace of Tecumseh, but the measure failed through the active opposition of Maddox Fisher. When he returned from Chillicothe with the news of the success of his measure, he was received with shouts of gratification. As a reward for the active efforts of Maddox Fisher, he was awarded the position of Postmaster, which at that date was a post of honor more than of profit.


"Old Virginia" and "Sleepy Hollow"

The then beautiful rivulet "Mill Run" glided smoothly through the village, following a small valley a few rods west of where the First Presbyterian Church is now located, and dividing the place into two sections. The section west of the Run had two brick houses, one stone house, a few of frame and several cabins. There were two taverns in the west section, one in a small one-story brick house kept by James Norton on the lot now occupied by the Teegarden residence, and the other in a two-story frame house building kept by Cooper Ludlow. This part of the village was called "Old Virginia," by those of the east side, because several families from the Old Dominion had settled there. Those living on the west end returned the compliment by calling the east end and particularly that portion around the public square "Sleepy Hollow," on account of the lack of enterprise there. It has retained the name until this day. The west bank of the Run was low and muddy. To reach the foot-log which crossed the Run, it was necessary to wade through deep mud and mire. The east bank of the Run was quite steep. The land along the south side of the Run from Center street east to Spring street, and as far south as the railroad passenger depot, was a continuous quagmire, in which cattle often swamped. Limestone street was only extended through the quagmire by throwing in brush, and placing logs upon them in the form of a corduroy bridge, which was then covered with dirt and gravel.

Shortly after this, two Irishmen, Andrew and Frederick Johnson, took the contract of the owners of the swampy land along the south bank of Mill Run, to ditch and drain the same, which soon made this portion of the town passable.

The number of houses in the east end, or "Sleepy Hollow," was greater than in the west end. There was a public house kept by Mr. Ross, another by John Hunt, a boarding house by James McElroy in a weather-boarded log house, on the northeast corner of Main and Market streets. Maddox Fisher kept a store in a frame house on Fisher's corner. Pearson Spinning's store was in another frame building across Main street, opposite Mr. Fisher's store. There were two or three stores of less importance at this end, besides several mechanics' shops and a printing office. The town had no pavement except one in front of Mr. Fisher's store. It was no unusual sight to see citizens cutting firewood with an ax (wood-saws not being then in use), in front of their shops or dwellings on Main street. Wagons were driven close up to the front doors of houses, and the streets were remarkable for the depth of the mud.


A Relic of the Mound-Builders

A few rods east of the intersection of Spring and Washington streets, there was a mound of earth about fifty yards in size across its base and of conical shape. About this period (1818), several white oak trees and clusters of bushes stood upon its side, and a number of large stumps indicated that other trees had grown nearer its apex. During the work upon the Dayton & Sandusky Railroad in 1847, this mound was entirely removed for the earth it contained. As the delvers in it penetrated its interior, they found it had been the burial place for a former generation of people. It was a huge sepulcher full of human bones. As the bones had by this period of time to a great extent become intermingled with the earth, the entire mass was carted to the railroad and formed part of the road bed. While the work was in progress, there was picked up what seemed to have been a section of the lower jaw bone of a wild animal containing a stout, crooked tusk or tooth. the bone had been ground away so as to be firmly grasped by a human hand. It had no doubt been used as an instrument of warfare. A few days after it had been taken from the ground, it crumbled into dust by action of the air upon it.


A Temperance Organization

The good people interested in the welfare of the community began to be alarmed at the condition of society. There was danger that the new county seat would become the center of vice and wickedness for the surrounding country. Rough, lawless men, desperadoes, who haunt the new settlements where the restraints of society and religion are unknown, continued to hang around the public houses, drinking, swearing and quarrelling. Horce-racing was the common amusement, while gambling was open and unrestrained. The influence of this condition of society was found to be degrading. But the customs of those days were such as tended to corrupt instead of improve the morals of the people. The bottle of whisky was a necessary adjunct to the water pitcher upon the counters of the stores for the free use of all the customers. In the family the decanters stood openly upon the sideboard. The professor of religion, as well as the man of the world, indulged with the same freedom. In the field no work could be performed without whisky freely supplied. The farmer who would fail to furnish it would speedily find himself without harvesters.

To stem the tide of evil which seemed to gather such strength in the community, it was determined to organize a temperance society. In the summer of 1818, therefore, that active minister, Rev. Saul Henkle, gathered a few of the good men and women of the place together and formed an association, the declared object of which was to abandon the use of intoxicating liquors themselves, and induce others to do the same. By such influences as these, the rapid progress of iniquity in time was checked, and good order began to reign as the better class of citizens gained the ascendancy.