Early Settlers of Springfield
From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 435
By Oscar T. Martin
Those who have been identified with the early settlement of a community leave their impress upon it. An insight into their habits, characters and modes of thought is essential to a thorough understanding of the growth and development which was made possible by their early struggles. A study of New England without a knowledge of the Puritan character of the Plymouth fathers would be as valueless as a history of Old England without a thorough description of the Saxons and the Normans. Let us, therefore, take a glimpse at some of those hardy men whose names are linked with early life in Springfield.
John Daugherty first comes under our notice as engaged in laying out the town plat of the village, having been called to do this work by Mr. Demint. He was a native of Virginia, who had come to Demint's from Kentucky. He was a man of considerable natural ability, uncouth in person, but endowed with the faculty of making friends among all classes. His persuasive manners made him popular among the pioneers. He held various offices of trust; was elected Auditor of the county of Clark in 1818, Representative in the State Legislature during the winters of 1820, 1821, 1822, and again in 1824. As he had proven an efficient Representative, he had little difficulty in being chosen to the State Senate from the district then composed of Clark, Champaign and Logan counties, in 1825. The primitive method of electioneering, as used by this pioneer politician, was to make a personal canvass of the district on horseback, having a jug of whisky in each end of his saddle-bags. An intuitive insight into character suggested to him when to use a direct appeal for support, and when the more indirect, but equally as potent, influence of the jug should prevail. A ready wit, fluent speech and courteous bearing gained him a large following. At the close of his political life, he moved to a farm in Springfield Township, about two miles south of Springfield, where he died in 1832.
That portion of the city now known as the West End was originally owned by Robert Rennick, jointly with James Demint. Mr. Rennick at first settled in Springfield Township, but, soon after Demint's location of the town, he became a resident there. His land, whcih was in Section 5, Township 4, Range 9, was set apart to him upon a mutual division of the tract, which, as stated before, he owned in common with Demint. The east half, by this partition, came into the possession of the latter, while the former held the west half, the eastern boundary of which ran along the line called Yellow Springs street. He was a man of indomitable will and enterprise. The small mill at the mouth of Mill Run could not meet the demand made upon it from the surrounding country, which fact induced Mr. Rennick, during the years 1806 and 1807, to build a larger mill on Buck Creek, on the opposite bank, and a little below what is now Fern Cliff Cemetery. It became a valuable acquisition to the new settlement, and long continued in successful operation. About fifteen or twenty years later, this mill, together with the farm on the north side of the creek, came into the possession of a Mr. Henry Bechtle, who conducted the business successfully as late as 1835. After the death of Mr. Bechtle, the mill was abandoned, and finally torn down.
Mr. Rennick, in 1820, held the office of Justice of the Peace. His rulings were marked by a profound contempt for the decisions of the higher courts, but were tempered by a sturdy common sense, which guided him aright. He was frequently a law unto himself, and served his own writs if a Constable was not convenient or suitable to his mind. At one time, a man charged with horse-stealing was arrested and brought before him. As the modern features of jail or station-house had not been provided, and it became necessary to retain the prisoner overnight to secure the attendance of an important witness, Squire Rennick proceeded to improvise a pair of stocks. He split a log in halves, and hewed them so that, when joined again, two holes sufficiently large to insert the prisoner's legs were made. In these holes his legs were placed, the log pinioned fast, and the offender secured. He then laid the man thus fastened in a convenient place on the ground, confident that he would not forfeit his recognizance for his appearance the next day.
One of the Commissioners in the council with Tecumseh held in the village in 1807 was Jonah Baldwin, who was selected because of his sound judgment and excellent character. He came to Springfield in 1804, a young and then unmarried man. He built a large two-story frame house some years after his arrival, on a lot a little east of Limestone street, on Main street. Here he opened a tavern, which also served him as an office as a Justice of the Peace. He had a remarkable memory for dates and circumstances connected with the history of the nation. Mr. Baldwin died near Springfield in 1865, having attained the age of eighty-eight years.
In the spring of 1804, Walter Smallwood, with his young wife, came from Virginia, purchased a lot on the south side of Main street and erected a residence near where the Western House now stands. He was a valuable acquisition, as he was the first, and for a number of years, the only, blacksmith in the place. Mrs. Smallwood was a woman of superior intellect, cultivated manners, and very active in all matters pertaining to the social improvement of the community. She became one of the original members of the first Methodist societies organized here. She was remarkably gifted in prayer. Her choice words and sweet voice, melting in its tenderness, were frequently heard in supplication in the religious worship of that church. Mrs. Smallwood became the mother of six children — three boys and three girls — all of whom reached mature years, and, under the early teachings of a pious mother, identified themselves with religious organizations. The oldest son, Louis, went farther west in 1832, and settled in Lexington, Mo., where he engaged in the practice of his profession, the law. He served several terms as Clerk of the Court at Lexington, with credit. In 1852, Mr. and Mrs. Smallwood followed their children to Missouri. Their youngest son, Walter, who had learned the trade of a painter, and also studied law while in Springfield, became a Judge in one of the inferior courts in Missouri. He entered the Union army during the rebellion, serving a portion of the time as staff officer. At the close of the war, he went to Mississippi, where he assisted in framing the new constitution of that State, and wrote a very able address to the Senate of the United States in advocacy of its approval by that body. The Smallwoods were all loyal during the rebellion, and none more so than their aged father. The following anecdote of Mr. Smallwood is related by a writer in Harper's Magazine, and is characteristic of his intrepid character: "When the rebel Gen. Price, with his army, was making a raid in the vicinity of Lexington, Mo., Mr. Smallwood was standing one morning at the gate in front of his house in that city, when a rebel officer rode rapidly up to him and inquired if he could inform him where Gen. Price and his army was. The old gentlemen gazed indignantly at the officer a moment, and then replied, 'I don't know, sir, where they are, but can tell you where they ought to be at this moment.' The officer innocently asked, 'Where?' Mr. Samllwood, raising his cane and shaking it with great violence at the rebel officer, exclaimed, in a loud voice, 'In hell, sir, in hell!' The officer pursued his inquiry no farther, but rode rapidly away."
Mr. Smallwood buried his wife in Missouri before the war, following in 1869, at the age of eighty-seven years.
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Early Clark County
George Rogers Clark
Education in Clark County
Indians in Clark County
The National Road
Springfield in 1852
Springfield in 1863
SHS 1951 Yearbook
Then & Now