Springfield, Ohio

History and Genealogy



City of Springfield


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 425


By Oscar T. Martin

To dignify with the sonorous name of history the unpretentious narrative of events which here follows may be an unwarranted assurance. It is simply an attempt to gather in a connected chain links which have been loosely scattered around us. They have been found in disconnected sketches, historical collections, jottings in the press, and in the memories of the elder citizens. It has been well said that an outline scrawled with a pen which seizes the marked features of a countenance will give a much stronger idea of it than a bad painting in oils. If these pages will, therefore, by a strict adherence to facts, and a partiality to dates and prominent circumstances connected with the origin and growth of the city, outline its progress and present to the reader a comprehensive glance of the subject, more will be accomplished, in the opinion of the writer, than if an attempt had been made at literary display, or accuracy sacrificed for the graces of rhetoric. Much has been written here which, perhaps, had better been omitted, and it is equally true that much has been omitted which should have been written; and, while the censor may be just in his most caustic criticisms, yet the great historian whose words we have placed upon the lintel has given us the consolation that this will not be the first failure in historical ventures.

When James Demint, from his lonely cabin on the hillside north of Buck Creek, looked out of his rude doorway, he saw before him a gentle slope, falling gradually toward the south, with a natural drainage in all directions; in the center of a rich, undeveloped country, directly within the path of travel between the settlements of the East and the West, and with a healthy, vigorous stream running busily along the foot of the declivity. He saw also, here and there, clumps of trees, royal in foliage, shadowing generous springs, which gushed unbidden from a thousand nooks and corners in the hillsides, enticing the rich herbage into rank extravagance, and suggesting one of nature's hostelries, where peace and plenty were spread with no niggard's hand. Demint saw that here was a favorable location for a settlement, which would in the future become a city of wealth; that nature had laid the ground-work of the plan which the energy and enterprise of man would develop; and it needed but the suggestion of a lady, Mrs. Gen. Simon Kenton, who was attracted by the superabundance of local springs, to dub the future town Springfield. Thus the cabin of the hardy pioneer, who, with prophetic vision, seemed to have cast the horoscope of the then embryonic city, became the nucleus of the frontier settlement, which soon grew into the thrifty hamlet, then the ambitions town, the restless, enterprising, manufacturing city, where the throbbing engines of industry beat ceaselessly, and the hum of busy wheels grows stronger year by year.

The spot so selected and christened in chivalric style was in the midst of a fertile country, surrounded by deep forests, with a soil of unsurpassed richness, and a water-power which was of inestimable value in early times. It was located on the banks of Buck Creek, or Lagonda, near the confluence of the latter with Mad River. The old Surveyor, William Brown, at one time fixed the exact latitude and longitude of Springfield. Its latitude, according to Brown, is 39 degrees 54 minutes 22 seconds north; longitude, 5 hours 35 minutes and 34 seconds west of Greenwich in time, or 3 degrees 53 minutes and 30 seconds in parts of the circle. Tradition says that the Indians were wont to tarry here temporarily on their hunting expeditions, but had not made it a habitation, and hence there was no name for it in the Indian tongue.


"La Ohonda"


The stream popularly known as Buck Creek was by the Indians called Lagonda. Those who were best acquainted with the Indian dialect did not hesitate to say that it is a derivative from "Ough Ohonda" (Buck's Horn, Little Deer's Horn, or Little Horn), from the Wyandots, and afterward abbreviated by the French traders to "La Ohonda," which early dropped by usage to Lagonda. This term was no doubt applied to the stream by the Indians because of its forked and crooked course, which the reader who will trace its sinuosities upon the map will see has not a very distant resemblance to a pair of buck's horns.


The First Settlement


As the history of the city is but an aggregation of the acts of the individuals who from time to time were its inhabitants, the first settler occupies a prominent position in the foreground. Adventurous frontiersmen had, during the closing years of the last century, been exploring the virgin forests which bordered the banks of the two Miamis. It was evident that all fertile country was soon to be redeemed from the savage hordes who were steadily retreating from advancing civilization.

Although not directly connected with the first settlement of Springfield, yet, as indicative of the growth of the vicinity, it is worthy of note that, in the summer of 1795, David Lowry, a native of Pennsylvania, with Jonathan Donnels, members of a surveying party, whose object was to obtain an accurate survey of the public lands in this portion of the Miami purchase, in the prosecution of their work came to what is now Clark County, and encamped one Saturday evening near what is now the village of Enon, and nearly opposite the mouth of Donnels Creek, where Lowry afterward built his residence. The fertile Mad River bottoms were so rich with promise of future harvests that Lowry determined to return and locate permanently in that vicinity. In the fall of the same year, having purchased a tract of land from Patten Shorts, then a large land owner in this section, he removed to the place where he afterward made his home. Following Lowry the next year came two men named Kreb and Brown, who, encamping near Lowry on Mad River, broke up the ground and engaged in tilling the soil. The first attempt at establishing a village in this neighborhood was made in August, 1899, when John Humphreys and Gen. Simon Kenton, with six families from the adjoining State of Kentucky, settled near the bridge on Mad River, west of Springfield, and erected a fort and fourteen cabins as a blockhouse station for protection against the Indians.