Welcome to Ohio Genealogy Trails!

Adams County, Ohio
History and Genealogy
part of the Genealogy Trails History Group



Adams County is one of the oldest in Ohio. It was formed July 10, 1797, by proclamation of Arthur St. Clair, Governor of the Northwest Territory. The elder Adams was then President of the United States, and St. Clair named the county in his honor. The civil organization of the county was effected Tuesday, September 12, 1797, at Manchester, the site of the first white settlement in the Virginia Reservation, and the third in Ohio. There were three counties organized in Ohio before Adams, namely : Washington, Hamilton, and Wayne.

 Adams County lies on the majestic Ohio, and borders Highland on the north, Scioto on the east, and Brown on the west. Pike joins at the northeast angle. The form of the county is rectangular, its longer sides being its eastern and western boundary lines, and it contains six hundred and twenty-five square miles of surface. The original boundaries of the county included the greater portion of the Virginia Reservation. On the hydrographic charts of the state, Adams County is classed in the Scioto Valley section, but it is properly designated an Ohio River county. Its system of drainage empties directly into the Ohio, except a small area in the northeastern part drained by Scioto Brush Creek, a tributary of the Scioto River. Few counties of the state surpass Adams in the number and size of its fine streams and creeks. The largest of these is Ohio Brush Creek, a magnificent stream that flows through the central portion of the county from the north and empties into the Ohio River. From the village of Newport at the junction of its west and east branches to its mouth at the Ohio, it traverses a distance of nearly forty miles, and for the greater portion of its course attains the magnitude of a small river. In the days of the old iron furnaces their products were transported a portion of the year in barges from "Old Forge Dam" to the Ohio. A system of slackwater navigation on Ohio Brush Creek was at one time contemplated by the state when the iron furnaces were in operation there. In an article in the WESTERN PIONEER George Sample states that in 1806, he loaded two flat boats with flour at his residence on Ohio Brush Creek and took them from there to New Orleans. Hundreds of rafts of logs used to be floated from the vicinity of the Sproull bridge during good stages of water, while the lower course of the creek could be used almost the entire year.

The present generation has but little conception of the environments of the pioneers of Adams county, and of the hardships and dangers endured by them. When the first settlement was formed at the "Three Islands," what is now Adams County, as in fact with two exceptions, all of the present State of Ohio, was a vast wilderness, inhabited by tribes of hostile savages, and filled with ferocious beasts and venomous serpents. There was not a white man's domicile in all the Virginia Reservation, and there was not a fort nor a single company of soldiers in all that vast region to shelter the pioneer who ventured within its limits, or to stay the course of the bands of murderous savages that roamed the forests. For the most part the entire region was an unbroken forest, and the stately monarchs of the woods, the oak leviathans, whose lofty tops towered the heavens, formed a canopy of green that was but dimly penetrated by the summer's sun, and the creeks and streams were overhung with foliage that shut out the sunlight and cast deep shadows over the surface of the waters. There was not a road nor a path through this wilderness except those made by the herds of buffaloes in their travels from one feeding place to another. There were no means of travel through this vast wilderness except on foot or on horseback and these were fraught with the greatest dangers to life and limb. With such surroundings and under such conditions was the first white settlement begun in the Virginia Reservation.

Massie's Settlement at Manchester. In the year 1790, Nathaniel Massie, a young land surveyor, who was interested in locating land warrants in the Virginia Reservation northwest of the Ohio River, as an inducement to found a colony there, offered to each of the first twenty-five persons who would join him in making a settlement, one inlot and one outlot in a town he proposed to lay off, and one hundred acres of land in the vicinity of the new town. In accordance with this proposal the following written agreement was drawn up and signed by the parties interested :

Articles of agreement between Nathaniel Massie, of the one part, and the several persons that have hereunto subscribed, of the other part, witnesseth : that the subscribers hereof cloth oblige themselves to settle in the town laid off, on the northwest side of the Ohio, opposite the lower part of the three islands ; and make said town or the neighborhood, on the northwest side of the Ohio, their permanent seat of residence for two years from the date hereof; no subscriber shall be absent for more than two months at a time, and during such absence, he shall furnish a strong able-bodied man sufficient to bear arms at least equal to himself; no subscriber shall absent himself the time above mentioned, in case of actual danger, nor shall such absence be but once a year ; no subscriber shall absent himself in case of actual danger, or if absent, he shall return immediately. Each of the subscribers doth oblige himself to comply with the rules and regulations that shall be agreed on by a majority there of for the support of the settlement.

In consideration whereof, Nathaniel Massie doth bind and oblige himself, his heirs, etc., to make over and convey to such of the subscribers, that comply with the above conditions, at the expiration of two years, a good and sufficient title unto one inlot in said town, containing five poles in front and eleven back, one outlet of four acres convenient to said town, in the bottom, which the said Massie is to put them in immediate possession of ; also one hundred acres of land, which the said Massie has shown to a part of the subscribers; the conveyance to be made to each of the subscribers, their heirs or assigns. In witness whereof each of the parties have hereunto set their hands and seals this first day of December, 1790. signed)

 Nathaniel Massie John Ellison
John Lindsey Allen Simmeral
William Wade John X McCutchen
 John Black Andrew X Anderson
Samuel X Smith Mathew X Hart
Jessie X Wethington  Henry X Nelson
Josiah Wade John Peter Christopher Shanks
John Clark James Allison
Robert Ellison Thomas Stout
Zephaniah Wade George Wade


Done in the presence of John Beasley, James Tittle.

 It has been said that this agreement was drafted and subscribed at Kenton's Station near the town of Washington, Kentucky. It is probable that it was drafted at Limestone and subscribed there. However, the settlement was begun immediately, the town was laid out into lots and named Manchester, after Manchester in England, the home of the ancestors of its founder. The new settlement was known for years as Massie's Station.

"This little confederacy, with Massie at the helm (who was the whole soul of it)," says McDonald, "went to work with spirit. Cabins were raised, and by the middle of March, 1791, the whole town was enclosed with strong pickets, firmly fixed in the ground, with block-houses at each angle for defense. [The situation of the stockade was opposite the lower end of the large island and extended to the river bank.] Although this settlement was commenced in the hottest Indian war. it suffered less from depredations and even interruption from the Indians. than any settlement previously made en the Ohio River. This was no doubt owing to the watchful band of brave spirits who guarded the place, men who were reared in the midst of danger and inured to perils, and as watchful as hawks. Here were the Beasleys, the Stouts, the Washburns, the Leedoms, the Edgingtons, the Dinnings, the Ellisons, the Utts, the McKenzies, the Wades and others who were equal to the Indians in all the arts and stratagems of border war.

The pioneers of Adams County as a class were honorable and moral men and women. They represented some of the best families of Virginia. Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey and the Carolinas. They were a hardy, industrious, and frugal people, who had come determined to make a home for themselves and their generations in the great Northwest. They were the daring, spirited and brave element of the older settlements east of the Alleghenies. It is true there were in the early settlements as there is in every community today, a rough, immoral, indolent element ; but look into the history of any of the early settlements in the county, and it will be seen that each was dominated by moral, industrious, and intelligent families. The pioneers were not, as is the popular opinion, giants in stature and of herculean strength, but they were hardy and vigorous as a result of plain living and an active outdoor life. As a matter of necessity every man and boy devoted a portion of his time to the chase. It afforded the principal subsistence of the early settlers, and "wild meat without salt or bread was often their only food for weeks." They were a generous-hearted and hospitable people, whose welcome was plain and outspoken. There was none of the deceit veiled in hollow formalities that prevails in society today. "Our latch-string is always out" meant a genuine hearty welcome to the humble home of the pioneer.

source: A History of Adams County, Ohio by Nelson Wiley Evans, Emmons Buchanan Stivers





Back to Ohio Genealogy Trails
©Genealogy Trails