HISTORIC CLERMONT COUNTY
By Bob Slade
Historic Clermont County, birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant, was created by proclamation of Arthur St. Clair, Governor of the Northwest Territory on December 6, 1800. In age, it ranks 8th of the 88 counties of Ohio, and 11th of the 424 counties carved from the great Northwest Territory. In the south and across the Mississippi, nearly 2,000 junior counties can be found. The county is located in the southwestern corner of Ohio, immediately east of and adjacent to Cincinnati. It encompasses some 470 square miles of land, bounded on the north by Warren and Clinton Counties, on the east by Brown County and the Little Miami River; and on the south by the Ohio River which borders approximately 26 miles of the county. The 14 townships of the county are: Batavia, Franklin, Goshen, Jackson, Miami, Monroe, Ohio, Pierce, Stonelick, Tate, Union, Washington, Wayne, and Williamsburg.
Throughout Ohio, evidences of the culture of the legendary Mound Builders exist. These people, classified as the Adena and Hopewell groups by archeologists are believed to have been the ancestors of the American Indians of the historic period. Over 200 various types of mounds and enclosures erected by them have been located in Clermont County. In the historic period, Ohio Indian tribes included: The Wyandots (called Hurons by the French), Delawares, Shawnees, Ottawas, Chippewas, and Miamis.
Following the close of the Revolutionary War, Indians in the Ohio Territory continued to offer fierce resistance. Old Clermont was a sort of no-man's land being midway between the warlike Shawnee headquarters near Chillicothe, and Boonesboro, the first permanent white settlement in Kentucky. While no decisive battles were fought here, there were many clashes between the redmen and such famous scouts as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and Cornelius Washburn. General Anthony Wayne's victory over the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the later Treaty of Greenville opened the Ohio and Indiana lands for peaceful settlement.
Our first permanent settlements were probably between 1794 and 1796 in the townships of Miami, Williamsburg, Washington, and Pierce. By 1800 settlements dotted the banks of the Little Miami and Ohio Rivers, as well as Stonelick, East Fork, Bullskin, Indian, Bear, and Ten Mile Creeks, and smaller tributaries. By 1805, as Rockey and Bancroft note, the tides of immigration "flowed like water through the breach in a mill dam".
The lands of Clermont were originally part of the vast Virginia Military Reservation, which included all territory west of the Alleghanies between the Little Miami and Scioto Rivers. This territory was claimed by Virginia under grants made in 1609 and set aside by the state as bounty land for her veterans of the Revolutionary war. The first survey in the great northwest was made in Clermont County near the present site of Neville, Ohio, by John O'Bannon for Colonel John Neville in 1787. Up to the year 1799, all land between the Little Miami and Eagle Creek was part of Hamilton County and was known as Anderson Township. During that year it was divided into Washington and Deerfield Townships, the former including all the southern and central parts of present Clermont and Brown Counties, while the latter included the northern portions of these counties and the southern part of Warren County. We narrowly missed being called "Henry County". This being the name suggested by the territorial legislature meeting at Cincinnati in 1799 which authorized a new county to be formed from part of Hamilton County to the line of Ross or Adams County. The County Seat was to be Denham's Town(now Bethel, Ohio). This act was vetoed by St. Clair, who is said to have regarded it as an infringement upon his authority.
In our early history, no man was more widely known or had more to do with opening the territory for settlement than General William Lytle, known as "The Father of Clermont County". Famous as an Indian fighter and explorer, he followed the business of surveying most of his life and probably entered and located more lands in Ohio than any other man. He was especially taken by the natural beauty of what is now Williamsburg Township and platted the pioneer settlement of Lytle's Town (later Williamsburg, Ohio) there in 1795.
In 1800 this became the territorial seat of the new county and Lytle was appointed as Prothonotary by Governor St. Clair. The first court house and jail was built on land donated by Lytle near the present site of the Williamsburg High School.
In 1817 Brown County was formed, taking away from Old Clermont County the four large townships of Pleasant, Clark, Lewis and Perry, thus leaving Williamsburg only a short distance from the boundary line. This led to proposals for changing the county seat and in 1823 an act was passed by the legislature recommending New Richmond as the new location. After much political controversy, this was followed by an act in 1824 naming Batavia as the location. Here the county seat has since remained.
Historians have observed that the early settlers of Clermont County were generally identified by common interests, manners, and education to a greater degree than any other of the Ohio settlements. Many came from some of the best families of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. They were endowed with abundant energy, were practical agriculturists, were straight forward in objectives and prompt in meeting obligations. These traits were reflected in their early concern for good local government and schools. It is estimated that at least 225 of our first settlers were veterans of the Revolutionary War.
Times have changed, but the fine heritage of the lives of our pioneers that has been handed down to us is of the fiber that made America great.
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