Preble County, Ohio
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Genealogy and History

Early History

Source: "Historical collections of Ohio: in three volumes ; an encyclopedia ..., Vo lume 3"
By Henry Howe, 1891

Excerpted from pgs. 113-132
Transcribed by K.T.


Preble County was formed from Montgomery and Butler, March 1, 1808; it was named from Capt. Edward Preble, who was born at Portland, Maine, August 15, 1761, and distinguished himself as a naval commander in the war of the Revolution, and particularly in the Tripolitan war, and died on the 25th of August, 1806. The soil is various; the southern part is a light rich soil, and is interspersed by numerous streams; the remainder of the county is upland, in places wet, but fertile when brought under cultivation. There is an abundance of water power for milling purposes, and large quantities of flour are manufactured.

Preble County Courthouse in 1846
Courthouse in 1846

Area about 440 square miles. In 1887 the acres cultivated were 186,275; in pasture, 35,426; woodland, 33,294; lying waste, 5,873; produced in wheat, 529,637 bushels; rye, 1,136; buckwheat, 85; oats, 464,627; barley, 13,563; corn, 1,522,636; broom-corn, 17,100 pounds brush; meadow hay, 8,814 tons; clover hay, 4,096; flax, 81,500 pounds, fibre; potatoes, 30,830 bushels; tobacco, 1,044,210 pounds; butter, 611,300; cheese, 300; sorghum, 6,668 gallons; maple syrup, 9,169; honey, 11,137 pounds; eggs, 549,135 dozen; grapes, 30,870 pounds; wine, 149 gallons; sweet potatoes, 3,242 bushels; apples, 1,643; peaches, 61; pears, 749; wool, 28,183 pounds; milch cows owned, 5,959. Ohio Mining Statistics, 1888: Limestone, 64,500 tons burned for lime; 3,000 tons burned for fluxing; 23,750 cubic feet of dimension stone; 10,397 cubic yards building stone; 30,000 square feet of flagging; 12,460 square feet of paving; 8,571 lineal feet of curbing; 3,492 cubic yards of ballast or macadam. School census, 1888, 7,139; teachers, 183; miles of railroad track, 75.

Townships And Census

Townships And Census











































Population of Preble in 1820 was 10,237; 1830,16,296; 1840,19,481; 1860, 21,820; 1880, 24,533; of whom 19,293 were born in Ohio; 1,042, Indiana; 768, Virginia; 722, Pennsylvania; 322, Kentucky; 87, New York; 478, German Empire; 425, Ireland; 51, British America; 44, England and Wales; 10, France, and 6, Scotland. Census, 1890, 23,421.

Limestone Quarries.
The quarrying of limestone is an important industry in this county. The limestones principally quarried belong to the Niagara group; these in Ohio are very often called cliff limestones, because they stand in the bluffs along the river valleys. The quarries in the vicinity of Eaton turn out a number of grades of stone, suitable for flaggings and copings as well as for fine and rough constructions. It is stated in Orton's Geological Report, that a stone 10 x 12 feet in superficial dimensions has been taken out and that very much larger stones can be obtained. The Clinton limestone has not been so extensively quarried, but is very much in demand for chimney backs and has been found especially desirable for those constructions which are exposed to fire or heat.

Old Block House.—On what is known as the Wolf farm, Harrison township, stood one of a series of block houses built and manned by citizen-soldiers in the fall of 1813. Dr. J. W. Miller, of West Baltimore, has given us the following facts concerning it.
This block-house was built by a party of drafted men, belonging to a company of riflemen which formed a part of the Old Battalion under the command of Major Alexander C. Lanier. This company occupied the blockhouse during the winter of 1813-14 to protect the settlements on Miller's Fork.
It was one of a series of block-houses, built and manned by citizen-soldiers, in communication with the settlements and line of forts between Cincinnati and the Lakes. The following is a true copy of a discharge which is in my possession.

I do certify that --- ---, a sargeant of my company of Ohio Riflemen, in the Old Battalion, under the command of Alexander C. Lanier, has served a regular tour of duty, and is hereby honorably discharged.
Given under my hand this 5th day of April, 1814.
Simon Phillips, Capt.

The members of this company have been left out of the roster of Ohio's soldiers in the war of 1812, as least so far as Ohio's record is concerned. The Locks, Hapners, McNults and others of Lewisburg, and the Tillmans, Loys, Rices, Abbots, Phillipses, Myerses and others on Miller's Fork, were prominent in the settlements referred to.

Preble County Courthouse in 1890
Courthouse in 1890

[Section on "Travelling Notes" omitted]

Eaton in 1846. — Eaton, the county-seat, is twenty-four miles west of Dayton, ninety-four west of Columbus, and nine east of the State line. It was laid out in 1806 by William Bruce, then proprietor of the soil. It was named from Gen. William Eaton, who was born in Woodstock, Ct., in 1764, served in the war of the revolution, was graduated at Dartmouth in 1790, was appointed a captain under Wayne, in 1792, also consul at Tunis in 1798; in April, 1804, he was appointed navy agent of the United States with the Barbary powers, to co-operate with Hamet, bashaw, in the war against Tripoli, in which he evinced great energy of character: he died in 1811. He was brave, patriotic and generous.

The turnpike from Dayton west leads through Eaton, and one also connects the place with Hamilton. The village contains 1 Presbyterian, 1 Methodist and 1 Public church, 1 book, 2 grocery and 4 dry-goods stores, 1 or 2 newspaper printing offices, 1 woollen factory, 1 saw mill and about 1,000 inhabitants. Near the town is an overflowing well of strong sulphur water, possessing medicinal properties. About two miles south is Halderman's quarry, from which is obtained a beautiful grey clouded stone: at the village is a limestone quarry, and the county abounds in fine building stone. - Old Edition.

Among the earlier settlers of the town were: Samuel Hawkins, Cornelius Vanausdal, David E. Hendricks, Alexander Mitchell, Alexander C. Lanier and Paul Larsh. Cornelius Vanausdal kept the first store and David E. Hendricks the first tavern.

Eaton, county-seat of Preble, is fifty-three miles north of Cincinnati, on the C. R. & C. R. R. It is the centre of a great tobacco and grain-growing section. Cigar manufacturing is a large industry.

County officers, 1888: Auditor, Hiram L. Robbins; Clerk, Leander D. Lesh; Commissioners, William Mills, John C. Riner, Werter D. Pugh; Coroner, Philip M. Small; Infirmary Directors, Frank Ridenour, Nathaniel B. Stephens, Joseph W. Coffman; Probate Judge, William A. Neal; Posecuting Attorney, John Risinger; Recorder, Peter S. Eikenberry; Sheriff, William Watters; Surveyor, Robert E. Lowry; Treasurer, Silas Laird.
City officers, 1888: W. B. Marsh, Mayor; J. N. Sliver, Clerk; Geo. W. Nelson, Treasurer; Court Corwin, Marshal.
Newspapers: Democrat, Democratic, L. G. Gould, editor and publisher; Register, Republican, W. F. Albright & Sons, editors and publishers.
Churches: 1 Lutheran, 2 Methodist, 1 Presbyterian, 1 Catholic, 1 Baptist, and 1 Disciples.
Banks: Farmers' and Citizens', Abner Dunlap, president, C. F. Brooke, Jr., cashier; Preble County, H. C. Hiestand & Co.

Manufactures and Employees.
F. P. Filbert, cigars, 35 hands; Coovert & Cooper, cigars, 29; G. A. & J. F. Lugar, builders' wood-work, 11; Frank Rhinehart, builders' wood-work, 4; H. Sanders, flour, etc., 3; W. F. Jones, cigars, 13; Straw Bros., cigar boxes, 5.—State Report, 1887.

Population in 1880, 2,143. School census, 1888, 730; J. P. Sharkey, school superintendent.
Capital invested in industrial establishments, $51,000. Value of annual product, $100,000.—Ohio Labor Statistics, 1887. Census, 1890, 2,996.

"At Eaton are mineral springs and flowing wells," writes Dr. F. M. Michael. "Artesian Wells are obtained in the north part of the town by boring thirty or thirty-five feet in the earth. The waters are strongly impregnated with iron, bicarbonate of sodium, potassium, with traces of lithium; very little lime salts enter into the composition; in fact, the water is much softer than the surface wells.

"One of these wells has been flowing for many years. Several new wells have been flowing for eight years; the water rises several feet above the ground.

"A well at the court-house, over one hundred feet in depth, affords white sulphur waters. Has been in use many years for its medicinal qualities."

Eaton is a healthy town, but in 1849 few places in the State suffered so severely from Asiatic Cholera; about one hundred and twenty deaths in the course of the summer out of a population of about six hundred who remained behind, while of the other half of the population who fled, not one died.

[footnote] The first male person born in this county was Col. George D. Hendricks. This was on the site of Camden, October 3, 1805. He had a varied experience; was a soldier under Sam Houston, in the war between Texas and Mexico, and then returned and settled at Eaton, where he became a most useful citizen; served in the Legislature; was County Auditor, County Sheriff and Village Postmaster. This child of the wilderness remembered many interesting things.

Girls Stolen by Indians.
A year or two before the war of 1812, two little girls were stolen from Harrison township by Indians. One was named Tharp and the other Harper. The incidents connected with this affair were related by Mr. G. D. Hendricks, January 18, 1885, at which time he was a resident of Hiawatha, Kansas.

Mr. Harper Finds His Child. — When the children were first missed, they were supposed to be lost; but their captivity was assured by the discovery of Indian tracks. All efforts to find their whereabouts were of no avail, until many years after the close of the war, when Mr. Harper learned from an Indian that a white woman was at Kaskaskia, Illinois, whence the father sought and found his long-lost child, but so changed by time and association that she was past recognition. But through the kind offices of a French interpreter, it became self-evident as to her identity. Notwithstanding this, she seemed unable to realize that she was other than one of the tribe, and refused to converse with her father, or return with him to civilization.

Wife of an Indian Chief,—Years rolled on without any tidings of the daughter of Mr. Tharp until about the year 1837 or 1838, when he received word from a friend and Indian trader, that the wife of an Indian chief, named Captain Dixon, was a white woman. Dixon was a younger brother of the Miniui chief Shinglemacy, whose Indian name was Meto-Sina. This tribe was on their Reservation, a few miles below where Marion, Grant County, Indiana, is located. The fond father sped his way to the vicinity of the village, and called on my brother, William E. Hendricks, who had a traditional knowledge of the abduction of the Tharp and Harper children. As his farm was adjoining the Reservation, and he knew personally Captain Dixon and the tribe generally, the meeting of father and daughter was at my brother's house.

Refused to leave — The result of the conference was disheartening to the father; for this child of misfortune persistently refused to leave her Indian home, arguing that with the whites she would be an object of sport or ridicule, on account of her Indian habits and training, and was too old to learn the habits and customs of civilized life: and. in fact, she had but a faint recollection of her childhood home and kindred. The meeting and parting, as described by my nephew, were heartrending to the bereaved father; and the more so, because of the cold indifference of his alienated daughter, who, in a few yean after, committed suicide, by drowning, at "Hog-back," in the Mississinewa, four miles below the village, because her liege lord returned home from a drunken spree with another wife. Captain Dixon, though a fair scholar, and speaking good English, was a drunken desperado, as were two of his brothers, who were killed at an Indian pow­wow, by a Pottawatomie brave; his oldest brother, Meto-Sina, was temperate.

Vanausdal's Store.
When the county of Preble was organized there was not a store in the county. The necessity for one induced Cornelius Vanausdal, a young man of 25, to leave his father's farm and start the enterprise at Eaton. He and his store soon became known throughout the surrounding country, and his venture proved a profitable one. Started in 1808, he conducted it either alone or in partnership with others until 1863. Among his familiar acquaintances were Tecumseh, his brother, the Prophet, Honest John, Indian John, and others.

It is related of Indian John, that he brought furs to the store to swap for salt. The old-fashioned steelyards with long and short, or light and heavy slides, were used in weighing the articles involved in the trade. John had never seen steelyards before, and watched the weighing closely. The light side was used in weighing the furs. When the salt was to be weighed the steelyards were turned over so as to use the heavy side. John watched this operation with suspicion, and when he saw the yard fly up when the pea was not so far from the fulcrum as when his furs were weighed, he was convinced that there was something wrong, and seizing the steelyards with an exclamation pronouncing them a lie, ran to the door and threw them as far as be could into the weeds and brush. Mr. Vanausdal, in his dealings with Indians, would never give them credit, although he freely trusted white men. Mr. Vanausdal was born in Virginia, October 2, 1783; in 1805 came with his father to what is now Lanier Township, Preble County. In 1810 he took the first census of Preble County. Dur­ing the war of 1812, he was assistant paymas­ter in the United States army, and engaged in furnishing supplies to the army operating between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. In 1819 he represented Preble County in the Legislature. His death occurred in 1870.

About a mile west of Eaton is the site of Fort St Clair, erected in the severe winter of 1791-2. At this time Fort Jefferson was the farthest-advanced post being forty-four miles from Fort Hamilton. This spot was chosen as a place of security, and to guard the communication between them. Gen. Wilkinson sent Major John S. Gano, belonging to the militia of the Territory, with a party to build the work. Gen. Harrison, then an ensign, commanded a guard every other night for about three weeks, during the building of the fort. They had neither fire nor covering of any kind, and suffered much from the intense cold. It was a stockade, and had about twenty acres cleared around it. The outline can yet be distinctly traced.

On the 6th of November, 1792, a severe battle was fought almost under cover of the guns of Fort St. Clair, between a corps of riflemen and a body of Indians.

Indians Led by Little Turtle.—The parties engaged were a band of 250 Mingo and Wyandot warriors, under the command of the celebrated chief Little Turtle, and an escort of 100 mounted riflemen of the Kentucky militia, commanded by Capt. John Adair, subsequently governor of Kentucky. These men had been called out to escort a brigade of pack-horses, under an order from Gen. Wilkinson. They could then make a trip from Fort Washington, past Fort St. Clair, to Fort Jefferson, and return in six days, en­camping each night under the walls of one of these military posts for protection. The Indians being elated by the check they had given our army the previous year, in defeat­ing St. Clair, determined to make a descent upon a settlement then forming at Columbia, at the mouth of the Little Miami. Some time in September 250 warriors struck the war pole, and took up their line of march. Fortunately for the infant settlement, in pass­ing Fort Hamilton they discovered a fatigue party, with a small guard, chopping firewood, east of the fort. While the men were gone to dinner the Indians formed an ambuscade, and on their return captured two of the men. The prisoners informed the Indians that on the morning previous—which must have been on Friday—a brigade of some fifty or 100 pack-horses, loaded with supplies for the two military posts in advance, had left Fort Ham­ilton, escorted by a company of riflemen, mounted on fine horses, and that if they made their trip in the usual time, they would be at Fort Hamilton, on their return, Monday night.

Ambuscade.—Upon this information. Little Turtle abandoned his design of breaking up the settlement above Cincinnati, and fell back some twelve or fifteen miles, with a view of intercepting the brigade on its return. He formed an ambuscade on the trace, at a well-selected position, which he occupied through the day that he expected the return of the escort. But as Capt. Adair arrived at Fort Jefferson on Saturday night he permitted his men and horses to rest themselves over Sunday, and thus escaped the ambuscade. On Monday night, when on their return, they encamped within a short distance of Fort St Clair. The judge says:

"The chief of the band of Indians being informed of our position by his runners, con­cluded that by a night attack he could drive us out of our encampment. Accordingly, he left his ambush, and a short time before day­break, on Tuesday morning, the Indians, by a discharge of rifles and raising the hideous yells for which they were distinguished, made a simultaneous attack on three sides of the encampment, leaving that open next to the fort. The horses became frightened, and numbers of them broke from their fastenings. The camp, in consequence of this, being thrown into some confusion, Capt. Adair re­tired with his men and formed them in three divisions, just beyond the shine of the fires, on the side next the fort; and while the enemy were endeavoring to secure the horses and plunder the camp—which seemed to be their main object—they were in turn attacked by us, on their right, by the captain and his division; on the left by Lt. George Madi­son, and in the centre by Lt. Job Hale, with their respective divisions. The enemy, however, were sufficiently strong to detail a fighting party, double our numbers, to pro­tect those plundering the camp and driving off the horses, and as we had left the side from the fort open to them, they soon began to move off, taking all with them.

Close Fighting.—As soon as the day-dawn afforded light sufficient to distinguish a white man from an Indian, there ensued some pretty sharp fighting, so close in some in­stances as to bring in use the war-club and tomahawk. Here Lt. Hale was killed and Lt. Madison wounded. As soon as the Indians retreated the white men hung on their rear, but when we pressed them too close, they would turn and drive us back. In this way a kind of running fight was kept up until after sun-rising, when we lost sight of the enemy and nearly all our horses, somewhere about where the town of Eaton now stands. On returning from the pursuit our camp pre­sented rather a discouraging appearance. Not more than six or eight horses were saved; some twenty or thirty lay dead on the ground. The loss of the enemy remains unknown; the bodies of two Indians were found among the dead horses. We gathered up our wounded, six in number, took them to the fort, where a room was assigned them as a hospital, and their wounds dressed by Surgeon Boyd of the regular army. The wound of one man, John James, consisted of little more than the loss of his scalp. It appeared from his statement that in the heat of the action he received a blow on the side of his head with a war-club, which stunned so as to barely knock him down, when two or three Indians fell to skinning his head, and in a very short time took from him an unusually large scalp, and in the hurry of the operation a piece of one of his ears. He recovered, and I understood some years afterwards that he was then living. Another of the wounded, Luke Vores, was a few years since living in Preble county.

Between the site of Fort St. Clair and Eaton is the village graveyard. This cemetery is adorned with several beautiful monuments. Among them is one to the memory of Fergus Holderman, who died in 1838. Upon it are some ex­quisitely beautiful devices, carved by “the lamented Clevenger," which are among his first attempts at sculpture. The principal object of attraction, however, is the monument to the memory of Lt. Lowry and others who fell with him in an engagement with a party of Indians commanded by Little Turtle, at Ludlow's Spring, near the Forty-foot Pitch, in this county, on the 17th of October, 1793. This monument has recently been constructed by La Dow & Hamilton, of Dayton, at an expense of about $300, contributed by public-spirited individuals of this vicinity. It is composed of the elegant Rutland marble, is about twelve feet in height, and stands upon one of those small artificial mounds common in this re­gion. The view was taken from the east, beyond which, in the extreme distance, in the forest on the left, is the site of Fort St. Clair.

This Lt. Lowry was a brave man. His last words were: “My brave boys, all you that can fight, now display your activity and let your balls fly!" The slain in the engagement were buried at the fort. On the 4th of July, 1822, the remains of Lowry were taken up and reinterred with the honors of war in this graveyard, twelve military officers acting as pall-bearers, followed by the orator, chaplain and physicians, under whose direction the removal was made, with a large concourse of citizens and two military companies. The remains of the slain commander and soldiers have been recently removed to the mound, which, with the monument, will “mark their resting-place, and be a memento of their glory for ages to come."

A Wise and Humane Indian Chief. — Little Turtle lived some years after the war in great esteem among men of high standing. He was alike courageous and humane, possessing great wisdom. "And,"' says Schoolcraft, "there have been few individuals among aborigines who have done so much to abolish the rites of human sacrifice. The grave of this noted warrior is shown to visitors, near Fort Wayne. It is frequently visited by the Indians in that part of the country, by whom his memory is cherished with the greatest respect and veneration."

When the philosopher and famous traveler, Volney, was in America, in the winter of 1797, Little Turtle came to Philadelphia, where he then was, and he sought immediate acquaintance with the celebrated chief, for highly valuable purposes, which in some measure he effected. He made a vocabulary of his language, which he printed in the appendix to his travels. A copy in manuscript, more extensive than the printed one, is in the library of the Philosophical Society of Pennsylvania.

Indians Descendants of Tartars.—At the time of Mr. Volney's interview with him for information, he took no notice of the conversation while the interpreter was communicating with Mr. Volney, for he did not understand English, but walked about, plucking out his beard and eye-brows. He was dressed now in English clothes. His skin, where not exposed, Mr. Volney says, was as white as his; and on speaking upon the subject, Little Turtle said: “I have seen Spaniards in Louisiana, and found no difference of color between them and me. And why should there be any? In them, as in us, it is the work of the father of colors, the sun that burns us. You white people compare the color of your face with that of your bodies." Mr. Volney explained to him the notion of many, that his race was descended from the Tartars, and by a map showed him the supposed communication between Asia and America. To this Little Turtle replied:

“Why should not these Tartars, who resemble us, have come from America? Are there any reasons to the contrary? Or why should we not both have been in our own country?" It is a fact that the Indians give themselves a name which is equivalent to our word indigene, that is, one sprung from the soil, or natural to it.

An Indian out of Place.—When Mr. Volney asked Little Turtle what prevented him from living among the whites, and if he were not more comfortable in Philadelphia than upon the banks of the Wabash, he said:

"Taking all things together you have the advantage over us; but here I am deaf and dumb. I do not talk your language; I can neither hear, nor make myself heard. When I walk through the streets I see every person in his shop employed about something: one makes shoes, another hats, a third sells cloth, and every one lives by his labor. I say to myself, Which of all these things can yon do? Not one. I can make a bow or an arrow, catch fish kill game, and go to war; but none of these is of any use here. To learn what is done here would require a long time. Old age comes on. I should be a useless piece of furniture, useless to my nation, useless to the whites, and useless to myself I must return to my own country."

[Long section of "Anecdotes of Little Tur tle" omitted]
[Long section of "Father Finley, The Itinerant" omitted]

Camden is eight miles south of Eaton, on the C. R. & C. R. R.
Newspapers: Gazette, Independent, C. M. Hane, editor and publisher.
Churches: 1 Methodist, 1 Presbyterian, and 1 Universalist. It is quite a purchasing and shipping point for grain and stock. Population, 1880, 800. School census, 1888, 220.

West Alexandria is six miles east of Eaton, on the C. J. & M. R. R., and in the heart of the beautiful Twin Valley.
Newspaper: Twin Valley Times, Independent, Chas. J. Wilson, editor.
Churches: 1 Episcopal Methodist, 1 Lutheran, 1 Reformed.
This is said to be one of the wealthiest villages, per head of population, in this part of the State, and remarkable for its number of fine residences. The main industries are furniture, Coffman & Burtner; washing machines, Adolph Schlingman; woollen goods, as yarns and blankets, flour, saddlery, harness, wagons, etc. Population, 1880, 796. School census, 1888,186. E. P. Vaughn, superintendent of schools.

Winchester, P. O. Gratis, is nine miles southeast of Eaton. Population, 1880, 502. School census, 1888, 203.

West Elkton is fourteen miles southeast of Eaton. Population, 1880, 247. School census, 1888, 115.

Lewisburg is nine miles northeast of Eaton, on the C. J. & M. R. R. Population, 1880, 409. School census, 1888, 161.

New Paris is twelve miles northwest of Eaton, on the P.C. & St.L. R.R., six miles east of New Richmond, Ind., on and in the valley of the Whitewater.
Newspapers: Mirror, Independent, C. W. Bloom, editor and publisher.
Churches: 1 Methodist Episcopal, 1 colored Methodist Episcopal, 1 Presbyterian, 1 Christian, 1 Universalist, 1 United Brethren, and 1 Catholic. Population, 1880, 835. School census, 1888, 300. F. S. Alley, superintendent of schools. New Paris is noted for its mineral springs, called Cedar Springs, which are quite a summer resort for invalids. The manufacture of linen is extensively carried on.

Eldorado is twelve miles northwest of Eaton, on the P.C. & St.L. R.R. Population, 1880, 337. School census, 1888, 112.

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