Ohio History Journal

Franklinton-An Historical Address

Franklinton-An Historical Address.        59








A few rods from where we are assembled to-day the waters

of the Olentangy unite with those of the Scioto, and together flow

down to the Ohio, thence to the Mississippi, and so onward to a

gulf of the Atlantic ocean. Southwardly from the place where the

two streams meet, there was, at the time to which we propose to

refer, a broad, handsome stretch of valley land, where good crops

of corn would follow even rude cultivation, where the wild grape,

plum and paw-paw could be gathered in their season, and whence

it was an easy matter to make forays to the higher lands in quest

of such beasts and birds as prefer not to live in close proximity

to man, whether he be tame or wild. This suggests, in brief, the

field about us as our fathers saw it, but not the incidents, marvel-

ous and otherwise, connected with it.

At a time when our ancestors were living in thatched huts on

the Rhine, the Thames, the Shannon, or the Tweed, and when

even London was an inconsiderable collection of rude houses, a

people far advanced in certain lines of civilization established a

town near the junction of the Scioto and Olentangy, and built

temples and places of sepulture, and worshiped God in a fashion

somewhat different from our own, but not greatly dissimilar to

that of the old Britons who met for devotional services at Stone-


The Scioto was then a great thoroughfare; its banks dotted

with homes and populous villages. That was a thousand - may

be three thousand - years ago, and yet the beautiful temple

mounds, and mounds of sepulture, which this prehistoric people

left behind them - some almost within an arrow's flight from

where we stand - have for centuries defied the ravages of time,

and now bid fair to continue to exist when the decaying edifices

of ancient Greece and Rome shall have finally moldered into dust

and forever disappeared.

When and why this people left the Scioto valley, and to what

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place they journeyed, will always remain matters of conjecture,

but the splendid cities and other evidences of high civilization

which the Spaniards found in Mexico and Peru suggest, at least,

that they moved southward in search of a more genial climate

and perhaps more fertile lands.

Then the red Indian came - a race of stalwart men, who

spurned fixed habitations, delighted in the freedom and solemn

grandeur of great forests, and loved the world as it had come

freshly from the hand of the Creator. But even this nomadic

people had their favorite places of resort, and their frail abodes

were standing near the junction of the Scioto and the Olentangy

when the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth Rock, and the first

English colony settled on the James. It can hardly be a stretch

of the probabilities to say that a knowledge of these important

events at the time of their occurrence, traveled slowly from the

seacoast to the interior, and in a somewhat distorted and exagger-

ated form finally reached those who lived then where we live now.

And we may safely assume, also, that the strange news was re-

ceived by some who heard it, with scornful incredulity, while oth-

ers pondered over it in awe as if it might betoken a visitation of

the gods in winged ships from the happy hunting grounds, to

which all good Indians hoped in due time to be translated.

Still many years passed by, and although the old rumors of

the coming of the white man with his smoking, thundering, deadly

gun, and blade of flashing steel, crystallized at last into absolute

certainty, it was yet a far cry, and the savage ear in this remote

section grew accustomed to it, and ceased to give it marked atten-

tion. At last, however, the day arrived when the skirmish line

of advancing civilization, crossing the Alleghanies, entered the

valleys of the Ohio and its tributaries and setting up its standards,

built stockades and domiciles, and made known its purpose to

occupy the land. Then there followed years of desultory warfare

in which wives and children were not spared; and this condition

of unrest and blood and midnight burnings continued until finally

the more intelligent of the native race were made to comprehend

that it was a heedless and cruel waste of life to prolong the con-

test against constantly increasing numbers and so, in patches,

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rather than in whole, friendly relations were established between

the new comers and the old inhabitants.

It was then - just one hundred years ago -- that Lucas Sulli-

vant-- an Irishman in name and paternal ancestry, a Virginian by

birth, a Kentuckian by residence, a civil engineer by profession

and a gentleman by instinct and education, founded the town the

centennial anniversary of whose birthyear we have gathered here

this day to celebrate.

The founding of a town may be an event creditable to the

founder and it may not. Paper towns, and towns which perished

in infancy, or struggled on to a dilapidated old age, may be heard

of or seen in almost every section of our country. It is the

prophetic discrimination of the founder which alone renders the

act of founding a matter worthy of consideration. In other

words, the wisdom of the man as demonstrated by the merit and

success of the enterprise he originates, is the true measure of the

credit to which he is entitled. It was Lucas Sullivant's desire,

doubtless, to build the town on his own land, but he could have

done this by putting it miles further west or south, for he was the

possessor of many acres. The motive which prompted him, how-

ever, in the selection of a site was doubtless the same which thou-

sands of years before had been decisive with the prehistoric people

to whom reference has been made, and this may be said also of

the founders of Marietta, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Newark and

most of the towns of central and southern Ohio. It has been sug-

gested that it was Mr. Sullivant's intention to build his town as

nearly as possible in the center of the state, with the hope that

it might ultimately become a nucleus for the state's capital; but it

is hardly probable a consideration of this kind moved him, for

state lines at that time had not been defined. The land he owned

was simply a part of the northwest territory and this included

what subsequently became Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and


But let Mr. Sullivant's incentive to action have been what it

may, the fact remains that he planted his prospective city at the

confluence of the Scioto and the Olentangy, and in honor of an

illustrious American then but recently deceased, named it Frank-


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At that time the war of the revolution had been ended but

14 years. The seat of the national government was at Philadel-

phia. John Adams had just succeeded Washington as president.

Arthur St. Clair was governor of the northwest territory. The

Scioto river was the boundary line between Washington county

on the east, with its seat of justice at Marietta, and Hamilton

county on the west, with its seat of justice at Cincinnati. There

were Indian trails through the great forest, but no roads. Eben-

ezer Zane, however, was engaged in the work of opening a road

from Wheeling, Virginia, to Maysville, Kentucky, but "Zane's

trace", as it was called, was 40 miles south of Franklinton, and

the first settler in what is now Fairfield county, Captain Joseph

Hunter, did not travel over it until 1798. Putnam and Tupper

had established a colony at the mouth of the Muskingum. There

was a remnant of a deceived and despondent colony of French at

Gallipolis. Inconsiderable settlements had been made between

the Miamis on what was known as the Symmes purchase. There

were settlements opposite Wheeling in what is now Belmont

county, and the year before the time of which I speak the avant

couriers of a Connecticut colony had built cabins at the mouth of

the Cuyahoga river. Chillicothe was a town of 40 log cabins,

but in what are now known as the counties of Delaware, Licking,

Union, Madison, and Fayette, there was not, so far as I can ascer-

tain, a single white man. The environment of Mr. Sullivant's

proposed town, therefore, was not such as to afford him great

encouragement, and it required an exceedingly lively imagination

to leap forward to the time when it should become a part of a

populous and important city.

Providence, however, seems to delight in taking some folks

by the hand and leading them blindfolded to success. We see

this truth made manifest in business, in war, and in politics, and

I think Mr. Sullivant was one of the favored few who builded bet-

ter than they knew. But let this be as it may, here he built his

home, and a few years later brought to it a young wife, who by

blood and marriage was allied to the more prominent families of

Virginia and Kentucky and whose paternal ancestor had been a

baronet in England, and lord mayor of London.

I know too much of the narrow economies and deprivations

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of pioneer life to wholly excuse Lucas Sullivant for thus taking a

young woman from a comfortable home, the companionship of a

wide circle of relatives, and the delightful adjuncts of a long estab-

lished and well ordered community, and bringing her to such a

place as Franklinton was then, and yet our hearts swell with ad-

miration as we reflect that only a devoted and brave wife would

accompany her husband to a solitude where in the shadow of the

forest when the night shut down, the world would have seemed

blotted out but for the complaining voices of wild beasts, and the

ever present fear that the thick darkness concealed savage foes

who might at any moment resort to violence. But it may be

said some were called upon to make such sacrifices, and this is

true. Grateful thanks, therefore, not to Sarah Starling alone,

but to other heroic wives as well, who did not hesitate to follow

the standards of civilization to new fields, and by their grace and

beauty adorn and brighten the rude homes of the wilderness.

Lucas Sullivant was in person of medium height, with a good

head, acquiline nose, blue-gray eyes, and a chin and mouth popu-

larly supposed to be indicative of firmness and decision. When

he made the preliminary survey of the site for Franklinton, he

was just thirty-two years old, and hence in the prime and vigor

of early manhood. His sons were all taller and heavier than

himself, and in these particulars resembled the Lynes and Star-

lings. His grandchildren were in face at least, if not in height

and weight, unlike him also. But strange to say - and yet it

should be said in confirmation of a theory with respect to the

transmission of ancestral traits- one of his great-grandsons is

in stature and facial features his exact counterpart. Mr. Sulli-

vant's sons were all strong men, both in mind and body. Indeed,

it can be no exaggeration to affirm that the eldest of the three,

William Starling Sullivant, is entitled to high rank among the

greater Americans of the past century. He was graduated at

Yale in 1823. The council of the American Academy of Arts

and Sciences pronounced him "the most accomplished bryologist

which this country had ever produced", and the distinguished bot-

anist, Dr. Asa Gray, said: "His works have laid such a broad

and complete foundation for the study of bryology in this country,

and are of such recognized importance everywhere, that they must

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always be of classic authority." In brief, Mr. William S. Sullivant's

contributions to the science of botany are so valuabe that they can

be found to-day in all the great libraries of the world. He was

born here, and as the dead live, he is still Franklinton's most ac-

complished son.

The great beauty and unsurpassed natural advantages which

sanguine men invariably discover in their own broad acres,

prompted Mr. Lucas Sullivant to lay out a site for his prospective

town on an exceedingly liberal scale. Indeed, I think when he

had completed his surveys and drawn his maps the land embraced

within its boundaries would have accomodated the village popula-

tion of the entire northwest territory. But the next spring's

floods suggested to him that until dikes were built it would be

well to modify his plans, and restrict the purchasers, he so confi-

dently expected, to the higher grounds. This he did and then

with a display of generosity which must have elicited much quiet

but good natured laughter from the few sensible pioneers who had

come to look about them for a place to settle down, he offered lots

on Gift street as a gratuity to those who would accept them as a

place of residence. At that time good land could be bought at

from one dollar to two dollars an acre, and consequently Mr. Sulli-

vant's lots on Gift street were not worth to exceed fifty cents a

piece, and if recording fees were as high in that day as they are

in this, the man who should avail himself of Mr. Sullivant's benefi-

cence would at the end of the transaction be out of pocket a full

dollar. For this and other obvious reasons neither the lots on

Gift, nor any other street in Franklinton, found eager takers.

Even John Brickell, a lad of sixteen, who had spent four years

in captivity with the Indians, and who was among the first to reach

the town, took abundant time to consider Mr. Sullivant's proposi-

tion, and then exhibited the excellent sense with which nature

had endowed him, by buying a tract of elevated ground near where

the penitentiary now stands.

In 1802 Ohio became a state of the federal union, with its

temporary capital at Chillicothe, and in the year following Ed-

ward Tiffin was elected governor. Franklin county was organ-

ized in 1803, enclosing a broader area than it does at present, and

Franklinton was made its seat of justice. In 1804 a log jail was

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built in the new county seat, and in 1807 a court house erected.

Still Franklinton did not prosper and become populous. It

should be said, however, that no western towns save those situated

on the lakes and great rivers, increased in population rapidly from

1800 to 1850. In that period railroads had not made transit from

the seaboard to the interior cheap and easy, and hence only the

more stalwart and energetic ventured to encounter the discom-

forts and perils incident to a long journey through the wilderness.

The first comers were as a rule the best. I doubt if there can now

be found among the 175,000 residents of Franklin county a single

man superior in education and intellectual strength to many of

the settlers of that early day. Bishop Philander Chase, Colonel

James Kilbourne and Salmon P. Chase were then at Worthington.

Judge Gustavus Swan, Lyne Starling, Dr. Lincoln Goodale, the

Reverend Dr. James Hoge, General Joseph Foos, the Sullivants

and the McDowells were in Franklinton or in its vicinity. Where

shall we find better blood, brighter intellects, or braver hearts

than they possessed? Certainly not here, and I think not else-

where in Ohio. Judge Gustavus Swan has left us a graphic pic-

ture of the country at that early period, and one suggestive of the

deprivations to which its people were subjected.

"When I opened my office in Franklinton in 1811," he says,

"there was neither church nor school-house, nor pleasure car-

riage in the county; nor was there a bridge over any stream within

the compass of a hundred miles. The roads at all seasons were

nearly impassable, there was not in the county a chair for every

two inhabitants, nor a knife and fork for every four."

What a valuable lesson this should suggest! We now com-

plain about hard times; what sort of times were those when mer-

chandise was brought up the Scioto from the Ohio in barges

and canoes-when men burned holes in stumps where women

and children might pound corn for the midday dinner-when the

most estimable of wives in writing back to her old home said,

"We shall occupy one room this winter as my husband must

make use of the other for a shop." Hard times! The truth is

the people of this generation in Ohio have been indulged and

pampered until, like babes, they whimper when the nursing bottle

happens for a moment to be withdrawn. Where now is that

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knightly spirit of the fathers which prompted them to seek new

fields of enterprise, and that admirable stoicism which would

brook no murmurs of complaint? It may be said all good fields

are now occupied, but the saying would be false, for lands as

fertile as those around us are more accessible to-day than the

Scioto valley was to the fathers one hundred years ago and they

are as low in price as Ohio lands were then, and as easily made

valuable by settlement and cultivation.

In 1805 Lyne Starling, a Virginian by birth, just 21 years

old and six feet seven inches in height, came to Franklinton, and

a few years later, forming a partnership with his brother-in-law,

Mr. Lucas Sullivant, opened a general store. Mr. Starling's

head was, I think, fully as long as his body, for in 1809 he bought

land on the east bank of the Scioto, and in 1810 entertained

strong expectations of getting the State Capital located either on

it, or in its immediate vicinity. Franklinton, Worthington and

Dublin were each struggling for the honor of becoming the seat

of the State government, with the chances decidedly against the

former, because of the low ground upon which it was situated.

At one time Dublin seemed to be the favored place, and at an-

other time Worthington, but the proprietors of the elevated land

on the east bank of the Scioto opposite Franklinton were by no

means lacking in either vigilance, enterprise or tact, and uniting

in a proposition to the State they succeeded in securing its ac-

ceptance, and the selection of their land as the site of the pros-

pective city. Lyne Starling, John Kerr, Alexander McLaugh-

lin and James Johnston were the prime actors and beneficiaries

in the successful undertaking; but it is more than probable that

Worthington would have won the prize if Mr. Lucas Sullivant,

General Joseph Foos, and other citizens of Franklinton, who

then thought they had but little if any pecuniary interest in the

matter, had not finally come actively and earnestly to the assist-

ance of the Starling syndicate.

The future seat of the State government was by law estab-

lished at Columbus in 1812, but the act was passed and the city

named when the site on which it was to be built was simply a

densely wooded tract without even a good wagon road through

it, and with hardly a clearing or a cabin on it. It was not until

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1816 that public buildings were completed, and made ready for

the reception of the State officials. But between the time when

the legislative act was passed fixing the site of the capital, and

the date of its occupancy, Franklinton for a year or more reached

a higher degree of prosperity than it had ever previously attained.

The war of 1812 was in progress and Hull's surrender at De-

troit left the isolated settlements open to the assaults of not only

the British, but of their savage, merciless allies. The dispersed

and exposed white families of Ohio, therefore, were for a time

in abject terror. Settlers from Delaware, Worthington, Dublin

and the surrounding country hurried to Franklinton as to a

place of refuge and safety; defensive preparations in the way of

ditches and stockades were begun in the vicinity of the court

house, but the panic subsiding, they were never completed. Then

it was that Franklinton became a place of gathering for troops,

and a base of supplies for the Western Army, and in it the roll

of the drum and shrill notes of the fife became unremitting.

Troops from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee

-foot, horse and dragoon-came marching into the village under

flying colors, were rested and supplied, and then went marching

on to the Maumee. Ohio recruits assembled here, were organ-

ized into companies, hastily taught a few simple military move-

ments, and sent forward to the scene of hostilities. Seven hun-

dred men under the gallant Colonel Campbell left the town on

horseback, fought a winning battle with Indians at Munceytown,

and obtained as their reward a congratulatory order issued by

General William Henry Harrison from his headquarters at Frank-

linton. Parades and reviews took place on the public square

in the presence of the commanding general and his excellency

Governor Return Jonathan Meigs. General Lewis Cass visited

the town, and General Perkins and General Beall and the chival-

rous Governor Shelby, of Kentucky. The gallant General Left-

wich marched into it at the head of a brigade of brave Virginians,

and then in good time marched out again. Colonel Anderson

came also, leading a regiment of Tennesseeans, accompanied by

General Harrison, then on his return from Cincinnati. General

Joseph Foos and Captain Vance, both Franklinton men and

good officers, were at the head of Franklin county soldiers, and

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were quick either to lead or follow, and eager for battle. It

was within a few rods of where we stand that General Harrison

held his conference with the Delawares, Wyandots and Senecas-

when mothers, with babes in their arms, looking upon the scene

trembled with anxiety and suspense. Then a great shout of glad-

ness went up from strong men, and thankful prayers from women,

when Tarhe, the great Wyandot, announced that the tribes rep-

resented in the council would stand as a barrier between hostile

Indians and the wives and children of the settlers, while husbands

and fathers were absent on the border fighting the British and

their allies.

It was here, alas! that a poor wretch-a despondent and

homesick man, may be, or one weary of the dull routine of mili-

tary life, and desperate, was shot to death for the crime of de-

sertion, and it was here also that another-a young boy, perhaps-

convicted of the same offense and sentenced to die, was led to

his coffin, blindfolded, and then, thank heaven! reprieved. Of

course, in war discipline must be maintained, and examples must

be set, and army regulations enforced, and military law upheld,

and the orders of commanding officers obeyed; but God help the

poor boy whose heart strings draw him home. He may be as

brave as Julius Caesar, and yet in a moment of despondency, or

under the goadings of a personal grievance, risk all for a chance

of reaching sympathetic friends, and sitting by the family fire-

side again.

It was in the fields about us that Captain Cushing's battery

boomed now and then upon the receipt of encouraging grape-

vine dispatches from the front, and then a little later, the whole

town went wild with joy, and every gun thundered, and every

flag waved proudly, and every man stood more erect, and every

woman smiled with moist eyes and grateful heart, when the news

came that that Kentucky boy, George Croghan, had won a splen-

did victory at Fort Stephenson, and thereby achieved immor-

tality. Then in time came Perry's victory on Lake Erie, the

taking of Malden, and Harrison's great triumph over Proctor and

Tecumseh on the Thames. And then it was that captured British

soldiers were conducted through Franklinton to Chillicothe, and

by this time the war was virtually over in the West, and a little

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later it was wholly ended and Mrs. Lucas Sullivant exclaimed:

"Thank God!"

When the war closed the glory of Franklinton disappeared.

It then became a dull, uninteresting hamlet, occupied as Judge

William T. Martin in his history of Franklin county tells us,

mainly by "farmers and laborers who  * * * worked Mr.

Sullivant's extensive prairie fields," or labored in the stone quar-

ries. "The proportion of rough population," writes another,

"was very large." But even the rough population referred to

consisted of strong men and stubborn fighters, who had an ele-

ment of rugged justice in their hearts, which prompted them to

wage fair battles. The old residents tell us of Billy Wyandot,

an Indian who pursued a bear to the middle of the Scioto, killed

it, and then brought its carcass to the shore. This was a fair

display of the brutal courage of the time, but it was perhaps

excelled by a white man named Corbus, who, having occasion to

meet a bear in combat, cast aside his weapons so that the bear's

friends should be unable to claim he took unfair advantage of the

beast, and then in a hand to claw, square, stand-up rough and

tumble fight to the death, he came off finally with the honors

of victory. These men were not what are called society people,

and were not profound in their knowledge of theological dogmas,

and they entertained withal peculiar notions with respect to

dietary matters, and believed corn whisky better for the human

stomach than river water, but notwithstanding all this they fought

fair fights, and asked odds of nobody. Let us, therefore, hope

that Billy Wyandot and his bear and Jacob Corbus and his bear

are living together to-day in royal good fellowship on that happy

shore which lies beyond a river broader and murkier than the


But I am detaining you too long, and must conclude with a

brief summary of facts.

Judge Martin, in speaking of Franklin township in 1848,

says: "The town of Franklinton has not varied much in popu-

lation and business for forty years." The census reports show

that in 1840 it contained only 394 inhabitants, while Worthington

at that time had 440. Franklinton was never an incorporated

town, and never had either mayor, marshal or board of council-

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men; indeed it never had a government nor an existence sepa-

rate, apart and independent of Franklin township. In 1824 it

ceased to be the seat of justice for Franklin county. Its last

postmaster, appointed in 1831, served for a few years, and then

the postoffice was discontinued. The territory included within

the limits of the town, and that south and west of it, were annexed

to the City of Columbus from time to time, as follows: In 1862,

the territory as far west as Lucas street; in 1870 the territory

south of Town street, as far west as Sandusky street, and north

of Town west as far as Darby street; in 1888 the territory as far

west as Central avenue, between Sullivant avenue on the south,

and the P., C., C. & St. L. Railroad on the north, and in 1891

other parts of Franklin township were taken into the city, making

its western boundary the (Sullivant) county road and Hague


It may be said that if Lucas Sullivant had not founded Frank-

linton the capital of the State would not have been located where

it is, and this is true. Franklinton on the west bank of the Scioto

in 1810-12 called attention to the high ground on the east bank,

and at the same time supplied a party of shrewd, energetic and

interested men to urge its acceptance by the State, and still with

all the influence the Franklinton syndicate could bring to bear

upon the General Assembly it came very near losing the prize

it was so eager to obtain. The committee appointed by the Leg-

islature to examine the country within a certain area, and recom-

mend a site, reported in favor of Dublin, and subsequently pledges

were secured from a majority of the members of the General As-

sembly in favor of Worthington; but finally after a long struggle

the high bank opposite Franklinton was chosen. Worthington

lost by a hair and Columbus won by a scratch. Time, however,

which makes many, if not all things even, will soon do for Worth-

ington what it has done for Franklinton, namely, bring it within

the boundaries of the Capital City. And ultimately the pictur-

esque region on the Scioto in the vicinity of Dublin will become

an elegant suburb of Columbus, but thirty minutes' ride by elec-

tric cars from the State House.

The changes which have taken place within the past one

hundred years are marvelous. The first generation planted; the

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second watered, and the third gathered in a bountiful harvest.

What the next three generations to follow us may accomplish,

and what their harvest will be, only infinite wisdom can foretell.

The intervals of time between the eldest here to-day, and the

fathers of a hundred years ago, and the youngest and those of a

hundred years to come, seem so short that we are prompted to

cry to those who have gone before us thanks and farewell, and

then with anxious but hopeful hearts bid those who shall gather

here a century hence, hail and godspeed!