Ohio History Journal






[The following article was written by Mr. Joseph Wilby and read

before The Optimist Club, Cincinnati, March 1st, 1902. Mr. Wilby is at

present the president of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio.


The first council meeting of the town of Cincinnati is said to

have been held on the 5th of March, 1802. The present occasion

lacks a few days of being the one hundredth anniversary of that

date, but affords a fitting opportunity for us to recall the begin-

nings and growth of Cincinnati.

The southwest corner of Ohio was fortunate in the character

of the men who chose it out of the wilderness and peopled it, and

blessed by the conditions under which these men laid the foun-

dations for a great city.

Where we now stand was, two centuries ago, in the possess-

ion of the Indians, hardly known to the white man, except to the

adventurous Jesuits from New France. Marquette, descending

the Mississippi, had sailed by the mouth of the Ohio, or, as he

called it, the Wabash, a name by which it was known for many


The French claim to all the vast region north of the Ohio

and between the Mississippi and the Alleghenies, was ceded to

England in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. Twenty years after-

ward, by the War of Independence, we obtained from England

the right to all this country south of the Great Lakes. It became

known as the Northwest Territory, embracing what is now the

States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part

of Minnesota.

Though as colonies of England, Virginia and Connecticut

claimed part of what is now Ohio, under grants from the Crown,

Virginia, in 1781, gave up to Federal control any rights she had

in this territory. Connecticut did the same, reserving, however,


Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.                449


a little place in the northeastern corner of Ohio, which has ever

since borne the name of the "Connecticut Reserve." The Fed-

eral Congress, thereby enabled to make laws for these new poss-

essions, 1787 enacted the famous ordinance of that year. It had

many wise provisions; its most benign was that excluding slavery

forever throughout the Northwest Territory.

Tribes of Indians still claimed rights of ownership in this

land. The Federal Government recognized these rights, and, by

treaties made in 1785 and 1786, acquired from the tribes claiming

it a large part of southwestern Ohio, including what was known

as the Miami country, extending from the Ohio River north be-

tween the two Miami Rivers.

Thereupon, in 1787, Col. John Cleves Symmes, of New Jer-

sey, a member of the Colonial Congress, a man of wealth and

education, who realized, as did Washington, that this Ohio coun-

try, by reason of its climate, soil and exemption from slavery

would attract settlers, contracted with the Colonial Government

for the famous Symmes or Miami Purchase.   He thought he

bought 1,000,000 acres, but in fact, got less than 600,000 acres,

bounded on the south by the Ohio, on the west by the Great

Miami, on the east by the Little Miami, and on the north by a

line drawn east and west between these two rivers, somewhere in

the vicinity of Lebanon, in Warren County. He paid, or prom-

ised to pay, the Federal Government two-thirds of a dollar an

acre. He got his patent from the Government in 1794. Some of

those who had purchased from him had trouble in making title,

and it took an act of the Federal Congress to secure to them lands

for which part payment had been made to Symmes. Symmes

had his land surveyed into ranges, townships and sections, terms

familiar to every property owner in Cincinnati. The next year

Mathias Denman, another Jerseyman, bought from Symmes,

Section 18 and Fractional Section 17, being part of the fourth

township, in the first Fractional Range, on the Ohio River. In

the contract of sale the land was simply described as located as

nearly as possible opposite the mouth of the Licking River, for

the survey had not yet been completed. The tract was subse-

quently found to contain 740 acres, which may be roughly said

to be part of Cincinnati as we know it now, bounded on the north

Vol. XIV.-29.        (449)

450 Ohio

450      Ohio. Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


by Liberty street, on the south by the river, on the east by a line

drawn from a little east of where is now the former homestead

of George H. Pendleton, at the top of Liberty street hill, and on

the west by a line drawn from about the corner of Liberty Street

and Central Avenue to the river at the old Smith Street Landing.

The price paid by Denman is said to have been $500, which was

about the price the Government had charged Symmes.

Denman thought his land opposite the Licking River a good

site for a town, as it was in the line of the old trail from Ken-

tucky to Detroit. With him he associated Col. Robert Patterson,

of Lexington, Ky., who took a share in his purchase, and John

Filson, also of Lexington. Filson was needed, because he was

a surveyor, to lay off the proposed town into lots. Patterson was a

popular man, well known to the frontier, and was to act as pro-

motor in advertising the enterprise. Filson, who had been a

school teacher, proposed to call the future town Losantiville, a

barbarous compound of Greek, Latin and French, indicating, or

supposed to indicate, that it was the "town opposite the mouth,"

that is, the month of the Licking. That the town was ever called

Losantiville has been the subject of much controversy, the weight

of evidence being, I believe, against it, and in favor of the theory

that it was from the beginning known as Cincinnati. The recent

founding of the Society of the Cincinnati had made that name

popular and proper.

The owners and promoters of this Denman Subdivision, as

it might be called, advertised it in the Kentucky Gazette, at Lex-

ington, in September, 1788. In their advertisement they said it

was proposed to have in-lots of a half acre each, and out-lots of

four acres; every settler would be given thirty of each of these

lots upon paying the cost of making survey and deed for each lot,

and provided he took possession before the 1st of April, 1789.

The original agreement between the proprietors and the settlers

or lot takers is in the library of the Historical Society.

In the same month, September, Denman, Patterson, Filson

and their associates, including Israel Ludlow and others not in-

terested with them in this particular purchase, together with

Symmes, started out from Lexington to reach this land opposite

the mouth of the Licking. Symmes decided to go further down

Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.                451


the river before he selected a site for settlement, and he and those

who were of his mind decided to start a town at North Bend, at

the mouth of the Great Miami.

While engaged in measuring the distance between the two

Miami rivers Filson disappeared, and it was supposed that he was

killed by the Indians.

Israel Ludlow, who was a surveyor, then took Filson's inter-

est, and began laying out the proposed town site. The survey

reached from the river to Seventh Street, between Broadway and

Central Avenue.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Stites had bought a tract from

Symmes near the mouth of the Little Miami, and began a settle-

ment which he called Columbia.

Patterson and Ludlow and those who had joined in the pro-

ject of making a settlement opposite the mouth of the Licking,

came down from Maysville, Ky., in December, 1788, and, on a

date still in some doubt, landed near the foot of Sycamore Street.

That may be said to have been the beginning of Cincinnati.

By the terms under which lots were disposed of to set-

tlers, the space south of Front Street to the river, bounded on the

east by what we now call Broadway, then laid out as Eastern

Row and Main Street, was made common or public ground. We

know it now as the Public Landing.

Subsequently, Joel Williams undertook to claim rights of in-

dividual ownership within this space, but by decree in the case of

Cincinnati v. Williams, he was perpetually enjoined, and it has

been a public common or landing ever since.

So there were three settlements on the Ohio River, in this

Miami country; that located by Symmes at North Bend, at the

mouth of the Great Miami; that begun by Stites at Columbia, near

the mouth of the Little Miami; and Denman, Ludlow and Patter-

son's town of Cincinnati, about half way between.

In those days, and, indeed, down to the Treaty of Greenville,

in 1795, the Indians were a constant menace to the settlers

through the Miami valleys. It was only the most adventurous of

them who dared to take possession of lands at a distance from the


The Federal Government, therefore, to encourage the settle-

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452      Ohio. Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


ment of this new territory by affording protection against the In-

dians, sent down from Marietta, or Fort Harmar, a detachment of

soldiers, with instructions to build a fort at North Bend, where

Symmes had laid out a promising town. Emigrants naturally

would prefer that point to either Columbia or Cincinnati, on ac-

count of protection by the fort.

Major Doughty, the officer commanding the detachment,

was susceptible to the charms of women. In looking around for

a suitable site for the proposed fort, he became interested in a

young woman, who, as bad luck would have it, had a husband.

The husband, noticing the flirtation, and fearing the effect of mil-

itary buttons on his family peace, removed thereupon from North

Bend to the new settlement opposite the mouth of the Licking.

Major Doughty, discovering that the lady had departed for Cin-

cinnati forthwith realized that Cincinnati would be a more suitable

place than North Bend for locating a fort, and accordingly or-

dered his detachment up the river to the town site laid out by

Denman, Patterson and Ludlow. There he located Fort Washing-

ton, on a plot of fifteen acres reserved for the Federal Govern-

ment by the town owners. I wish I knew more about what hap-

pened to Doughty, but the fort was demolished and the fifteen

acres passed to private ownership in 1808. As you all know, the

exact location of the Fort has been recently determined, on Third

Street between Broadway and Ludlow Streets.

For fourteen years Cincinnati shared with the rest of the

Northwest Territory that government which the Federal Con-

gress provided under the ordinance of 1787. The population

within the limits of what is now Ohio grew rapidly, so that in

1802, although the territory had not yet acquired the population

of 60,000 required by the ordinance before it could be entitled to

Statehood, yet it held between 40,000 and 45,000 people, and up-

on application to Congress, a law was passed authorizing the in-

habitants of the eastern part of the Northwest Territory to frame

a constitution and State government. This act prescribed the

limits for what was to become the State of Ohio, and its northern

boundary, separating it from what afterward became the State of

Michigan, was declared to be Lake Erie and a "line drawn east

and west through the southerly extremity of Lake Michigan."

Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.                 453


This language produced the celebrated controversy which threat-

ened to include Detroit within the State of Ohio, and to put To-

ledo within the State of Michigan. It was the cause of many in-

teresting lawsuits, and was only settled by an act of Congress al-

most forty years afterward. It seems that the map of this wil-

derness available at that time to the convention, made from crude

surveys, showed the lower extremity of Lake Michigan as being

north of the latitude of Detroit. During the controversy as to

where the true line should be drawn, a hunter who was familiar

with the southern shores of Lake Michigan brought it to the at-

tention of the convention that their map did not correctly show

the location of Lake Michigan, for it extended further south than

the latitude of Toledo. And thereupon the settlers at Toledo be-

came disturbed for fear that they should be left out of the new

State about to be carved out of the Northwest Territory.  A com-

promise was made by running the line between the latitude of De-

troit and Toledo, so as to leave Toledo within the new State, but

the line remained in doubt.

The act of 1802, permitting the formation of the State of

Ohio, committed the making of a constitution under which the

State could come into the Union, to thirty-five delegates from

various settlements throughout the territory comprised within

the proposed State of Ohio, all selected by the Federal Govern-

ment. These delegates included men whose names will always be

remembered in connection with the history of Ohio-Jeremiah

Morrow, William Goforth, Edward Tiffin, Nathaniel Massie,

Rufus Putnam and others familiar to you. They met in conven-

tion at Chillicothe, in November, 1802, and framed the constitu-

tion under which Ohio lived down to 1851, when the new and

present constitution was adopted. It is a curious fact that this

constitution of 1802 was never submitted to the people of the

State. The proposition was made in the convention to let the

people approve it, but was rejected by a large majority. It would

therefore seem as if in Ohio, for the first fifty years of its exis-

tence as a State, there was government without the consent of

the governed; that is to say, it was a government under a funda-

mental code of principles, written by persons selected by the Fed-

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454      Ohio. Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


eral Congress, and in the making of which the people to be gov-

erned were not consulted.

Thus, in 1803, Ohio was admitted to the Union, as the fourth

State to be added to the original thirteen colonies.

The name is from its Indian name, Youghiogany, which the

French, leaving out the gutteral sounds, softened into Ohio. It

is the Alleghany, not the Ohio, that by its Indian derivation means

Belle Riviere.

But Cincinnati was an incorporated town before Ohio was a

State; for the Territorial Legislature made Cincinnati a town by

an act passsed January 1, 1802. The town then incorporated

was thus bounded: On the north by the township line, about a

mile from the river (this was Township 4), on the south by the

river, on the east by the east line of Section 12, and on the west

by Millcreek.

It was not until 1815 that the town was divided into wards-

four of them-by a new act of incorporation, which took the

place of the act of 1802. The limit of taxation on real estate was,

by the new charter, a half of one per cent, and any increase there-

of was to be submitted to the people for popular approval.

The difference between the grade of the lower portion of the

town, towards the river, and the upper portion, at Fourth or

Fifth Street, was probably even greater then than now. Indeed,

there may be said to have been two sudden changes in level, one

at the river, and one at about Third Street; but this was slowly,

by grading, made a continuous ascent from Front to Fourth

Street. There were in those days, according to the account left

by Judge Jacob Burnet,, the grandfather of Jacob Staats Burnet,

of Oak Street, Walnut Hills, four mounds, possibly made by In-

dians, within the then city limits; two circular mounds, one in-

tersecting Sycamore, Broadway, Fourth and Fifth Streets, the

other intersecting Race, Vine, Fourth and Fifth Streets; and

single-peaked mounds, one at the northeast corner of Front and

Main Streets, and a larger one at the northwest corner of Fifth

and Mound Streets, which gave its name to the latter street.

At the northeast corner of Main and Fifth Streets, opposite

the present Government Building, there was, for some years into

the last century, a swamp filled with alders, so that persons pass-

Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.                 455


ing north on Main Street were obliged to go over a wooden


Lots on the principal streets for the first five years after Cin-

cinnati became a town could be bought for less than $100 each.

Thereafter they rose rapidly in value. At the end of ten years

from that time the price of real estate on Main Street, between

Front and Third Streets, was about $200 a front foot, diminishing

in value as one went north. This was then the highest priced

property in the city. It kept rapidly increasing in value with the

increase in population. It was on Main Street below Fourth that

later stood the store of Tyler Davidson, the hardware merchant,

whose memory is perpetuated by the fountain in Fifth Street.

At the beginning of the last century, that is, in 1800, there

are said to have been but 750 people in Cincinnati. In 1810 the

population had increased to 2,500, and in 1820, it was nearly 10,-

000. Cincinnati was then growing more rapidly than either of

its rivals, Louisville or Pittsburg. Between 1820 and 1850, the

population showed a larger increase than it ever has since fifty

years ago. It much more than doubled between 1820 and 1830,

about doubled between 1830 and 1840, and by 1850 had grown in

the then past decade from 46,000 to 115,000. It took more than

twenty years to double the population again, for in 1870 it was

only a little over 216,000.

Almost all of the Germans, whose descendants now constitute

so large and valued a part of our population, came to Cincinnati

between 1820 and 1850.

The first census that was ever taken by actual count of the

population of Cincinnati, was by Benjamin Drake and E. D.

Mansfield, in 1826, at the request of a committee of the City

Council, and for which the city paid Drake and Mansfield an

agreed price of $75. The enumeration was by wards, and showed

a total population in 1826 of 16,230 persons.

The slow growth of the town in its earlier years was due

probably in part to losses by the Indian wars and the deterrent

effect on immigration of the continued depredations of the Indians.

Some idea of the rise in the value of real estate may be had

from considering that the northwest corner of Third and Main

Streets was bought, when the town was laid out, for $2.00; forty

456 Ohio

456      Ohio. Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


years afterward it was sold for $15,000. The corner of Main

and Front Streets, 100 feet on Front and 200 feet on Main Street,

sold in 1789 for $2.00. It was thought to be worth $100 in 1793.

Fifty years afterward it rented for about $15,000 a year. In 1802

Ethan Stone paid for a lot 150 feet on Vine Street by 200 feet

on Fourth Street, $220; and less than forty years afterward 60

feet of the same property, not on the corner, sold at $150 a front

foot on Vine Street. And 60 feet on the next square west of this

has quite recently changed hands on a basis of $4,015 a front foot.

The most valuable property in the city just before the war was

probably on the Public Landing; that is, on Front Street between

Broadway and Main Streets, where lots were sold at the rate of

$1,000 a front foot.

Hamilton County was one of the four counties established

as early as 1796, named of course, for Alexander Hamilton, and

included about one-eighth of the whole State. The other coun-

ties were Washington, St. Clair and Knox, all also named after

distinguished early patriots. Hamilton County was subsequently

divided into eleven counties - Clermont, Warren, Butler, Preble,

Montgomery, Greene, Clinton, Champaign, Miami, Darke and


Having been a town for less than twenty years, Cincinnati

became incorporated as a city by an act of the General Assembly,

February 5, 1819, while Boston was still the Town of Boston.

Our population was then 10,283. Our city charter was amended

several times during the next eight years. In 1827, the boundar-

ies of the city were defined by a new charter, as beginning on the

Ohio River at the east corner of Fractional Section No. 12, and

running west with the township line of Cincinnati to Millcreek,

thence down Millcreek with its meanders to the Ohio River,

thence eastwardly up said river with the southern boundary of the

State of Ohio to the place of beginning.

For the next twenty years the city grew toward the east, the

west and northwest, chiefly by gradual accessions of territory

through subdivisions and additions made by individuals owning

large tracts of land. Thereafter road districts having been estab-

lished through Millcreek Township and other neighboring town-

ships, and incorporated villages having sprung up in the suburbs

Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.               457


of the city, a little more than fifty years ago the process of annex-

ation by ordinance and agreement with the newly acquired terri-

tory began to extend the city limits.

The first road district taken in became the Eleventh Ward of

the city of Cincinnati, and one of the commissioners for settling

the terms of that annexation on behalf of the road district was

Michel Goepper.

The city then reached out toward the east for more territory,

and in 1854 acquired the incorporated village of Fulton. Then

annexation reached to the west, and in 1869 Storrs Township, ex-

cept the village of Riverside, was made part of the city. Later

in the same year Camp Washington and Lick Run were annexed.

And, by an ordinance of the same date, part of Walnut Hills, ad-

joining the village of Columbia, joined the city. More of Walnut

Hills and Mt. Auburn came into Cincinnati in 1870, after the

question of their annexation had been submitted to popular vote.

The village of Columbia united with the city in 1872, also after

popular vote on the question. The next year the village of Cum-

minsville decided to extend the city limits toward the north.

Cumminsville got its name in this way; it had been known origi-

nally as Ludlow's Station, because one of its earliest settlers, John

Ludlow-some relative, I believe, of Israel Ludlow-who

laid out the city of Cincinnati - had built a house and

established himself in the valley north of Clifton, when the

place was considered unsafe on account of the Indians. Later a

man by the name of John Cummins had a tannery in the neighbor-

hood of Ludlow's farm, adjoining the land of one Hutchinson.

Hutchinson's house, or rather tavern - for he kept a tavern -

stood where afterward was built the residence of the late John

Hoffner, now a landmark in that part of the city. A stream of

water ran from Hutchinson's land, of which Cummins, by his

deed, was entitled to use as much as would flow through five

three-quarter inch auger holes. The Hutchinsons kept a dairy

in connection with their tavern, and needed water.  One dry

summer they plugged up the holes of the tannery supply pipe to

save water for the cows in their dairy.  The flow of water to

Cummins' tannery diminished. A lawsuit followed. For the

purpose of raising money to carry on the suit Cummins mort-

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458      Ohio. Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


gaged his property; and it, being sold on foreclosure, was bought

in by Ephraim Knowlton, whose stone store on Spring Grove

Avenue, then the old Wayne Road, is another landmark in that

part of the city. The store of Knowlton's has given to its loca-

tion the name of "Knowlton's Corner"; and Knowlton, having

bought this ground from the Cummins on foreclosure, named the

settlement, which at that time numbered many houses (built

mostly by Knowlton, himself, who was a carpenter and builder)

"Cumminsville," by which name it will probably be known as

long as any of us live. The city next, in the same year as the an-

nexation of Cumminsville, went east for more room, and took in

the incorporated village of Woodburn. Then we were satisfied

with our size until we took a slice off the west side of Avondale,

adjoining the Zoological Gardens, in 1888. Still the city was not

content with its border thus extended, and in 1894, after some

controversy with one or more unwilling suburbs, took within the

protection of its municipal police Avondale, Clifton, Linwood,

Riverside and Westwood. Then three years afterward a piece

of Millcreek Township adjoining Avondale. And in the fall of

last year the city acquired an outlaying tract adjoining Price Hill

on the west. Surely the Cincinnati of to-day shows on the map

a wide-spreading territory. Yet I understand that to this ex-

tended area is to be added still more contiguous territory.

One of the first municipal ordinances passed by the city of

Cincinnati was the one dated the 17th day of November, 1824,

declaring it unlawful to play marbles within the city limits on the

Sabbath day; and further imposing a fine of ten dollars upon any

boy who played on any street or alley of the city the game com-

monly called shinny, on any day.

Apparently the inhabitants of Cincinnati carried the custom

of bathing in the river in front of the city to an intolerable extent

in those days, for in 1826 an ordinance was passed imposing a fine

of five dollars and the costs of prosecution upon any one who

should bathe in the Ohio River within the corporate limits, be-

tween sunrise and sunset.

Speaking of water, in the earliest times in Cincinnati springs

in the hillside along the present line of Third Street furnished

drinking water, and the Ohio River water for washing. Later

Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.                 459


wells were sunk, and water was carried up in buckets from the

river on washing days. Still later an enterprising citizen put a

cask on wheels, and filling it at the river, made a business of sel-

ling water to the citizens. In 1817 a still more enterprising cit-

izen constructed a tank near the foot of Ludlow Street, into which

by horse power, he lifted water from the river, and sold it to men

with carts, who in turn sold it again throughout the town. In

the same year a corporation, having, for a water company, the

rather curious name of the Cincinnati Woolen Manufacturing

Company, acquired from the Town Council of Cincinnati the ex-

clusive privilege of supplying the town with water for the term

of ninety-nine years, for the sum of $100 a year paid to the city.

The Woolen Company was bound by the ordinance to fill, free of

expense, all reservoirs the town should build, but no limit was

placed upon the price to be charged for water supplied for pri-

vate consumption. Samuel W. Davies bought this right from

the Woolen Company in 1820. He built a plank-sided reservoir

on the site of the old reservoir on Third and Martin Streets, into

which water was pumped from the river. The pipes were of

wood, and the pumps worked by horse power. A few years later

the engine and boiler of a steamboat were bought by Davies, and

the pumping was thereafter done by steam power. But the pipes

were still of wood. A part of one of them, dug up from Fourth

Street, may be seen at the rooms of the Historical Society. Dav-

ies tried to interest the citizens of Cincinnati in his project of

distributing water liberally on modern methods, but failed. He

then tried to sell back his plant and privileges to the city at a loss.

The city declined to purchase. Then, in 1825, Davies procured

the incorporation of the Cincinnati Water Company with a cap-

ital of $75,000. The company made improvements; adopted iron

pipes; the reservoir was enlarged, and a sufficient water supply

was obtained. In 1839 the waterworks, and all its plants and

rights, were purchased from the company by the city, and to the

city they have ever since belonged. A new reservoir was com-

structed about fifty years ago on the site of the former one, which

may now be seen on East Third Street, just beyond the old Kil-

gour residence and the U. S. Marine Hospital; and it is of inter-

est, to the writer at least, that this reservoir was built under the

460 Ohio

460      Ohio. Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


supervision, and bears on the stone tablet on its south wall the

name of his grandfather, Ebenezer Hinman, then superintendent

of the city waterworks. About the time this reservoir was fin-

ished, in 1852, saw the completion of St. Peter's Cathedral, cor-

ner of Eighth and Plum Streets. In 1874 the first section of

the new reservoir was completed in Eden Park.

The paving of the streets in early days was of limestone,

easily obtained in the neighborhood. It made a poor surface,

and a little more than fifty years ago, at the suggestion of Mr.

De Goyler, paving with round boulders was adopted, which at

that time was considered, and probably was, a great advance on

anything that had been previously used in the making of streets.

It is only recently that Cincinnati became dissatisfied with this

boulder paving.

The Gas Company was originally the private enterprise of

J. F. Conover and J. H. Caldwell, to whom the City Council gave

the privilege of supplying the city and its citizens with gas in

June, 1841. Subsequently, the Legislature granted to these gen-

tlemen and their associates a charter under the name of The Cin-

cinnati Gas Light and Coke Company, which, as I hope all of you

know by exchange of certificates, has only recently ceased to be

its corporate name. It is, however, the same old meter, with a

different colored bill.

The river of course was, from the beginning, and particu-

larly after the introduction of steam, the great highway of travel

and commerce. But in 1825 the Legislature of Ohio, stimulated

its Erie Canal, provided by liberal legislation for acquiring rights

of way and building of a system of canals throughout the State.

The two canals in which Cincinnati was interested were, first,

the Miami Canal, finished in 1827, and formally opened at Lock-

land by Governor DeWitt Clinton, of New York, whose name is

so closely connected with the Erie Canal. This Miami Canal,

about sixty-seven miles in length, extended at first from Cincin-

nati north to Dayton, near the mouth of the Mad River. It was

afterward built to Piqua and later to Defiance. It no doubt was

a great public work to have been accomplished in those early

times; was a great convenience to the commerce of the Miami

Valley, and, connected as it was with the rest of the canal system

Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.                 461


of the State of Ohio, deserves much that has been said in its

favor in the past. Ever since the writer can remember, however,

it has, by many reasonably sensible people, been said to have out-

lived its usefulness. I am willing to hazard the opinion that

part of it within the city limits has certainly outlived its sweet-

ness-yes, I am ready to say that it is an ill-smelling relic. It is

doubtful, however, if any of us here present will live to see any

honest and rational disposition made of it. The other canal re-

lated to the fortunes of Cincinnati is the Cincinnati and White-

water Canal, or rather was, for so much of it as came within the

neighborhood of Cincinnati has long since been appropriated by

railroads, who have better served the original purpose of its con-


The bridges across the Ohio, at Cincinnati, deserve some

mention in this connection. Daniel Drake, in his instructive and

entertaining account of Cincinnati, published in 1815, says that

even at that date some enthusiactic persons already spoke of a

bridge across the Ohio at Cincinnati. Indeed, at that time Mr.

Drake was bold enough to suggest the necessity of a bridge across

Deercreek at its mouth. He also pleaded for the restoration of

a bridge that once existed over Millcreek, but had been destroyed

by high water. As a matter of fact, it was a long fifty years

before Mr. Drake's hopes of a bridge across the Ohio were rea-

lized. The writer can well remember, before the war, the short

stone tower on the bank of the river which was then the promise

of the bridge which subsequently sprang across to Covington

with its web of steel. The writer can also remember, during the

Civil War, the bridge of boats, called, I believe, a pontoon bridge,

stretched across the river. Over it marched General Lew Wal-

lace and his troops to intercept Kirby Smith's raiders. From

time to time thereafter, making peace with the War Department

and the tall stacks of river steamboats, four other bridges have,

within the memory of comparative youth, spanned the Ohio in

front of Cincinnati.

The first railroad constructed out of Cincinnati was the

"Little Miami," completed in 1846, as far as Springfield, O.,

eighty-four miles. The Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton, and the

Ohio & Mississippi had been thought of at that time, and indeed,

462 Ohio

462      Ohio. Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


were soon in process of construction. Other railroads followed.

But it is impossible to speak of railroads in connection with Cin-

cinnati without giving prominent place to our Southern Railway,

planned, possibly, sixty years ago, under the name of the Cin-

cinnati & Charleston Railroad. Ferguson's road, which was to

give us communication with the South, but not constructed until,

by the indulgence of the Supreme Court of Ohio kindly warping,

if it did not break, the Constitution of the State, the city of Cin-

cinnati, after much wrangling, much diversity of opinion and

grievous burden of taxation, built, with bonded debt, the road

which it is now about, with wisdom and good fortune, to place in

the hands of a responsible tenant by a new lease on favorable

terms. The history of that railroad, from the act of May 4, 1869,

down to the present day, is full of interest to every Cincinnatian;

but that story has been so well told by Mr. H. P. Boyden in his

recent pamphlet that there is nothing left for me to say about it

than to notice a rather odd coincidence, personal to myself. In

June, 1869, the people of Cincinnati, under the act of the Legis-

lature, voted to build this road. The preliminary survey was

immediately begun. In April, 1870, the writer joined one of the

preliminary surveying parties at the mouth of Fishing Creek, on

the Cumberland River, below Somerset, and continued work with

that surveying party for six or seven months in Kentucky and

Tennessee. In the same month, April, 1870, the writer's present

law partner, E. W. Kittredge, quite unknown to the writer,

brought suit for Bryant Walker, city solicitor and tax-payer, to

contest the constitutionality of the Ferguson act which author-

ized the building of the road. After a short term of use by the

Common Carrier Company, Mr. Kittredge, in October, 1881,

drew the lease for twenty-five years to its prsent lessee.

Nicholas Longworth, the great-grandfather of the talented

Senator from this county, was a Cincinnati lawyer in the early

part of the last century and practiced his profession until 1819.

He invested his savings in lands and lots in Cincinnati and vi-

cinity. He thought well of the future of Cincinnati, and he was

not disappointed. He was a kind and useful ancestor. The

story is told of him that a fee he got for defending a man accused

of horse stealing consisted of two second-hand copper stills,

Early Cincinnati

Early Cincinnati.                 463


stored at the tavern of Joel Williams, near the river. Mr. Long-

worth presented his order to Williams for stills. Williams

was about to build a distillery, and traded with Longworth for

the stills, giving him in exchange thirty-three acres of land on

Western Row, now Central Avenue, on the west side, from Sixth

to Seventh Streets, and extending west for quantity. It has been

said that even fifty years ago the advance in value of that real es-

tate had made it worth two million of dollars, not counting im-

provements. Mr. Longworth probably bought and sold more lots

of land in Cincinnati than any other one individual. In 1850 he

paid for that year taxes amounting to more than $17,000, which is

said to have been at that time the largest amount paid for taxes

by any one individual in the United States, except William B.

Astor, of New York.

The first bank in Cincinnati was the Miami Exporting Com-

pany, which started in 1803. Its charter permitted it to sell farm

products to New Orleans and issue bank notes. Oliver Spencer

was its president, and it paid from 10 to 15 per cent dividends.

Then came the branch of the United States Bank, established

here in 1817. In 1826 it was the only bank in operation in Cin-

cinnati, and for years it played an important part in local finance.

Afterward there was the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Com-

pany, with its office on the southwest corner of Third and Main

Streets. This was long before the war and the era of National

Banks. The failure of this company, in 1857, was a catastrophe

long remembered, and its trustee in insolvency, the late James P.

Kilbreth, left at his death, a few years ago, its affairs still un-

settled. For many years Adae's bank, known as the German

Banking Institution, occupied this same corner.

Sixty years ago Nicholas Longworth gave a tract of land

near his Garden of Eden, now our Eden Park, to furnish a site

for an observatory. A suitable building and apparatus were

obtained, in part by popular subscription, and John Quincy

Adams delivered the address on the occasion of its dedication,

November 10, 1843. The hill thereafter took from him its name

of Mt. Adams.

A quarter of a century afterward the Observatory was re-

moved to its present site on Mt. Lookout, presented to it by John

464 Ohio Arch

464      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Kilgour; and immediately the old Observatory building was ac-

quired by and used as the "Monastery of the Sacred Cross."

About a year ago the building was condemned as unsafe and

taken down.

Such of us who were born here take an abiding and affec-

tionate interest in the city and its history, which is undisturbed

by the Pessimists' statistics of diminishing rank in population,

commerce or mannufactures. In the matter of good people -

and they beyond all else make life worth living-we need fear no

rival. As an Optimist among Optimists, I offer to Cincinnati

the sentiment long ago addressed to London:

"Dear, damned, distracted town; with all thy faults, I love

thee still."