Friday, September 30, 2011

Jeremiah Stansell

Jeremiah Stansell was four months old in 1802 when his parents, Henry and Elizabeth Allen Stansell, moved from Kentucky to present day Washington Township in Montgomery County.

Their new residence was a log house, constructed the year before by Henry. The floor joists were four inches thick and floorboards fourteen inches wide. All were hand hewn. The cellar had a brick floor and a spring which ran through the basement. A channel around the edge of the brick floor directed the water flow out through a hole in the basement wall to a springhouse. The stone springhouse was south of the house. These structures, located on what is now Sheehan Road, were recently demolished to make way for a housing plat.

Jeremiah married Nancy Gregg in 1823. They had twelve children, six reached adulthood.

Nancy’s brother, Samuel H. Gregg, Jr., was Jeremiah’s business partner. They operated a large business in Springboro called Stansell and Gregg, established about 1833. The Stansel’s house was located on the north east corner of Main and Factory Streets. The general store was north of the residence. Their major competitor was Mahlon and Josiah Wright’s firm, M & J Wright.

Stansell and Gregg also exported products produced in the area. They owned large warehouses in both Springboro and Cincinnati. The company hauled man made merchandise; leather, tanned hides, and homespun material as well as natural produce; grain, maple syrup, feathers, beeswax, dried apples, jars of butter, barrels of pork and beef, by wagon to Cincinnati. At busy times of the year the wagon trains south were a quarter of a mile long. From Cincinnati the products were shipped by steam boat to far away markets, among them New Orleans and the West Indies.

Dr. Aron Wright has been quoted as saying Samuel Gregg Jr. was the greatest financier ever born in the Springboro country. Unfortunately, many of the Gregg family died in a typhoid fever epidemic in 1844. Samuel was among them.

Stansell’s son, Hiram Gregg then joined his father in the business.

Besides being a business man, Jeremiah served the community as a Postmaster, a Justice of the Peace, and Treasurer of the school-land funds.

He also owned Washington Hall, a hotel built about 1837 at forty South Main Street. When he sold it, in 1852, it was renamed “The Morton House”. It was a stage coach stop for travelers from Cincinnati to Dayton. Alcohol could be served there because it was just north of the Springboro village limits. Jonathan Wright had forbidden alcoholic beverages within the village.

Jeremiah died in 1868 and Nancy in 1875. They are buried in the Springboro Cemetery.

Note: I discovered an alternate spelling for Jeremiah, Jerimiah, on a large stained glass window pane in the “Old Stone Church”, the former Universalist church building at 300 South Main in Springboro. His business competitor, Mahlon Wright, has his name on another window of the same size.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bullskin Trace

The Bullskin Trace was one of the most significant roads in the Northwest Territory and most of it is still in use today.

The trail was first created by migrating buffalo and other animals on their way to the salt licks in Kentucky. The Trace then followed a progression of development through the years. It became an Indian trail, and then a pioneer route, was an Underground Railroad conduit, and finally became a part of modern highway systems. The path provided access from the Ohio River north to Detroit Michigan.

As an Indian trail The Bullskin Trace was used by such famous people as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and Tecumseh. From a British Fort in Detroit the British and Indians followed it south to attack the Kentucky settlements.

Later it became a pioneer route. Roads were important to the settlers because rivers in the area were difficult to maneuver with anything larger than a canoe. Going upstream against the current was almost impossible for flatboats.

However, flatboats coming down the Ohio River could pull off at a wide valley where Bullskin Creek emptied into the Ohio River. There pioneers would unload in a protected, easily accessible area, and continue traveling overland on the Bullskin Trace.

On February 4, 1807 part of The Trace became one of the first Ohio public highways. It was then named Xenia State Road. It was widened to 20 feet and had a right-of-way of about 60 feet. Marshy spots were covered with halved logs laid side by side producing a corduroy road. The state paid $700.00 for these improvements with money obtained by the sale of public lands.

During the War of 1812 the road was used to get supplies and troops from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes. On one occasion a group of fifteen supply wagons bumped up its rough surface.

The trail was used by run away slaves on the Underground Railroad. Some Xenia and other Greene County residents ran stations on this clandestine route.

Looking at a modern day road atlas one can see the route the Bullskin Trace followed. It began in Clermont County at the Ohio River near Chilo and headed north, following what is now Ohio 133. It passed through Warren County, where near Clarksville it jogged on to old Ohio 380 and followed it into Xenia. The Bullskin Trace continued on through Old Chillicothe, a former Shawnee village which is now called Oldtown. From Xenia to Detroit it followed the path of US 68, then Ohio 25, and finally US 24.

How the Trace got its name has various explanations. M. A. Broadstone in his History of Greene County Ohio says, “It was given its name because of the fact that it started from an Indian village of this name on the Ohio River.” While the book, Greene County 1803-1908 says, “It. extended from a village and ferry on the Ohio River called Bullskin, from which the road took its name…”

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Miami Powder Company

Near the village of Goes Station in Greene County, along the banks of the Little Miami River there once was a thriving gun powder plant. It provided good paying but dangerous jobs.

A dam and millrace on the Little Miami were constructed for a scythe factory about 1825 by the Chapman brothers. It supplied water power to the industry.

A few years later the Little Miami Railroad was built. This provided the site with convenient transportation.

The scythe factory was purchased about 1846 by Alvin and Lorenzo Austin and Benjamin Carlton. They founded the Austin & Carlton Powder Company.

Joseph W. King bought an interest in the company in1852. Then, in 1855, he purchased full rights. King renamed it the Miami Powder Company. He bought new machinery and built more buildings

During Miami Powder Company’s first year 4364 kegs of rifle powder and 1303 kegs of blasting powder were produced. In 1864, during the Civil War, the factory supplied black powder to the Union Army. The total production was 10,000 kegs of rifle powder a year, and 3,800 kegs of blasting powder.

After the war, the demand for rifle powder remained about the same and the output of blasting powder increased.

In 1871 steam power was installed in the factory.

About 1877 J. W. King left the company and founded King’s Mills in Warren County.

Through the years the powder company was safety conscious. They constructed separate structures for different phases of the production process. Only a few employees worked in each building. Horse drawn trams were used to move product from one building to the next.

Workers were paid high wages but knew it involved great risk. They were instructed to wear shoes without metal nails and not to carry pocket knives. Wooden tools were used in the production process.

In spite of the precautions, several fatal explosions did occur at the plant. One of the largest explosions happened on March 1, 1886 about 10 in the morning. A dry house containing around 50,000 pounds of black powder blew up. Three men were killed in the blast which was heard over 100 miles away. In Xenia buildings shuddered and there were many broken windows. People ran outside and saw a huge white cloud of smoke north of the city.

At the explosion site there was a fifteen foot deep hole in the ground where the dry house had stood, debris in the river, and a damaged bridge.

The building was rebuilt and work continued at the site. The factory went through several different name changes through the years as it was bought and sold. Two men were killed in a 1920 blast. Then, following a major explosion in 1925, which destroyed most of the structures, the business was closed.

Today two buildings near the bike path are all that remain of the once thriving business.