History of Springfield Township, Hamilton County Ohio

The following was researched and written by Dave Bean, former Springfield Township resident and historian.

Before European Settlement

Prior to the 17th Century (c.e.) the area was settled by the Moundbuilder Indians. Aside from the mounds they left, little is known about them or why they disappeared. By the 1650s the Algonquin tribe dominated the area but was driven out by the Iroquois in the early 1700s. The Iroquois were themselves driven out by the return of the Algonquin along with the Delaware, Tuscarawa, Ottowa and Miami tribes. These were the residents when Christopher Gist traveled the area as the reputed first European to venture into what was to be called the Northwest Territory.

The region became a battleground between the British and French colonial powers with shifting alliances and battles with the indigenous populations. European settlers valued the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains for the storehouse of furs and trade with the Indian population. Eventually France and Britain went to war over the area with the British prevailing and in an attempt to preserve peace with the native people as well as maintain control of their seaboard colonies and limit their colonial expenses issued the Proclamation of 1756. This act of Parliament when added to other perceived injustices served as a major cause of the American Revolution.

Pioneer Settlement and Expansion
With the establishment of independence, the reality of the cost of government, and the compulsive westward movement of people, the government under the Confederation crumbled and the adoption of The Constitution a new chapter for the area evolved. The area was seen as the treasure chest for the nation by Alexander Hamilton. He concluded the new nation could pay its way by the sale of the lands to the west and north of the Ohio River. In order to make collection of payment convenient Hamilton’s plan called for selling claims to “responsible” people in large grants. These sales were generally done on credit and it was expected that the investors would subdivide the regions providing the ever growing demand for new lands a source of satisfaction. The government would profit, the investors would profit and the land hungry settlers would get within reach of their “American Dream.” Thus it was that Congress created The Northwest Territory.
It was into this virgin land that Benjamin Stites ventured in 1786. The bounty of the land astonished him and upon returning to his home in New York, sought out one of the “responsible” people who could secure a grant from Hamilton. In 1787, John Cleves Symmes negotiated the “Miami Purchase.” This was for approximately 2 million acres bounded on the south by the Ohio River, on the west by the Great Miami River and on the east by the Little Miami. The northern border was not defined. [In establishing the Northwest Territory, Congress had employed Thomas Hitchens to arrange the land survey which was necessary to resolve the conflicting claims created by the several new states and older claims based on British colonial governments. This system, which uses Meridians and Parallels, became the standard for U.S. land expansion. Townships of 6 miles square were to be created and within each township sections of 1 mile square were established.] Symmes promised to pay $66 2/3 (New York) and went in search of additional investors. He agreed that they could buy land from him at the rate he was getting it for until May of 1788. From May until November of 1788 the price would go up to $1.00 (N.Y.) until November of 1788. After November, the price was to be negotiated.

There was little reason to worry about creating smaller townships out of the original Cincinnati Township because few people would venture away from the new city or the numerous “stations” established as outposts of population. Stations usually consisted of a block house with individual cabins close by. One must remember, the establishment of the Northwest Territory totally ignored the interests of the local residents who engaged the pioneers in a constant struggle. The first governor of the territory, Arthur St.Clair rapidly ordered fortifications built in a line northward from Ft. Washington (1789) to Ft. Hamilton and northward. From these forts military forces sought to drive the Indian population away or pacify them. The resulting “Indian Wars” continued in this area until the Battle of Fallen Timbers was won by Anthony Wayne in 1794. Growth had been slow in the region as many potential settlers turned southward when warned by people on the south side of the Ohio River to “avoid the Miami Slaughter House.” However, with word of Wayne’s success, settlers began pouring in and Springfield Township was created.

The first officers of the township were selected by the quarter sessions court in 1795. They were; John Ludlow, Clerk, James Wallace, overseer of the poor, Henry Tucker and Jacob White, overseers of highways, Isaac Martin, John Vance and Luke Foster, viewers of enclosures and appraisers of damages.

Changes in both selection of officers and township boundaries occurred as Ohio moved to statehood in 1803. Officers were elected (no longer appointed), terms of office increased from one year ultimately to 4 year staggered terms and treasurers and assayers appeared and then were eliminated. The growth of population is reflected in the increase in township officials. In 1804 the following were elected; three trustees, a clerk, two overseers of the poor, a supervisor of highways, several justices of the peace and a constable.

19th Century Development
New concentrations of people occurred which came to be villages and towns and neighborhoods within the township boundaries. Among the earliest identifiable locals was Finneytown (never to become an incorporated village), settled by E.W. Finney and a party of family and friends in 1800. The intersection of “The road to Winton’s Plantation” and the “Cleves to North Bend” road became a site of a “New Light” church, a black smith shop, a general store and tavern where the owner would give you a drink if you bought a box of matches from him. Needless to say, the homes in the area were well stocked with kitchen matches for years to come. The early settlement at White’s Station grew to become Springfield and was incorporated in 1806. Its name was changed by the Post Office department to Springdale. Located on the military road to Hamilton and west Compton Road another community grew and also experienced a name change thanks to the Post Office department.

Originally known as Mt. Pleasant its name was changed to Mt. Healthy. The town was platted in 1817. A short distance north of Mt. Pleasant a community developed as a way station on the Hamilton road and developed numerous businesses related to the heavy wagon traffic. This was New Burlington. First settled in 1816, during the Civil War John Morgan and his raiders were seen in Harrison and people rushed to hide the women in the woods and the horses in the houses. Lockland split away from the township in 1829 and gained significance during the canal building era. Glendale was laid out in 1807 but was not incorporated until 1851. Glendale was noted for the establishment of the Glendale Female Institute which closed its doors in 1880. Noteworthy also was the design of streets in the village of which almost all employ multiple curves. The community served as a bedroom community for business men of large downtown Cincinnati businesses. The railroad and telephone played significant roles in its development. In 1870 Wyoming secured corporation rights. It derived its name with a similar wide valley location in Pennsylvania. The name came from the Iroquois meaning, “beautiful valley.” Hartwell gained incorporation in 1877. The population of Springfield Township in 1870 was (less the populations of the several incorporated areas) 6,584. By 1880 it had increased to 7,975.

Following World War II
The next several decades found Springfield Township satisfactorily passing the years concentrating on agriculture and related services. Things remained as they had been until the end of World War II. With the changes in industry, transportation, communication, the G.I. Bill, Federal Home Loan Administration and a sense of optimism Springfield Township entered its “modern age.” New communities sprang up and farm land disappeared under concrete and crab grass. Hollydale appeared in 1949. Valleydale was platted a bit earlier in 1930. Suddenly you needed a map to find your way around the rapidly changing township as developers rushed to provide housing for the returning vets. Shopping centers began to appear and life became more connected to the automobile. The federal government stepped in and built Winton Lake to assist in controlling floods on the Millcreek and Ohio rivers. Around Winton Lake one of the nations 3 “greenbelt” communities was developed as Greenhills. With all the growth, the demand for governmental services increased as rapidly. Schools were built at an astonishing rate. With all the kids in the young families, it seemed impossible to build classrooms fast enough. In Finneytown for example, between 1948 and 1958 there was a 368% increase in the school age population. The residents were presented with 9 tax levies and bond issues. Only one failed. The voters indicated the millage was too low and when the school board raised the amount, it passed with a 75% approval. Fire protection and police services faced increased demands. The Northern Hills Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1942 in Parkview Heights on North Bend Rd. in Finneytown. It was a volunteer organization of some 25 men who raised money for pumper trucks and such through carnivals and other local fundraisers. The few possessions of the department were stored in Haskin’s Garage on North Bend Rd. Co-operation with the township began in 1946 as the trustees agreed to purchase a lot on the north east corner of Winton and Galbraith for $1250 for a fire house and also a 500 gallon pumper. Lack of funds prevented the firehouse from being constructed as originally designed and its location so far from the homes of the original firefighters caused the force to expand by 3 men living near the new location. The department grew in number and organization and by 1948 the term “Volunteer” was dropped from the name. Alarm bells and roof mounted sirens were used to summon the volunteers throughout the 40s and 50s. A used ambulance was added in 1956 to be used by the life squad, and in 1959, a new firehouse was built near the township hall on the north west side of the Winton and Galbraith intersection adjacent to the west bound entrance to Cross County Highway. The distribution of population pushed the more isolated parts of the township to develop their own fire departments.

During World War II a civilian defense program funded by the federal government gave birth to a force of some 15 volunteers who formed the Edgemont Volunteer Fire Department. It grew from a homemade two wheeled trailer to haul equipment over time to include a pumper and ambulance purchased through a township fire tax. As of 1976 it was the only volunteer department remaining in Hamilton County. Much the same story tells of the beginning of the New Burlington Fire Department. The New Burlington operation began in 1965 with a leased pumper stored in a local service station. Over time, equipment and buildings were added along with its life squad.
Township police protection began in 1961 with the appointment of William Hafer as the first constable. Until then the township was patrolled by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office. This operation quickly was expanded and two additional officers were added in 1963. In that same year the Ohio Legislature enacted a law allowing creation of township police districts and in 1964 the police district was created. By 1976 the force had grown to 20 officers and 8 civilian employees.

The story of Springfield Township continues to evolve. Population patterns shift as communities age and become more ethnically and racially diverse. Farm land has essentially disappeared being replaced by more streets, homes and businesses. The basic needs of township residents have expanded to include many more schools and open space for recreation. Some traditions remain; a sense of community and optimism about the future for themselves and their children.

About the author
Dave Bean taught social studies courses, coached and served as Athletic Director at Finneytown High School from 1963 to 1997. He is a local historic lecturer at various community groups, schools, reunions and dedications (Springfield Town Hall dedication 2003). He is one of Finneytown School District’s “Living Legends” and a member of the Ohio High School Wrestling Hall of Fame. He and his wife currently lives on Sugar Island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where he participates in the Sugar Island Historic Preservation Society and is involved with the restoration of a 100 year old Finnish Community Center. He is currently working on a history of the first 50 years of Finneytown High School.
The Springfield Township Bicentennial Committee, July 4, 1976. “Bicentennial 1776 – 1976, Springfield Township”
Runk, J.M., S.B.Nelson & Co., Publishers; Cincinnati, Ohio, 1894. OHIO THEIR PAST AND PRESENT Including early settlement and development, …ILLISTRATED
Bean, David; monograph 2003; FINNEYTOWN, AN INFORMAL HISTORY

Springfield Township History Files