Copied from Harbaugh's 1909 History
Miami County Ohio
PIQUA, THE BORDER CITY
Origin of the City - Its
Historic Associations - An Indian Legend -
Piqua Formerly Called Washington - Coming
of Job Gard -
Reminiscences of Joseph Hilliard -
Piqua a Place of Rendezvous in the War of 1812 -
Land Office Established in 1819 - Piqua
Becomes a Town in 1843 -
First Election Under the Charter - Early
Mayors - Amusing Ordinances - Population
in 1826 - The Act of Incorporation - The
Ewing Tavern -
Early Merchants and Leading Citizens - Piqua
Benefited by the Canal
Coming of the Railroad - The
Hydraulic Canal - Business Statistics
The Town Hall - The John Vail
Academy - Early Schools -
Educational Progress - Religious
Relics of the Mound Builders - Military
Spirit of 1861-65
Soldier's Aid Societies - War
Memorials - Postmasters-
Fire Department - City Government
The City of Piqua, familiarly called the Border City,
is coexistent with the formation of the county. It has a history peculiarly
its own. Its name rests upon a tradition which antedates
the coming of the white man into this locality. Gen. George Rogers Clark,
the ranger general of the Revolution, destroyed the Mad River Indian towns,
inhabited at the time by the Shawnees and kindred tribes. This act on the
part of Clark forced the red men farther north and they established themselves
at Upper Piqua - Pickawillany, as it was then known in border
history. We are told that "Piqua" in the Shawnee tongue signifies
"ashes" and the legend is that many years before the foot of
the first adventurous pale face disturbed the leaves of the Miami forests,
the Indians captured a prisoner in one of their inter-tribal wars. The
prisoner, according to the custom of the savages, was burned at the stake
with all the inhuman ceremonies attending such brutality. The legend further
avers that when the body was reduced to ashes and the victors were contemplating
it, a full-grown man rose slowly from the white heap and stood before the
astonished warriors. Electrified and dumbfounded at this, the Indians set
up the cry of "Otatha-he-wagh- piqua!" which means "He comes
out of the ashes." Piqua, being the site of a Shawnee town, received
the name it now bears from the legend of the tortured captive. The late
George C. Johnston, who was for some years a Shawnee by adoption, and who
was perfectly familiar with the language of that tribe, is the authority
for this bit of legendary history. Therefore,
"Should you ask me when these legends,
Whence these legends and traditions,
I would answer, I would tell you,
From the campfires of the Shawnees."
On an old map of the Miami Country, made in 1815,
the present city of Piqua is designated as Washington, while Piqua, the
Indian town, is located by the cartographer farther north. The name of
Washington was retained for a number of years. In Drake's book (1815) is
to be found the following allusion to it: "Washington is a village
of this (Miami) County. It lies eight miles above Troy, on the same side
of the river, on the site of an old Indian settlement. The plain on which
it stands is less than a mile from the river and terminates in wet ground,
similar to that in the rear of Troy. Timber for building is convenient
and the bed of the river near the village affords good limestone in an
abundance. The excellent mill sites at this place are already improved
to some extent. There is a Post Office, which receives a weekly mail from
Cincinnati. It was laid out by Messrs. Brandon and Manning in I809 and
has been nearly ever since in competition with Troy for the county seat
of Justice. It would seem from the above description of Piqua published
nearly a century ago that even then the pleasant rivalry which exists today
between it and Troy was fostered and kept warm by agitation. In 1798,
nine years before Brandon's survey of Piqua, Job Gard, who had served under
"Mad Anthony Wayne," settled on the site of Piqua. He had land
about the "Bend," which ground had been cultivated by the Indians
in their primitive way. Gard sold some of his improved land to John Manning,
which is now Harrison Street in Piqua. Settlers began to flock to the little
settlement in considerable numbers. Fear of Indian uprisings forced the
whites to group their cabins for mutual protection. Hand mills and hominy
mortars came into vogue and before long the pioneer store opened for business
where are found today the fine mercantile blocks that accentuate the Border
City's prosperity. Piqua was well located and grew as the years slipped
John Manning and Mathew Caldwell entered the land where Piqua now stands
and it was formally surveyed by Armstrong Brandon in 1807. At this time
there were but seven houses in Piqua, or Washington as it was then called.
The first homes were occupied by John Manning, Edward Manning, Alexander
Ewing, Benjamin Leavell, Arthur Brandon, Nathaniel Whitcomb and Joseph
Porquette. These houses stood on Water and Main Streets. From some cause
or other the inhabitants became dissatisfied with the name of the town,
not from any disrespect to the illustrious citizen for whom it had been
named, and in 1816 they petitioned the legislature to give them back the
old Indian name of Piqua, in which they succeeded. Henceforth the town
became known as Piqua though the township kept the appellation dropped
by the settlement. If one is curious to know the
manners and customs of the first families of Piqua he is referred to the
interesting reminiscences of Joseph Hilliard, one of the members. As Mr.
Hilliard's account is not accessible to the general reader I will be pardoned
for making a few extracts.
"The common dress of the young men," says the narrator,
"consisted of hunting shirts made of buckskin and cut in notches in
such a way as to make ornamental fringes, and pantaloons of the same material.
Instead of hats they wore fur caps of their own manufacture and made from
the skin of fox or raccoon and adorned with the tail of the animal for
a pendant. Boots and shoes were little worn, buckskin moccasins being worn
instead. When fine shoes were worn they were of a style which the young
ladies and gentlemen of the present day would scarcely know to what use
they could be applied. They were much longer than the foot and terminated
in a sharp point which of course turned up. Young ladies' dresses were
made of calico or chintz, but principally of calico. Their ordinary dresses
were made of striped linsey and very often they had no other kind. There
were no hoops in those days, our log cabins scarcely affording sufficient
room for the modern style of female dress.
"Such an article as a cooking stove was unknown in early Piqua,
the wide chimneys affording sufficient space for all cooking purposes.
We kept time without a clock and were as regular in our habits as now.
Our floors were made of puncheons split out of the log and sometimes hewed.
For chairs we used benches from three to six feet long and small three-legged
stools which served all necessary purposes for comfort and convenience.
Our dishes consisted of bowls and trays made of pewter or wood, no china
or Liverpool ware being then in use. All our furniture was plain and common
and no one style was covered by a patent.
"It has been said that much of the early history of Piqua is
obscured by tradition. It is true that tradition is unreliable, but the
written reminiscences of the early settlers, the men who broke up the forests
and led the vanguard of civilization, are reliable and should be cherished
and preserved. The growth of Piqua kept pace with the years. For a long
time the first inhabitants suffered from what the present generation would
term "insurmountable difficulties."
There were no matches, tinder, flint and steel being used to obtain
a light; the fire was buried at night as a matter of economy, the household
light was a tallow dip and fingers were used as snuffers, sugar was made
from the tree; corn was prepared for food by boiling it with a bag of hard
wood ashes to soften and hull it. The married women wore caps and all females
carried "reticules," which were sometimes adorned with cucumber
or muskmelon seeds to "set them off." Every Saturday night the
young Piquans greased their shoes with tallow to look well for Sunday.
When they needed blacking soot was taken from the under side of the kettle
and mixed with water for the purpose. When a person died they stopped the
clock, covered the looking glass with a towel and turned it to the wall
until after the funeral.
The foregoing are a few of the "fashions and manners" which
prevailed when Piqua was young. When the place had grown to fair dimensions
some of these were superseded by others more in keeping with the changed
The growing town was considerably helped by the War
of 1812. This war which, to a certain extent, retarded the growth of Troy,
operated differently for Piqua. Col. John Johnston got together a large
body of Indians upon his farm and kept them neutral. Piqua became a place
of rendezvous during the war. Provisions were collected there and from
there transported north. This brought a good deal of business to the town.
An Indian agency was established at Piqua. Col. Johnston handled large
amounts of goods, money and supplies; he restricted the trade to Piqua.
While there is no sign of graft during those days, it is a matter of record
that the Colonel did not neglect his relatives.
In 1819 Piqua was still further benefited by the
establishment of a land office. The first register of the land office I
have any account of was Col. T.B. VanHorne, who became one of Piqua's.
foremost citizens. He was a soldier by profession. Being stationed at Detroit
in 1811, he and Gen. Lewis Cass tried to persuade Hull to fight and not
surrender. VanHorne was a man who had not a drop of cowardly blood in his
veins. When the aged poltroon of the time surrendered Detroit to the enemy
VanHorne was one of the officers who broke their swords rather than undergo
the humiliation of turning them over to the British. Cass was another officer
who followed VanHorne's example.
Piqua was raised from a village to the dignity of a town in 1843.
This charter was passed by the House and Senate of the General Assembly
and became a law, receiving the signatures of John Chaney, speaker of the
House and James S. Farrein, speaker of the Senate, March 13, 1843. Some
odd features are connected with this charter. It made the councilmen the
judges of elections and the recorder the clerk of the same. Any person
refusing to serve when elected was subject to a fine of two dollars. The
mayor, recorder and marshal were required to give bond in an amount satisfactory
to the council, which body had the authority to appoint a collector and
treasurer for terms of one year.
The first election under the new charter was
held the following April. William R. Barrington was chosen mayor. He was
a newspaper man. He edited the first newspaper printed in Piqua, the Piqua
Gazette, which he sold in 1837. At the first election F.R. Cole was chosen
town recorder. For the next seven years the mayors of Piqua were William
R. Barrington, G.B. Frye, J.P. Williamson, J.W. Horton, S.S. McKinney,
Jos.C. Horton, Stephen Johnston. The recorders during the same period was
as follows: F.R. Cole, J.A. Truitt, William Elliott, M.H. Jones. Among
the later mayors of Piqua one finds the names of Hirvey Clark, Samuel Garvey,
W.W.V. Buchanan, George Detmer, George A. Brooks, John C. Geyer, E.M. Wilbee,
J. Ward Keyt, J.E. Smith, L.C. Cron, and J.C. Hughes. The latter is the
present efficient mayor of the city.
Some of the early ordinances that were placed on
the official records of Piqua are decidedly amusing as viewed at this day.
One of the first provided for a license of from $5 to $20 per day for showmen.
Another which was adopted in March 1845, prescribes the manner in which
the town hall might be used by the public. When it was designed to use
the building for any purpose it was necessary to interview the marshal,
who was both custodian and janitor. This high functionary had the authority
under the ordinance to allow several denominations of Christians to use
the hall for religious purposes. But the same denomination could not occupy
it twice in the same month. Political parties might also use the hall,
but some person had to be responsible to the marshal in case of any damages
arising to the building from a too free discussion of political opinions.
In those days, and for some time later, something more emphatic than arguments
often took place at conventions held in this county and broken chairs,
to say nothing of broken heads, sometimes resulted. Hence the wisdom of
having some responsible person become surety for the safety of the town
hall during political meetings.
In 1826 William R. Barrington took an enumeration
of Piqua. It was found to have 450 inhabitants included in seventy-five
families, an average of six to the family. The year before Piqua's population
was 248, while Troy's was 283. At the Barrington census there were no colored
people in Piqua.
The city was incorporated in l823, at which time
an act of incorporation was granted by the General Assembly in which it
was stated that "the householders in the town of Piqua in the county
of Miami having complied with the provisions of the act of the General
Assembly entitled: `An Act to provide for incorporation of towns' and being
filed in the office of the secretary of state, the documents required by
the above recited act, etc." This act of incorporation, which is now
in the possession of Mr. John A. Raynor of Piqua, is signed by Jeremiah
MeLene, secretary of state, and has affixed to it the old seal of Ohio.
In this important paper Piqua is described as follows:
"Situated on the western bank of the Great Miami River, and
was originally laid out by John Manning and Mathew Caldwell and includes
a part of Fraction, Sections 17 and 18 in Township No. 6 east First Meridian,
comprising one hundred and one lots and containing in said original plat
fifty-two acres, etc. The whole town as contained and represented by said
plats is bound by the Great Miami River on the North, by the lands of Charles
Murry and Manning on the east, and by the lands of John Campbell, Mathew
Caldwell and John Kyte on the west, which said town was called Washington,
but afterwards by an act of the Legislature of this state changed to Piqua,
by which name it is now known and called."
Grown from its first inception in the wilderness of the Miami, Piqua
had reached the dignity of an incorporated town. It had previously become
a place of some importance. From its first dealings with the Indians trade
had gradually turned into more profitable channels. The Ewings
were the first traders or merchants of Piqua. They bartered largely with
the Indians. In 1809 the famous Ewing tavern stood on Main Street. For
some time it was the commercial center of Piqua. It was the first place
sought by the new comer and the last one where he "wet his whistle
ere he bade adieu to the town. If a full record of the days and nights
spent by the guests of this old hostelry could be found, an interesting
chapter could be added to this work. Ewing did a good business for the
time, though it is said that now and then some guest left him in the lurch
and went his way, leaving behind the memories of an unpaid bill which the
landlord charged against the profit and loss page in his ledger.
In 1812 an Irishman named Nicholas Greenham dropped into Piqua. He had
the odors of the "old sod" upon him. Trade and barter looked
out of his eyes and he proceeded to set up the first country store in the
Border City. He rented a room in Ewing's tavern and what escaped the eye
of this son of Erin is not worthy of record. He gathered in all sorts of
country produce, for which he exchanged the contents of his shelves and
some things that were not kept in sight. The sharp Nicolas kept in full
view the whiskey bottle and a pitcher of water and every customer prospective
and actual was invited to "help himself" without stint, for whiskey
was cheap those days and proverbially good. More than one Indian smacked
his lips over the Irish merchant's bottle and when the said redskin became
somewhat mellow and thought the world his own, Mr. Greenham bartered with
him for his furs and usually came out best.
By and by John McCorkle opened a store. The name
McCorkle is an honored one to this day in Piqua. He represented Miami County
in the Ohio Legislature and was one of the most ardent friends of the canal,
which he did not live to see completed. Among the other early merchants
of Piqua were William Scott, John M. Cheevers, Jacob and Abel Furrow, Byram
Dayton, James Defrees, Young & Sons, David J. Jordan, William Keyt,
L.R. Brownell, Demas Adams, William and Lewis Kirk. All these old merchants
have passed away, but among the heirlooms to be found at this day among
the families of the county are certain goods, household utensils, etc.,
which were purchased over their counters. Some of these old-fashioned wares
were paid for in "sharpskins" or the money which came into use
about the time of the second war with England.
The history of every locality has closely identified with it men who
became a part of it in various capacities. This is essentially true of
Piqua. It has had for its citizens some of the foremost men of the country.
Among these is the late Stephen Johnston. Major Johnston came of good Irish
stock. His father, who came to Ohio in 1808, was killed by the Indians
near Fort Wayne, Ind., during the War of 1812, The mother of Major Johnston
was Mary Caldwell, a pioneer woman who knew Daniel Boone and the famous
backwoodsmen of the early day. She was acquainted also with several of
the noted Indian chiefs, including Tecumseh, the red cyclone of the border
wars. Major Johnston was a saddler by trade and had the distinction of
having drafted upon his bench the charter for the Columbus, Piqua &
Indiana Railroad company, now known as one of the component parts of the
Pennsylvania System. He was elected sheriff of Miami County, was a candidate
for governor on the Greenback ticket in l877, and previously, 1864, an
elector on the Lincoln ticket. Reaching a ripe old age he passed to his
reward, having done much for the city which he helped to build up in connection
with his own sterling character.
Another of Piqua's prominent citizens was Godwin Volney Dorsey, M.D.,
who was born in 1812. He became treasurer of state, being elected during
the exciting Brough-Vallandigham campaign of 1863, though his first elevation
to that office took place in 1861. Dr. Dorsey was originally a Jeffersonian
Democrat, but in 1849 he represented Miami, Darke, and Shelby Counties
in the legislature as a Whig. From that time on, covering a period of many
years, he filled various offices of trust. He was a man of comprehensive
erudition and a profound scholar. He translated the best part of Horace,
some Greek tragedies and a number of Latin medieval hymns. In therapeutics
and surgery Dr. Dorsey stood at the head of his profession and his death
was a loss to the city which he had honored by his learning and presence.
Major Johnston and Dr. Dorsey were but two of the many citizens who
stimulated the growth of Piqua. Among others in the profession of medicine
stand Henry Chapeze, who came from Kentucky and located in Piqua about
1813. Dr. John O'Ferrall followed him in 1820, and he was succeeded by
Drs. Jacksoia, Teller, Jordan, Hendershot and Worrell. These old practitioners,
some of whom are still remembered by the older citizens of Piqua, gave
way at last to others and with the "old guard" went the old practice
When the Miami & Erie canal was opened to Piqua
the city became a miniature mart. Until then it had had but little intercourse
with the outside world, save through the trafficking carried on by the
flatboats and barges which navigated the rivers going as far South as New
Orleans. Piqua for some time was at the head of canal navigation and therefore
was a place much sought by the merchants and farmers of the surrounding
country. The canal brought it much business and went far toward enriching
a number of its citizens. The boats which cut the waters of the canal were
many and "warious," as Mr. Wegg would say. There are extant to
this day some of the old shipping bills of the late 30's from Cincinnati
firms to Ashton & Ewing of Piqua. These ancient bills give the names
of the boats with those of their captains who led the gaudily painted craft
through the locks - Captains Prescott, Jordan, Clark, Whistler, Bennett,
Culbertson, Barton and Taylor, all names connected with the early water
navigation in Miami County. Piqua grew with the canal, which probably accounts
for the tenacity with which the city still battles for its retention as
a waterway, though much of its usefulness has departed.
The coming of the railroad to Piqua opened up
a new avenue to business prosperity. The steam lines followed the canal
and naturally took much business from it. Although steam is a swifter method
of conveyance than mule power, the canal was slow to relinquish its domain.
Freight continued to be hauled on the boats through Piqua and for years
after the establishment of the steam roads canal traffic continued to be
great. Of late years, however, this mode of shipment has diminished, and,
while the locks are still maintained, the canal is no longer much of a
business factor. The old system helped to build up Piqua, as well as other
county towns along its route, and the early merchants found it an indispensable
The Dayton & Michigan Railroad was formally chartered in March 1851.
It was completed to Piqua in 1856. This gave the city and the contiguous
region a long desired outlet to the South.
Everyone hailed the railroad with delight. A new era had dawned, one
of great promise to the commercial interests of the Border City. The same
year that witnessed the entrance of the Dayton & Michigan Railroad
in to Piqua (1856) saw the completion of the P.C.& St. L. Railroad
(Pennsylvania Line) to this city. Major Stephen Johnston had drafted the
charter of this line on his saddler's bench. An eastern market was now
opened up to Piqua and this, with the region tapped by the Dayton &
Michigan Railroad, added to the prosperity of the place. These two roads
with their various branches placed the city in communication with the East
In later years and quite recently two prominent electric lines entered
the city. The Dayton & Troy Electric Railway blazed the way for a trolley
and the Dayton, Covington & Piqua Line came soon after. There is now
electric communication with Cincinnati and Toledo, and, through the aid
of branch lines, with nearly every part of Ohio and a large portion of
The need of hydraulic power by Piqua inaugurated
a move in that direction as early as 1856 when the Legislature passed a
bill looking to the enlargement of the Lewistown Reservoir for hydraulic
purposes. The "Miami Hydraulic and Manufacturing Company" which
was organized at this time, failed to successfully interest the citizens
of Piqua and was abandoned. In 1865 the "Piqua Hydraulic Company"
was incorporated and Dr. Dorsey became its first president, serving till
1868. After a vast amount of work and the expenditure of large sums of
money, after numerous drawbacks which would have discouraged less energetic
people than its projectors, the hydraulic canal was completed and in June
1876, it was opened for test and display.
"Probably no event connected with the city since its foundation,"
says a writer, was of so much importance to its people and should conduce
more to its ultimate growth and development, than the completion of the
hydraulic canal, producing fine water power and thus creating the life
artery of the city. A cheap and neverfailing power, it thus provided for
running a great number of establishments requiring power. In addition to
this use and operated by the hydraulic canal, there has been completed
a system of waterworks, containing over seven miles of pipe and the necessary
number of hydrants, furnishing an inexhaustible supply of water for domestic
purposes, and, in connection with a well appointed fire department, giving
a better protection against loss by fire than is usually found in cities
of its class."
In 1890 the manufacturing and jobbing interest of
Piqua amounted to over $7,000,000 - figures which represent less than one-half
of its actual business. In that year there was a grand total of 646 manufacturing
establishments, wholesale and retail houses and miscellaneous industries.
Since then this total has been largely increased; In 1906 seventy-nine
manufactures were reported, with an annual payroll of $1,267,000. Upwards
of two million dollars were invested in these industries and the total
value of goods produced or manufactured amounted to twice that sum. This
is certainly an excellent showing for a city of 15,000 inhabitants, a city
upon whose site less than a century ago stood the cabin of the settler
and the wigwam of the Indian.
Retracing our steps a little, let us describe the
buildings of one of the famous public institutions of Piqua. About sixty
four years ago the city was interested in the erection of its town hall
or council house, as it was then called. This old building which is still
the official residence of the city, was commenced in 1843 and completed
the following year. The contractors were Spencer & Darnold. J. Reed
Hilliard furnished the brick and lime. It was in the early days of the
Miami & Erie Canal and the iron work and glass of the building had
to be transported from Cincinnati by water. Messrs. Reed, Hilliard and
Walkup went to the Queen City to purchase the material on a boat run by
Lawton and Barnett. After transacting their business the several agents
found themselves icebound by the freezing of the canal and were obliged
to seek other means of returning home. Mr. Walkup engaged the only remaining
seat in the northbound stagecoach, while the other members of the party
concluded to walk home. They made the entire journey on foot while the
purchased material had to wait till the opening of the canal, which did
not take place till the following spring. Work was then resumed on the
council house and the "ornate structure," ornate for the time
at least, was finally completed.
In those days it was asserted that the public square
was east on Main Street, On the West Side of Main Street stood the old
academy or seminary of John Vail, where some of the elder residents of
Piqua finished their education. The academy was a long, low structure which
disappeared many years ago. On the site of the Post Office stood the home
of Martin Simpson, which in later years gave way for what is known as the
Conover Opera House. About this time the population of Piqua amounted to
It is a far cry from the splendid school buildings
of the city of Piqua back to the educational beginnings. The first inhabitants,
desirous of having their children well educated, built the first school
house in 1809. This building stood outside of the then limits of the town
near the present corner of Main and Young Streets. The first teacher was
John Hendershot. The interior furnishings of this "temple" of
learning were of the simplest, the books the simple ones of early times.
Hendershot could teach the "three R's" and was an instructor
of the old style.
"A man severe he was and stern to view, They knew him well
and every truant knew, Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace The
day's disasters in his morning face; Full well they laughed with counterfeited
glee At all his jokes, and many a joke had he; Full well the busy whisper
circling round, Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned Yet kind he
was, or if severe in naught, The love he bore to learning was in fault;
The village all declared how much he knew, 'Twas certain he could write
and cipher too, Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, Add e'en
the story ran that he could gauge. in arguing too, the parson owned his
skill, For e'en the vanquished he could argue still, While words of learned
length and thundering sound Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around, And
still they gazed, and still the wonder grew That one small head should
carry all he knew."
In 1818 the first schoolhouse gave way for a brick
one and to this was given the loftier name of the Academy. Rev. J.P. Finley
was the first instructor in the new building. It was not until 1850 that
the public schools were organized. The graded schools of Piqua came in
1854, when the site for the first high school was selected. Dr. G. Voliaey
Dorsey and William Scott, members of the board of education, chose the
site, and A.G. Chambers was made the first teacher and superintendent of
the new structure. Since then Piqua has made rapid strides in the matter
of education, until today she stands in the foremost rank in matters of
this kind. Her schools have sent into public life men and women who have
made their mark and who have reflected honor and credit upon their Alma
Mater. Every branch of education is taught in her high schools and her
educators have always been of the highest order.
The religious institutions of the city have
kept pace with its development along other lines. The United Presbyterians
built the first log church in 1816. Before this time religious services
were held in the homes of the early settlers and in the umbrageous groves
that surrounded the town. The Rev. Dyer Burgess was the first minister
to call the people to worship and his convincing discourses were long cherished
by those who sat under the droppings of the first sanctuary erected in
Piqua. In 1837 Rev. James Porter presided over a little flock in neat brick
building. The Methodists, after occupying the seminary on the public square,
built a small brick church on Spring Street in 1825, but this gave way
to a larger church edifice which became known as the Green Street Church.
The most celebrated pastor this church has known was the renowned Granville
Moody, known as the "Fighting Parson," for when the Civil War
broke out he exchanged the pulpit for the tented field and was as successful
as a conqueror of rebellion as he was as a conqueror of souls. It is asserted
that during one of the fiercest battles of the war, overcome by military
zeal and excitement, he instructed his command to "Give them h--l,
boys!" But Colonel Moody always maintained that what he really did
say was: "Give them Hail Columbia."
Other churches now followed in rapid rotation. The Methodists erected
another on Water Street, known as Grace Church, James Stevenson, pastor;
the present Old School Presbyterian Church arose on the corner of Wayne
and Ash streets, the Second Presbyterian on Wayne Street, while the Baptist
first worshiped on Ash Street but. afterward (1848) on High, near Wayne.
The remaining churches of Piqua are St. James Parish of the Protestant
Episcopal Church, which was organized about 1820, the German Lutheran,
the United Brethren, the German Episcopal Methodist, the Roman Catholic.
Of late years some of these old churches have given place to better houses
of worship, until now the city is well housed religiously and the congregations
are large and liberal. The congregations of Piqua will be further referred
to in a separate chapter.
"The Piqua Female Bible Society" came into existence in 1817.
This society followed the establishment of the American Bible Society by
only one year. Its first president was Mrs. Rachel Johnston, who held the
office continuously till her death in 1840, when Mrs. Eliza Petit became
president. She was succeeded by Mrs. M. H. Jones, who conducted the affairs
of the society until her death, which occurred in recent years.
It is not generally known by those outside the limits
of Piqua that within her borders are numerous tumuli, which indicate the
residence of the Mound Builders. These first denizens of that part of the
county covered by that city and its environs have left behind them traces
of their abode. In some of these mounds have been found skeletons and various
implements which attest the former, presence of this vanished race. Mr.
J.A. Rayner recently unearthed the complete skeleton of a mound builder
along with some curious implements. In many parts of Piqua have been found
numerous utensils, weapons, etc., used by the Indians and the Johnston
farm near by has been discovered to be rich in such finds.
While the history of the regimental organizations
of the county which took part in the suppression of the Rebellion in 1861-1865
is treated in another chapter, reference must be made here to the patriotic
spirit that stirred the people of Piqua during that momentous period. It
is but fair to say that the scenes were duplicated in other parts of the
county. With the first enlistment's which followed the memorable attack
upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, the loyal citizens of the Border
City came forward with aid societies and kindred organizations, which did
much to keep up the spirit of patriotism. The first soldiers
had hardly left the city with their faces turned toward the disloyal South
where the first Soldier's Aid Society sprang into existence. The drum was
still sounding in the ears of those left behind and the sun threw back
from the sabers the first glints of war.
The first Piqua Aid Society was organized with Mrs. Henry Kitchen as
president, Mrs. Preston Defrees, vice-president, Mrs. J.F. McKinney, secretary,
and Mrs. James Starrett, treasurer. A quartette of women more loyal to
the cause of the Union was not to be found in the country. The Green Street
Methodist Church was the scene of the organization of the Society, and
Mrs. Rachel Davis gave up a portion of her house for the work. Once a week
the members of the Society came together. During the entire period of the
war the ladies remained at their post of duty. They rolled bandages, scraped
lint, knitted stockings and mittens for use at the front. Everything that
could add to the comfort of the men who were fighting the battles of the
Nation was done. Box after box of remembrances of home was filled and dispatched
to the various camps where the soldiers of Miami County were to be found.
It was a labor of love and duty. Not only were the men of the county remembered,
but soldier passing through Piqua were intercepted by the untiring workers
and supplied with the comforts of life.
Not only this, but soldiers returning from the front, sick and wounded,
found tender nurses in the women of Piqua. Nothing discouraged this patriotic
organization, not even the disasters of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville
and Chickamauga. In the hearts of Piqua's loyal women was an abiding faith
in the final outcome of the struggle. The last winding-sheet of many a
Piqua boy was folded by tender hands and his grave was strewn with flowers
by the women of the Aid Society. Night and day they labored, some in mourning
for those slain, and others in fear of what the next battle news would
bring them. When the end came and the perpetuity of the Union had been
established, the society held its last meeting and disbanded. Its work
had been well done and the City of Piqua today is proud of the women who
bound the warrior's sash and told him to come back with his shield or upon
it, like the Spartan matrons of old.
On the 14th of June, 1899, the D.A.R. Chapter of
Piqua set up a memorial stone on the site of the last battle fought in
the French and Indian War. This spot is near the city. The addresses made
on that occasion were as follows: By Rev. A. Ramsey on "The Glories
of War," by Judge John C. Geyer in behalf of the sons of the American
Revolution, by Dr. C.W. Bennett, who represented the Grand Army of the
Republic. C.B. Jamison read an historical paper and James Ward Keyt a paper
written for the occasion by the compiler of this work. Again, on Flagday
(June 14) 1906 the same society placed a bronze tablet on the West End
of the famous Col. John Johnston house with appropriate ceremonies. This
old house is situated at Upper Piqua and during the War of 1812 was inhabited
by Col. Johnston and his family. It was here that he kept a great many
Indians from taking part in the contest and thereby saved the unprotected
frontiers much bloodshed.
When a Post Office was established at Piqua, Arthur
Brandon was made Postmaster, receiving his commission from President Madison.
I have been unable to secure a complete list of his successors, but from
1824 to the present time they have been as follows: James Defrees, John
Carson, John W. Gordon, Joseph Housum, Henry C. Landis, John Marshall,
Jonas Ward, Andrew J. Roe, Joseph M. Patterson, LaRoy S. Jordan, J.R. Thorne,
Henry C. Graflin, J.W. Shipley, John W. Morris, Joshua W. Orr. Edward N.
Wilbee served as postmaster during a vacancy. The present roster of the
Post Office is as follows: Postmaster, J.W. Orr; assistant, William H.
Flach; money order and registry clerk, Arthur L. Redman; general delivery
and stamp clerk, Lee F. Rayner; mailing clerks, Forest B. Hunter, Charles
H. Folk, O.W. Scudder, Emmet Shane; special delivery messenger, George
A. Reamer; city carriers, Charles C. Fisher, William M. Fleming, Louis
Gabel, Charles H. Gram, H.W McCabe, James V. Offenbach, Ray R. Shipley,
J.M. Stump, Theodore VonBargen; rural carriers, Harvey Anderson, Frank
E. Craft, Charles Heitzman, Clyde DeWeese, William Shipley, John P. Wood.
The Piqua Post Office is situated in the Conover Building and is one of
the best appointed offices in the county.
The present efficient Department of Piqua is the
outgrowth of the one organized in 1843. At that time, as recalled by Capt.
F.A. Hardy, who is one of the surviving firemen of the old days, the equipment
consisted of an engine called "The Old Row Boat," which was very
primitive in build and operation. The firemen were seated on the top of
the machine in two lines with their feet placed together, pulling on the
brakes as though they were rowing a boat." A "bucket brigade"
worked in conjunction with the old fire service, and the old leather buckets
used by the men were laboriously but effectively handled on many occasions.
The city government of today has the following roster:
Mayor, J.C. Hughes; president of council, J.H. Clark; auditor, Bert A.
Reed; treasurer, George H. Rundel; solicitor, E.M Bell. Members of Council-John
E. Anderson, A.M. Bowdell, George M. Peffer, Conrad Kalbfleisch, Michael
Kerrigan, A.J. Licklider, Anson Mote; board of public service-Bland S.
Levering, John G. Hagan, W.F. Robbins; board of public safety-W.K. Leonard,
Dr. J.W. Prince; board of review- William Suff, Otto Simon; sinking fund
and tax commissioners-Albion Thomas, John H. Young, W.L. Catterlin, George
W. Berry; board of health-Dr. R.M. Shannon, W.W. Buchanan, W.T. Caldwell,
Dr. J.H. Lowe, H.T. Dettman; board of education-Oscar Fisher, Dr. W.J.
Prince, Charles C. Jelleff, Mrs. Frances Orr, E.P. Brotherton, Otto VonBargen;
chief of police, Frank Gehle; chief of fire department, P.J. Canlfield;
city engineer, H.E. Whitlock.
In other chapters will be found mention of the banks, schools, churches,
the press, fraternal orders and the several industries of the city. I realize
that the present chapter does not fully cover the history of the City of
Piqua, but its salient features have been given with all the accuracy attainable
and is thus submitted to the reader. For a city that came out of the backwoods
a century ago, Piqua has made a commendable growth in all lines, reaching
out every direction, having within her borders handsome public libraries,
a complete Memorial Hospital, commodious banks, churches, school, and other
public institutions. It does not require the wisdom of a seer to predict
still further advancement nor to place the "Border City" on the
banks of the Miami in the front rank of the growing municipalities of the
Union. Piqua has a fame distinctly her own.
End of Chapter 9
1909 History of Miami County Ohio,
by Thomas Harbaugh