Washington Township, though the smallest in area, is the most populous division of the county. It is named for General Washington and justly so since to the "first great American" we owe so much concerning the opening of the Miami country. The boundaries of Washington Township are as follows: On the north by Shelby County, on the east by Springcreek and Staunton Townships, on the south by Concord and Newton and on the west by Newberry. To Washington Township belongs the credit of some of the first settlements in the state. It was the home of some of the Indian tribes so closely identified with the history of the county and it witnessed not a few stirring events in early history. It has aptly been said that "here was the last home of the red man in the county and here the earliest white settlements." From the Indian cantons in Washington Township, the Indian forayed into Kentucky and when loaded with the spoil of his depredations, he returned to the banks of the Miami and at Piqua told to attentive listeners around the forest fires the story of the bloody raid.
The county had been a legally organized commonwealth about seven years before Washington Township came into existence. Prior to this time (1814) several settlements had been made within its present limits. One Job Gard, who had been a soldier in Wayne's army, taking note of this particular region when the army passed north to punish the Indians on the Maumee in 1794, returned after the campaign and built for himself a cabin out of timber which had been used in the construction of old Fort Piqua. Gard's settlement is supposed to have been an event of 1798. This first pioneer of Washington Township remained in his habitation for three years when he sold out to John Manning, a man closely identified with the early history of the county. From this date the tide of settlement in the northern portion of the county can easily be traced. The cabins of the settlers, hitherto far apart, were to be found in little groups which formed a protection from the Indians and stimulated neighborly intercourse. The needs of the little colony in Washington Township increased. Hand mills for the grinding of corn were erected, but these failing to sufficiently provide for the wants of the community, regular mills came into use, and in 1804 Manning erected one near what is now the south end of Harrison Street in Piqua. It was the first real mill in that section of the county.
With the organization of the township the first trustees were elected. They were John Widney, Benjamin Brandon, and William Mitchell. The Mitchells came from Tennessee and were hardy, honest and enterprising people. It is noticeable that many of the first settlers of the county came from the Southern states. This fact may be traced to the Boones and others who had penetrated this region years before to carry back to their friends flattering reports of the fertile valleys which lay north of the Ohio, a veritable "land of promise." It is somewhat remarkable that but little is known of the actual settlement of Washington Township outside of the City of Piqua. One of the first inhabitants of the township was the celebrated Col. John Johnston, the Indian agent. Others were James and Frank Johnston, Hugh Scott, Benjamin Leavell, John and Enos Manning, Armstrong Brandon, and Matthew Caldwell. Another well known character was Joseph Porquette, who kept about the first liquor store in the county.
The late Dr. Dorsey, in his reminiscences, has this to say of Porquette, who, from his name, was evidently French: "At that time there was quite a broad strip of land between the east side of the street in Piqua and the west end of the river bridge. This was claimed by Porquette. Ewing, a local trader, kept a tavern, in which he had a few articles of traffic which he sometimes exchanged with the Indians for skins and furs. As the village grew, the consumption of liquor naturally increased, and Porquette kept some whiskey on his side of the street, which was not a little frequented from the fact that the first blacksmith shop stood hard by, and hence it happened that occasionally little disturbances arose in this vicinity, somewhat to the disgust of the good and sober people in the other houses. As the numbers year by year increased and these outbreaks became more marked and frequent, Porqette's little piece of ground was at length called by the distinctive appellation of the 'Devil's Half-acre,' that it might be known that it was believed that this was all the territory to which it was believed His Satanic Majesty could rightfully lay claim within this locality. This name continued for many years, and it was only after the larger portion of the ground was buried in the canal and the evil spirit properly laid beneath its waters that the name was lost and is now only remembered by a few of the old inhabitants.
Much of the improved land in Washington Township today was cultivated by the Indians in corn. It was this fact which induced George Rogers Clark to invade this particular locality in 1782 when, as has already been narrated in this work, he devastated these fields, laying them waste and depriving the red men of their sustenance. The Indian corn fields stretched along the bank of the Miami in Washington Township and were cultivated by the women of the various tribes. When the whites came they found some of these fields in a fair state of cultivation, but the Indian method was very primitive. The pioneers of Washington Township at once improved on the Indian's work and before long their own fields were the wonder of the early days. As the village of Piqua grew in importance a little market for grain was established and later on the boating industry enabled the settlers to reach the outside world which lay beyond the forests of the Miami. No other township in the county furnished a sturdier group of settlers than Washington. They came of a hardy race, immigrants from beyond the barriers of the Alleghenies, men who made that long journey alone, looking for the new land of which they had heard and longed to possess. If the docket of Mathew Caldwell, who was the first justice of the peace of Washington Township, could be unearthed, its few entries would show how peaceably its first inhabitants got along together. There was little litigation and nearly all the cases that came up before Justice Caldwell were settled by the advice of friends or of the Justice himself. In short the neighborhood was not disturbed by quarrels, and it was not until Piqua became a large town that the dockets assumed visible proportions. Since it is designed to give the history of Piqua in a separate chapter we will turn our attention to another township.
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