Posts Tagged ‘Ohio’

Slavery, Politics, and Elk Lick House

Thomas Morris is a forgotten titan of Ohio politics.  Serving only one term as a United States Senator from Ohio, 1833-1839, Morris left his mark on national politics because of slavery.   Voted in on the coattails of the Jackson presidency, Morris stood strong with the president on the issues of the banking system and ‘nullification”.  As time went on, he became an early opponent of slavery; this put him at odds with the Jacksonian Machine that got him elected as a result.

Thomas Morris

Thomas Morris

Born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, January 3, 1776, Morris was the fifth child of a Baptist minister and his wife.  They soon moved to Clarksburg, Virginia, now West Virginia.  Tradition holds that his anti-slavery beliefs were a result of his mother’s views.  His mother, Ruth, was the daughter of a Virginia planter.  Seeing the hardships of her father’s slaves had an impact on her to the point of not accepting four slaves as part of her inheritance.  It should be noted, however, that she also did not free them.  If indeed this was where the seeds were sown for his anti-slavery beliefs, they would not surface until his time as a United States Senator.

After a brief stint, searching for Indians in the back country, as a Wood Ranger, under the command of Captain Levi Morgan, Thomas Morris arrived at the Columbia settlement in 1795.  He worked as a store clerk for several years, married Rachel Davis in 1797, then moved to Bethel, Ohio in Clermont County in 1800.  He studied for and passed the bar to become a lawyer in 1804.  He set up shop in Bethel and soon had a successful practice as a frontier lawyer.

Thanks to his success, he rose to prominence and was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1806.  He went on to serve in the Ohio Senate as well before gaining the national stage as United States Senator from Ohio 1833-1839.  His selection by the Democrats for the senate seat was largely viewed as reward for his ardent support of the re-election of Andrew Jackson.  Morris proved his loyalty by supporting Jackson’s war with the National Bank and introducing anti-nullification legislature that passed through the government.  This may have been the high-water mark for this relationship.

As the issue of slavery raised its ugly head due to America’s expansion, legislators began to take sides based on state location and personal beliefs.  On January 7, 1836, Senator Morris introduced an anti-slavery bill in the 24th Congress, which raised the ire of South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun. In response to Calhoun’s attack, Morris stood his ground and seemingly broke what was a “gentleman’s agreement” not to broach the subject at length.  The gauntlet had been thrown down and Morris was now hailed a torch bearer by abolitionists such as Cincinnati’s James G. Birney.  While popular in those circles, his views were not so within the party that elected him.  President Andrew Jackson went so far as to “shun” him on his visit to Cincinnati.  The writing was on the wall; Morris had lost the support of his party due to his outspoken views on slavery.  As the Senator’s first term came to a close, he did not seek a second term in the senate.

Elk Lick House at Heritage Village Museum

Elk Lick House at Heritage Village Museum

Thomas Morris returned to Clermont County.  In 1840, he began to work at the Elk Lick Mill property owned in partnership by Charles White, his son-in-law, and others.  The property had a sawmill, gristmill, and distillery on site.  Morris split his time between his home in Bethel and working and staying on the grounds of the Elk Lick House compound.  It appears that with the exception of running for vice-president on the Liberty Party ticket in 1844, that most of Morris’ time was spent at Elk Lick Mills.  So much so that three mortgages were owed to Thomas Morris’ estate after his death December 7, 1844. A rise in the value of the Elk Lick property indicates that the Elk Lick House front addition was probably built while Morris was still alive, perhaps as his retirement home.  To reinforce this possibility, the census of 1850, according to researcher, Mary Laudrick, shows Charles White, Thomas Morris’ widow and three daughters all living at Elk Lick House.  Regardless, Senator Morris left his mark on the anti-slavery movement, Clermont County, and Elk Lick House.

Happy Birthday, Cincinnati!

On this day,  December 28, 1788, a group of men worked their way across the Ohio River from the mouth Of the Licking River.  They had to dodge yet more ice flows since they left Limestone, now Maysville, Kentucky on the 26th.  The little group managed to make it to what is now known as Yeatman’s Cove at the end of Sycamore Street.  The founding of Cincinnati was underway, except, it had already been named Losantiville by the surveyor John Filson.  The cold, wet little group set about securing their perimeter and making a fire.  The first night in Cincinnati passed inauspiciously as the small party slept close to the fire while sentinels kept watch for danger.  So began the city that would be known as “The Queen City” and “Porkopolis”.

The first cabin, built on Front Street, was constructed with planks from the very boat that carried the settlers from Limestone (Maysville).  The group of men wasted little time in getting the area that would become Cincinnati planned and laid out.  By early January, Israel Ludlow and an assistant had completed a large part of the surveying job.  Israel Ludlow joined the expedition after original surveyor, John Filson left camp on an earlier expedition to the area and was never heard from again.  With the surveying done, this area of the Symmes Purchase was ready for settlement and by the end of the year; at least twenty homes dotted the area around Yeatman’s Cove.  The families of Losantiville relied heavily on Columbia Settlement for foodstuffs these first years.  The fertile soil of what is now known as Turkey Bottoms provided much help to both Columbia and Losantiville.

Families began arriving as soon as February, 1789.  One of the first was Francis Kennedy and his family of seven.  The Indians in the area left the settlements alone for the most part that first year.  However, the threat was always imminent.  Sometime between June and July of 1789 the construction begun on a fort to house the garrison and protect the settlers.  Out of the old growth forest and behind the tiny cabin, Fort Washington was erected.

Fort Washington-Cincinnati

Slowly Losantiville, began to grow.  By the end of its first year, the little settlement had twenty-four men, eleven families, and a garrison of soldiers.  Losantiville would soon be renamed “Cincinnati” by Northwest Territorial Governor, Arthur St. Clair, and also rise to prominence as center for military activity in the taming of the Northwest Territory and quelling violent Native American activity.

As the frontier moved West, Cincinnati was still relevant as a supply stop on the way West and as a burgeoning industrial center.  From that one small cabin, we now have a sprawling metropolis of nearly 300,000 peoples.  From the “Edge of America” to the “Heartland”, Cincinnati has continued to grow and prosper.  Happy 226th birthday, Cincinnati!

 cincinnati 1800

.  Mathias Denman, Colonel Robert Patterson, and Israel Ludlow led a group of approximately 14 men down the Ohio from Limestone, now Maysville, Kentucky.

Colonel John Riddle, Cincinnati Pioneer




Below is an excerpt from a booklet on Colonel John Riddle, one of the pioneers of Cincinnati, Ohio.    The booklet was written by our Education Director, Steve Preston. Steve is also a Master of Arts Public History Candidate at Northern Kentucky University. The booklet can be purchased at the Heritage Village Museum gift shop.



             While performing routine conservation on one of the artifacts at Heritage Village Museum, an intriguing story about a figure in early Cincinnati history began to unfold. The artifact belongs to The Society of the Colonial Dames in Ohio.  The “Colonial Dames” as they are locally known, are a national society dedicated to historic preservation and patriotism.  They own the 1804 Kemper Log Home on site, as well as the Model 1773 Charleville Musket and other artifacts within the home.  This musket, valuable as simply an antique firearm, has a priceless story to tell about its owner.
This Charleville Musket belonged to Colonel John Riddle.  A native of New Jersey, he immigrated to Cincinnati in 1790. John Riddle’s story starts in New Jersey but it ends here in Cincinnati during its formative years. Riddle’s experiences in New Jersey prepared him for the harsh and primitive life he would experience in newly settled Southwest Ohio.
Descendants of John Riddle had the forethought to preserve this musket for future generations, culminating in its donation to the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 1900s. As ownership of the Kemper Log Home passed from the Daughters of the American Revolution to The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the state of Ohio in 1952, so did Riddle’s musket. Like all the artifacts on display in the Kemper Home, the musket’s owner has a unique and compelling story.
John Riddle was a bear of a man, standing 5’10 and weighing 225 pounds. He was a man of many talents with a streak of adventurer in him. From New Jersey soldier, to privateer on the high seas, to blacksmith, to pioneer, to militia commander, his life certainly provides all the ingredients for a good story. His influence was felt from the Atlantic Seaboard to the heart of the American Midwest. As so many of these great stories are lost, found, only to be lost again, it is important to document this narrative so that it may be preserved to remain “found.”