Adams County History & Genealogy

Adams County, Ohio History

Winchester Township

This is the northwestern township of Adams County. It borders Jackson Township, Brown County, on the west, and Concord Township, Highland County, on the north. It is one of the more recently formed townships of the county, having been organized 02 Jan 1838 from territory four by six miles, off the west side of Scott, and a strip two by four miles off the north end of Wayne Township. It contains something more than thirty-two square miles or about 20,000 acres of land.


The western part of the township is undulating, with low marshy areas at the head of the small streams whose waters reach the North Fork of Eagle Creek to the southwest or one of the forks of Ohio Brush Creek that flow across the northern portion of the township to the eastward.

The eastern part of the township is more hilly and the land rougher, than the western portion. The soil in the western part is chiefly the white clay, or boulder drift. These clay soils are rich in all the material of vegetable growth except organic matter, which being supplied by intelligent crop rotation, will gradually improve in productiveness. On the other hand, where the virgin soil has been sapped of its organic matter and not restored by intelligent cultivation, the lands have become cold and barren. It is remarkable that in traveling along the highways through this section, an observer will see on the one side fine fields of corn, oats, wheat or grass, the products of intelligent farming; and on the other, dreary fields of running briers, poverty grass and sedge, the harvest of ignorance and sloth.

The eastern part of the township along the numerous small streams and creeks possesses a good limestone soil; the uplands, however, are the yellow and white boulder clays. Under proper care and cultivation, the uplands of this township would afford abundant pasturage for large flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, while the valleys would grow fine crops of clover, corn, wheat and tobacco.


Every portion of Winchester Township affords fine springs of pure limestone water. These springs are found at the heads and along the courses of the numerous small creeks that flow through the township. Just below the site of every pioneer cabin in this township is a fine spring of water. These are factors which, when properly utilized, will make the township a grand pasturage area.

Three branches of the West Fork of Ohio Brush Creek traverse this township. From the northwest flows Little West Fork; from the west, arising in Eagle Township, in Brown County, flows West Fork proper; and from the southwest flows Elk Run, a wicked, rapid stream, in whose waters many a life has gone out in attempting to ford it when swollen. These three creeks unite on the eastern border of the township and form what is known as West Fork of Ohio Brush Creek, one of the most beautiful streams in the state. These streams have cut deep channels through the blue limestone underlying the surface, and in the deep pools along their courses, sheltered in these shelving layers of limestone, are found the gamest black bass that ever spun the reel of a sportsman's rod.


Among the first settlers in what is now Winchester Township was Joel Bailey. As early as 1799, he had come to Adams County, and was one of the first court constables when Washington, at the mouth of Ohio Brush Creek, was the seat of justice of the county. He afterwards, perhaps about 1805, settled on what is now the Roush farm at the junction of the Buck Run and Seaman pikes east of Winchester. Here he built a stillhouse and a horse mill. He reared a numerous family, descendants of which are scattered from the Alleghenies to the Pacific coast.

John McIntyre, Andrew Clemmer and Israel Rhodes were early settlers on lands about 1.5 miles south of Winchester.


It is said that the first schoolhouse in this township was a log structure which stood near the present cemetery at Winchester. Richard Cross, a relative of the Alexander family, which settled about 1805 in that portion of Adams County now included in Eagle Township in Brown County, was the first teacher. When Joel Bailey resided near Elk Run his older children attended a school held in a little log cabin on the old Aid farm in the eastern portion of Jackson Township, Brown County. This was about the year 1811. Spencer Records was one of the first schoolmasters in the township.


The churches in the township are Calvary Methodist Protestant Church in the Kennedy neighborhood in the northeast part of the township; and Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church, about three miles north of the village of Winchester. In the village of Winchester, Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Baptist organizations are maintained. Of these latter, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1830 and the Baptist in 1831. In 1887, the Presbyterians erected a very handsome frame church at a cost of $5,000. The Baptist organization was formed at the house of Spencer Records on West Fork, on the farm now owned by George Baker, in 1813. Elder Charles B. Smith was the first pastor, and had charge of the congregation until about the year 1820.


In the northern part of the township are a number of small mounds, the work of the prehistoric inhabitants of this region. Some of the larger ones have been partially explored by treasure-hunters but without success, only some fragments of human skeletons, and trifling trinkets of stone and shells having been found.


The first mill in the township is said to have been erected in 1809 on the site of Winchester by Richard Cross. It was an old-fashioned clumsy horse mill. About this date, Spencer Records, who then resided on the farm now owned by George Baker, built a mill on Brush Creek near where the county line between Adams and Brown Counties crosses that creek. It was a treadmill. Afterwards, Records built a tub-wheel mill on the site of what was later known as the old McCormick mill now in Eagle Township, Brown County. This mill was patronized for miles about as being the best mill in that region at that time. It had but one pair of buhrs, and Records dressed the stones himself from a kind of quartz found in the Sunfish hills.

In 1820, Ezra Sparks owned the treadmill where Winchester now stands. About this date, Joseph Marlatt erected a water mill on Brush Creek at the mouth of Horner's Run, and a little later, Stephen Tolle built one on Elk Run.

The first sawmill was built by Joel Baily on Elk Run in 1820.


Abolitionists Mobbed.

In Howe's History of Ohio, there appears some reminiscences of Abolition Mobs, written by R. C. Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio. The scene of one of those terrible mobs is laid in a grove near Winchester.

Being interested in this matter of recording "pioneer scenes and incidents" the writer was greatly surprised to learn of this "scoop" having been made by a rival chronicler in the vicinity of the writer's own "vine and figtree." With a view of gathering some additional facts relative to the matter, the writer sought among others an interview with Mr. O. R. Smith, or Reece Smith, as he is familiarily known, to nearly every person in Adams County. Mr. Smith has resided in Winchester from his boyhood to the present day, and knows personally more of the history of the village and township of Winchester perhaps, than any other person living. He is a prominent Mason, a Methodist, and a substantial business man.

Referring to the mobbing of Reverend John Rankin at Winchester as recited in the volume above named, Mr. Smith said:

I remember the incident as well as if it had occurred yesterday. It was in 1837, or perhaps 1838. Reverend John Rankin, Reverend Dyer Burgess, a gentleman named Weed, and John Mahan and some of the Hugginses from the neighborhood of Sardinia had announced an Abolition meeting to be held here in town (Winchester), but from some cause they were not permitted to speak in any of the churches, and so were obliged to hold their meeting in the grove out near where Dr. Noble's residence now stands. There were in Winchester at that time a few sympathizers with the movement among whom I may mention Dr. A. C. Lewis, Milton Colter and Reverend Hiram Burnett, a Baptist minister. But the majority of our citizens looked upon the movement at that time with disfavor, yet they made no attempt at its suppression. It was a matter in which men took sides in argument, which sometimes ended in bad feeling, as so often do political wrangles.

On this occasion there were a great many people in town from the surrounding country and as usual in those days there was some drunkenness and a great deal of loud and boisterous talk, but not at the place of meeting.

William Stockwell, an old sea captain and author of Stockwell's Narratives, who then lived on Brush Creek near McCormick's mill, and some others, with a fife and drum corps, marched about the streets; and I remember that while here in town John Boone Fenton, Barney Mullen and Andrew Swearengen were about to get into an encounter with James Huggins and some of his friends, but they were kept apart by old Joel Bailey and others with cooler heads. There were no clubs or canes drawn at the meeting, and no personal encounters during its progress. I remember that Robert Patton was present, but he neither threw nor had he occasion to throw anyone off the speaker's stand.

The story in Howe's History is purely a fiction of the imagination. I might add that the opponents to the Abolition movement were not confined to any one political party -- they were in the ranks of both Democrats and Whigs. Barney Mullen and Andrew Swearengen before mentioned were Democrats, while John Boone Fenton and Captain Stockwell were Whigs.

Morgan's Raid

General Morgan and his staff arrived in Winchester about nine o'clock in the morning, and took up their headquarters in the hotel then kept by Nicholas Bunn on Main Street. There were no telegraph lines nor railroads in Adams County. The people depended upon the mails for their news from the outside world. The Cincinnati newspapers were carried from Maysville and Ripley on the Ohio River by the way of Cherry Fork and Winchester through to Hillsboro in Highland County.

General Morgan was anxious to see the Cincinnati newspapers, and remained in Winchester until four o'clock in the afternoon in order to capture the mail when it arrived. Becoming impatient, he sent a detail of soldiers to meet the carrier, Gibson Paul, who was relieved of the pouches near the old Howard Alexander farm on the Cherry Fork pike.

Old Johny Frow was then postmaster and when Morgan's men took the captured pouches to their commander's room at the village hotel, the obliging postmaster hurried thither with the keys and proffered his assistance in opening the pouches and assorting the mail. General Morgan was staggered at the proposition for the moment, but quickly recovering himself, he replied that he would "assist the obliging postmaster downstairs," if he did not betake himself that way at once. The General assorted the mail himself.

After scanning the dispatches in the latest newspapers, General Morgan rode out to the old cemetery and delivered an address to his men there in camp, in which he advised them of their perilous situation. They then began to prepare in great haste for a renewal of the march, and left in great excitement, taking the Grace's Run route for Harshaville, Wheat Ridge, Dunkinsville and Locust Grove near where the army encamped that night. In the hurry and excitement, an officer left his horse saddled and bolstered in Bunn's stable.

The Escape of Captain Hines

The following from Anna Meek McKee, of Chillicothe, graphically describes the exciting scenes in Winchester during the stay of the famous cavalry commander and his raiders. Captain Hines was under guard in the house of Norvalle Osburn and made his escape from there. He was directed to the cellar under the house of Hiram Israel De Bruin where a portion of the wall was taken out, through the opening in which Hines crawled back under the kitchen floor. The wall was then carefully replaced, and Hines remained under the floor until after the departure of Morgan and his men. Then he was helped from his place of hiding as related below by Mrs. McKee:

The summer of 1863 I spent in Winchester, Adams County, Ohio, with my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. I.H. De Bruin. When we learned that General Morgan had crossed the river and was in Ohio, the consternation was terrible. On the morning of July 15, I think it was Monday, a rumor of his coming into Winchester was spread abroad, and before we could gather our wits he was in the town about 8 o'clock a.m. The whole army came and most of it stayed all day. Morgan with his bodyguard rode up to the old Sparks (then Bunn's) tavern and took possession of it. The men began to raid and rifle the homes and stores. A number of men called at the home of I.H. De Bruin, who was in the army, and asked his wife for the key to the dry goods store, which had been locked on hearing the news of their coming into town. Mrs. De Bruin promptly gave them the key, and after being in the store a short time they locked it up and returned the key, and paid in confederate money for what they had taken, saying to her that the store would not be disturbed again, which proved to be true. (It was thought by some that such was the case, because they must have found in his desk evidence of the fact that the proprietor was a Free Mason and that over the store was the Masonic Lodge Room, General Morgan himself being a Mason.) Not so with the store directly across the way, for they rifled it of everything, and what they could not carry away, they tried to destroy, tying their horses' and mules' tails and manes with ribbons and destroying many things before our eyes, scattering pins, needles and small things over the floor of the store and in the street. Never will I forget what a sight that store was, belonging to Mr. Dick Thompson.

One of the chaplains, Charles Price, of Nicholasville, Kentucky, spent quite a while, on the piazza of my grandfather's home. He came to ask some questions about Hillsboro, knowing that they were not far from that town, especially of Dr. Samuel Steel, who was the Presbyterian minister in Hillsboro, who many said favored in looks H. I. De Bruin, and we thought he was under the same impression, for he came up asking if we knew Reverend Samuel Steel. My grandfather referred him to me as being a resident of Hillsboro. He was a relative of Dr. Steel's wife and I had a pleasant chat with him because he knew many in Hillsboro who had visited in Kentucky. He was very interesting and very courteous.

At 3:00 p.m., a great stir and commotion occurred on Main Street where the house of H. I. De Bruin stood, just a half block from where they had entered the town, and here they had in a carriage a prisoner, Captain Hines, of Winchester, KY. The commotion was caused by the escape of this prisoner. They rode up and down this street swearing that they would bum to the ground the house in which he might be concealed. We were all unconcerned and innocent when, had the fact been known, our horrified faces might have told the secret, for my dear grandmother, then sitting on the piazza as calm as any of us, had secreted him. He had run into the back part of Mr. Jerome De Bruin's home, who lived just south of grandfather's, and Jerome had brought him to grandfather's house, and had quietly taken grandmother back to him. Oh. what a woman was she! I can hear her yet saying to the prisoner, "Are you deceiving me?" and his reply, "God knows I am not; for His sake, protect me." And she who had given three of her sons to her country was brave enough to protect him. He was hidden in such a place that he could hear all of the soldiers' ravings over his loss.

About 4:00, the raiders began to leave the town, and it did not take long for all to get out, they seemed to be in a hurry. General Basil Duke, of Confederate fame, was with them. I remember him well. After they had gone, Captain Hines was brought from his hiding place, and after having his supper, was sent out north of town where some militia from Hillsboro were stopping.

That same evening word came of Hobson's approach with his seven thousand men. The night was spent in preparing sandwiches and other things for his great army which began to arrive early the next morning. Only the General and his staff stopped for a few hours, he having his headquarters in the best rooms of the De Bruin home. The army passed on in pursuit of Morgan, but not before they had a cup of coffee and a sandwich, which most of them took while on their horses, and they were a tired looking set. Captain Hines was brought in to see General Hobson who gave him a pass to Hillsboro and a horse to ride there and a pass to return to his home. He was wounded and at home, on a furlough, and this was how he came to be captured. He went to Hillsboro and spent a night at the home of judge W. M. Meek before going on his journey home.

After General Hobson and his staff had dined and he had finished his official business, they followed after the army. There was no time lost. Expedition seemed to be his watchword. All the time I was almost paralyzed with fear, but I have always been glad for the personal experiences of those memorable days.


The school enumeration outside the village of Winchester is 297. The average wages paid teachers is $30 per month. There are six subdistricts, and each is provided with a frame schoolhouse 24 x 30 feet, one story high. The surroundings of these "colleges of the people" are uninviting. The playgrounds are bare of shade trees or ornamental shrubs, and present a picture of neglect.

In the village of Winchester there is a graded school attended by the pupils of school age within the special district. The present school building is a plain brick structure with four rooms and was erected in 1871. The estimated value of buildings, grounds. furniture and apparatus is $2,000. The school term is seven months; the principal receives $60 per month and the under teachers from $30-40 each per month. The school enumeration is 232. This special district was organized in 1865.


The Independent Agricultural and Mechanical Association of Adams, Brown and Highland Counties, was organized under the laws of the state in 1859. The first fair was held 02-05 Oct 1860. Moses Patterson was the first President and I. H. De Bruin, Secretary. The grounds of the Association occupied a beautiful tract of twenty acres south of the village about one-half mile. From its organization, until about the year 1882, this was one of the most popular fairs in Southern Ohio. From 6,000 to 10,000 persons attended here annually, and the Association paid dividends of from 10-20% to stockholders. But from bad management about the date last above mentioned, the attendance began to grow smaller each succeeding year until 1897, when exhibitions ceased to be held. In 1899, the grounds were disposed of by the stockholders, and will be subdivided into lots for building purposes.


There are but two post offices in the township, Emerald, and Winchester, formerly called Scott.

Emerald is situated in the northern part of the township and was established in 1868. Sanford Burba was the first postmaster.

Scott Post Office was established in 1820 and Judge Joseph Eyler was the first postmaster. On the first day of April 1880, the name was changed to Winchester. It is a money order office.


The first railroad built in Adams County, the present C. P. & V. was a narrow gauge from Batavia junction, called the Cincinnati and Eastern. The first passenger train entered Winchester 07 Aug 1877. It was an excursion train of flat cars, and carried a motley crowd of enthusiasts from along the line to the terminus of the road. Here the train was engulfed on its arrival in a struggling mass of humanity seeking a first view of a locomotive and train of cars.


Winchester was laid out 08 Nov 1815 by Joseph Darlinton, and named by him for Winchester, Virginia, near which he was born and reared to man's estate. The original plat contained seventy lots. Afterwards, Joel Bailey laid off an addition of 82 lots, known as South Winchester. The village was incorporated in 1865, and has about 800 inhabitants. Joseph Eyler kept the first hotel on the northwest corner of South Street. James and Joseph Baily opened the first store in a log building that stood on lot 44 in 1819. Dr. A. C. Lewis was the first resident physician. The first tannery in the village was owned by Joseph Eylar; and the first oil mill was built by Levi Sparks in 1830. Moses Patterson operated a carding mill and a steam flouring mill from 1851 to 1863. These together with the tannery adjoining were burned in the fall of that year.

R. A. McMillan is the proprietor of a fine roller mill in the village at this time. The village contains two hotels, three dry goods stores, three drug stores, two family groceries, and one sawmill. The Masons, Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias each maintain lodges. The Winchester Bank was organized in 1885 with Honorable L. J. Fenton as cashier.

In the present year [1900], the citizens seem to have awakened somewhat from a lethargy of the "Sleepy Hollow" sort, and, with some enterprising newcomers such as Messrs. Mecklin, McMillan and others, have succeeded in building in the town a bent wood works, canning factory and a shoe factory.

from its earliest settlement to the present time including character sketches of the prominent persons identified with the first century of the county's growth and containing numerous engravings and illustrations
Nelson W. Evans and Emmons B. Stivers [1900, West Union OH]