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West Jefferson

From Atlas of Madison County, J.A. Caldwell [Condit, Ohio, 1875]

Page 9

The town of Jefferson is situated in a township of the same name, fourteen miles west of Columbus, on the Columbus and Xenia Railroad, and the National Road. The first effort at a town here was called Hamden, and was just south of where John Heath's house now stands; but upon the location of the National Road, in 1830, Isaac Jones, father of C.C. and Wm. Jones, laid out the town of Jefferson, and the town of Hamden was abandoned, most of the houses being moved over to the new town. The first house built in the new town was a part of that now occupied by Dr. Wilson. The first house built for business purposes was a part of what has been known for forty years as the "Mantle House." In this house Mr. Dalby opened the first tavern, and also commenced selling goods. John Simpkins, father of Gaines Simpkins, was the next to open a tavern, whcih he did on the lot where now stands the American. The first blacksmith in the new town was Geo. W. Lewis, now our venerable mayor, who worked in a shop where his office now stands.

The first physician in the place was Dr. David Wilson, who still lives here, although not practising his profession for the last twenty years.

The first effort at manufacturing here was in the shape of a carding-machine and grist-mill, erected by John Mills, on Little Darby, near where Mr. A.R. Hains now lives, as early as 1817. Next came the carding-machine and saw-mill built by Isaac Jones, in the corporation.

For many years after the completion of the National Road, the town grew rapdily, and for twenty years it was the most important point in the county. An immense emigration West, passing over the great road just opened, kept the half-dozen hotels crowded, while the great number of coaches between Columbus and Cincinnati always gave the place a lively appearance. A large business was also done in packing beef and pork by Dr. Jennet Stutson, two large flouring-mills were established, and a large wholesale dry goods trade was built up by Dr. Bliss, father of D.W. Bliss. The completion of the railroad, in 1850, put an end to prosperity. It now has a population of 800, and although not increasing much in the last few years, is yet a very desirable place for trade. It has three very complete dry goods stores, six grocery stores, two drug stores, one shoe store, one large wagon shop, three blacksmith shops, three churches, one large Union-school building, in which five teachers are employed, one saw-mill, one flouring-mill, four physicians, and one lawyer. At an early day, a fort or block-house was built on the east banks of Little Darby, about twenty rods south of where the National Road crosses the creek, near where the town now stands.

From The History of Madison County, Ohio, R. C. Brown, et. al., W. H. Beers & Co. [Chicago, 1883]

Page 641

In an early day, the settlers needed a point closer than Franklinton for some one to keep in store such necessaires as were likely to be handled by the pioneer merchant. In consequence, on July 5, 1822, Samuel Jones and Samuel Sexton acknowledged the original plat of New Hampton and signing of deed, before Justice A. Burnham. there were three streets east and west, viz., Main, North and South streets, each sixty feet wide; two alleys east and west, viz., Jones and Sexton. The streets north and south were five in number, and the first three were each sixty feet in width, and the last two mentioned were forty-nine and a half — Friend, Center, Pearl, Union and Prairie. There were ninety-three lots, mostly four by ten poles in size. The town had accumulated a store or two, two or three taverns, a post office, about seven families, and a Baptist Church, most of which have heretofore been spoken of. It was not long after the National pike was opened until all business and dwellings were moved to the great road, and the pioneer village, save the church, sank into utter oblivion. Benjamin Pike, one of Hampton's citizens, was Postmaster, hotel-keeper, and for a number of years served in the State Legislature, as what they termed "Second Mate."

Since the town of New Hampton was the beginning of Jefferson, we deem it not inappropriate to continue the history of the last-named village, which is frequently improperly called West Jefferson, in consequence of the post office being so named. The town was laid out in September, 1831, by Rev. Isaac Jones, who owned the land. The lots, sixty-four in number, were surveyed in the same fall, by James Millikin, father of the hardware merchant of this place, at this writing. Unlike most villages, a few years only elapsed until, on April 24, 1834, dates the first meeting of the Town Council at the post office to incorporate the place and have special laws and government, as the citizens deemed advisable.

At this meeting, John W. Simpkins was chosen President; David Wilson, Recorder; and the following the Common Council: David Mortimore, Ferrin H. Olmsteadt, James Roberts, Wilson Graham, Abraham Hare, Joseph Powers; the last-named was chosen Marshal. Ezekial Arnett was appointed the first Street Supervisor.

The first ordinance the Council passed was to charge circus shows, etc., the sum of $10 license for every twenty-four hours' exhibition. At the same meeting, they passed an ordinance to charge a grocery-keeper the sum of $35 license a year. In May, 1834, the Council passed an ordinance that the President should have for his services and stationery annually $12; Recorder, $10; Marshal, $5; and Treasurer, $5. The second meeting of the Council, all members were present save Olmsteadt, who, by motion of Abraham Hare, was fined $1 for non-attendance. Subsequently, James Roberts was also fined $1 for non-attendance, but it was refunded to both in August of 1834. The first calaboose was built in 1834, at a cost of about $60.

The new town soon grew to be of considerable importance, in consequence of the National road, just completed, and ere a great while it was not an uncommon occurrence to see daily the five hotels thronged with travel and the street lined with stages and horses. Among the early merchants were Mr. Dolby, who built the Mantle House, keeping tavern and store in the same building. Thomas Mortimore, J. W. Simpkins, W. J. Black, J. Hancock, W. Graham, Nathan C. Davis, who associated with Calvin Horr. Abraham Hare was a hatter by trade, and opened business in the new town. J. W. or Squire Simpkins kept the first post office, which was designated West Jefferson. The town seemed to grow rapidly, and large business firms located here. In fact, at one time it was the leading business point in the county.

In 1846, O. H. Bliss, with his father, Dr. Bliss, established a large wholesale and retail dry goods trade, but, during their mercantile career, Dr. Bliss died, and the business finally became extinct. Mills, a pork-house and other establishments were erected and successfully carried on, but when the Little Miami Railroad was completed through the place, it demoralized the trade of the National pike and badly affected the business of the village, which had sprung up as a blossom, now to wither and die. The town contains a population of about eight hundred, four churches, a good school building, six physicians, several dry goods and grocery stores, two drug stores, one carriage factory and two blacksmith shops, two hardware stores, an undertaker, one hotel and a number of saloons.

Jefferson, by the statistics of the railroad, is increasing in business, as can be seen by the following receipts of West Jefferson Station way bills for the year ending December, 1875, which was $4,515.54; for 1878, it was $5,934.97; and 1881 it was $6,261.03. The receipts for tickets sold in 1878 were $3,642.60; and for the year ending December, 1881, $4,972.70, which shows a steady increase both in travel and goods received at the station.

The railroad traverses the township from east to west, making a distance in the territory of about six miles.

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