William Albert Galloway, A.M., M.D., LL.D.
Class of 1894
President of the Historical Society
Greene County, Ohio
F499 Y3G2 - Copyright, 1932 - By Mrs. Alice Galloway Eavey
THE F. J. HEER PTG. CO., Columbus, Ohio
The Plat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 2
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 2
Glen Helen, The Gift . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 4
Neolithic Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 4
The Moundbuilder Comes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 6
The Shawnee Comes – The Miami Goes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 6
Yellow Springs Land Patents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 10
The Symmes Purchase . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 14
Lewis Davis and His Successors: Elisha Mills, William Neff, et al . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 16
The Owenites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 23
Shelden Glen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 29
The Water-Cure (Glen Forest) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 30
The Nicholites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 32
The Conway Colony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 35
A Notable Banquet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 36
The First County Road – 1803 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 38
On The Old Clifton Trail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 38
The Ivy on College Hall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 40
The Campus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 44
The stage coach road through both Shelden and Neff Glens via the Yellow Spring, with a branch near Meditation Point to the plateau, was located for the writer by Mr. W. W. Carr who also located the pioneer saw mill.
The first road in Greene County, Ohio, is mentioned in Henry Rowe’s “Antiquities of Ohio”, 1847 – William Maxwell, Lewis Davis and Thos. Townsley, viewers; James Galloway, Jr., surveyor.
The first store operated by Thomas Fream, near the Yellow Spring, is taken from the description given in the “Post and Countryman”, Cincinnati, 1804.
The Owenite communistic dwelling (dotted enclosure) is located from Miss Cosmelia Hirst’s writings.
The part of the first authorized Greene County road from the Yellow Springs Cemetery gate, across the present Clifton Pike, as shown on the plat, has been verified by Mr. W. W. Carr, who, with his father, Mr. Wm. Carr, and family, came to Yellow Springs in 1857. (See text for further location of this road.)
In connection with this plat, the reader, if interested, is referred to the Byles wall map illustrations for the location of the “Water-Cure” established in Shelden Glen, 1848-59. These give accurate locations of historic points in both glens from 1803-1919. Nothing in the way of buildings has been added since the latter date.
Sympathy with the purposes of the great educational adventure now carried forward at Antioch College, has led the writer to gather as much of the history of Yellow Springs Glen as remains available, into a narrative devoted to the interesting events that belong to its past. The use of this valuable terrane, as contemplated in the College plan of education, will of itself, become a clear and sufficient record of the events which are to constitute the interesting story of its future.
This valuable tract of land, approaching in acres a thousand acres, has been added to the Antioch College campus in memoriam of Mrs. Helen Birch Bartlett, by her father, Mr. Hugh T. Birch, of the class of 1869, and is now called Glen Helen. The gift endows the college with one of the rarest of American areas, and adds to its facilities, an out-of-door class room of unsurpassed opportunities for the study of earth sciences.
It is fortunate that many narratives of Glen Helen’s past fall within the definitions of history and are available as such for this story, thus saving the folk-lore tales of the pioneers and the traditions of the Shawnee Indians for a more romantic portraiture of these “children of the forest.” The opportunities to know something of these traditions and of Glen Helen’s history came from many sources during the continuous residence of the writer and his family on the border since 1797. The writer – an alumnus of Antioch College – lived for a part of his college course, in the south parlor suite of the great Neff House, with Mr. Theodore Neff, the last of this family to complete an unbroken period of seventy-seven years ownership of Neff Park. In that way, he came to know Glen Helen’s wonderful seasonal beauty and the ever changing artistry of its landscape.*
*In the gift of Glen Helen, Mr. Hugh T. Birch, as if inspired by the veritable spirit of Antioch’s traditions, has reached far back as though touching the tomes of history, and assembled lands that are rich in lore and pregnant with contentions for progress. At no place in the Indian’s “Ohio, the Beautiful” are evidence of a virile struggle for human betterment more laboriously set forth. In its very location, Antioch’s traditions of educational progress are an inheritance from this far past.
Men who have left only skeletal remains mark the unknown period of the Glen’s first human habitation. Those who followed them left their record of human progress in their tumuli. The American Indians, the great leaders of their successors, marshaled their forces to fight – like brave men they were – for their land and homes against the progressive forces of our own culture; then the new campus reechoed with the voices of Cornstalk, Blackhoof, Pucksinwa, Blackfish, Blue Jacket and the seer, Assounewa, the predecessor of the Prophet, as they gathered for battle. Near by, at the village of Old Chillicothe, occurred romances outstanding in American history and captivities of members from notable American families. The measured tramp of the white men’s armies have passed its borders; Bowman, George Rogers Clark, Logan and Shelby, as they marched to battle for their tenets. Past here the Shawnees led their captives to Detroit for ransom. Here cults of human progress tried their evanescent theories and failed. Through Glen Helen’s classic boundaries: -
The underground railroad threaded its way
With its human freight by night
And its unmarked paths by day.
These are some of the inspiring traditions of Antioch College. Placed now into her more intimate keeping by the gift of Glen Helen, she has become custodian of priceless traditions and herself, a landmark of continuing progress.
“This is the mark of her high calling.”
In the building of the story, an agreeable undertaking in itself, memoranda from the early press of the county to Glen Helen’s area were used as they served its historic purposes.
Valuable information was gathered from Miss Cosmelia Hurst’s intimate notes of Antioch College life subsequent to 1868. Various accurate locations and land transfers were furnished by the Greene County, Ohio surveyor, Mr. J. S. Davis, and his assistant, Mr. Werter McKay, who is an expert cartographer, and by Mr. B. F. Thomas, Greene County recorder. Valued secretarial aid was given by Miss Bertha McCarty. Mr. Clifford Gordon Neff, only surviving son of Mr. William Clifford Neff, furnished valuable Neff Park history and gave his father’s “owner’s plat”, an accurate and authentic document for this history, and photographs of Glen Helen locations were taken by Miss Helen Little.
To all of these friends, the writer extends his sincere thanks.
The story was written during busy days of a country physician whose intimate associations with the human story of his time and place, has reassured his faith in the triumph of man over every developmental problem he may be destined to undertake. Into these contests, Glen Helen now enters a recruiting place where youth may tarry a while, be trained, then commissioned for glorious conquests ahead.
William Albert Galloway.
The Gift of Hugh T. Birch, A. B., Class of 1869
to Antioch College
In memory of his daughter
Mrs. Helen Birch Bartlett
The land which Mr. Birch has given to Antioch College for enlargement of its campus, possesses values that are greater to his Alma Mater than any commercial estimates that may be placed on the section embraced in its area. The several estates he purchased and consolidated into this memorial gift were contiguous to Antioch or to each other. They comprise within their collective boundaries, unsurpassed beauty of college campus landscape, valuable areas for geological field work, great and never failing springs and extensive outcroppings of Clinton and Niagara limestone, forests of hardwood trees, embracing all varieties native to this section, and a wealth of native ferns and flora for botanical study. In addition to these visual and educational values, locations of prehistoric human habitations are found within boundaries of the new campus and an unusual chapter of human history to the noteworthy terrane of Glen Helen.
The Towers of Antioch guard like sentinels of reverence beside the ancient Shawnee’s trail to the entrance of this campus gift of Mr. Birch. More enduring than the Taj Mahal is this memorial to his beloved daughter, and may its donor recall the sentiment of the philosopher, Seneca, and with him declare:
“I possess nothing so certainly as that which I have given away
Whatever I have imparted, that I still possess.
These riches remain with me throughout all the vicissitudes of life.”
THE CAMPUS - ITS NEOLITHIC DWELLERS
Of the human cultures that have existed in Glen Helen, who there lived, loved, battled and passed on, two are known to as through the skeletal remains and artifacts taken from their tumuli. These evidences assure us that Neolithic man tramped these hills, ate his food raw, dwelt arboreal in constant dread of his enemies, three thousand, five thousand, twenty thousand years ago – we know not how long. The Neolithic period, when man began to make pottery and polish his stone implements, reaches as far back in western Asia as ten thousand years, and five thousand more in western Europe. It was manifestly here at Glen Helen, perhaps, three thousand years ago – or more.
When Morton Grinnell’s calcium carbonate mine was a soft bog, with the hill drop sinking into forest leaves, two Neolithic dwellers, an old man and a young girl fled down this hill. It may have a hungry sharp clawed timber wolf, seeking food to appease his hunger, that pursued them, or it may have been an enemy, or a lover pursuing the younger. The skeletal remains of the girl’s skull and jaw, and her teeth and chin, showed manifest comliness of features – and this was the period of cave man matings. Undoubtedly the two were in a flight for the safety of the river. They sunk in the bog midway down the hill, in upright position, the girl eighteen inches behind the old man, her arms over his shoulders as those grasping him for support.
Ages later – in 1924 – a blast of dynamite left enough of their remains, then six feet under the crown of the mine, to tell the story, in part at least, of their life long ago on this new campus. This Glen Helen culture was dolicho-cephalic, thin skulled and symmetrical with the Algonquin cranial type. The girl’s teeth were beautiful, the admiration all all dentists who have seen them, and her chin – to one skilled in restoration from skeletal remains, little was left to the imagination to picture the symmetry of her face. The old skull was dolicho-cephalic, but the teeth told the story of the grind of uncooked foods – the fight to live!
Unless by some future chance discovery, the bones of these two human beings will be all the skeletal remains from which we may obtain an historical vision of the time and place of the first human residents of Glen Helen. Fortunately before atmospheric disintegration of the skull of the man and girl took place, Mr. Grinnell permitted the writer to take them, for conference with Dr. Alex Hrdlika (?), Dean of American Archaeologists, at the Smithsonian Institute, who viewed these isolated evidences of possible Paleolithic culture with great interest, but not conclusive in themselves and in connection with other discoveries of the antiquity of man in North America beyond a period of three thousand to six thousand years.
In an admirable small volume issued as part of the Greene County Archaeological Ohio Home Coming of 1909, and prepared by a committee of which Dr. Austin M. Patterson, now Vice-President of Antioch College, was chairman, Professor Warren K. Moorehead, distinguished Greene Countian, Archaeologist and Curator of Peabody Museum, Andover, Mass., writes that there had been evidence gathered in Greene County, of the existence of glacial or preglacial human habitation, a period extending back thirty thousand to forty thousand years. At this time – 1909 – the Grinnell skeletal remains had not been uncovered. After noting that “most of the Smithsonian scientists other than Dr. Thomas Wilson, and several leading geologists, did not believe his own evidence warranted this conclusion,” Dr. Moorehead closes a short discussion with “yet it is not established that glacial man lived in Greene County.” Artifacts collected here in local surveys were of such character, however, as to impress him with the possibility that this culture, as such, once existed in Glen Helen.
THE MOUNDBUILDERS COME
About two thousand years ago, it we hazard a guess, Neolithic man passed out, and another came out of the West to take his place on our new campus. The skeleton of his dog tells the story of his origins beyond this country’s boundaries. It is the Scotch Collie type, the same that Professor Putnam of Harvard found during twenty years of careful investigations in the tumuli of America, in the Lake Dwellers’ middens of Switzerland, and in the tombs of Thebes. Dr. Hrdlika(?) has been searching Behring Straits for his master’s remains in transit, and though unsuccessful, yet continues to believe that his ancient pathway to America was by land bridge from Asia, across Behring Strait.
The newly excavated Hopewell culture in upper Illinois leads Dr. Shetrone , Author and Director of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, to credit the West to East migration of this second and more progressive tenant of the campus.
This early neighbor lived here in considerable numbers. There are many of his tumuli and other evidences of his residence not far away, a great mound and fort at Cedarville, a chain of mounds and tumuli down Massie’s Creek and the Little Miami River valleys, to the greatest of his North American war homes at Fort Ancient. Was he a brachycephalic or a dolicho-cephalic? We will never know. One of the two built these forts through fear of the other. Roundhead or longhead, whichever was the invader, eventually was the conqueror. The role rarely varies in history: Forces strong enough to invade eventually become conquerors. The brachycephalic is believed, now, to have been the invader.
By the process of evolution always hard at work on our new campus, this second neighbor of ours “stepped up” civilization. He had fire and pottery vessels for cooking. His tepees were supported by poles with burnt-off ends which stuck in the ground. He grew eight and ten-rowed corn, cached it, with beans and all sorts of nuts, for winter use. He wore a coarsely woven clout and fibre plaited sandals; fished with bone hooks, and hunted by means now unknown. He grew tobacco. A pipe, two-thirds full of the delectable weed is preserved in the Ohio Archaeological and historical Museum, and shows that its owner enjoyed a good smoke after a hard day’s work.
He, too, dwelt on the new campus where he lived and loved, battled and passed on. Who was he? Gen. George Rogers Clark and his friend Thomas Jefferson, on evidence found about Cohokia as early as 1778, believed he was the progenitor of the American Indian, a theory now held by many of our able archaeologists, and formerly held by such well known American Indian chiefs as Cornstalk and Babtiste.
1793 – The Shawnees Come
- The Miamis Go
THE SHAWNEE COMES - THE MIAMI GOES
From this date on, the story of the new campus may be drawn from our own and the Shawnee history of record. For a while, it was in the heart of the stirring events of the Northwest Territory that preceded the making of Ohio – our own state. Before 1763, the Indians who came to the great Yellow Spring for its healing waters were Miamis. Old Piqua, on the Mad River, eight miles north of Yellow Springs, was a Miami tribal village at the eastern terminus of their hunting grounds. It was French in plan and structure. The single room, bark-roofed huts were a pole apart with gardens between them and corn fields in the adjacent valley. This tribe was in close early trade alliance with the French whose methods of trading and religious ministrations were agreeable to Indian viewpoints. The name given to this settlement by the Miamis is not now certainly known.
In the fight between the English and French for trade supremacy, the Miamis, adherents of the French, were driven out by the English and their Shawnee allies. The Shawnee warpaths from their settlements on the Scioto River, led across the ideal Indian country of forest and river valley of which our campus is a part, to the St. Mary and St. Joseph Rivers where their battles took place in 1762 – 1763. These Shawnee warriors came here soon thereafter and first settled at Peckue, later known as Old Chillicothe, on the Little Miami River, five miles south of the campus. Later, about 1768, the Peckue and Thaweglia, founders of the village, moved on to :”Old Town” on Mad River when their brothers, the Cha-lah-gaw-tha clan, emigrated west from the Scioto valley and took possession of the Peckue town and its ideal Indian location. By reason of the majority of this clan, then in residence and following the Shawnee custom, the village automatically took the name of Cha-lah-gaw-tha (Chillicothe).
Notable historic events during our pioneer period took place there. Battles, romances, captives from pioneer families of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky. Boone and his twenty-seven salt makers, Simon Kenton, Isaac Donaldson, Elizabeth Gilmore and her son James, captured in Virginia in 1709, and many others are part of this village history. The romance of Betty Cowan; the courtship of Rebecca Galloway by the great chief Tecumtha; deliberations in the Shawnee temple (council house) by the war and peace chieftains of the nation; the permanent separation of the nation on this question in 1799, and the migration of the peace advocates – nearly two-thirds of the nation – to Cape Girardeau, Spanish territory west of the Mississippi River, are all events now historically known to us.
.Indian chiefs well known in the Northwest Territory history stopped on the “trace” from Old Chillicothe to Old Piqua to drink the cold waters (52 degrees) of the Great Yellow Spring. Blackhoof, Blackfish, Cornstalk, Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, Tecumtha and the nation’s warriors and squaws came to drink the water, and departed rested and refreshed. The famous “Bullskin Trace” skirted our campus frontage between the railroad crossing and the Clifton Pike. This was the great north and south Indian Trace from the mouth of the Bullskin creek where it empties into the Ohio River * * * * on to Detroit with a branch to Sandoski (Sandusky). Over this “path in the forest” Boone and seventeen of his companions walked to Detroit – a fifteen-day journey from Old Chillicothe – to be ransomed by the British Commandant. Ransom for Colonel Boone (1) (1: It is interesting to note that Boone was a birth right Quaker, and that there is no record of mistreatment of Quaker prisoners by the Indians after their treaty with William Penn. This may explain certain Indian incidents in Boon’s career that have puzzled historians. While Boone’s parents were later not in good standing as Quakers, they seem to have been so at the time of his birth.) was not considered by his captors, though five hundred dollars was offered. He was returned and adopted into the Shawnee nation – a captive loved by his captors, and on his own statement, not unhappy during the four months of his enforced residence with them.
On February 4, 1807, this trace to Lake Erie became a State road by enactment of the Ohio legislature. The ever recurring political uncertainties along our Northern border at that time and the presence of an English fleet in Lake Erie menaced our base supply line in case war between the two countries should again occur.
A map of Drake’s “Beauties of Cincinnati and the Little Miami Valley” – 1815 – shows this trace-road along which Commodore Perry’s supplies were freighted. It became a military necessity in the war of 1812, and to that end its establishment by enactment of the Ohio legislature in 1807, preserved a safe interior connection with our base of supplies via Fort Pitt and the Ohio River. The music of the twelve bells arched on the harness of the lead horses of Isaac Blanchard’s fleet of six and eight-horse conestoga wagons, sounded an agreeable chime as the caravan passed by Glen Helen. The thirteen-star flag of the Revolution, which was the standard of the lead wagon, is well preserved and now in the possession of Isaac’s grandson, James Blanchard, of Edenton, Ohio. The Drake map shows this road’s course from Bullskin Creek at the Ohio River, north through Felicity, Bethel, Williamsburg, Edenton, Xenia, Old Town (Old Chillicothe), Yellow Springs, Springfield, Urbana, and on to Detroit, with a branch leading off near Kenton to Sandusky on Lake Erie. The story of the caravan as told by Isaac Blanchard to his grandson, James, is one of the interesting narratives of early Ohio history.
In his centennial historical address at the Greene County celebration July 4, 1876, at Xenia, the county seat, Judge William Mills thus referred to Old Chillicothe – Old Town – and this road: - “And at this point, likewise, was a trading post for the Indians dating far back in the obscurity of the past, being on the great traveled route and war path from the Blue Licks and Maysville, Kentucky, through Old Chillicothe on to Piqua, Detroit and the prairies of the far-off West.” (2) (2: This trading-post was operated for a number of years before the American Revolution by two Pennsylvania brothers, James and Richard Butler. Richard Butler served with great honor and preferment during the Revolutionary War. He arose to the high army rank of Major General, and was second in command at General St. Clair’s disastrous defeat. Gen. Butler lost his life there. At the Treaty of Ft. Finney, at the Ohio and Great Miami Rivers, in 1784, the Commission appointed by the President was General George Rogers Clark, Richard Butler and James Parsons. It was here that en. Butler carried out all the Commission’s transactions with the Shawnees in their own language, with which he was long since familiar as a trader.)
Drake’s map – 1815 – referred to above, shows that this road’s course followed the Old Bullskin trace which passed though Springfield, Ohio, but did not touch any of the three Piquas connected with Shawnee history. One of these three Piquas was six and a half miles southwest of Springfield on Mad River. Following its destruction in 1780 by General George Rogers Clark’s forces, the other two were immediately erected by the Indians on the Great Miami River: - One Piqua on the site of the present city of Piqua, Miami County, Ohio, and the other a short distance up the river. They became known as Upper and Lower Piqua. Lower Piqua was likewise known for a time as Chillicothe. It was one of six Chillicothes of Northwest Territory Shawnee history, which have so confused our writers as to location, period of occupance and prefixes, Old, New, Little and plain Chillicothe. There were points of close historical and traditional contact between this place and Glen Helen.
The two branches of Yellow Springs Creek that flow through Gen Helen, circle the wooded table land of the Neff Glen and meet the tip of “Meditation Point” where it dips with a sharp, irregular grade down to the level terrane of the glen valley. They have cut their way through extensive underlying Niagara and Clinton stone by the touch of an artist rather than the hammer of Thor. Here and there great liths, washed free from cliff walls, have been shaped into such familiar resemblances as “Pompey’s Pillar” and the Pulpit Rock. The softer layers of the east branch stone floor have washed away at one place and left a beautiful cascade of falling waters that are pleasing to see and soothing to hear. Tradition relates that this was the Shawnee Indian lover’s favorite trysting place and the trace on both banks of the stream from cascade to the tip of the “Mediation Point” was their “Lover’s trail”. Many are the paleface boys and girls who have since known that this trail retains the lure of its Indian tradition.
On either side of the east glen, along lover’s trail, are the locations of the mythical Indian silver mines. At this location shown in the illustration, Mr. Gordon Neff, several years ago, excavated and found an opening framed with rough retaining logs. (3) (3: The same location in the cut is shown at the two cedars, right of the east Branch of Yellow Springs Creek; most of the excavation has been washed away by floods, and the shaft filled by creek wash.) Water prevented exploration below the creek level and compelled him to abandon the work. Fortunately for the campus history, this interesting information is personal from Mr. Neff whose family for three generations owned this notable glen. This is one of three locations in Greene County showing evidences of formal vertical excavations from which men who were captives at Old Chillicothe were compelled by the Shawnees to bear away bags – skin or woven fibre – of heavy material of some sort. The material excavated was used by the Indians for a purpose known only to themselves. White tradition names the places “Indian silver mines” although there is no known silver-bearing rock in Green County.
In the fall of 1884, while at Antioch, the writer explored a small crevice between defined walls near the cascade and obtained a tiny “bead” of silver from each of several assays. The “lead”, as far in the cliff rock as it was opened by blasting, seemed well defined and carried between supporting walls. Only surface depth was explored. The work was interesting to the owner, Mr. William Clifford Neff, and to the writer because of the tradition of the glen. The assays were made by a competent laboratory in Cincinnati.
There is no geological clue to the source of this trace of metal; neither the Niagara nor underlying Clinton limestone is metal bearing. Estimates of the depth of both these layers can be determined by outcropping along the course of the Yellow Springs branch in each of the glens, within their length of about two miles. A like anomaly is observed at the Yellow Spring. There is no suggested source in local or regional geology from which the quantities of iron peroxide deposited in the great bank at the spring’s exit, have been derived. None of the many springs of the Niagara water pourous rock in Greene or adjoining counties bear any appreciable quantity of this ochreous travertine deposit. The glen and its great geological extension from the Little Miami River, as far as Bears Creek, near Waynesville, was the geological Valhalla of the late Professor Edward Orton during his connection with Antioch College and subsequent thereto. (4) (4: In “The Geological Survey of Ohio” by Dr. Edward Orton, pp. 669 and 671 – Niagara Shale; and in Dill’s History of Greene County, 1881, pp. 371-407, both local and regional geology will be found available, for further sources of information of the geological information of Glen Helen.) No theory of the source of the quantities of iron peroxide deposited by the waters of the Yellow Spring were certainly determined by him.
LAND PATENTS OF GLEN HELEN
The following were the first owners by United States land patents, recorded in the Green County Land Records at Xenia, Ohio, of parcels of the John Cleve Symmes lands in which the Neff Glen and Sheldon Glen – now a part of Glen Helen – are situated, and also on which the present Yellow Springs and Antioch College are located.
(1) Vol. 24, p. 4440, N. E. quarter of Section 13, Tp. 4, Range 8, original patent issued to Robert Moody, assignee of John Rue in 1813.
(2) Vol. 24, p. 594, S. W. quarter of Section 13, Tp. 4, Range 8, original patent issued to Andrew and Robert Moody, assignees of Ralph Phillips in 1818.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PRESENT YELLOW SPRINGS*
(3) Vol. 30, pp. 482-3-4, 81.68 acres, a part of the east half of Section
20, Tp. 4, Range 8, Miami Township, issued to Benjamin Whitman
and Martin Baum, assignees of Lewis Davis in 1818.
(4) The S. E. quarter of Section 20, as described in Par. (3) above
and issued to same parties in 1816.
(5) Eighty acres, a part of the east half of Section 20, as described in
Par. (3) above, issued to same parties in 1816
… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .
THE NEFF GROUNDS PARK
(6) Vol. 23, p. 344, Greene County, Ohio, Land Records, the N. W. quarter
of Section 14, Tp. 4. Range 8, issued to Benjamin Whitman, assignee of
Lewis Baum, assignee of Lewis Davis, issued in 1816.
(7) The S. W. quarter of Section 14, as described in Par. (6) issued to
Benjamin Whiteman and Lewis Baum, assignees of Lewis Davis,
Issued in 1816.
(8) The balance of Section 14, in the name of Lewis Davis and Martin Baum,
assignees of Cooper and Chambliss, Issued in 1816.
Following the above land patents and assignments, the records of
transfers of the Neff Park lands are as follows:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 10, p. 175, Benjamin Whiteman and Catherine, his wife,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 10, p. 272, Martin Baum and Ann, his wife,
Lewis Whiteman and Louisa, his wife,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 14, p. 293, Elisha Mills and Sarah Delia, his wife,
William French **
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 16, p. 289, William French and Elizabeth, his wife.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 22, p. 183, William Mills and Mrgaretta, his wife,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 41, p. 513, William Neff, by Executor,
William C. Neff et. al.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 94, p. 574, William C. Neff, Dec’d by heirs
Theodore Wayne Neff A. 302.42
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 114, p. 116, Theodore Neff
Towne Carlisle A.104.46
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 121, p. 577, Theodore Neff
Chas. D. Clayton A. 149. 31
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 134, p. 145, Chas. D. Clayton
Antioch College A. 84.5
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 146, p. 163, Chas. D. Clayton
Antioch College A. 57. 82
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 121, p. 520, Towne Carlisle
John Bryan A. 104. 46
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vol. 129, p. 360, John Bryan Estate
Antioch College A. 104.46
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Vol. 143, p. 268, Antioch College
Hugh Taylor Birch A. 208.85
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Vol. 143, p. 474, Antioch College
Hugh Taylor Birch A. 84.50
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Vol. 143, p 480, Hugh Taylor Birch
Antioch College A. 530.
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Vol. 143, p. 471, Hugh Taylor Birch
Antioch College A. 84.50
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Vol. 146, p. 161, Hugh T. Birch
Antioch College A. 57.82
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Vol. 143, p. 277, Hugh T. Birch
Antioch College A. 103.
The lands of Glen Helen which lie south of the Little Miami River are a part of three Virginia military reservation locations between the Little Miami, the Scioto and the Ohio Rivers This large body of land was set apart from the Northwest Territory grant of Virginia to the United States for payment of Virginia’s obligations in land to her soldiers of the American Revolution.
From the south entrance of the Grinnell Mill bridge to the Jacoby road, the following were the original surveys from which the Glen Helen land titles are taken (reading from the Grinnell bridge west):
Survey 438, 1000 a. for Frank Whiting, part of military warrant No. 131. John Almon, Deputy Surveyor, Nov. 10, 1796, and May 31, 1798. Recorded in Virginia military survey record, Vol. 1, page 7, Greene County Auditor’s Office, Xenia, Ohio.
Survey 135, 180 a. for Sam’l Finley, part of military warrant No. 1435, James Galloway, Deputy Surveyor, Oct. 15, 1804, and Jan. 10, 1805.
Record as above, Vol. 1, page 6.
Survey 7011, 70 a. for James Galloway, Jr., part of a military warrant No. 5516.
James Galloway, Jr., Deputy Surveyor. Nov. 1, 1808, and July 25, 1809.
Recorded as above. Vol. 1, page 108.
Additional lands which Mr. Birch may add after 1930 may be noted as they may appear in the Greene County, Ohio. Land records subsequent to 1931.
THE SYMMES PURCHASE
AND GLEN HELEN
In 1788 Judge John Cleves Symmes and his associates contracted to purchase one million acres of the Miami valley lands in the Northwest Territory from the United States Government. The association’s primary purpose was speculative – a characteristic of the period. Its secondary purpose, however, was to promote and aid the safe and more rapid settlement of the Northwest Territory by desirable pioneer freeholders. This land, known as the “Symmes Purchase”, was an undivided area bounded south by the Ohio River; east by the Little Miami River; west by the Great Miami River, and north by an undetermined survey line later to be located north between and joining the two Miami Rivers to include the acreage of the original contract. Had the company been able to meet its payments to the Government, the north boundary line would have included the rich and desirable lands of Glen Helen, lying west and north of the Little Miami River. On the company’s final inability to meet them, the north boundary line was moved south by the Government from a point which would have included within its north boundary, “The Yellow Spring”, to one near Lebanon, Ohio, thereby reducing the final net area of the “Symmes Purchase” from 1,000,000 to 248,500 acres, a patent for which was issued Judge Symmes and his associates by the Government on September 30th, 1794.
Following 1788, the date of the original purchase contract, Judge Symmes, who held that his power to sell and give legal transfer by land warrants, was inherent within the boundaries of the original million acres contract – a point finally conceded by validating enactments of Congress – sold lands and executed warrants therefore, lying quite far north of the Lebanon line, but within the original million acres area. Disturbing complications quickly arose with the outpost settlers who held their land titles by Symmes warrants only. The earliest of these irregularities seem to have developed in Symmes’ lands preempted along the Little Miami River. These title defects were cured by an act of Congress in 1792. The sales following, and north of the establishment of the north boundary line, near Lebanon, Ohio, as fixed in 1794, were so entirely unauthorized from the Government viewpoint that it refused to recognize them as valid. Congress again retreated from this position and finally validated all Judge Symmes’ warrants by special legislation passed in 1799. No loss finally occurred to those who held Symmes’ warrants for parcels of land now embraced in the one thousand acres with the boundaries of Glen Helen, although they lie about forty miles north of the Lebanon line.
With the sale of these parcels of land by the Symmes Company, transferable warrants were issued “by virtue of the right of preemption, granted by law to certain persons who had contracted with John Cleves Symmes or his associates”, one of which was John Witherspoon, then President of Princeton College. The Davis, Rue and Phillip’s patents composing a part of Glen Helen, were first issued in such transferable warrants to purchasers. Later Government land patents were issued to warranters or their assignees on request of either. One such belated patent was issued by request, on a parcel of Greene County land by President Wilson, and one later by President Coolidge. These transactions refer to the first deeds to lands in Yellow Springs area. Due to destruction of Judge Symmes’ mansion in 1811, with all documents relating to land contracts and transfers to that date, and the destruction of other records at the burning of the Hamilton County Court House during the Riot of 1884 at Cincinnati deeds in Glen Helen’s lands (north of the Little Miami River) are based on descriptions on land patents granted by the United States Government and signed by the President incumbent at date of issue.
It is interesting to note that William French, to whom Elisha Mills and his wife, Sarah Delia, transferred the Yellow Spring and Tavern property in 1833 for $18,664.00, was Elisha Mill’s father-in-law who resided then at Woodbury, County of Litchfield, state of Connecticut, and that William Mills, to whom William French and Elizabeth, his wife, transferred the above property in 1835, was a son of Elisha Mills. This transfer of the property was “in consideration of natural love and affection we bear to our grandson, William Mills, we have given and granted to the said William Mills, his heirs and assigns forever, all our right, title and interest in and to a certain tract of land situated in Greene County, Ohio, known as the Yellow Spring tract”, description of which is found in Vol. 10, p. 272, Greene County Ohio records. At the time of this deed – 1835 – William French and Elizabeth, had changed their place of residence to Oxford, Butler County, Ohio.
LEWIS DAVIS AND HIS SUCCESSORS
Activities of the Yellow Spring, now Glen Helen, began in 1804 with Lewis Davis’ (5) (5: The best source of Davis traditional history states that Lewis Davis is buried in the abandoned grave plot of the pioneer Baptist stone church, east of Clifton near the notable stone residence of General and Mrs. Whiteman. Nothing now remains of the church and its burial plot except one or two markers.) ownership of this land by certificate from the Symmes Corporation. He had then built a home for himself and wife, which soon became a tavern. The curative waters of the Spring are noted in a descriptive article printed in the “Post and Countryman” published in 1804 at Cincinnati. A copy of this article is found in Robinson’s History of Greene County; also a reliable further statement that in 1805, the land passed from Lewis Davis to his brother-in-law, General Benjamin Whiteman, and was leased by him to Thomas Fream.
It was near this time that John Paul’s promotion of Xenia was completed and that he and Lewis Davis became partners in the promotion of Madison, Indiana. Prior to going to Indiana, a preliminary of the disposal of is tavern at the Yellow Spring is found in the petition to the Honorable Court of Greene County on June 13, 1804, that a license be issued to Thomas Fream, living at Yellow or Medicinal Spring, to keep a tavern or public house. Fream’s petition was signed by John Paul, Lewis Davis and fourteen other well known pioneer citizens. The medical repute of the Yellow Spring was extensively advertised with each change of tavern ownership. Thomas Fream, who followed Lewis Davis, kept a store and Indian trading-post in addition to his tavern, and was likewise first Yellow Spring postmaster from 1805 to 1810.
About this time, “the Springs” began to be largely patronized as a pleasure and vacation, as well as a health, resort. Many Kentuckians came overland with camp equipment and servants, and many guests came from Cincinnati. The campus was a Sabbath rendezvous for parties and marksmen who held team and individual rifle shooting matches. The great oaks were solid backing for the targets. During that long period there were no accidents from careless handling of rifles, although many hunters and marksmen of repute attended these matches and participated in them.
The third tavern keeper of record, following Lewis Davis and Thomas Fream, was J. B. Gardiner, who advertized in the Columbus, Ohio Gazette, May 29, 1823, “that he has fitted up a commodious mansion for the reception of visitors at the medicinal Yellow Spring in Greene County, Ohio.” The advertisement reads that “these springs have lately become celebrated in many parts of Ohio for their medicinal qualities and have, we believe, become a resort, during the summer months, for very many whose state of health requires tonics. They are also recommended to persons who are afflicted with bilious affections, chronic constipation, scrofula, dyspepsia, rheumatism and many other diseases. Their waters are palatable, cold, clear and sparkling, containing considerable fixed air, and found to be replete with chrystaline particles which, on being exposed to the action of the air, rust and sink and become a bright yellow”. This is the first advertisement to give the medicinal uses of the Yellow Spring waters. That of 1804 in the “Cincinnati Post and Countryman” is only a general statement of this water’s values.
Gardiner’s advertisement ln the June 12, 1823 issue of the Columbus Gazette, assures prospective summer guests of his Yellow Spring Hotel, that there will be no danger of contracting “milk sickness”. All diary products used at his hotel, he states, are produced from his own select herd which grazes only in open pastures, on the Hotel’s lands. This assurance, he deems necessary “since a disease vulgarly called ‘stomach sickness’ has at times prevailed in this vicinity, and is supposed to have originated from the use of milk, butter and meat of cattle which pastured in the woods and prairies where there is a certain poisonous vine or weed which proves fatal to the cattle and even to persons who diet on their products.”
The toxic forest plants given by medical authorities as the origin of this disease in cattle, were White snake root, Rhustoxicodendrum and Euphratorium Ageratoides. All were shade growing plants. White snake root was indigenous to early Greene County forests. Its alkaloidal content became toxic as the plants matured. It was transmitted unchanged in the milk products and flesh of such cows as were susceptible to it. The territory about Yellow Spring was especially infected with this plant.
The short description of President Mann’s final illness given in Mrs. Mann’s Biography of her distinguished husband, in the Antioch College library, agrees in leading points with the symptomatology of “milk sickness”, at that time endemic in the Yellow Spring area. No local physicians are known to have attended the President. Dr. Pulte, a well known homeopathic physician, was called from Cincinnati for a belated consultation. There is no record of his diagnosis, but Mrs. Mann refers to his prognosis “That the President would hardly survive the next twenty-four hours.” The subjoined medical views are of interest.
The late William M. Hafner, whose family was resident in Yellow Springs subsequent to 1843, related to the writer that Horace Mann’s death was caused from the sequelae of “milk fever”. This disease in diary cattle was called “the trembles” by pioneers who observed that its first symptoms were weakness and muscular fibrillations. In the territory about Yellow Springs and especially northeast of the village, the disease was endemic during the fall seasons of the fifties. The milk became toxic before the prodromal muscular symptoms were noticed. A number of deaths took place before evidence of the source of individual infection in the patient could be determined. Valuable details of the medical history of this disease in the Yellow Springs district were collected and submitted in an address on “Milk Fever”, read twenty years ago before the Greene County medical Society by the late Dr. Humphreys. He also noted this infection as the primary cause of President Mann’s death. The loss of this address is most regrettable, for the details of infection areas and fatalities then available to the author are now lost to history.
In 1827 Elisha Mills, emigrating from Cincinnati to the western country, bought the Yellow Spring and glen lands of Martin Baum and Lewis Whiteman, assignees of Lewis Davis for $6,135.00. That Lewis Davis and his family were possessed of sufficient means for pioneer land promotions, is shown by the Yellow Spring patents, and his subsequent land operations at Madison, Indiana.
Captain Benoni Nesbitt, whose story of Lewis Davis is here quoted, was a Xenia attorney of high standing and a personal friend of Professor Ormsby, editor of Dill’s History of Greene County, Ohio, from which it is quoted:
“Between the years f 1825 and 1828”, says Captain Ben Nesbitt, “I was walking along the road leading to the present village of Alpha, on the Dayton pike, when I saw a man approaching, mounted upon a fleabitten gray horse, whom I soon recognized as one Lewis Davis. Mr. Davis was on one of his annual visits from Cincinnati, to see his son, Claibourn, who bore the amphibious surname of Shingledecker and Davis. Being well acquainted with the captain, then quite a boy, the old gentlemen entered into a familiar conversation upon topics of general interest, among them which was the improvement, growth and future prospects of the surrounding country, and its great development since he first visited it. Growing enthusiastic, the old gentleman climbed down off his old horse, and sitting down by the roadside, and in the course of his conversation upon the early settlers, and their individual peculiarities, John Paul was mentioned, who, he said, in an early period entered land and built a cabin.
“Upon one of his previous trips to see the boy, ‘Claib’, he chances to meet Paul, who told him that on his tract of land he proposed laying out the county seat, backing up his assertion by illustrating the feasibility, advantages of location, etc. Davis, who was a large land owner and veteran pioneer, was seemingly possessed of an intuitive knowledge as to the direction of greatest development in a country, disagreed with Paul’s opinions, and informed him that there never would be a county seat there. Taking his map from his picket, and spreading it upon the ground, he proceeded to demonstrate the grounds of his dissenting. Premising by the remark that county seats natural located themselves upon thoroughfares between points on the Ohio on the south, and Lake Erie on the north, the southern point manifestly Cincinnati and Sandusky the northern. Then placing the end of his riding-whip on Cincinnati, he dropped the small end on Sandusky, which upon examination, cut the county at the forks of Shawanoes Creek. Placing his finger upon the spot now occupied by Xenia, he said, “There will be no county seat’. He then pushed on to see his boy ‘Claib’.” (6) (6: There is close traditional history that the son, Claib, who was an interesting character in Glen Helen history, enlisted with some other neighbor boys in the Mexican war under assumed names, and that he contracted Mexican fever in the service and died after his return. The grave located as elsewhere noted, is marked by a small stone without inscriptions. Its location is now known to one only, who journeys to this forgotten grave and cares for it in memory of the Davis-Whitman family with which her own were closely connected in earlier Greene County pioneer times.)
On May 27, 1829, the following advertisement appeared in the “Commercial Daily Adviser”, published in Cincinnati, Ohio:
“Yellow Springs, Ohio, April 8, 1829.
“Elisha Mills informs his friends and the public generally that he has become the proprietor of the celebrated watering place known by the name of the Yellow Springs of Ohio. The establishment will be opened for the reception of visitors on the 1st of June.
“Having, since the close of last season, made extensive improvements, he feels justified in assuring the public that everything which may contribute to the comfort and enjoyment of visitors had been anticipated. In addition to the mansion House, there are six cottages of frame and brick, each 50 feet by 24, containing, in all, 48 rooms, calculated especially for families.”
A prospectus, appearing in the March 30th, 1829 issue, is an interesting description of the place in which nothing seems to have escaped Mills’ favorable comment.
At the time that he used the “Commercial Advertiser” for a medium of information to the public, the main highways from Cincinnati to Xenia, Columbus, and other points were for the most part graveled toll pikes, often in such poor and bumpy condition that the stage could not go at a very rapid rate even with four and sometimes six horses attached. But in summer time the vehicle bowled along merrily enough over the dry and dusty roads. The state was thought to make fine time when it started from Cincinnati, with its load of passengers, at daylight, and drew up on the hotel campus at the famous water place at dark. (7) (7: A distance of about sixty-two miles via Xenia, or of about seventy-five miles via Dayton.)
In the illustration, the Neff home looks large for one family’s occupancy, but Mr. Neff was a man of wealth and extended business connections. He was noted for his hospitality and the home proved none too large for the numbers of friends entertained there during the summer season. Mrs. Neff was not infrequently hostess for sixty to seventy Sunday guests. Mr. Neff, who then conducted a large pork packing industry in Cincinnati, would invite his friends and customers to “come up next Sunday and bring their families along”, then forget whom he had invited till they all appeared. This was finally stopped by the boys who became solicitous for their mother’s welfare under such strenuous hospitalities. Later the place was again opened as a prosperous hotel, largely under the direction of the sons who were Peter, Edward, Phelps, William, Clifford and Wayne. Clifford and Wayne were family names. The Cliffords were a prominent southern family, and the Waynes were descendants of the family of Gen. Anthony Wayne.
The location of the old building is correctly determined in its relation to the Yellow Spring then enclosed by the spring house as shown, in part, in the illustration, “The summer residence of William Neff of Cincinnati”.
In 1869, the Neffs were confronted with the problem of new and modern hotel facilities for the entertainment of summer guests. Unfortunately, at this time, a number of other resorts were being built and equipped, and began to bid for popular favor. The transportation by railroads was making more distant points accessable. Public favor was soon to change to resorts that could offer boating and bathing facilities or medicinal waters situated in attractive mountain environments.
The Xenia Gazette, June 15, 1869, gives a column of editorial space to a luncheon given at the Old Neff House on June 9th, 1869, by the Neff brothers, sons of the late William Neff. The banquet was given to discuss plans to finance the building of a modern hotel in place of the old one for the accommodation of summer guests. An excursion train on the Little Miami Railroad brought a number of well known Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Xenia financiers to examine the grounds and discuss the project. After the luncheon the financial plan was explained in general by Mr. Theodore Cook, and in detail by M. A. S. Winslow, both bankers of Cincinnati. The plan provided for the issuing by the Neff brothers of one hundred 20 year 6% bonds of $1,000.00 denomination each, secured by mortgage on the grounds – about three hundred acres – and improvements, “each bond holder to be entitled to the use of a lot on the premises, rent and tax free, for a cottage, and if he avails himself thereof to receive board at two-thirds of the regular rates; the Neff brothers obligating themselves to assume management of the concern and all risks and expenses pertaining thereto.” Seventy-five thousand dollars were subscribed at the luncheon by the guests who, at this late date, are recalled as leading bankers and financiers of the cities represented there. The committees appointed to raise the remaining twenty-five thousand dollars - the unsubscribed balance – are given because of the prominence of their personnel:
The drivers of those days were “whips of no mean ability”. A story of the trip from Cincinnati to the Yellow Spring, occupying an entire stage coach day, is found in “Tales and Sketches from the Queen City” by Benjamin Drake.
It is evident, from the “extensive improvements added since the close of the last season” that the hotel had been in operation for some time previous to the date of the advertisement. From the fact that the Davis cabin was enlarged from year to year and small individual cottages were added, it seems certain that the hotel was an institution of growth, according as the prospects were favorable for the entertainment of an increasing number of guests. Greene County histories state that in 1840, and for years previous, this “Old Neff House” was crowded with guests from all sections of the United States.
“When Elisha Mills became owner of the Spring”, Miss Cosmelia Hirst writes, “he did not tear away the log house put up by Mr. Davis, but added to it by building it on either side. The old hotel was located north and east of the spring about three hundred feet. The foundations, beginning at the cliff north of, and in line with the spring, ran to the east for some three hundred feet. Beginning in the center of this length, where the Davis house stood, Mr. Mills built a two story house of some dimensions and then added to the east end, room after room of one story in height; on the west side, he built a dining room one hundred feet in length. This was followed by kitchens, pantry and other rooms, carrying the building to within a few yards of the cliff. It was in this space left between the end of the house and cliff that judge Mills, in 1840, built a two-story building and occupied it when he married his first wife, Miss Margaretta Poague. There were deep and commodious porches which ran the whole three hundred feet of length on the south side of the porch, continued around to the west end and part of the north side. The two story addition which Judge Mills added had a porch on the second story, and abutting on the cliffs as this addition did, the view from this second story porch was fine, commanding a view of all the north part of the glen and part of the south portion. The peculiar way in which the house was constructed, with some parts high and some low, gave it a very quaint air, and the dark paint on it gave it a desirable look of antiquity. It was burned down, as has been said, but was torn away in 1870, at the time the new hotel was built.
‘Taking it down was a great mistake; it should have been left as a monument of early times. Dr. Hosmer, president of Antioch at the time it was being destroyed, said, ‘I regret much to see that quaint and venerable building go. It adds a great deal to the place, giving it the air of antique dignity.’
“He was right – it never should have been taken down. There was fine accommodation for guests in the building when Mr. Mills had completed it, and in addition to this he built, as demand for room came, cottages in several places for the occupancy of families who boarded at the hotel, for, when the stage line from Cincinnati to Columbus was established, a great many came from Cincinnati and further south. The coming of these visitors brought added life to the community, and merchants and artisans had houses near by, but all upon the north side of the hotel, where were located extensive walks, formal gardens and cultivated shrubbery, all for the pleasure of the patrons of the Yellow or Mineral Springs Hotel.”
In 1842, William Neff, merchant and leading citizen of Cincinnati, purchased the land, on which the Yellow Spring and its Tavern were located, from William Mills and his wife, Margaretta, for $19,080.944. The tract included both branches of the scenic Yellow Spring Glen. This estate remained in the Neff family till 1919, a period of seventy-seven years. It became widely known as Neff Park, and the Tavern which Col. Elisha Mills had built around Lewis Davis’ log residence, became known as the Old Neff House. A cut of it, reproduced from Byles’ wall map of Greene County – 1855 – fortunately preserved for history, both its appearance and its exact location. The same map has also preserved the Yellow Springs House as it appeared in 1855. This hotel, like the “Old Neff House” grew by additions to Elisha Mills’ log home, built after the sale of the “Yellow Spring Tract” to William Neff.
At the close of the Civil War, many families in Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and nearby cities, who had become wealthy, turned to Yellow Springs for their summer vacations. The Yellow Springs House – on the grounds now occupied by a new high school building – built by Judge Mills after his sale o the Neff Park, was filled with guests.
The earlier use of the “water cure” by summer guests, rather than by invalids, and the extensive summer camping on the grounds, are noted elsewhere in this story.
Mr. C. Gordon Neff, surviving son of William Clifford Neff, and grandson of William Neff, gives the following history of “Neff Park and its Hotel” after its purchase by his grandfather from Elisha Mills in 1842. “The buildings at the Yellow Spring and those near by were used for many years by Mr. Neff as a summer residence for his family. The several one-story buildings shown in the illustration taken from Byles’ Greene County Wall Map of 1855, are somewhat compacted as to their location to conform the picture in size to the other border illustrations of the map. The three small cottages to the right, like the one in the foreground, were detached and located in a three hundred foot line northeast of the mansion house. There was a yard space between each cottage. In the plot map, showing the ground between the buildings and the present Clifton Pike, the locations of the large flower garden, vineyard and orchard, are shown. A few of the old apple trees are yet standing.
“Mr. Neff purchased the property for a summer residence for his family. He also used it largely for the entertainment of his personal and business friends. The waters proved agreeable and the forest and glen enticing to all who came. Friends from Cincinnati built cottages east of the mound for their own vacation occupancy. Charles Kilgour built one near the cascade on the west bank of the cliff.
Cincinnati: M. Greenwood, Joseph C. Butler, John Shillito, Theo. Cook, A. S. Winslow, Joseph Glenn, N. G. Nettleton, Larz Anderson, Geo. Shoenberger, W. M. Corry, Murat Halsted, David Sinton, Joseph Kinsey.
Columbus: John G. Thompson, Governor Dennison, H. J. Jewett.
Dayton: L. A. Jordan, John Lowe, Valentine Winter, A. Whiteley, M. Nichols.
Xenia: Dan’l R. Harbine, Lester Arnold, Albert Galloway, Warren Anderson, Benoni Nesbitt and Abram Hivling.
The project was looked on with much favor under the guarantee of the Neff brothers whose personal and financial responsibility was well known to all who were guests at the luncheon.
Twenty-two thousand dollars was quickly raised by these committees. Under the heading, “The Big Tavern Certainty”, the Xenia Gazette, July 20, 1869, states “after $97,000.00 had been subscribed the village council of Yellow Springs, fully alive to the local advantages to be derived from this improvement, and with commendable public spirit, voted an appropriation of $3,000.00, the amount needed to make up the $100,000 required to be subscribed before the work should be commenced”.
On the subscription of the full one hundred bonds, building activities were begun at once. From July 20, 1869, to July 28, 1870, this great hotel was erected, furnished, and with its auxiliary buildings, was made ready for guests. (8) (8: The primitive sawmill which served early pioneer needs, beginning with the time when the additions were made to Lewis Davis’ two-story log cabin at the Yellow Spring by Elisha Mills, and the building of the water cure by Drs. Chaney and Herman, is frequently referred to, but not definitely located by writers. It was on the east bank of the Yellow Springs Creek, near the present dividing line between the Neff and Sheldon Glens. The sawmill which furnished the enormous quantities of timber used in the erection of the New Neff Hotel in 1869-70 was a large portable mill located near the small mound between the spring and the cascade. This mill was owned and operated by Wm. Carr, father of Mr. W. W. Carr who gives this information and states that, in the rapid construction of this large hotel, the measurements of required timbers were given by the architect a day before needed. Trees of the desired size were selected on the grounds, felled by the axe gang, hauled to the mill by ox teams, and there sawed to order by Mr. Wm. Carr. There was, therefore, no delay in furnishing necessary timbers. The Neff hotel was so constructed from the top story down, that each story could have been removed without destroying the construction of the building.) The opening hop was given July 28, 1870. Little idea can be gotten from the illustration of the great size of the building. Its cost completed, with stables and a large amusement hall, was $250,000. This expenditure, additional to the $100,000 bonds, was borne by the Neffs. The building was four stories. The dining room, 156’ x 45’. The main parlor, 75’ x 45’ with eleven additional private parlors. There were 246 sleeping rooms, many en-suite, - only a few bedrooms for the aged were on the first floor. A porch, three stories high, 20’ wide, ran 450’ around the entire front and end of the hotel. The floors were all carpeted. Gas manufactured on the ground was the only illuminant, and steam the only heat. The kitchen was unsurpassed in its equipment. The amusement hall contained six bowling alleys, 70’ long and five Balke billard tables. The stable had 125 stalls and kept a number of Kentucky saddle horses for guests. The hotel operated its own dairy, laundry, orchards, gardens and fire department. The latter was called out but once in the hotel’s short history, and functioned quickly and with success. Col. E. Kingston Boyd, who had been associated with St. Charles and St. Louis hotels, was in charge of the office when the hotel was opened for guests. The folders designated the place as
Neff House Park Summer Resort
A Southern House in the Northwest
This suggested limitation of patronage may possible have contributed to a rapid decline in patronage since, in that period, the north grew rapidly in wealth, the south made little progress in re-establishing its financial status.
Following his purchase of the interests of the other heirs of Wm. Clifford Neff, Mr. Theodore Wayne Neff erected in 1902 the first dance hall in the Glen. It was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt on the same foundation. Its location is a few hundred yards south of the former interurban entrance to the park, opposite the present new Yellow Springs High School building. He also erected the dining hall, still standing on the plateau near the Yellow Spring.
In 1914, Mr. Neff sold 104.6 acres, which included the sprint and glen, to Town Carlisle. Following this purchase, Mr. Carlisle erected an auditorium near the little mound southeast of the spring and dining room. This building seated one thousand people. Chautauquas were held in it in 1914 and 1915. (9) (9: The independent Chautauqua courses sponsored by Senator Simeon Fess, held on the Neff grounds in 1908, 1909 and 1913, (and on the College campus in 1910, 1911 and 1912) were remarkable for the ability of the speakers and entertainers. Rev. E Parkes Cadman, who was one of the program’s ablest orators, spoke of it as being one of the three best Chautauqua programs given at that time in America. The programs of 1914 and 1915 were furnished by the Redpath Circuit and were sponsored by an organization of citizens, following Dr. Fess’ inability to continue this work. These were the last of the formal entertainments given in the Neff Park.) The building was practically destroyed as an auditorium by a large oak tree which fell across it during a wind storm. The National Guard held its annual encampment on these grounds in 1914, and used the facilities above noted. The camp was pitched on the open terrain, east of the cascade and was connected with the spring and buildings by the bridge, still in use at the cascade.
No buildings or other improvements were added to this property after its sale by Mr. Carlisle. The various transfers which have occurred since his ownership are noted in the item of land transfers.
The new Neff House cuts, while giving a fair representation of its architecture, fail to give a true perspective of this hotel’s size and good proportions. The well kept forest part surrounding it was made an attractive lawn which extended from the hotel about one thousand feet west to the spring and the same distance east to the cascade. After several years of operation, the hotel was closed in 1882 and town down in 1892. The lumber was shipped to Cincinnati and sold.
The fine boulder, commemorating the gift to Antioch College, of Glen Helen, by Hugh Taylor Birch, stands at the southeast front of this widely known and, at one time, popular hotel.
An experiment in community life advocated by the Scotch manufacturer and publicist, Robert Owen, and financed by him in America at New Harmony, Indiana, was unsuccessfully tried in 1825 – 1826 by a small settlement located in Glen Helen near the Cascade on the west bank of Yellow Springs Creek. The few local records available indicate that the settlement was small in numbers and insufficient in finances and equipment.
A letter dated January 29, 1926, the late S. W. Cox gives the following interesting contact history:
“On the west bank of the cascade, a short distance back, they built a long, rambling house of split logs. I with my sister and some friends, visited the place some twenty years ago. We easily traced the foundation. It was a long rambling one story building with a number of fireplaces I have often been there when it yet stood. My sister was born there in 1831. My parents came to Ohio in 1829 and spent the first winter in Clark County, then to Yellow Spring. As there were only few houses about here, they moved into the abandoned Owenite house for temporary residence.”
From other sources it is learned that the logs were set endwise in the ground after the plan of the pioneer enclosures at Campus Martius and Farmers Castle on the Ohio River. Cracks between the upright logs of the building were closed with plaster. The interior was divided by the same type of crosswise partitions, into rooms with a fireplace; each room accommodated one family. The community kitchen and dining room was of double size, at the north end of the building.
Noyes’ “History of American Socialisms,” Chap. VI, states that Robert Owen arrived in Cincinnati about the year 1824, where he exhibited plans for his proposed Communities; with model farms, gardens, vineyards, play-grounds, orchards and all the internal and external appliances of the social paradise. At Cincinnati he soon found many congenial spirits, among the first whom was Daniel Roe, minister of the ‘New Jerusalem Church,’ a society for the followers of Swedenborg.”
A ;letter to the writer from a venerable friend, Attorney W. A. Paxson of Jamestown, Ohio, Nov. 16, 1929, contains interesting recollections of the Owenites who remained as residents near Yellow Springs after the colony disbanded:
“A sect or clan of people who called themselves Owenites lived for a short time at Yellow Springs before I was born. After they disbanded, several of the families who had found community life impracticable moved west of Yellow Springs and settled in the neighborhood in which I lived in 1856 or 1857. This was at the edge of what was then called ‘the big woods.’ They had fine farms there, for the land was very fertile. I remember that my father tended part of it in corn. This remnant of the sect used to hold meetings. I can recollect that my father attended one of them one night on invitation of an Owenite neighbor who used to come to the house occasionally, where I heard him talk of their doctrine or ‘belief.’ They were a sort of ‘Communists’ as we would now denominate them. They professed to believe that a general distribution of all the wealth and property of the people should be made with the very poor class, claiming it was in accordance with the Scriptures that ‘the rich sell all they had and give it to the poor.’ I remember father coming home from a meeting, and that he was disgusted with the ideas they seemed to propagate. . . . They were great propagandists and appeared to delight in arguing and setting forth their doctrines and theories whenever they could find listeners, as at sales, barn raisings, etc.
“Yellow Springs used to be a great place for various kinds of ‘cults’ to take root and flourish. It reminded me of old Athens, in those elder days of the Greek philosophers who would meet in the forums and issue propaganda of their various doctrines and theories. This, Doctor, is only the vague recollections of a six-year-old boy who was interested in everything he saw or heard that was ‘different’ from the usual and generally accepted things about him; but I distinctly remember these people were called ‘Owenites’ and some of the things they advocated have always ‘stuck’ in my memory. I am very sincerely yours.
“W. A. Paxson.”
Little impress on local history was left by the Yellow Springs Owenite experiment; it functioned less than two years, when financial and other troubles overtook the organization.
Its Committee’s public appeal of July 3, 1826, (10) (10: The People’s Press issue of August 15, 1826, published the Owenite Committee’s appeal “by request.” From this, it is gathered that there was little general public interest at that time either in the Owenites or their appeal for financial assistance.) indicates that they retained their faith in “The System,” but were financially unable to meet their obligations on the land they contracted to purchase from Baum and Whiteman. Their land included the Yellow Spring and Tavern property and additional farming lands embracing an area of 729 acres. There seems to have been a basis of values back of their appeal for help. The amount of money needed to complete payment for all this land was not large, but it could not be raised. The appeal was signed by their leading men whose signatures are the only clew we now have of their identity. Nothing is known of Mr. McClure, Esq., who refused to furnish further financial support and severed several connections with the settlement.
Yellow Spring, Greene Co., Ohio, July 3rd, 1826 (11) (11: “The Peoples Press,” Xenia, Ohio, issues of July 3rd and August 15th, 1826, published important Owenite appeals. That of June 28th, 1826, contains Robert Owen’s “Retrospect” reprinted from the New Harmony Gazette (Indiana).
The undersigned, being convinced of the great disadvantage of laboring on lands the title of which remains unsettled, and being unwilling to continue the state of unpleasant feeling which for some months has subsisted between themselves and the members who purchased from Baum and Whiteman, the lands on which the community has settled, do, for the purpose of leading to a better state of things, propose to those purchasers the following conditions of a final adjustment of the difficulties now subsisting:
Proposition First. In case Mr. McClure, or any other gentleman possessed of capital, shall kindly aid in a loan of money to enable us to discharge the sum of four thousand dollars yet remaining to be paid on the land, we will consent to take upon us the discharge of all just debts due from the community to its own members, or to other persons, whether manner, viz.: At the end of forty years from the date of a final arrangement, one fourth part of each separate claim without interest, and one remaining fourth part, in like manner, without interest, annually thereafter, until the debts are discharged.
For securing such payment, a subsequent mortgage to be made in security for the loan of four thousand dollars of aforesaid, shall be given on the lands of the community.
If this proposition is accepted, we should expect immediate exclusive possession of the personal, as well as real estate, of the community.
Proposition Second. In case the foregoing is not acceded to, we propose to release all claims on the personal and real estate of the community on the following terms, viz.: In case we can secure to ourselves another location upon a tract of land in the Miami country that shall be approved by a committee of our own body; and those members who were the purchasers of the land as aforesaid, shall pay to each of the undersigned as follows, viz.:
Elisha Tabor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $50.00
Samuel Houseworth . . . . . . . . . . . . 130.00
Henry Warner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50.00
John Sprague . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75.00
Bennet Tabor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50.00
James W. Walker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150.00
George Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50.00
Daniel G. Cady . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50.00
Robert Height . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50.00
And further, that said original purchasers give to each of us a joint Bond to indemnify us against all debts due by the community. In case this proposition is accepted, and a new location secured as aforesaid, we will give exclusive possession to the other party as soon after gathering in our fall crops as we can remove with convenience, not to extend beyond the first of December next.
Proposition Third. In case neither of the foregoing propositions be accepted, then we propose to submit the whole matter to Wm. McClure, Esq., to whose decision we bind ourselves to submit without a murmer, our condition being considered by him in reference to a community – this being the primary motive of all our wishes.
Elisha Tabor Jas W. Walker
Sam’l Houseworth George Taylor
Henry Warner Dan’l G. Cady
John Sprague Robert Height
Note: If the second proposition above named e accepted as the basis of an arrangement as aforesaid, I agree to release all my claim to privileges and advantages under my contract with the community, on the consideration that I remain undisturbed in the manufacture of paint on the premises, until the first of December next.
(Signed) Daniel Roe.
The preceding propositions having been severally rejected, the fourth and last was tendered through the mediation of gentlemen then present, who volunteered for the purpose of collecting a final settlement, which last proposition was in substance was as follows: That all matters in dispute should be unreservedly submitted to an arbitration of disinterested men appointed for the purpose, to be governed by the constitution of the community and the principles of right and justice in relation to both parties.
This proposition was made on the 5th day of July, signed by nine of the members, and presented two days after the rejecting of the other three: which was also rejected by those individuals calling themselves the original purchasers or landholders. Mr. McClure soon after left the Springs, without prospect of a settlement or compromise taking place between the parties.
New Harmony was the parent colony of the Yellow Spring experiment; the misfortunes of both were to misconceptions of the time. Labor and sacrifices required to carry forward any mass method of human betterment.
Events subsequent to a notable prearranged debate in Cincinnati, May of 1828, have a point of contact with the history of Glen Helen and Antioch College. (12) (12: Mr. Owen’s letter in London Times connects a notable forensic event in early Ohio history with other Glen Helen-Owenite history.
Sir: - I authorize you to state that the paragraph which appeared in the Times and some other London papers, a few days since, purporting to give a detail of my intended proceedings, and which was copied from the Scotsman newspaper, published in Edinburgh, was given to the public without my knowledge, and that it is incorrect in some important particulars. The object of the meeting between the clergy and myself, in April in the city of Cincinnati, state of Ohio, in the United States, is not to discuss the truth or falsehood of the Christian religion, as stated in the Scotsman, but to ascertain the errors in all religions which prevent them from being efficacious in practice, and to bring out all that is really valuable in each, leaving out their error, and thus to form from them collectively a religion wholly true and consistent, that it may become universal and be acted upon conscientiously by all.
Neither is it my intention to remove finally from this country, as stated in the Scotsman. On the contrary I have purposely made arrangements to be, without inconvenience, in any part of the world in which my earnest endeavors to ameliorate the present condition of society shall appear to be the most useful, as I do not entertain the least doubt of an entire change being near at hand, in the commercial, political and religious polity of all nations.
The very small amount of benefits that is effected for the great mass of mankind, with the extraordinary powers for ensuring general prosperity, nor possessed by society, united with the daily growing intelligence of the population in civilized countries, render, I think, this change, not only unavoidable, but not very distant.
Farmers Record & Gazette, Xenia, Ohio, Thursday, March 12, 1829.) Rev. Alexander Campbell, noted orator and authority on Christian ethics and kindred subjects, in the Northwestern country, was Robert Owen’s opponent. He was a founder of the Denomination which founded Antioch College. Robert Owen was the founder of “The New System of Society,” a trial of which was made in 1826-26 on the lands chosen later for Antioch College Campus.
Institutions like men leave their records on the canvasses of history. Some that seemed antagonistic and incongruous become merged by the mysterious alchemy of time, where “a thousand years are as a single day”. Everywhere in Glen Helen’s thousand acres intriguing records of other days are found for the asking. Some of men and others of events, but both driving forward in the surge for progress, as their time gave them light to see it.
Reference in the Committee’s appeal to a contract with Baum and Whiteman for certain lands on which they settled at Yellow Spring, led to the search of the “record of old contracts” in the Greene County recorder’s office. The result was gratifying, and at the same time, historically illuminating. The record of descent of this land by transfer elsewhere given, shows Baum and Whiteman to have been the owners by title during the period of the Owenite settlement, and to have sold it to Elisha Mills in 1828. Following the business policy of Robert Owen, the land on which his colonies were organized was either purchased outright as at New Harmony, or contracted for, as at the Yellow Spring. The latter is found to have been the plan adopted at the Yellow Spring. One can picture the enthusiasm and certainty of success which must have possessed this organization on the assurance that this beautiful, valuable property was to be their home and the place of their successful trial of this New System of Society.
THE LAND CONTRACT
We hereby obligate ourselves to convey to Luman Watson and John Keating, or their assignees, on or before the 15th day of June next, the following described land, viz.: The east half of Section 20, Town. 4, Range 8; the west half of Section 14, Town. 4, Range 8; and the west half of the north-east quarter of Section 14, Town. 4, Range 8, lying between the Miami Rivers in the County of Greene, State of Ohio, containing 720 acres, more or less. In consideration of which, the said Watson and Keating, at the time of making the conveyance of the aforesaid land, shall pay to the undersigned, Four Thousand in hand, and secure the payment of Four Thousand Dollars on or before the 1st day of January, 1826. * * * *
(Signed) Martin Baum (Seal)
(Signed) L. Whiteman (Seal)
Within two short years, their dreams had turned to ashes. The inevitable failure of the experiment is marked by an all too short struggle, January 3, 1827, was their Dies Ira. Between the lines of the subjoined receipt, there may be read the ever current history of community life – the most alluring of all theories of altruism.
* * * *
Received at Cincinnati, January 3, 1827, of Martin Baum and Lewis Whiteman, Fifteen Hundred and Seventy-five Dollars in consideration of which we do, hereby cancel and make null and void the within title Bond, and do by these presents release all our right, title and interest, claim and demand of , in and to the written (within) described property. Witness our hand and seals at Cincinnati, the day and year aforesaid.
(Signed) John Keating (Seal)
(Signed) Luman Watson (Seal)
Recorded, March 5, 1827.
(Deed Record No. 10 K, p. 272, Greene County, Ohio.)
Yellow Spring Creek, after the union of its two branches, flows through Shelden’s Glen to the river. Antioch College students at an early date are said to have named the creek “The Brook of Kedron” from the fact that near “Meditation Point” the union of these two branches had formed a fine baptismal pool of smooth bottom and progressive depth equal to the requirements of either preacher or convert. Betimes it was the “old swimming hole” dear to the memory to many a South Dormer.
Elder Ladley, one of the early and prominent Christian ministers who came to Yellow Springs with the opening of Antioch College, was accustomed to baptize the church’s communicants in this pool. The presence of a large college and village audience to witness the ceremonies no doubt inspired the imagination of some uneasy genius to the historical comparison. Rev. Ladley was the father of Mrs. W. C. Carr, wife of Yellow Springs widely known nurseryman. Mr. Carr graduated from Antioch College in the class of 1869. He was a friend and college chum of Mr. Hugh T. Birch. We are indebted to him for historical notes of Shelden’s glen as he first saw it in 1852, the year his father, William Carr, and his family moved to Yellow Spring for permanent residence.
The entrance to Glen Helen, used by students of the college, passed by the limekilns, across the railroad at the northeast corner of the college campus and down the west cliff wall of the Neff Glen, and is still in use. An old and much used stage road from Springfield to Xenia, - into which the Dayton road, now Dayton Street merged – passed then, near the Yellow Spring, and became a noted scenic roadway along the east hillside of the Yellow Spring branch and the Little Miami River through both glens to Brewer’s Mill and distillery. At this well known pioneer mill, the road crossed the river ford near “Old Baldy” and through a draw in the cliffs on the south banks of the river to the Clifton and Xenia Pike, one half mile distant. This pike, from Clifton to Xenia, was laid out in 1805.
These roads gave entrance from all directions to the glens of Yellow Spring branch, so widely reputed then for scenic beauty and health giving waters. The way through the glens was banked by numbers of great sycamores, oak and walnut and basswood trees described by Yellow Spring’s venerable nurseryman, Mr. W. W. Carr, as “perfect monarchs of the forest”.
The old Concord type “coach and four” brought many distinguished guests by this road to the glen’s several hostelries. It came with galloping four-in-hand spans announced by the flair of bugles. Webster, Clay, Benton, Emerson, Nathaniel P. Wills and General Hood were a few of those of note who came.
The coach’s first stop going north was at the then famous “water cure” sanitarium. Mr. Carr recollects the sanitarium of 1857, it was three or four stories high, large and attractive in architecture, pointed white and located on an open plateau surrounded by fine forest trees and extensive lawn, on the east bank of the glen opposite the dairy spring on the present Grinnell Mill road. The avenue which led to the building was part of the landscape plan of the sanitarium grounds. It wound its way by an easy and picturesque grade down the east hills of the glen, across the Yellow Spring Creek, and up the east hills to its entrance at the little brick railway station erected for its exclusive use by the Little Miami Railroad at the Grinnell Mill road crossing. The diary spring (13) (13: The Shelden Spring has been known for many years past as the Sizer Dairy Spring on the Grinnell Road side at the stone dairy house near the Railway crossing.) provided the sanitarium with its “medicinal” water by means of pump stocks bored to a three-inch caliber and joined end to end securely. It took many of these stocks, each fifteen or twenty feet long, to carry the water down the west hills, across the run across the stage road and up to the resort, in all a half mile or more of wood piping. The higher elevation of the spring gave a good water pressure at the sanitarium. The exact location of the “Water Cure” is shown in the cut from Byles’ 1855 wall map of Greene County.
The lawn was ornamented with circular basins containing gold-fish and many water plants, and a strong flowing fountain with wide base was part of the parterre. Several smaller fountains ornamented the driveway.
Public opinion about that period grew favorable to water cure treatment of disease. Many people were patronizing this place for rest treatment and baths in 1857. The water for the pools and fountains was conducted by a cement conduit from a spring in the Neff grounds near its west boundary line. This spring was very large and flowed from the cliffs near their top. As with the dairy spring, the elevation was sufficient to give desired terminal force to the waters. (This popular water cure was operated first by Dr. Abner Cheney.). Mr. Morton Grinnell has kindly furnished the business card of the organization which followed Dr. Cheney.
Yellow Springs, Ohio
James E. Gross, M.D. Charles M. Seeley, M.D.
Mrs. Maria M. Gross, M.D.
GlenForest is one of the oldest and most flourishing Water Cures in this country, situated in a beautiful glen, its surroundings are justly celebrated for their surpassing lovlness. The house has been supplied with new furniture throughout, and in other new improvements, the proprietors have spared no pains in making Glen Forest a most desirable resort for the invalid, and for those who desire to leave our cities during the summer months. The Institution will remain open throughout the year.
The female department is under the direction of Mrs. Gross, who has had a very large experience in the treatment of diseases peculiar to her own sex.
Board and treatment, per week $7.00 to $10.00
Board, per week $5.50 to $10.00
Unfortunately no date was given on the above card.
The sequence of management after the “Cure” was opened seems to have been: Dr. Gross and Dr. Seeley, Dr. Cheney, Dr. Owens, and Dr. and Mrs.. Nichols. The period covered was from 1850 to 1859, when fire destroyed the entire group of buildings.
The reminiscences of Miss Cosmelia Hirst, who personally knew the “Water Cure”, constitute, with Mr. W. W. Carr’s recollections, all the personal contact history of that institution now available. We are indebted to them for the above history.
The third management of the Water Cure was under Dr. William Owens of Cincinnati. Dr. Owens was a warm supporter of the educational views of Horace Mann and while he lived there was a frequent visitor at the college where he was held in the highest esteem by President Mann and the other members of the faculty. Several of the latter and a number of young men students walked down to the Water Cure Hotel for their meals, and the pleasant social environments they found there. Dr. and Mrs. Owens also greatly appreciated and enjoyed this association with the college people. They enjoyed hearing and meeting the many fine lecturers brought to the college through the influence of Horace Mann. After an unsuccessful attempt to operate the “Cure”, they returned to Cincinnati where the doctor became professor of Materia Medica in Pulte Medical College. He was in no way connected with social theories of Robert Owens. The Owenite settlement in Neff Glen was twenty years prior to his connection with the Shelden Glen known as Glen Forest Water-Cure Institution. Dr. Owens operated the Water-Cure but a short time. He was succeeded by Dr. and Mrs. Nichols.
The Water Cure Station at the Grinnell Road Crossing of the Little Miami Railroad was abandoned on December 8, 1871, a number of years after the “Cure” was destroyed by fire. Its location, as recollected by Mr. W. W. Carr, was a few yards south of the Grinnell Road Crossing, on the east side of the railroad.
“The Water Cure”, established at Yellow Springs about 1850, was much derided by the old school of medicine, who scoffed at water curing any disease. A very large building, the center of a group of five, was built in the “lower” or Shelden Glen on the east side of the creek, and at no great distance from it. It was in a beautiful location, surrounded by native forest trees on an elevation must high enough to give it dignity. It was in very high repute for many years a water cure and had a great many patients. There were several physicians in attendance at all times and many nurses. Baths of all kinds were arranged and there were arrangements for treating people by the water cure system. A number of patients who went there were really ill, but some came whose ailments were imaginary.
There were two very large bowling alleys a short distance from the house, that being considered the best form of exercise for the patients. At first the buildings and grounds belonged to a company and were leased for a term of years. About 1856 it was sold to Dr. Herman of Cincinnati, and by him rented to the physicians in charge. Dr. Abner Cheney was in charge for several years. His wife told that many times the house was so full and that every room was occupied and at week-ends and in summer time they would have to fill the halls with cots to entertain many who came from Cincinnati and Dayton. At this time, places of entertainment were very few. In front of the building a fine road followed the creek on the east side in its course through the entire confines of the glen. In early times this was the main road the stagecoach traveled.
Previous to the building of the water cure, Lawhead’s Woolen Carding and Fulling Mill was located further down the Yellow Spring branch. Its mill race is well marked at this date. There is a small pioneer sawmill in use for many years located on the creek near the property line of the two glens. It was served by the Glen roadway which was the first public road survey ordered by the first court of Greene County, Ohio.
In the spring of 1850, after Dr. Cheney had left the building and come into town, where he set up a practice, the water cure building stood vacant.
After Dr. Abner Cheney retired from the management of the Water-Cure and Dr. William Owen’s short connection with it, the owner, Dr. Herman, leased the place to Dr. T. J. Nichols of Cincinnati, and his wife, Mary Gove Nichols, a well known magazine and hygienic writer. Their purpose was to found a school of physical and spiritual harmonies in combination with a modified water-cure therapy. Miss Cosmelia Hirst describes the attitude of community toward their experiment which quickly developed into one of the most interesting tragic incidents in the human story of the Glen.
“Great excitement was soon roused in the town and college because the Cure’s owner, Dr. Herman, had rented the property to a Dr. Nicholas who was declared a ‘free lover’. He was coming here to set up an institution of that kind. It is easy to imagine that everything was at white heat in Yellow Springs. Meetings were held, denouncing it, and addresses were made by the citizens, telling what was to be done. President Mann and the professors attended these meetings and advised what measures should be taken. There were a few who endorsed Dr. Nichols or, at least, went so far as to say that the people were excited in the matter, and that there was no need to be alarmed at his coming here. The whole affair was looked upon as a most outrageous thing from the standpoint of the community, for a band of people to come here and establish themselves and openly express themselves for free love almost at the very doors of the college. It was a thing to be condemned utterly. There were a few young men who defiantly proclaimed the right of private judgment who were quietly dismissed from college. Dr. Nichols and his wife both wrote for papers, boldly declaring their views of free love. In spite of opposition, and well knowing they were not wanted in Yellow Springs, they came with a retinue of their own kind and patients of their sort from different parts of the country. No one in the place or vicinity associated with them. They would drive into town for business or for mail, then drive back to the Cure. Dr. Nicholas was finally interviewed by delegation of citizens and was invited to leave, which, after some argument on his part, which went unheeded by the delegation, he reluctantly consented to do.”
The Nichols prospectus, a copy which has lately come into possession of Antioch College library, is here reprinted. Dr. Conway’s report on the Society after it was disbanded and Appleton’s short biographical history of Mrs. Nicholas and her work before coming to Shelden Glen, are here given as a matter of historical record.
A School of Health, Progress and Harmony.
Fr. T. I. Nichols and Mrs. Mary S. Gove Nicholas have leased for the term of five years, the spacious and beautifully situated Water Cure Establishment known as the Yellow Springs Water Cure, at Yellow Springs, Miami Township, Greene County, Ohio; on the railroad between Xenia and Springfield, about seventy miles northeast of Cincinnati, and accessible by all the great routes of western travel.
The village of Yellow Springs is one of the pleasantest in southwestern Ohio. The country is broken and picturesque; the climate delightful; the air of singular salubrity, with an entire freedom from malaria. Its remarkable healthfulness, and the beauty of the scenery, have made it for many years a resort for invalids. It is the site of Antioch College, the great liberal college of the West, which under the presidency of Hon. Horace Mann, with a faculty of eminent ability, proffers to both sexes equal advantages in obtaining, at a nominal price, a thorough education.
The Water Cure Establishment, with accommodation for over one hundred persons, is situated on the side of a beautiful ravine, about half trees and gardens; springs of living water gush from the hill sides; a little river runs through the glen, and there are pleasant and secluded walks for amusement or meditation. It is a sylvan retreat, surrounded by natural beauties.
We name this place to which Providence has guided us, Memnonia, from the Mystic Statue on the Nile, which saluted the rising sun with music So would we salute with our Social Harmony the dawn of a New Era for Humanity. Here we open, on the 1st of April, 1850, a School of the Progressive Union, for Health and Education; for Physical, Mental and Spiritual development; and a training and preparation, internal and external, for the True Life of a Harmonic Society.
To the wearied, exhausted and diseased, who have yet a recuperative vitality, we offer a home, where rest, pure air and food, exercise, the processes of Water Cure, congenial society, and all natural and spiritual Hygienic elements, will restore them to the Physical Harmony of Health.
To our friends who wish to prepare for a True Society, by the development of all their faculties, we offer a School of Science, Literature, Art and Industry, which will enable them to “Give from all faculties, to all faculties”: - the law of progress in Passional Harmony.
Memnonia will be a School of Health; a School of Progress; a School of Life. We wish to gather here, as in a carefully cultured nursery, the germs of a new society.
PRINCIPLES, CONDITIONS AND REGULATIONS
Widespread calumnies and misrepresentations of the principles and objects of the Progressive Union, and of our characters and teachings, make it necessary that we state, with all possible clearness, the Principles and Regulations of the MEMNONIA INSTITUTE, and the conditions of admission.
The motto of our society is “Freedom, Fraternity, Chastity”. Our object is to free men and women from the domination of sensual appetites and habits, and their injurious consequences, material and spiritual. We believe in Freedom, as to the right to do right; and do not assert, or justify, any Freedom to do a wrong to ourselves or others. Freedom to us, a condition of truth and purity in all relations. The law of Progression in Harmony gives us this law of sexual relations. “Material Union is only to be had, when the wisdom of the Harmony demands a child.” The wisdom of our Harmony teaches us that birth, under existing conditions, is seldom and exceptionally a good; and not to be sought contrary to the laws of the society and State in which we live. We, therefore, not only require the chastity which the civil law demands, but we repudiate the sensual license it permits. We ask the far purer chastity of a higher law, which commands us to garner our lives, and avoid the waste and all the evils of sensuality. It will be expected and required that those who join with us for the attainment of Health and Harmonic Development, will conform to this standard; and we will not assume any responsibility either as teachers or healers, toward any person who cannot cordially accept and live to the spirit of the law. Citizens of the State, and members of a civil society, we shall require of all the inmates of our home, conformity to the civil law respecting Marriage and Paternity. And it is necessary that those who are preparing for a Harmonic Life, should render a loving and truthful obedience to the interior law of Chastity, as a condition of Health, Progress and Security. And while we do not seek to impose an arbitrary restraint on any, we feel it our duty to say, that persons who will not conform to this necessity of existing conditions and relations, cannot be admitted into our institution.
Our rules will also exclude the use of the flesh of dead animals as food, and the use of tobacco. We shall require daily bathing, neatness of attire, and attention to the principles of courtesy and propriety, recognized in every refined society. All persons coming to us, will be expected to confirm to the spirit of these Regulations.
This statement is made thus frankly and fully, for the benefit of such as may have misapprehended our principles. We do not seek to impose these interior laws upon the world of legal or illegal experimentists or sensualists; but we wish to prevent such persons from coming to us, under a mistaken idea that our Freedom sanctions licentiousness, instead of being the very condition of that purity which is necessary to the True Enjoyment of Life.
The following is quoted from Vol. I, p 262, Autobiography of Moncure Daniel Conway, who at that time, May1860, was publisher of the “Dial”. Cincinnati, Ohio, “a monthly magazine for literature, philosophy and religion”.
“I remember well the pains I took to discover the facts concerning ‘Memnonia’ and to treat with justice the delicate subject, and quote a few items that possess some interest:”
“Memnonia”, when in its most flourishing condition, numbered about twenty inmates. They were generally Eastern and English people, and, we have been credibly informed, were persons who had met with disappointments and grief in the life of the affections – the unrequited or the divorced. It was represented to the country chiefly through the terrible denunciations of Horace Mann who imagination, excited by its proximity to Antioch College, pictured it as, to use his own words, “The superfoetation or diabolism upon polygamy”. This community, however, had reasons to know that Mr. Mann was mistaken; and that so far as “Memnonia” being seat of sexual license it inaugurated in its actual life the asceticism and celibacy which afterwards carried its leading characters into the Church of Rome. Daily confessions and penances were prescribed and obeyed. And when through pecuniary embarrassment – for the community ruined everyone who made any investment it it – and the jealousies of human nature, this false thing burst like a bubble. The eight leading persons, (including those named in “Esperanza”. Harmonia, Vincent, Angelo, Eugenia and the beautiful Melodia) immediately went into the Roman Church (Melodia (Miss H) is now a nun in Cuba.
THE CONWAY COLONY
Frequent visits by Reverend Moncure D. Conway to his “colony” of family freedmen established at Yellow Springs after the Emancipation Proclamation, have connected him in an interesting way with the history of Shelden Glen and the home there of Dunmore and Eliza Gwynn.
His interest, for twenty years, in the “colony” at Yellow Springs, is well set forth in several narratives written by the late Miss Cosmelia Hirst who, personally, knew quite well all its members and their benefactor friend.
.Moncure Daniel Conway was a clergyman of culture and advanced thought and for many years a writer and lecturer of celebrity. He came of a wealthy family of strong slave holding proclivities in Stafford Country, Virginia. His father, Payton Conway, owned broad estates and many slaves, and was an aristocrat of the true Virginia type. His mother was from the well known Virginia Daniel family.
As the Conway home was not in the limit of the exceptions made by Lincoln in his proclamation when the slaves found themselves free, they set out for Washington at once.
Rev. Conway came on from New York to gather them together and take them to Yellow Springs where he had decided to locate them. They were overcome with joy at seeing him, and when he said “I came here to gather my people together,” they felt that he was indeed their Moses leading them to the promised land.
Vol. I of Conway’s Autobiography contains the story of his finding the family slaves at Georgetown, D. C., and the difficulties he and they encountered in Baltimore at the beginning of their journey west to Yellow Springs. He writes in part:
“It was late in the evening when we started, and we were to travel all night. I observed that the negroes would neither talk nor sleep. The mothers had put their children to sleep, but were, themselves, holding a silent watch. They were yet in a slave state, and every station at which the train paused was a possible danger. At last, when the name of a certain wooding-up station was called out, I observed that every eye danced, every tongue was loosened, and after some singing they all dropped off to sleep. It was not until next day that I learned that the station which had wrought such a transformation was the dividing line between the slave and the free states. How they knew it I cannot divine; it was a small place, but there the shadow of slavery ended.”
There were a number of them. The patriarchs of the party were Dunmore Gwynn and his wife, “Aunt Eliza”, and Cuffee Dunaho and his wife, “Aunt Hannah”, The home of Dunmore and “Aunt Eliza” was established on the north side of the road on the hill slope in sight of Grinnell’s mill at the end of the “Water Cure” Glen. Here they lived and died, typical relics of the southern slaves who had belonged to “quality”. “Aunt Eliza” was strong in many views. She was a religious enthusiast, and a remarkable feature in her church (Baptist). She had been the mother of nineteen children, nine of whom she brought with her to Ohio. Some had died, and the older sons went into the employ of Union officers at Washington.
Others belonging to the Conway colony here were the Harrods, Hempsteads, Morgans and the Taylors.
Eliza, who in slavery days had been a housemaid was always tidy and neatly dressed, as well as agreeable in her personal manners. There are many traditions of her power in exhortation yet fresh in the minds of older Antiochians, for she was persuasive when ministering to sinners who were too tardy in declaring their professions. On one occasion when conducting the “rousements” at her church, she glided across the pulpit platform several times; then with an inimitable pose, lifted her arms in petition and called “Come down Lord, come right down, Lord; come right down through the roof and I’ll stand the damage!” A crash in their midst brought the audience to its feet. Surprise marked every countenance; could Aunt Eliza’s beseechment have wrought a miracle and brought the Lord? It proved, however, to be only an insecure seat smashed to the floor by the weight of a ponderous sister who, with becoming faith, had jumped on it, the better to see graceful Eliza meet the Lord, should he, by any chance, come through the roof as she had urged him to do.
A NOTABLE BANQUET
Autobiography of Moncure Daniel Conway, Antioch College library
“On the occasion of one of my visits to them at Yellow Springs, Dunmore and Eliza gave a banquet in my honor, with Old Virginia luxuries on the table, and there were present all the colored preachers and prominent brethren and sisters of the neighborhood in addition to our own former servants. The dinner began before one o’clock and continued during the afternoon, with a new set of guests at each successive dinner with exception of myself, who had to be present with each company, - Eliza being near as chamberlain to suggest my role and support me in it. How I was to go through the ‘grace before meat’ required of me – a grapple with the unknowable until I bethought me of the desire each parson present must have to contribute a blessing to the feast, and dexterously passed my privilege to one after another.
“A trying moment came after the banquet when old Dunmore Gwynn, a practiced speaker, gave an elaborate address to the large company concerning myself and the circumstances of my becoming an opponent of slavery, and having to leave Virginia. I was dumbfounded by the size and completeness of the mythology which had in twenty-one years formed in the minds of these humble friends. I was pictured standing in the centre of Falmouth with the whole village raging around me, and as pointing to a poor negro and crying, ‘That wooly-head has in him an immortal soul; he is a child of God! he has the same right to freedom as any of you have,’ and so forth; for the speech was long and admirable. Still more graphic was Dunmore’s description of how the mob was cowed by my eloquence, and the blacks encouraged. For there were visions and prophecies and manifestations. As a matter of dry fact, the whole thing occurred just as related in Chapter XV. No negro was present and no speech made.
“But was I to humiliate poor Dunmore and Eliza, their children and grandchildren, and call it all fabulous? I made a rather extended address, saying that Dunmore had praised me higher than I deserved, and telling the more meritorious story of him and the others who had, amid all the troubles and dangers of war, toiled until they had earned enough to find their way to Washington. I dwelt on what each one had done for our family while in servitude for many years, - services that could never be requited. I did the best I could, but had not the courage to attack the mythology outright; the effort of so doing would have undermined the repute for good faith of our whole, colony, and diffused more untruth than it dispersed.
“I gave a lecture at Yellow Springs; the students of Antioch College being curious to hear the lecture of Demonology, that was selected, and the wall behind the desk duly covered with illustrative pictures of demons, dragons and devils. Front seats in the gallery were reserved for our negroes, who all came in finest raiment and occupied the position that in Europe would have been accorded to royalty. It was by no means a lecture suited to them, but I tried to throw in as many good stories as I could for their sake. However the scientific study had to be made, and when I got into the depth of my subject an incident occurred. While with my pointer I was describing the evolution of demons, I came at length to a figure drawn for me in London from a Gnostic gem.
“ ‘This,’ I said, ‘is the only known representation of Satan.’
“ ‘Give it to him, honey!’ shouted old Eliza from the gallery. “Give it to the old devil hot and heavy!’
“Of course there was prolonged laughter in the assembly, to most of whom the gaunt figure of our prophetess was well known. Eliza had made the hit of the evening so far as the fun was concerned. But alas, I was unable to give it hot and heavy to my Gnostic Satan; he was my pet figure, being of severe beauty, - the Satan of job not yet fallen from a legal prosecutor to a punisher. As I proceeded, ejaculations of others came from the gallery, - ‘Right, too!’ ‘Ain’t it good!’ ‘True’s gospel!’
“On the following day when I was talking to my colored friends again I was pleased to find that the heresies pervading my lecture had passed entirely over their heads, and that their love and loyalty had discovered an amount of good old Methodism in it which I had not suspected. When they talked about the old serpent and the devil, and his way of going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour, and anon changing himself into an angel of light, I felt a warm sympathy stirring my heart. My optimism had been for some time weakening; the Unitarian doctrine that all evil is good in disguise must have been for some time receding, and I listened with philosophic attentiveness to the experiences of trials and temptations told by these simple friends, in which I heard again the word of Jesus concerning the tares, - ‘An enemy hath done this.’ “
THE FIRST COUNTY ROAD AUTHORIZED, DECEMBER, 1803
Judge Thomas Coke Wright, earliest of Green County historians, gave to Howe’s Ohio History and Antiquities – 1847 – the story of the first road in Greene County, authorized by the December, 1803, term of the Court of Common Pleas, held in the single room log court house built by Ben’j Whiteman at Alpha, Ohio. “The first view and survey of a new road was granted at this term. It was to commence at Springfield, pass the Yellow Spring, and intersect the Pinkney Road near Isaac Morgan’s. William Maxwell, Lewis Davis and Thomas Townsley (all influential citizens) were appointed at this session to Thomas Fream, William Moore, and James McPherson.” Thomas Fream was the successor of Lewis Davis in his Yellow Spring Tavern, 1804; hence this license and this new through road from Springfield to Cincinnati, running past the Davis Tavern.
This first road was built through both Neff and Shelden Glens. It was closed as a county road on the finishing of the present road from Yellow Springs past Grinnell’s Mill, after the burning of the Water-Cure, 1859. It turned a southeast course, Mr. W. W. Carr states, near the Cemetery gate at Yellow Springs, and there followed the fine avenue of maple trees on the crest of the hill, and across the present Clifton Pike to the site of the great Neff Hotel built in 1869-1870. There it cured toward the spring, as shown in the Neff summer residence illustration. From the spring, it reached the level of the Glen by two roadways, plainly seen at this date – 1929 and 1930. One descends by a sharp grade at the south side of the circular pool into which the Yellow Spring empties. The other kept the level of the woodland till near the Meditation Point.” Here it descended by a well marked road track and met the location of this first county roadway going southeast on the side of the north hills of both glens. The road itself comes well into view near the present property line between these two glens, and in the Shelden Glen is so well built that, with small outlay, it could again be used either as a traffic or scenic roadway. This road kept on the north hillside of the Miami River and crossed it at the old Brewer mill, a short distance east of the present Grinnell mill. Passing through a draw, the roadway going south is still plainly traced to the point where it intersected the present Clifton Pike.
This latter road is recorded in the Greene County Road Book, as built in 1805. At Xenia it merged into the present Dayton and Xenia Road, and was intersected at Trebein and Pinkney road, at that time the direct road to Cincinnati. By merging with the Pinkney road, this first authorized Greene County road connected Springfield (then in Greene County), the Yellow Spring, the Water-Cure and Xenia with Cincinnati and Ohio River transportation to New Orleans. It was one of the two routes from Cincinnati to the Yellow Spring, advertized by Elisha Mills in the May 29, 1829, issue of the “Commercial Daily Advertiser”, leading from Cincinnati direct to his hotel at the Yellow Spring in Glen Helen The road is historic to Glen Helen as the first one authorized by the Greene County Court.
ON THE OLD CLIFTON TRAIL
An important roadway that began near the Yellow Spring was in general use until 1849 (the date of the establishment of the present Yellow Springs and Clifton Road). Surveys as early as 1803 for the new and more direct routes between town centers were made, and in a number of well graded and surfaced county roads were laid out soon after that date.
Stone quarries and “gravel banks” furnishing material for good road construction, were located within easy short haul distances.
The Neff map and the Greene County Record A, p. 219, show “a fifty foot wide road leading easterly” to Clifton was established by survey by Robert Moody, February 3, 1841. It began at the ford of Yellow Spring branch, near the lake entrance of Glen Helen where Palmer’s mill was located, and ran easterly to the old stone arch bridge recently restored. From there it followed the crest of the hills along the east branch of Yellow Spring Creek until it joined the main glen way road. After leaving the lower glen near Grinnell’s Mill, it threaded the north ban k of the Little Miami River, past Brewer’s and Fallis’ mills and Ferncliff picnic grounds via Clifton Street and the old tanyard road.
Near the Clifton cemetery gate is a marker that Antiochians should never fail to see. The old Concord stage lines that carried most of the Glen’s hotel guests to and from their destinations were noted for stylish equipment and experts “whips”, one of whom was Loderick Austin, then only twenty-six years of age. On September 1, 1836, while coming down the tanyard road, he lost control of his spirited four-in-hand. They took fright and ran away. Austin was thrown from the high driver’s seat. He struck a great boulder near the present cemetery gate and sustained a fatal injury. On the monument which marks his burial place, there has been carved and coach and four, of the period, with a legend characteristic of life’s uncertain limitations.
There were two “mud” roads, at this early date, to and from Clifton. The plat shows a continuation of the “road running easterly” to the east line of Neff Park – a continuous of “the right-of-way” that crosses the east branch of Yellow Spring Creek at the old ruin arch, a short distance north of the cascade. Austin drove his stage either way to suit the convenience of his passenger’s destination.
THE IVY ON COLLEGE HALL
One may venture here to cross the borders of Glen Helen onto the old campus in quest of the ethical sentiments which have marked the careers of Glen Helen’s generous donor and other men and women to whom Antioch Collect is Alma Mater in a broader sense than that of scholastic heritage. The personal presence of notable men was “the word that was in the beginning.” Some were outstanding slavery leaders of that fervid period. Others were great ministers, philosophers and educators. They journeyed as once did “the wise men of the east”, and bore gifts of aid and inspiration to the newborn school of progress. Their presence was personal and visual as they aligned themselves by the side of Horace Mann, the courageous advocate they knew and loved, while he pried a new educational emancipation from off the old educational foundations. The inspiration from these men gripped the spirit of the young men and women who met and heard them. It still clings like the ivy transplanted from Melrose Abbey to the turreted walls of College Hall. The ivy and the great men who came are a part of our college history, and now Glen Helen has been added to Antioch’s treasure house of nature.
The following are some of the distinguished men who came:
Josiah Quincy Rev. Dr. Bellows
Thos. Star King Whitelaw Reid
John G. Saxe Louis Koussuth
Bayard Taylor Gen’l Wm. S. Rosecrans
E. P. Whipple Moses Grinnell
Geo. W. Curtis Henry Clay
Ralph Waldo Emerson Thomas Marshall
Horace Greely Nathaniel P. Willis
Rev. Dr. Furniss Moncure D. Conway
Rev. Robert. Collyer Judge L. M. Hosea
Edward Everett Hale Washington Gladden
William Lloyd Garrison
There were others whose names do not now recur to the writer, who gave the encouragement of their presence to this daring adventure of co-education; they too are a part of the priceless heritage of this institution – a pioneer college then in advance of its day, and a pioneer college now in advance of its time.
From Notes of Miss Cosmelia Hirst
That fine old poem, by Dickens, ‘The ivy Green’, beginning,
‘O, a dainty plant is the ivy green
That creepeth o’er ruins old.’
Would serve to immortalize the ivy had it not in itself the qualities which do that. It is an immortelle, for, ‘the stout old ivy never fades from its hale and hearty green.’ There are doubtless many ivies that have been transported into America from Great Britain with a history attached to them, but it is beyond the bounds of probability that any one of them has a history as remarkable as the ivy which mantles the walls of Antioch College.
There was something told of its history at a meeting in the chapel a few years ago, but the narrator was not acquainted with many of the facts concerning it. It was presented to Antioch College when Doctor Thomas Hill was president of the institution, and he, himself, planted it with much ceremony. The donor of the ivy was Miss Altona Holstein Johnson, one of the most refined and cultured of women, a sister-in-law to Mr. Frank Grinnell of Spring Lea. One summer, Mr. Grinnell and family, of which Miss Johnson was a member, were visiting at the home of Mr. Moses H. Grinnell, whose county seat joined the estate of Washington Irving who was his brother-in-law. Miss Johnson greatly admired the ivy that so luxuriously embowered Sunnyside, and when she was leaving Mr. Irving said, ‘let me give you some ivy to take to your home in Ohio.’ She brought it back with her and gave it into the hands of Doctor Hill to plant on Antioch in memory of Irving who died in November, 1859, which was the first year of President Hill’s incumbency.
Once in speaking of the Antioch ivy, she told that it had been planted on Irving’s delightful home, Sunnyside, by a Mrs. Renwick of New York City, who was the mother of James Renwick, Irving’s most intimate friend at college. It was the mother, Mrs. Renwick, whom Burns immortalized in his poem, “The Blue-Eyed Lassie,’ in which he says,
‘I gat my death frae two sweet een,
Two lovely een o’bonnie blue.
T’was not her golden ringlets bright
Her lips like roses wat wi dew,
It was her een sae bonnie blue.’
Mrs. Renwick was born and brought up in a hospitable Scotch manse, her father, Rev Jeffrey, being pastor of the parish. He was a warm and appreciative friend of Robert Burns, who was at the manse frequently and Mrs. Renwick told Irving and other friends how much Burns charmed them all on his many visits to their home. Mr. Renwick, a prosperous merchant of New York City, went to Scotland on business, and, while there saw and was captivated by the ‘twa sweet een’ and he and Jean Jeffrey were married. He took her back to New York where they had a beautiful and refined home. One of her visits back to Scotland, which occurred at the time Irving was building Sunnyside, she went to Melrose Abbey and, by Sir Walter Scott, was given a piece of ivy to plant at Irving’s home, saying that he hoped it might grow as luxuriantly on Sunnyside as it had on Melrose. She brought it home and planted it there with her own hands. So every feature of the Antioch ivy is historic. Presented to Irving by Scott through the hands of Burns’ Blue-eyed Lassie, and by her planted at Sunnyside, then shortly before his death given by Irving himself to Miss Johnson, who, herself, was a remarkable person from a long line of literary ancestors, and by her given to Antioch through Dr. Thomas Hill, one of the erudite men of the last half of the nineteenth century, who was called from Antioch to take the head of Harvard, the first college in America.
Some years ago the Antioch ivy received cruel treatment at the hands of some who were then in charge of affairs. They tore much of it from the walls, confounding it with bigonia, and, thinking it might eventually injure the roof, but,
‘Whole ages have fled, and their works decayed.
And nations scattered been;
But the stout old ivy shall never fade
From its hale and hearty green.
The brave old plant in its longest days
Shall fatten upon the past;
For the stateliest building man can raise
Is the ivy’s food at last.
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the ivy green.’
From the ivy on College Hall and its historic story, one turns again to Glen Helen and the wild flowers that greet its pathfinders with their dainty blossoms of intriguing beauty! They await the treker in the earliest of his spring rambles and smile good-bye to the last of his fall excursions. Rarely indeed is the temptation resisted to bear some of them away from their native nooks and crannies. Here are a few of Glen Helen’s flower colony whom we all have known by sight:
Bleeding Heart Yellow Snow Drop
Bloodroot Sweet William
May Apple Violets
Juniper Johnny Jump-ups
Blue Gentian Touch-me-nots
Yellow Broom Maidenhair
Arbutus Blue Bells
Ladies’ Slipper Hypatica
Spring Beauty Many Varieties of
Jack in the Pulpit ferns
Antioch’s men and women find Glen Helen’s hard wood giants of the forest as yet untouched by the woodman’s axe or saw. Here are the second generation of the same hardy oaks, found buried in the fortifications of Ft. Ancient, probably one thousand years ago, where a nation toiled to complete its defense. The other hard woods native to Southern Ohio are all there, as nature has grown them to maturity. As one catches a glimpse of the cleared land at the Glen’s edges, he realizes our obligation to these hard wood trees with which we built our pioneer homes, bridged our streams and rivers, tanned our leathers, and made our dugout cradles. We may still see and know these trees in Glen Helen where they grow. Naturally one thinks of Mr. Hugh T. Birch as he turns to the most useful of all the trees there, to the Indians:
‘The Birch Trees’, from which these dwellers of Glen Helen flayed their bark for their canoes; obtained their sugar water vessels, and wigwam roofs and sides.
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The sugar trees, the first producers for their toothsome maple syrup.
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The oaks, including the chink-a-pin that gave sweet acorn nuts, when dried.
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The ash, white, black and blue, woods easy for the pioneers to work into tables, chairs, puncheons and rails for fences.
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The sycamores that grow along the banks of Glen Helen’s creeks and river, and shade their inviting waters from hot midsummer sun’s heat
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The lindens, with trim and well dressed tops as though just out of nature’s tailor shop.
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The elms, old chiefs of the forest and yard, and the ‘noblest Romans of them all’.
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The hickorys, shell bark and close bark, that furnished winter’s succulent nuts for fireside cracking.
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The walnuts, black and butternut, companion nuts for winter’s fireside enjoyment.
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The dogwoods, red and white blossomed, May signals to Indians and pioneers that corn planting had come again.
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The sassafras and spicewood – the forest aromatics.
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The ironwoods, red heads of the forest.
Then the lesser ‘folk’ – the trimmings of the forest:
The pokeberry, blackberry, elderberry, strawberry, dewberry, huckleberry, the hazel nut, red haw bushes, the May apples, paw-paws, and wild grapes, ever toothsome and seasonable wild fruits found in the Glen or along the Little Miami River’s banks.
And let us not forget the artistry our fore-mothers drew from the wood dyes of Glen Helen’s untamed wilds.
They came, brave souls, in the time of the hickory broom, the puncheon floors, the bear hide door hinges and the deer thong door latch; the candle moulds and the dug-out cradle, the hand corn grinder and the hominy block, the horse back ride in summer and the log sled in winter. Into this environment, the pioneer woman journeyed across the Appalachians and brought her spinning wheel – her loom, she made after her arrival.
There were no sheep to give her wool for spinning and weaving, so she used buffalo wool and the fibre of the nettle for her first woven cloth; later she planted flax and at maturity, pulled, retted and broke its fibre and from that produced a fine and long lived linen. When it was woven into an uninteresting gray color, she went to Glen Helen and there obtained dyes which, in her hands, became beautiful colors for her cloth. The inner bark of the butternut produced a dark yellow; black walnut, a dark brown; white oak, a purple; cedar berries, lead color; elderberries, a light red; and pokeberries, a dark crimson. With these dyes she originated beautiful colors in striking combinations of beautiful ‘broken’ plaids’. Among these environments, our pioneer forebears wrought and built the paths of human progress that now lead up to the ‘stately towers of Antioch.’ “
Glen Helen, beautiful in summer, but more so when snow bound and ice clad, has ever been a generous guarantor of health and inspiration to Antioch’s men and women. They have loved its cliffs and dells, its birds, its native flowers and trees, and trod the paths across Kedron’s quiet waters into realms of romance, beyond which lie life’s engaging fields of duty.