Adams County, Ohio History
Sprigg Township was organized in 1806 and named in honor of Judge William Sprigg, one of the pioneer lawyers of Adams County, and afterwards a Judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio. Sprigg Township lies in the southwest corner of Adams County, bordering the Ohio River on the south and Huntington Township, Brown County on the west. It is in the blue limestone belt and its soil is mostly productive of corn, wheat and tobacco. Its surface is undulating, in places hilly, and it is well watered both from natural springs and with flowing rivulets and creeks.
In the northwest portion, Suck Run, a rapid, rough little stream flows to the west and enters Eagle Creek near Neel's Store, just over the Brown County line.
Rising in the northern portion and flowing to the southwest across it is Big Three Mile, the largest stream in the township. Little Three Mile rises near the center of the township and flows to the southwest into the Ohio River. Isaac Creek, named from the first settler on it, Isaac Edgington, takes its beginning near Bentonville and flows south into the Ohio to the west of Manchester. And Island Creek, a small stream named from the Three Islands at its mouth, forms a portion of the eastern boundary of this township, entering the Ohio River a short distance above Manchester.
The first settlers in what is now Sprigg Township were Isaac Edgington, George Edgington, William Leedom (son-in-law of George Edgington, who settled near Bentonville in 1796); Peter Connor and William Robinson, who kept a tavern on the old Zane Trace, settled on land purchased from Andrew Ellison near Bradyville the same year; and the "Dutch Settlement" on Dutch Run was made by Michael Roush, Philip Roush, John Bryan, Peter Pence, John Pence and George Cook in 1796. The Roush and Pence families lived in Manchester and raised a crop of corn on the Lower Island in 1795. Van S. Brady (a son of Captain Brady, the noted Indian scout), Joseph Beam, Peter Rankin, John Stivers, Samuel Sterritt, Daniel Henderson, John McColm, Ellis Palmer and Thomas Palmer were among the pioneers of this portion of Adams County.
The first mill constructed outside the Stockade at Manchester was Massie's Mill on Island Creek. Then Michael Roush built a horse-mill on Dutch Run. And later, what is known as Grimes' Mill on Little Three Mile, a tub mill propelled by water, was erected. This latter was rebuilt and made one of the best mills in the township for many years.
George Edgington, father-in-law of William Leedom, entertained travelers at his residence just south of Bentonville on Zane's Trace as early as 1797. Further down the trace below Bradyville, William Robinson opened a tavern about 1800. Joseph Beam kept a tavern near the Brown County line on the Tomlin farm; the Little Tavern, in later years, was near Bradyville; Ballard's Tavern was on the Thomas farm hear the Liberty township line, and the Brittingham Tavern was on the C.E. Hook farm.
The first church in what is now Sprigg Township was old Hopewell, which stood near the present site of Hopewell Cemetery and Schoolhouse. It was a log structure and was erected about the year 1810. Reverend Abbot Goddard, Reverend Robert Dobbins, and Reverent John Meek were the pioneer preachers at Hopewell. Reverend John Meek, in fine weather, would leave the church building and take his position in the "bull pen", as some irreverent wag termed it: a natural amphitheater in the grove near the church, where he would preach to the multitude assembled about him. This remarkable natural amphitheater is pointed out to the passerby to this day as the scene of the greatest religious revivals of pioneer days. The old log church was burned about the year 1840, and a new building was erected, but afterwards moved to the crossroads about a mile north from its former site. Dissentions arose in the church, and the building was sold and removed for use as a barn. The cemetery at old Hopewell is well kept, and is the resting place of many of the pioneers of Adams County.
Union Church, near Bentonville, was organized in 1830 by Reverend Alexander McClain, a celebrated "New Light" preacher for many years in Southern Ohio. There were but eight or ten members in the first organization, but the membership increased rapidly under Elder McClain's ministry, and the next year a brick church was erected. At the dedication of this church, Elijah Leedom and William Leedom were appointed deacons, and James Lang, clerk, which position he retained until his decease, when Barton S. Lang was appointed to fill the vacancy. Henry Hutson was appointed deacon to succeed William Leedom, removed, which position he held for over forty years. In 1854, the old brick building was replaced by the present frame structure, the lot occupied by the church and cemetery being at that time deeded to the organization by Asa and Mary Leedom, the consideration being "love and affection for the church".
In 1878, the organization was incorporated under the laws of Ohio, with Henry Hutson, Mahlon Wykoff, Aaron S. Wood, James Froman and William McKinley as trustees, and Elder J. P. Daugherty as chairman.
The Southern Ohio Christian Conference met at Union in 1895, Elder Garroutte, presiding.
The pastors since the days of Elder McClain have been Elder Mathew Gardner, Elder Garroutte, Melissa Timmons, C.W. Wait, William Pangburn, J.P. .Daugherty, B.F. Rapp, Naaman Dawson, G.W. Brittingham, A.J. Abbott, A.S. Henderson, T.J. Bowman, Rufus McDaniel, L.M. Shinkle, C.C. Lawwill and James Melvin.
This is the oldest organization of the Christian Church in Adams County, and a year older than Fellowship Church on Hickory Ridge, just over the Brown County line.
Elder McClain's influence is yet felt in this community. The older residents love to relate how, on a Sunday morning, he would enter the pulpit, lay aside his hat, then take off his coat and roll up his shirt sleeves, and preach one of those remarkable sermons that left an impression for life. He removed to the State of Illinois and died some years ago.
The officers of the church at present (1900) are Dr. John Gaskins, C.H. Thompson and Thomas Shipley, deacons; William Roush, James Froman and William Naylor, trustees; Mrs. H.A. Gaskins, treasurer; Isaiah Shipley, clerk, and Reverend James Melvin, pastor.
McColm's Chapel is situated on Cabin Creek Road, three miles west of Manchester, and was named for Mathew McColm, an old and esteemed citizen who deeded to the organization the lot on which the chapel stands. The organization is Methodist Protestant, and was formed in 1871.
Ravencraft's Chapel stands in the southwest portion of the township on the Manchester and Aberdeen Road. Methodist Protestant, formerly Furgeson's Chapel, Methodist Episcopal, the present house was erected in 1873.
The Brittingham Camp Ground, near Bentonville, location of the Brittingham Camp Meeting, was organized by the Reverend T.S. Arthur and his wife, of the Cincinnati Methodist Episcopal Conference. This meeting was held one year (1869) in the Wykoff grove west of Bentonville; and for thirteen years following at the Brittingham Camp Ground on the Maysville Pike, two miles south of Bentonville.
The first meeting had been long advertised, but when the time for it drew near, the weather was so dry and water so scarce that the directors thought it best to postpone or abandon the meeting; but Reverend Arthur called a meeting at the old Methodist Episcopal church in Bentonville the Sunday before the opening day of the camp meeting and announced that he was going to pray for rain. While all the indications were unfavorable for rain, before the people could get home, there came one of the greatest downpours seen for years. This gave Reverend Arthur and the camp meeting great popularity which lasted for years, hundreds of people coming from a distance to see the man who was looked upon as a worker of miracles.
In 1870, the camp ground was leased for ten years and afterward bought by a company from Joseph Brittingham. The directors of the company were Joseph Shrivers, John P. Bloomhuff, Henry Gaffin, Samuel B. Truitt, and William Simpson; M.A. Scott, secretary.
The meeting was conducted by the Reverends T.S. Arthur, Granville Moody, Fee and Marsh, during the time each was Presiding Elder.
Many other eminent divines took part in the meetings, and families from Manchester, Aberdeen, Ripley, Winchester, West Union and other places came and camped for ten days or two weeks in temporary building erected by the directors for that purpose.
The expenses of conducting the meetings were paid chiefly by charging an admission fee at the gate. When Colonel Moody was in charge, he ordered the directors not to collect money at the gate on Sunday, that being the decision of the Conference. As the company had been to so much expense, they moved the treasurer's office down the road a hundred yards from the entrance and collected there within hearing of Moody's powerful voice and everything was thus made satisfactory. The last meeting was held in 1883 when the grounds were sold to A.V. Hutson.
There have been several attempts to organize other camp meetings there since, but it seems that Elder Arthur and Colonel Moody did not leave their "mantles" as did Elijah of old, and the result so far has been a failure.
The Old Dutch Road led from Ellis' ferry, up Big Three Mile to Nauvoo, thence over the hill to the Cropper farm, then out the ridge to Jeptha Shelton's and Alfred Pence's, and to Hopewell Church.
Cabin Creek Road wound up Little Three Mile past Grimes' Mill, up the hill to Ginger Ridge, following the ridge for four miles past McColm's Chapel, crossing Manchester and Bradyville Pike at Lafe Lang's; thence out past Brookover's, crossing the pike at Roush's schoolhouse, thence to old Union Church.
Zane's Trace entered Sprigg Township at the Tomlin farm, following the ridge to Little's; thence over the hill to Three Mile Creek at Nathan Ellis'; thence up Three Mile to Bentonville.
In the autumn of 1867, Sanford Phillips, a notorious and dissolute character, about forty-five years of age, was murdered in broad daylight within a few rods of the old schoolhouse in the north part of Bentonville, while school was in session, and persons passing up and down the street; and yet the crime was not discovered until hours after it had been committed.
Phillips had gained control over Lydia Purdin, a young girl of seventeen years, daughter of a widow named Susan Purdin, and paid visits to her home when Mrs. Purdin and her son, a boy in his teens, were absent. But Lydia Purdin at heart despised Phillips, and on occasions bestowed her smiles upon a young man named Burbage, living in the vicinity. This so enraged Phillips, who was insanely jealous, that he at one time gave young Burbage a severe beating, and threatened vengeance on the entire Burbage family.
One December morning, Phillips rode into the village, hitched his horse at the Purdin residence, and entered the house. It is said that Mrs. Purdin and her son were not at home at the time, and that Lydia left the house about noon for an hour or more to call on a neighbor. In the middle of the afternoon, she came running from toward her home screaming "There is a man in the house with his head nearly cut off!" People soon began gathering around the house and found Phillips lying in a pool of blood, murdered. He had been struck two fatal blows with an axe, one with the blade across the forehead, and the other on his neck, thus half-severing the head from the body. He had seemingly been sitting in a chair when assaulted, and when discovered, had been dead for several hours.
Lydia Purdin was arrested for the crime, and although the circumstantial evidence was against her, yet popular feeling in the community was so bitter against Phillips that she was not convicted.
In the days of flatboating on the Ohio, the locality known as Clayton had an unsavory reputation. It was the headquarters of many river characters, and drinking, card-playing and cockfighting was their pastime while awaiting passage to New Orleans.
A pack-peddler, who made regular trips to this community, very mysteriously disappeared from town. As he had no fixed place of domicile known to the people, the matter of his sudden disappearance from the neighborhood was discussed and then almost completely forgotten, when a rough character named Goddard Pence displayed some laces and other artifacts, such as was carried by the peddler; and offered them in exchange for whiskey and tobacco at the little grocery store and saloon at Clayton. Suspicion at once pointed to him as having something to do with the peddler's disappearance. Pence was watched, and was seen to go to a hollow tree and take from it other artifacts as the peddler had upon his person. Pence was not arrested but a search was made for the body of the peddler, from which search a body was never recovered. Another character named Bill Cook was suspected of having some hand in the affair, in which afterward he said that he had been "playing drunk" and watched Pence burn the body of a man in an old cabin on the old Pence farm. After some investigation by the local authorities, the matter was dropped for good, and Goddard Pence (whether guilty or innocent), lived to be a very old man, dying a few years ago in the Brown County infirmary. He was gray and stooped, suffering with rheumatism and the infirmities of old age. He had been a most powerful man: over six feet tall, raw-boned and muscular, and with a "fist like a maul". Few men were his match in a fight. It is a tradition that he and old Aaron Bowman cradled, bound and shocked ten acres of wheat in one day, and drank two gallons of whiskey while doing it.
In 1839, there was living in Sprigg Township a man named Lemuel Glascock, who belonged to the class of rowdies that infested the vicinity of Clayton. He married a daughter of Samuel Swearengen with whom he lived a stormy life. Nathan Bowman, a well-to-do farmer living just over the Brown County line in the Early neighborhood, was a brother-in-law to Glascock, they having married sisters. At a log-rolling some time previous to the killing of Bowman, he and Glascock had fought over some trivial affair as was the custom in those days, and Bowman in the contest had gouged out one of Glascock's eyes, although Bowman claimed it was accidental, that Glascock had fallen upon Bowman's thumb in the struggle, and that Glascock bit away a portion of Bowman's lip. Ever after this affair, Glascock (when drinking) would threaten to take Bowman's life, yet at other times they were apparently on good terms.
In June 1839, Bowman went to Glascock's to get him to repair a grain cradle for him as wheat harvest was near at hand. While there, he and Glascock procured a jug of whiskey from one of the Croppers who kept it for sale, and while under its influence renewed their old grudge. Bowman, instead of returning home, stayed at Glascock's for the night. He was given a bed on the floor, and in the night was attacked by Glascock with a large bowie knife and stabbed in the bowels, his entrails protruding through the wounds.
Bowman's cries aroused Perry Connolly, a little timid shoemaker living near, who feared Glascock would kill him if he interfered. Finally assistance came and Doctor Hubbard, after examination, pronounced Bowman's wounds fatal. Joseph Darlinton and Thomas McCauslin, of West Union, were sent for to take the dying statement of Bowman before Squire Connor, of Sprigg Township. He lived until the next day.
Glascock fled the country. A reward of $300 was offered by Bowman's widow and relatives for his apprehension and return. Glascock was found and agreed to return for trial without further delay if one hundred dollars of the reward monies were given to him. This was agreed to, and he took that amount and employed the Honorable Thomas Hamer, of Georgetown, to defend him. He was sentenced to the Ohio Penitentiary for life, but after the lapse of a few years was pardoned out. He went West and died some years ago.
Ellis Palmer, a pioneer of Adams County, came from Pennsylvania to Limestone KY about 1790. He and John Gunsaulus, or as he was called, and the name so written in many of the old land and road surveys of Adams County, "King Sawley", were noted hunters. They spent most of their time hunting in the region including what is now Adams and Brown Counties, before any permanent settlements were made there. Both were active, strong men, and loved the chase as well as any Indian. They never owned any lands but "squatted" on choice spots near the haunts of the bear and deer. Palmer, when a lad, had seen an elder brother of his cruelly scalped by the savages, and when he grew large enough to handle a rifle, he pushed to the frontier to seek revenge and many a red man has passed to the "happy hunting grounds" through the unerring aim of his rifle. It is related that after peace had been declared, and the whites were beginning to rear their cabins on the north bank of the Ohio, an Indian came to the vicinity of Ellis's Lick, named for Palmer, and he, learning of the presence of the Indian, lay in wait for him and killed him with his rifle. Descendants of Palmer and Gunsaulus are scattered throughout Adams and Brown Counties.
Bentonville was laid out by Joseph Leedom in 1839, and named for Senator Thomas Benton, of Missouri. It is the largest village in the township, with a population (1900) of about 250.
Bradysville is a small village of perhaps 75 inhabitants and was named for its founder, Van S. Brady, who laid out a few lots there in 1839.
Benton Special District was established in 1871. There is a two-story frame building, in poor condition, standing on a bare, neglected lot at the south of the village. There are four rooms, and at one time this school was the pride of the village. The first superintendent was Judge Isaac N. Tolle. The present enrollment is 56 males and 41 females.
From A HISTORY OF ADAMS COUNTY, OHIO
from its earliest settlement to the present time including character sketches of the prominent persons identified with the first century of the county's growth and containing numerous engravings and illustrations
Nelson W. Evans and Emmons B. Stivers [1900, West Union OH]