Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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source:  Mansfield News, May 29, 1903


Submitted by Jean and Faye


History of Richland County

By A J. Baughman



Butler, in Worthington township, is a growing town of city like appearance. It is situated 19 miles south of Mansfield, by railroad measurement, and as a shipping town has but few equals for its size along the line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.

In 1848, when it became apparent that the Mansfield and Sandusky City railroad would be extended from Mansfield to Newark, and that its route would be down the Clearfork valley from Bellville six miles to the mouth of the Andrews' valley, thence up the same to Ankneytown, it seemed as though there should be a station at the bend where the valleys converge, and therefore, a town was platted on the northwest quarter of section 20, and called Independence, the name being suggested by the late Hon. Thomas B. Andrews in a spirit of defiance to the unfriendly attitude shown by Bellville towards the new village. Although the town was christened "Independence," it was locally called "Spohntown" for years, as Daniel Spohn had owned the land upon which the town was platted.

The railroad was built and in 1850 the steam whistle of locomotives shrieked shrilly along the valleys and echoed weirdly over the forest-covered hills; the trains came and went and Independence touched elbows with the world and shared in its commerce and its traffic, and the town grew and prospered. In time a post office was established with T. B. Andrews as postmaster, and then it was ascertained that there was a post office in Cuyahoga county called Independence, and that there could not be two offices of the same name in the same state, and then 'Squire Andrews suggested the name "Butler," in honor of Gen. William O. Butler, a Kentuckian, who had served with distinction in our war with Mexico, and later had been the candidate for vice president with Gen. Lewis Cass in the presidential campaign of 1848. Butler was the name given the post office, but the town remained "Independence" for the third of a century, and was then changed to Butler, to agree with that of the post office

The Spohn land upon which Butler is located was entered by William Simmons, May 13, 1820. The town was surveyed by Joseph Hastings, for whom Hastings' post office was named, and who lived many years in Pleasant valley, above Green Gables. After the war he removed to Hancock county, and is now deceased.

The first grocery store in Butler was conducted by William Lamley. The first shoemaker was Daniel Garber. The first carpenter was John Diltz. The cabinet maker was Daniel Loose. The first hotel was kept by Joseph Geary.

In 1850, Gen. G. A. Jones and others of Mt. Vernon, built a warehouse and store room, and bought and shipped grain and sold merchandise for a number of years, under the firm name of Robinson, Jones & Co., then as Robinson & Jones. The firm was succeeded by Pearce & Severens. Their building was destroyed by fire, but another Phoenix-like, was built upon the old site.

Perhaps no other town of its size in the state has such imposing rows of business rooms as can be seen at Butler, all occupied by enterprising firms with stocks of goods in their several lines, making Butler a desirable market in all departments of trade. The town also boasts of a bank and of several manufacturing plants.

The Spohns are entitled to a family sketch, for they were early settlers, exemplary people and the founders of Butler. Martin Spohn, Sr., was a Pennsylvanian by birth He was a Dunkard preacher, who according to the rules of his sect, worked for a livelihood instead of receiving a salary from his congregation. He located in Ohio in an early day and took what was called the "tomahawk right" to 160 acres of land. This "right" consisted in marking or "blazing" trees so as to encircle the land, for which after a specified time he was to pay the government a small price. his son, Daniel, was the founder of Butler. Martin Spohn, Jr., was born in Washington county, Pa., in 1804, came to Ohio when young and resided in Worthington township many years, dying at an advanced age. The older Spohns wore the Dunkard garb, and were hard-working, honorable men. Mrs. Sarah Bevington, of 456 West Fourth street, is a daughter of Martin Spohn, and the maiden name of the widow of the late Joseph M. Manner was Spohn.


Butler being situated in Worthington, which township adjoins Knox county, an incident in the history of the latter can be given here.

The first jury trial in Knox county was held in May, 1868, with Judge Wilson, of Licking county, on the bench. The case was the State of Ohio vs. William Hedrick. The charge was theft, and the trial resulted in Hedrick's conviction, and he was sentenced to fine, imprisonment and "forty lashes on the naked back." This was one of the few times in Ohio history wherein logging was officially given as a punishment for crime.  Norton states that the flogging was administered on the public square of Mr. Vernon, shortly after the sentence had been pronounced, in the presence of a large crowd of people.  Silas Brown was then sheriff of Knox county, and it was his duty to carry out the sentence of the court.  There was a small, leaning hickory tree upon the east side of the public square, and this tree bent in such a way that a man could walk under it.  To this the culprit was taken, and his hands stretched up over his head and tied to the tree, and the stripes were applied by the sheriff to his naked back.  He was struck forty times with a heavy, rawhide whip.  The first few blows were across the kidneys.  One of the bystanders called out to the sheriff to whip him elsewhere; that was no place to whip a man; he should strike higher up; and the rest of the lashes were applied across the shoulders.  The criminal sobbed and cried piteously, and when released went off weeping and groaning.  In many places the skin was cut and broken, and the blood oozed out, making a pitiable spectacle.  And yet, such was the feeling against him that few seemed to sympathize with him.  As he started to leave he said:  “You should not blame me for this, for it was not my fault.”  One of the spectators replied:  “No, you wouldn’t have stood up and been whipped that way, if you could have helped it.”  The crowd laughed at Hedrick’s explanation.


Thomas B. Andrews, Butler’s first postmaster, was a justice of the peace for many years and served two terms as county commissioner from 1845.  His brother, John E. Andrews, a soldier to the Civil war, was the father of Emerson Andrews, of Buckingham street, and Miss Luella Andrews, now a clerk at Maxwell’s

John Wilson, representative of an olden-time family, owns the Spohn farm adjoining the town, upon which he has built a fine, large residence.  John went overland to California in 1851, and upon his return to Butler erected some good buildings there, which added much to the town.  He served his county as a soldier in the war of the rebellion.  He is now leading a retired life, and goes well-dressed, as he did in the years gone by.  His wife is a daughter of the late ‘Squire Andrews.

Henry Greer, the blacksmith, was greatly admired by the young ladies at Pinhook in the years agone, and he was not adverse to their charms.  Upon Sunday’s and at social functions, Henry’s Mansfield tailor-made suits were in marked contrast with the home-spun clothes of the young farmers of the Mohawk and his flashy neckties made their hearts green with envy.  Henry likes to take an old friend by the hand and recall occasions and events of years that are past.  He is as fastidious and affable as of old.

Daniel Spayde, who is serving as a juror at this term of court, is a retired farmer, who was a soldier in the Civil war.  His company is much appreciated by his fellow jurors.

Dr. Hubbs was a printer before he read medicine, and that explains why he is such a “hale fellow well met.”  Doc is entitled to all the good things of life, and it is a pleasure to know that so many of them have come his way.

W. W Scott, an attorney at law, is a born gentleman and aims high in his profession

Frank S. Culp, who read law with Donnell & Marriott is now mayor of Butler.

Daniel D. Staufer, of Smoky run, is writing the history of an Indian tribe which in the long ago hunted game among the Butler hills.

Dr. Robert McLaughlin, decease, practiced medicine at Butler in his day, and was succeeded by his son, Dr. martin McLaughlin, who is now a practicing physician in Mansfield

John Newcomer has known Butler ever since it has been a town.  He is the assessor of the township.

George Topper’s grave, u the valley of the Wilson run, is the grave by the roadside of which a lady in Wooster recently wrote L. C. Mengert to inquire about the descendants of the man buried there.  Topper selected that spot for his burial place.  Some years after the interment, a road was located there, and the grave seems to be strangely out of place in such close proximity to a public road.

The stream of water that comes down the valley and empties into the Clearfork just below Butler, is now called Gold run.  Years ago John Wilson’s father had a saw-mill on this stream, near Butler, and Shields had a mill farther up the valley, and the run was called Wilson’s or Shield’s, according to the locality in which it was mentioned.

Up this valley is the Price farm, owned by James A. Price, of the Bellville Messenger.  Mr. Price also publishes the Butler Enterprise newspaper, which is now in its 15th volume.

Atch Craig, a former Butler boy, is now a newspaper publisher in Indiana.

The old Portage road crosses the Shields’ valley, but few people of today are familiar with its history.  Harter’s tavern, in Knox county, where the late Hon. M. D. Harter was born, was a tavern on this road.  But the road, its location and purpose will require another chapter.

The country around Butler is interesting in its topographical and geographical features.  Its valleys and hills form landscape pictures of entrancing beauty.  To such surroundings people are wont to become attached.  The distinctiveness of the locality become impressed upon the minds and the inhabitants in ways that a level county, with its sameness, cannot produce.  Pitiable, indeed, is he in whose nature there is nothing in common in the spirit of the woods, the valleys and the hills.

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