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The History of Harrison Township 

FIRST SETTLERS IN THE AREA
The first two families to live in the area were Rev. Thaddeus Bennett and family, and his son, Rev. Joseph Bennett and family.

Thaddeus Bennett and his son, Joseph Bennett, lived in New York in the early 1800's.  Thaddeus Bennett was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  Joseph Bennett was a veteran of the War of 1812. (1)  Around 1814,  the two men decided they wanted a different life in the Northwest Territory.

Thaddeus, age 56, and Joseph, age 22, built a raft, and set out on the Olean River to begin their new life.  They headed toward the Allegheny River.  Continuing south, the men finally reached the Ohio River.  The Bennett families continued down the Ohio River until they arrived at  the mouth of the Little Scioto River.  They settled in the area we now know as Sciotoville.

The area was heavily timbered and quite swampy at the time.  The men were also aware that Shawnee Indians lived in the area, but they decided they would face the rigors of the frontier and build a cabin for their families.  After a short time, the swampy area proved to be too much for the families to face.  Insects and the rising river won, and the families decided to seek higher ground.  After all, they had their choice of any land in the vast wilderness. (2)

The Bennetts found higher ground in the area we now know as Minford.

Another of Thaddeus' sons, Benjamin Bentley Bennett, began his journey to Ohio in 1817.    Benjamin had served in the War of 1812 as a private.  He was honorably discharged at Ft. George, Upper Canada, on December 19 or 20, 1813.  Benjamin, age 29, gathered his family, and traveled by covered wagon to the head of the Alleghany River.  Once there, he sawed lumber and built cabins on rafts so his family would have a warm place to stay during the winter months.  In the spring of 1818, the family continued their journey to Ohio.  Benjamin and his family arrived at the mouth of the Little Scioto River on April 27, 1818.

According to U.S. Military Land Records, on June 4, 1819, Thaddeus, Joseph, and Benjamin Bentley Bennett claimed 640 acres of land in the area we now know as Minford.  The records can be located in Volume 2 of the Tract Book and Entries - Congress Lands- 22 Ranges & U.S. Military Lands, Auditor of the State of Ohio.  The acreage was divided as follows:

Thaddeus Bennett - Range 20, Township 4, Section 8, Part of Section:  South Half, 320 acres.

Joseph Bennett - Range 20, Township 4, Section 8, Part of Section:  Northwest Quarter, 160 acres.

Benjamin B. Bennett - Range 20, Township 4, Section 8, Part of Section:  Northeast Quarter, 160 acres.  The record states that at the time of sale Benjamin B. Bennett was a resident of Pike County. 
 

Around 1820, the families built an 8-room double log house with a covered opening between.  According to written historical records left by Henry Clay Lantz (grandson of Joseph Bennett), the cabin stood on the east side of the road just south of what is now Minford.  Mr. Lantz recalled visiting the cabin when he was a boy.  Mr. Lantz's records state that the cabin was torn down by John Violet, Sr. in 1875. (3)

Click here to see the families of Thaddeus Bennett, and Joseph Bennett.


OTHER SETTLERS JOIN THE BENNETTS

Other families began arriving in the area, and it was decided that the area should become a separate township as part of Scioto County.  The new township needed a name.  Joseph Bennett suggested that the township be named after his friend, General William Henry Harrison.  General Harrison and Joseph Bennett became acquainted when they served together in the War of 1812.  General Harrison often stayed with the Bennett families while visiting the area.

In 1823 the first business came to the area.  Peter Lagore started a blacksmith shop.  Later, the village boasted of its three general stores, a blacksmith shop, a funeral home, a harness shop, and an apiary (a place where bees are kept).

The first post office in the area was called Rockwells.  It was run by Ephriam Rockwell.  The Rockwell post office was in operation from December 28, 1825 to August 12, 1828 when its name was changed to the Scioto post office.  Click here to see the history of the post offices in the area.  (At one time, the township had three post offices.) 


HARRISON TOWNSHIP IS FORMED

At a meeting of the Scioto County Commissioners, Harrison Township was created on March 6, 1832. (4)  The township was formed from Union and Upper Townships in Scioto County.

The first township election was held at the home of Daniel White on the first Monday of May, 1832.  The first township officers were:   Abner Wood, Treasurer; Abijah Batterson, Clerk; Thomas Hatch, Daniel White and Sylvanus Shumway, trustees;  George Scott and R.T. Collins, Constables;  T.R. Wood and Luther Wheeler, Justices. (2)


THADDEUS BENNETT PASSES AWAY

On February 9, 1834, just two years after Harrison Township was formed, Thaddeus Bennett died.  He was buried "on the old Ketter place between Sciotoville and Swicker Hill Road." (5)  In 1926, the Bennett heirs had his remains moved to the old family burial lot in Minford.  There is a discrepancy on the dates fo Thaddeus' birth and death.  Thaddeus Bennett wrote in his family bible that he was born on May 9, 1760.  His tombstone says his birthdate was February 28, 1764.  Family records show that Thaddeus died on February 9, 1834, but his tombstone says his death date was January January 8, 1834.


Thaddeus Bennett's War Marker 
The marker in front is a tombstone marker.


General William Henry Harrison visited the area again in 1836.

In 1837, Joseph Bennett laid out a town on the land surrounding his home.  He gave a building site to anyone who would guarantee to build a home in the settlement.  Joseph named the town Harrisonville, after his friend, General Harrison.  However, it would be 22 more years before the  town of Harrisonville would become "official."   The town had not been platted in Scioto County records.

The first church known to be organized in Harrisonville was the Harrisonville Methodist Church organized in 1837.  The first services were held in a log church at the northern end of the town.

In 1840, General Harrison was nominated by the Whigs to run for President of the United States.  Joseph Bennett campaigned in the area for General Harrison.  President Harrison was inaugurated in February of 1841.  However, he caught a cold soon after being inaugurated.  The cold turned into pneumonia, and on April 4, 1841, President Harrison died in office.

In 1840, there were 687 people living in Harrison Township--355 white males, 326 white females, 4 free black males and 2 free black females. (6)  Click here to see the heads of households living in Harrison Township.

In 1850, the population of Harrison Township had grown to 1,102--557 white males, 545 white females.

In 1856 the Harrisonville Methodist church was sold.  Rev. Sheldon Parker and trustees James R. Taylor, William Slattery, J.M. Violet, John Crull and Stewart Richardson took on the task of building a new church.  The new Harrisonville Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in May of 1858.  Services were held at Glade FreeWill Baptist Church until the building was completed in 1872.  The lot for the new building was donated by J.Q. Shumway.  The structure was built by early church members Purdy, Samson, and McKinney.  The church was believed to be located near the old Pfleger General Store. 
 


THE TOWN OF HARRISONVILLE IS FORMED

As more people came to Harrison Township, more businesses were established in the area.  Joseph Bennett and other town members wanted to establish a town in Harrison Township.  The town site was surveyed on May 24, 1859, by Deputy County Surveyor Frank C. Gibbs.  Harrisonville became official on August 22, 1859, when Mr. Gibbs recorded the survey in Portsmouth.  Local history has shown that the town was previously platted by Moses Gregory, but no record was ever made of the plat.


THE HARRISONVILLE REUNION

The Harrisonville Reunion was one of the biggest events in all of Scioto County.  The Harrisonville Reunion has a history going back to the end of the Civil War in 1865.  Town residents were happy that the war had ended.  At their July 4, 1865, celebration, they decided to honor Civil War veterans from Scioto and Pike Counties at a picnic to be held later in the summer.  Organizers of the event were:  Abram F. Miller, Thomas Dugan, and John L. Ward.

The picnic took place on August 17, 1865 at Dugan's Grove.  Over 5,000 people attended the picnic.  Banners flew, bands played, and food was abundant.  Colonel T.W. Higgins and General Robert Schenk spoke to the crowd.  The Honorable Eli Glover gave the closing speech.

The annual reunion was held at Dugan's Grove until 1880 when the celebration was moved to Harrisonville.  People came from all around in horse-drawn buggies and carriages.  It was estimated that 5,000 to 7,000 people attended these great reunions for the soldiers.  The reunions had balloon ascentions, baseball games, picnics, speakers, and other attractions.   For years the celebration was known as "the 17th of August."

In the August 17, 1900 edition of The Daily Times, p. 1, an article described plans for the upcoming reunion.  "Every rig and spare cab in the city have been engaged and the pike from here out will be black with vehicles and people a foot."

The reunions started to fizzle between 1915 and 1920.  People complained that the reunions were too commercialized and the patriotic feeling for the veterans was fading.  

Click here for newspaper accounts of the Harrisonville Reunion.


JOSEPH BENNETT PASSES AWAY

Joseph Bennett died on April 30, 1868.  He was 73 years old.  He died in Greenup County, Kentucky, to where most of his immediate family had gravitated.

Joseph's sons Thaddeus, Frank, and William Parmoley moved to Greenup County.  There is a covered bridge on the Tygart River in Greenup County named Bennett's Mill.  At one time there was a corn and wheat mill close to the bridge that was owned by the sons of Joseph Bennett.

 Joseph is buried in Lindsey Cemetery beside the local Grange Hall.  His father, wife, and daughter are also buried there.


THE "NEW CHURCH" IS CONSTRUCTED

In 1875, the Harrison Free Will Baptist Church (also known as New Church) was constructed on its present site in 1875.  It was originally shared by the United Bretheren and the Free Will Baptist on alternate Sundays.  The group joined and were nicknamed the "New Church." (7)


THE FIRST SCHOOL

Harrisonville had a special school district in 1878.  The school district directors were:  W.J. Crull, C.M. Coburn, and J.C. Clark.  The only teacher was William H. Bradford.

In 1883 the school district directors were J.B. Ray, W.J. Minford, and R.H. Coburn.  Bertha Coburn taught at the school at that time for a salary of $35 per month for the seven month term. (5)

Mr. Henry Clay Lantz taught at the Mount Carmel School in Madison Township in 1884.  It was his second year of teaching when three of his pupils were Mrs. Susie Allen, Mrs. Nancy Woddell, and Miss Lizzie Kronk.  Mr. Kronk's first year of teaching was at Hardscrabble School.  His teaching career lasted for 25 years.  Following his teaching career he owned and operated several grocery stores.

Two of Mr. Kronk's students mentioned above also became teachers--Mrs. Woddell and Miss Kronk.  Mrs. Allen married a school teacher.  Miss Kronk also served as a missionary in Tennessee.


HARRISONVILLE PROSPERS

By 1880, the population of Harrison Township had grown to 1,325.

Lodges

Lodges played a big part in the community of Harrisonville.  Ives Lodge Knight of Phythias started in 1890.  Soon after it was organized, a large two-story hall was built at a cost of $1,800 including fixtures.

Scioto Post GAR was established in 1880.

Lois Camp Sons of Veterans was organized in 1880.  They enjoyed second rank in the state of Ohio.


THE RAILROAD COMES TO TOWN

The area continued to grow and prosper as the Chesapeake and Ohio  Northern Railroad laid track through the town in 1916.  It was the C&O Railroad line that forced the name change from Harrisonville to Minford.


HARRISONVILLE CHANGES ITS NAME TO MINFORD

There was another town called Harrisonville on the C&O Railroad line.  Railroad officials wanted to simplify matters, so they asked local resident Frank R. Minford if he thought the village would mind changing its name.  Frank R. Minford was friends with one of the C&O Railroad attorneys.

Several names were suggested for the town--Harrison, Bennettville, and Minford.  In honor of Frank R. Minford, (a local blacksmith) the town's name was changed to Minford on August 17, 1917.  Frank R. Minford was the son of William J. Minford who immigrated to the area from County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1846.  William, his mother, brother Robert, and sister Agnes first arrived in New York before traveling to Ohio.  William was the owner of a successful blacksmith business in the area.  He taught his trade to his son, Frank, who took over the business when his father passed away.

Frank R. Minford was born to William J. Minford and Sarah Elizabeth Lyons Minford on May 9, 1866, in Harrisonville.  When Frank was 21 years old, he married Lizza Munn.  They had a son named William.  Lizza died in 1890, and Frank remarried on August 4, 1895.  His second wife was Lizze Gaston.  Together Frank and Lizzie Gaston Minford had five children:  Homer, Gertrude, Gladys, Ada, and Kathleen.  Gladys Minford worked in the cafeteria of the old Minford High School until her retirement.

Frank R. Minford died in 1942.  He is buried in Bennett Cemetery in Minford. 
  
  

Memorial marker for William J. Minford, father of Frank R. Minford for whom the village is named.

The Minford Family burial plot.



  
  
  
 

 

Left:  Frank R. Minford 
Right:  Frank's daughter, Gladys Minford.  Gladys was the last surviving member of the Minford family.


REFERENCES

(1) The Portsmouth Area Recognition Society, "The History of Scioto County," Taylor Publishing, Dallas, Texas, 1986.

(2)  Ibid.

(3)  N. Gampp, Bennett/Bentley Families, The Portsmouth Public Library, Gen 929.2, July 4, 1941.

(4) Ralston, Richard, Pioneer Traces Minford History, The Portsmouth Times, January 26, 1978, p. 1.

(5)  N. Gampp, p. 2.

(6)  U.S. Census Microfilm located at the Portsmouth Public Library, 1840, Scioto County.

(7) Church History, located on the Internet.

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