Ross Township History

This Township was organized in 1803, forming one of the original subdivisions of the county. Until 1811, it embraced all of the territory now contained in Morgan Township, as well as its present territory. The Township as now constituted contains 19,496 acres. In 1820, its population was sixteen hundred and sixty-five; in 1830, seventeen hundred and forty-five; in 1890, fourteen hundred and fifty, and in 1900, thirteen hundred and thirty-eight.

The first settlers of Ross Township were the Butterfields, Mitchells, Parkinsons, Dunns, Smiths, Joneses, McCloskeys, Shaws, Willeys, Williamses, Andrews, Andersons and Mooreheads.

The Township is generally rolling and is well adapted to farming. Indian Creek is the principal stream, which flows diagonally across the Township from the northwest to the southeast. Other streams of less importance are Ziegller’s Run, Dry Run and Paddy’s Run. The soil along these streams is very fertile. Originally, Ross Township was covered by a very dense growth of timber, and wild game of every sort abounded. The most prominent of the early roads was the Trace Road, leading from the Miami River over the Layhigh Ridge to St. Charles and to the northwest. It followed about the same route of the present highway from Venice to Layhigh. The Lawrenceburg and Columbus, or State Road, leading from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, to Columbus, Ohio, was a principal thoroughfare. The early roads usually followed the ridges so as to prevent cuts – a plan often employed to great advantage by the early surveyors in locating highways through a new country.

A leading industry in the early days of the Township was distilling. Many fine farms were paid for with money made in manufacturing whiskey. About 1810 two men by the name of Sayres and Avery, of Cincinnati, erected a still house in Section 10. In 1815, Matthew Timberman ran a distillery near where the late Andrew Timberman resided. The product was hauled to Cincinnati in four and six-horse wagons and marketed. From 1820 to 1840, James Comstock carried on distilling on Dry Run. From 1818 to 1845, Joseph Van Horn had a still house in Millville. There were numerous other establishments scattered throughout the Township.

About 1805, two important mills were built in Ross Township, - Dick’s mill, near Venice, and Van Horn’s mill at Millville. The first mill at Dick’s was of round hickory logs and contained what was known as a corn-cracker for the grinding machinery. This mill was constructed by Jacob Hyde. 

About 1812, Samuel Dick, Sr., and his son George erected a frame mill forty by forty feet and three stories high. This was displaced in 1848 by a new frame building of the same dimensions. There have been many changes in the mill since it was built at this site a century ago. The mill, which was in active operation until a few years ago, had been in possession of the Dick family since 1812. Dick’s mills was a post office from January 15, 1819 to July 3, 1834. On that date, the office was removed to Venice and was called Ross. The original ford of the Miami River was at Dick’s mills. After the covered bridge was erected across the Miami River near Venice in 1830, Dick’s ford ceased to be except for very ordinary purposes.

The principal centers of population in Ross Township are at Venice and Millville. The latter lies also partly in Hanover Township.

Venice was laid out by Dr. Benjamin Clark on February 1, 1817. The name given the place by its founder was “Venus” because of its pleasant situation and beautiful surroundings. The original plat included only that part of the village lying west of the Trace Road leading to Layhigh. Subsequently, additions have been made by various men at different times. Among the early business men of Venice were James Comstock, who kept a general store, William Huxford, a blacksmith, and Dr. John Woods, who practiced medicine and conducted a tavern. Later Enoch Vaughn kept store and Thomas Joyce conducted a blacksmith shop. In 1830, Jonathan Kilbourn engaged in the general merchandise business. He was an influential man and represented the Butler District in the State Senate about 1850. The town now supports a good hotel, two stores, two blacksmith shops, a steam gristmill, a printing office, and other lines of trade. The Venice Graphic, a weekly independent newspaper, is published by L. Demoret and has an extensive circulation.      

The first school house was built about 1814. The house, built of hackberry logs, twenty by twenty feet, with puncheon floor, stone fire-place, board door with wooden hinges, writing desks made by placing long boards on slanting pins put in the logs, slab seats, windows that extended the whole length of the house, and other fixtures in common with early educational institutions. It was destroyed by fire after a few years, and, for a time, school was held in a log cabin that had been used for a residence. 

In 1825, a second school house was built. It was a one-story brick with raised floors on each side and was considered a model in its day. It was twenty-five by thirty feet, four windows on each side and one in the front and was provided with two large fire-places. School was held in this house until 1850, when a new house was erected on a lot in the rear of the old building. It was a one-story structure of two rooms, thirty by forty-five feet. The third building, just described, was in use until 1875, when the Union schoolhouse was built. This building was erected by the joint action of the two sub-districts and is located just north of town. It was made an independent high school with Samuel McClelland, a graduate of Miami University, as its first principal. Others who have subsequently taught here as principals were a Mr. Dayton, Alfred Joice, S. A. Gossett, William Crecraft and Guy S. Dennison.

The Venice Presbyterian Church was organized in 1828. It was an outgrowth of the Bethel Church near Millville. It was originally connected with the Cincinnati Presbytery. Subsequently, it became connected with the Oxford Presbytery, and after the union of the two Presbyterian bodies, it was added to the Dayton Presbytery. In 1874, it was again connected with the Cincinnati Presbytery. The present church edifice was erected in 1856.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1826. The first services were held in the schoolhouse. In 1831, services were held by permission in the Presbyterian Church. In 1832, a church building was erected, which continued in use until 1865, when the present church was completed. The charge was originally connected with the Oxford Circuit, but in 1837 it was attached to the New Haven circuit, and in 1846 the name was changed to that of Venice, which name it still bears. There are four appointments at this time, as follows: Venice, New Haven, Okeana and Washington.

Millville was founded by Joseph Van Horn in 1815, who erected a grist mill here some ten years earlier; thence the origin of the name “Millville,” given the village. Indian Creek divides the village, the two parts being connected by a covered bridge which was erected in 1849. The western side, situated on a hill that slopes gradually toward the creek, is the business part of town. Here is located the post office, hotel, store, blacksmith shop and town hall. The eastern side of the village is level, and has the greater part of the population. The town has a population of about two hundred.

Among the first settlers were Joel Williams, George Thomas, William Van Horn, H. R. Coleman, Samuel Proud, David Monfort, Daniel Brosier and others.

The Van Horn mill was built in 1805, by Joel Williams, a millwright from the East, for Joseph Van Horn. The stone used in its construction were hauled from Bank Lick, a stream in Hamilton County. In 1821, the mill was purchased by William Cochran and has remained in possession of the Cochran family ever since. The old mill has not been in operation for several years but is in a fair state of preservation.

The first post office, which was established in 1817, was kept in a log house that stood near the site of the old Ender Hotel. The early mail route had offices at Dick’s mill, Millville, Scipio (or Philanthropy).

From 1825 to 1860, the taverns, of which there were several located here, did a thriving business. Among the tavern keepers were William Hill, M. J. Millspaugh, Jacob Hasler, Frederick Zillyox, Joseph Van Ausdall and George Ender. The first blacksmith was William Ray. Others who worked here later were Henry Gallaway, Michael Emerick, Jacob Fillhardt, Frederic Zillyox and Henry Garner.

The first store was established as early as 1819 by Eliakim Ross. In 1825, Henry C. Coleman was engaged in business here and in 1830 John and Thomas Hanna were merchants here. In 1838, John M. Cochran kept store. Those later engaged were Elias Kumler, A. T. Carnahan, Nelson Urmston, John W. Meeker and William Brundridge. During recent years, the principal store and the post office have been kept by John McCloskey.

The first school house in Millville was built on logs and stood on the present site of the Presbyterian Church. This house was here in 1825. A year or two afterward a brick building was erected and was in use until 1872 when the building and lot were sold to the Presbyterians. They made extensive alterations and have since used it for church purposes. The present commodious public school building was erected in 1872. From 1858 to 1870, a high school was carried on at Millville by a corporation of stockholders. The company owned its own school building and all of the higher branches of education were taught, preparatory for college. Prof. D. P. Nelson was the first principal.

Mt. Zion Lutheran Church was built in 1853. It is an offshoot of the Samuel Zeigler Lutheran Church in Hanover Township founded in 1815. In 1842, a division occurred in the old church over some differences regarding their creed, and it was the remaining worshipers that formed Mt. Zion Church.

The German Reformed Millville Church was originally one of the branches of the Samuel Ziegler Lutheran congregation that suffered a division in 1842. The church is in a prosperous condition and regular services are conducted.

The United Brethren Church, established in 1822, was at one time the most important church in Ross Township. Its present place of worship was erected in 1851. In recent years, the congregation has not been as prosperous as formerly.

[Information from “Centennial History of Butler County, Ohio” (1905) page 344]

An earlier and more detailed information about Ross Township can be found in the “History of Butler County, Ohio 1882.” A good source for information is also at the Butler County Historical Society, 327 North Second Street, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, (896-9930) or by contacting them at  

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