Mount Victory today has established a reputation as a destination for antique and craft shopping, a charming walkable village with a historic business block where people come to shop, eat, train watch, enjoy a slower pace and friendly people. Annual events include the Village Park Easter Egg Hunt, Memorial Day Vintage Car Show, and the Antique Shop’s Christmas Open House. Mount Victory also include Ridgemont School, as well as 2 churches: The Methodist Church and The Church of Christ. The town also includes 4 eateries, The Belle Acre, Gopher Pizza, The Plaza Inn and the Mt. Victory Drive Thru. Mount Victory sits on the well traveled State Route 31 and is intersected by a main CRX rail line.
Other pioneers began to move into the area, but we will concentrate on the Dille brothers: Cyrus, Amos, Abraham, and Samuel. Cyrus came to the township in November, 1830, and bought land on which Mt. Victory was to be founded. He had 11 children, the firstborn being Ezra, who would later lay out the town of Mt. Victory. Samuel came here at the same time as Cyrus as a single man, returned home to marry, and lived in Hale Township for a short time. He later moved to Iowa. Abraham moved here in 1834 and stayed for the rest of his life which ended in 1883. Amos arrived here in 1884 but only stayed for a short time. In 1833, the county was growing and it was separated from Logan County to organize its own government. Kenton was chosen as the seat of the county and the first elections of county officials were held the same year. After all of this, the settlement of Hale Township proceded more rapidly.
Some early pioneers were: Daniel Baldwin 1835 Jonathan Marsh 1835 Thomas Dunson 1835 Harvey Buckminster 1838 He opened an inn along road to Grassy Point Abner Snoddy 1840 Thomas McCall 1840 Cleared 150 acres between Mt. Victory and Kenton Peter Marsh 1842 Moses Kennedy 1844 settled along Panther Creek Obediah Williams 1848 purchased a tract north of Rush Creek Others were Harrison Lake, Simon Schertzer, Christopher Richardson, John Richardson, Barnet Richardson, Uriah Baldwin, and C. Copp. The establishment of a business was understandably slow before towns were founded and roads were built. In this township, business consisted largely of the hotel near Grassy Point and two mills. Around 1838 to 1840, Moses Kennedy constructed a sawmill and later added a corn mill on Panther Creek, and in 1849, James Smith opened a mill along the South Branch of Panther Creek. As the population grew, the problem of a final resting place for the dead was solved by burying on the family farm.
In 1837, the Eddy Cemetery was started and many found this to be their burial place until the Dille Cemetery was started in 1841 on land belonging to Cyrus Dille. The town of Mt. Victory grew up around this tiny cemetery which is located behind Richard Foreman’s on East Marion Street. The town’s founder, Ezra Dille, is buried there as well as his father, Cyrus Dille Sr.
Another necessity, as the area attracted more settlers, was that of a school. The first one opened December 1, 1839, in a log cabin. Enos Baldwin was the teacher. In 1840 or 1841, a round log house was built where the old Mt. Victory Stockyards was located. The teacher was either John Elder or Enos Baldwin. Religious services took the form of church meetings held in the home of Lewis Andrews by a circuit preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1832 to 1842. In that year, services began to be held in the schoolhouse and remained there until churches were established in the villages of Ridgeway and Mt. Victory.
The years immediately following the entrance of Ohio into the Union on March 1, 1803, were relatively peaceful in what was to become the Mt. Victory Community. The land then belonged, by the Treaty of Greenville, to various Indian Tribes. They hunted the vast forest, fished the streams, cultivated small amounts of corn and practiced their religions, leaving the white man in his settlements to the south comparatively alone. The white man, with few exceptions, settled northward to the treaty line but honored the sanctity of Indian land. This land, however, was the seed of a future conflict with British traders. These traders were understandably less than friendly to the Americans. On orders from Fort Detroit, Indians were encouraged to harass the American settlements. It was through these traders that they obtained rifles, shot, and powder. They became allies to the British in Britain’s disputes with the Americans.
Finally, the British practice of impressing American sailors into the British Navy ended all negotiation and the U. S. declared war on Britain. Ohio’s population was now close to a quarter of a million and a sizable force was mustered in Cincinnati under General Hull, a respected veteran of the Revolution and now Governor of the Michigan Territory. He was to march on and take Fort Detroit. On this march, Hull passed through what was to become Hardin County and detached a Colonel Duncan MacArthur to build a fort to guard his route. This fort was built on the bank of the Scioto in Buck Township in 1812. Today, markers can be found show the location of both Fort MacArthur and Hull’s Trace. Hull succeeded in capturing Detroit, but surrendered it shortly thereafter. William Henry Harrison then led a second expedition through St. Marys and captured and held Detroit. With the Battle of Lake Erie, the war ended in the Ohio region.
At the close of the War of 1812, Fort MacArthur became a garrisoned outpost in the Indian Territory. The Indians had been crushed as a fighting force by the war and the death of Tecumseh, so the duty of the Fort was probably that of guarding a military road and offering refuge to travelers to Detroit. In 1817, at the head of the rapids of the Maumee River, a treaty was signed which ceded much of the land of Northwest Ohio to the government, and Hardin County became open to settlement. The county, however, as it had little white population, was attached to Logan County until such time as an increase in settlers warranted the establishment of a county seat. It was in the same year that the first white family came to the area. Alfred Hale, after whom this township was named, and his wife Mary located at Fort MacArthur and resided there until the death of Mary in 1824.
During that time, a son , Jonas, was born to them, the first white child born in the county. Hale, being a hunter, neither owned nor cultivated land. Relatives of Duncan MacArthur were the first real settlers in the County. They arrived in 1818, built a cabin and returned home to escort their families back to the homestead. Rumors of an Indian uprising kept them away for four years, but in 1822 they returned to become permanent residents of McDonald Township. The first settler in Hale Township was Levi D. Tharp, who built a cabin in the western part of the Township near Grassy Point in 1828. He owned no land, and after several years, he moved away. James Andrews was the first permanent landowning resident of the Township, locating here in October of 1829 at the age of 24. He cleared his farm and lived a long and fruitful life.
FOUNDING THE TOWN
In 1849 Cyrus Dille died and his eldest son, Ezra, had a town laid out on his father’s estate two years later. The land was to be sold at an administrator’s sale and Samuel McCullough, who had just laid out the village of Ridgeway, made an attempt to buy the land at the public sale and turn it into a pasture, thus preventing the formation of a competing village. Ezra Dille, however, succeeded in purchasing the property and on his return home was asked by Thomas McCall who had bought the land. When informed that Ezra had been able to procure it, Mr. McCall exclaimed “Victory, Victory–We shall name the town MOUNT VICTORY!” Thomas McCall was ‘Uncle Tommy’ to those who knew him and he is credited with naming the Village of Mt. Victory. He was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, December 10, 1810, the son of William and Elizabeth McCall.
Thomas married Judith Bloomfield, a native of Crawford County, Pennsylvania. In January, 1842, they settled in Hale Township. He lived in what is now listed as 20555 West Mansfield Road, CR 199. It was one of the first frame houses built in the mid 1800’s. William Bealer, a local cabinetmaker, helped to build this house. He told his grandsons, Clay and Cliff Bealer that when digging the basement, they unearthed skeletons of human remains believed to be the remains of the Mound Builders, the very first known settlers in Hale Township, Hardin County, Ohio. At the time of settlement, there was not a settler or improvement on the road from Mt. Victory to Kenton. The house had a trap door in the kitchen with a rug over it and a table setting on the rug and was used as a safe house for fugitive slaves making their way north on the underground railroad.
Thomas McCall helped to blaze the trail from Mt. Victory to Kenton. They cleared 150 acres of heavy forest in the area. A broad ax used in the clearing of this land is now owned by Ross Baird, great-great-grandson of Uncle Tommy McCall. He owned 311 acres of good land with the improvement of fences and buildings. Thomas was the father of 15 children with 8 surviving. They were Malissa, Lucindia, Susannah, Lewis B., William, Thomas Morris, Matilda Jane, and Solmon P. Chase. Susannah married James Clark Bird. Their children were: William Thomas, Lorena Lou, Granger Clinton, Chase L., and Bessie. Lucindia married a Bolen and had a daughter Iva Lou, who married Walter Baird, Grandfather of Ross Baird. Submitted by Daisy Bird Gillen and Evangeline Bealer.
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and the Secret Door – a true account by the late Evangeline Bealer
During the early days of the Underground Railroad, there were in excess of 3000 slaves transported through the Coffin network of safe houses in Cincinnati. The runaways were dispatched North to members of the Williams Family and to the anti-slavery movement . Many of these people followed the Shawnee Trail toward Pickrelltown and Bellefontaine. In Pickrelltown, they were met by Asa Williams, Manhon Pickrell, and Joshua Marmon. Other Quakers and sympathizers to the cause provided safe houses. Due to the secret nature of the mission, names are difficult to obtain. The home of Asa Williams was a safe house where fugitives stayed until their strength and health improved. His home had a secret wall in the basement which appeared to be a root cellar, but was actually a nice size room that could comfortably hold six people. Obadiah Williams, son of Henry and Nancy Williams, signed on work at the Pickrelltown Mill while quite young. One of his many duties when he was a teenager was to transport grain and supplies to the Cincinnati Market. His first visit to Cincinnati, he watched human beings sold on a common auction block. To his horror, he saw families torn apart and taken to different plantations. His compassion for their plight made an impression that endured a lifetime. When he returned home he related his story to his best friend and future bride, Sarah P. Williams, daughter of Asa and Elizabeth Branson Williams. He vowed that he would do anything in his power to end such brutality.
Soon after his trip to Cincinnati, a fugitive named Meshach, ‘Mose’, Moxley came to Pickrelltown. Obadiah and Mose became very close friends. Mose was an expert gunsmith and was considered a very valuable slave. Therefore, Mose was fearful for the safety of his wife and children. After much prayer and careful planning, it was agreed that Obadiah would go to Cincinnati with supplies and attempt to find the wife and children, purchase them, bring them back to Pickrelltown to a grateful Mose. Later, the Moxley Family moved to Bellefontaine and established a gun shop. There he maintained a good business and his guns are now highly prized collectables. Other slaves that were assisted through the Pickrelltown Station were the Mendenhalls. George C. Mendenhall, a plantation owner from North Carolina, sent 28 of his slaves to Asa Williams and Joshua Marmon under the protection of his field foreman, John White. The Deed of Emancipation of George C. Mendenhall was received and recorded July 2, 1885, by Jas Luster, Clerk, Logan County, Ohio. The deed was signed by witnesses: Asa Williams; Exaim Johnson; John White. By order of the deed, 28 people were freed and from that day forward, they should be called Mendenhall.
This activity continued into Hardin County:
Obadiah Williams, (1821 to 1905), Sarah Williams (1820 to 1902)
On November 6, 1845, Obadiah and Sarah were married and they had eight children: Thomas Clarkson; Genetta Harrison; one died in infancy; Esther Ann; Charles Stanton; Mary; Edward Elven; Lydia I. Together they continued to assist runaway slaves. Early in their marriage, they contrived a way to effectively answer the questions of federal agents, bounty hunters, and slave hunters without actually telling a lie. They agreed that anyone entering their home would be referred to as a ‘guest’. The young ‘conductors’ were dispatched to the Hardin County area for more efficient contact with the Old Sandusky Trail (Shawnee Trail). They purchased a tract of timberland 1 1/2 miles South of what is now Mt. Victory. The land deed dated August 2, 1848. Located on the north side of Rushcreek, a part of the Virginia Survey. The land was purchased from a soldier of the War of 1812, having been granted by President Martin Van Buren.
A temporary cabin was built about a quarter of a mile off of the Mud Pike now known as State Route 31. A new frame house was put in construction in front of the cabin. This house was equipped with a guest room where many ‘guests’ were respected for their courage and will for freedom. The new house is still occupied by a great great granddaughter, Joan Elliott Wagner, at 1948 Elliott Lane., State Route 31. The original cabin was torn down in the early 1930’s.
On one occasion, a family of fugitives had spent the night in the Guest Room. When morning came breakfast was prepared and was being eaten when Sarah glanced out the window and saw two finely dressed men on very fine horses approaching the house. With no time to waste, Obadiah walked out the door to greet the visitors and to care for their horses. He talked to them and answered their questions and told them his wife was preparing breakfast. Sarah cleared the kitchen of all evidence of the first breakfast while her guests settled down in the guest room. When the house resumed its peaceful order and breakfast was well on its way, Sarah went to the porch and motioned for everyone to come in to breakfast. Obadiah and the federal agents discussed plans for the day. They would search the forest and the banks of Rush Creek over to the next pike, now the West Mansfield Road. When the men were well out of sight, Sarah hitched the horses to a special wagon and then loaded her guests into its safety. Sarah made her way north toward the next safe house where a cabin stood. The site is now 361 South Main St., Mt. Victory. After securing the safety of her precious cargo, she returned home. She washed the bedding, cleaned the guest room, and began to prepare the evening meal. That night all was well and the federal agents slept in the same bed that the fugitive guests had slept in the night before. Many federal agents and slave hunters came to the Williams home. One agent was quoted as saying, ‘Obadiah Williams is the best slave hunter in the territory.’ However, not one fugitive was ever captured at his safe house. I really believe it was Sarah’s cooking that brought them back.
–by Evangeline Bealer, great great granddaughter of Obadiah Williams and town historian -/
ANCIENT BURIAL MOUNDS (Glacial Kame Culture)
Ancient Burial Mound and its Contents, Hardin County, Ohio
Letter Written by John B. Matson. M.D. to Judge John Barr, Cleveland, December 10, 1869
Dear Sir, –In the fall of 1856, in Hardin County, Ohio, near the Bellefontaine and Indiana Railway, between Mt. Victory and Ridgeway, I commenced removing a gravel bank for the purpose of ballasting a part of the above named railroad. I learned shortly after my arrival there, that the bank was an ancient burial ground. This information caused me to examine the ground, and note discoveries.
…The mound covered an area of one and a half acres; being covered with an orchard of apple trees, then in bearing…The mound was what I would call double; the larger and higher part to the west. About two-thirds of the mound was embraced in this part. The eastern part, presenting the appearance of a smaller hill having been pressed against the other, leaving a depression between them of three or four feet, below the highest point of the smaller and five or six feet below a corresponding point of the larger.
…On the north side of the eastern portion, under an oak tree stump (150 years old by growths) was the remains of the largest human bones I have ever seen. The joints of the vertebra seemed as large as those of a horse… I found in this part of the mound the remains of at least fifty children, under the age of eight years; some with two, others with four incisors; some with eight, and others with no teeth.
Source: Howland, H. G., Atlas of Hardin county, Ohio. Philadelphia,
R. Sutton & co., 1879, pg 323 / 324