The town is born

Batavia Village will celebrate its bicentennial year in 2014, and this is the fifth in a series of historic vignettes. The late Rosanna Hoberg, author, was a columnist and reporter for The Clermont Sun. This column is adapted from an original that appeared in the Sun in observation of Batavia’s sesquicentennial celebration 50 years ago.

By Rosanna Hoberg

It was 1814 in the valley of the East Fork when George Ely, who had arrived sometime after 1806, decided that the settlers should bind together in a more tangible manner than the bonds of brotherhood.

On October 24, 1814, Ely and David C. Bryan, through John Collins, his attorney in fact, recorded the plat of the village of Batavia at Williamsburg Shire town, with streets, lots and alleys, embracing 62.5 acres. William Johnson had surveyed the land on May 17, 1788, and on March 18, 1790, President John Adams patented it to Thomas Paxton as the assignee of Captain Francis Minnis, who served several years on the Virginia Line in the Revolutionary War. In 1805, Paxton sold the land to General William Lytle, who founded the village.

The name Batavia, it is said, derived from Batavia, New York. The principal street was to be designated Main and was to be 4 poles wide and 100 poles long, running from the river to the foot of the hills; a pole is 15.5 feet. Other parallel streets were named Spring, Wood and Upper. The ground along the river was set aside for highway purposes, receiving the name of Water Street. The parallel streets were named Second, Market, Third, Fourth and North.

On Market Street, 144 square poles of land were set aside for the county buildings and public use. The remainder of the plat was laid off into lots 4 poles wide and 8 poles long. Eight lots constituted a square, and the entire number of lots in the original plat was 169.

On March 7, 1817, George Ely added lots of uniform size on the northeast, numbered 170 to 246. Several of the other streets were extended and New Street added. A second addition, six lots, was made on April 8, 1824. Lot 247, containing 100 square poles of land, was conveyed for the use of the Methodist Society.

In the following years, many settlers were added to the population of Batavia, attracted by the belief that the village would become the seat of justice of the new county, and when that matter was decided beyond peradventure in 1824, the future of the place was assured, although its growth has never been rapid or in any way remarkable.

It seems only fitting that Ezekiel Dimmitt, the first settler, should also erect the first public building in the town. On January 11, 1827, he agreed to furnish all the material, erect, finish, and complete the County Courthouse for $3,483. Mr. Dimmitt lost money, some $1,500, on his contract, as he did an honest job and more than filled the stipulations of his bid — too low for the splendid work he did for the county — but perhaps the his satisfaction from knowing that all this was an outgrowth of the little cabin he had erected 39 years earlier was enough compensation for his labor and efforts.

At the time the Courthouse was being built, Ben Hopkins decided that the square in front of the edifice looked entirely too bare, so he went to the East Fork, cut down a sapling of a sycamore tree and planted it in front of the new building. It stood there until well into the second half of the 20th century.

To Miley and Armstrong goes the distinction of putting up the first good business building house in 1817. It was a frame building, and it stood on the bank of the river, as it was then believed that Water Street would become the principal business street. In 1818 Abraham Miley occupied it for a store.

At this time the most populated street in the hamlet was Spring Street, because of the three fine springs situated there. This made it handy for the inhabitants who had to rely upon them for their water supply. It was here that the first child in Batavia was born, a little boy, in a one-room log house located at the corner of Second and Spring streets, later the site of the James Gregg residence and more recently a chiropractic office. The little boy was George Everhart, the son of Titus and Nancy Bryan Everhart.

Across the street, at the location of the former Victor Billingsley residence at 166 Spring, Eliza Ann Patterson Robinson was born on December 22, 1817. The first little girl born in Batavia, she was born to John and Mary Terry Robinson, who had come here from Wytheville, Virginia.

Soon after the birth of his daughter, Mr. Robinson moved across the street and started a hotel. It was a successful venture through necessity, since many lawyers found it necessary to stay in town to try cases at court, but the location was inconvenient, as a deep run, big enough to swim a horse, ran between the hotel and the Courthouse, clear across town, and emptied into the East Fork beyond Wood Street.

Because there was no bridge, the run caused quite a problem, so Mr. Robinson moved his business on the other side of the run and built another hotel in 1832, later the site of the Clermont Hotel (now Haglage Park). The original structure burned in 1899.

Excerpted from History of Batavia, Ohio, 1814–1965, by Rosanna Hoberg. Some references are modified to reflect 2013 circumstances.