A sermon and a letter

Batavia will celebrate its bicentennial year in 2014, and The Clermont Sun is publishing a series of historic vignettes. The late Rosanna Hoberg, author, was a columnist and reporter for The Clermont Sun. This column was written in 1964.

By Rosanna Hoberg

The first settlers of Batavia were members of the Methodist Church. The Dimmitts themselves would walk 12 miles to attend church at Milford, going through dense woods, following a narrow path. In 1807 a church organized here, holding classes at the home.

A camp meeting gathered near the house of Ezekiel Dimmitt in the fall of 1815. It was the first in this part of the county, and it caused a great deal of interest in the cause of religion. In the fall of 1817, congregants took the initiatory steps for building a meeting house. Some stones were drawn to the site selected, now the home of Spencer Faxon at North Riverside Drive and Wood Street, and money collected to rear the walls, Ezekiel Dimmitt being the builder.

Three years elapsed before the building was finished, and in the meantime services were held in the unfinished church. The congregation found seats on the joists before the floor was laid. Upon completion, there were galleries on the sides and at the north end, and the preacher ascended a large high pulpit to proclaim the Word of God. In this venerable house preached and labored many of the sainted fathers of Methodism in the West.

The Presbyterians also held meetings, led by occasional ministers sent hither as missionaries by the Presbytery, and so much interest awakened that a society organized on Saturday, Dec. 19, 1829. The building of a frame Meeting House (later the location of Henning Trucking and now part of the Creager Tire property) on Market Street was begun the next year. At the end of the first year, there were 30 members, and at the close of the second, the number had increased to 51. Dr. Lyman Beecher and Professor Stowe from the Lane Seminary held occasional services.

On one occasion, Henry Ward Beecher, then an ungainly and awkward youth attending Lane Seminary, was persuaded to occupy the pulpit on a Saturday night. He reluctantly consented, and the church was lit up, the bell was rung, and the people were called in (who were not unwilling guests in those days). These were the people to who this great man preached his first sermon.

Thus, in a period of 46 years (1796-1842) the wilderness in the valley of the East Fork changed from the lonely location of the cabin of the Dimmitt family to the incorporated village of Batavia, waiting to be the setting for the many men, women and children yet to come, who would stay a while, carve out a niche, some great, some small, then pass on, making room for future generations.

During the period of the 1840s, the life of the good people of Batavia (as was the rest of the new country) was most greatly affected by events taking place far away from the valley. The annexation of Texas, claimed by both the United States and Mexico, led to the War with Mexico, and as is the way with wars, it laid its fingers on even the smallest hamlet in the land, and Batavia was no exception.

In June, 1847, a regiment was called for from Ohio. In five days, 60 Clermont boys enlisted. Company C, Second Ohio Regiment of Volunteers, was made up mainly of Batavia boys, the oldest barely 21 years old.

A most interesting book (Mr. Donald Jamieson possessed the original manuscript in 1964) about the experiences of this Company for one year was written by Lt. Milton Jamieson and published in 1849. Lt. Jamieson wrote:

“About 9 a.m. on September 1, 1847, the Company was formed in front of the Court House, which we used for our barracks, and headed by the Batavia Band, we marched down Main Street and halted on the covered bridge, and when we started again, everybody gave us three times three hearty cheers, which we returned as heartily. All were in the finest state of feeling and continued so throughout the day. The Company stopped for a short time in Newtown, where the officers treated us to ‘Mineral Water.’ It was not hard to take on that warm day, The Company was bivouacked at Cincinnati, where they were issued tents and slept in them right on the hard ground. This was pretty damp and hard bedding for those who had always slept on feathers. On the 19th, I was allowed to go back home, and around the hill one mile distant from Batavia, I looked back and the happy hours I had passed within the bounds of my vision came vividly before my mind, filled my heart with sadness, and had anyone observed it, there might have been seen a tear glistening in my eye. There ran the stream on whose banks I had so often happily sat, with rod in hand, waiting to ensnare some unconscious inhabitants of the watery element; there the beautiful green woods over which I had so often roamed with shouldered gun in search of game; yonder in the distance across the green hills on whose brows I had so often stood and viewed the beauties of nature, the handiworks of God, and at whose base lay the beautiful town of Batavia, almost hidden among the deep foliage of its many shade trees and on whose bosom rested almost all I held dear on earth. I was looking on these scenes perhaps for the last time. Something within me said that I should see them ‘No more – forever.’ ”

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