History of Oak Hill, Ohio
Oak Hill Formed by Glaciers
The terrain of the Village of Oak Hill, elevation 707 feet, was divided into two parts by huge icebergs that floated down the deep stream separating the old school house hill and the Edwards and Thomas hills. A jam occurred where the D.T. & I. Railway tracks are located and the glaciers deposited their mud along Washington Street. This mud ridge caused the waters of the eastern portion of Oak Hill to flow north to the Black Fork branch of Symmes Creek and the waters of the western portion of Oak Hill to flow south to Blackfork.
Early Oak Hill Inhabitants
The Indians surrendered Southern Ohio to the United States by the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795. Mr. Ludlow was the first visitor to the town site of Oak Hill. He was present when the north and south boundary poles were driven in 1797. The first white man who settled in the Oak Hill area was Peter Seel who came in 1814 and settled near Bethel Church. It is recorded that Mr. Seel paid the first tax in Jefferson Township, the sum of 75 cents. Jackson County came into existence in 1816. The early settlers, mostly farmers, came to the Oak Hill area in 1817.
In 1818 six hardy Welsh families from the Cilcennin area set sail from the Aberaeron Wales to the United States. After a long and wretched journey across the Atlantic Ocean they hired covered wagons for another long and hazardous trek across the Appalachian Mountains near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There they placed their meager possessions on crude rafts and journeyed down the Ohio River. Their destination was to have been the frontier town of Paddy’s Run near Cincinnati.
After traveling 250 miles they ran out of provisions and tied up their rafts near the French settlement of Gallipolis, Ohio where they were made welcome for the night. They awoke in the morning to find their crafts gone. Someone or something during the night had set their rafts adrift. Whether it was the storm or the travel-weary women who cut loose the ropes that night, no one knows, but the travelers never reached their original destination. While debating what to do- whether to secure another boat to push on or accept offers to work on roads and trails into the interior- a woman member of the party settled the question. A Mrs. Evans made up her mind that they would stay. She refused to go down the river farther, insisting that the men go to work. Some of the men were involved in building roads near Centerville, Ohio and then on to what is present day Oak Hill, Ohio.
The area reminded them so much of their native Cilcennin that they decided to settle here. Oak Hill, since its inception, has remained a Welsh settlement. One of the traditions of the town is the legend that the Welsh, pioneering in America, disheartened and homesick after failure to find immediate riches found that the little spot in the hills of southeastern Ohio resembled their homeland. Its environment and atmosphere tended to ally their heartache and once settling here they have remained, generation after generation.
Union Baptist Church in Blackfork Organized in 1819
Oak Hill Established
Julius A. Bingham, a New Yorker, established Oak Hill to compete with the county seat of Jackson. Mr. Bingham bought 80 acres of land in 1832 and started a small country store near the crossroads of a township road to Gallipolis and a traveled Indian trail called Guyan Trace. To attract population and increase his trade, Mr. Bingham laid out a village site on the hill surrounding his store and organized a Sunday school that was held in summer under Oak trees east of the village.
Along the Guyan Trace trail was Massie Spring. The spring was a few feet from the eastern Oak Hill corporation line and was a camping place for the Indians who passed from the Salt Licks to the hunting grounds south of the Ohio River. Oak Hill was carved out of the backwoods. It is recorded that the area was first named Lewisburg, then Portland, and finally Oak Hill, named after the stately White Oaks that populated its surrounding hills. Through the next few years many people were attracted to the area and this led to the creation of the present village. Originally Oak Hill was laid out in three sections. There are jogs on the north and south boundaries where the two halves come together.
Hon. Thomas Lloyd Hughes was born in North Wales. He is one of the early Welsh Pioneers in the Oak Hill area. He was a deacon in the Presbyterian Church, Secretary of Old Jefferson Furnace, State Representative from Jackson County, and author of a religious book written in Welsh. He lived in Oak Hill during the period that Oak Hill was founded. The second house built in Oak Hill was an Inn (Portland Manor) now occupied by Betty Jenkins.
Moriah “Mother Church” Organized in 1835
Post Office Established
The Post Office was established on March 11, 1837 and Levi Massie was the first Postmaster. Oak Hill was the second post office in the county, the first being at Salt Lick near Jackson. The location of the first post office was acroos the street from the hotel on a lot now occupied by the Madison-Jefferson Fire Department Bingo Hall (formerly Jones- Morgan Hardware).
Horeb Church Organized in 1837
Welsh Immigration Begins
In 1839 hundreds gathered at Aberaeron Harbor as friends and relatives said their last goodbyes to 175 who were immigrating to the United States. There was considerable wailing and weeping as the boats sailed out of the harbor. Four young men led the singing of a hymn at the quayside, “Bydd Melys glanio draw nol’n bod o din I don, a mi rol ffarwel maes draw I’r ddaear hon”. A great many of those 175 Welsh men and women found their way to the Tyn Rhos, Moriah, Nebo, Centerpoint, Bethel, Oak Hill, and Horeb areas of Gallia and Jackson Counties in southeastern Ohio.
Bethel Church Organized in 1841
Congregational Church Organized in October 1841
Sardis Church Organized in 1843
Welsh Calvinistic Church Organized in 1843 (United Presbyterian Church)
Morgan’s Raiders and the Civil War Days
Anderson Miller was among the men from this area who attempted to block the Morgan Raiders by falling trees across the roads. He cut his knee with an ax and from that time on had a stiff leg. The Morgan Raiders camped in the area of Bingham Street in Oak Hill. One of the men died while in the area of Moriah and was buried in the Moriah Cemetery. During the Civil War Oak Hill was used as a rest area for Union soldiers. The well behaved were kept in Oak Hill and the rowdy ones were sent in the area of Moriah. The home of E.E. Davis was used as a hospital.
The first railroad station in Oak Hill was at the switch location to the Sivad plant north of the village. The first trains were flat cars, later they had coach bodies mad e in Portsmouth mounted on flat cars for coaches. The iron rails were made in England. The first load of railroad ties were delivered ion the first five miles south of Jackson on April 1, 1851.
The first hard surface road was built after the coming of the railroad so that iron could be hauled from Jefferson Furnace to about where the post office is now located and stored there for shipment. Iron was hauled in wagons pulled by oxen. Until the coming of the railroad it was easier to go to Portsmouth from Oak Hill and take a boat to Gallipolis than to go overland to Gallipolis. There were roads “of a sort” to Portsmouth but most people had short cuts of their own.
Stagecoaches did not come in to use until the coming of the railroad. The stagecoach that eventually came into Oak Hill in the 1850’s stopped at Portland Manor (the Betty Jenkins home). In the 1850’s the stagecoach stopped here enroute from the Salt Licks to Gallipolis. For many years a stagecoach line ran from Portland to Gallipolis carrying mail and passengers. The stagecoach was drawn by four large horses and horses and driver were changed at Adamsville. The stagecoach was called a hack. Even with the hot bricks, plenty of blankets, winter riding was most uncomfortable.
Oak Hill was known as a crossroads town and existed and thrived during the railroad days when mineral wealth could be developed. On March 7, 1849 the Ohio Legislature passed a special act to incorporate the Iron Railroad Company. The company was authorized to sell stock to construct a railroad from Ironton to the south line of Jackson County, with the right to carry it onto Hamden at a later time to connect with the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad. The railroad was built back through the hills to Dean, a distance of 13 miles and there the project was halted. Portsmouth raised $128,000 and proposed to build the line through Jackson if they could get the $100,000 from Jackson County and unused capital in Jackson subscribed for the Iron Railroad. This was favorably received, released legally, and was one of the most important construction projects in Oak Hill history since Oak Hill was on the route between Portsmouth and Jackson.
The Iron Railroad Company line caused Oak Hill to be built in its present location instead of on the flatwoods of Madison. The railroad came into being as the Scioto Hocking Valley Railroad and remained so until difficulties caued it to be taken over by the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad Company of which it was known as the Portsmouth Branch. Due to financial problems it was later taken over by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company.
On June 6, 1895 the Cincinnati and Dayton Railroad Company, the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Ironton Railroad Company, and the Cincinnati, Dayton and Chicago Railroad Company were consolidated under the name of the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railroad Company. This was the C H & D that ran to the east of Oak Hill and connected with the rails of the old Iron Railroad that came up from Ironton to Dean. The company went into financial troubles and into receivership several times. The Flood of 1913 brought disaster to this rail and in 1915 the company announced the abandonment of railroad service. In the following year the tracks were taken up and the railroad bed became the roadbed for State Route 233.