Highland County’s first tax, and a rowdy court


Shown is a map of Ohio when it was admitted to the Union in 1803. The map shows the boundaries of Ross, Clermont and Adams counties before Highland County was established on Feb. 18, 1805. (Map courtesy of state auditor’s office)

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles by local historian Jean Wallis on the early history of Highland County after it was established in 1805.

By Jean Wallis

For The Times-Gazette

The first session of the Highland County Commissioners was held on Thursday, June 13, 1805 in New Market. The first commissioners were Joseph Swearingen, George Richards and Nathaniel Pope. There is no existing record as to how the first board of commissioners was chosen. It would seem they were appointed.

At their first session, they set about levying a county tax – 30-cents per head for horses, 10-cents a head on cattle, and on all other property subject by law to taxation of one-half cent. They appointed John Richards as the first treasurer of Highland County.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, 1805, the first election was held in Highland County. New Market was the voting place for that township, William Hill’s on Clear Creek for Liberty, Beverly Milner’s on Hardins Creek for Fairfield, and Frederick Braugher’s tavern for Brushcreek.

Anthony Franklin was elected sheriff, Uriah Paulin coroner, and the county commissioners were Nathaniel Pope, Jonathan Boyd and Frederick Braugher. Boyd was chosen secretary for the commissioners. They were paid $1.75 per day, the secretary receiving an additional $1.75 per day.

At this election, George W. Barrere was chosen senator and John Gossett as state representative. By an act passed Feb. 11, 1804 apportioning the state for legislative purposes, it provided that all newly-erected counties should be classed with the original for the purpose of electing senators. At the October election, 1805, Highland voted with Ross for senator, and independently for representative.

The second court held in Highland County was Friday, October 18, 1805. Present were Robert F. Slaughter, president, and Richard Evans, John Davidson and Jonathan Berryman, associate judges.

The second grand jury to convene in Highland County consisted of Nicholas Robinson as foreman, and Jonas Stafford, James Stafford, Jonathan Boyd, John Shields, Thomas Stites, Samuel Hindman, Issac Leaman, Terry Templin, Elijah Kirkpatrick, Jacob Metzger, John Finley and Eli Collins.

By order of the court, Mountain Lucket received a certificate to retail merchandise for three months, Frederich (Fritz) Miller a certificate to retail merchandise for four months (later, Fritz would become a tailor in New Market), and Jonathan Berryman to keep a tavern in the town of New Market.

George W. Barrere received a certificate to keep a public house in New Market by paying into the county treasury eight dollars, and Thomas Dick a certificate to keep a public house in Brushcreek Township for one year by paying into the county treasury six dollars. Thomas Dick’s tavern was located on the trace that led to the falls of Paint to New Market, present-day SR 506.

Letters of Administration were granted to George W. Barrere and Ebenezer Hamble to administrate the estate of Alexander Sanderson. Robert Houston, William Boatman and Lewis Gibler were appointed appraisers. Sanderson had the misfortune of being the first estate filed in the Highland County court.

Before the court adjourned they appointed David Hays as the first clerk of common pleas in Highland County. This closed the business of the first October term of the Highland County Common Pleas Court. There was no court house and, weather permitting, court was held under a giant walnut tree that stood in the yard of the Barrere tavern.

From Daniel Scott’s “History of the Early Settlement,” a gentleman of New Market, speaking on the subject said, “The courthouse in which the first court was held was like ‘Milton’s limbo,’ large and wide, it being the thick shade of an endless forest. The judges seated on a long bench made of a puncheon, supported themselves under the weight of their new dignities with becoming meekness.

“But the sheriff found great difficulty in preserving order throughout the court room, and one man, more daring than his fellows, rode up beneath the very noses of the court and, bottle in hand, asked them to take a ‘snort’ with him. The court ordered the sheriff to take the man into custody, but the fleetness of his horse enabled him to elude the officer. Five or six fights took place the first day in the very midst of the temple of justice.”

Jean Wallis is a Highland County historian and author of the long-running feature Highland Guideposts.

Illustration: Shown is a map of Ohio when it was admitted to the Union in 1803. The map shows the boundaries of Ross, Clermont and Adams counties before Highland County was established on Feb. 18, 1805. (Map courtesy of state auditor’s office)

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