Within several years after 1793, the center of Chribbs’s activities had shifted to Cincinnati, and his wife and daughter also probably relocated west to that new town.
Cincinnati itself was first settled in 1788, adjacent to Fort Washington, and was initially called Losantiville. Its first lots were laid out in 1789 and 1790, extending from the river to Northern Row (now Seventh Street) and from Eastern Row (now Broadway) to Western Row (now Central Avenue). (Note 1.)
The accompanying excerpt of a map, drawn in 1802 by Israel Ludlow, shows an early layout of the city with Broadway and Central Avenue called Eastern Row and Western Row, respectively. (Note 2.)
Chribbs was conducting business in Cincinnati in 1794, as shown by a lawsuit he filed there against John Bain as the result of Bain’s failure to pay twenty-five dollars for “divers goods, wares, and merchandises” that Chribbs had sold him in November of that year. (Note 3.) Chribbs’s attorney, Ezra P. Freeman, filed the suit in May 1795, and a jury awarded Chribbs $5.50 in damages the following August. (Note 4.) Chribbs was unable to recover his judgment immediately because Bain had moved west to the Indiana Territory. Chribbs later sought execution of the judgment in the territorial General Court at Vincennes and obtained payment in 1803.
In the meantime, an intriguing place-name not far from Cincinnati suggests that in 1796 Chribbs had briefly been one of the first settlers of present-day Clark County, Ohio.
Benjamin Van Cleve (1773-1821), who was one of the founders of Dayton, kept a journal as a young man. (Note 5.) Between 1791 and 1794, he was employed by the quartermaster’s department at Fort Washington. Given Chribbs’s mercantile interests and his own presence at Fort Washington during the time that Van Cleve was working there, it is quite possible—even likely—that the two men crossed paths.
In the spring of 1796, Van Cleve was part of a group of settlers who relocated north to what is now the city of Dayton. His journal entry for April 1 of that year reads:
Landed at Dayton after a passage of ten days . . . This spring a Settlement was made by Jonathan Mercer 8 miles up Mad river[,] one at the forks called Chribbs’ Station[,] and one at the Mouth of Honey Creek & one at the old Piqua on the Miami.
Subsequent histories of the area repeat the fact that a settlement called Chribbs Station was established in the spring of 1796 in the forks of the Mad River. (Note 6.) Typically, these subsequent references place the apostrophe before the “s” (Chribb’s), but Van Cleve’s memoir places the apostrophe after—strengthening the idea that this refers to the surname of William Chribbs.
The forks of the Mad River can be seen in the upper-right corner of the accompanying excerpt of a 1904 USGS map where the river enters Clark County about 10 miles northeast of Dayton.
Some histories have stated that Chribbs Station was the first settlement in Clark County. (Note 7.) But a more detailed account describes a slightly earlier settlement near that location in the fall of 1795 by David Lowry and Jonathan Donnel. (Note 8.) That account, published in 1881 but based on earlier documentation, goes on to “the next settlement in order of time” after that of Lowry and Donnel:
In 1796, two persons, named Kreb and Brown, came into the neighborhood; their camp was beyond the deep cut, near the second crossing of the Dayton Railroad. With them Lowry exchanged works, that is, he hunted and fished to secure food for them, while they cultivated and raised the first corn crop in the vicinity of Springfield. . . . The only evidence of any of the old establishment now remaining is an apple tree, which is the only one left of a score or so which were planted by the first settlers on the spot. . . . This Kreb and Brown Station is in the extreme northeast corner of Mad River Township, and was therefore the first settlement in that subdivision.
These references to someone named “Kreb” and to a “Kreb and Brown Station” are tantalizing clues that it was William Chribbs who was briefly an early settler near present-day Springfield, Ohio. But if Chribbs was raising corn on the Mad River in 1796, he was back in Cincinnati by 1797.
By that time he had acquired property in Cincinnati, specifically Lot No. 9, which can be identified on Ludlow’s 1802 map (shown above) at the southwest corner of Third Street and Eastern Row. On August 17, 1797, Chribbs, along with his wife Elizabeth, sold that property to John & Charles Wilkins & Co. (Note 9.)
The transaction was not a simple sale, however, in that Chribbs retained an option for 18 months to repurchase the property. As of 1797, the property included a house and may have been further subdivided, as the deed also refers to “two lotts.”
The fact that the land had a house supports the idea that Elizabeth and Mary had moved to Cincinnati. And the fact that the deed contains no provisions for continued occupancy suggests that the family was moving on. There is no indication that Chribbs ever exercised his option to repurchase.
At the sale price of $1,000, this was quite valuable property for its size. It’s location in the heart of the city’s downtown would, of course, make it increasingly valuable as Cincinnati grew.
The accompanying photo shows the southwest corner of Third and Broadway today, now part of the right-of-way for Interstate Highway 71, with the ballpark for the Cincinnati Reds in the background.
By 1798, Chribbs’s activities would mostly be 300 miles southwest down the Ohio River. But he continued to have more transactions in the Cincinnati area.
On July 13, 1798 at Fort Washington, he was paid $898.55 for “7488 lb. lead, at 12 cents per lb.” delivered to the U.S. military. (Note 10.)
Later that year, he was also attempting to collect a debt in the nearby town of Hamilton through legal process. On October 27, 1798, a notice of the sheriff’s sale of the debtor’s personal property was placed in the Freeman’s Journal, which was the successor to Cincinnati’s first newspaper. (Note 11.)
The Freeman’s Journal was published under the delightful motto “Free but not licentious,” as shown on the accompanying masthead.
The relevant parts of the sheriff’s sale notice read:
Sheriff Sales. By virtue of sundry Writs of Levari Facias to me directed . . . on Friday, the third day of November, will be exposed to sale at the home of William McClellan, in Hamilton, at 10 o’clock, A.M., Three lots in Hamilton, numbered on the plan of the town, 35, 7, and 252, also, one barrel of salt, one cupboard, two cows, and four acres of corn, seized and taken in execution at the suits of James Riddle and William Chribbs, and to be sold by James Smith, Shff. Cincinnati, October 22, 1798.
While preparing to move down the Ohio River, Chribbs had also begun looking south to Tennessee.
On January 22, 1798, he attempted to purchase from William Campbell a rectangular parcel of 640 acres in what is now Macon County, Tennessee. (Note 12.)
The land was located west of the Salt Lick Fork of the Big Barren River in an area that was then part of Sumner County. The northern boundary line of the property was the border between Tennessee and Kentucky.
The accompanying map shows the approximate location northeast of Nashville with a red circle.
No further reference to Chribbs’s ownership of that property appears in Tennessee records, and it is likely that he did not actually acquire it—whether or not he paid the seller the stated price of 640 dollars. The same parcel is the subject of other recorded transactions at about the same time. (Note 13.)
Within several years, Chribbs would be in Tennessee again on other business.
Copyright 2012-2014 Gregory Hancks
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.