Cincinnati Almost Wasn't Cincinnati

September 01, 2018 3 Comments

Cincinnati 1800

In 1788, two settlements were established along the north shore of the Ohio River in what is today Hamilton County, with a third founded in 1789. The first was Columbia near the mouth of the Little Miami River. The second was Losantiville, located across from the mouth of the Licking River. The third was North Bend. One of these would become a major U.S. city, of course, one would become a neighborhood of that community, while the third would remain an independent village.

Columbia was founded by Benjamin Stites who stumbled onto the area while chasing a band of Native Americans, who had absconded with several horses, from Kentucky up to Xenia. Impressed with the area, he returned with a party of 26 settlers, landing about a half mile downstream from the Little Miami in what is today the East End. Within two years, Columbia boasted 50 cabins, a church, and a school. Stites imagined the settlement would one day grow into a large city like the ones back east.

However, frequent floods forced the community to relocate to the base of Tusculum Hill, thus giving the current neighborhood its hyphenated name. The only remaining sign of the original settlement is the Pioneer Cemetery across from Lunken Field, which was likely part of the original Columbia Baptist Church grounds.

The founders of Losantiville were a bit more fortunate. In 1788, Matthias Denman of Springfield, New Jersey, bought a chunk of land across from the Licking River on the north bank of the Ohio River. He had the notion of laying out a town on the spot. He was joined in the effort by Colonel Robert Patterson and a surveyor named John Filson. It was the latter that chose the name Losantiville. Before he could finish laying out the town, though, he vanished, supposedly killed by area natives. Israel Ludlow took his place and would go on to help lay out Hamilton and Dayton as well.

It was the rocky relationship with local Native Americans that necessitated a fort in the area to provide protection for the settlers in the three settlements. All 3 lobbied hard to get the facility, but Losantiville was chosen as the site of Fort Washington over Columbia and North Bend.

Shortly after the fort’s completion, Northwest Territory Governor Arthur St. Clair paid a visit to the town and upon hearing the name of the community, bristled. By the time he left, he ordered the name of the town, now with over 750 residents, be changed to the much catchier Cincinnati, all without the benefit of test marketing or focus groups.

Now, many people will tell you that the Queen City is named for the Roman senator Cincinnatus, but, in fact, it was named for The Society of Cincinnatus, a group of Revolutionary War veterans of which St. Clair was a member. That organization was named after Cincinnatus.

North Bend, the Johnny-come-lately of the settlements between the Great and Little Miami Rivers, went on to become a quaint village and was incorporated as such in 1845. It was the home of President William Henry Harrison and the birthplace of his grandson, President Benjamin Harrison.

It’s fun to imagine what might have been had Fort Washington been placed in North Bend or Columbia making one of those communities the major city in the area. Or what if Losantiville would have kept its original name? Have a look below:

North Bend Reds

Columbia Bengals

University of Losantiville

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Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson

September 04, 2018

I find these facts very interesting. Having been long gone from my birthplace for a long time.. Keep up with these tidbits…!

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