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New Vienna was incorporated June 7, 1853. The New Vienna grade school was started in 1860, becoming an independent district.  The New Vienna Bank (now First National Bank and Trust) was organized in 1876.

Source - Sue Reynolds, office assistant, Ohio State University Extension

Historic New Vienna, by Olive S. Brown

New Vienna was first called by the name of “Buzzard’s Glory” from the fact that a man by the name of Rafe Mortimer, in the early days about 1812 or 1813, was running a tanyard in the part of town now known as Canada. While thus employed he became financially embarrassed and his stock was levied on. The hides were taken out of the vats preparatory to sale and hung on poles, where they remained for several days attracting an innumerable throng of buzzards, and while they were circling over this neglected tanyard, the place was called “Buzzards Glory.”

Two enthusiastic youths at that time, James Johnson and Ellis Nordyke, wishing to extol the virtues of their time, felt they could tell it best in a rhyme or so. They combined efforts and gave us the following:

“Come ye mechanics from afar,
And lend a helping hand,
From selling we will not debar
Come settle fertile land.

“Yea, Buzzards Glory is the place,
Where happiness doth reign.
Come, come mechanics, don’t delay,
We invite you once again.

“The invitation is to all
Ye sons of freedom, come!”

If you pass this way, I hope you’ll call
And make this place your home.
“Where oil doth run so clear and bright,
And the steam engine plays
If you were once to see the sight
Our noble works you’d praise.”

The invitation was accepted. “Mechanics from afar” answered the call and in the spring of 1827 the settlement was laid out as a village.

It seems at that time the settlers wanted a new name for their town having tired of the homely name of “Buzzards Glory.” Harkenss T. VanWinkle had the honor of giving the town its present name of New Vienna. He was born in Morris county, N.Y. February 21, 1792. In 1820 he settled in Leesburg, Ohio, coming to see New Vienna about the time it was laid out. He left for the west in 1844.

According to Gretchen Huffman, native of New Vienna:

New Vienna is one of the earliest communities in Clinton County. It began as an agricultural community and quickly grew. While the surrounding area supported many large and productive farms, the village attracted its share of industrious, enterprising people. At one time there were several doctors, dentists, lawyers, mercantile stores and other businesses. There were lumber yards, saw mills, a flour mill, a tile and brick company and more. Many churches were established and life was good in the village of New Vienna.

By the time Clinton County was organized in 1810, Green Township was already two or three years into their record-keeping, hence these notations from History of Clinton County Ohio - Its People, Industries and Institutions: (1) October 28, 1809, William Noble’s ear mark of his hogs, sheep and cattle is a crop and under-slit in the right ear and a hole in the left.” (1269)

It is also a matter of record that the early citizens of this township paid tax as citizens of Green Township, Highland County. Two of the tax receipts are given as evidence of the fact: “Tax receipt, October 6, 1807. Received of Micajah Nordyke $2.65 of land and county tax for the year. Received by B.W. Johnson.” “November 9, 1809. received Micajah Nordyke his state and county tax: state tax $2.25, county tax 45 cents; 300 acres of land, No. 4,397.” Therefore, we can safely draw the conclusion that this township was formed as early as 1809.(1269)

Green Township lies in the southeast part of Clinton County. It is bounded on the southeast by Highland County; on the west by Clark, Washington and Union Townships; on the north by Union and Wayne Townships and on the northeast by Wayne Township. This township contains about forty-three square miles of land, or twenty-seven thousand five hundred and twenty acres. (1269)

The white man evidently made his first appearance in this township about the year 1800. The first settlers to take out land with the intention of making this their permanent home were Joseph Anthony, who came here from Virginia; Abner Van Meter and Samuel Clevenger and Morgan Van Meter, who was a native of Morgantown, Virginia, and who settled in the vicinity of Snow Hill in the year 1800. Van Meter purchased two hundred acres of land, on which he erected a double log house - the first log cabin erected in the township.(1269)

It is thought by older inhabitants that the first settlement was made a little southwest of the center of the township on the East fork of the Little Miami river. Micajah Nordyke was among the first settlers. He came here from North Carolina in 1804. He and a brother purchased land for two dollars and fifty cents an acre of Col. A. Buford, who then owned a large tract of this region. This small settlement attracted others, such as Stephen Hussey in 1806-07, who purchased land which is now a portion of the town of New Vienna. Other early settlers were Joseph Anthony, William Noble, Sr., Aaron Cox and Eliha Noble. Charles Harris built the “Snow Hill house”, and opened a tavern there, probably the first opened in the county. Mr. Harris’s brother-in-law, Samuel Wasson, built a house about the same time and near the Snow Hill house and commenced to entertain travelers. By 1820 the population had increased until practically all of the lands were occupied.

Gist Settlement

While the residents of this unique community reside in neighboring Highland County, the children attend the New Vienna school, so have earned inclusion in this history.

It was in 1808 that wealthy Englishman Samuel Gist wrote a will, seven years before his death, decreeing that his slaves on his estates in America should be emancipated; that his American estates be sold and the proceeds be held in trust for these slaves and for their heirs forever, by appointed trustees.

Traditional lore says that about 230 Gist beneficiaries were located in Erie County, near Sandusky, by Virginia or Ohio trustees. They were dissatisfied because of the climate, the malaria, and the mosquitoes and after 12 years, they were relocated in Brown, Adams, and Highland counties. Finally, after many litigations over mixed-up titles, the care of the beneficiaries and their land problems were turned over to the Common Pleas Court.

There are no stores in the settlement and most trading is done in Hillsboro or in New Vienna. The residents are descendants of those who chose the names of Smith, Rollins and Turner. Oddly enough, none retained the name of their benefactor, Gist.

These are just a sampling of names on the crumbling, bleached headstones in this tiny community's graveyard. Nestled among rich farmland in northwest Highland County, Gist Settlement is a 207-acre, tradition filled property battling Father Time.

Only five families currently live on the grounds. At one time, there were as many as 25 families inhabiting the land. Junk cars and trailers can be found on some parcels. A schoolhouse and church are past landmarks of this once-thriving, still-proud culture. Kids who live at Gist Settlement now go through the East Clinton School District. Paul Turner farms over 100 acres. Charles Peacock runs an automobile salvage lot adjacent to the cemetery.

The rest of the land is vacant, except for the lifetime of memories buried with the descendants of freed slaves.

"I have great appreciation for what my ancestors endured," said Paul Turner. "Without them, I wouldn't be here. I appreciate my ancestors, I really do."

Samuel Gist was born in 1723 in Bristol, England. He was an orphan early in life but eventually married his employer's widow. Wealth, therefore, came quickly and easily for Gist. He continued to amass his fortune by trading with America. He owned land in Virginia and "employed" quite a number of slaves.

In newspaper reports at both the Clinton County and Highland County Historical societies, the number of Gist slaves varied. As many as 1,000 had been reported but other figures are in the 350 to 250 range.

Regardless of the number, Gist had written in his 28-age will that all slaves in his holdings at the time of his death be freed and land in a "free" state be purchased for their use. A trust fund was also established for the slaves.

"I especially request trustees and their descendants to attend to the comfort and happiness of my slaves and their offspring," Gist wrote in his will.

Gist died in 1815. Executors of his estate began purchasing land for the slaves around 1830. More than 2,000 acres of land in Ohio was purchased for the slaves. Slaves who were relocated to the Gist Settlement in Erie County reportedly left that area because of malaria. They went back to Virginia before returning to Ohio, this time in Highland County.

The land was to be "tax free" for slaves and their descendants, Gist wrote.

The trust fund instituted by Gist was reportedly to be used to pay the taxes and improve the land for the slaves. That trust was a misguided fortune believed to have run out in the mid-1800s.

According to an April 1879 issue of the Highland Weekly News, a Mr. Hugh Pugh, secretary of the Cincinnati Relief Union, was "making strenuous efforts in behalf of the heirs" to make sure they received "Mr. Gist's princely fortune of five or six million dollars."

However, Pugh hit a snag along the way. Mr. Bristow Essex, an heir to one of the original Gist slaves, gave a letter to the Highland Weekly News from Pugh dated March 25th (1879 we assume) in which Pugh says he "expects to find in the possession of the British Government the money which Mr. Gist bequeathed to his slaves."

Later in the same letter, though, Pugh said while Mrs. Martin Pearks, the second daughter of Gist, was still alive, the British government, in 1822, paid the whole amount left in trust for the slaves to Mr. Josiah Soldick of Bristol, England. The amount was believed to be four million dollars, the Highland Weekly News reported.

The article goes on to say Mr. Soldick is not identified nor is it stated what right he had to receive the money.

 

Date - Unknown

Source - C.J. Moore


Date - Unknown

Source - C.J. Moore


Main Stree New Vienna

Date - 1909

Source - C.J. Moore

 

Main Street New Vienna

Date - Unknown

Source - C.J. Moore

 

Date - Unknown

Source - Unknown

 

Grocery Store

Date - Unknown

Source - Unknown

Gist Settlement Cemetery

Date - Unknown

Source - reprinted from the Wilmington News Journal, February 14, 2001