By Joan Baxter
There once was a town called New Burlington. Small and full of friendly folks who loved their town.
It was located in the southern part of Greene County, straddling the Clinton County line. Harry B. Reeves told the story about his grandfather whose home was built across the county line. He placed a mark on the window sill so when he was indoors, he would know which county he was in. It gave him great pleasure to state that since his bedroom spanned both counties, he slept with his head in Greene County and his feet in Clinton County.
It began in the spring of 1799 when Aaron Jenkins came from Tennessee to purchase several hundred acres of land which lay along Caesar’s Creek, extending east across Anderson Fork. He built a double log house at Anderson’s Fork and with this structure, the village began.
By 1803, other settlers were purchasing land in the area and constructing homes. One of the early settlers was George Mann Sr. who came with his sons, son-in-law and their families. Caleb Lucas built his home near the others so in just a few years the nucleus of the village was born.
Desiring to attract more residents and businesses those early settlers decided to find a supervisor for their community. John Grant, a young man from Virginia was appointed. His first task was to lay out streets for the village. The Bullskin Road, laid out in 1807 became the Main Street.
A large store was constructed in 1833 and in 1834 a store carrying food supplies was added, followed shortly thereafter by a general store and tannery. Ezra Smith established a shoe shop and Samuel Weaver built a home which also accommodated his tailoring business. The first tavern opened in 1835. Then an attorney opened his business, a blacksmith arrived and John and Allen Craft began to manufacture wagons, carriages and furniture. A cabinet maker moved into the area, which was very useful when he became the undertaker as well.
The supervisor certainly was doing his job when he encouraged business men to relocate into the tiny village. It was through his encouragement that a Warren County miller set up a very large grist mill, giving the local farmers a convenient place to grind their corn and wheat.
The first school opened in 1833 with Sarah Hollingsworth as the teacher.
There was no post office early on so the mail was delivered by a rider on horseback from Xenia and Wilmington. It could take several days or even weeks for a piece of mail to arrive.
John Grant, the town supervisor, established the post office in 1839. The mail arrived on a timely basis from Xenia and later from Roxanna. Mail from New Burlington was delivered to Xenia by a nephew of Mr. Grant. In the early 20th century, Rural Mail Delivery service was provided.
The village boasted 70 houses, two dry good stores, three groceries, one saw-mill , two churches, one school, one undertaking establishment, one wagon shop, three blacksmith shops, one carpenter shop, grist mills, a millinery shop, two physicians and a tintype and daguerreotype shop which later became a photo shop.
Two large slaughter houses were also erected in the village. The products were shipped by horse and wagon to Cincinnati until the railroad came to town.
The Dayton, Toledo and Ironton railroad was built in 1878. The tracks were laid from Washington Court House, through Port William and New Burlington where it joined the Little Miami Railroad for a short distance south of Roxanna.
Another type of railroad came to New Burlington – this “railroad” did not run on tracks, but on the good nature of the residents. The Underground Railroad helped slaves escaping from the South. There were at least five houses ready at all times to accept the travelers. John Grant’s store, later Collett Hardware had a secret place on the second floor with a means of escape under the porch should immediate escape become necessary.
James Smith built a recess in the well at his blacksmith shop. A slave could be lowered in the bucket to that recess to hide. There were hiding places under the hearth by the fireplace adequate to hide a person for a short while.
When the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that the $50 million Caesars Creek flood control reservoir would be created in Warren, Clinton and Greene Counties, the 350 or so residents were advised that they had until Feb. 29, 1972 to sell their homes to the government and leave the village.
The first sale was held in 1967, the last in 1973. Many older residents suffered serious trauma over being forced to leave their homes. Lawrence Mitchner was the last resident to leave and died a few days after being forced to move. The auction of his property was the last sale in the village.
Bulldozers began to raze some of the homes as early as 1970. Early in 1973, only two buildings remained and later that year, only sidewalks and foundations of previous homes remained. And so, the village was no more. For many years, people attended church and school and greeted their neighbors, but now the village is only a memory.
If you drive down State Route 380 you will see a sign posted which simply states “Site of New Burlington 1803-1971.”
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and long-time historical columnist.