In 1802, New Jersey native and Revolutionary War veteran Jacob Cornelius Johnson settled in unincorporated Green Township near the "Big Spring", roughly five miles west of Cincinnati. The spring was located close to the present day bend in Harrison Avenue near Cheviot. It was later known as the "Beech Flats Spring" and was thought to be the largest spring west of the Mill Creek.
Johnson was the first to recognize the importance of a former bison trail near his cabin that lead west from the Mill Creek at Lick Run, up the south side of Fairmont then along the ridge out to what we know as the Westwood and Cheviot area. A hunter and trapper, Johnson began the long process to clear the path to construct a crude, new trail headed west from the Mill Creek, to meet up with the North Bend military trail. The trail lead from present day North Bend, Ohio, which was Cincinnati's first military settlement, roughly up the route that Bridgetown Road follows until it joined what is now Harrison Avenue before turning north on what we know as North Bend Road. Johson's trail served as an early rudimentary east-west connection from the remote western hills to bustling Cincinnati and eventually became the Harrison Avenue we know today. Tradition has it that with the money earned cutting trees to clear his road, Johnson bought all 320 acres of the west half of Section 9, including the old spring, from John Cleves Symmes, a New Jersey judge and land speculator although no record of this purchase has yet been found.
Few braved the harsh wilderness so far from the military protection of Cincinnati. So thick was the forest and undergrowth in 1802, that pioneer Robert Orr had to cut his own road to his 100 acres before he could bring his family to the southwestern edge of early Mill Creek Township, abutting unincorporated Green Township. His property straddled what is Harrison Avenue. Other early settlers joined Johnson and Orr in the area that would eventually become the area we know as Westwood today.
In 1805, pioneers James Goudy and his sister Elizabeth Goudy of Pennsylvania settled into a log cabin off of the road Johnson was clearing. Also by 1805, John Conger and John Hunt, both natives of New Jersey, settled into Section 2 of unincorporated Green Township, also now part of Westwood. Tradition has it that pioneer Newbraugh arrived in 1806, settling on a 10-acre strip near Johnson's road. By 1807, Johnson's road connected Cincinnati with farming communities to the west, including the area that would become John Craig Sr.'s early town named Cheviot, platted in 1818. Part of the original platted town is now within the borders of Westwood. Around this same time Hamilton County Commissioners contracted surveyors to lay out a road west along the route cleared by Johnson. Locals began calling Johnson's trail, "The State."
After the 1809 incorporation of Green Township and the end of the War of 1812, the frontier of the western hills began to attract a few more brave settlers. In 1815, Baptist Reverend George Hildreth arrived from Cape May, New Jersey and began dispensing medicines. John W. Jones established the Blue Ball Tavern during the 'teens. It was east of Cheviot along Johnson's road near the intersection of Elmwood, Beechwood, and Harrison Pike (present day Urwiler, Epworth, and Harrison Avenues).
Very early on, schooling became a central tenet of Green Township life. David Eldridge Stathem arrived at Jones's Blue Ball Tavern on June 14, 1817. By June 30, 1817 he had conscripted enough pupils to begin a frontier school in a log-hewn house built by Cheviot pioneer Enoch Carson along with other settlers committed to early education. By 1819, other early settlers like William Armstrong, Joseph Boyd, Sr., Charles Moore, Sr., Adam Moore and others came to reside in the southeastern part of Green Township, would become the Village of Westwood. By then, Johnson's road, known as the "State road" stretched all the way west to the town of Harrison on Ohio's border with Indiana.
By 1820, much of the daily activity in Green Township and the western hills, was devoted to subsistence farming. Various businesses to support the farmers began operating such as mills. One of the more notable mills was the "Wind-Mill." John Clark and Robert Ashley built a saw and grist mill in 1820, of heavy timber by for William Ashley on Ashley's estate along the "M'Henry" trail (approximately what we know as McHenry Avenue). It was near the Four Mile House which was along Johnson's Road (Harrison Avenue), west of McHenry Road. While winds were unpredictable for operating the mill, the wooden and sailcloth arms were visible for miles and pioneer Green Township families and visitors to the area marveled at its quixotic grandeur.
With the clearing of the State road, the road bed grew drier and improved making it easier for immigrants, hunters, and explorers to use. However, in the early 1820s, only a small wooden bridge at Walker's mill crossed Mill Creek to Johnson's road. When the water was high from flooding or backing up from the Ohio, it was a dangerous crossing. Quicksand and surging waters stood ready to swallow wagon, horse, and man. On February 24, 1824, the Mill Creek crossing claimed Green Township pioneer Charles Moore, Sr. He was one of many who lost his life there. This dangerous crossing would take nearly 100 years to remedy.
© 2017 Westwood Historical Society