The Ohio Valley

The Ohio River Valley is a multi-state region whose waters flow westward along the Ohio River from Pittsburgh toward its junction with the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois.  This drainage encompasses most of the land area of Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, plus significant parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, and Illinois.  By virtue of the Treaty of Paris, which was negotiated by John Adams in 1783, Great Britain ceded the so-called Northwest Territory to the Colonies, which included all of the Ohio Valley and what would later become Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and a part of Minnesota.  The first permanent settlement in the Ohio Valley was at Marietta in 1788, at the conflucence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers.  Marietta was named for Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, whose naval and financial support along with her husband King Louis XVI were decisive in securing victory for the Colonies in the Revolutionary War.  But the new nation, after initial surges of migration into Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland in the 1700s, required new sources of inexpensive farmland to accomodate the burgeoning population.  For the Zentmeyers there were two obvious choices: either southwest into the temperate and slavery-friendly southern states, or westward over the Alleghenies into the Ohio Valley.  Most of the Zentmeyers chose this western route.  We will focus first on the migration of George Zentmire, the son of Bernhard b.1740, and his nephew David Wendel Zentmeyer, the son of Johannes b.1763, because they were the earliest of our families into the Ohio and settled less than a mile from each other on the Little Miami River in Warren County. David Wendel Zentmeyer actually moved northwest into Ohio from his birthplace in the Shenandoah.

George and his family moved into Warren County, Ohio in 1806.  They settled at Cold Springs Camp on the Little Miami River, on the opposite side and downstream from a sawmill complex built by Lewis Rees, which was subsequently renamed Mather's Mill after its purchase by Richard Mather.  The site is currently identified as Mather's Mill Nature Preserve.  It is said that George built the dam for this mill, which was necessary in order to channel water to turn the mill wheels.  On 8 Apr 1812 'George Sint Mire' purchased 150 acres of land on the eastern bank of the river, between Mathers Mill and Freeport, at the northeast corner of Military Survey #737 from Lewis Rees for $375.  (Freeport was renamed Oregonia in 1882)  George served six months in the Ohio Militia during the the War of 1812, in mid-1814.  Some years later, on 12 Mar 1825, 'George Saintmier' purchased a contiguous 100 acre parcel from Noah Haines, at the northwest corner of Military Survey #828 for $300.  The chain of title reads, 'from Thomas Jefferson to Noah Haines to George Zentmire.'  It is clear that many of our founding fathers profited from land speculation, as have countless others, including your webmaster.


Upon George's death in 1836, his will stated that the the 250 acre "Plantation" (George's term) would go to his wife Elizabeth Dunn, and that at her passing, the land would go in equal parts to his ten children.  This was at odds with earlier common practice, which generally granted the real estate to the first-born son, with financial payments to the younger children.  This will was witnessed by, among others, one Henry Sherwood.  Elizabeth died in February of 1854.  In August of that year, this Henry Sherwood filed a lawsuit to 'partition' the land, claiming that he had purchased the one-tenth shares of James Zentmire, Catherine (Zentmire) Drake, and George Zentmire.  Sherwood was joined in this lawsuit by Rebecca (Zentmire) Terry and her husband Jonathan.  The partition was approved the following month, and Sherwood took title to both parcels for the court-appraised value of $5,120.  The earliest parcel map we have found for this area is from the year 1856, two years after Sherwood's lawsuit.  George's two parcels are identified as 'Henry Sherwood.'  The small circle on the lower right indicates the location of Olive Branch Cemetery, where George and Elizabeth are buried.  Adjacent to this cemetery to the east, a log building was constructed for the newly-formed Olive Branch Methodist Episcopal Church.  George St. Mire was listed as one of the trustees.  After 1865, this church was re-established at a site about a mile east on Wilmington Road, where it stands today.


The land on the west side of Little Miami River is in Turtlecreek Township, while the east side is in Washington Township.  On this same 1856 parcel map, there is a 76 acre parcel identified as D.W. Zentmeyer.  David Wendel Zentmeyer migrated to this area as early as 1822, if his poem is accurate.  No deed could be found, but the adjacent landowner, John Terry, was the father of David's wife Mary Terry, who he married in 1832.  It is likely that the Zentmeyer parcel was split off from John Terry's larger parcel.  History does not inform us as to who might have gotten the better deal in this transaction.  Here is a Google Maps view of these properties.  It is interesting how much arable land is lost to slopes and ravines, although these slopes may have had value for logging, hunting, or fishing.  As a footnote, the current owner of the northwest corner of George's property now plays host to the annual Devil's Staircase motorcycle hill-climb event.  (google it)  Here is the location of these properties in Warren County.


The westward movement of the Zentmeyers into the Ohio Valley continued.  Most of George and Elizabeth's children, now having no land ownership in Warren County, moved westward into less-expensive Indiana, the exceptions being the minister Samuel, who remained in Morrow, Warren County, and Rebecca, who married into the prosperous Terry family.  Other families such as Joseph and Mary Zentmeyer migrated sometime during the 1820s from Pennsylvania to Stark County, Ohio.  John Wesley Zentmyer and his wife Nellie, Christopher's caregivers, moved to Ohio presumably after Christopher's death in 1834.  Israel and Eve Zentmeyer, who lived in Union County, Pennsylvania near the Strayhorns, whose descendant Mary Strahorn would marry George Aubrey Zentmyer in 1910, moved first to Kentucky in 1833, then on to Howard County, Indiana.   George Zentmire's sons David and George moved further west, into Illinois and Missouri.  Christopher Santmyer and his wife Susan Updike moved to Seneca County, Ohio in 1854.  This Zentmeyer migration into and through the Ohio continued well into the late nineteenth century, perhaps the most prolific example being Jacob Stutenroth Zentmyer to Naperville, Illinois.