1) The Indians, Anthony Wayne, and Jacob White (1791-1800)
Around the year 1791, Captain Jacob White settled in the area surrounding the Mill Creek Valley, a portion of which is now known as Hartwell. At that time, the area was populated by both the Shawnee and the Miami tribes. According to Peggy Jones, a local historian, “the place where Captain White settled was known as the third crossing of the Mill Creek.” White’s ‘Station’ was located near a Miami Indian Trail that was traveled later by General Anthony Wayne in 1793. This trail would later become the street Anthony Wayne, where several prominent settlers built cabins and camps in the years following White’s settlement.
According to Henry Teetor’s The Past and The Present of The Mill Creek Valley (1882), Captain Jacob White led the continued development of the region, including some violent conflicts with the Native American tribes in the area. He continued to thrive in the region, even becoming the Overseer of Highways in Springfield Township. Several of his family members stayed in the region for generations, including his brother, who helped to found the neighboring town of Carthage. You can see this history highlighted throughout the region with historical plaques like the one to the left.
2) Canals and Railways: The Development of the Mill Creek Valley (1800s-1912)
A lthough growth was slow during the early 1800’s due to distance from
the city basin (the densely populated production region), the 1806 addition of the Hamilton-Carthage Turnpike (now Vine Street), and the 1828 completion of the Miami Canal made the delivery of goods from Cincinnati to the Mill Creek Valley more feasible. If you review the image below closely, you can see a young man waiting to use the canal for passenger travel.
Despite being more accessible, the area was still a world apart from the overcrowded streets of the city proper, and the city’s burgeoning development was a stark contrast against the Mill Creek Valley’s lush farmland, wealthy landowners, and picturesque community.
In fact, suburbs like Glendale and Hartwell were spacious and inaccessible to all but the wealthier individuals until at least 1858 (Rhoda, 1977). The wealth and spaciousness of this period can be seen in many of the currently extant homes in the area. One wealthy family, the Greenham’s, for instance, owned approximately 200 acres of land in the region, and their 1828 home still stands on Parkway Avenue.
According to historian Dr. Richard Rhoda, a gradual shift in transportation led to the eventual expansion that would incorporate Hartwell into the City of Cincinnati in 1912. Before 1858, most city dwellers traveled only by foot, thus requiring them to live close to the city center. However, according to Peggy Jones, “by the year 1888, sixty passenger and freight trains ran daily over the [Hartwell] tracks.” Overtime, these tracks led to a gradual migration of business, professional, and working class individuals to the Mill Creek Valley.
In addition to changes in transportation, Hartwell’s growth and large, Victorian housing stock can be attributed to early advocates. Danial DeCamp, the President of the Hamilton County House Building Association, and John H. Hartwell, the Vice President of the C,H,&D Railroad, worked together to further bolster the city. DeCamp settled in the area in 1877, and Hartwell offered free one-year commuter tickets to families building in the new community (now called Hartwell).
Moreover, according to Peggy Jones’ account, the DeCamp family was integral in dedicating the Hartwell “circle” to religious worship. This circle now hosts multiple churches, including the Hartwell First Methodist Church, which was originally designed by famed architect Samuel Hannaford. Hannaford also built Cincinnati’s Music Hall, City Hall, and numerous other Victorian Era masterworks throughout the city.
3) Joining Cincinnati: The Hartwell Annexation (1912-2000)
Over the next several decades, improved train travel, communitydesirability, and a migration away from the city basin only increased the Mill Creek Valley’s growth. The village ceased to share schooling with local areas like Lockland, and instead moved to establish its own ever-growing school district. Trolleys installed at the turn of the century further connected the village to the bustling city south of it. Finally, in 1912, the City of Cincinnati formally annexed Hartwell, thus adding it to the now 52 neighborhoods within the city itself. With this move, many streets were renamed to eliminate redundancies, and many services were integrated into the city-wide structure.
The Historic Hartwell School standing on Vine St. was built in 1923, and continued to grow to meet the population growth. As the freeway system expanded through the 1950s and 1970s, Hartwell’s location as the Northern Gateway to the City became more pronounced. The completion of I-71 and 1-75 made Hartwell’s location ideal for commuters; downtown is a mere 20 minute drive, while the surrounding neighborhoods and counties to the north are immediately accessible through these highways. With these changes, Hartwell had completed its transition from a wealthy, distant suburb to the Northern Gate of the City of Cincinnati.
4) Hartwell: A Future with History
As a gateway neighborhood, Hartwell residents seek to lead in several ways: we worked hard to cultivate outstanding schools. The Hartwell School is one of the highest ranking in the area, earning an “Excellent with Distinction” designation by the state. Our growing business district has expanded due to the area’s accessibility and location, and the city has worked to further enhance this development along Vine Street.
Just as the trolleys have given way to buses and cars, much of Hartwell’s verdant past has given way to its present. But the history is still here. In addition to excellent schools, which thrive due to their alumni base, we boast an impressive architectural stock.
From Samuel Hannaford Victorian homes and churches, to Sears Kit and Craftsman-style homes, many Hartwell houses are perfect for growing families seeking unique and well-built homes. Our recently renovated Hartwell School is an embodiment of history blending with our future: within its stunning Georgian walls, you’ll find 21st century educational success. Even our bus routes run many of the original trolley routes, making clean, safe, public transportation easy from Springfield Township all the way to downtown Cincinnati.
We welcome new neighbors to learn about Hartwell’s history and community, and our Hartwell Improvement Association is at the ready to help you become a part of Hartwell’s vibrant future!
This document was prepared based on the work of Hartwell Resident Peggy Jones and additional outside research.
Visit the Historic Photo Gallery, too!