Columbia, OH (East End) – (1788 – present river, farming, & railroad town with a ghost town within the current community)
Classification: historic town
Location: City of Cincinnati (formerly Spencer Township), Hamilton County – On Riverside Dr (US 52 / Kellog Ave) near the intersection of Wilmer Ave
Columbia was founded on November 18, 1788 by Revolutionary War veteran Major Benjamin Stites (1734 – 1804) who purchased 20,000 acres of land next to the mouth of the Little Miami River. He traveled with a group of 26 settlers down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania & started the first town in Hamilton County a month before Cincinnati (Losantiville) was settled. Columbia also went by the name of Turkey Bottom because of the 2 mile wide valley & fields next to the Ohio River that had an abundance of turkey & other game birds.
The town was initially just a cluster of log cabins around a few block storage houses, but it quickly grew to have 50 houses, a mill, & a school in 1790. The school was the first one in Ohio & the first school west of the original 13 colonies. It was run by John Reily (1763 – 1850), who was also a Revolutionary War veteran, as were most of the other men in the original group. The Columbia Baptist Church congregation also formed in 1790. They built the first church in Hamilton County in 1792. Reverend John Smith (1735 – 1824) was its minister & went on to be one of the first U.S. Senators from Ohio, serving from 1803 – 1808.
The biggest stories surrounding Columbia in the 1800s are that of its advancement of being a transportation hub. The only ways to get there in the early days were by canoe or flat boat on the Ohio River. Columbia had one of the earliest post offices in Ohio which ran by boat & horseback from 1819 – 1874. In 1835 the Anderson Turnpike wagon road connected Columbia with Cincinnati & Chillicothe. Then in 1841 the Little Miami Railroad swept through town. The Cincinnati, Georgetown, & Portsmouth Railroad had a line laid off of that in 1877 with the junction starting in Columbia & a train station on Carrell St. Cable cars were installed in 1890 & were operated by the Columbia Street Railway Co. The center of town moved north into the Tusculum hills due to flooding concerns of living near the river & the fact that Columbia flooded several times in the 1800s.
By 1900 Columbia acquired the name of East End, referring to it as the eastern edge of Cincinnati. Back then Columbia had several grocery stores, three hardware stores, two hotels, saloons, a bank, theater, a restaurant, drugstore, & many other small businesses. The former Little Miami Railroad was bought out by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1870. They had a station built on Torrence Rd off of Riverside Dr in 1907. It closed in 1933 & what’s left of it still sits on the railroad tracks between Riverside Dr & Columbia Parkway. In 1925 E.H. Lunkenheimer, a prominent local business man, donated 204 acres for an airport with the condition that it be named after him. Lunken Airport is still in operation on Wilmer Ave. The town had another post office from 1927 – 1957.
The old site of the Columbia Baptist Church & cemetery is across from Lunken Airport with parking in a small gravel lot off of Wilmer Ave. There are a few historical markers for the original town of Columbia in the cemetery where most of the early settlers were buried. A large column was built by the Baptist congregation in 1889 to commemorate their story. All four sides of the base of the column are engraved with info about them. In 1953 during the 150 year anniversary of Ohio’s statehood, a marker was placed at the front of the cemetery that tells the tale of Columbia’s early years.
Some other points of interest are original homes from the area including the Hezekiah Stites house (Benjamin’s son), built in 1835 at 315 Stites Ave, The James Morris house built in 1804 at 3644 Eastern Ave, & the Kellogg house built in the 1830s at 3811 Eastern Ave. The Columbia – Tusculum Historic District also operates a historic homes tour of the Victorian Era houses that were constructed in the Tusculum hills in the late 1800s & early 190’s. Another interesting sight is the Spencer Township Hall (township now defunct) that was built in 1860 at 3833 Eastern Ave. These days Cincinnati claims that Columbia – Tusculum is its oldest neighborhood, despite Columbia having a history all its own.
Town Website – https://www.columbiatusculum.org/
Dent, OH (Challensville) – (1843 – present former farming town partially abandoned over time)
Classification: small town
Location: Green Township, Hamilton County – On Harrison Ave south of I-74 & US 52
Dent was originally called Challensville & was named after the town’s first preacher, Reverend James Challen (1802 – 1878). The first house in town was the Three Mile Hotel which some of the early farmers in the area used as their residence. The Challensville post office ran from 1843 – 1846. Charles Gustav Reemelin (1814 – 1896) was a German immigrant & a state senator who lived in the town & had its name changed to Dent after a large depression in the earth near his house & vineyards. In its early days, Dent had a church, school, several stores, & a few dozen residences along Harrison Pike. The population was around 100 in 1895 & the post office ran from 1846 – 1904 when the mail started going through Cincinnati.
The town’s biggest claim to fame is the Dent Schoolhouse which was built in 1894. It’s said to be haunted by the ghost of Charlie McFee, a former janitor, & the children he killed. Rumors of children disappearing in Dent began to circulate in 1942 but the story eventually lost its steam. However, in 1955 seven more children supposedly went missing & the parents began to speculate about the strange smell that would occasionally rise from the basement. The parents reportedly went down there & found the remains of a couple of dozen children hidden in the walls. Charlie the janitor was long gone, & although a reward was put out for his capture, he was never found or arrested. The Dent Schoolhouse was closed shortly after that & has been converted into one of Ohio’s most popular haunted houses. It gets around 30,000 visitors every year during the Halloween season.
The Dent Schoolhouse website – https://frightsite.com/
Sayler Park, OH (Home City) – Hamilton County (mid 1800s – present river & railroad town annexed into Sayler Park)
Classification: historic town
Location: City Of Cincinnati, Hamilton County – On Home City Ave. near the Ivanhoe Ave. intersection
In 1900 Willliam J. Holthingrichs bought an ice company & changed the name to The Home City Ice & Coal Co. in 1910, naming it after the nearby neighborhood. Home city had its own train station on the Big Four Railroad (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, & St. Louis) & post office that ran from 1854 – 1911. The ice company was sold to Gottleib Hartweg who moved it to Ivanhoe Avenue in 1911. That same year Home City lost its name as Sayler Park was incorporated. There are still several remnants & old buildings left from when Sayler Park was Home City. It’s a nice area to spend a day along to the Ohio river.
Hamilton County Ohio Ghost Towns Research Resources
1847 – Hamilton County Map
1856 – Hamilton County Map
1869 – Hamilton County Atlas
1884 – Hamilton County Map
1881 – History Of Hamilton County Ohio
1894 – History Of Cincinnati And Hamilton County Ohio