Fort Dunlap Photo
Fort Dunlap Photo
The Coleraine Historical Society Inc.
The Coleraine Historical Society Inc.

The History of Colerain Township 

Dunlap’s Station (frontier defensive structure), later referred to as Fort Colerain, was on the east bank of the Great Miami River, and established in early 1790 in the midst of what was also called Little Turtle's War. It served three main functions:

  • US expansion into Native territory, recently captured from the British,
  • New Jersey based land speculation, and
  • a settlement for farmers, their fields & pastures.

The Northwest Territory had been established in 1787, within which Judge Symmes had organized the Miami Company and then advertised the availability of this land. They hired the Irish surveyor John Dunlap who led the party of men, women and children. Dunlap named the settlement after his birthplace of Coleraine, Ireland. It was located next to the 2,000-year-old Colerain Earthwork and one or more sacred Adena Indian Mounds.

They cleared the land, constructed the station, and grew crops outside during the first summer. The blockhouses were built as a refuge from Native attacks, since this was still primarily Shawnee land. While neighboring Indians and settlers had managed to share an earlier Christmas feast, naturally an application was made at Fort Washington for a garrison.

"...A small detachment of United States troops, under the command of Lieutenant Kingsbury, occupied the fort. It consisted of a corporal and eleven men, besides the commandant. Their names were: Taylor, Neef, O'Neal, O'Leary, Lincoln, Grant, Strong, Sowers, Murphy, Abel, McVicar and Wiseman.

Three blockhouses had been constructed for the military garrison, as had a shelter for the hand mill. The ten settler's cabins faced together, a cleared line of fire was begun by removing brush and felled trees, but this was not completed in time. Another vulnerability had been that the lower edges of the roofs were on the outside and had, for example, become a way into the Fort for their dogs. This was reversed, but there were still open spaces between some of the logs. As per Shaumburgh's Plan, all this was linked with 8' high fencing of log pickets, and then extended to the shore, the total enclosed about one acre.

 

Only one year after it had been settled, Dunlap’s Station was temporarily abandoned following a brutal attack it sustained by Native Americans. John Dunlap and the 11 families living at the Fort moved down river to the settlement at North Bend.

 

The Attack on Dunlap’s Station – In the winter of 1790-1, an attack was made, with a strong party, amounting, probably, to four or five hundred, on Dunlap’s station, at Colerain.  The block-house at that place was occupied by a small number of United States troops, commanded by Col. Kingsbury, then a subaltern in the army.  The fort was furnished with a piece of artillery, which was an object of terror to the Indians; yet that did not deter them from an attempt to effect their purpose.  The attack was violent, and for some time the station was in imminent danger.

The savages were led by the notorious Simon Girty, and outnumbered the garrison, at least, ten to one.  The works were entirely of wood, and the only obstacle between the assailants and the assailed was a picket of logs, that might have been demolished, with a loss not exceeding, probably, twenty or thirty lives.  The garrison displayed unusual gallantry – they frequently exposed their persons above the pickets, to insult and provoke the assailants; and judging from the facts reported, they conducted with as much folly as bravery.

Col. John Wallace, of Cincinnati, one of the earliest and bravest of the pioneers, and as amiable as he was brave, was in the fort when the attack was made.  Although the works were completely surrounded by the enemy, the colonel volunteered his services to go to Cincinnati for a reinforcement.  The fort stood on the east bank of the Big Miami.  Late in the night he was conveyed across the river in a canoe, and landed on the opposite shore.  Having passed down some miles below the fort, he swam the river, and directed his course for Cincinnati.  On his way down, the next day, he met a body of men from that place and from Columbia, proceeding to Colerain.  They had been informed of the attack, by persons hunting in the neighborhood, who were sufficiently near the fort to hear the firing when it began.

He joined the party, and led them to the station by the same route he had traveled from it; but before they arrived, the Indians had taken their departure.  It was afterwards ascertained that Mr. Abner Hunt, a respectable citizen of New Jersey, who was on a surveying tour in the neighborhood of Colerain, at the time of the attack, was killed before he could reach the fort.  His body was afterwards found, shockingly mangled.

The Indians tied Hunt to a sapling, within sight of the garrison, who distinctly heard his screams, and built a large fire so near as to scorch him, inflicting the most acute pain; then, as his flesh, from the action of the fire and the frequent application of live coals, became less sensible, making deep incisions in his limbs, as if to renew his sensibility of pain; answering his cries for water, to allay the extreme thirst caused by burning, by fresh tortures; and , finally, when exhausted and fainting, death seemed approaching to release the wretched prisoner, terminating his sufferings by applying flaming brands to his naked bowels.

As extracted from Henry Howe’s Historical Collections of Ohio

 

 

In 1794, Coleraine was established as a Township. The “e” at the end of Coleraine was dropped sometime later, Americanizing the name Colerain. The villages of Barnesburg, Bevis, Dunlap and Groesbeck were established in the early 1800′s along Blue Rock and Colerain Roads, two of the oldest roads in the area. German immigrants farmed the southwestern portion between 1840 and 1870, heavily influencing the township’s cultural and architectural traditions.

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