New Vienna Pilgrimage of Old Houses –
Only Two Families Have Owned 117-Year Old Swingley House
Editor's Note: The New Vienna Pilgrimage of old houses will open the county's observance of Ohio's sesquicentennial and will be held June 6 and 7. the owners of the houses have written the histories of their properties and told some of the interesting architectural points and the furnishings and other pieces which they contain. Proceeds of the ticket sale for the pilgrimage will go to the Clinton County Historical Society. The following is the story of the Thomas H. Swingley residence.)
Hostesses at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Swingley, on Route 73 east of Snow Hill Country club, for the New Vienna Pilgrimage of old houses will be the three daughters of the Swingleys, Mrs. E.W. Blanchard (Lillian Swingley), Mrs. George Martin (Suzanne Swingley) and Mrs. William J. Campbell (Jennie Swingley).
The flower arrangements will be made by the Snow Hill Garden Club, and placed in the home as Mrs. Swingley is a member of the club. Refreshments also will be served to the visitors by the club.
This Swingley home was built by Zephania Spears [1807-1898 – his first name also spelled as Zephaniah] in 1853. [This seems to contradict the 1953 headline about the house being 117 years old.] It was located about 200 yards from the point where Morgan Van Meter, the first settler of Clinton county found an unoccupied Indian wigwam. Here Van Meter built a double log cabin, the only one of its kind during that time and opened it to the public as a tavern, the first on any path or road leading from Chillicothe to Cincinnati.
Van Meter's was made a conspicious [sic] point in the road guide published in the Pittsburg [sic] almanac for the information and directions of traders by land from that that town to Cincinnati. It was said when they built the College township road, Van Meter gave the men generously from his whiskey jug to entice them to bring the road past his tavern. He succeeded.
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GENERAL CASS in the conversation with one of our citizens, years ago, made inquiries about this early public home and said that having lain out all night in the woods a few miles northwest of the Van Meters' he was glad to find it in the morning in time for a late breakfast.
Here Morgantown, the first settlement in Clinton county was laid out and named for Morgantown, Va., [now West Virginia] the native town of the Vat Meters'. It was plotted and laid out in 1816. There were but few houses built and it remained but a short time and was vacated. The Morgantown log church stood near the Morgantown cemetery which lies northeast of the Swingley residence.
Zephaniah Spears bought this farm in 1836 [117 years prior to this 1953 article] from John Van Meter, a son of Morgan Van Meter. He lived on this farm and worked as a blacksmith 10 years before he bought the place, Snow Hill was also a part of the William Tallifano Survey, the military land grand made by President John Adams in 1794 in accord with Congress to enable officers and soldiers of the Virginia line to obtain titles to certain lands lying northeast of the Ohio river between the Little Miami and Scioto. The land of 1,000 acres was granted to William Tallifano a lieutenant colonel of Vir- .... [Apparently a line(s) of this paragraph has been cut off.] . . . services of three years to the United States. This document signed by the President was given to Zephaniah Spears when he bought the place and is now property of the Snow Hill Country Club.
* * *ZEPHANIAH Spears in 1853 built this large brick house which took the place of the Van Meter cabin. all the brick was burned on the place. The brick kiln was located over the knoll just north of the home. There were also two lime kilns on the place. All of the woodwork is of black walnut. It took one carpenter a year to make the woodwork as it is all made by hand. The building timber was cut on the farm and taken to Hooktown just above Snow Hill to the sawmill, brought back and dried on the farm. The sawmill was where Russell Caplinger now lives. It has been said that Mr. Spears hand picked all the brick for the outer surface of the house.
The walls of the brick part are four bricks in thickness. The floors are the original oak floors sanded and varnished.
Washington Spears, son of Zephaniah, added on the farm part of the house when he was the owner.
The interior is as it was built. The iron fence in front was put up at the same time. Zephaniah Spears gave $12.50 per acre for this farm to Van Meter. M. D. Swingley, the father of T. H. Swingley, purchased the farm from Washington Spears in 1898 and gave $56 per acres for it.
In the 117 years there have been just two families as owners, the Spears' and the Swingleys.
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Notes about the Swingley: Thomas H. Swingley 1889-1980, was the son of Michael Duroc Swingley 1843-1907, and Sarah Abigail Bernard Swingley 1864-1957. He married Florence Fenner 1891-1962, in 1911. They were the parents of five children:
- Lillian Lucille Swingley Blanchard Morton 1912-2006, NVHS'1929. In 1981 she married Joe Morton (1913-1987, NVHS'31), son of former NV dentist, Lyle Morton and his wife Helen).
- Thomas H. Swingley Jr. 1914-2000, NVHS'34
- Sarah Edith Swingley who died as in infant in 1918
- Susanna "Suzanne" M. Swingley Martin 1924-2008, NVHS'41
- Jennie Carol Swingley Campbell 1926-2010, NVHS'44
Houses in the 1953 New Vienna Pilgrimage of Old Houses include:
- Elmer Page - Wilbur Huffman - Hause House on Bernard Rd – built 1874
- Hillyard Farm - Paul Terrell Family Home on Bernard Rd
- Swingley House on SR-73 - Built 1853 (or 1836?)
- Charles Blackburn House built 1838
- Brown Home, possibly built by Isaac Woodmansee c1840
- Christy Home, Panhandle Road, c1850
- Carl West Colonial House built 1850