Bethel's Colorful History
The village of Bethel was founded in 1798 by Obediah Denham, who first named the town Plainfield, after his hometown of Plainfield, N.J. Shortly after, the name was changed to Denhamstown to honor the founder. When the community's plat was recorded in April of 1802, the name was changed to Bethel, the Biblical site where Jacob dreamed about the ladder to heaven.
William Lytle surveyed the site of Bethel in March of 1794. Denham purchased 1,500 acres of this plot in June of 1796. Denham arrived here from Kentucky in 1797; he and his family made their first camp near the intersection of Charity and Water streets. They built their home on the west wide of N. West Street at its intersection with Davis Lane.
Bethel was incorporated in March of 1851. The first mayor was Jesse Grant, father of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The elder Grant and his wife, Hannah, lived in the house that stood on the southeast corner of Charity and Plane (S. R. 125) streets. The home had belonged to Thomas Morris, the only man from Clermont County to serve in the U. S. Senate (1833 to 39) and run for vice-president of the United States. He ran on the Liberty Party ticket in 1844.
In this house Morris taught law to Thomas Hamer, who would become a U. S. Congressman and a general in the War with Mexico. The Brown County village of Hamersville is named in his honor.
It was to the same house that Ulysses S. Grant would return many times to visit his parents. Ulysses Grant, Jr. Grant's son was born in the home on July 22, 1852. His nickname was "Buck" because he was the general's only child to be born in Ohio, the Buckeye State.
While Jesse Grant was mayor he held court in his tannery, which stood on the northeast corner of Charity and Water streets.
Others events and persons of interest:
Dr. William Eberle Thompson is believed to have been the oldest practicing physician in the United States when he died in Bethel in 1940 at the age of 104. His family included conductors on the Underground Railroad; their home at 133 S. Main St. (S. R. 133) was a station on the route.
Edmund Glenn Burke is widely known as the village's benefactor. He became a millionaire while living in New York City and investing in real estate there.
Former Ohio State football coach and College Football Hall of Fame member Woody Hayes lived in Bethel as a child. His father was superintendent of Bethel Schools at the beginning of the 20th Century. They lived on the west side of N. Union Street between Bone Street and Davis Lane.
Steve Newman, the first person to walk solo around the world, lived on Charity Street and graduated from Bethel-Tate High School in 1972. His walk lasted from April 1, 1983 to April 1, 1987.
The only witchcraft trial known to have been recorded in Ohio history occurred in Bethel in 1805. There are several versions of the tale, but the accused, Nancy Evans, was an elderly lady who lived by herself on the southeast corner of State Routes 125 and 232. Her accusers were the Hildebrand sisters, whose family is believed to have lived on the southwest corner of Plane and Ash streets. The trial took place in a pond that is believed to have been located behind Mrs. Evans' cabin. The verdict was innocent.
The Cincinnati, Georgetown and Portsmouth Railroad made Bethel one of its principal stopping points. An office of the CG&P was located on the south side of South Street between Union and Charity streets. The tracks reached Bethel on July 1, 1880. The last freight service to Bethel was in December of 1935. An extension of the CG&P, known as the Felicity and Bethel Railroad, began operation in October of 1906, continuing until July of 1933.
On the northwest corner of South and Union streets is the Old Shoe Factory that began operation in the late 1890s and employed much of southeastern Clermont County.
George J. Trautwine owned the first store in Bethel, which stood near the southwest corner of Plane and Charity streets. He operated his store until his death in 1832.
The Baptist Church at 211 E. Plane St. is the oldest church in town and is believed to be the second oldest Baptist Church in Ohio.
The site of the first school in Bethel was on the square surrounded by Main, Plane, and Union Streets. It began sometime before 1825.
Buried in the Tate Township Cemetery on East Street is Edgar Aston, who earned a Congressional Medal of Honor for fighting Apache Indians in 1878. He is one of two Clermont Countians to earn the honor.
At one time almost every major community in the county had its own movie theater. The last remaining is the Midway Theatre at 210 W. Plane Street.
The oldest newspaper still in existence in Clermont County, The Clermont Sun, had its beginning in Bethel. The office of editor and publisher, Samuel Medary, was at the northwest corner of Plane and Charity streets. The first issue was published July 1, 1828. Medary later became the governor of the Territory of Kansas just before the Civil War.
State Route 133 was once known as the Bullskin or Xenia Trail. An animal path to salt licks in present Blue Licks, Ky., the trail was also used by Indians for hunting and fishing trips and expeditions into Kentucky or to raid settlements there. State Route 125 was the Ohio Turnpike, which extended from the bridge over the Little Miami River east of Lunken Airport to Bethel.