THE HISTORY OF FOSTER, OHIO
In order to understand the history of Foster, Ohio, it is important to start at the very beginning. The journey to become Foster, Ohio began in 1784 when land, between the Little Miami River and the Scioto River, was designated to be used as the Virginia Military District. The purpose of the land was to serve as compensation for the Virginia War Veterans of the Continental Army.
A few years later, in 1788, Judge John Symmes of New Jersey, along with a group of investors, petitioned the Continental Congress to make a land purchase between the Great Miami River and Little Miami River and as far south as the Ohio River. In 1794, President George Washington approved the land purchase, which became known as the Symmes Purchase.
In 1796, Jeremiah Morrow, James Parkhill, and Thomas Epsy traveled up the Little Miami River to the Foster, Ohio area. They had purchased land that was part of the Symmes Purchase. The land was on the west bank of the Little Miami River and would be called the Twenty Mile Stand because it was 20 miles north of Cincinnati.
As more settlers moved westward, the need for infrastructure increased. In 1840, the Cincinnati Montgomery Hopkinsville Turnpike was completed. Today, you may recognize the turnpike as Old 3C Highway. This turnpike traveled from Cincinnati up to Hopkinsville, Ohio and crossed the Little Miami River at Foster’s Crossing.
At the Twenty Mile Stand there was a man named Henry Foster, who operated a store. Henry had a son named James Foster. In 1842, James Foster traveled north along the turnpike and settled two miles north, on the banks of the Little Miami River. James built a store on the west side of the river and a tavern/inn on the east side of the river. He appropriately named the inn/tavern The Twenty Two Mile Stand. The Twenty Two Mile Stand is what we call The Monkey Bar & Grille today! (you can read the history of the building here)
James provided a service to assist settlers in crossing the Little Miami River. The area came to be known as Foster’s Crossing, thanks to James’s service.
In 1843, the Little Miami Railroad was completed. The Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail is where the tracks used to stand. The train, traveling from Cincinnati to Foster’s Crossing, was instrumental in the development of Foster’s Crossing.
As more settlers traveled along the railroad and settled in Foster’s Crossing, buildings began to pop up. In 1857, Seth Greely from Maineville, Ohio bought a saw mill and, a year later, he built a grist mill. Jeremiah Morrow bought the gristmill from Greely in 1886. Augustus Hoppe worked as a miller for Morrow and together they operated one of the most successful mills in the region. The mill produced cake flour and supplied bakeries around Lebanon and Cincinnati. It is said that the flour was “fine as silk” because they used fine silk to sift the flour. The mill also produced pancake flour and cornmeal. Their most popular flour was called “Pride of Miami.” Local families could bring in their wheat, corn, rye, barley, and other grains and have it custom-grinded. You can still see the foundation of the old mill along the Little Miami River, if you walk into the woods of Rahe Park along Old 3C Highway.
In 1865, a German tailor from Cincinnati, named Mathew Obergefell, moved to Foster’s Crossing and built the first brick building on the west bank of the river. The bricks were manufactured locally in the river valley. It was named the Liberty House and had a tavern/inn and a tailor shop. The Liberty House still stands today. If you drive across the bridge, away from The Monkey Bar & Grille, and turn left, you will see the Liberty House on your left about a quarter of a mile down the road. In 1897, Sabastian Maag, Earl Maag’s grandfather, bought the building and turned it into a dance hall. It remained a popular dance hall until 1942. The dance hall was known for quadrilles, a type of square dance. German type bands and fiddlers were the popular music performed in the dance hall.
By 1865, the Cincinnati Montgomery Hopkinsville Turnpike changed names to the Cincinnati Montgomery Turnpike. The same year, the Free Turnpike Act was passed, which made a majority of turnpikes toll free! This did not apply to bridges.
Speaking of bridges, in 1867, Mr. Hebble built the first covered bridge across the river, using timber cut at Greely’s Saw Mill. Tolls were collected to cross this bridge. The bridge stood until the 1913 flood, when it was destroyed.
The combined efforts of the railroad, the turnpike, and the covered bridge; that made Foster, Ohio easily accessible, caused the population to grow to 180 people by 1868. Of the 180 residents, there were 105 Germans, 50 Americans, and 25 Irish. The town had also grown to 47 buildings, including many types of businesses, homes, and a school. There were five taverns and a distillery. A local was quoted saying, “of these saloons, we have just five too many.” The distillery was called Merckle & Mullenkamp and it was run by a government-storekeeper named H.P. Dove. He held the position for 12 years.
Foster, Ohio had its own school, thanks to Representative Scott of Warren County. In 1868, he petitioned the Deerfield Township Board of Education to create a separate school district. The school educated children up to the eighth grade and students attended for nine months out of the year. The Foster Public School operated until 1942.
There was also a store called Fishwick & Pittinger Merchants Merchandising Store. It carried a large variety of merchandise and hard-to-find goods. The store was competitive and successful, not only in Foster, but in the surrounding communities, as well. The store was run by A.W. Pittinger and his son-in-law, Mr. Fishwick. Pittinger was college educated, which was uncommon in rural areas outside of Cincinnati.