Lemons, Locks, Mills, and Trains
The National Register property that we currently have listed for sale–the circa 1875 A. E. Harding residence–is in a very unique spot, historically-speaking of course. The physical address is 3551 S. Main Street, Lemon Township, Butler County Ohio–just outside Middletown’s city limits. It also happens to be in the community of Excello and adjacent to both the Miami and Erie Canal remains as well as a branch of the former Cincinnati, Hamilton, & Dayton Railroad line. And, oh yeah, A.E. Harding’s original paper mill still stands across the street. Care to know a little bit more?
Lemon Township was created on May 10, 1803 by the Butler County Court of Quarter Sessions (that sounds fancy). Originally, it encompassed 36 square miles and included all of what is now Madison Township as well as portions of what is Middletown and most of the Butler County part of Monroe (the rest of Monroe is in Liberty Township to the south). Madison Township was divided from Lemon Township on May 7, 1810 and Middletown incorporated in 1833. The later became a city in 1886. Thus, over time, Lemon Township was whittled down to its current size of 14.7 square miles.
Construction of the Miami and Erie Canal began in 1825 and was completed in 1845 at a bargain price of just over $8 million (OK, that was a lot in the early 19th century). It covered approximately 274 miles and connected Cincinnati with Toledo. The canal was the brainchild of Ohio’s Seventh governor, Ethan A. Brown, who served from 1818 to 1822. His contemporary critics called his canal project “Brown’s Folly” but today he is generally considered to be the “Father of Ohio’s Canals”. Score one for posterity, Mr. Brown!
The Miami and Erie Canal passed right through Lemon Township, paralleling the eastern side of the Great Miami River and linking Hamilton with Middletown. As it happens, the very first lock along the canal (#1 out of 103) was in Lemon Township: Excello Lock, by Dick’s Creek, was completed in 1826 just north of A.E. Harding’s property. Remains of the canal and Excello Lock, are preserved as a park by Butler County (Excello Lock Metropark).
The railroad, specifically the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, came to Lemon Township in 1851. Over the course of its history (it was first incorporated in 1846 and later acquired by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1917), the C.H. & D. eventually owned or controlled 640 miles of railroad. The C.H. & D. East Middletown Branch paralleled the Miami and Erie Canal to Hamilton, Ohio, passing through Excello (check out the 1906 USGS map at the top of this post). And Excello, if you are wondering, is an unincorporated community administered by Lemon Township. It comprises an approximate area from south of Oxford State Road and State Route 73, west of State Route 4, and east of the Great Miami River. Excello was originally the company town that grew up around A.E. Harding’s paper mill and supposedly named after a brand of paper that his company produced. Harding built his paper mill in the 1860s and his home circa 1875. So, in sum–and in order to clarify the timeline–our historic write-up proceeds as follows: township formation, then canal digging, then railroad track laying, then paper mill construction, then Harding house building and, finally, community naming!