Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bond, Bond Hill

I pass through a part of town called Bond Hill, a neighborhood in Cincinnati OH, on my work commute and have often wondered about its history. Based on what I see on my drive and on the news it's seen better days and I figured it must have a story to tell...

Settlers first arrived in the late 18th century in what was then prime Shawnee hunting grounds. Since not all of the Shawnee bands signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 which ceded most of Ohio north of the Ohio River to the Americans, some still fought on for nearly 2 decades to keep this land free of settlers.

The stream and tributary of the Mill Creek that runs through this community is called Bloody Run and achieved its morbid name long ago due to several deadly skirmishes that ended poorly for the would-be settlers along present-day Route 42/Reading Rd then known as Harmar's Trace, a military road built over an ancient buffalo trail. One incident was the 1792 skirmish with the Shawnee that resulted in the death of Moses Pryor and his daughter who ventured outside the small fortification called White's Station in present-day Carthage. Another deadly incident in 1794 involved several federal postal workers. Successful settlement didn't really occur here until after the death of the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh in the War of 1812 when most Native Americans had moved west to the Indiana Territory.

The odd thing is no one is really sure exactly which "Bond" person this community is named after or who came up with the term which was in use prior to the 1830's. The best theory is that it was named after the lawyer, Congressman and surveyor named William Key Bond who lived in Cincinnati from 1841-1864 who is buried in nearby Spring Grove Cemetery but it is not known if he was the namesake since no one bothered to write it down. There is no record of him or any other Bond owning land in this immediate area but it is likely he helped survey this area before he resided here permanently.

Bond Hill is also definitely not on or very near a hill. Historians speculate that it was called a “hill” as a deception to attract land buyers at a time when settling on higher ground was more desirable for safety against flooding and Indian attacks. The renaming of nearby Mill Creek from its Shawnee name Makateewa is another example of a PR move by the land speculator John Cleves Symmes to attract millers to buy land at 67 cents per acre to this hostile area in the 1790's.

marker for the Miami-Erie canal in nearby St. Bernard

Bond Hill also had the Miami-Erie Canal to the west in the mid-1800's that attracted travelers to the rural and open spaces away from the city to the South. You wouldn't know it now but there were once nice orchards and farms before the city blight. In place of the canal now is Interstate 75 which some residents and some maps still refer to as the Mill Creek Expressway.

The signs in the area show the area was officially established in 1871. Bond Hill was developed then as a railroad town and cooperative by temperance members seeking a spot for affordable housing free of the scourge of alcohol. This group of individuals actually had planned this community in present-day Northside but for unknown reasons chose the Bond Hill area several miles to the East.

Incidentally, in this part of town is Maketewah Country Club established in 1910 and named for the former name of Mill Creek. At one time on their website, they said this was a Mohawk term that meant "land of the mill valley" but this is absolutely false since the mills came with the white settlers and there really were not any Mohawks in this area either. I emailed them about that once and they never responded but I see now that this reference is gone. Makateewa simply meant "it is black" which once referred to the rich dark soil on the bed of this large creek that runs through Cincinnati.

And that is a brief history of Bond Hill.

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