Butler County. Ohio became the 17th state March 1, 1803, and 23 days later, March 24, the Ohio General Assembly passed an act "for the division of the counties of Hamilton and Ross," forming Butler County and determining its boundaries. Eight new counties were formed: Gallia and Franklin, effective April 30, 1803, and Butler, Warren, Greene, Montgomery, Columbiana and Scioto, effective May 1, 1803. Hamilton County had been established Jan. 2, 1790, by Gov. Arthur St. Clair.
Knox County had been formed June 20, 1790, with the Great Miami River as the border between Hamilton and Knox counties. (See entry for Hamilton County.)
Gov. St. Clair altered county boundaries Feb. 11, 1792, extending Hamilton County's boundary east to the Scoito River and north to what became Michigan. In an alteration June 22, 1798, land west of the Great Miami, stretching in what became Indiana, was shifted from Knox County to Hamilton County. Less than a year later, some of that land was taken from Hamilton County. April 30, 1802, a triangle bounded by a line extending northeast from the mouth of the Kentucky River (near Carrollton, Ky.) to Fort Recovery, Ohio, was detached. The new western limit of Hamilton County (and later Butler County) became an extension of a line north from the mouth of the Great Miami. Jan. 20, 1808, a portion of Butler County, near the present City of Franklin, was switched to Warren County. That same date the boundary between Butler and Hamilton counties was moved north about a mile. March 1, 1808, Preble County (Eaton) was formed from Butler and Montgomery counties. March 1, 1815, another part of Butler County was transferred to Warren County. Butler County was named after Gen. Richard Butler, a veteran of the American Revolution and second in command in the army that built Fort Hamilton. He was killed in the defeat of Gen. St. Clair's army Nov. 4, 1791, at what later became Fort Recovery, Ohio.
In 1803 the legislature authorized appointment of a committee to select a county seat. James Silvers, Benjamin Stites and David Sutton met in Hamilton in July 1803. Several sites were considered. Israel Ludlow, proprietor of Hamilton, submitted the following proposal: "I will give for the use of the county a square for public buildings, agreeably to the plan recorded of the town of Hamilton; also a square for the church and burying-ground, consisting of eight town lots, together with the commons in front of the town, for public uses -- such as boat-yards etc. in case the honorable commissioners should conceive the town of Hamilton a convenient and suitable place for the seat of justice; and will also pay two hundred dollars toward the erection of a courthouse. The commissioners accepted the proposition July 15, 1803. Ludlow died Jan. 21, 1804, before conveying the property, but administrators of his estate completed the transaction in 1808. According to the History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio, Illustrated, published in 1882, the first associate judges appointed by the Legislature for the county were James Dunn, John Greer and John Kitchel. They met at Hamilton May 10, 1803, and held their first Court of Quarter Session "at the house of John Torrence, who then kept a tavern in the house standing on the corner of Dayton and Water [later renamed Monument Avenue] streets, on lot No. 132. . . . It was built by John Torrence, and was the first frame building erected in the town of Hamilton outside of the garrison." The judges named John Reily clerk pro tem, and divided the county into five townships -- Fairfield, Liberty, Lemon, St. Clair and Ross. They also ordered elections to be held in the townships June 1, 1803, to elect a sheriff and coroner. James Blackburn was elected sheriff and Samuel Dillon coroner.
The first regular term of the Court of Common Pleas started Tuesday, July 12, 1803, at the house of John Torrence in Hamilton. The court was composed of Francis Dunlevy, president judge; James Dunn, John Greer and John Kitchel, associate judges; Daniel Symmes. prosecuting attorney; James Blackburn, sheriff; and John Reily, clerk.
July 13 and 14, 1803, appointments included James Heaton, county surveyor, and Joseph F. Randolph. county treasurer. July 14, according to the 1882 history, "the court made an order that the building lately occupied and used by the troops of the garrison as a magazine should be assigned to be the jail for Butler County." The first term of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio for Butler County was held at Hamilton Oct. 11, 1803, by Samuel Huntingdon and William Sprigg, judges; John Reily, clerk; Arthur St. Clair [Jr.], prosecuting attorney; and William McClellan, sheriff.