Editor’s note: For many years, local historian Jean Wallis provided a feature to The Times-Gazette called “Highland Guideposts.” She is updating and resubmitting some of those articles from time to time, including this one.
Hillsborough, a city set on seven hills, was carved from the wilderness as the county seat of Highland in 1807 by Virginia born David Hays.
The Highland County Historical Society is fortunate to have in its collection the surveyor’s compass made by Goldsmith Chandlee (1751-1821) of Winchester, Va. used by Hays in the platting of the town of Hillsborough.
The compass was purchased in 1803 by Allen Trimble, who was visiting relatives in Augusta County, Va. His purpose in purchasing the compass was with the intention of becoming a surveyor, but his health prevented him to continue.
From the February 1807 term of the common pleas court held in New Market is the following entry: “Agreeably to an act of the last Legislature, entitled an act establishing the permanent seat of justice in the county of Highland, the Court has elected David Hays as Director. This appointment was made in pursuance of a statute passed March, 1903.” A report from the commissioners appointed by the State Legislature said that Nathaniel Beasley, Peter Light and James Denny were to survey the county and establish the seat of justice, which was completed prior to May-June 1806.
Hays emigrated first to Chillicothe before removing to Highland County. In 1805, he was appointed the county’s first recorder and in the same year was appointed clerk of the common pleas court. He was well educated and in his early 30s. He was single and boarded at the Barrere tavern in New Market. Hays became a leader in the county, but his roll in its early history spans only a short time brought on by his tragic death.
On Aug. 28, 1807, Hays made a survey and plat of the town of Hillsborough on 300 acres of land purchased from Benjamin Ellicott of Baltimore, Md. adjoining the 150 acres given by Elliott to the county of Highland in 1806.
Robert Ballard received four surveys of 6,000 acres in Highland County on the Virginia Line of the Continental Establishment, Virginia Military District. Lot number 2513 was surveyed April-May 1795 by Nathaniel Massie, deputy surveyor. Chain carriers were Benjamin Massie and Joseph Wade, the marker was George Edgington.
The original plat consisted of 197 lots. Main and High streets were 6 poles wide, South, Walnut, Beech, North, East and West streets were 4 poles wide.
A public auction was planned and advertisements went out to the Scioto Gazette at Chillicothe, the Western Spy in Cincinnati and the newspaper in Steubenville, the reasoning being there were land offices in those towns.
The auction was held in the early part of October, 1807, on East Beech Street with John Davidson of New Market as the auctioneer.
A large number of persons attended, chiefly from the northern and eastern parts of the county. Notably absent were those from New Market. Christian Bloom and his wife, Elizabeth, were on hand to supply the crowd with gingerbread and whiskey. They erected a small tent near the stand of the auctioneer, where they found ready sale for their stock.
On that day a considerable number of lots were sold at prices ranging from $20 to $150. The out-lots sold from $20 to $25. Payment for the lots were to be one-third down, one-half in six months and the remainder in 12 months. There was a deduction of 10 percent if the entire amount of the sale price was paid at the time of purchase.
John Campton from New Market purchased lot 112 located at the southwest corner of East Beech Street and North East Street. He was a tanner by trade, and having discovered a spring located on the lot, he carefully covered it over with brush so that no one would find it and bid against him. He built a shanty on the lot and was living in it 10 days after the sale. This was the first building erected in Hillsborough.
On Monday, Nov. 9, 1807, the fall term of the Common Pleas Court of Highland County was held in Hillsborough in a log cabin erected by Joseph Knox on the lot now occupied by the Parker Hotel. Present were Richard Evans, John Davidson and Jonathan Berriman, Associate Judges.
The sheriff, Augustus Richards, returned a grand jury, the first to ever be seated in Hillsborough. They consisted of James Johnson, Reason Moberly, David Sullivan, Hector Murphy, Enoch B. Smith, William Peyton, Joseph Hiestand, John Roads, Terry Templin, St. Clair Ross, Jeremiah Smith, Martin Countryman and William Wray.
At this same term of court, Joseph Knox was issued a license to keep a public house for one year in Hillsborough and he received an order on the county treasury for $3 for the use of his tavern for the court session.
On Dec. 7, 1807, the Board of Commissioners met in the cabin of John Campton. Present were George W. Barrere and Moses Patterson. Nathaniel Pope was absent. They ordered that John Countryman, Frederick Prougher and Enoch Smith be appointed to view a road leading from Hillsborough to Countryman’s Mill (today this road is SR 124 East) also a road from Hillsboro to intersect the road leading from New Market to Countryman’s Mill, between the farms of Stultz and Murphin. Walter Craig was appointed supervisor.
At the same meeting they ordered Morgan Van Meter, George W. Barrere and Phillip Wilkin to view a road from New Market to Morgan Van Meter’s and Hays was appointed surveyor.
Shortly after this a tragic accident occurred that led to the death of Hays and cut short a brilliant career. Following the accident he was removed to Chillicothe where he died and was buried. When the county was formed the roll played by Hays was an important part of its history.
At court held in Hillsborough on March 7, 1808, an application Letters of Administration were granted to George W. Barrere and George Richards on their giving bond and security for the true administration of the estate of Hays, and appraisers were appinted, Moses Patterson, Samuel McQuitty and Elijah Kirkpatrick.
At the same session the court appointed Allen Trimble clerk pro-tem and recorder for the county and George Richards was appointed director of the Town of Hillsboro to replace Hays.
On March 9, on examination of the account of David Hayes, deceased, for his services as director, the court agreed to allow him for his hands services the sum of $181.80. This record appears in the Highland County Clerk of Courts office.