First Christmas at Columbia Tusculum

Benjamin Stites discovered the future location of Columbia, Ohio, through an unfortunate event. He was on a trading expedition with other traders in Kentucky when some of their horses were stolen. They built a raft and pursued Native Americans across the Ohio River. Stites and his men followed them up the Little Miami River. He returned without the horses, but had found the location of a settlement he wanted to establish.

Stites returned to his Pennsylvania home and eventually purchased 20,000 acres on the Ohio River near the mouth of the Little Miami River.

Twenty-six people traveled the Ohio River in November of 1788. Stites’ group included women and children. At Limestone, Kentucky (modern-day Maysville,) they prepared lumber to build a fort. They resumed their journey, arriving near the mouth of the Little Miami River on November 18th.

Having heard rumors of Native Americans waiting for them, Stites’ party posted sentinels. After singing a hymn and praying, the settlers began building a blockhouse. Three more blockhouses were quickly constructed. Palisades formed a wall around them to create Fort Miami.

They named the settlement Columbia.

Native Americans were friendly at first and visited the blockhouses.

Christmas of 1788 was a warm, pleasant day. The pioneers set up tables outside and invited their Native American neighbors to eat with them. Their guests arrived with their guns, fearing a trap.

Judge Isaac Dunn of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, later recalled that Christmas when he was a boy of six. Potpies, cooked in two ten-gallon kettles, were the main dish.

The settlers had also invited soldiers. Their arrival nearly caused a disaster. The pioneers wanted to live in harmony with their new neighbors and convinced the Native Americans to stay.

A delicious dinner was eaten on the river bank, a day the settlers long remembered. Well-satisfied, the Native Americans left around sunset.

Unfortunately, peace didn’t last. But on that Christmas Day, peace reigned.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Berten, Jinny Powers. Cincinnati Christmas, Orange Frazer Press, 2011.

“History of Columbia Tusculum,” Columbia Tusculum, 2019/07/29

Suess, Jeff. “Christmas Celebrations in Cincinnati over the years,”, 2019/04/27

Two Rivers by Deborah Sprinkle

Today’s post has been written by talented author and friend, Deborah Sprinkle. Her debut contemporary romantic suspense is a page turner! Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Deborah!

Together, the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers create the arteries that feed the heart of our great nation. Both have played a major role in America’s history since its beginning, carrying the first explorers and the first pioneers, loaded with hopes and dreams. Today, barges ply their waters, loaded with coal and other major commercial goods. They’ve served as boundaries and as obstacles, as death traps and as lifelines.

They’ve played a part in every major conflict in our country. During the Civil War, control of the these mighty rivers became paramount. To do this, navies were needed, and in this regard, the industrial North had the advantage. Commander John Rodgers of the Union Navy ordered his ships to Cairo, Illinois, the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi. Constant patrolling of both waterways from this strategic location established Northern control to the point that Kentucky and Missouri remained neutral throughout the war.

More ships were built and the Mississippi ran red with the blood of our nation’s men as the North gained control of the river further south, culminating in the fall of Vicksburg in 1863.1 On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant marking the beginning of the end to the conflict that pitted brother against brother, and took more American lives than any other war.

That’s when one of the most tragic river disasters in the history of our country happened. Two weeks later on April 27, the Sultana, a wooden steamboat, left St. Louis for New Orleans, her objective to pick up released Union soldiers and bring them home. Built to carry 376 passengers, she ended up with 2,137. She fought her way upriver, despite riding low in the water and nursing a patched boiler.  North of Memphis her luck ran out. Three of her four boilers exploded under the pressure of pushing against the current with so much extra weight. Loss of life was estimated at somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 souls.

On the 150th anniversary of its sinking, a museum opened in Marion, Arkansas, memorializing the Sultana. Artifacts and pieces of the hull displayed were found in a field. The river’s course had changed by two miles since it went down.2

America started as colonies huddled on the east coast with a vast expanse of land to the west. With the help of the great rivers, we became territories and then states. We’ve fought for independence. We’ve fought for our borders. We’ve fought amongst ourselves. Each time, our rivers have been one of our most valuable resources. Ah, the tales they could tell.

In my debut novel, Deadly Guardian, my heroine knows a lot about rivers. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio. Both are river towns. One is on the Mississippi and the other graces the shores of the Ohio. While she doesn’t live on the river, she does have a home on a lake nearby. And that body of water gets her into…well, I don’t want to give it away. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.

-Deborah Sprinkle


  1. Sam Smith. “Winning the West.” Civil War History The River War.  American Battlefield Trust.

2. “Sultana (steamboat).” Wikipedia.


About Deborah

Deborah Sprinkle is a retired chemistry teacher among other things. So it should come as no surprise that the protagonist in her debut novel, Deadly Guardian, is one as well. Mrs. Sprinkle is also co-author of a non-fiction book entitled Exploring the Faith of America’s Presidents.  She has won awards for her short stories, articles, and her latest work in progress. Mrs. Sprinkle lives in Memphis with her husband where she continues to be an ordinary woman serving an extraordinary God.

Deadly Guardian Blurb

When the men she dated begin dying, Madison Long must convince the police of her innocence and help them determine who has taken on the role of her guardian before he kills the only man she ever truly loved, Detective Nate Zuberi.

Madison Long, a high school chemistry teacher, looks forward to a relaxing summer break. Instead, she suffers through a nightmare of threats, terror, and death. When she finds a man murdered she once dated, Detective Nate Zuberi is assigned to the case, and in the midst of chaos, attraction blossoms into love. Together, she and Nate search for her deadly guardian before he decides the only way to truly save her from what he considers a hurtful relationship is to kill her—and her policeman boyfriend as well.


The La Vale Toll House on the National Road

Work on a National Road near the Potomac River in Cumberland, Maryland, to the Ohio River in Wheeling, Virginia (later became part of the newly created state of West Virginia during the Civil War) in 1811. This section of road was completed in 1818 though the road continued into Ohio after that.

High traffic caused lots of wear and tear on the road, making it difficult to maintain. The federal government turned over the maintenance of the road to the states in the early 1830s. To cover the cost, the states built toll houses to collect tolls.

Maryland built its first toll house, the La Vale Toll House, about six miles from Cumberland around 1833. This toll house is the state’s only one still standing on the National Road (also called Cumberland Road.)

Tollkeepers collected tolls there until the early 1900s. Included in their $200 annual salary were free living quarters.

It’s fun to read the toll rates. For example, horse and riders paid 4 cents for ten miles or 14 cents for thirty-five miles. Travelers paid 8 cents for ten miles or 28 cents for thirty-five miles for every sleigh, sled, chaise, or Dearborn “drawn by one horse or pair of oxen.”

Dearborn wagons contained four wheels generally drawn by a single horse. The vehicle usually had one seat, with top curtains and sometimes side curtains. From 1819 to 1850, truck farmers and peddlers used the affordable Dearborn.

Gateposts are all that remain of a second Maryland toll house outside of Frostburg. This one was located thirteen miles from Cumberland. There’s a nice photo of the toll house on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum site.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Day, Reed B. The Cumberland Road: A History of the National Road, Closson Press, 1996.

Dearborn Wagon.” Dictionary of American History.. 23 Apr. 2017<>.

Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“First Toll Gate House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

“The La Vale Toll House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22

“The National Road & Toll House near Frostburg, MD,” Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, 2017/04/22