In October of 1788 John Cleves Symmes and several of his business partners purchased one million acres of land from the United States government. The deal fell through and the land went back to the government. In September of 1794 Symmes obtained a patent for 248,540 acres of land in the Northwest Territory. Sometime later that year or early the following year Captain Benjamin Stites purchased 10,000 acres from John Symmes. A land that he had desired since 1786 when he had opportunity to see first hand the land he would one-day purchase and acquire a vision for.
In 1786 Captain Stites was escorting supplies down the Ohio River to Limestone and Washington on the Kentucky side of the river. Upon his arrival at Washington he learned that Indians had raided some settlers homes and stolen their horses. He offered to lead a party of men in hopes of retrieving the stolen property. They tracked the Indians up the Little Miami River as far as present day Xenia and had to return home empty handed. What Captain Stites did return with was a vision for what the Little Miami valley could one day be.
We know from the historical records of Scotch Plain Baptist Church in Scotch Plains, New Jersey that Captain Stites was a member of that church. We also know from those records that many of those who came down with him were members of the same church or relatives of his family.
In November of 1788 Benjamin and about thirty others met up with Judge Symmes (who had left Elizabeth Town New Jersey) at Red Stone, Pennsylvania. Together they made their way down the Ohio River to Limestone (Maysville) Ky. There they divide company. Judge Symmes began to send out exploring parties to the land he had purchased. He himself stayed a Maysville until January 1789 and headed along with fourteen others to North Bend and established the third settlement between the Great Miami and the Little Miami rivers. Captain Stites took a small group with him on down to a spot he had picked to start a new colony, now known as Columbia.
They landed on what is now known as Columbia on November 18,1788. The first desire upon landing was to give praise unto God for His “sustenance, guidance and protection and all united in a hymn of praise. “ The names of those history calls the first boatload were, Major Benjamin Stites, Mrs. Benjamin Stites, Benjamin Stites Jr., Ann w. Stites, Rachel Stites, Greenbright Bailey, Mrs. Greenbright Bailey, Reason Bailey, Abel Cook, Jacob Mills, Elijah Mills, Jonathan Stites, Ephraim Kibby, John S. Gano, Mrs. Mary Gano, Thomas C. Wade, Hezekiah Stites, Elijah Stites, Edmund Buxton, Daniel Shoemaker, _____ Hempstead, Evan Shelby, Allen Woodruff, Hampton Woodruff, Joseph Cox and Benjamin Cox. Many of their families had remained at Maysville for the winter and until buildings could be built to live in.
This brave group became very busy in preparing for the winter ahead and preparing to fight off the Indians. The winter was long and hard, the Indians proved to be a help that first year. In January of 1789 they realized that their biggest battle was the river. The High Flood came along and destroyed all of the homes that had been built except for one. It was at this time they realized they had had miscalculated in the placement of a new colony. The next year they made many changes but never recovered as far as a future settlement.
While they were continuing to settle and expand they had worship services in the different homes. On January 20, 1790 this group of pioneers met for the purpose of organizing a church.
The Columbia Baptist Church was constituted in 1790 under the ministry of Stephen Gano and under the authority of First Baptist Church in New York. At that time Stephen Gano was working out of First Baptist Church planting churches at Hillsdale, Hudson and Nine Partners. Dr. Gano’s brother John Gano and his family had arrived on the first boat that landed in Columbia and Dr. Gano’s father had married one of the Stites from Scotch Plains, New Jersey. “The History of the Miami Baptist Association” gives the following account of the organizational meeting.
“The first Baptist church in Ohio was constituted by the aid of Rev. Stephen Gano, afterward of Providence, Rhode Island, on the 20th of January, 1790, at the house of Benjamin Davis, in Columbia, five miles above the present day Cincinnati. This was on Saturday, and immediately after organizing the church, then consisting of nine persons, viz.: Benjamin Davis, Mary Davis, Isaac Ferris, Jonah Reynolds, Elizabeth Ferris, Amy Reynolds, John Ferris, John S. Gano, and Thomas C. Wade. Isaac Ferris was appointed deacon, and John S. Gano, Clerk. The door of the church was then opened and Elijah Stites, Rhonda Stites and Sarah Ferris who were received on experience, and baptized by Dr. Gano on the next day. …. Soon after three others, Mrs. Meek, Smith, and Bailey were united by letter: and thus the first Baptist church in the Northwestern Territory commenced with the above twelve members.”
The life of the Columbia Baptist Church has had several names and several locations. The sketch on the left is of the church as it stood in 1830. We know from a historical marker located at Pioneer Park across from the Lunken airport in Cincinnati, Ohio that their first location was there. The monument erected to their memory states, “The Columbia Baptist Church erected its first house of Worship on this spot in 1792. This lot contains two acres of ground purchased of Benjamin Stites, and was deeded TO THE BAPTIST OF COLUMBIA TOWNSHIP.”
As General Anthony Wayne drove the Indians up into the Miami Valley the early pioneers began to move out of the Columbia to settle new lands. In 1808 the church decided to move to an area more accessible to their members and away from the spring flooding that continued to plague the area where they had settled. They move to Duck Creek and Edwards Road, along with a new location came a new name, Duck Creek Baptist Church. In the 1870’s the church was again facing the same problem. Their members had continued to pioneer out into land that was safe to farm and raise families. In 1875 the church moved to Mt. Lookout on Grace Avenue. The church became know as the Duck Creek Baptist Church at Mt. Lookout. Then in 1904 the church decided to move to Hyde Park. The first phase was completed when the Chapel was built in 1907. In second phase began in1924 with the main sanctuary and the hall. They were completed in 1926. The name of the church became the Hyde Park Baptist Church.