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The Story of Portsmouth: Portsmouth Begins to Grow

By Audrey Stratton | Local Happenings

Stories inspired from "The Story of Portsmouth" by Elmer Sword

In this second edition of “Did You Know?” with local tales from our county’s history, we fast forward to “Portsmouth Begins to Grow.”

In 1851, Portsmouth became a city. It had met the requirement of 5,000 residents.

Whippings at the First Jail

The first county jail was built in 1805 on the west side of Market street between Front street and Second street. The jail itself was not very big. Being 18 feet square, it had a log floor foundation with 8 feet high log ceilings.

This jail used whippings as part of its punishments. Between 1805 and 1807, a man and wife awaited trial for stealing clothing. They were tried, convicted, and sentenced to a whipping.

The husband received 39 whippings while his wife received 18. These whippings were administered by the sheriff on their bare backs.

Kinney House Oldest In the City

The Aaron Kinney house, known as the 1810 house, sits at Waller street and Kinney’s lane. This is the oldest house still standing in the city. It was built by brick in the summer of 1812 by one of the earliest residents, Aaron Kinney.

Mr. Kinney left Pennsylvania in 1804 and travelled here with his family of four in a horse wagon. Before building his home, he set up a tannery and went to work selling hides to the Chillicothe area.

He began building his home in 1810. Even though the home has been updated and modernized, its original foundation is still standing.

Mr. Kinney owned over 200 acres of land in the hill-top area and 178 cres east of Waller street. He had purchased most of these for only $10 per acre.

Overseers of the Poor

In 1809, Aaron Kennedy and William Lawson were elected Overseers of the Poor. This was an esteemed office during this time. There was no shelter, or help center, for them to go to. The overseers job was to warn all objectionable people out of the township to prevent them from becoming township charges.

This position was often abused, however. If someone did not like his neighbor and they could convince the overseer that this said person was objectionable, they could have him warned out of the township.

The War of 1812

Though there are very few records to show Portsmouth’s part in this war, Portsmouth did have a Company of 42 men serving in the First Regiment of Ohio Volunteers. These men served under Captain David Roop from May 1, 1812 to May 7, 1813.

It is unknown whether or not they were in any battles, but they were part of the 2,000 men who unnecessarily surrendered at Detroit by General William Hull on August 16, 1812. These men were paroled and returned home.

Next week we will take a look at the pioneer life in our county!


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