Dublin, Ohio

Retold from the article From Leatherlips to Microchips by Scott T. Weber, February 1993

The Sells Settlement

Ludwick Sells, a tavern keeper from Pennsylvania, moved to the town of Franklinton in 1800 to start his own tavern on the west side of what is now downtown Columbus.  He was so pleased with everything the land had to offer that he had his two sons, Peter and Benjamin travel up the river to buy 400 acres of land where the village of Dublin is now. There they found a land filled with everything needed to build a town. They were amazed. They found a river for travel with flat bottomed boats, high limestone banks along the river to stop the flooding in the Spring, plenty of hard wood trees for lumber, good, clean water springs in the rocks, friendly Native Americans and plenty of wild animals and fish. They bought this land for their brother John and more land further north for themselves and their father. For eight years they took many trips up the river on flat boats to look at the new land.

In May of 1809, during the spring flood, John Sells poled a flat-bottomed boat up the river with his wife and a fancy black horse from Kentucky. In a few weeks he had built a log cabin on the bank of the river near a spring that his brothers had found.  Today in this spot there is a park near the Old Dublin Bridge.

That fall, John Sells built another log building and named it The Black Horse Tavern after his black Kentucky stallion.  Many soldiers, Native Americans and travelers on the road were happy to find the “Sells Settlement”. There they could  relax before they traveled the last 12 miles to Franklinton. The Black Horse was also visited by Native American groups from Upper Sandusky stopping at the local spring with horses carrying beaver, mink and wolf pelts, deer hides and maple syrup to trade with the French trader in Franklinton. They traded for gun powder and ball, beads, blankets and traps. On their way to the trade, John Sells allowed them to sit cross legged on the front steps of the tavern to tell stories and camp out.

At this time the Sells Settlement was a resting place on the way to town for many men wanting to trade with the merchants in Columbus. 


Shateyoranyah, a Wyandot Chief the settlers called Leatherlips, was a visitor to The Black Horse Tavern. He and John Sells often talked about helping the white people to settle in this area. Leatherlips became a friend of John Sells and the two men worked together to make the area important. Then on the night of June 1, 1810 five angry Wyandot warriors and their leader Chief Roundhead came to the Black Horse Tavern. They were dressed in war paint and carried rifles in their arms and tomahawks and long knives in their belts. They stopped at The Black Horse Tavern to ask where they could find Leatherlips’ lodge. Although worried, John Sells told them that his lodge was two miles up the river in a grove of sugar trees. The six warriors were sent by the war chief Tecumseh’s brother who was very angry that Leatherlips was helping the white men move into the area. He had sent the warriors to kill Leatherlips.

John Sells wanted to help his friend Leatherlips and so he gathered together three of his brothers and a settler, George Ebey to help. The next morning, John Sells saddled his prize black stallion and rode to Leatherlips’ camp. When they got to the camp, they found Leatherlips with his hands tied behind his back and Chief Roundhead yelling at him for not sending his warriors to meet with Techumseh’s men to fight against the white people.  He was also yelled at for selling land to William Henry Harrison who was hated by many Native American tribes.

John wanted so badly to save his friend that he offered his expensive black horse to the warriors if they would let Leatherlips live.  The warriors asked to see the horse and spent many hours thinking about what they would do, but in the end, they decided they were too afraid of Techumseh and his brother to take the horse. John Sells was very sad to loose his friend.

Dublin’s First Doctors

In 1830 Dublin’s first doctor, 34-year-old Albert Chapman, settled in town. Dr. Chapman soon fell in love with and married Lucy Sells, the church-going daughter of John Sells. John Sells was very happy about this marriage and as a gift, built the limestone Chapman house on High Street for his daughter. With its beautiful walnut-lined windows the house became a landmark and well know for its beauty. Lucy often had traveling ministers stay with them as they preached in the Dublin area. Doctor Chapman later opened a store in Dublin. Then after John Sells died, leaving the job of dividing the land to his daughter Lucy, he sold real estate.

In 1842 Dr. Eli Morrison Pinney became Dublin’s second doctor. Dr. Pinney practiced in Dublin for over 60 years. His brick house was listed as a stop on the underground railroad. He helped escaped slaves running along the Scioto River heading north to Canada. Many said the slaves would climb the riverbank and hide behind bushes at the side of the house. They talked to Dr. Pinney through a tube that ran through the side of the house and into the parlor. Dr. Pinney fed the slaves and allowed them the rest in the horse stable at the back of the property. He gave them food for their journey north before they left.


In August of 1878, on a hot morning just before noon, Dr. Summerbell, one of the Church’s ministers, was singing a hymn when looked over the heads of the people in church and saw smoke and flames. The flames were coming from Tuller’s General Store and Drug across High Street. The townspeople panicked and ran out of the church. The closest fire pump was in the town of Worthington. The fastest horsemen raced to Worthington to bring it to Dublin while the townspeople formed a line from the spring down by the bridge up to the fire. They began to pass water buckets up and down the line to the flames. Other people raced in and out of the flaming building to carry important produce and dry goods into the street and away from the fire. By 2:00pm the fire had destroyed the store and was burning Dr. Pinney’s office, the Meat Shop and Oyster Depot two doors down. People were saying that the whole town might be destroyed by the flames. The newspaper, The Columbus Gazette reported the next morning that “The town was almost doomed and took a terrible scorching.” The town was saved when Woodrow Tuller’s home was covered with water stopping the fire’s spread. It had burned down one entire block of the town.

Dublin -A Wild West Town

In the 1880’s Dublin was known as the roughest town in the area. Young men came to town to visit the saloons and gamble and then raced their buckboards and horses up and down the streets at all hours of the day and night. They threw mud on the walls, windows and porches of the homes and stores. They fought and threw rocks at each other. The biggest fights were between gangs of boys from Columbus and Worthington. Many people said they would not go to Dublin without “a rock in each hand” to protect himself. Even the local doctor carried a club in his Surry, a buggy with one horse, when he went to homes to help patients. Because the people who lived there were rough, Dublin soon became known as the city of “river rats.”

This was dangerous and embarrassing for the wealthy people of Dublin and those who wanted to make an honest living. E.W. Tuller, a wealthy land and business owner, who wanted to be important to Dublin knew that before anything could be done to put these rough people in jail a real town with a government had to be created. So in September of 1881 Dublin became an incorporated village. This meant that a mayor could be elected and laws made. T.J. Steinbower was elected as the first mayor. He was a large man with lots of money. E.W. Tuller, who owned half of Dublin, was elected Treasurer. Milton Smiley was elected as the clerk. These men didn’t wait long to kick the law-breakers out of town. They built a jail on North High Street for $34.17. John Wing was hired as the Marshal. John Boord, a storekeeper and Richard Billingsly were deputized to help bring in the troublemakers. Then the mayor and his counsel passed ten laws to stop the disorderly behavior. The laws did not do enough to stop the wild behavior. The jail was very full, but the money that was charged for breaking the law was soon used up to feed the prisoners and pay the doctor for fixing the wounds.

A couple of weeks after the first laws were passed a group of boys from Worthington came to town. These men challenged Dublin boys to a rock fight. The rock-throwing fight broke windows in many stores and homes on High Street and injured people. The law makers of Dublin closed down the town while they met together to work out a solution. They wrote 50 new laws which stopped many things including throwing rocks, fishing on Sunday, and swimming in the river from sunup to sundown. With these laws Dublin began to calm down.

Fun During the Depression

Farming and the rock quarries brought money to Dublin during the depression in the 1920’s. The steam thresher made harvesting easier for the men and boys who worked together in groups of 40 to harvest wheat and other crops. The first tractor came to Dublin before 1930 to help make life a bit easier. This was a very difficult time for the entire country, but Dublin had some ways to make life more fun. The storekeepers wanted to bring more people to downtown Dublin on Saturday night so they set up a large white screen and began showing movies on High Street. The farmers soon began bringing their produce with them to swap at the markets. Then they would set up chairs and blankets to watch westerns and science fiction films.; Many people would go swimming at the “Old Rock” on the Scioto River, even though it was against the law. Kids made soap box derby cars to race down the hill and over the Dublin Bridge. The fathers would put their Fords in neutral and coast down the hill on 161 to see who could go the farthest. 

From Wild West to Modern Times

Dublin grew up from its Wild West days. Life began go get easier for the people in Dublin in 1935 when a stone bridge was built by the stonemasons, Dan Eger, Ticky Wing and Eli Pinney. The bridge made it easier to get to Dublin from Columbus.  This brought people to the town and stores. Life in Dubin was better after the bridge, but it didn’t get really great until 1975 when Jack Nicklaus got a vision of a golf course in Dublin. This golf course made Dublin into a busy suburban area by bringing people from all over the world to watch golf.

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Photos used by permission: Columbus Library