Earliest Censuses for Mercer County & Willshire Township

In February 1820 the Ohio government authorized the establishment of Mercer County and Van Wert County. Mercer County was organized in 1824 and Van Wert County was organized in 1837. St. Marys Township, now part of Auglaize County, was organized in 1824 as part of Mercer County. Auglaize County was established and organized in 1848 from Mercer and Allen counties. [1]

During this same general time period the village of Willshire was platted by Captain James Riley in 1822. Yes, this year Willshire celebrates its Bicentennial.

I have been looking at the earliest census reports for this area and wondered who the earliest settlers in this area were.

Since neither Van Wert nor Mercer County were organized in 1820, they are not among the 57 Ohio counties searchable in the 1820 census on Ancestry.com. However, 18 persons were enumerated in “Mercer County” in 1820. “Mercer County” was included with Darke County’s 1820 census enumeration. Darke County was established in 1809 and organized in 1817, several years before Mercer County.  

1820 census enumeration of Mercer County, Ohio:
Abitha Lilly
Isiah Dungan
Samuel Dungan
Abner Greene
George Ayers
Jonathan Reeves
Benjamin Roebuck
Solomon Carr
John Roebuck
Samuel Hanson
Rewel Roebuck
James Calison
Elias Bishop
Michael Harner
Edward Gilbert
Calvin Drimeston
Peter Edsale
Anthony Shane [2]

1820 US Census, Mercer County, Ohio.

Column no.3 in the 1820 census asked the number of males age 16-18 and column no.4 asked the number of males age 16-26. Males in the 16-18 age group would also have been listed in the 16-26 age group but were not supposed to be added twice in the final count. Counting all the marks could account for the total number of children not matching your family records or other records. John Roebuck had the only male in the 16-18 age group.

I compared the above 1820 list with the those enumerated in Mercer County’s 1827 Quadrennial Enumeration. This gives me an idea where in Mercer County some of these individuals were living 7 years later, although some may have moved or passed away. Those from the 1820 census who were still in Mercer County in 1827 were all living in Dublin Township. This is not a surprise because Shanesville, the oldest town in Mercer County and now called Rockford, was established in 1820 by Anthony Shane and is in Dublin Township. Note that Anthony Shane was enumerated in Mercer County’s 1820 census.

Mercer county 1827 Quadrennial Enumeration:
Samuel Dungan
Benjamin Roebuck
John Roebuck
Samuel Hanson
Ruel Roebuck
James Calison
Michael Harner
Calvin Dennison [likely the Calvin Drimeston in 1820]

There were 2 others with the same surname but a different given name:
John Lillie [may be from the Abitha Lilly household?]
Timothy Greene [may be from the Abner Greene household?] [3]

You might wonder what a Quadrennial Enumeration is. Per Ohio’s 1802 State Constitution, every 4 years Ohio counties were to take an enumeration of white males over 21 years of age. The censuses were taken for legislative apportionment but were often mistaken as tax lists because tax assessors from each county were in charge of the count. These enumerations were taken from 1803-1911.

Over 1800 Quadrennial Enumerations were taken in Ohio but fewer than 100 survive. Mercer County’s 1827 and 1843 Quadrennial Enumerations have survived and the 1827 is the earliest known to exist for the county. The original documents are housed at the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Library Special Collections and Archives at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. The Mercer County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society photocopied and transcribed the 1827 and 1843 lists in 2004.

Next, I compared both above lists with Mercer County’s 1830 census, to see where the same people were living.

Mercer County, 1830 census enumeration:
Isiah Dungan-St. Marys Twp
Benjamin Roebuck-Union Twp
John Roebuck-Dublin Twp
Samuel Hanson-Union Twp
Ruel Roebuck-Dublin Twp
Michael Harner-Union Twp
John Lillie-Dublin Twp
Timothy Green-Dublin Twp

Another interesting thing is that Willshire Township is listed with Mercer County in the 1827 Quadrennial Enumeration. The source I have shows three townships in the 1827 Quadrennial Enumeration: Dublin, St. Marys, and Willshire Township (Van Wert County). I do not know if Willshire Township was originally grouped with Mercer County or if it was added to the publication because of its proximity to Mercer County. At any rate, since Willshire was not organized until 1837 and was not included in the 1830 census, this is one of the earliest lists of inhabitants of Willshire Township:  

Willshire Township, 1827 Quadrennial Enumeration:
John McManas
Abraham Brown
Enoch Lewis
Ronvell Riley
Ansel Blossom
Levi Johnson
David Huber
Peter Bolenbaugh
John Bolenbaugh
Peter Bolenbaugh Senior

Good information from census enumerations.

[1] County Establishment: Until a county was formally organized it remained attached to its parent county or surrounding counties. County Organization: A county did not function as a county until it was organized. It is possible a land-owner never moved, yet various records may show he had different counties of residence.

[2] 1820 U.S. Census, Richland, Darke, Ohio, p.168; Ancestry.com, viewed 28 Jul 2022.

[3] 1827 and 1843 Quadrennial Enumeration of Adult White Males of Mercer County, Ohio, The Mercer County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, 2004, self-published.


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    • Beth Chapman Smith on November 27, 2023 at 1:17 pm
    • Reply

    Calvin Dennison was my great, great, great grandmother’s first husband. She was Maria Ellis. They came from New York (they were married in Lima,NY 1814) according to Susan Ellis Riley’s memoirs (she was Maria’s sister.) Their firstborn child, Eli Metcalf Dennison, was b in NY abt 1815. Their 2nd child, Corlesta, was born in Rising Sun, Indiana in 1817, before their 1819-1820 arrival in Mercer Co. Calvin bought land at Shane’s Crossing in 1821. I was able to find them in the 1820 Darke Co census that had Mercer attached to it. The male under 10 is Eli; the male 26-45 is Calvin; the female under 10 is Corlesta; and the female 16-26 is Maria. Their other children: Alvira, Julia, James and Aurelia were born in Mercer Co.
    Calvin died abt 1828, his will being probated in 1829. Maria married my greatx3 grandfather, Reeve Chapman (b VT) 7 June 1830 in Mercer Co. (Besides Maria’s sister Susan Ellis marrying James W. Riley, Reeve’s sister Miranda Chapman Potter also married into the Riley family when she married Roswell Riley, uncle to James Watson Riley.)
    Reeve and Maria had 2 sons: Norton Dennison Chapman and Calvin Alpheus Chapman (my great x 2 Gr’father). Reeve must’ve had quite the friendship with Maria’s 1st husband to name both of their sons after him. When Reeve died in 1847, James Watson Riley became Calvin Chapman’s guardian. I am wondering if you have newspaper obits for either Maria or her mother, Catherine Ellis, as they both died in 1850. I also cannot find Maria’s burial location. Catherine and other Ellis family are buried in Celina. Also, is there a printing of Susan Ellis Riley’s memoirs? Thank you, Beth Chapman Smith

    1. Thank you for writing and sharing all this very good family information. I do not have the answers for your questions but will look around a bit and will be sure to let you know if I find anything. Thank you for writing!

    • Curt Cornell on February 4, 2024 at 3:37 pm
    • Reply

    Hi–Moses Cornell was my 4th Great Grandfather and an early settler in Mercer County. He purchased land on 15 April 1827, Township 7 South, Range 4, Section 22 (West 1/2 of East 1/4). The earliest tax record I can find is 1832 in St. Mary’s Township. I have been unable to find a copy of the Mercer County’s 1827 Quadrennial Enumeration. Wondering if you see a CORNELL in that publication? Any assistance you may provide will be helpful. Thanks, Curt

    1. I checked the 1827 Quadrennial Enumeration for Moses, but he is not listed there. I quickly looked at the early censuses, but did not find him there either. I don’t know how long he lived or was in the area, but Auglaize County was formed in 1848. Some of the county records may overlap. Sorry I could not be of help but I’ll let you know if I run across his name sometime. Thanks for writing.

    • Curt Cornell on February 6, 2024 at 2:24 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for checking. Moses paid his taxes on that land in 1832, 1833, 1834, 1835, 1837, 1838, and 1839. In 1840 his taxes were reported as deliquent. 1841 paid. In 1842, 1843, 1844 and 1845 the taxes were paid by his heirs. There was a legal petition to subdivide his land among the heirs in 1849. It is found in ISBN 9780806312378, 0806312378, Gateway to the West, page 87 by Dale Bowers and Anita Short, 1989. Bowers, D. (1989). Gateway to the West. United States: Genealogical Publishing Company. This is what is said in the court petition:
    “July 1849 – F. L. LANGLEY and wife vs, Samual DEWEESE, et al. “Petition for Partition, Filed 9-25-1848, Land, 80 acres W 1/2 SE1/4 Section 22, Township 7 South, Range 4 East. Moses Connell (or Cornell), dec’d. Heirs: 1/5th part, Susannah wife of Fielding L. Langley of Miami Co, Ohio; Rachel 1/5th part, Rachel wife of Samuel Deweese; l/5th part, Samuel Cornell of Kentucky; l/5th part, James Cornell, dec’d, his heirs–James and Samuel Cornell both minor of Kentucky; l/5th part Elizebeth Oldham, her heira-Joseph B. and Margaret Ann Oldham of Indiana. (28)”. So, I have found where the court did subdivide the land and eventually Fielding Langley sold all of the land to Anthony Berting in August 1849. This is my brick wall attempting to locate Moses Cornell’s father and mother. I did work with the Minster Historical Society, Minster, OH and located his grave site at W1/2 SE1/4 Section 22, Township 7 South, Range 4 near New Bremen, Ohio. This was also confirmed in the land sale whereby the north east corner of this land would be retained as a burial ground https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/241541959/moses-cornell Again thanks for your assistance. It you happen upon anything I would appreciate hearing.

    1. You have certainly done a lot of good research on Moses. Thank you for sharing your interesting findings. Some families are very challenging. If I come across anything about him I will be sure to let you know. Thanks for writing!

    • Steve Sell on March 12, 2024 at 9:59 pm
    • Reply

    I wonder is Dr Charles T Sell has any records of his work or practice in Mercer County in the 1855-1870 era.

    1. I do not know. Records like that could be in an historical society, if the records exist. Thanks for writing.

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