Paul McKibben reports:
In the tiny Warren County hamlet of Twenty Mile Stand, a brick stagecoach stop once stood at Montgomery and Columbia roads.
The year was 1822 and one of Warren County’s own – Jeremiah Morrow – was elected the ninth governor of Ohio. Morrow was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Ohio in 1795. He later purchased property in Deerfield Township and constructed a log house, according to the Ohio Historical Society.
The Twenty Mile House “was basically the only tavern, the only place to come and congregate,” said Karen Dinsmore, a Deerfield Township resident who has researched the history.
Because there was no governor’s mansion in Columbus, Morrow stayed a mile away from Twenty Mile Stand at his home on Davis Road. Morrow’s decision to spend so much time at home caused the need for a larger post office and a bigger tavern, where his visitors could stay.
The Twenty Mile House in Twenty Mile Stand was erected to fulfill those needs.
It was not the first building at the site. In 1804, a year after Ohio joined the Union, the state constructed a road to connect Cincinnati to Chillicothe (the state capital from 1803 to 1810). Because travel in those days was by horseback and very slow, stands were built every four miles that included taverns for food and lodging and liveries for horses.
The original Twenty Mile House was built in 1804 where the highway crossed Columbia Road. The name “Twenty Mile” refers to the distance to Cincinnati.
David Espy – brother of Warren County settler Thomas Espy – constructed what Dinsmore called “a grand new brick building” on the site of the original stand to house the new post office and larger tavern.
Dinsmore said parts of the 1804 building, including fireplaces, might have been incorporated in the 1822 Twenty Mile House. The 1822 building had a tavern on the first floor and lodging on the second floor. Espy owned the first Twenty Mile House starting in 1810 and the subsequent new one the rest of his life.
“Since his niece Nancy Espy and John Morrow – the governor’s oldest son – were married that year, (Espy) was anxious to impress the governor with this new Twenty Mile House,” Dinsmore said.
The most famous visitor in the early history of the Twenty Mile House was folk hero John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman. Espy brought the fellow Swedenborgian church member there.
The Twenty Mile House housed Jeremiah Morrow’s books and the building’s library became known as the Warren Library, a public institution. Every year when Morrow returned from the East when he served in Congress, Dinsmore said, he brought back books to share with area farmers. John Morrow closed the library after David Espy died in 1863.