Cider and apples and ale, oh my


Beth Mitchell - Contributing columnist



Incidents occurring on the “frontier” – wherever the frontier happened to be – were not necessarily resolved quickly.

This particular incident occurred in the Northwest Territory, but was resolved much later in Clinton County.

In Volume One of the Clinton County Supreme Court Record, we find one William Spencer, Sr. of Clinton County vs. Benjamin Fleirn and James Smith.

William Spencer first initiated the legal action August 7, 1811. Clinton County became an entity in 1810.

William Spencer stated that in the fall of 1792 he [Spencer] was in the employ of the United States as an overseer to drive cattle from Cincinnati to Fort Hamilton. It seems the group stayed overnight in the Colerain area.

One Benjamin Fleirn was selling cider and Spencer purchased several quarts of cider at 25 cents per quart. Spencer reported he told members of his party they must buy their own cider. When Mr. Spencer went to pay his bill the next morning, he was presented a bill for $30.

An argument ensued and Mr. Spencer “threw down five French Crowns” and told Fleirn to take what was due him.

There is a reference to Sheriff Harlen of Clinton County as having taken “a good horse saddle and bridle” which Spencer declared was worth $120. Spencer accused Fleirn of taking advantage of him.

The group had apparently stayed at Fleirn’s establishment until Monday morning and the horses “had been put to fodder.” Fleirn had apparently left his establishment for several hours and, upon returning, found the lock to his storage room of apples, cider, and ale damaged and cider and ale missing. It was determined that William Spencer, Sr. was responsible for the amount owed. Interest had been added and the bill appears to have exceeded $75.

It seems to me that an incident in 1797 involving cider, apples, and ale should have been settled in less than 17 years. It was never made clear whether the incident occurred in Newport, Kentucky or in the Colerain area of Hamilton County, Ohio.

The case involved two states, and at least four counties were referenced. I guess we could hope the guys at least enjoyed the weekend of cider, apples and ale.

I also realize some dates do not match perfectly, but it is as recorded in the court record.

At least one resident of Clinton County can trace family connection to William Spencer, Sr.

Beth Mitchell is a longtime Clinton County History Center volunteer. She writes articles for its quarterly newsletter about a variety of past Clinton Countians and genealogy subjects.

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Beth Mitchell

Contributing columnist