Area History

FROM LEATHERLIPS TO MICROCHIPS

Seventy years after it’s founding by the Sells family in 1810, Dublin had its Wild West times and then a small band with a big heart tamed life down for a while.

Afraid to follow the war party in the ensuing dark to help his friend, John Sells alerted the other settlers and waited until morning before gathering three of his brothers and a settler, George Ebey, then saddling up his black stallion and heading for Leatherlips’s camp. When John Sells and his party arrived they found Leatherlips with his hands bound behind his back and Roundhead deep in his accusations against the old chief.

Desperate to save his friend, John Sells offered his Kentucky stallion in exchange for the chief’s life. “Let me see him,” said Roundhead. Sells trotted the horse for them in the camp clearing and the Indians poked his satin hide, the prize being so great they retired to a lengthy council. Perhaps fearing repercussions from the Prophet, they emerged from their consultation two hours later and rejected the temping offer. Roundhead pointed to the sun and swept his finger across the sky—the execution would be at four o-clock that afternoon.

In the 1880’s Dublin was known as the roughest frontier town in the area. Five saloons on the main street garnered a lively business at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. Young men raced their buckboards and horses through town throwing mud over porches and shop windows. There were drunken brawls and cussing matches and rock fights in the streets with rival gangs from Worthington and Columbus.

There was a saying around the county that “Dublin’s rocks had handles on them” and a smart traveler wouldn’t approach Dublin without “a rock in each hand” to protect himself. Even the local doctor took to carrying a billy club in his surrey for traveling the outlying roads. By the late 1880’s other communities penciled a tribute to the “river rats” of Dublin:

“Dublin, Dublin, city of beautiful roses,
Gouged out eyes and bloody noses,
If it weren’t for the solid rock foundation,
It’d be gone to hell and damnation.” …

When the Sells family first gazed out over what was to be Dublin in the early 1800’s, they must have imagined Utopia. Here were the raw products that every beginning community hoped for: high limestone banks along the Scioto River that resisted flooding, plenty of hardwood timber, good clean springs in the rocks, friendly Indians and plentiful game and fish. While the river was low most of the year, it had the promise of flooding in the spring which would propel a man and his flatboat clear to New Orleans, if he had a mind to go that far. There were limestone rocks for foundations and walls and fences, clay for the potter and sites on the river for gristmills and sawmills. And certainly there were plusses that no other community had. Spilling into the Scioto was a wide, two-mile gash (later to be called Indian Run) that promised well-irrigated farmland on both sides once the trees were cleared. And the new town was centrally located between major trading posts—like a spider in the middle of a web. … Leatherlips accepted his fate. He walked to his lodge, washed himself, put on his best buckskins and beads and carefully painted his face with scarlet, blue and white clay scooped from small pots. He shook the hands of the Sells brothers and George Ebey, then paused for several moments gazing into the eyes of John Sells.