Springboro was founded in 1815 by Jonathan Wright, a Quaker from Pennsylvania. Drawn to the rich fertile land and abundant springs to fuel his grist mills, Jonathan named the village Springborough. The village grew rapidly and was incorporated on January 3, 1831 with a total of 72 businesses and approximately 450 residents.
However, our area's settlement far preceded Jonathan's founding. As late as 1788, the region was still home to a Native American village that sat on what is now the northern outskirts of the city's boundary. Many artifacts have been found dating back to the Paleo period.
Two major events encouraged early pioneer settlement. The Northwest Ordinance, enacted in 1787, and the Treaty of Greenville, signed in 1795, opened the area for families to pioneer and prosper. In fact, at least 30 farming families settled in the area a full 20 years prior to Springboro's founding. These farms, along with Quaker businesses, creating a symbiotic blend of agriculture and industry.
Visit the museum to learn more about our earliest families and how our name changed from Springborough to Springboro in 1890.
Founded by Quakers who believed that all people were created equal, Springboro once served as one of Ohio's most notable safe havens for enslaved individuals seeking freedom along the Underground Railroad. A network of 18 safe houses within Springboro proper and nine in Clearcreek Township assisted an estimated 1,000 to 4,000 freedom seekers. Of the area's 27 safe houses, 14 in the city and four in the township are still standing.
While Quakers were central to Springboro's Underground Railroad, local freed African Americans -- Napoleon and Celia Johnson -- played an equally prominent role. The couple provided a safe house for freedom seekers at their cabin on East and Mill streets. Napoleon was a craftsman and a landowner with such a mind for the "cause" that he enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 44.
The belief in equality extended to women as well. In 1871, Springboro's Quakers established Miami Valley College, a co-ed institution located one-half mile east of Springboro on the north side of Route 73. Several buildings remain standing today.
During its early history, Springboro was home to notable residents who excelled in politics, law, journalism and inventions. Coates Kinney, a lawyer, politician and journalist was inspired to write "Rain on the Roof," a nationally acclaimed poem. John McLean sat on the Supreme Court and was one of two dissenting votes in the Dred Scott Decision. Details about these and other resident are available at our museum. Pictured is Seth Ellis, Ohio's organizer of the Grange and its first Master which served to advance the methods of agriculture and promote the social and economic needs of our state's farming population.
Springboro was a thriving, learned community quickly incorporating in 1831 with a total of 72 businesses. However, the village's growth languished for 125 years, in large part because both the Erie Canal and railroad lines bypassed it. This held true until the early 1960s when Springboro's population still hovered under 1,000 residents. Today, we are a community of 20,000 with a quaint hometown feel fueled by our historic downtown preservation. Many of Springboro's historic homes still stand and provide a visible reminder of the impressive history that built this town.
Among these, several stand out:
The oldest home still standing in downtown Springboro predates the formal founding of Springboro. Built in 1810, Welsh immigrant Griffy Griffis and his family squatted on the land which is now home to the Springboro Area Historical Museum.
Built in 1798, the Null Homestead is the oldest standing-in-place log cabin in Warren County. Built by Christian Null, the home is also believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. Tours of the painstakingly preserved home are offered at select times spring-fall.
Home to the founder of Springboro, Wright's home is now a private residence. Rooms thought to have housed people on their escape to freedom have been identified in its basement and second floor, the latter being accessible only through an attic hatch door.