About the Simon Kenton Inn & Farm:
From Simon Kenton and the Hunt Family to You
Johnny Appleseed traveled this farmland in the same period of Simon Kenton's early travels to this site. Appleseed (John Chapman) planted apple seeds and healing herbs and distributed religious tracts along his way. Some of the apple trees on this property and the immediate vicinity are known to be descended from his plantings. Johnny was said to be safe from Indian attack since they believed him to be a holy man and possessed of spirit.
Other white men around here, however, had to face ambushes, kidnappings, and raids. The greatest men of the time were those who knew Indian ways and combined it with hardihood, enterprise and strong leadership.
Simon Kenton was such. He came from Virginia originally, as a 16 year old, fleeing from what he thought would become a murder charge. His "victim" had recovered, though, and was, in fact, charged but not convicted for murdering the missing Simon Kenton. Kenton escaped into Kentucky where he took up the name Simon Butler. For about ten years he traveled Kentucky and Ohio going by the name Butler until he learned the truth of his adversary's good health. Kenton is known as one of the premier frontiersmen of the pre- and post-Revolutionary War period. See History
How Kenton came to choose this site of his first settlement here in Ohio and to build his first cabin near where our spring house stands is a story with several variations. One story says that years earlier in 1779, when he was about 24, he was captured by Indians and made to run the gauntlet up the trail (now Urbana Road right in front of the house). At this site of the Inn, where a beautiful spring gushed, he vowed to someday return and settle down, this site being where divine providence ended the Indians' tortuous gauntlet and let Simon survive. Another less barbaric version says that as a captive of Indians he was being led up the trail and allowed to drink from the spring. It was so refreshing to him physically and spiritually that he swore to one day return and settle here. His future wife would many years later give the town of Springfield its name.
Within a generation the spring became the focus of a "well known and general camping ground for wagons coming to Ohio." The old stone horse trough along the right side of the driveway leading up to the Inn marks the spot.
It took Simon about twenty years, but he did return in the Spring of 1799, leading a large party of friends, relatives, and a dozen slaves. They built 14 cabins around the spot where one of the Historical Society markers is now erected. Kenton lived here on a regular basis about 10 years before he moved on to other regional travels and endeavors. He returned here often however to visit with kin and kith who stayed on working the land and tending to travelers.
Although they set up a school for the children as well as the neighboring Indian tribe's children, Kenton never learned to read or write well and it's said that was a major reason he was often beset with financial difficulties. His limited reading ability led to his loss of title to the property. While Kenton went to debtor's prison up in Urbana for a time, the land was eventually taken over by the McCord family, into which Kenton's daughter had married. By 1828 the Hunt family, previously of the Princeton, New Jersey area, purchased the property. Kenton's extended family, the McCord, and Hunt families had intermarried by this time, so it's said the transactions had been friendly affairs. In Simon Kenton's last years he spent many a day in this home with his adult grandchildren and extended family. The farm at one time included almost 50,000 acres extending much of the way from Springfield to Urbana and employed dozens of families, both whites and free blacks.
When the Hunt's moved their extended family here to Ohio the existing main house, the Inn itself, was built, patterned after the finer homes the Hunts had left in New Jersey. This Inn's construction details can be found in the Library of Congress. As the home was being finished the Hunts sent for their furniture from the east coast. It came via canal and wagon in wooden crates. Some of those same crates, with the various Hunt family names hand painted across them, remained upstairs for generations. And, they're still in place in the Inn guest rooms for all to see.
The house and grounds were owned by the Hunts continuously until the early 1990s when it was sold to a local couple who are in the antique business. They were careful not to disturb the history of the home. In 2005, Theresa Siejack bought the property with the intention of making it available for the public to enjoy.