Pictured at left is Captain George Buchanan. At right is Gen. Anthony Wayne.
Towns throughout America have often changed their names. The names they started out with are not those they are known by today. Though the name of Covington, Ohio has remained the same since its incorporation in 1835, before that time it was known by a variety of names. With each long-ago name, there is a story.
According to the book Covington, Ohio 1835-1985 by Blanch Bader with the assistance of the Covington, Ohio Historical Society, other names for today’s Village of Covington were: Stillwater (name of the first post office), Friendship, Newberry/Newbury, Oldtown and Rowdytown. Covington was also the home to two military forts: Fort Rowdy and Fort Buchanan.
The American military and a few courageous settlers began exploring the then-western American frontier—Ohio—in the 1700’s. Native Americans already living on the land were sometimes hostile to these exploration parties and settlements, which led to trouble between the natives of the land and the new settlers. In 1793, American General Anthony Wayne came north from Cincinnati with an army of soldiers to what is now Covington. His purpose in coming north was to ensure peace and protect settlers.
To bring tranquility to the region, he built military forts in what is now the western part of Ohio. At Covington, he built a supply stockade that was named Fort Rowdy. While most historical records say that the fort was named “Rowdy” because of the behavior of Wayne’s soldiers, some records indicate it was named for an officer serving with Wayne named Rowdy.
Fort Rowdy was one of the first American names used to describe the Covington area. On August 2, 1795, a peace treaty was signed at Greenville between the Native Americans of the Northwest Territory and the American military. Fort Rowdy was closed after the signing of that treaty, which is known as the Treaty of Greenville.
Nearly twenty years after Gen. Wayne built Fort Rowdy, once again there was fighting in western Ohio. This time, the British and their Native American allies fought against Americans in the War of 1812. Captain George Buchanan was sent to what is now Covington to build a fortress to protect the area.
The Village of Covington website states of this event: “On the 30th day of April 1812, Brigadier General Edmund Munger sent communications to Captain George Buchanan of Milton ordering him to form the 2nd regiment, which would be attached to the 5th brigade of the 1st Division of Ohio Militia and to see that they were fully equipped and ready to march at a moment’s notice…The regiment was assigned to the Stillwater Valley and adjoining territory and began almost immediately the erection of a block house at a point across the Stillwater River from the mouth of Greenville Creek.”
Buchanan built the blockhouse, apparently near but not encroaching on land that had been Fort Rowdy.
On June 18, 1812, Buchanan’s commanding officer Colonel Jerome Holt sent Buchanan a message addressed to him at “Fort Rowdy.” Buchanan took issue that the message was addressed to him as being at Fort Rowdy. The book History of Miami County, Ohio by W.H. Beers (1880) says that though Buchanan obeyed the orders contained in the message, he was displeased that the letter had been addressed to Fort Rowdy. The book states (in late 19th century language), “This address…was neither accepted nor relished by Capt. B. and his command as a proper appellation (name) for the important post, in the erection of which they had so faithfully labored. In addition to this, they had not encroached upon the ground occupied by Wayne, and therefore had no desire to be known to posterity as rowdies. Therefore, when the report was made out in due form and returned to Col. Holt, he (Holt) learned that he was commanding Fort Buchanan instead of Fort Rowdy; and in his next communication he accepts the name in part, but addresses Capt. B. at ‘Buchanan Block-House,’ ignoring the dignified name of fort.”
Keep in mind that Captain Buchanan named the fort for himself. Nevertheless, the name Fort Buchanan remains in Covington’s history today.
In August 2021, two historical markers (pictured below) honoring Fort Rowdy and Fort Buchanan were erected in downtown Covington at the Covington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4235, 173 N. High Street. Both forts were located near the VFW Post building. The historical markers were placed by the Covington-Newberry Historical Society and the Roy J. Weikert Trust.
There were also non-military names associated with Covington. As previously mentioned, Stillwater was the name of the first post office. A few early settlers became what we would term “land developers” today. Michael Ingle, from Virginia, was the first permanent white settler in Newberry Township. He came in 1804. He and early settlers Jacob Ullery and Daniel Wright formed a partnership in 1811 to plat a town and sell lots. Their plans, however, were delayed because of the War of 1812. The book Covington, Ohio 1835-1985 tells of their notice to sell lots in a May 1816 edition of the Dayton newspaper Ohio Republican. In the newspaper article, the town name was “Newbury.” The lots, however, were located in what is Covington today.
After Newbury, the town name was Friendship. Friendship is said to have had the first elected town officials.
The name Covington was given to the town when it was incorporated in 1835. The book Covington, Ohio 1835-1985 tells of the Articles of Incorporation coming by overland stage on July 11, 1835. It says, “In a fitting ceremony, the mayor then announced the first official edict—giving the name Covington to the town in honor of Brigadier-General Leonard Covington. Thereby ended the confusion that had existed with the six or more less-than-illustrious terms by which the fledgling town had been known.”
Several biographies and a book have been written about Brigadier General Covington highlighting both his military and civilian life. He was born in Aquasco, Prince Georges County, Maryland on October 30, 1768 to Levin and Susannah (Magruder) Covington. In 1792 at the age of 24, he joined the American military as a cavalry cornet (a low-level cavalry commissioned officer).
He became the Lieutenant of a Dragoons regiment in 1793. (Dragoons were soldiers who rode horses, but dismounted when they fought.) The dragoons came into western Ohio and joined up with General Anthony Wayne. Old stories say that he “distinguished himself” in the battles at Fort Recovery and Fallen Timbers (at Maumee, Ohio near Toledo).
He is said to have been a witness at the signing of the Treaty of Greenville on August 2, 1795. A few weeks after the peace treaty signing (depicted at the bottom of the page), he resigned from the military on September 12, 1795 and returned to his home in Maryland.
From 1805 to 1807 he served in the United States Congress as the Representative from the 2nd District of Maryland. He was defeated in his re-election bid in 1806, but was immediately appointed to fill a vacant seat in the Maryland State Senate. (He had previously served in the Maryland Senate in 1802.) In 1809, he resigned from the Senate and returned to the military.
Some biographies say that he returned to the military at the urging of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. He was given the rank of Colonel and given duty charge of a Cavalry Regiment. After re-joining the military, he traveled through Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee inspecting military forts. In 1810, he commanded Fort Adams on the Mississippi River.
In December 1810, he was involved in the American take-over of Spanish-held West Florida. (Fort Adams was abandoned in 1812.) In 1813, he was promoted to Brigadier General by U.S. President James Madison. In November 1813, he was wounded at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm in Ontario, Canada. He died from his wounds three days later on November 14, 1813 at French Mills, Franklin County, New York. He is buried at the Military Cemetery, Sacketts Harbor, New York. This cemetery is also known as Madison Barracks Post Cemetery.
Many places in the United States are named in Covington’s honor. An historical marker for Covington was placed in his hometown of Aquasco, Maryland in 2014 by the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland State Highway Administration. According to the sign, there are 21 cities, towns and counties that are named for Covington. The Wikipedia website lists towns/cities named for him in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Counties honoring him are in Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia. The Covington Theological Seminary in Rossville, Georgia is also named in his honor.
Though Brigadier General Covington and the old place names have ceased to exist, the stories about them are part of Miami County history.