This map and images from the Troy History Library show the location of the broad ford and the Broadford Covered Bridge on the east end of Troy and a depiction of the Dye Community located to its south. The community was on the land of W.H.H. Dye, for which Dye Mill Road is named.
Below: The old jail in Troy on Main and Plum streets, now law offices. The Broadford Bridge today.
The Broadford War in Troy: A War With No Action
By Judy Deeter
The Broadford Bridge crosses the Great Miami River on East Main Street (St. Rt. 41) in Troy. It is named Broadford because it spans the river at a wide spot in the water known as the “broad ford.” Today the area is a peaceful recreational site used for hiking, biking, kayaking and boating. However, it hasn’t always been so quiet and quaint.
For a time in 1842, the land along the river at this location was filled with military troops that were ready to save Troy from destruction. It was a military encampment for what became known as the Broadford War.
The temperance movement—a battle against the use of liquor—was strong in Miami County in 1842. While many people thought the use of alcohol was destroying families and causing crime; others believed drinking an alcoholic beverage was enjoyable and generally harmless.
One day that year, attorneys Ralph C. Hart and Charles Morris went from Troy to the Dye neighborhood—an area described as three miles southeast of Troy and that today encompasses Dye Mill Road—to give a temperance talk against drinking whiskey. Their talk was not well received, particularly because a man living in the Dye neighborhood named Lair operated a distillery and his neighbors enjoyed the product he made.
As Hart and Morris lectured against the use of liquor, they were hit with rotten eggs and supposedly some of Mr. Lair’s product was used to break up the meeting.
Hart and Morris were very angry at what had happened. They returned to Troy and swore out warrants of arrest for those who had thrown the eggs. The egg-throwing culprits were arrested and sentenced by Miami County Judge Holt to ten days in the Miami County jail in Troy with only bread and water to eat.
(NOTE: The jail was at the southeast corner of West Main and Plum streets, pictured at right. The building still stands today and is used as an office building. It is historically known as the Broomhall Building.)
Those in the Dye neighborhood were incensed that their neighbors had been arrested and put in jail. What has been described as “a mob of 300 farmers” met at the broad ford of the river to devise a way to get their friends out of jail. A committee of four men was chosen to go to Miami County Sheriff Major Stephen Johnston to demand the release of the prisoners. Those chosen to meet with Sheriff Johnston were: J.M. Dye, M. Carver, Mr. Lair (the distillery owner) and a man named Davis. The committee met with Johnston, but he refused to release the prisoners.
Author Thomas Harbaugh wrote in his book History of Miami County: “It was thought for a while that this (the arrests of the people throwing eggs) would end the affair, but soon the mutterings of a storm reached the county seat (Troy). The people of the country were rising in their might and it came to be known that mobs were collecting for the purpose of storming the jail and releasing the prisoners. The utmost excitement prevailed in Troy. Sheriff Johnston saw his habitation a heap of ruins (he lived at the jail)…and he set about to counteract the revolutionists and maintain the peace and dignity of the county.”
To save Troy from being destroyed by angry farmers, Sheriff Johnston called up local militia groups. From Troy, he called up the Lafayette Blues and from Piqua both a unit of Light Infantry and one of Dragoons (soldiers on horses).
On June 19, 1888, an article about the Broadford War written by M.J. Jones, Esq. was published in the Piqua Daily Call newspaper. Jones recalled how the people of Piqua had come to save Troy. He said, “…they (the mob coming to attack Troy) reckoned badly if they thought that the pride and chivalry of Piqua would permit their weak and helpless neighbors to be thus ravaged when the day of their threatened doom arrived.”
Harbaugh said of those who came to defend Troy: “At any moment the mob might enter Troy and leave wreck and ruin in its track. Those who had gone to the ‘seat of war’ had left weeping families at home and it was expected that blood would flow in profusion in the streets of Troy. At length some wily strategist who had probably studied the Napoleonic campaigns proposed that the militia take up a position at the Broadford Bridge where the mob could be intercepted and the battle fought outside the walls of Troy. This proposition was received with delight and forthwith the legions were marched to the Broadford, where they encamped.”
(NOTE: Although the local military met at what was the covered bridge site, some records indicate that the Broadford Bridge was not built until months later in 1843. The bridge may have been under construction in 1842.)
There were countless rumors of an attack. The Lafayette Blues patrolled Troy streets. At the encampment of the Piqua forces, scouts were sent into the nearby woods and pickets were placed around the military units. The military was prepared and waited for an attack. After about two days, it was realized that no attack was coming and the militias broke camp and the soldiers returned home.
Jones said of the event in the Piqua Daily Call article, “…after waiting, watching, marching and counter-marching for two days, the foe came not but made default, withdrew and skedaddled.”
Local historians do believe that the mob of farmers did plan to attack the jail in Troy, but when the military forces came near their neighborhood, they decided against it.
Harbaugh also wrote, “As the valiant soldiers returned to the bosoms of their families from the bloodless campaign they could exclaim triumphantly—‘We routed them, we scouted them, Nor lost a single man.’ Such was the ‘Broadford War,’ for a long time celebrated in the annals of the county, and many believed that Sheriff Johnston’s promptness not only saved the county buildings but probably prevented the streets of Troy from being deluged in blood.”
Jones wrote in his article, “After thus saving Troy from destruction, our gallant soldiery marched to the bosoms of their families and were met by the martial strains of ‘Lo, the Conquering hero comes’.”
The prisoners who had thrown the eggs served out their time in the county jail, being fed only bread and water, and returned to their homes.
Though the Broadford War ended in a few days, the battle over the production and use of liquor in Miami County continued on into the 20th century. But it never led to another war in Troy.