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Zachariah Price DeWitt was born of a Dutch family in New Jersey April 24, 1768. He and brothers Jacob and Peter made their way to Kentucky in the 1780’s, settling in Nelson County, around Bardstown. Zachariah and Elizabeth Teets, who had been born in Pennsylvania April 14, 1774, were married on March 11, 1790. It has been written that they “then settled down in a log cabin near their families and started raising corn, hogs, and eventually, nine children.” Nevertheless, somehow during these years Zachariah gained a reputation as a hunter and Indian fighter. It is believed he may have been among Kentuckians who marched up Western Ohio in 1794 with Mad Anthony Wayne. The admission of Ohio as a state on March 1, 1803, attracted Kentuckians to cheap, newly available land. By 1805 Zachariah and Elizabeth DeWitt, with seven children, had found their way through almost-uncharted country to the spot where Zachariah built a house along the Four-Mile Creek.
Zachariah became an important member of the pioneer farming community. He established a sawmill. He built several houses in Oxford, including the initial portion of what would become the building still housing Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the corner of High street and Campus Avenue in Oxford. He was village treasurer when he accepted a captaincy in the War of 1812, took command of a company of Butler County riflemen, and marched them to Detroit to assist General Duncan McArthur. He became a pillar in the Baptist church, was co-owner of the Mansion House Hotel, and in 1822 became a founder and secretary of the Masonic Lodge. A Whig, he supported William Henry Harrison for President; a memorable reception at the Mansion House was part of Oxford’s celebration of Harrison’s election.
The log house of Zachariah Price DeWitt is now the oldest remaining structure in Oxford Township. It also is the last of a string of pioneer homesteads established along the Four-Mile Creek before Oxford Township, the town of Oxford, or Miami University even existed. It stands on the east bank of the creek about three hundred yards north of Route 73. Located on Miami University land, the structure is leased to the Oxford Museum Association, which in 1973 took on its restoration to preserve this rare example of early 19th-century log construction.
Early restoration of the DeWitt Homestead in the 1970′s encompassed exposure and repair of the original adz-marked timber walls, necessary chinking, reconstruction of the limestone chimney, and replacement of floors on both levels. Limited funding prohibited comprehensive restoration at that time.The adjacent smokehouse was restored in 1999-2000.
The Oxford MuseumAssociation completed the restoration of the log homestead in 2003 as a focus of the area celebration of the Ohio bicentennial. The restoration project encompassed the inclusion of interior partitions, construction of the stairwell to the second floor, addition of windows, replacement of the shake roof, interior finishing and reconfiguration of the fireplaces. Dedication of the site occurred in May, 2003 at which time, the Bicentennial Historical Marker awarded via the Bicentennial Commission and the Longaberger Legacy Initiative was also dedicated.
The DeWitt Homestead is open 10-4 Saturdays and Sundays, Memorial Day through Labor Day, or by appointment. We also feature interns in living history who provide first-person interpretatino of the site.