Francis Dunlevy: Soldier, Legislator, and Warren County’s 1st Judge

Who was Francis Dunlevy and why was he important?

Francis Dunlevy

Francis Dunlevy

Francis Dunlevy was a distinguished pioneer born in Winchester, Virginia on December 31, 1761.  The eldest of four, Dunlevy moved with his family to Catfish, Pennsylvania in 1772. He then volunteered in the military as a private in 1776 before he was fifteen years old.  He served at least eight different times against various Indian groups before turning twenty-one, tending to his studies when he could.  After the Revolutionary War, Dunlevy went to Dickinson College where he studied to become a Presbyterian minister.  He soon changed his religious views, identifying more with the Baptist church and gave up religious studies to become a teacher.  Dunlevy moved with family again to Washington, Kentucky in 1790, eventually making his way to Butler County, Ohio in 1792 where he opened a classical school and married Mary Craig.  He moved the school to Lebanon in 1797 and continued it until 1801, becoming the first teacher of ancient languages in the Miami Valley.  In an attempt at public office, he lost his first special election for a seat in the Northwest Territory Legislature in 1799 to Isaac Martin.  Dunlevy was successfully elected as one of seven representatives from Hamilton County and served in the Territorial Legislature in 1801.  In 1802, he was elected as a member of the Constitutional Convention.  Born in a slave state, Dunlevy witnessed the evils of slavery in Virginia and voted against every attempt to allow it in Ohio’s first constitution.   He even took it one step further and was in favor of equal political rights for all men, regardless of color.  At Ohio’s first election, Dunlevy was elected a member of the Senate in the Legislature.  Before adjournment, this body selected him as one of three President Judges of the Court of Common Pleas for two consecutive terms where he oversaw the Southwestern circuit made up of ten counties.  At the close of his second term, Dunlevy felt compelled to practice law to help support his large family.  He persisted tirelessly in his legal pursuits and attended the courts of several surrounding counties, becoming the first judge of Warren County.  After 50 years of labor as a pioneer, soldier, teacher, legislator, framer of a State Constitution, lawyer, and Judge, Dunlevy retired at the age of seventy.  He died October 6, 1839 at 78 years old and is buried at the old Baptist Cemetary in Lebanon.

Excerpt:  Common Pleas State Record

Excerpt: Common Pleas State Record “A.” May Term 1807. State of Ohio vs. Joseph Little & Jonathan Cone. Warren County, Ohio. Pages 102-103.
“Pleas held for the County of Warren within the State of Ohio on the third Tuesday of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seven before the Honorable Francis Dunlevy Esquire Presiding Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the first circuit and Jacob D. Lowe, Ignatius Brown, and Peter Burr, Esquire associate judges assigned to keep the peace in and for said county and also to hear and determine (diverse) felonies, trespasses, and other misdemeanors committed in the same county.”

Trivia Question: Who was the famous Indian that Francis Dunlevy encountered at the Battle of Sandusky?  The answer will be revealed next post!

Answer to July 6th question:  The Great Depression


About wcrcarchives

The Warren County Records Center and Archives was dedicated in honor of the former Warren County Recorder, Edna L. Bowyer on June 22, 2001. We offer on-site records storage, records delivery, records retention and disposition management, records management training, document imaging, and microfilming services. View all posts by wcrcarchives

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