William Bruce 1
- Born: 20 Sep 1762, Bedford County, Virginia, USA
- Marriage (1): Francis Lewis about 1791 in Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky, USA
- Died: 1832, Eaton, Preble Co, OH at age 70
- Buried: Mound Hill Cemetery, Preble County, Ohio
WILLIAM BRUCE, The Founder of Eaton.
A high type of pioneer life and character was exemplified in William Bruce, the founder of Eaton. He was of Scotch descent, and in him were preserved many of the distinguishing and admirable traits of the people to whom he belonged. His father and five brothers Highlanders, came to America during the Scottish rebellion of 1746, and located upon the waters of the Potomac in Virginia. Here the subject of our sketch was born on the twentieth of September, 1762. When he was nine years of age his father removed to Redstone, Pennsylvania, near Fort Pitt (now Pittsburg). Young William Bruce sought employment and was engaged while a mere boy as packer of goods across the mountains. In this vigorous and perilous occupation he developed that physical vigor and fearlessness as well ad the sturdiness of character which fitted him for the life he was to lead. When of age Bruce abandoned the toilsome vocation at which he had for several years labored, and, with a brother-in-law, emigrated to Kentucky, where he settled in the famous Cane Ridge locality, included in the civil division of territory now known as Bourbon county. In Kentucky William Bruce married, about 1791, Francis Lewis, born in 1771. They emigrated in 1793 to Warren county, Ohio, and for six years lived near Shakertown. They then moved into Butler county, and from there to Montgomery county, from which locality they moved to Eaton, their permanent place of residence, in June, 1806. Prior to this time Mr. Bruce had prospected for lands along Seven Mile, and, doubtless, had then conceived the idea of founding a town, for he purchased three sections, or nearly two thousand acres of land, including the site of Eaton, the "Old Garrison," and all of the ground between, being led to this measure, very likely, because of the general attractions of the lands and the particularly fine mill site which the falls of the creek afforded.
Mr. Bruce built a cabin on the hill south of the site of Eaton, laid out the town, and built a saw- and grist-mill, which proved of great convenience to the settlers in the surrounding country. The village fast gained population under the proprietor's generous scheme of management, and, in a few years, almost entirely through his influence, it excelled in good morals and in true prosperity many of its young rivals which had better natural advantages. Mr. Bruce made liberal donations of land for public buildings, churches, and schools, and also gave lots to a number of settlers, besides encouraging the worthy poor by various other methods. It is related of him that he seldom took any "toll" for grinding the poor man's grist, and that he frequently gave outright to those who needed it, quantities of flour, meal, and the other simple provisions which were in use among the pioneers and early settlers. He was a very humane man, kind-hearted and, if such thing is possible, generous to a fault. His life was a long and constant exercise of a very unusual energy, and his labors redounded as much to the good of the general public as to himself or immediate family. With all his earnestness of purpose, his unswerving devotion to the right and scrupulous regard for morality, he was original in his ideas, and refused to be governed by popular opinion- a trait of independence which gained for him in some quarters the reputation of being eccentric, and in others created positive ill-will.
He was once a member of the Christian or "New Light" church, and a very consistent one indeed, with the exception that he could not be persuaded from the idea that it was not wrong to grind corn on Sunday for the poor, and in some cases absolutely destitute settlers. Being remonstrated with by some members of the church he withdrew from their fellowship. His creed was that the great practical good to be obtained was superior to the harm of nominally infringing a law of the church, and he continued to run his mill down by Seven Mile on Sundays as well as week days, when there was necessity for so doing, and the water was high enough. This circumstance served well as an illustration of the character of William Bruce. He was a plain matter-of-fact man, a utilitarian, very decided in his views, and direct in giving them expression. He wished to infringe upon the rights of now man, and would allow no man of infringe upon his. He preferred to do good in his own way, and always unostentatiously. His donations were usually accompanied by some provision enjoining the recipient to perform to some work for himself, and thus he secured to the community and individuals and the fullest benefit, both directly and indirectly of his benevolence.
Mr. Bruce's sterling traits of character gained and maintained for him the universal and unqualified respect of the people, a fact that was evidenced when he was made the first treasurer of Preble county, and in later years by the number of private trusts reposed in him.
The subject of our sketch was a jovial man, of high spirits, enjoyed life, and was very fond of association with his fellow-men. He was good humored, fond of conversation, and a man of far more than ordinary mind.
His personal appearance was prepossessing, at once commanding and benign.
Mr. Bruce died in 1832, and was buried in Mound cemetery, where an appropriate monument, formed in part of the grinding stones of the old mill, marks his resting place.
Mrs. Bruce's death occurred prior to that of her husband, in 1827. 1
William married Francis Lewis about 1791 in Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky, USA. (Francis Lewis died in 1827.)