Bio Sketch: Maj. David Zeigler (1748-1811), pioneer & first mayor of Cincinnati,Ohio

David Zeigler was born Johann David Zeigler or Ziegler on July 13, 1748, in Heidelberg, Germany, the son of Johann Heinrich Zeigler and Louise Friederika Kern. He served in the armies of Friedrich der Grosse of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia before immigrating to the American colonies about 1774 or 1775.[1]

David Zeigler, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW 39:7)

David Zeigler, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW 39:7)

David settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and after the Battle of Lexington in 1775, he joined William Thompson’s Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion. In 1776, Thompson’s regiment was reorganized as the First Regiment, Continental Infantry, and David was commissioned a second lieutenant. He participated in many battles, including the Battle of Long Island (August 27, 1776), in which he was wounded. In 1778, David was promoted to captain in the First Pennsylvania Regiment. He was mustered out of the army in 1783 and returned to Carlisle, where he opened a grocery store.[2]

In 1784, David was appointed a captain in the regular army under Josiah Harmar, and from 1784 to 1790, he served at several forts on the frontier, including Fort Washington at Cincinnati. He participated in the protection of federal surveyors and the negotiation of treaties with Native Americans. David was promoted to major in 1790. He was with Arthur St. Clair at his defeat in 1791, and David was left in charge of Fort Washington when St. Clair returned east. David resigned from the army in March 1792.[3]

Fort Washington (Cincinnati), ca. 1790 (Library of Congress, image # LC-USZC4-403, public domain)

Fort Washington (Cincinnati), ca. 1790 (Library of Congress, image # LC-USZC4-403, public domain)

On February 22, 1789, at Fort Harmar in Marietta, Ohio, David Zeigler married Lucy Anne Sheffield. Lucy Anne, often called Lucianna, was born December 22, 1761, in Jamestown, Rhode Island, a daughter of Benjamin and Hannah Sheffield. Two other children of Benjamin and Hannah Sheffield were: Phebe Sheffield (1754-?), who married Charles Greene (1753-?), and Mary Sheffield (1757-?), who married Isaac Peirce (1749-1821). Therefore, the following individuals were included among the nieces and nephews of David and Lucianna Zeigler: Joseph Peirce, Phebe (Peirce) Steele (and by extension James Steele), Charles Russell Greene, Sophia (Greene) Burnet Cooper Loury (and by extension Daniel C. Cooper). David and Lucianna Zeigler did not have any surviving children of their own.[4]

After his retirement from the army in 1792, David Zeigler purchased and farmed a piece of land about four miles from downtown Cincinnati. Then, in 1797, he sold the farm to John Smith and removed downtown, opening a store on Front Street, east of Sycamore. Also in 1797, he was appointed the Supervisor of Cincinnati Township Highways.[5]

Signature of David Zeigler from a letter to Winthrop Sargent, 10 Nov. 1803 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW 39:7)

Signature of David Zeigler from a letter to Winthrop Sargent, 10 Nov. 1803 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW 39:7)

Cincinnati was incorporated in 1802, and at that time David Zeigler was elected as the president of the town council and chief magistrate, making him effectively the first mayor of Cincinnati. He served two terms in that capacity and might have served a third, but he declined the position in 1804. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson appointed David as first Marshal of the Ohio District. David served as Adjutant General of Ohio in 1807. And in 1809, he was made Surveyor of the Port of Cincinnati and served in that capacity until his death.[6]

David Zeigler died on September 24, 1811, in Cincinnati, Ohio. After his death, his wife Lucianna removed to Dayton to be near her nieces and nephews in the Peirce, Steele, and Greene families. Lucy Anne (Sheffield) Zeigler died November 18, 1820, in Dayton, Ohio. The remains of both David and Lucianna Zeigler were eventually buried together in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.[7]

Tombstone of David Zeigler in Woodland Cemetery (photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

Tombstone of David Zeigler in Woodland Cemetery (photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)


This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.

[1] George A. Katzenberger, Major David Ziegler (Columbus, OH: The F. J. Heer Printing Co., 1912), 4-5; Don Heinrich Tolzmann, The First Mayor of Cincinnati: George A. Katzenberger’s Biography of Major David Ziegler (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990), xiii, 55-56; Nancy R. Horlacher, The Major David Zeigler Papers, 1791-1822 (Dayton, OH: Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1998), iv.

[2] Horlacher, iv; Katzenberger, 5-18; Tolzmann, xiii, 54.

[3] Tolzmann, xiii-xiv, 54-55; Horlacher, iv; Katzenberger, 19-32.

[4] “Jamestown Births and Deaths,” in James N. Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, First series: Births, Marriages, and Deaths (Providence, RI: Narragansett Historical Publishing Co., 1891), 26; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011,

[5] Katzenberger, 33-34; Tolzmann, xiv; Horlacher, iv.

[6] Katzenberger, 35-43; Tolzmann, xiv, 55; Horlacher, iv.

[7] Katzenberger, 35-43; Tolzmann, xiv; Horlacher, iv.


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