Stories of Guernsey County by Wm. Wolfe  Pages 934-943

 

CHAPTER XXXI

 

Monroe Township

IN THE first record book of the Guernsey county commissioners the following entry was made on March 31, 1818; “Ordered by the board that a new township be set off the northern end of Jefferson township, to consist of the fourth township of the second range of the United States Military land, by the name of Monroe; where upon the same was ordered to be recorded, and the notices for the election were issued and delivered to Lawrence Tetrick to set up within said township.”

     James Monroe was then President of the United States.  Madison township was formed in 1810, and Jefferson had been cut from it in 1816.  In order of formation Monroe was tenth in the county.

     Physical Features.—Although Monroe township is hilly, there is much tillable land on the ridges, where general farming and stock raising have been carried on extensively.  It is drained by Clear Fork and rocky Fork creeks, whose waters reach Wills creek through Sugar Tree and Salt Fork.  Much coal for local use has been mined from the hills. Oil in paying quantities has been found in the township.

     To the aborigines this section must have been desirable.  Of the eleven earthworks of the Mound Builders recorded in Guernsey county by the Ohio Archaeological Survey, six are found in Monroe township. There are evidences aside from the mounds that it was once occupied by members of that race.

     Pioneers of the Township.—When the first officers were chosen at the home of Lawrence Tetrick in April, 1818, there were several families living in the township.  The census taken two years later (1820) showed a population of 544, which was thirty-eight more than the last census (1930) showed.

     Settlements began in the township immediately following the War of 1812. Archibald Little located on Irish Ridge in 1814, and soon had the Fishers, Branigers, Orrs, Hazletts, and others, as neighbors.

     A list of names or persons living in the township in 1876, each of whom was seventy-six years of age or older, shows who the pioneer families were.  Not all were amongst the first settlers, but nearly all had a part in clearing the forests and making the township a suitable place for future generations.  The list follows: Martha Aiken, Sarah Anderson, Isaac Beal, Rebecca Burnworth, Benjamin Culbertson, Solomon Colley, Lydia Colley, Daniel Clark, Elizabeth Clark, James Cosgrove, Eleanor Campbell, Sarah Edwards, Mary Engle, Delphi Grimsley, Sarah Gray, J. Hollingsworth, Matthew Johnson, Sidney Little, Archibald Little, Jr., Lydia Lanning, Thomas Moore, Sarah Moore, Thomas I. Moore, Jane Moore, Hezekiah Moore, Annie McDonald, James Neal, John Neal, Amos Richards, Aneas Randall, John Smith, Margaret Shaw, William Thompson, Sarah Thompson, Andrew Thomas, Pleasant Tetrick, Mary Virtue, Sarah White, William Warnock, Jane Warnock, George Willis and Margaret Willis.

     Population.—1830, 615; 1840, 1098; 1850, 1076; 1860, 975; 1870, 1018; 1880, 1080; 1890, 966; 1900, 893; 1910, 682; 1920, 561; 1930, 506.

     Birmingham.—William Carson platted New Birmingham in the eastern part of the township, in 1826.  He sold the lots at the uniform price of ten dollars each.  The first settler in that community was Jesse Milner, who had come there in 1818; when a postoffice was established at New Birmingham, it was called Milnersville in honor of the pioneer, and by that name the place was long known to the outside world.  On June 14, 1860, the town was replatted for assessment purposes. When the postoffice gave way to free rural delivery of mail, Milnersville became Birmingham again.

     During its existence of more than a century the village’s leading industry was its mill—then a steam mill.  farmers from many miles around brought their grain there to be ground.  Mills were few in early days and the owner at Birmingham had so little competition that he was able to impose upon his patrons by exacting an exorbitant toll. It is said that for grinding one’s wheat he took half the flour, all the bran, and, in addition, charged twelve and one-half cents a bushel. On account of this unreasonable demand of the miller Birmingham was nicknamed “Brantown” by the farmers.

     Birmingham had a population of 174 in 1850, and 210 in 1870.  In 1874 it boasted of having one of the best bands in Guernsey county.  W. W. McClelland was the leader, and the other members were H. A. Dougherty, J. L. Allison, J. P. Meredith, George Kimball, J. P. Price, A. Richards, R. Braniger, W. A. Meredith, J. Farmer and W. Price.

     Roads and Postoffices.—A road leading from Washington to Uhrichsville and passing through the land upon which Birmingham was afterwards platted, was opened in 1818, the year the township was organized. The most of the travel to and from Cambridge was over the Birmingham road, one of the oldest roads in the county.  For many years a hack made three trips a week to the county seat, carrying mail and passengers.

     In the days before the free rural delivery of mail Monroe township had a postoffice at Odell, which was named after the Postmaster General at the time it was established. There was an office at Prohibition in the northwestern corner of the township, that name being given it because of the strong temperance sentiment in the community.  On Rocky Fork creek was another postoffice called Frisco.

     Churches.—With a population of only 506 in 1930 Monroe township had six churches: Flat Ridge United Presbyterian, Clear Fork United Presbyterian, Clear Fork Baptist, Hopewell Methodist Protestant, Birmingham Methodist Episcopal, and Birmingham Presbyterian. At the time of the Civil War there was a Wesleyan Methodist church which was destroyed by fire.  On Rocky Fork creek was a Methodist Episcopal church. At Birmingham were Baptist and Cumberland Presbyterian churches. Monroe township has surely not been remiss in providing places of worship for its people.

     Destructive Cyclone.—Monroe township was visited by the most destructive cyclone in its history on Saturday evening, April 26, 1890.  Accompanied by lightning and heavy thunder, a funnel-shaped cloud approached from the southwest at a terrific speed.  It struck first on Irish Ridge, blowing down a barn and stable, unroofing and crushing in one end of a brick residence, leveling fences and timber, and killing stock. Crossing the ridge, it continued towards the northeast through a corner of Washington township.

     Timber and fences were leveled on the Yarnell and Hollingsworth Farms, but the buildings, being outside the track, were not damaged. On the Colley farm 500 panels of fence were blown down and two acres of forest land stripped of its timber.  Fences and buildings on the George farm were blown away, and stock was killed.  A bureau was carried fifty yards from the house.  Only four trees were left standing in a large orchard on the Meek place.

     Like most cyclones this one did some freakish things.  Its path varied in width from ten to twenty-five rods.  It seemed to bound along like a rubber ball, carrying everything with it wherever it struck the earth.  Wheat was shaved off as by a scythe, and sod in newly plowed fields was picked up and carried away.

     Remarkable Case of Fortitude.—As a remarkable example of fortitude the case of Homer Shipman who lived in Birmingham, this township, and who died in 1936, deserves mention in this work.  Published a few years before his death, the story of Shipman’s efforts to surmount difficulties seemingly impossible to be overcome, attracted wide attention.

     When a young man working in a coal mine near Birmingham, Homer Shipman was caught beneath a fall of slate, and his back was broken.  He was carried to his home where he was examined by doctors who declared that he could not live. However, he did live, but the spinal cord had been so impaired that he never regained the use of his lower limbs.   Only by crawling could he move from place to place.

     There was no workmen’s compensation in those days.  Shipman had a family to support.  For thirty years he crawled the two miles between his home and the mine and did his daily work alone or with others employed there. Stretched out on the floor of the mine he dug and loaded coal, in the meantime developing powerful arms and body.  Under such adverse conditions most men would have given up in despair. But Shipman crawled to his work year after year and earned money to support his family which included five children. Many stories have been told about persons who, although they were physically handicapped, displayed some type of heroism in their lives.  This case of Homer Shipman is perhaps the most remarkable of that kind in the history of Guernsey county.

     Owners of Real Estate in 1840.—A century ago (1840) the farms of Monroe township were owned by the following persons. These were the pioneers. The list is complete and shows the number of acres in each farm and the section in which it was located.

    Adair, Robert, 101 acres, sec. 5 and 20; Adair, Rebecca, 87 acres, sec. 15; Bevard, Samuel, 40 acres, sec. 17; Beal, William, 200 acres, sec. 11 and 15; Buchanan, Thomas, 43 acres, sec. 15; Beal, Isaac, 304 acres, sec. 2 and 15; Beal, Isaac of George, 120 acres, sec. 17; Beal, Elias, 216 acres, sec. 11, 12, 19 and 20; Boyce, Francis, 240 acres, sec. 24; Bratton, William, 240 acres, sec. 18; Culbertson, Benjamin, 120 acres, sec. 14; Carson, William, 48 acres, sec. 11; Campbell, Alexander, 160 acres, sec. 18; Crawford, Robert, 40 acres, sec. 24; Cooper, Thomas, 100 acres, sec. 20 and 21.

     Devault, William 75 acres, sec. 4 and 5; Darr, Conrad, 43 acres, sec. 16; Edwards, Joseph, 80 acres, sec. 9; Fisher, Jacob, 119 acres, sec. 8 and 9; Fuller, Johiel, 171 acres, sec. 22 and 23; Foster, Benjamin, 80 acres, sec. 22; Fuller, Jacob, 127 acres, sec. 16; Grimes, Francena, 40 acres, sec. 16; Grimes, Francena, 40 acres, sec. 16; Glass, Thomas, 210 acres, sec. 22; Graham, Christopher, 87 acres, sec. 15; Gadd, Isaiah, 267 acres, sec. 3 and 8; Grimes, George, Sr., 50 acres, sec. 22; Gordon, Albert G., 78 acres, sec. 23.

     Huffman, George, 120 acres, sec. 21; Hughes, Joseph, 128 acres, sec. 19 and 20; Heskett, James, 77 acres, sec. 4; Hays, Michael, 160 acres, sec. 12; Hill, David M., 172 acres, sec. 10 and 11; Hatcher, Obadiah, 75 acres, sec. 5; Hudson, Shepherd, 40 acres, sec. 7; Johnson, Thomas, 200 acres, sec. 7 and 14; Jack, Edward, 160 acres, sec. 18; Johnson,  Matthew, 62 acres, sec. 20; Johnson, George, 141 acres, sec. 12; Johnson, John, 400 acres, sec. 7, 8, 13 and 14; Kimble, Washington, 40 acres, sec. 17; Kimble, Adam, 40 acres, sec. 21; Kennedy, William, 80 acres, sec. 17; Kimble, John, 160 acres, sec. 13 and 18; Kennedy, Moses, 283 acres, sec. 17 and 18.

     Little, Isabelle, 43 acres, sec. 19; Little, Francis, 299 acres, sec. 19; Little, Edward, 142 acres, sec. 12 and 19; Little, William, 279 acres, sec. 13, 14 and 19; Little, William G., 80 acres, sec. 19; Little, John, 80 acres, sec. 13; Little, Joseph, 78 acres, sec. 21; Lanning, Isaac M., 138 acres, sec. 23; Lanning, Robert, 80 acres, sec. 10; Lanning, Joseph, 82 acres, sec. 23; Lanning, Abraham, 100 acres, sec. 10 and 11; Lisetor, George, 88 acres, sec. 23; Little, William, 40 acres, sec. 13.

     Mitchell, David, 60 acres, sec. 23 and 24; Morgan, John, 76 acres, sec. 13; Marlow, Peter, 197 acres, sec. 3 and 8; McWilliams, Robert, 120 acres, sec. 25; McMillen, John, 87 acres, sec. 6; Meredith, Nathaniel, 53 acres, sec. 9; Moore, Thomas, 389 acres, sec. 4, 7 and 8; Millner, Edward, 160 acres, sec. 10; Morris, John, 100 acres, sec. 11; Moore, Hezekiah, 105 acres, sec. 9; McCullough, Robert, 160 acres, sec. 24; Martin, John, 80 acres, sec. 25; McCartney, Henry Jr., 43 acres, sec. 16; Morrison, Joseph, 2 acres, sec. 11 and 20; McCullough, David, 40 acres, sec. 25; Newbern, Thomas, 97 acres, sec. 17; Neal, William, 140 acres, sec. 11; Neal, James, 121 acres, sec. 11.

     Orr, Thomas, 40 acres, sec. 5; Orr John, (Heirs), 53 acres, sec. 12; Orr, Matthew, Sr., 199 acres, sec. 22; Orr, Matthew, Jr., 122 acres, sec. 2; Orr, John, Jr., 124 acres, sec. 12; Parrott, Abraham, 40 acres, sec. 17; Peoples, William, 1 acre, sec. 11; Pollock, Thomas, 160 acres, sec. 14 and 15; Patterson, George, 86 acres, sec. 25; Parrott, William, 56 acres, sec. 4; Preston, Elijah, 152 acres, sec. 1; Pollock, Stephen, 167 acres, sec. 6; Peacock, Thomas W., 1 acre, sec. 11; Parsons, Charles L., 40 acres, sec. 14; Redman, Robert, 40 acres, sec. 5; Robinson, Christopher, 40 acres, sec. 5; Randall, Hunter, 152 acres, sec. 1; Rollston, John, 120 acres, sec. 15 and 16; Roseman, James, 80 acres, sec. 21; Ross, James, Sr., 76 acres, sec. 2; Ross, James, Jr., 30 acres, sec. 2; Randall, Ananias, 153 acres, sec. 1.

     Smith, Jacob, 173 acres, sec. 20 and 23; Shope, Jacob, 80 acres, sec. 20; Smith, James, 380 acres, sec. 16, 17, 24 and 25; Smith, John, 240 acres, sec. 8; Salladay, John, 152 acres, sec. 3; Shannon, Amon, 158 acres, sec. 20; Saviers, John, 80 acres, sec. 21; Smith, William M., 80 acres, sec. 14; Sturges, Solomon, 174 acres, sec. 25; Tobin, Wesley, 80 acres, sec. 6; Tobin, Isaac, 120 acres, sec. 13 and 14;  Tedrick, Peter, 76 acres, sec. 2; Thompson, Abraham, 71 acres, sec. 15; Thompson, William, 187 acres, sec. 9 and 10; Thompson, Mary, 135 acres, sec. 9; Tedrick, Lawrence, Sr., 152 acres, sec. 1; Tobin, Nathaniel, 80 acres, sec. 10; Todd, John (Heirs0, 80 acres, sec. 9; Tobin, William, 9 acres, sec. 11.

     Virture, Robert, 76 acres, sec. 5; Virtue, Samuel, 40 acres, sec. 7; Virtue, Samuel, Jr., 120 acres, sec. 6 and 7; Virtue, David, 167 acres, sec. 6; Waggoner, Isaac, 113 acres, sec. 3; Warnock, John, 60 acres, sec. 4 and 7; Wells, Jacob, 81 acres, sec. 5; Warnock, James, Jr., 91 acres, sec. 20 adn21; Warnock, William, 86 acres, sec. 15; Whitaker, William, 80 acres, sec. 21; Whitaker, Obed, 80 acres, sec. 22; White, Elihu, 126 acres, sec. 5; Walters, Joseph, 228 acres, sec. 4.

     In New Birmingham were the following lot owners; George Anderson, Robert Adair, Henry Booker, Leonard Baun, William Carson, Jonathan Cunnard, George Cresswell, Leonard Dallas, Henry Dixon, C. Fletcher, Jacob Hague, David M. Hill, Joseph Hill, John Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Joseph Moirison, Joseph McDaniel, Finley McGrew, Mary McConnell, William Roseman, Martin Roseman, Elizabeth Robinson and J. M. Snyder.

 

Irish Ridge

 

     Irish Ridge is not a political division or subdivision within itself.  It is a territory somewhat limited in extent, yet widely known.  Many Guernsey county people have heard of the place, no doubt, but do not know where it is located or what it is like.  They assume, from the name, that persons living there now, or at one time, came from Ireland. That is right.

     Settled by the Irish.—Irish ridge is west of Birmingham in Monroe township.  It begins to rise at Clear Fork creek on the south, stretches north three or four miles, and then drops down to Rocky Fork.  From about the center a spur reaches southwest to Odell. Along the crest of the main ridge is the Irish Ridge road.  From this road an extensive view of the country may be had.

     In 1814 Archibald Little, his wife Isabel, and their nine children, then living in Ireland, decided to come to America. They were not permitted by the law to sell their farm and take the money out of the country. However, they gathered together their household goods and began the journey. The ship was unseaworthy and sprang a leak, but the flow of water was stopped by a ham of meat and their lives were saved.

     Landing at New York they bought a yoke of oxen and a cart, and started towards the West.  The smallest children rode in the cart; the rest of the family walked. After many days they came to what is now Irish Ridge in Monroe township, Guernsey county, Ohio, and here they established a home.

     They had no neighbors at first, but later there came others from Ireland: William Kimball, Samuel Clark, James Hazlett, Captain John Orr, John Smith and Isaac Barishford.  There was thus formed an Irish settlement.

     Irish Ridge Church.—Some who were not Irish were attracted to the place: Frederick Braniger, who came in 1816; also David Fisher and Elias White. The Fisher and Braniger families were of the stock known as Pennsylvania Dutch.  Several descendants of these families are now living on Irish Ridge.

     On the farm owned at present by William Tedrick, a church was built about 1830.  As were all other churches of the Guernsey county pioneers, it was built of logs.  Amongst its founders were William and John Little, sons of the original pioneer; John Johnson, John Smith  and Captain John Orr.  Here the Irish Ridge folks worshiped for many years, and near this place two other churches were successively erected, the present one in 1889.  It is called the Hopewell, or Irish Ridge church, and is of the Methodist Protestant denomination.  Among the early preachers were Rev. Samuel Lancaster, Rev. E. S. Hoagland and Rev. Reynolds. The present pastor is Rev. Walter Clark, and the membership of the church is about seventy.  At the church is a cemetery within which the pioneers and many of their descendants are buried.

     Irish Ridge School.—There was established, of course, an Irish Ridge school. This was located near the church, and like the church, gave place to other buildings. In 1870 a brick schoolhouse was erected, which was destroyed by fire in 1888.  It was replaced by another brick building, which is the only one-room school of the kind in the county.  A. H. Neel, J. H. Oxley, William Pollock and John Smith were teachers of the earlier days.

     In the years before the Civil War one of the “Underground Railroad” routes through Guernsey county passed along Irish Ridge. The people there were sympathetic towards the fugitive slaves and assisted them on their way to freedom.  A station was maintained on the farm now owned by Albert Ross on Rocky Fork.

     Neither a store nor a postoffice was ever kept on Irish Ridge.  Mail was received through the office at Birmingham until that was closed a few years ago; now it is delivered by rural mail carriers from Kimbolton.

     The nine children of the first settlers, Archibald and Isabel Little, were William, Joseph, Archibald, John, Francis, Edward, Mary, Ellen and Rebecca. They settled in the community after they married, but heir descendants scattered. There is no longer a family by that name on the ridge, nor is there anything there to indicate that it was ever Irish.

 

The Lost Child

 

A Pioneer Danger.—One of the fears of the pioneer mother living in an isolated cabin in the backwoods was that her children might stray into the forest and become lost.  In many sections there were no roads and but few paths.  Unless it kept in sight of the house, a young child, lacking the sense of directions, might wander deeper into the woods when trying to find its way home. Then there was always the danger of wild animals against which it could not defend itself.

     Many stories of lost children have been told. This is the story of one lost in the forests of Guernsey county more than a hundred years ago. The place was the northern part of what is now Monroe township, and the name of the child was Isaac Couts.

     Lots in the Forest.—William Couts, the father of Isaac, located near the line that separates Guernsey and Tuscarawas counties, in 1817. That region was then a vast wilderness broken here and there by small clearings around lonely cabins. The nearest postoffice was at Washington, on Zane’s Trace, fifteen miles south of the Couts cabin, and it was here that the family received their mail and did their trading.

     On Friday morning, July 23, 1825, Isaac, who was eight years of age, started alone to school which was held in a little log building across Rocky Fork creek, about one mile south of his home.  He traveled a narrow path through the woods, carrying his lunch wrapped in a handkerchief.

     When about half way to the school he imagined he saw a bear in the path ahead of him.  Instead of turning back home he quickly slipped into the laurel which grew densely at that place, intending to make a detour around the bear and return too the path on the other side. This was exceptional courage and presence of mind for a boy as young as Isaac to display.

     His detour was so great that when he came to the path it did not seem familiar. Thinking that he had reached the wrong one he again struck out though the laurel, losing the handkerchief which contained his lunch.  He wandered on, not knowing how long or how far.  It was afterwards believed that he followed Rocky Fork creek.

     A Bed Is Made.—At length he came to a path, one that he had never seen before. He reasoned that this would take him to some habitation and he turned on it, but when he reached the top of a steep bluff, he found that the path came to an end. He realized that he was lost.  He called for help, but received no response other than the reverberations of his own childish voice.

     Instead of wandering on as many a child would have done, he decided to remain where he was, hoping that he would be found. Between two trees that stood on the bluff was a hole made by the uprooting of another tree.  Isaac gathered all the moss he could find and made a soft bed in this hole.  Night came on, and with it, all the loneliness of the forest. Fearing wild animals he did not sleep.  Only once was he disturbed; some beast approached his bed, gave a loud snort and sprang away.

     Saturday morning found him hungry, thirsty and sleepy. He slept during most of the day.  His opinion was that he would never be found, and he hoped that he might die. However, he remained in his mossy bed all day Saturday and Saturday night and until afternoon on Sunday, without food or drink.

     Community Alarmed.—On the Friday forenoon that Isaac left for school his older brother passed the school house on his way to mill. The teacher came out and asked him why “Ikey” was absent.  Returning home the brother reported that Isaac was lost. Word was sent to the neighbors and all of Friday afternoon and night was spent in a fruitless search.

     When Saturday morning came the news had spread for miles, and men left their work to assist in the hunt for the lost boy.  During the entire day an unsystematic search was made, which proved to be ineffective.

     On Sunday morning men and boys came on horseback—hundreds of them—and a consultation was held. Arrangements were made for a more minute search and it was agreed that certain signals should be given in case the boy was found.  Hours were appointed for reporting as the search continued. There was much sympathy for the distracted family. The child had now been lost for two days and two nights in the deep forest, and it did not seem probably that he would be found alive. As the squads returned at intervals with no news, the mental agony of the Couts family became intense.

     Strong Men Wept.—About two o’clock on Sunday afternoon  a group of searchers from the Odell neighborhood, not far from Sugar Tree creek, came by chance near the bluff where Isaac lay.  It was about three miles back in the forest form the Couts cabin. Their attention was attracted by a weak “Haloo” made by the boy.

     “Big Jim” Willis, a giant of the Odell squad of searchers, quickly climbed the bluff and gathered Isaac in his arms. Not knowing the signal, they did not give one until the Beal cabin was reached, a half mile south of the child’s home. About 600 men and boys were engaged in the hunt at the time, and many of them were at the Couts home trying to decide upon some plan of action, when the signal was given.

     The news that the boy was found and was alive and well spread like wild fire. As the signals indicating this fact were relayed there was cheering for miles. When “Big Jim” Willis carried little Isaac into the Couts cabin, the mother and a sister fainted away. The excitement was so intense that strong men broke down and wept like children.

     Became a Prominent Man.—Isaac Couts lived to be ninety years of age. That he was courageous when a youngster is shown by this incident. That he was precocious is evidenced by the fact that he could read when four years old, and that,  at the age of eight, he had studied through the dictionary two times, this and a Bible being the only books the family possessed.

     When sixteen years of age he began clerking in a store at Birmingham. Here he received instruction in mathematics from his employer and Dr. Van Horn. He than entered Madison College at Antrim, one of the first to be enrolled there, for a course in surveying.  After two weeks of study he was told that he could be taken no further in that subject by the teacher there.  For more than fifty years he did surveying in northern Guernsey and southern Tuscarawas counties. His death occurred in the later county in 1907.

 

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