Stories of Guernsey County by William Wolfe Pages 1012-1023
As a political unit Washington township had its beginning in 1823. The township records for the first eight years having been lost, we are unable to give a list of the first officers. At an election held on April 4, 1831, John Vance, Basil Longsworth and Edward Jack were chosen trustees; Edward Daugherty, clerk; George Anderson, treasurer; David Buchanan, constable; Robert Vance and James Dwiggins, fence viewers; James Scott and Sylvester Dwiggins, overseers of the poor; William Myers, Aaron Hughes and Jesse Wilson, land appraisers. Descendants of nearly all these officials of more than one hundred years ago are now living in the township.
Early Settlers.—Levi Williams was probably the first white person to settle within the present boundaries of Washington township. The second settler was Robert Carnes, and the third was James Anderson. Among the other pioneers were the following: Robert Vance, Sr., who came from Pennsylvania, in 1825; Basil Longsworth from Maryland, in 1826; John D. Harding from Maryland; Lewis B. Kingsbury, originally from England, who was active in township affairs; George Frazier, whose son served on both the common pleas and circuit benches; Otho Brashear, who was a surveyor; William Scott, who served four years in the state Senate (1835-36 and 1839-40); James Read from Jefferson county, Ohio; John W. Spencer from Maryland; Jesse Smith, Joseph Smith and Louis Edwards, who were prominent in organizing the church.
Running east and west across the township is a ridge which divides the waters of Stillwater and Wills creeks. This ridge, being high and sandy, was covered with chestnut trees when the first settlers came. Along its crest they opened a road which to this day is known as the Chestnut Ridge road. These early settlers found old chestnut trees, some of them more than four feet in diameter, that had fallen many years before. From their roots others that gave evidence of great age had sprung. On the slopes were large oak and poplar trees, and in the bottoms were beech and sugar maple.
The land was cleared by the owners and crop lessees, the latter taking leases on twenty or more acres for ten years. On some eighty-acre tracts two families would live, each, perhaps, with eight or more members. Clothing and bedding were made in the home from wool and flax produced on the farm. No home was complete without a spinning-wheel for making thread, and a loom for weaving it into cloth. Linsey-woolsey clothing was made from a mixture of linen and wool. Coarse boots and shoes were home products. Most members of the family went bare-foot in the summer.
Excepting coffee, tea and salt, which were use sparingly, most of the food supplies came from the farm and the forest. Before “corn-cracker” mills were built on Atkinson creek and Sugar Tree, the settlers made their meal by pounding the corn in a mortar or by grinding it on a hand-mill. At each home was a truck-patch in new ground that supplied an abundance of the common vegetables. It was a happy day when the family had its first mess of roasting-ears. There was joy, too, when the corn hardened enough to be grated and new meal made for mush. Hominy was a staple article of food during the winter months. Sugar and molasses were made from the sap of the maple; the pioneer used no other kind of sweetening.
Old Folks of 1876.—The following persons, who had lived six years beyond the three score and ten allotted by the Psalmist, were residents of the township in 1876; John Allison, Mary Burris, Mrs. Otho Brashear, Miss Edinburn, Mrs. Nancy Frazier; Jonah George, James Hastings; Mrs. William Hastings, Edward Logan, Mrs. Edward Logan, Mrs. James Logan, Louis Myers, Finley McGrew, Robert Maxwell, Mrs. A. M. McKinney, Mrs. S. McKinney, Mrs. Louis Myers, Mrs. Finley McGrew, Mrs. Robert Maxwell, Sol Shers, Mrs. W. Smith, Mrs. P. Smith, Benjamin Temple, Mrs. Benjamin Temple, Robert Vance, Mrs. Robert Vance, John Williams.
Old Mills.—In early days water mills were established at different places in the township, the largest ones on Atkinson creek. Samuel Speck erected a grist and saw-mill on the Westchester road, and a few years later Robert Paisley built another about a mile away. The Speck mill was destroyed by fire in 1872. The Paisley mill, having been moved to the southern part of the township, was destroyed by fire, too. During the period these mills were operated two others were built on a tributary of Sugar Tree creek in the western part of the township; they operated vertical saws and a set of buhrstones.
Population.—One hundred years ago Washington township had a population almost three times as great as it has today. Nearly all the land was entered between the years 1816 and 1825. Lacking the means to purchase large farms, the most of the settlers owned tracts of but eighty acres each. Having no towns, railroads or important public highways, the township had little to offer the ambitious youth, other than a chance to farm. Many who did not care to engage in agricultural pursuits went elsewhere; hence the decrease in population.
Levi Engle and his wife, Drusilla, planned a town for Washington township, but it failed to flourish as its promoters had hoped. They platted a village on November 6, 1833, which they called Portugal, in the northern part of the township. Twenty-seven lots on Cambridge street and Cadiz street were offered for sale.
The only tavern ever kept in the township was over near the Tuscarawas county line. Samuel Hedges was the proprietor. It was a large hewed-log structure, erected about 1825 for the accommodation of those traveling north to market their products along the Ohio canal.
The population in 1830 was 802; in 1840, 1,008; in 1850, 972; in 1860, 832; in 1870, 712; in 1880, 742; in 1890, 704; in 1900, 572; in 1910, 4 The population in 1830 was 802; in 1840, 1,008; in 1850, 972; in 1860, 832; in 1870, 712; in 1880, 742; in 1890, 704; in 1900, 572; in 1910, 489; in 1920, 400; in 1930, 356.
Postoffices and Stores.—There is no postoffice in the township today, and the mail is delivered by rural carriers from Freeport, Gnadenhutten and Winterset. Prior to 1888 the residents had to go out of the township for their mail—to Milnersville, Cadwallader, Antrim or Londonderry. Then, for better accommodations, offices were established at Sligo, Divide and Aix. They were closed when free rural delivery came.
There is no store in the township today. Back in the early 60’s Christopher Hartman had a grocery where the Divide postoffice was later located, but he went out of business about 1870, and the township had no store until 1888, when one was opened by Aaron Stevens at Sligo. Stores were also kept by J. T. Daugherty and T. M. Grimsley at Divide. These were closed a few years ago.
Churches.—Since its organization the township has had three churches. The first, a Methodist Episcopal church, was erected on the farm of Robert Vance, Sr., near Sugar Tree creek, about the year 1835. The membership consisted, in part, of the families of Robert Vance, Sr., John Dwiggins, John Daugherty, and Lewis B. Kingsbury. The church prospered while the original members lived. It was closed in the early 60’s and those left transferred their membership to Antrim and Birmingham churches.
For brief histories of the Methodist Protestant and United Brethren churches in Washington township the reader is referred to the general stories of these denominations in this volume.
In addition to the cemeteries at the Methodist Protestant and United Brethren churches there are two burial grounds, one on the north and the other on the west side of the township. Here lie the remains of most of the early settlers.
The First School.—What is believed to have been the first schoolhouse in Washington township was built near the present Pleasant Hill church. It was made of round logs and had a puncheon floor. At one end was a wide wood-fireplace. Light was admitted through holes in the walls, over which greased paper was pasted. Holes were bored into the logs under the greased-paper windows and on wooden pins driven into the holes hewn puncheons were placed for desks. The backs of the pupils were to the center of the room.
It was a subscription school and the only school in that section of the country. Several young people from a distance came there to learn to read and write, amongst whom were the Wilkin and Carpenter children living four miles away, in what is now Londonderry township. On of the early teachers was a man named Davidson. One morning a few days before Christmas a number of the older boys arrived at the building early, barricaded the door and refused to admit the teacher when he came, unless he would promise to treat the school to maple sugar on Christmas day. He refused to comply with their request. Finding it useless to attempt an entrance and angry because the boys had taken possession of the building, he left to notify some of the parents of their unruly children’s actions. As soon as Davidson left the boys carried in a lot of fire-wood and a great pile of snow. They then set to work to make snowballs which were wet and hard. Davidson returned in the afternoon, accompanied by the fathers of some of the boys. Pleadings for the boys to open the door were of no avail. “Not until teacher agrees to treat,” they said. An attempt was then made by those on the outside to force them out by snowballing. The first volley smashed through the greased-paper windows and struck the opposite walls. The attacking party was surprised to have it returned from within. Then the battle opened in earnest. The defenders not only had the protection of the log walls, but by climbing on the seats to throw they could get a better range than the ones on the outside. For two hours the battle continued. Towards evening, when it seemed certain that the ones within were determined not to capitulate, the teacher promised to treat. School opened as usual the next morning.
An Eminent Jurist.—An early resident of this township, who became prominent as a jurist, was William H. Frazier. His father, a magistrate of Trumbull county, Ohio, moved with his family to a farm in Washington township in 1838. William, who was then twelve years of age, became a pupil in the little log schoolhouse near his home, attending in winter and working on the farm in the summer. At the age of twenty-one years he entered Madison college at Antrim, where he was a student under Dr. Samuel Findley for two years. After this short college course he studied law under his brother. Admitted to the bar in 1852, he immediately began the practice of law in Sarahsville, Noble county, which town, it was believed, was to become the county seat. When Caldwell instead of Sarahsville was chosen as the seat of justice, he moved to that town.
For six successive terms William H. Frazier was elected prosecuting attorney of Noble county. In 1871 Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him to fill a vacancy on the common pleas bench of this district, caused by the resignation of Judge Moses M. Granger. Following this he was elected for four terms. In 1884 he was elected as one of the three judges of the Seventh circuit which extended from Lake Erie to Washington county. To this office he was reelected two times.
Judge Frazier retired from the bench in 1901, having served as a judge for almost thirty years. His record as a long-time jurist has been exceeded by only one other in Ohio, Judge John McLean whose services extended over a period of thirty-two years, of which twenty-six were on a United States bench.
Judge Frazier died in Los Angeles, California, in 1906. His body was brought to the Olive cemetery for burial.
A Long Official Service.—As a long-time township official, S. A. Smith holds a record that, perhaps, has never been surpassed by any person in Guernsey county. For fifty years he served the township almost continuously.
At the age of eighteen he became treasurer of Washington township and school district and served four years, his father holding the office nominally. In 1890 he was appointed census enumerator of the township. Elected township clerk in 1892, he served six years, declining a reelection to become a deputy supervisor of Guernsey county elections. He held this office for two years, acting as clerk of the board for one year. Next came an election to the township board of education on which he remained three years. After serving one year as acting township and school treasurer, he was again elected township clerk, which office he held for twenty-seven consecutive years, at the same time performing the duties of clerk of the school district.
At the end of the fifty years he was reelected clerk for a term of four years, receiving all but two of the 138 votes cast for the office. However, he declined to serve longer.
Owners of Real Estate in 1840.—Heads of Washington township families owning their own farms, a century ago, are given below. It is probable that there were tenant families on many of the larger farms, whose names are not included in the list.
Anderson, George, 320 acres, sec. 14 and 15; Anderson, James, 110 acres, sec. 24; Arneal, John, 160 acres, sec. 24; Allender, Margaret, 160 acres, sec. 17; Brumley, Peter, 90 acres, sec. 7; Brashear, Otho, 493 acres, sec. 5 and 7; Boyer, William, 319 acres, sec. 10; Burrows, James, 160 acres, sec. 22; Burrows, Hugh, 160 acres, sec. 19 and 21; Brown, Turner G., 160 acres, sec. 11; Brown, John (Heirs), 160 acres, sec. 21; Bryant, David, 80 acres, sec. 7; Bracken, Thomas, 145 acres, sec. 15; Baer, John, 160 acres, sec. 10.
Carson, John, 100 acres, sec. 14; Carson, Andrew, 100 acres, sec. 14; Combs, Mahlon, 160 acres, sec. 16; Cunningham, John, Jr., 160 acres, sec. 19; Cunningham, John, Sr., 95 acres, sec. 11; Cunningham, James, 99 acres, sec. 22; Cox, Ephraim, 160 acres, sec. 9; Chandler, Spencer, 236 acres, sec. 4; Cunningham, Samuel, 32 acres, sec. 2; Copeland, Thomas, 82 acres, sec. 16; Carney, John, 60 acres, sec. 1; Dwiggins, John, 80 acres, sec. 18; Daugherty, Edward, 135 acres, sec. 19; Dryden, Samuel, 160 acres, sec. 20; Edwards, Isaac, 160 acres, sec. 20; Engle, Levi, 160 acres, sec. 20; Engle, Asa, 250 acres, sec. 8.
Frazier, George, 283 acres, sec. 13 and 19; Fordyce, John, 40 acres, sec. 4; Freeland, George, 80acres, sec. 25; George, Isaac, 320 acres, sec. 37 and 15; George, Western, 77 acres, sec. 5; George, Jonah, 85 acres, sec. 7; Griffith, Abel, 41 acres, sec. 9; Galbraith, John, 160 acres, sec. 12; Gibson, John, 80 acres, sec. 19; Hobbs, Henry, 80 acres, sec. 9; Hastings, William, 160 acres, sec. 2 and 9; Hastings, James, 160 acres, sec. 12; Harding, john D., 160 acres, sec. 12; Huffman, George, 160 acres, sec. 25; Hughes, Aaron, 90 acres, sec. 6; Hayes, Michael, 160 acres, sec. 16; Hinds, Moses, 160 acres, sec. 22; Hickman, James, 80 acres, sec. 10; Hickman, John, 80 acres, sec. 10; Hollingsworth, James, 92 acres, sec. 16; Hacock, William, 41 acres, sec. 9; Henderson, John, 160 acres, sec. 23; Hedge, Samuel, 106 acres, sec. 8; Hill, David M., 46 acres, sec. 15; Hinds, James, 153 acres, sec. 24.
Kingsberry, Lewis B., 160 acres, sec. 13; Longsworth, Basil, 273 acres, sec. 12 and 9; Logan, James, 160 acres, sec. 21; Logan, Edward, 160 acres, sec. 22; Likes, James, 89 acres, sec. 4; Lanning, John, 35 acres, sec. 6; Lanning, Robert, 42 acres, sec. 6; Lewis, Thomas, 150 acres, sec. 7; McCaskey, Hugh, 59 acres, sec. 24; Marsh, Jonathan, 30 acres, sec. 9; Mahan, John, 80 acres, sec. 18; May, Margaret, 120 acres, sec. 14; Moore, Peter, 160 acres, sec. 9; Matthews, Paul, 160 acres, sec. 17; Mercer, John, 160 acres, sec. 13; McKinnie, Samuel, 160 acres, sec. 20; McKitrick, James, 160 acres, sec. 20; Maxwell, Robert, 99 acres, sec. 25; Magill, Stewart, 61 acres, sec. 22; McCord, John, 160 acres, sec. 13.
Oliver, Thomas, 80 acres, sec. 25; Perdue, Jonathan, 159 acres, sec. 2; Redman, William, 108 acres, sec. 7 and 8; Reed, Robert, Sr., 160 acres, sec. 21; Reed, Robert, Jr., 80 acres, sec. 21; Ripley, John, 110 acres, sec. 1; Read, John, 79 acres, sec. 3; Read, George (Heirs), 156 acres, sec. 3 and 4; Read, James (Heirs), 78 acres, sec. 4; Rainey, William, 33 acres, sec. 18; Rickey, Isaac, 95 acres, sec. 25; Sherman, William, 39 acres, sec. 4; Swaim, Daniel, 61 acres, sec. 1; Smith, Jeremiah, 80 acres, sec. 2; Sherrow, Hudson, 70 acres, sec. 8; Spence, John (Heirs), 149 acres, sec. 1; Speck, Augustus, 100 acres, sec. 1; Speck, Samuel, 49 acres, sec. 2; Smith, Jesse, 80 acres, sec. 8; Smith, Jacob (Heirs), 40 acres, sec. 8; Schooley, Joseph, 177 acres, sec. 2; Scott, William, 160 acres, sec. 14; Sherrow, Solomon, 71 acres, sec. 4.
Titus, John, 79 acres, sec. 3; Tedrick, Michael, 157 acres, sec. 6; Thompson, Samuel, 160 acres, sec. 23; Thompson, Andrew, 160 acres, sec. 23; Vance, James, 36 acres, sec. 13; Vance, Robert, 151 acres, sec. 18; Vance, John, 320 acres, sec. 17 and 23; Vernon, Abner, 85 acres, sec. 6; Vernon, Phebe, 80 acres, sec. 6; Vermillion, Joseph, 54 acres, sec. 7; Wilson, James, 160 acres, sec. 11; Watt, Joseph, 160 acres, sec. 19; Wilson, Jesse, Sr., 225 acres, sec. 11; Williams, Sarah, 160 acres, sec. 19; Williams, Levi, 110 acres, sec. 24; Williams, John, 50 acres, sec. 24; Walker, George B., 160 acres, sec. 12; Williams, Joseph, 14 acres, sec. 18; Walker, Robert, 146 acres, sec. 18.
First White Child Born in Guernsey County
The Claim of John Williams.—Who was the first white child born in Guernsey County? This is a question concerning which, about fifty years ago, there was much controversy. Old birth records were examined and the oldest citizens were consulted to the end that the matter might be indisputably settled. Long before this the question as to the first white person to settle within what are now the boundaries of Guernsey county had been raised. It seems that most claims that were made in each case were disputed by somebody.
At the time of his death on January 11, 1887, it was claimed that the distinction of being the first native Guernsey county child belonged to John Williams of Washington township. According to his own account of the Williams family, his father, Levi Williams, was born near Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, in 1777, and came to what is now Belmont county, Ohio, in 1796. He was employed by the Zanes in the work of cutting Zane’s Trace through this section. In 1799 he married Hannah Lemon and they came to the place where Old Washington now stands, and established a home. The Colonial Inn is located on a part of the ground cleared by Williams. He soon moved to Washington township, where John was born March 8, 1806.
Claim had been made that Levi Williams came to the present site of Old Washington in 1796, the first white man to settle in Guernsey county. If this be so, he came here before he was married and he came as a squatter, because the land had not then been surveyed.
But there is no question about the date and place of birth of John Williams. He attended the first school in Washington township, the old-time subscription school, having its proverbial log fireplace, slab benches and greased-paper windows. For several years he taught school in the northern part of the county, but later in life he turned his entire attention to farming. He was buried in the Pleasant Hill cemetery in Washington township. Until his death he unswervingly maintained his right to the title of being the first white child born in Guernsey county.
Katy Conner Born in 1805.—Another claimant at the time the controversy was being made was Katy Conner. According to those who would have her receive the distinction, she was born in Westland township, March 25, 1805. Her father, John Reasoner, was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, in 1774. He married Elizabeth Wilson Thompson in 1798, and moved to Ohio in 1803, locating on a branch of Crooked creek in what is now Westland township.
The Reasoner family was the fifth family to settle between Cambridge and Zanesville. Peter Reasoner, John Reasoner’s father, came to visit him. Being an old hunter and an excellent woodsman, he took a gun and started out for a hunt. The country was new to him and he lost his way. For about a week he wandered about in the forest, going as far as Indian Camp. The Indians directed him to Peter’s creek which he followed to his son’s home. This is how the stream got its name.
Katy Conner was still living in Westland township at the time of John Williams’ death. A Bible yet possessed by the Reasoner family contains a record of her birth, as given above, indicating that she was born a year before John Williams. Until evidence of an earlier birth is found, we may consider Katy Reasoner Conner the first girl, and John Williams the first boy to be born in Guernsey county.
James Kennon Was Third.—Oxford township also had an entrant for the title of first-born. Claim was made that in the spring of 1806, Alexander Campbell, from near Winchester, Virginia, moved to what is now Oxford township, near the Belmont county line. Shortly after he arrived, John Kennon camped near his home while looking around for a place to settle, and here his son, James Kennon, was born the following September. If all dates are correct, Kennon was third.
Who the first white child born in Guernsey county was is not of great importance. Such a question, though, is occasionally asked. The newspaper report of the death of John Williams, in which was stated that the honor was his, started a controversy.
A Pioneer Church
Religion was given much thought by the early settlers in the western country. Many of them had come from communities in the East where church-going and Sabbath observance were imperative. Here in the West they found no place for worship excepting the rude altar in their humble cabin. When the circuit riders of the different denominations began coming to the settlements, the pioneers gladly opened their homes for preaching. Perhaps a society would be organized, and meetings would be held at the homes of its members until a church building could be provided.
Pleasant Hill.—In the northeastern part of Washington township the Pleasant Hill Methodist Protestant church was organized at the house of John Ripley, in 1829, by Rev. William B. Evans, who became its first pastor. From the Ripley home the society moved to a log schoolhouse that stood three-fourths of a mile from the site of the present Pleasant Hill church, where services were held until 1834. Among the families connected with this organization at the beginning were the Hastings, Bears, Longsworths, Davidsons, Drydens, Hicksons, Hickmans, Millers, Spears, Ripleys, Brumleys and Daughertys.
The Double Chestnut Tree.—Running east and west through the forests of Washington township was the Birmingham-Freeport road. As it divided the Pleasant Hill congregation into two parts that were nearly equal, it was unanimously agreed, when it came to building a church, that the structure should be located on this thoroughfare. After considering several sites, the leading members of the society held a meeting at the Widow Donaway’s home and unanimously voted to locate the building on the farm of William Boyer, who offered to donate ground for both a church and a cemetery. This site was about one-fifth of a mile east of the spot where the church is now located.
Near the home of Widow Donaway the road made a sharp turn which was known as Donaway’s elbow. Here stood an ancient double chestnut tree, the largest in all that section. The two parts of the tree were united at the roots, but were separated above. Some tempest had uprooted this monster tree, many years perhaps, before any white settlement had been made in the neighborhood. It was covered with wild grapevines and surrounded by a thick growth of underwood. There seemed to be something about the tree that led to superstition. On dark nights strange sounds and voices were heard coming from the place—so some of the people who passed there claimed. For miles around it was known as the old haunted chestnut tree at Donaway’s elbow.
Father Ripley’s Vision.—Having agreed upon a location for the church, the members prepared plans, laid the foundation and hewed out the timbers for it. They were pushing the work forward with much enthusiasm and vigor, when there occurred an incident that caused them to cease their activities for the time being and eventually to change the location.
In the community lived Father Ripley, a saintly old man, the father of John Ripley at whose home the church had been organized. In the East, before coming to Washington township, the most of the members of this newly organized Methodist Protestant church had been Methodist Episcopalians. It was about that time that the split in the latter church came and the Washington township pioneers organized as a society of the new denomination. Father Ripley never left the Methodist Episcopal church, saying that he was too old to make a change; he declared, however, that he heartily believed in the principles of the new order and he took much interest in the building of the new church.
While work on the building was in progress, Father Ripley had a dream which he believed to be a prophetic vision. According to his account of it he beheld a great company in regular procession, clad in glorious attire, that to him was indescribable. Leading the procession was one with angelic appearance, with a mitre upon his brow, studded with brilliants, which, he said, resembled grains of lightning. In his left hand he held a golden harp; in his right, a measuring stick. Those in the procession moved slowly up the valley and then turned south. They ascended the hill and marched right between the trunks of the old double chestnut treat Donaway’s elbow. Here they stopped. There was a bright amber light around them. Suppressed voices were heard, he said, and then the sound of a hearty “Amen”. The light vanished and all was still.
Description of the church.—In matters of religion Father Ripley’s counsel had always been sought. He told his dream as though it had been a vision. It was his belief that the Lord intended the church to be erected where the procession ended. The congregation received his story as an omen. The site on the Boyer farm was abandoned and the church was built at the old chestnut tree.
This pioneer church was built of hewed logs, cut twenty-five and thirty-six feet long. All labor on the structure was donated. There was no money expended except for nails and glass; in fact, there was but little money to be had. However, when completed, it was considered one of the best churches in the county.
The ends of the logs were sawed off level with the walls, making square corners. The cracks were well chinked with pieces of timber, and then daubed inside and out with lime mortar. From floor to ceiling it was about twelve feet. There were tow small windows on each side, and one in the north end, by the pulpit.
The floor of the pulpit was raised about three feet from the main one, and was reached by four steps from the men’s side of the house. In the pulpit was a board fastened to the logs, which served as a seat for the preacher. Through the center of the church ran an aisle that separated the men from the women. For men and women to sit together was considered a breach of etiquette that could not be tolerated; even a bride and groom were separated. The women took the east and the men the west side of the house. Pins driven into the logs on the west side served as hanging places for the men’s hats.
Seats were made of heavy slabs with the edges dressed as smoothly as an ax would make them. Two holes were bored at each end and long pegs placed therein for legs. The seats had no backs. The church was lighted at night by seven candles. There were two candles on each side of the room, one on each side of the door, and one on the pulpit. In the center of the front of the pulpit was a half circle in which the preacher stood while preaching.
Here the Pleasant Hill congregation worshiped form 1834 to the days of the Civil War, when the present church was erected. On the same spot several descendants of the founders of the first church are worshiping today. In the graveyard adjacent to the church lie the bodies of their ancestors.
Early Day Feuds
Many pioneer settlements were somewhat clannish. Separated by a ridge or a creek, groups of settlers would live much to themselves. An insult from the outside to one in the settlement would be resented by all living there. They often looked with suspicion upon the folks of the other side. They did not settle their quarrels by shooting, neither did they do much fighting as the mountaineers of the South are said to do, but they found much excitement in their differences. We of today may wonder at this characteristic of early day society. We must remember that they were living remote form the big outside world. Like all who have lived before and since their day, they possessed a spirit that manifests itself in strife. With this in mind it should not be hard to understand their petty quarrels.
Washington Township Settlements.—For illustrations of the clannish propensities of the early settlers in Guernsey county we are pointing to Washington township, although we could nearly as well use any other township of the county. Here were four distinct settlements, each of which had a name. The Sugar Tree settlement was in the southern part. Sugar Tree is a stream whose waters eventually reach Wills creek through Salt Fork. The first settlers found its bottoms covered with sugar maple trees which provided a sap for making sugar. In the spring of the year they would engage in sugar-making, and would trade sugar for other necessities.
In the eastern part of the township was the Crab Orchard settlement. Crab Orchard is a small stream that has its beginning in Washington township and empties its waters into Stillwater creek in Harrison county. Its banks were formerly lined with crab apple trees; hence the name of the stream and that of the settlement that was made near it. “Over on Crab Orchard” is a phrase that is used to the present day.
One of the first settlers in the northern part of Washington township was Jonathan Atkinson. Through his land flowed a small steam that received the name of Atkinson’s creek. This creek was the dividing line between two settlements that were at odds with each other much of the time—Moccasin on the west and Boot Ridge on the east of the stream.
Pioneer Contests.—On such occasions as house-raisings, log-rollings and corn-huskings, the clans would be brought together. Men would go several miles to attend one of these gatherings. Pride was taken in skill and strength—especially the latter. For a man of one settlement to be outlifted at a handspike by one of another not only brought disgrace upon himself but upon all in his settlement, unless the victor could be avenged by one of the vanquished’s comrades. The one eventually winning would bear away an honor his whole settlement would share. In corn-husking contests settlement would challenge settlement and the winners would return home with a pride similar to that of a victorious athletic team today. This same spirit of contest was carried into the old-time schools in debates and spelling matches.
When the work that brought them together had been completed they would engage in various games and feats of strength. Here again would their clannish instinct assert itself. To be beaten in running, jumping, wrestling, rifle shooting or some other sport was a disgrace the whole settlement would feel.
Moccasin and Boot Ridge.—The bitter feud between Moccasin and Boot Ridge had its origin in a peculiar way. The first settlers on the west side of the creek spent much time in hunting and trapping. They dressed somewhat like Indians, wearing buckskin breeches and moccasins. It was from their footwear that the settlement took its name, an epithet the west-siders did not like, but one the east-siders persisted in using.
One day a new settler whose name was Brown arrived on the east side. He built a cabin and gave evidence of becoming a good citizen. But, horrible to mention, he had a pair of calfskin boots! This marked the newcomer as an aristocratic tender-foot, one who was introducing a dangerous custom and establishing a ruinous precedent. By toleration a pair of boots in their settlement the east-siders, in the minds of the west-siders, were not showing the true qualities of hardy pioneers. Thereafter the ridge was to be stigmatized by the name of Boot Ridge.
So deep-seated was the feud between the settlers of Moccasin and those of Boot Ridge that only a few of the latter would bury their relatives in the Engle burial ground which was the first cemetery regularly laid out in the township. Some seemed to fear that the dust of their dead would be contaminated by the Moccasin clay.
Character of the Pioneers.—But notwithstanding these differences the members of the clans were true and noble pioneers and would always respond to a common good. They were brave, hardy, generous and hospitable to a fault. Ambitious and capable of enduring great hardships and suffering great privations, they were the type of men and women needed to prepare the way for modern civilization. Their feuds were not really serious. They may have been useful in breaking the monotony of a life of toil—a toil from which we of succeeding generations have benefited.