Early Days in Guernsey County

(By Col. C.P.B. Sarchet)

Guernsey County, of which Cambridge is the county seat, takes its name from the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel, from whence hailed the first settlers, August, 1806. The town was laid out by Jacob Gomber, Z.A. Beatty and Ezra Graham, who transferred the first lots to Thomas, John and Peter Sarchet and Daniel Ferbache, brothers-in-law.

These early Guernsey emigrants had two months voyage on the ocean in a frail bark and a land journey of almost two months before they reached their goal, not to rest, but to enter into a new and laborious work of transferring the wilderness into a place of habitation. They were a working people who came to wrest from rugged nature a living, and they and their descendents have wrought one of the most prosperous and busiest cities in the whole country.

The reader of French and English history will remember that in 1805-6 Napolean Bonaparte was making army in boats, England, for protection, stationed troops on all her channel possessions. On the Island of Guernsey was stationed a large force of Russian Cossack soldiers, who made it their principle business to plunder from the small Guernsey farmers. The most of the Guernsey settlers were of that class. Strict embargo laws were in force, the trade of the Island which was largely commercial was cut off and the business of the Island totally suspended. It was this depression that caused these colonists to leave the Island and seek homes in America.

Landing at Baltimore, preparations for a land journey were made. Horses, wagons and provisions were procured and at midday on the 14th day of June, 1806, the sun being in total eclipse and the town in partial darkness, they started forth. For the first two hundred miles they traveled the old “Braddock” road engineered by Col. George Washington and later known as the National road. The journey to the Ohio River at Wheeling was one of continued rains and storms. Few, if any wagons, had passed on that line as far as they. Most of the travel had been to Pittsburg, down the Ohio river in boats and west of the river on pack horses. Camp was pitched at Wheeling creek while Thomas Sarchet went as far west as Chillicothe over the Zane Trace. On his return preparations were made for their further journey, west, and continued till they went into camp at what is now North Fifth street, Cambridge, August 14, 1806. The Next day being Sunday they remained in camp and for the first time the strains of a Methodist hymn echoed through the wilderness in Guernsey county. The earlier and first settlers who had spent two years here were rejoiced to see the Guernsey people, who I turn were pleased to find these strangers so friendly.

On Monday morning the women prepared to do their washing and when this was done they held the first “Woman’s Rights Convention”, perhaps in the state of Ohio and resolved that they would go no farther west. The men protested but their protest was of no avail. The die was cast and Cambridge was to be the first town and Guernsey County was to perpetuate their memory.

They continued to live in the camp till the first log cabin was erected, with puncheon floor and clapboard roof and doors. In this cabin the families of Thomas and John Sarchet passed their first winter. A second cabin was constructed in which the Peter Sarchet and Daniel Ferbache families passed the winter.

The second Guernsey colony came in the latter part of June, 1807, composed of the families of James Bichard, Sr., James Ogier, Thomas Naftel, Thomas Lenfesty, John Marquand, two William Ogier’s and Mrs. Mary Hubert and young men Peter Langloise, John Robin, Peter Corbet, Peter and Nicholas Bichard, John and Peter Torode, Paul Roberts, Nicholas Poedoin, John Carlo and John DeLarue. These emigrants were in Cambridge in time to help at the raising of the three new Sarchet houses, one of which, the Thomas Sarchet house, at what is now the corner of Seventh street and Wheeling avenue, played a prominent part in the early history of Cambridge. This was a two and a half story hewn log house, and stood for three quarters of a century, a landmark for pioneer days. In it was the first store, the first M. E. church was organized within its walls, and the first funeral sermon preached over the remains of Daniel Ferbache, who lost his life by falling in the fire pit at the old salt works at Chandlersville.

The second Guernsey colony was soon followed by colonies from Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey and Maryland settlements, hardy pioneers who were raised to work and to look upon life as a battle in which only the fittest can survive. They proved valued additions to the Guernsey settlement, which was now fast becoming one of the most important west of the Ohio river.

The year 1807 was called the “hard year” by the early settlers. They had just made small clearings which were planted to corn. Bread was the first necessity and corn pone and mush was relied upon by most settlers of the early days. The corn was just peeping through the hills when a horde of squirrels came up from the south and destroyed the crop so that a second planting was necessary. This crop was caught by an early frost before it matured, and the mush and pone made from it were as black as your hat, but furnished the bread supply for the coming year, as the wheat harvested this year could not be eaten by man or beast.

War followed the advent of the early settlers to this western wilderness. Grim visaged war stared them in the face in their cabins and log house homes. The war whoop of the Indians, encouraged by English emissaries, rang through the forest. The great Chief Tecumpseh, with this shrewd cunning and wiley tread, was everywhere inciting the Indians to rapine and murder. The settlers carried their guns to their work and moved in pairs for protection. Daily came the word from the nearby frontier of the capture of women and children and the burning of homes.

For several years the growth of the settlement was slow, but with the opening up of the National road through Cambridge in 1828 the numbers grew by leaps and bounds. Immense quantities of wheat was produced from the new soil and the flour from this section of Ohio was as prominent at that time as the St. Paul and Minneapolis brands are today.

Over this National road flowed the great moving tide of emigration, westward, for thirty years. It was to Ohio what the “Appian Way” was designed to gratify the vanity of Emperors, Kings and Queens, while the National road was designed to meet the wants of a free and progressive people, and to aid in building and strengthening a great and growing republic. The “Appian Way” outlived its nation, while the “Old Pike” served its day and generation, was a complete success, and when its glory departed as a national highway, the nation was all the stronger for its having been.

“We hear no more of the clanking hoof,

And the stage coach rattling by;

For the steam king rules the traveled world,

And the “Old Pike’s’ left to die.”