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History of Darke County, Ohio, from its earliest settlement to the present time .. (Volume 1) online

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an unenviable reputation, and land titles were held at low
rates, with few bidders. These things undoubtedly dela\'ed
settlement and caused a tardy growth, while they gave in
compensation a class of men possessed of pluck and energy,
well qualified to leave their impress on the soil.

"In the settlement of Darke county, which for eight years
was a dependency of ]\Iiami, two classes of land occupants
were recognized — the transient and the permanent. The his-
torian called to do justice to the worthy class finds but few
of their descendants resident citizens of the county, and it
is not till 1816 and later, that families came to stay and make
their fortune blend with that of their future home.

"Coming up the army roads, striking across the country, eli-
gible locations caught the eye, and established the hunter at
a creek-side home, while an unusual hard time in sickness and
losses impelled the intended resident to move away. Thus
theie were conversions from one class to another, and all
shared in a certain degree of restlessness while in search of
a home, but a strongly marked distinction between the two
di\isions existed. There was seen to be here, as elsewhere,
a border class of trapper and hunter affiliating with the sav-
ages, only endured by genuine settlers and hanging upon the
outmost fringe of advancing occupation. It matters little
who they were, these openers or beginners, who held aloof
from neighbors, occupied miserable" huts, raised small patches
of corn, and left when the clearings became too numerous.
Many poor men came into the county, put up small log cab-
ins, cleared somewhat of ground, then, disheartened by pri-
vation, sickness and inabilitj' to make payments, gave way to
others, who built with better success upon their broken for-
tunes. An old Darke count}' settler, located not far from
Greenville, thus speaks of the actual pioneers as a class : "The
place for the squatter is not quite among the Indians, for
that is too savage, nor yet among good farmers, who are too
jealous and selfish, but in the woods, partly for clearing it up
and partly for hunting." The histories of townships, dealing
with the first settlers, often speak of the unknown squatter,
whose abandoned claims gave brief home to the settler, and
whose ill-cleared vegetable patch, growing up to weeds and



142 DARKE COUNTY .

bush, made the spot seem yet more wild than the woods sur-
rounding." * * '''

"In recounting the incentives to ^Vestern emigration, the
ruling motive was the hope of improving the condition. The
land was cheap, undoubtedly fertile, and the prospects of a
rise in values certain. There were those who expected to
find a 'paradise in the ^^"est,■ and journeyed thither only to
suffer from disease, want and discouragements. Some went
back, telling of suffering, and dissuaded those lightly influ-
enced; others, with inherent manhood, resolved, since they
were here, to make the best of it, and gradually won their
way to affluence and comfort." * * *

So far as we know, no white men penetrated the forests
of Darke county after the burning of the fort except the
government surveyors — the Ludlows, Cooper, Nelson and
Chambers and their assistants — until early in the nineteenth
century.

In a former chapter it has been noted that a large num-
ber of women were with St. Clair's army, many of whom were
either killed or captured. It is supposed that these were
wives and members of the families of men with the army
who intended to settle in the neighborhood of the fort which
St. Clair intended to build at the junction of the St. Mary's
and St. Joseph rivers. According to the following article by
Mr. James O. Arnold, a prominent member of the Dayton
Historical Society, an attempt at settlement was made by
at least one family during AVayne's occupancy at Fort Green-
ville. AA'e herewith quote the article because of its apparent
authenticity, and because it paints a vivid picture of life i-i
the wilderness.

"Four walls of wood growth of hickory, walnut, oak, ash
and elm, mingled with maples and undergrowth, so dense
that a horseman could not pass, so tall that its shade cast a
gloom around about, and between these walls a clearing and
military fort. Beyond, another clearing and a cabin built of
logs, lighted by a little window. The heavy oaken door
swung on wooden hinges ; the curling smoke from the chim-
ney made of lath, grass and clay, and 'the latchstring out,'
bid welcome to the guest without, an invitation to enjoy the
open fire and the hospitalities of the host. A veritable, typi-
cal home of the pioneer in the countv of Darke, in the vil-
lage of Greenville, O. — 'a U. S. military fort,' in the latter davs



DARKE COLNTV 143

vi tile se\ciiteentli ceinury, where General Wayne bid the In-
dians all adieu.

"The military engineers then laid their roads on the 'high-
ways' abo\e the lowlands, swamps and fallen timbers, and so
narrow that the wheels of the connestoga wagons would
touch the undergrowth and trees in passing to the fort.
Through lands so wet and ruts and mud so deep that to ride
the saddle horse of the team, and the family on horseback, in
the trail was a lullaby in comparison to the rocking, jolting
wagon that sheltered the . mother and her babes on their
journey to the clearing in the forest wild. Grandfather Hard-
man (Herdman) of Pennsylvania, his heroic wife and two
sons, one son and his wife !M&ry, and her babe, were the pion-
eers in such a home. True to family tradition, often told in
later years, that made the small boy tremble with fear as he
heard it before the great open fire in the home yet standing
in Dayton View, The story of the hostile Indians, who
were jealous of their rights, and would have scalped the
family long before but for the mother, Mary Hardman, who
knew their habits from a child and her mother's way of
pleasing them by 'putting the kettle on' to make them soups
whene'er she'd see them come, thus to appease their wrath
and to afford protection. The son was doing duty as a sol-
dier at the fort and pleaded and pleaded in vain to have them
come within the lines and not expose themselves to fate.
But, heeding not, they held their own opinion, determined
to carve a home in the forest for themselves and children.

"The morning dawned, the atmosphere so dense that smoke
from all the clearing around seemed so depressing that boded
the coming of the foe, and she often looked through the
chinks toward the wagon road to sight them first, that they
might be ready in defense. Grandfather said in niuttled
tones: 'It is one of the old woman's scares that she cooks up
on gloomy days." But hark! Behind the cabin footsteps of
no uncertain sound to the practiced ear. reassured the mother
of her alarm, and she hastened to place the kettle on the
fire, for well she knew their stealthy tread on mischief bent.
And when she saw the swarthy face between the cabin chinks-
she knew their fate was sealed and called her son and bade
him hasten to escape and alarm the soldiers at the fort, for
all her hope was gone. The mother clasped her babe to run
for life. Each must seek themselves a place of safety and
ere the father crossed the fe-ice. an arrow swiftly sped, had



144 DARKE COUNTY

laid him cold in death. The mother ran, hid by bushes, with
her babe, until faint and wear}' with her load and finding they
were on her trail, concealed her babe, thinking they might
spare it, and ran to hide herself in a place of safety. So well
she knew the woods and dens to trap the fox, she jumped in
one of these and covered with leaves she lay hiding until
the night passed. They had found the babe and by torture
cruel, so that she could hear it cry, exclaiming as they passed,
'Calf cry, cow come.' This too heartrending for a mother's
love she raised her head and thus exposed to sight, when a
warrior active, yet quite young, turned back to cleave her
skull, but touched with pity followed on and left the babe i;nd
mother to their fate, in answer to her prayer. \\'hen all was
quiet she went her solitary way toward the fort and there
found help and started to their forest home. O, what a
scene. Her father, mother, slain, her husband dead beside
the bush fence, and the son beyond."

"They gathered all and carried them to the fort, leaving the
desolated home. The soldiers swore in wrath their vengeance
and pursued the Indians to their death and captured many
who paid the penalty, "save one." And she who never forgot
the face of him, so young, who saved her life and babe, when
he, a captive taken, she in turn saved him from death with
pleading tears. He, then unknown to fame, was the future
great Tecumseh, born on the shores of Mad river, in the
northwest territory, now the state of Ohio, U. S. A. The
child thus saved was named INIar}-, after her mother, and lived
to be a strong healthy woman of fine, large stature, nearly
twenty stone in weight. She married James Bracy Oliver, of
Augusta Springs, Va., who came to Dayton in 1802. * * *

"Mary Hardman and James Bracy Oliver, her husband, lived
a prosperous and happy life, raised six sons and five daugh-
ters and left a large estate. His first farm he sold to the
Montgomery county commissioners for an infirmary, after
A. D. 1820. and purchased lands north of the soldiers' home,
where the brick house and log barn is standing, owned by
^^^illiam King. And they are buried in the family lot along-
side the road. The graves are marked by four large stone
ashlers set on edge, hooped with iron, marking the spot where
the once little babe, who lived to see her grandchildren, was
once saved from death b}' Tecumseh, near Fort Greenville, O.
Many pass the spot thinking little of its historic lore. Uncle
Jinimy and his wife passed away a full half centur}' ago, and



DARKE COUNTY 143

this story has lain in manuscript fully thirty years, written in
memory by the oddest grandson, who now resides at 629 Su-
perior avenue, Dayton, O., in the same house where he stood

when a child of 12, between the jams in the chimney, nine
feet square, more than SO years ago, listening with fear and
trembling to the Indian stories told, as "Granny's tales about
the Injuns," by Granny's own self as she knit and knit from
morn till night." * * *

Likewise the first attempt to establish a business in old
Darke county was unsuccessful. About the year 1805 a
Frenchman built a little log cabin north of the creek, on the
present site of Minatown (probably near the present inter-
section of N. Main and N. Broadway) and started to traffic
with the Indians. It is said, that he was compelled to leave
in the summer of 1806 as the Indians associated with the
"Prophet'' had stolen his entire stock. Probably in the fall
of the same year, or not later than the spring of 1807, Azor
Scribner, leaving his family temporarily near Middletown, O.,
established himself in the cabin deserted by the Frenchman
with a stock of merchandise suited for trading with the In-
dians, including, no doubt, powder, lead, gun-flints. Icnives.
hatchets, rifles, tobacco, rum and fancy calicoes. These
goods were hauled over Wayne's trace from Fort \\'ashing-
ton on a crude drag or "mud boat" by a yoke of oxen and
the trip is said to have taken usually from three to six weeks.
In the spring of 1808 Scribner brought his family, consisting
of his wife Xancy and daughters, Sarah, Elizabeth and Rhodn.
from Middletown and established them in this little cabin.
On the night before the arrival of the family, it is said, the
Indians burned Prophetstown and started for their new home
in Indiana. Scribner soon abandoned the Frenchman's cabin
and moved into one of the buildings of old Fort Greenville,
which had escaped the fire of the plunderers in 1796. This
building was located somewhere near the present intersection
of West Water and Elm streets, overlooking the old ford-
ing place. Here he enjoyed a monopoly of the frontier trade
until 1811 or 1812 when David Connor set up a store on the
southeast corner of West Water and Sycamore streets, where
he remained until after the British and Indian war. Connor
then moved to Fort Recovery and later to the Mississinawa
region, following up the migrating tribes with whom he
gained considerable influence.

The savages had this peculiar manner of trading which
(10)



146 DARKE COUNTY

could best be learned by experience. They would enter the
trader's cabin, each with a roll of furs, hunt convenient seats
and await the hospitality of the trader, who soon presented
each with some tobacco. Pipes were then lighten, and smoking
and conversation leisurely indulged in among themselves.
Finally one arose, secured a stick, pointed out the desired
article and asked the price. If the price and article suited
him he would unroll his pack of furs and pay for it forth-
with, the muskrat skin being accepted for a quarter of a
dollar, the raccoon for thirty-three and a third cents, the doe-
skin for fifty cents and the buckskin for one dollar. This op-
eration would be repeated after the selection of each ar-
ticle until the first customer had completed his purchases.
Each one now quietly took his turn and bought what he
wanted without needless parley and when all were through
they departed as they had come.

Just how long Azor Scribner occupied the old soldiers'
cabin is not now known, but from circumstantial evidence it
would appear to have been until after the war. From the
testimony of his oldest daughter it was learned that he lived
in a double log cabin on the northeast corner cif Main and
Elm streets. This cabin was constructed in sucli a manner
that a team could be driven between the two lower sections
of the building, while a loft or second story extended entirely
across and joined together the separate cabins. The family
lived in one end of the building and the store or tavern was
located in the other end, while one of the rooms upstairs was
used as a jail. It is probable that this was the building in
which the first session of the Court of Common Pleas was
held in 1817, as mentioned elsewhere.

At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Scribner enlisted in
Captain Joseph Ewing's company, Lanier's Independent Bat-
talion of Ohio militia. His service began Aug. 9th, 1812. and
expired Feb. 8th, 1914. He participated in the important bat-
tle of the Thames (sometimes called the battle of Fallen
Timbers) in the fall of 1813, in which Tecumseh was killed
and the British General Proctor, signally defeated by the
Americans under Gen. Wm. H. Harrison. To General John-
ston, of Kentucky, was given the credit of shooting the great
Shawnee chief. However, it has been handed down in Azor
Scribner's family that he himself shot Tecumseh from am-
bush and refused to reveal the fact to anybody during his
lifetime, except to his wife, whom he straitly charged with



DARKE COUNTY 147

secrecy. He knew Tecumseh personally, having traded with
him many times at Greenville, no doubt, and feared the con-
sequences should it be revealed to his old dusky customers
that he had done the awful deed. His wife, who survived
him several years, revealed the secret after his death to her
second daughter, Elizabeth, who in turn revealed it to her
daughter, Mrs. Marcella Avery, now living at an advanced
age with her son Ira and daughter Prudence on North Alain
street (Minatown) near the site of Scribner's first trading post.

Scribner seems to have made money in his traffic with the
Indians, but after he opened his tavern competition arose and
he had to be satisfied with his share of the trade. He died
in 1822 in the prime of life, leaving a wife and several daugh-
ters. Dr. C. F. McKhann, of Greenville, is a descendant of
his oldest daughter, Sarah. He has numerous other de-
scendants in Darke county today, who are numbered among
her best citizens. (See sketch in Vol. II.)

Samuel C. Boyd has the reputation of being the first white
man who settled with a family within the present limits of
Darke county. He came in 1807, probably in the fall, and
established himself on a knoll, on a branch of Stillwater, now
known as Boyd creek, near the present site fo the Children's
home in section 14, southeast quarter, Greenville township,
on the farm now owned by Perry Bachman. Boyd was born
in Maryland, but moved to Kentucky, where, it is supposed,
he married. Later, it seems, he came to Ohio and stopped a
year or two in Butler county, from which place he moved
to Darke county as above noted.

The presence of Indians, the news of occasional murders,
and the continual fear that distressed the exposed pioneers
just prior to the War of 1812, caused Boyd's family first to
find refuge in a blockhouse and later to return to southwest-
ern Ohio, ^^'hen the war was over they returned and im-
proved their land. Airs. Boyd died about 1816 and was buried
in the old graveyard on East Water street, Greenville, being
the first person interred at that place. Boyd died in 1829 or
1830.

In the spring of 1808 Abraham Studabaker came with his
wife and one or two children and settled on the south side of
Greenville creek (in section 25, Adams township) below the
bridge at Gettysburg on land now belonging to A. M. Cromer.
Mr. Studabaker was a strikinar figure in the early history of



148 DARKE COUNTY

the county, as will be noted more fully in the sketches of not-
able citizens.

John Devor purchased from the U. S. government the half
section of land on which Fort Greenville had been located
and together with his son-in-law, Robert Gray, surveyed and
platted the original town of Greenville in the summer of 1808.
This plat included the territory now embraced between Elm
street and Ash street, and betwen Water and Fourth streets,
being about half within and half without the old fort.
The plat was executed on August 14th, 1808, and
sent to Miami county, of which Darke was then a part,
to be recorded. The principal streets in this plat — Water,
Main and Third — ran practically northeast and southwest, be-
ing approximately parallel to the general course of the creek.
Accordingi to the custom of the times for county seats, a large
space was set aside for a public square at the interestction of
Broadway and Main street, near the center of the plat, in
which space was reserved for a court of justice. Main street,
which, no doubt, was intended for the main business thor-
oughfare, was m.ade six rods wide, and the other streets were
all of ample width. The lots were six rods wide and ten
rods long. The plat possessed many commendable features,
and as a practical application of the old rectangular system
to the peculiarities of the ground platted could scarcely be
improved upon. Landscape gardening as applied to city plat-
ting was not much in vogue in those days, however, and the
remarkable natural beauty of the site was largely overlooked
for purposes of expediency and utility. In these days we
look at the beautiful high bluff facing the creek and prairie
and regret that a driveway was not laid out overlooking the
valle}', with avenues leading at convenient, but regular dis-
tances toward a civic center, and park spaces left at various
intersections.

John Devor, like the practical pioneer of his day, was in-
terested in cutting down the timber and making as large an
opening for the sunlight as possible, and probably thought
little and cared less for natural scenery and parks. He re-
mained a citizen of Montgomery county, to which he had
come from Pennsylvania, imtil 1816, at which time he moved
his family to Darke county, and became an active citizen.

At this late date it is impossible to state the names of all
the pioneers of Darke countv and the order of their coming.
Especially is this true of those who afterward left the county



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DARKE COUNTY 149

for more alluring lands farther west. Among those substan-
tial emigrants who stayed were Thomas McGinnis and fam-
ily, and his wife's stepfather, Barnabus Burns, all of whom
emigrated from Tennessee and came to Greenville in 1808.
They purchased a large tract of land on the west side of the
prairie between Greenville and the recently abandoned
Prophetstown.

About this time Enos Terry entered the quarter section
northeast of Devor's town site and laid off another town plat
which he called Greeneville. This plat comprised some twen-
ty acres in the northwest corner of the quarter section. It
was established as the county seat for a brief period, although
no one built a house within its limits at that time.

The Wilson brothers, William and Joseph, came in 1809.
William located on a quarter section half a mile north of De-
vor's town, and Joseph on a quarter section one mile further
north. These men were natives of Ireland, but had emigrat-
ed to Pennsylvania and later to the valley of the Little Miami
from whence they came to Darke county, bringing families of
children with them. On this account the vicinity in which
they settled was long known as "Ireland."

Shortly after the laying off of the town plat of Greenville
by Devor and Gray, the latter sold his interest to an aunt,
Mrs. Rachel Armstrong, a widow with four young children,
who removed to and settled in Greenville late in 1809. Mrs.
Armstrong died in 1812, leaving an estate which remained in
the hands of her heirs and descendants for many years, until
after the Civil ^^'ar — the Armstrong commons extended
southward in an almost unbroken stretch from near the pres-
ent location of IMartin street, and a line extending to the in-
tersection of Fourth street, near Sycamore, to the south line
of section 35 (Sater street), and from the present location
of Central avenue to the D. & U. railway, comprisino- lOS
acres now entirely within the city limits, and almost solidly ,
covered with substantial residences, schools, churches, etc.

The creation of the county of Darke in 1809 seems to have
stimulated emigration somewhat. Several families settled in
Greenville and vicinity about this time, some of whom re™
mained but a short time, whilst others lingered a few years
until attracted further westward by the promise of richer
lands. These helped to clear the forests and open up the land
for the permanent settlers, thereby contributing materially



150 DARKE COUNTY

toward the early development of the countrj', but leaving no
name or record for the chronicler.

Among the settlers of 1809-10 were Aloses Scott and fam-
ily, who purchased two lots adjoining the public square in
Greenville and erected a two-story log house in which he
conducted a first class tavern for twelve years or more. Scott
and his son William were the first sheriffs of Darke county,
filling the first, second and third regular terms of that office
after the organization of the county. This family emigrated
to Fort Wayne in 1824.

Charles Sumtion and family, comprising wife, two sons and
four daughters, came to the county about the time of Scott's
advent. Later he settled along Greenville creek in Wash-
ington township and died in 1825 near the present site of
Coletown.

The Rush brothers, James, Henry and Andrew, came from
near Circleville, O., in 1810, accompanied by their brothers-
in-law. John Hiller and Henry Creviston. James and Henry
settled on and near the site of Prophetstown, probably be-
cause they found several acres of land cleared for their com-
ing. Andrew and Hiller settled on the West branch near
what was later known as the Hiller settlement.