The Hobart publishing Company.

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

. (page 16 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

east bank of the ^^^^itewater stood the cabins of Pirawley.
Purviance, the McClures, Broderick and Jacob Miller, Zadoc
Smith and the Wades. Near Fort Black, by the lake, were
the Rushes, Henry Hardy, Tibbs, Falknor, and possibly the
Kunkles. On the Middle Fork were the Tilsons, Harlans,
Emerson, Helpenstein and Gert. Approaching the town, we
find Spencer, the Edwards families, Wilsons and others. Fur-
ther to the north we come to Cloyd, Pearson, Cassaday and
Kettring. About Palestine dwelt Samuel Loring. In the
northern part of German township lived Ludwig Clapp, re-
puted credulous and superstitious, William Asher, of the
same mind, Moores and Rush and John McNeil, Rarick. Snell
and Miller, on Crout creek and its vicinity. East of the
West Branch dwelt Martin Ruple, Archibald Bryson and
John Whittaker. while lower down were the small clearings
made by John Hiller and Daniel Potter. I\Iud creek passed
by the cabin homes of Peter Weaver, Andrew NofFsinger, his


son Joseph, James and Henry Rush. Sumption. McGinnis,
burns and Wertz. East of the prairie, Zadoc Reagan
had located, and traveling the stream brought in sight the
homes of Abraham Studabaker and Abraham Miller. James
Hay dwelt at Jeflferson, and below were Ryerson and Wine
gardner. On Greenville creek, above town, stood three cab-
ins occupied by Ullery, Dean and David ^^'illiamson, and
below on the creek were those of Squire Briggs. Westfall,
^lajor Adams, Br}an, Cunningham and Studabaker. On the
south bank of the creek, at intervals, the enumeration finds
Popejoy, Esq., Hayes, James Gregory and Carnahan. Chris-
topher Martin, Alexander Fleming, James Roff, David Rifl'le
and his sons and son-in-law, Hathaway, on Stillwater, near
Beainsville. Conlock was at ^^'ebster, and McDonald, Mote
and Ludwig Christie below. Ward Atchison was on the
A-erge of the Black swamp, and Lewis Baker on Indian creek.
From Bridge creek on to the dividing branch, were scattered
Arnold, Townsend. the Thom]:>sons and Clay. These men had
settled here under many difficult circumstances, but they had
eiTected a lodgment and formed a center by which others
could be guided and assisted. Persistent in labor, patient
under afflictions of disease were these plain men with un-
affected manner and kindly greetings. As the country be-
gan to be settled, families were moving on to different loca-
tions in the central part of the county. There was a large
portion of the county that seemed so much of a swamp as
to make a final occupation problematical. Along Greenville
creek, as above named, one found at varying distances the log
cabins of a few families, and there were others on the West
Branch. There were cabins on the branch known as Crout
creek, and yet others upon Mud creek. These scattered clear-
ings were the oldest in the county, and northward there were
few, if any. And from there, so far as means would permit,
the newcomers received their supplies and assistance." * * *
"In 1818, there was the commencement of a settlement on
the east fork of Whitewater, and on Twin creek, near Ithaca,
and several families had settled near Fort Black, now known
as New Madison. During this year, Minatown and Fort
JeiTerson were laid out, and, in the year following, Versailles
was platted, making in all five villages, the germs of future
business towns, and the only ones for full a dozen years —
practical proof, in so large a county, of sparse and tardj' oc-


"During the year when Fort Jefferson was platted, a ta\ -
ern stand was occupied there, and, while the conveniences
were far from equal to the Turpen or Wagner houses of to-
day, yet there was an abundance of plain, palatable food and
little ceremony. During 1818, A. Studabaker left his former
entry, near Gettysburg, and reraoved to the farm more re-
cently the property of his son George. AA'illiam Arnold and
others were residing on Bridge creek. The settlements now
became known by various names to distinguish them, such
as 'Yankee Town ;' one called Ireland, located north of
Green\ille, and a third is mentioned here as suggestive of the
section, known as the Black Swamp Settlement. These nu-
clei of the clearings in Darke each formed a distinct neighbor-
hood and had their leading men, respected for honesty, good
faith, and frugality in public as well as private affairs." * * *

At this time but little progress had been made in clearing
off the dense forest and rank growth of underljrush. The
only openings were the garden patches and small clearings
of a few acres each around the settlers' cabins. These rude
habitations were "hand made" from foundation to the stick
chimney top, and in their construction typified the homely
virtues of the pioneers — simplicity, strength, sacrifice, hard-
ness, industry, hospitality and love of home and neighbors.
When a cabin was to be "raised" the settler first selected
a favorable site, probably on a -knoll or ridge, then felled
the timber growing upon it, picked out the choicest logs and
cut them in proper lengths. When all was ready he notified
his scattered neighbors and at the appointed time all assem-
bled for a "raising bee." Some help to carry the logs where
they will be hand}' for the builders, while the others watch
them at the ends and raise and place them into position until
the proper height is attained. The hea^•v work being finished
the helpers return to their homes leaving the proprietor to
cut and place the clapboards on the roof, to split and place
the puncheons for a f^oor, to cut and face the openings for
the door and fireplace, to fill the chinks with chips and mor-
tar and to build the huge chimney of sticks and mud. After
this he hewed out a door and table and a few three legged
stools and made a bed of clapboards and poles supported at
the outer corner by a forked stick and resting at the inner
ends on the walls of the cabin at the cracks between the logs.
The door was hung on wooden hinges and a wooden latch
stuck on the inside, with a hook pin driven into the door cas-


ing for a fastening. A strong leather string was then at-
tached to the latch on the inside with one end run through a
hole made in the door for the purpose, so as to hang down
on the outside. When the latch string hung out the door
could be opened by pulling on it. To secure the door the
string was pulled back through the hole. Some clapboard
shelves supported on pins at the back of the cabin, a few
pegs at convenient places for supporting garments, and two
small forks of wood or deer horn placed over the fireplace
to support the shot pouch and rifle put a finishing touch on
the job ready for the housewife and famil}'.

"In houses thus built, and unplastered within and entirely
devoid of adornment, our ancestors lived with a comfort un-
known to the opulent occupant of many a palatial residence
of today. Coal stoves or wood stoves were unknown, but in
the wide fireplace were found hooks and trammel, and and-
irons. Nearby were the bake-pan and the kettle ; and as
homes varied there were to be seen in many a log house the
plain deal table, the flag bottom chair, and the easy, straight,
high-backed rocker. Carpets there were none. The beds
contained no mattress, springs, or even bed-cord, the conch
was often spread upon the floor, and sleeping apartments were
separated by hanging blankets. Not infrequently, the emi-
grant neighbor, and occasionally Indian visitor, hy upon
blankets or robes before the huge open fireplace, with s^'ock-
inged or moccasined feet before the constant fire. \\'ooden
vessels, either turned or coopered, were commonly used for
the table. A tin cup was an article of luxury almost as rare
as an iron fork. Gourds were used at the water bucket, and
there were not always knives enough to go around the familj-.
The immigrant brought with him, packed upon the horse, or
later on the wagon, some articles of better sort. Upon the
kitchen drawers were set forth a shiny row of pewter plates,
buck-handled knives, iron or pewter spoons, or there were
seen a row of blue-edged earthenware, with corresponding
cups and saucers, with teapot — articles then to grace the table
at the quilting, social afternoon visit, or preacher's call : but
advancing civilization has sent the plates and spoons to the
melting pot, while knives and forks have taken less substance
but more shapely form. * * *

"The subject of food was all important with the settler,
and hard labor in the open air created a keen appetite which
made of much account the feasts of merrymakings, parties


and public meetings. Quality was not so much regarded
as quantity. Fish from the creek, venison and bear meat,
bacon and even the raccoon's carcass were made available
for food. Enormous potpies were baked containing fowls,
squirrels and due proportions of other meats. The food was
generally most wholesome and nutritive. There was a boun-
teous supply of the richest milk, the finest butter and most
palatable meat that could be imagined, and meals were eaten
with all the relish which healthful vigor, backed by labor,
could bestow.

"The clothing worn in early days was generally the same
in all seasons. The settler, standing upon the prostrate
trunk of a huge tree, stroke following stroke of his keen axe,
and chip after chip whirring out upon the snow, little regarded
the winter temperature, and coatless and barefooted, the sum.-
mer heat was not oppressive. The garments worn were
mainly the product of home manufacture, where necessity in-
sured effort and practice gave skill. * * *"

Social and industrial conditions in early days are vividly
described by Jesse Arnold in "Recollections of the Arnold
Family," published in 1889.

"Nor would we forget the old spinning-wheel — the larger
one for wool, and the smaller one for flax and tow. For
months and months have w'e seen the girls busv with their
rude articles of domestic economy, keeping up a continuous
whirl from sun up till dark, perhaps omitting fifteen minutes
for each meal ; and then, after the spinning is done, the web
is transferred to an old loom, in some lonely and desolate out-
house, to be made up in cloth of some kind, where a continu-
ous batting was kept up the live long day.

"For this laborious work these girls would receive from
fifty to seventy-five cents per week, and, if at the end of the
month she had received enough money to buy a calico dress,
she was very fortunate and became the subject of neighbor-
hood talk for being able to sport a new calico dress in place
of the linsey-woolsey usually worn."

"Many a day have we seen the sturdy toiler go into the
harvest field at sun up and with sickle or cradle work the
live long day till sun down for fifty cents per day, with onlv
an hour for nooning. Thirty-five and thirty-seven cents per
day was the usual price for eleven and twelve hours' work,
with goods of all kinds twice their present prices — calicoes


twenty-five cents, muslin tuenty-fix'e cents, and all else in

The. pioneers generally wore home-made clothing of linen
or wool as these could be made from raw material produced
at home or secured nearby. With coarse wool at fifty cents
a pound, calico at forty to fift)- cents per yard and cowhide
boots selling at seven dollars per pair, while farm produce
brought very low prices, and girls ran the spinning wheel for
seventy-five cents a week, it is readily seen why the dames
of these da3's dressed much more plainly and modestly than
they do today. Neither do we think of their dress as being
less becoming or the conditions of their life less conducive of
happiness than are the prevailing fashions and conditions
of today. Labor and pleasure were often combined in the
corn huskings, quiltings, wood-choppings, loggings and house
raisings, and as much real enjoyment found by the lads and
lassies at the special celebrations and big militia musters as
is now provided by the county fair. It is needless to contrast-
further the conditions of life today with those of a century
ago. On the foundations laid bv these pioneers we have built
a superstructure called civilization.

The increase of population, the advance in education and
invention and the changed condition under which we live
and labor have enlarged our field of enjoyment, smoothed
many of the rough places along the way of life and appar-
ently made life the more worth living. However, it is doubt-
ful whether the overfed, overdressed, overstrained and pam-
pered youth of today are capable of extracting that true
pleasure from life which came to the pioneers through rough
labor, sacrifice and mutual burden bearing. \\'e turn with
loathing from the daily newspaper of todav with its accounts
of crimes, accidents and misdoings, its stories of high-life,
infelicity, incompatibility and divorce to the simple, quiet,
contented, industrious life o"" the pioneer in the rude log
cabin, and long for a return to the pioneer and more rational
li\'ing of early days.

These lines from Darke county's gifted poet, Barney Collins,
are not inappropriate here:

Here fertile fields upon the prospect swell,
\\ hose forests once in primal grandeur rose.

And sounds of peace are heard where once the yell
( )f savage broke and chilled the blood of those


\\'ho came in early life or at its close
To clear the wilderness and till the ground ;

And though they were beset by cunning foes
Whose stealthy tread of danger gave no sound.
Still, yet they dar'd and gave the sa\-age wound for wound.

Where with a single room the hut was rear'd,

Which turned but ill the winter's cold and snow;
New structures — spacious temples — have appear'd.

With halls commodious that richly glow

With all that art can bestow.
.-Mas! the hardships of the pioneer!

His wants and struggles we can never know;
But whilst his fruits we are enjoying here
If he be dead or living — him — let us revere.

Here roamed in herds the elk and timid deer,

• Here howl'd the wolf and wild the panther screamed !

And with them bloody conflicts happened here

That even now are tales of fiction deemed ;

By us too lightly is the truth esteemed,
For with us yet are those who in the strife

From wounds of deep infliction stream'd :
They could not know the sweets of peaceful life
Where prowl'd the savage beast and gleamed the scalping

Contrasted with the rapid development of certain choice
sections of the far west today the early development of
Darke county seemed painfull}- slow. The census of 1820
showed the population of the county as then constituted to
be 3,717. Mercer county, which then embraced parts of Shel-
by and Auglaize, was included in this enumeration, making
the probable population of Darke county two thousand or
less. Four years later the count}' seat had a population of
one hundred or less, including thirteen families.

In 1830 the census of the county still in its original form,
was 6,204, while the county seat contained 204 inhabitant?.
Several conditions retarded growth and development among
which we note the large amount of swamp land, the preva-
lence of malarial and kindred diseases, and the "farther west"
movement which enticed many to the region of the Missis-
sippi a few years later. In the strenuous work of clearing the


land much hard labor and exposure were undergone and l>ut
few escaped attacks of fevers and chills, ague, etc.

Doctors Stephen Perrine, John Briggs, J- M. P- Bas'.cerville,
I. N. Gard and Alfred Ayers were kept busy attending the
sick and during the scourge of flux in 1829-1830 this force
was found inadequate, it being found necessary to summon
several physicians from Preble and ]\Iiami counties. Bilious
complaints prevailed until about the middle of the century
by which time the area of swamp lands had been greatly
reduced and the environment of the settlers made more
healthy generally. Vital statistics today show that Darke
county is one of the healthiest communities in the state.

Early Business Enterprises.

Trade and commerce kept pace with the slow agricultural
development. Greenville was naturally the center of trade
and here the first merchants opened up their shops. Men-
tion has been made of the pioneer French trader who was
"cleaned out" by the Indians ; of Azor Scribner and Abraham
Scrihner ; of Connor, who located on the southeast corner of
\^'ater and Sycamore, of the Hood brothers on the north side
of ^^'ater between Elm and Vine streets, and of Basconi and
Scott, the tavern keepers. Connor's place was later occupied
b}- Nicholas Greenham of Piqua ; the Hoods were succeeded
b}' Delorac and then later by Chas. Neave. L. R. Brownell,
of Piqua, opened a store on the south side of Main street, be-
tween Sycamore and Ehn street, in 1826, later he moved to
the east corner of public square, and continued in business
until about 1833. He v/as succeeded bj' James M. Dorsey and
' Henry Arnold. Later Dorsey withdrew and Henry Arnold
carried on the business alone for several years.

In 1830 W. B. Beall purchased a store which had been es-
tablished by John McNeal in 1827. Beall was soon joined by
Francis Waring, who several years later took over the entire
business and continued the same until 1876. Their place of
business was first on the corner of the public square opposite
the present site of the James hotel, and later on the present
site of the Masonic Temple on the east corner. .Vllen LaMott
and Josiah D. Farrar formed a partnership and opened a
store about 1830 on West Main street, moved later to the west
corner of Third and Broadway and continued until 1840.
John C. Potter opened a store in 1834 on the west side of



Main street between the public square and Sycamore street.
Later he built a substantial brick building on the public
square where the postoffice now stands and continued until
1849, when he, his wife and daughter died of cholera. His
brother Hiram formed a partnership with Samuel Davis in
1835 and opened a store on the present site of the fire de-
partment. Later this firm moved to East Main street between
the square and Walnut street. Davis soon sold out and Pot-
ter continued until his death in 1845. Abraham Scribner, be-
fore mentioned, started a store on the present site of the arti-
ficial gas plant, then moved to the southwest corner of Main
and Elm streets and finall)' to lot 59 between Sycamore and
the square where J'lhn .Schu1)ert lately had a grocery and
where Hezekiah Woods now lives.

Besides those mentioned above others started stores and
carried on business for a few months but were unable to
become established. Stores in those days did not specialize
on one line of goods, as the population was not sufficient to
justify this, but carried a general line, including groceries,
hardware, dry goods, drugs, boots and shoes, quensware, etc.
It is interesting to note that about this time corn sold for
15 cents per bushel; pork and beef, when it could be sold,
at two or three cents a pound ; maple sugar at 6 to 8 cents
per pound, while wages ranged from two to three shillings
a day. To a large extent cloth was manufactured and cloth-
ing made at home, and the farmer depended on the local mar-
ket to dispose of his produce. It will be noted that the first
stores were on West Water and Main streets, later they
grouped about the public square, and finally invaded Broad-
way, which has become the main business thoroughfare. Men-
tion should be made here of other business enterprises which
flourished in early days, but in later years practical!}' became
extinct. Wm. Sipe conducted a pottery on the northwest
corner of Fourth and Walnut streets, where he made crocks
and jugs for many years. Another pottery was located on
the rear of the lot now occupied by M. B. Trainor's residence
on Vine street near Water, and a third on West Fourth
street, just beyond the present site of the M. E. church.

Early attempts were made to establish tanneries, one above
the present site of the Mud creek bridge, and the other on the
site of the O'Brien greenhouses, in Minatown, but both
proved abortive.


About 1820 a tannery was started on the southeast corner
of Water and Walnut streets by Baldwin and AIcGregor,
which continued under ^•arious management and with little
or no profit until 1855. A tannery was established between
Greenville creek and West Water street just west of Sycamore
street by Jacob Herkimer in 1831 or 1832, which continued
in operation for some fifty years under different owners. The
last operators were Thos. B. Waring and F. i\I. Eidson. \\'iii.
W. Jordan started a tannery on the west side of North Broad-
way, just south of the present site of the O'Brien greenhouses,
whose history covered about the same period as the above
mentioned enterprises. This, also, changed hands until it
came into the possession of the Porters, who operated it for
quite a period. Fine springs were found on both the latter
sites, which were valuable assets in the business.

Mention should be made of David and Alexander Craig,
twin brothers, who were blacksmith and wagonmaker re-
spectively ; Wm. McKhann, St., and Jesse McGinnis, cabinet-
makers; Benj. Brown, wheelwright; Wm. Lipp and Sam
Pierce, fur and skin dressers ; Philip Stoner, basketmaker, and
Rural Risley, wool carder, as representing occupations either
defunct or declining.

Early Taverns.

In the way of taverns early Greenville seems to have been
well supplied. As will be noted these were mostly grouped
about the public square for the convenience of travelers and
the general public. Early writers mention the Bascom hos-
tlery on the present site of the fire department ; a public house
on the opposite corner to the west, originally built by Dr.
Perrine as a residence, later occupied by Jno. Hufnagle as a
residence ; the Wayne House on the northwest corner of the
square, built by Jas. Craig about 1830, later occupied by
Dr. Aliesse, still known as the Wagner House and now in an
enlarged and extensively remodeled condition as the Hotel
James ; the Broadway House, built by Chas. Hutchin on the
southwest corner of the square (Farmers' Bank site) in 1837,
and operated by various proprietors for some forty years
thereafter; "Travelers' Rest," erected by Joshua Howell in
1830 on the northwest corner of Broadway and Fourth
streets and continued for a similar period of time ; Hamilton
House, erected in 1830 by Francis L. Hamilton on the corner
of Main street and the square, across from the Wayne House.


The bar seems to have been one of the principal features of
these establishments, when practically everybody drank
liquor. They were a place of general resort and discussion,
where free exchange of ideas on politics and public questions
took place and where -the news and gossip of the community
was made public.

Fur Trade.

Hunting and trapping wild animals for their valuable furs
was the employment of several men about town for at least
part of the year. Wm. Sipe, the potter before mentioned,
was also a professional hunter. In 1829 all the buildings in
town, about thirty in number, were on Water and Main
streets, including the public square, except the log house of
Sipe on the northwest corner of Fourth and Walnut, where
he enjoyed the seclusion coveted by the typical hunter. The
farmers, no doubt, also did much hunting and trapping, as
the woods and creeks abounded in fur producing animals, and
the local merchants were eager to take furs and skins in ex-
change for merchandise. Speaking of LaMotte and Farrar's
store, an early writer says : "They sold goods, bought furs
and skins, and for many years packed a large quantity of
pork. It was a wonderful sight to be taken into the fur room
of these men, a whole room twenty by fifty feet nearly stacked
full of bales of raccoon, mink, muskrat, deer skins, etc."

For a true pictur>; of the life and men of Greenville prior
to 1830 we herewith quote the words of an old resident :
"About one-half of them were very good and decent men for
the rough times in which they lived. The other half were of
the lewder sort, drinking, carousing and quarreling, with oc-
casional fights, and as it cost but little to live in those days,
one-half their time was spent about the taverns in gambling,
telling hard stories, pitching quoits, throwing large stones
from the shoulder, kicking the pole, wrestling, jumping, run-