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

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ning foot races, horse races, fishing, hunting, desecrating the
Sabbath with all these practices, irreligious and semi-civilized.
These were the men of which strangers took their idea of the
character of Greenville, and always scored it on the bad side.
The good, the industrious, did not go about to see. The vicious
they could not avoid ; they were like yellow jackets at
the cider barrel, buzzing gener?lly a little too close, putting
in dread of being stung and hasting the time of departure, and
retarding the progress and improvement of the town."


No doubt the testimony of this earl\' observer is correct
as the reputation for gambling and hard drinking in Green-
ville lingered to almost the opening of the twentieth cen-
tury. Neither is the biblical saying inappropriate even in
these days : "The fathers have eaten the sour grapes, and the
children's teeth are set on edge," as testified to by a host of
temperance workers who have struggled long and desperately
to improve the public sentiment and reduce the evil connected
with these ancient practices.

Early Mills.

In these days of good roads and raihvays, of easy communi-
cation and quick transportation, when the physical needs of
the community are readily supplied, it is difficult to conceive
of the hardships encountered by the pioneers in securing flour
and meal for their daily bread. The earliest settlers were
compelled to go to Montgomery or Miami county to mill on
horseback as there were no roads suitable for wagons. It was
a common practice to travel thirty or forty miles to mill
seated on top of a two bushel sack of corn thrown across the
animal's back. Such a trip would often require two or three
days of travel through an almost unbroken ."orest, during
which time the traveler would probably not see over five or
six houses or clearings.

The first mill in the county was built by Enos Terry, for-
merly mentioned, on his land at the bend of Greenville creek
a short distance above the present site of Main street bridge.
A grist and saw mill were attached to the same power.
It is said that this little mill ground corn for the Indians
who attended the ceremonies attendant on Harrison's treaty
in 1814, and that the dam was destroyed by the garrison at
the fort on the pretext of military necessity, inasmuch as it
backed water and caused the Mud creek prairie to overflow,
thus creating a shallow, stagnant lake which bred disease.

After the war John Dean erected a mill about three and a
half miles above Greenville on the creek (now Weimer's) and
John Devor started a saw mill on the West Branch half a
mile to the south of it. Major Adams built a little mill on
the creek five or six miles below Greenville about this time.
This was later known as Baer's mill and now as Cromer's.

Samuel Kelly built the first wool-carding mill about 1824
just above the site of Terry's destroyed mill and in about a



year prepared to grind grain also. About 1828 he sold out
to John Swisher, who continued it until 1835 or 1836, when
the dam was destroyed by a mob under the same pretext that
Terry's mill had been destroyed before, and at a loss of some
four thousand dollars to the owner. Dr. Perrine, who was a
very eccentric character, owned land on Mud creek about a
mile south of town and was induced to commence a suit for
damages on account of back water. The jury in this case-
rendered a verdict of fifty dollars' damages in favor of Perrine
and immediately a mob leveled the dam, showing the state
of lawlessness prevailing at that time.

David Briggs erected a mill about a mile and a half below
Greenville in 1825 or 1826, which was operated by different
proprietors until 1880, when it was decided to remove the
dam to allow the proper drainage of the Mud creek bottoms.
William ]\Iartin built a saw mill near the mouth of the Dividing
Branch about 1822, and operated a tan yard nearby. This
mill was rebuilt several times and operated on and off over
fifty years. John W. Harper built a saw mill about half a
mile further up some fifteen years later. About 1830 Jas.
and Benj. Devor erected a fulling mill un the West Branch on
the site of their father's saw mill. They afterward sold to
Wm. Akins, who greatly enlarged and improved it by adding
a spinning jack and several powen looms. This mill did a
large business and relieved the women of the community of
the former drudgery of hand carding.

About 1841 Mane Flora, Sr., erected a saw mill on the West
Branch just north of the crossing of the present W^inchester
pike. Later John Fox bought this property and added a
grist mill.

A mill was erected on Stillwater in Wayne township called
Webster's mill ; one near the head of Mud creek in Neave
township by Ernestus Putnam ; one on Crout creek in W^ash-
ington township by Ludlow Clapp, who sold it to John Mc-
Clure. At a later date John C. Potter erected a substantial
mill on Greenville creek a mile and a half above town which
was operated afterward by Odlin Spiece, and John Hershey
built one at Gettysburg.

In 1880 there were in operation in the county twe.ntA^-one
grist mills with sixty-two run of buhrs, and valued at about

The law enacted to clean up the streams of Ohio, no doubt,
sounded the death knell of manv an old mill as witness the


Knouff mill on the creek about a mile below Greenville. This
mill caused the water to "back" up to the town and probably-
created an unsanitary condition by interfering with the cur-
rent and choking the channel.

The old water power mills have long since been discon-
tinued or remodeled and have given way to the steam roller
flouring mills located in the larger towns which have a daily
capacity far beyond those of early times. In a few years even
the sites of most of the first mills will be practically unknown.

Early Schools.

It is difficult in these days of compulsory education and
expensive school equipment to form a proper estimate of
pioneer educational conditions, to conjure up a mental picture
of the settlers' attitude toward culture and refinement. A
hasty survey of the situation would probably lead the average
student to the conclusion that the pioneers knew little and
cared less for such matters. This conclusion, however, is
scarcely just when we reflect that life in those days was, per-
force, a constant struggle with the forces of nature, a round
of coarse, hard labor to fell the thick timber and wrest a decent
living from the newly plowed clearings.

Xo doubt many of these settlers came from homes in the
east where the school teacher and the school house were con-
sidered prime factors in the life of the community, and longed
to see the day when their children could enjoy educational
privileges at least equal to their own. In this connection the
following brief quotation from the pen of the late J. T. Martz,
one of Darke county's most noted educators, is of interest :
"While the early settlers of Darke county did not neglect edu-
cation, the date of the first establishment of schools, and the
building of school-houses is not accurately known.

"The first teachers in Greenville township were John Beers,
who taught in the Thompson, Studabaker and William Arnold
settlement from 1818 or 20 to 1830 or 32 ; John Talbert, who
taught near Prophetstown. on the Bishop farm from 1820-
1832; and Henry D. Williams, who taught in the Hayes-
\\'estfall-Carnahan neighborhood from 1820-1830. and in Dis-
trict Number 14 in 1835-1838. The first teachers in the county
were Dow Roll, Mrs. Mclntire, John Townsend and Noah
Arnold. These must be considered the pioneer teachers in
the countv


"At this time there was no public school fund. The schools
were supported by individual contributions from parents who
sent their children to school. The teacher received a salary
of about ten dollars per month, and boarded himself. The
school would continue in session about three months in the
year and this amount of thirty dollars was apportioned among
the heads of families in proportion to the number of children
sent, the teacher holding each parent individually responsible
for the amount of his tuition.

"In 1821 a law was passed by our legislature which left it
to a vote of each township whether school districts should be
formed, and, perhaps four years later, action in this respect
was changed, and township trustees were required to divide
the townships into school-districts, and a tax was levied by the
county commissioners for school purposes, which provided a
fund of about ten dollars yearly for each school district. This
amount would continue the school in session for about one
month, and the remaining two months' services of the teacher
was paid by individual contributions as above stated.

"During this time the teacher should be found qualified to
teach penmanship, reading, writing and arithmetic. A
board of county examiners for teachers' certificates was re-
quired under the law. In 1849 the law added geography and
English grammar to the required qualifications of the

Referring to the earliest schools in the Studabaker neigh-
borhood, Air. Jesse Arnold wrote :

"AVilliam Studebaker commenced teaching in a caliin in
the old Wyllis field, just south of the old Arnold horhestead,
about 1823. This cabin school burned about 1824 and school
was opened up in a similar rude cabin adjoining the residence
of Abraham Studabaker. This was continued till about 1829
when it was removed to the end of the Arnold lane and Henry
D. Williams was employed to teach during the winter, having
taught one or two winters before its removal, then as follows :

In 1830-31 William S. Harper, teacher.

In 1831-32 Henry D. Williams, teacher.

In 1832-34 David Townsend, teacher.

In 1835-6-7 Noah Arnold, teacher.

"A little later the school was removed to a new brick school
house at Studabaker's. Abraham Studebaker's brick house,
but partially finished, was used as a school house in 1837 or
1838 for a school taught bv Conrad Burgner. The little brick


school house near Studebaker"s, hiuh by him at this time, was
from this on my only place of school attendance in our own
district. The teachers whom I recall in this school house
were Daniel Hewitt, 'Master' Jelleff, Sanford Harper, M.
Spayde and David Beers."

"The principal books used were Webster's spelling book,
the New Testament, the English reader and its introduction,
and Talbot's arithmetic. Ray's arithmetic was introduced
about the time I left school."

The Arnold homestead referred to above was lo-
cated on the present site of the brick house on the J. R.
Stocker farm just north of the infirmary farm. The first
school house mentioned was probably at the turn of the
JaA'sville pike just south of the Stocker house. The brick
school house mentioned is still standing on the east side of
the Eaton pike at the turn of the Ohio Electric railway about
three-fourths of a mile south of the fair grounds and is said
to be the first brick building constructed in the county for
school purposes.

It seems incredible at this date that a man could afford to
teach school at ten dollars per month, but we find that the
necessities of life were much cheaper in those days, clothing
seldom changed in style and could be worn with good form
until threadbare, and the teacher was employed nine months
of the year at other labor. Money was scarce in those da3'S
and the teacher was sometimes paid in provisions as in the
case of Dennis Hart, who located on Bridge creek in 1819. In
the winter of that year he opened a rate school in an old log
cabin belonging to Joseph Townsend. In the following winter
he taught in a new log school house which had been erected
on the Eaton pike some distance south of the present site of
the infirmary. This man was married and agreed to accept his
wages in corn, meat, potatoes and other produce. Needing
some clothing to protect him from the winter's cold, he pro-
posed to exchange some of his surplus produce with Abra-
ham Scribner for the desired articles, but found that this mer-
chant was well supplied with such things. Scribner informed
him that he would exchange the clothing for whisky, however,
whereupon Hart proceeded to a little distillery between
Greenville and Minatown and traded his corn at less than
market price for firewater which he disposed of in turn to
Scribner at a reduced price, thus paying his account. "Oh,


times. Oh, customs!" Surely things have changed since then,
and apparently for the better.

Professor Mcintosh, writing in 18S0, gives a vivid descrip-
tion of early educational conditions in the settlement about
Prophetstown as follows : "Many settlers had large families
— as many as ten children were found in a single cabin — and,
to provide for the future of these young people, the parents
came to this county. There was alwaj's work to be done, and
the services of all hands were needed ; it was only during the
winter months that schools could be attended. At these, only
the elementary branches were taught, and the predominant
idea of the school master was discipline first, learning a.'ter-
ward. No grammar nor geography were taught. Few studied
arithmetic, and these did not proceed much beyond the rudi-
ments; and when, at length, grammar was introduced, such
pupils were thought well advanced. In any locality, when-
ever sufficient families had moved in to form a school, the set-
tlers stood ready to build a house and engage a teacher. Tall,
strapping youths attended school, and the master had need
of decision and courage as well as method and erudition. It
was customary for the person applying for the school to call
upon the parties within sending distance and canvass for
scholars. If enough were secured, school opened. .\n illus-
tration of the old-time method is g'i\-en as follows: ".\bout
the year 1815, a man came into the Rush neighborhood, and
offered his services as teacher. The settlers located along
]\Iud Creek, \^'est Branch and Bridge Creek talked the matter
over, and concluded to employ him. It was a light labor for
ali to turn out with axes, handspikes and o.xen, upon the day
appointed, to chop and draw the logs to a chosen site for the
purpose of putting up a schoolhouse. The location was near
Rush Fort, on i\Iud Creek. While some put up round logs,
notched down, one layer upon another, until they were of
sufficient elevation to form a story, split clap-boards for the
roof, chamber floor and door, and puncheons for the floor,
others drew stone for the fireplace and prepared sticks and
mud for the chimney. The floor being laid, next came desks
and seats. Large holes were bored in a log on each side of
the room, wooden pins were driven *in. and a slab of un-
planed plank laid on these pins. For seats, holes were bored
in puncheons and legs driven in, two at each end. ^^'indows
were made by cutting out a log nearl}' the whole length of
the house, leaving a hole a foot wide. Into this was filled a


sort of lattice work of sticks, and upon this greased paper was
pasted to transmit the light. Such was the school house of
sixty-five years ago. It was not much of a structure, but
there was no great contrast between it and the homes of its
builders. There was no lack of ventilation, and the wood
was not too long for the fire-place. School opened in charge
of W. H. Jones, of whom mention has been made in a pre-
vious chapter, his services having been secured at a salary
of $7 per month. He was severe and exacting; punishments
were the order of the day. Whispering and other indiscre-
tions subjected the olTender to blows with a rule upon the
palm of the hand ; and so freely did Mr. Jones administer
chastisement, that the patrons were obliged to request him to
moderate his punishment, as the hands of their boys were so
sore from repeated feruling that they were unable to use the
ax. It was a species of torture to strike the tips of the gath-
ered fingers with the ferule, and this was disapproved by the
settlers, indurated to rough usages as they were. Only two
branches of education were taught — reading and writing. The
example of this neighborhood was contagious, and soon a
house was built near the place of David Studabaker, and a
man named Montgomery was hired to teach. Gradually
school houses became more numerous, and the demand for
teachers in some measure induced a supply. Summer schools
were rare. Females made no application till an adventurous
woman, named Anna Boleyn, attempted a three months" term
during the summer of 1825, but quit in disgust before the ex-
piration of that time. Despite liberal provisions favorable to
education, little had been done up to 1838 toward perf^ecting
a system of common schools, the result of the scanty means
and constant toil incident to pioneer life.

In many of the schools, pupils were required to studv in a
loud tone, and hence called a loud school, the object being to
let the teacher know they were engaged upon their lessons,
and not in mischief. Classes in arithmetic and writing were
never formed, but each pupil '"ciphered away at will," and
received personal assistance from the teacher when the same
was needed. Writing was taught by the teacher "setting the
copy," and the pupil trying to imitate the same. The "quill
pen" was used by the pupil, and the "master" was expected
to make the pen. and mend the same when the pupil thought
it unfit for use. The custom of "barring out" the teacher and
compelling him to "treat," about the holidays, was indulged in


by the pupils as a g-eneral custom, and sanctioned Ijy the pa-
rents ; but this relic of barbarism has almost entirely disap-
peared from our schools."

Despite these untoward outward conditions our early
schools educated some grand and stalwart men who, in ater
life, looked back to their early school days with the longing so
touchingly expressed bv the poet :

"Gimme back the dear old days — the pathway through the

To the schoolhouse in the blossoms — the sound of far-off bells
Tinklin' 'crost the meadows ; the song of the bird an' brook,
The old-time dictionary an' the blue-back spellin' book.
Gone like a dream forever! A city hides the place.
Where stood the old log schoolhouse, an' no familiar face
Is smilin' there in welcome beneath a morning sky —
There's a bridge across the river, an' we've crossed an' said

good-bye !"

Going now to the county seat we find that one of the earliest
schools in this hamlet was conducted in a log building on the
east side of Elm street between Third and Fourth streets (site
of old Catholic church). This building also served as a room
for the grand jury and once for the sitting o fthe court. Green-
ville township was divided into school districts in 1827 and
Greenville district chose John Beers, David Briggs and Linus
Bascom as school directors in conformity to Guilford's law,
recently enacted. As these men were not on friendly terms
with each other they refused to co-operate and did nothing in
the interest of education. In 1828 a new board was elected
and proceeded to dismantle the old building and remove the
logs to lot No. 3 on Fourth street (near the present site of the
M. E. parsonage) which site had been deeded to the school
district by \^'illiam ^^'iley in payment of a fine for assault
and battery.

An altercation between Abraham Schibner and Isaac Schid-
eler prevented the erection of a building on this lot at this
time. About 1839 or 1840 a brick schoolhouse was erected on
lot No. 3, which was afterwards remodeled and used as a resi-
dence by Judge Sater and is still in a good state of preserva-
tion. Another two story brick school house was erected about
the same time on the rear of lot 13, on the east side of Walnut
street betwe^ Third and Fourth streets. After j^ears of service


this building was used as a blacksmith shop and linally torn
down about 1900. The building of two such ordinary school
buildings instead of one good structure in a village like
Greenville was in 1840, showed a lack of judgment which in-
terfered with the proper development of the school system
for several years.

"In 1851 the first effort was made to grade the Greenville
school by Ebenezer Bishop, who was employed at $400.00 a
year to take general charge of the school. This effort was
only partially successful and the schools were afterwards or-
ganized in four grades, and for a number of years were suc-
cessfully conducted by A. T. Bodle, L. S. B. Otwell, F.
2\Iatchett and G. H. Martz, all efffcient teachers. Mr. ]\Iays,
of Troy, Ohio, was afterwards employed as superintendent,
the school was graded and has been conducted as a graded
school in charge of a superintenent to date."

The erection of a three-story brick school house on a newly
purchased lot south of Fourth street between Central avenue
and Sycamore street and the organization of a high school in
1868 properly marks the end of the old regime and the be-
ginning of the modern era of education which will be noted
more fully at another place.

Before the Civil war, private schools were taught, some-
times by educated women, which provided opportunity for
those who desired to take advanced studies, not pursued in the
public schools. These were generally attended by children
of the prominent families and were quite successful as shown
by the number of pupils who in later life became leaders in
the community.

George Calderwood in the "Darke County Boy," published
in the Courier, June 18, 1910, gives a vivid picture of his school
da3'S a few years before the war. The article seems to have
been inspired by the prospective coming of Judge Alex. T.
Bodle to Greenville after long years of absence, to address the
Pioneer Association. As noted above Mr. Bodle was a teacher
in the Greenville schools during the fifties and had won the
affection of his scholars. Calderwood's article reads in part
as follows :

"Of course we will have 'Alex' open school, call the roll,
send Ed Waring and Volney Jenks for a bucket of water, have
the classes recite, and then close with the spelling class, in
which every pupil has to 'toe the mark.' The best speller will
soon go 'up head,' and then go to the foot again, then work

1^ Greenville, Ohio.



School Building

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Up head again. When he or she does so three times the prize
shall be a 'Reward of ^lerit." printed in blue ink on a card
three by five inches. I'll bet Helen Gilbert-Peyton gets the
card, if she's present.

When the class in arithmetic is called for ([uick action in
Stoddard's ^Mental, 'Alex' will take up the liook and read :

"If a wolf can eat a sheep in seven-eighth of an hour, and a
bear can eat it in three-fourths of an hour, how long will it
take both of them to eat it. after the bear has been eating
one-half an hour?"

I'll bet a peach against a plum that Celia Lavender-Helm
will solve it quicker than Jim Ries.

Then the class in Bullion's grammar will be called to parse
this sentence :

"John Smith is now here in this citv."

Everybody will write it down, and Belle McGinnis will
parse it correctly. But Jim Wharry will say : "It isn't right !"
He will parse it differently, and yet will do it correctly, from
his standpoint. But what is his standpoint? He reads his
slip of paper, and it reads word for word as given out, but has
blended two words together, to-wit :

"John Smith is nowhere in this city."

The joke is on Jim ; and then Taylor Dorman will be called
forward from the second class to read a poem on "Xine Parts
of Speech." Of course he will be barefooted ; his pants will
be rolled up to his knees ; a round-about button at the bottom
and open at the top : his hair combed down in front of his
ears and curled on top. With his right hand behind his back,
book in his left hand, he will read in a piping voice :

Three little words vou often see
Are articles — a or an and thee.

A noun's a name of anything,

As school or garden, hoop or swing.

Adjectives tell the kind of noun —

As great, small, pretty, white or brown.

Instead of nouns the pronouns stand —
Her head, his face, j^our arm, my hand.

Verbs tell of something to be done —

To eat, count, sing, cough, jump or run.