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

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look at some of the persons who cross the public square or
come in or go out of town. We can't find a better place to see
what is going on. There comes a man on horse-back around
the corner at Fitts' tavern, corner of Broadway, that used to be
called Mark's Tavern. That's "Coonskin" Brown ; you've
heard of him, haven't you? He's one of the odd characters
of Darke county. I guess he's got about a hundred coonskins
strapped to his horse. He traps them down there in the neigh-
borhood of New R-Iadison and when he gets one hundred or
so he fetches them to town and sells them to Allen LaMotte.
That's Allen's place right down there to the left on Broadway,
where you see that pile of pelts. You see this county is nearly
all woods and wild game is plentiful. Up around Dallas
there's lots of deers and wild turkeys — in fact there are wild
turkeys all over the county. Then there are lots of mink.
muskrats. foxes, and a few wildcats, and as fast as the settlers
can kill them ofT they bring their pelts into Greenville and seF
them to LaMotte.



268 DARKE COUNTY

While "Coonskin" was a great coon hunter — the most suc-
cessful in the county — he was also fond of honey. "Joe" Bloom
owned a good bunch of trees not far from New Madison and in
one of these trees was a nest of bees. Bloom made up his
mind to get hold of that honey in some way, but he w^as a little
slow in doing it. However, the time came when he concluded
to make an eflfort and engaged a couple of men to assist him.
The three of them went to the woods to find that some one
had chopped the tree down the night before and robbed the
bees' nest of the honey. Bloom ripped and snorted and pos-
sibly cussed a little — not because the honey was gone — but
because the tree had been cut down. He had his suspicion
as to who the guilty person was, but he couldn't prove it, and
being a responsible man, he kept quiet for fear of a libel suit
in the event he might be mistaken. One day he met Brown
and said to him: "Coonskin," somebody cut down a bee tree
of mine a few nights ago, and if you will find out who it was
I will give you $5."

"Give me your S5, Mr. Bloom, and I will tell you right now
who cut it."'

"Are you certain, 'Coonskin?' I want 3'ou to be sure because
I don't want to cause an innocent man any trouble," said I\Ir.
Bloom.

"Oh, I am as certain as certain can be, [Mr. Bloom, and I
wouldn't tell you a lie for $50," said Brown.

"Well, here's your $5, now tell me who it was."

"Coonskin" took the $5 and slowly folded it up and after
putting it into his pocket looked at ^Ir. Bloom and laughed.

"Well, who was it?" said Bloom.

"I tut your bee tree, Mr. Bloom — now prove it," said "Coon-
skin."

Brown couldn't talk very plain but 'Sir. Bloom understood
him and then the matter dropped.

DOMESTIC LIFE.

Early Mothers.

The hou'^ewives of Greenville "before the war" davs, had
their full share of hard work as well as their husbands. Xo
sewing machines, no washing machine, no laundries, no dress-
makers, no milliners, no bar soap made lots of hard work for
them. They couldn't phone to the grocery or store and have
goods delivered to them on the double quick. Some one had



DARKE COUNTY 269

to "go up town" with the market basket and tote home all the
supplies for the family. No gas or coal stoves — all used wood,
and sometimes when there was no wood, they had to gather
chips, and when the chips were all gone they had to carry
wood or chips from the woods near by. I don't say that all
had to sit up late at night mending her children's clothes, or
might run short of capital letters. Many and many a mother
had to sit up late at night mending her chiidren's clothes, or
making new ones for them to wear to school next day. She
would work until late in the night — husband and children
asleep — and then be the first one out of bed in the morning to
get breakfast and get the children ofif to school, then she
turned her attention to dishes and washed them. Next she
had to make the beds, sweep the house, feed the chickens, slop
the pigs (of course she milked the cow while the water in
the tea kettle was heating), darn stockings awhile, sew a little
on her new calico dress, then hurry and peel potatoes and get
other things ready for dinner for the children will soon be
home from school. About this time she discovers that there
isn't a bit of lard or sugar or coflfee in the house. She can't go
to the grocery and she can't find any one to send ; what does
she do? She borrows coffee from one neighbor, lard from an-
other and sugar from another. You see those days neighbors
were neighbors, and) not mere "howdy-do" acquaintances.
Friendship was door-wide in every house in the town, ^^^^en
the children got home from, school they were dispatched to the
grocery immediately for sugar, cofifee and lard and the neigh-
bors were paid back in full ; and thus it went until after the
war. Then strangers began pouring into town. Some were
good and some weren't ; some were honest and some weren't :
and an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust prevailed the
whole community.

* :^ s{< ^ *

In the boyhood days in my homeland it was the custom for
women to smoke Of course there were exceptions, but my
recollection is that the majority of the older women in Darke
county in those days smoked pipes. If I should tell you their
names you would be surprised, and yet I could name a dozen
or more of them within yelling distance of our old home.
Women have as much right to smoke as men have. I do not
think it a bit becoming for a wom^an to chew tobacco and let
tlie "juice" run out of the corners of her mouth and trickle
down her chin, yet I can see no harm in it, if her husband or



270 DARKE COUNTY

lover chews. A man who smokes or chews should never
marry a woman who neither smokes nor chews, and vice versa.
I hold the same opinion as to drinking or gambling. A to-
bacco-using or whisky-drinking woman is generally as clean
as a man with like habits.

Clothing and Fashions.

You see there were no dressmakers in Greenville before
1860, and the fact of the matter was that it was cheaper and
better in every way to engage a dressmaker from Dayton or
Cincinnati to cut and fit garments for all these families, than
for them to go to the city at the expense of car and hotel bills.
But because they hired city dressmakers they were called "big
bugs."'

The first Greenville dressmaker, to my recollection, was
Sarah Shade, sister of Enos Shade, and it was along about
1860 that she opened a shop. The first milliner of my recol-
lection was I\Irs. Long — wife of Sheriiif Ol Long. After she
began trimming hats, Sarah Shade added millinery to her
dressmaking business.

In those days there were nri such things as ladies' coats or
jackets — no, indeed. Every woman in town wore either a
shawl or mantello. Another thing I remember very distinctly,
and that was the women had but two ways of fixing up their
hair. One way was to part it in the middle and comb it down
as flat as a pancake over the ears, hiding them completely ; the
other way was to curl it in spiral rolls and let it hang all
around the head like icicles from a rain spout.

One thing I forgot to mention about the style of dresses is
that in those days styles did not change from season to season,
as manv' styles lasted two or three years, and few women were
so curious as to have their hats retrimmed more than once a
year ; so you see there was no flubdubbery in the "fifties"
about headgear or wearing apparel.

It used to be the custom in Darke county for newly-mar-
ried Dunkard women to wear capes to distinguish them from
the unmarried. I don't now whether that custom prevails
today or not. Darke county was blessed with a large number
of Dunkard families. Better farmers, better citizens never
lived than the Dunkards. Hundreds, ves thousands, of these



DARKE COUNTY



271



thrifty people have recently located in California. The more
the better for the state.

*******
There were no store clothes in those days, and Sunday suits
were a variety. "Lintsey woolsey'' for the women and home-
spun jeans for the men, constituted the clothes of the realm.
Coonskins were currency, and butter and eggs were a drug
on the market. The young men all wore "wamuses" and
galluses of the home-made variety. Only '" dudes" wore white
shirts, and they weren't always starched. Husking bees, log
rollings, quilting parties and apple-butter making were the
amusements of those days. Log barns, log houses, log
churches and log school houses— all patterned after one style
of architecture. In school or church the females sat on one
side and the males on the other. Some of the children had to
go miles and miles to school, and many had to go the same
distance to church. There were no county roads — but here
and there logs were laid down in the muddy spots (and in the
winter and spring all spots were muddy) and over these cor-
duroys, it was jolt, jolt, jolt.

Household Equipment.

That was the period of big iron kettles used by nearly every
farmer for cooking feed, food, and boiling clothes. There were
a few copper kettles in the county and these were usually
rented out at twenty-five cents a barrel for cider in apple but-
ter seasons. They were also used for cooking fruit for canning
purposes. The cans were made of tin by either a ]\Ir. Allen,
I. N. Beedle, Billy Stokeley. or Fred Rehling. The latter, T
think, struck Greenville in 1854. These cans were closed with
red sealing wax.

Those were also the days of sickles, scythes and grain cradles
— the days of back-logs and andirons — the days of the spinning-
wheel — the davs of candles and tallow dips — the days of the
knitting needle, when every mother knit socks, stockings, and
mittens for the whole family — the days of quilting, when the
neighbor women all congregated at some house and helped
the wife make her quilts. Many top quilts in variegated colors
were woven by some women who owned a loom. That was
the time when wool was taken to some woolen mill and carded
into strings two or three feet in length, and these strings would
be attached to the spinning wheel and converted into yarn.



2/2 DARKE COUNTY

There were very few stoves in Darke county up to 1854.
Many farmers' wives had to cook in the fireplaces. Pork,
beans, hominy, potatoes, onions and mush constituted the
"grub" leaders in many homes.

Soon after out-door ovens became popular and numerous.
Nearly every family had an ashhopper from which they
drained lye to make soft soap with, and this was used for all
purposes.

V\'ild turkeys, wild geese, wild pigeons and pheasants were
plentiful, and every Sunday game would be found on the
tables. There were plenty of deer in the neighborhood of
Dallas (Ansonia). Lots of coons, minks, foxes, muskrats, rab-
bits and squirrels in all parts of the county, and their hides
could be seen nailed to nearly every barn.

The woods were full of hickorv nuts, walnuts, butternuts,
haws, wild cherries, plums, Mayapples, mulberries, blackber-
ries, hazelnuts, etc. ^^'ild flowers, roses especially, were abun-
dant. All these are gone I understand — nothing but a sweet
memory of them remaining.

Log houses, log barns, log schoolhouses and log churches,
once prevalent in the county have all passed into history.

So have the flintlock guns, the smciothbore rifle and the tul;)e
guns that were fired with "SB" caps.

The old crane wells have gone the same way. Boots are no
longer in style, and the fish oil with which they were greased
is seldom seen nowadays.

The only outside newspapers coming to Greenville in those
days were Greeley's New York Tribune, Sam Medary's Ohio
Statesman, and the Cincinnati Weekly Gazette.

Could the pioneers of the days I have recalled gaze upon
Greenville and Darke county today they would say:

"F.volution, hast thou no end!"

There were no restaurants or laundries in those days.
Housewives, as a rule, done their own washing every Mondav.
Nearly every yard had a well or cistern, and there were many
ash hoppers scattered over the town. Bar soap was a rare
article, but soft soap was abundant. There were possibly 100
or more soap kettles in town. Very few persons were able to
buy petroleum oil, but nearly every family in town owned a
pair of candle moulds. Many of the aristocratic families were
able to own brass candle snuffers. Some didn't own any
snuffer at all— they either snufFed the candle with a pair of
scissors or wet their thumb and finger and snapped off the



DARKE COUNTY 273

wick. Candlesticks were plentiful — most of them were made
of tin, some of brass and a few were coated with German sil-
ver. There were one or two families that owned candlesticks
that held two or more candles. Such were considered extrav-
agant people.

There were no wood or coal yards in Greenville in the
fifties. I don't think I ever saw a load of coal in Greenville
until after the war. The family that didn't own an ax, a saw-
buck and saw with a woodpile in front of the gate, wasn't in
style in those days. It became fashionable later on to ha^■e
woodsheds. Horses, cattle, sheep and hogs used to roam the
streets and often break into a garden and get a "belly full"'
of garden truck before they were discovered. It used to be
the custom for the owner of the garden to hold the stock in
"hock" until the owner came and paid the damages and took
his animal away.

There used to be a fluid sold in Greenville — the name of
which puzzles me. It was for lighting purposes, and was used
in lamps before I ever heard of gasoline, petroleum, kerosene
or coal oil. I know that people were afraid of it, although I
never heard of it exploding. It was soon taken off the market
when kerosene came, and if it had not been for the smell I
would have said that it and kerosene were one and the same.

The kerosene lamps were made beautiful to behold by put-
ting different colors of yarn in the bowl of the lamp. The
family that could afford most colors got the most praise.
Then along came the lamp shades. My. but they were pretty
— all colors and many of them escoloped around the edges.
Of course there was one way to make them safe from explo-
sion and to make them burn brighter, and that was by putting
a little salt in the bowl of the lamp.

When kerosene lamps and kerosene lanterns became pop-
ular in Darke county it made the candle-makers mad and
Greenville's only candle-maker — Thomas Carter — got dis-
gusted and moved back to Kentucky where he learned the
candle-making business.

*******

There were a great many teams of oxen in Darke county in
the fifties. It was always claimed that a team of oxen could
pull a heavier load than a span of horses. I don't know
whether than was so or not, but I do know that a good team

(18)



274 DARKE COUNTY

of oxen was kept at much less expense than a team of good
horses. There was no trouble to yoke up a pair of oxen. All
you had to do was to hold up one end of the yoke, and say
"Come, Buck,'' and the near ox would juke his head under the
yoke, and all you had to do was to slip the little "neck" yoke
up through the holes m the big yoke — stick in the wooden pin
and Buck was "hitched." Then you called "Breck," the "ofif"
ox. and he went through the same program.

Of course every driver used an ox gad, that is the whip
ten or fifteen feet in length often, and mounting the wagon
away you went. The team was guided by the voice: "Gee
Buck — gee there!" or "haw. Buck, whoa haw!" that is all
there was to it.

It always paid to give A'our oxen plenty of water, for if }ou
didn't, they'd get it if they had to run off the road with the
wagon, load and all, and rush down hill into the creek.

When a farmer had a lot of "clearing" to do he generally
used two or three yoke of oxen to haul the logs to the log
heap where they were burned to get them out of the way. I
guess there are mit many log heaps burning in Darke county
today.

X^earlv every wagon in those days, '54 to '60, had a coupling-
pole that usually stuck out behind from three to six feet, and
on this pole hung the tar bucket which was used to grease
the wagon wheels. I haven't seen a tar bucl-et on a wagon in
an old coon's age. Some of the Pennsylvania Germans, espe-
cially the Dunkards of early days, owned big wagons with
beds on them large enough to hold the furniture of an ordi-
nary hotel. The tires on the wheels were broad, and each
wagon bed had a feed-box on the rear end of the bed and a
tool box on each side, and also a box in front for curry-comb,
harness grease and brushes. All such wagons were made in
Reading, Pennsylvania.

Those were the days for elderberry and dried apple pies.
Many times I have seen the roofs of houses covered with
elderberries and apples dr3'ing in the sunshine. Applebutter
pies were also quite popular. But the great royal dish for
children was mush and milk. Alany was the time I made my
supper on mush and milk and my breakfast on fried musli and
cane molasses.

I made many a five-cent piece digging sassafras root and
selling it to families for tea.

Speaking of dried apples: It used to be the fashion to give



DARKE COUNTY 275

an apple-cutting party at some house where all the girls and
boys of the neighborhood would gather and make love, tell
stories and peel apples. An apple would be sliced into several
pieces, and the pieces would be strung on thread or cotton
string in bunches about six feet long, and these bunches would
be laid on the roof to dry or hung up in some out-of-the-way
spot. I have seen them strung from wall to wall in bed-
rooms, kitchen and garret. Perhaps that was what made
dried apple pie such a favorite in the way of "dessert."

Early Notables.

For a little town — a town in the backwoods — a stuck in the
mud town, Greenville had more lively boys and girls than
many towns double its size. It had a Thespian club, a mili-
tary company, a debating society and several mite societies.
There were some mighty good lawyers in Greenville, too :
Judge Beers, Judge Wilson, Judge Meeker, Judge Calder-
wood, Judge Wharry, Judge Allen, Riley Knox and Charley
Calkins, either of whom would have ranked high with the
best lawyers in any large city. There were also several "long
headed" men in Greenville who did not belong to any of the
professions, namely: Moses Hart, Manning Hart, John Huflf-
nagle, Enos Shade, Allan LaMotte, Eli Helm, Wash. Weston,
Sam Ullery, Henry Arnold, Henry Garst, William Morning-
star, the Katzenberger brothers, George W. Moore, Michael
Miller, John Spayde, Isaac Rush and T. P. Turpen. And
where will you find better physicians than Dr. Gard, Dr.
Otwell, Dr. Lynch, Dr. Licklider, the Drs. Matchett and Dr.
Miesse? The latter paid no attention to local practice, but
his name and fame was scattered all over the country and he
grew rich while few persons in Greenville had but little idea
of his extensive practice abroad.

Gavin Hamilton was the best auctioneer.
Bill Williamson was the best horse-trader.
Ezra Sharpe was the best constable.

William Laurimore was the best squire. (Nobody knew
what J. P. meant in those days.)

Linus Purd^r was the best bricklayer.
Hezekiah Owings was the best marshal.
John ^^^harrv was the best survevor.



276 DARKE COUNTY

Old-Time Carpenters.

1854-1876 — Washington and ^lathias McGinnis, Enos
Shade, Harve House, Fred Kissel, John Frybarger, David
Hoovler, Luther Robinson, Leonard Stebbins, Al Hardman,
Reuben Kunkle, Jacob ^leybrun, Daniel Lecklider, Daniel
Larimer, Jack Scribner, William Tate, Alexander and ^^'illiam
Kerr, Manning F. Hart, Alonzo Shade, Daniel Xeiswonger,
Harve Robinson and Jerry Sanson. Who have I left out?

Old-Time Painters.

The back yonder painters of Greenville were : George Hun-
ter, Bob Brown, Henry Shamo, John Cox, Bill Cox, Hen Low,
D. O. Ma}', L. O. Galyan, Dr. J. L. Garber, Joe Nickodemus,
John Boyd, Lum Clawson and Bill Knight. Who have I
missed?

Old-Time Bricklayers.

From 1854 to 1876 I recall Linus Purdy, Thomas Stokeley,
Benjamin and Egbert Reed, John Krause, John Hamilton,
Cash Baxter and Ike Smith. Who have I missed?

An Early Shoemaker.

Talking about early shoemakers, it is well to remember that
^^'illiam J. Bireley came here as a cobbler in 1830 and worked
for ^^'illiam IMartin, Sr.

Early Superstitions.

I didn't hear of any ghosts, haunted houses or Jack O'Lan-
terns when I was in Darke county last summer. There used
to be lots of them there when I was a boy. I didn't see or
hear of any witches either. They used to be very plentiful
too — to hear about. I don't think the county was any more
superstitious than other counties in early days, but there was
a plenty of it just the same. I will note a few: To kill a snake
and leave it belly up to the sky was sure to fetch rain. To
tramp on a toad and crush it would cause the cows to give
bloody milk. To spill salt was sure to bring disaster. To
pick up a pin — head toward you — was bad luck. To hear
a rooster crow at the door, or drop a dish rag was a sure
sign of some one coming. To hear a dog howl under the win-
dow was a sign that some one near was going to die soon. To



DARKE COUNTY 277

leave the house and forget something and go back after it,
denoted misfortune of some kind. To hoist an umbrella in
the house was serious disappointment if not worse. To see
the new moon over your left shoulder was bad luck, but to
see it over the right shoulder was good luck. To dream of the
dead, denoted a wedding. To put on socks or stockings
wrong side out and not know it at the time was sure to bring
the best sort of luck. To sing before breakfast denoted sick-
ness. To spit on fish worms and give them "dutch hecks"
insured a good catch of fish. To plant potatoes in the "dark
of the moon"' was sure to impair them with "dry rot." The
above were some of the "superstitions" that once prevailed
in Darke county. Others I may take up at another time.

Here are a pair of superstitions that people believed in fifty
years ago and in many places outside of Darke county they
still believe in them, namely : If a ground hog sees his shadow
there will be six weeks more of winter. This superstition is
proverbial in many states, so much so that "groundhog day"
is a fixture in the vocabulary of each community. The other
superstition that has hung fast to so many persons all these
years is this : "Look out for a long and severe winter when
the squirrels begin to carry nuts and corn to their dens in the
trees or ground."

It was a bad sign for any one to make you a present of a
knife, for it always "cut friendship."

It was a bad sign to drop your fork at the table, unless the
point happened to stick into the floor. In that case you would
have "sharp luck all day." It was generally good luck to put
on your left boot first, but if you happened to put on your
hat wrong end first "great disappointments" were ahead of
you. It was dangerous to wear hoopskirts with steel springs
in them in rainy weather as they were "sure to draw light-
ning," and many was the time that the "belles" of Darke
county would jerk oiT their skirts on the double quick and
hide them somewhere if a rain storm was approaching. And
often and often when visiting friends of an evening, if a streak
of lightning appeared or a roll of thunder was heard, the vis-
iting ladies were sure to leave their hoopsirts with their
friends and go home without them.

When anything was lost it was best to spit in the palm of
your left hand, hit it with the forefinger of your right hand,
and in whatever direction the spit flew there you would find
your lost article.



278 DARKE COUNTY

When fishing it was always good policy to throw the very
small fish back into the creek as soon as you took them off of
the hook, for if you didn't the big fish wouldn't bite at all.

Obsolete Trades, Customs, etc.

There is not a cooper in Greenville — that is, a hoop-pole
cooper. When wooden hoops gave way to iron ones, the draw-
knife cooper went out of business.

Brick moulders are just as scarce and with them went the
"off-bearers." Greenville used to have quite a number of
brick moulders.

The hotel gongs and dinner bells — first and second — are no
longer heard in Greenville. It's lonesome without them.

Cows no longer march single file through Broadway on their
way to the creek to drink as they used to.

Even the "town pump" is no more. The squeaking of the
handles was exceedingly musical (?) in days gone by.

Boys no longer play marbles on the public square nor do
men get out and pitch horse shoes there as they used to.