The Hobart publishing Company.

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

. (page 4 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the grand forests which covered primitive Darke county.
Rooted in a naturally rich soil the trees were fed by an un-
failing supply of moisture from the springs and streams.
Judging from the accounts of the pioneers and from the groves
of timber still standing one would be inclined to the opinion
that the primeval forest of old Darke county was one of the
finest encountered in temperate climes in variety of species,
development of body, beauty of foliage and commercial value.
It seems that there were few natural meadows or prairies and
that an almost unbroken forest stretched over the entire face
of the county. Sometimes one encountered beautiful groves
of fine oaks, as along the ridges skirting the Alud Creek
prairie. In level wet places soft maple perhaps prevailed as
in the extensive maple swamp in Butler township. Again the
hard sugar maple predominated to the delight of the Indian and
the pioneer as in the Hiller settlement. Beech groves were
found in a few places, mostly in the southern and western part
of the county, and on the ridge in the northern part. Along
the streams grew the white boled sycamore, the stately
American elm, the graceful linden and the verdant willow.
For the most part, however, the predominating trees were
interspersed with others scarcely less common and a remark-
able variety was encountered on a comparatively small tract
of land. Besides those mentioned, the ash, shagbark, hickory
and black walnut were quite common. While the following
variety were encountered with more or less frequenc}- : yellow
poplar, buckeye, locust, cottonwood, slippery elm, butternut,
black cherry, mulberry, coffee berry, silver maple. While
among the smaller varieties were noted the dogwood, red bud,
black-haw, red-haw, sassafras, wild crab, wild plum, persim-
mon, papaw and a large variety of ornamental and flowering



DARKE COUNTY 45

shrubbery which often made an almost impenetrable growth
of underbrush, such as the spice bush, wahoo, sumac, hazel-
nut, blackberry, raspberry.

It should be noted also that the predominating trees were
found in large variety. For instance, the oak which appeared
in black, red, white, burr and pin. Individual specimens at-
tained a remarkable size as shown by the following notable
instances mentioned by Mr. Calvin Young. "In the year 1883
there was cut down in German township an oak that had a
history. It measured over six feet across the stump, contain-
ing over five hundred annual rings of growth. It was in its
most thrifty condition between two and three hundred years
of age, from the fact of those annual growths were much larger
and faster of growth than it was at the heart or bark of the
tree. It was tall and symmetrical, with a broad and branch-
ing top. ***!(; -^^-as one hundred and nine years old
when Columbus discovered America. It was three hundred
and ninety-three years old when our fathers signed the Dec-
laration of Independence. * * *"

"On Thursday, January 16, 1902, at one o'clock p. m., one of
the largest poplar trees in western Ohio fell to the ground.
It was bought by E. L. Fields, of Union City, Ind., for which
he paid $160, also $11 more for extra timber to place under
the same to prevent it from splitting or breaking in falling
to the ground. It belonged to Jacob Ware, section 10, Ger-
man township, Darke county, Ohio. It stood about two hun-
dred yards east of Crout creek, which is a branch of Green-
ville creek, noted by Judge Wharry in his early surveys as
one of the finest and most fertile tracts of land from its source
to its mouth to be found in Darke county. The tree was six
feet across the stump, 18 feet in circumference, 74 feet to the
first limb, attained a height of about 144 feet. By a careful
count of the annual rings it was found to be over 400 years
old."

A large and rare specimen of the coffee berry tree formerly
stood below Fort Jefferson on the farm now owned by C. D.
Folkerth, northwest part of section 34, Neave township. For
years it was a notable landmark standing at the fork of the
old trails — St. Clair's trace and the one leading to Fort Black
(New Madison). The top was finally shattered by the winds
and the dismantled trunk was cut down a few years ago by
Mr. Folkerth. It is said that the bole of this tree was about
four feet across and that it was the largest specimen of this



46 DARKE COUNTY

variety in the United States. In its full maturity it was
photographed by representatives of the Smithsonian Institu-
tion, Washington, D. C, and furnished an illustration in one
of the institution's reports. It attracted wide attention among
botanists and was viewed by many admirers. The berries, or
beans, were dark brown, about the size of a coffee-berry, with
extremely flinty shells and were carried in pods six or eight
inches long resembling the pods of the honey locust tree.

A white oak tree was felled on the Kerst farm in the north-
ern part of section 18, Neave township, one-half mile east of
Baker's store, some sixty years ago, which measured about
seven feet in diameter.

A burr oak about seven feet in diameter was felled in early
days in Twin township. Such trees were encountered, most
probably, in nearly every section of the county, and cause a
shade of regret to pass o\'er the face of the old settlers still
living as they recite the remarkable instances and think of
the marketable value of such timber today — one such tree
being worth an acre or two of fine farm land at the high prices
of today. Where has all this fine timber gone? To answer
this question one needs only to think of the settler's cabin,
the big log burnings, the worm rail fence, the back log of the
old fireplace, the corduroy road, the wooden bridge, the rail-
way tie, the spoke, stave and head factory, the wagon factor}-,
the saw mill and the foreign shipment. The time has come
when the headwaters and bottoms of our streams as well as
those all over the state might be reforested for the general
welfare and we look forward to the time when communities
will be forced to do by legal enactment what they have failed
to do by private initiative.

Denizens of the Forest.

In such a wilderness as covered primitive Darke county.
one would expect to find a great variety and quantity of wild
animal life. The testimony of an early settler shows the
character of the game and other animals of the forest : "There
was always an abundance of deer, bear, wild turkeys, pheas-
ants and squirrels, the latter too plentiful, as they would eat
up much of the new corn in the fields. Of animals unclean,
and such as were not used for food, there was an abundance,
such as panthers, catamounts, wolves — the latter of which
were very annoying to the settlers from their propensitv to



DARKE COUNTY 47

steal calves, pigs and sheep. Ground-hogs, opossums, por-
cupines and wildcats abounded. Of the fur-bearing animals
there were beaver, otter, mink, muskrats and raccoons. These
fur animals were trapped and caught in great abundance, and
were the only source from which the settlers got their cash.
These furs could always be sold for money, and were largely
used at the time in the manufacture of hats and caps.

"Besides these there were great flocks of wild geese, wild
ducks and wild pigeons almost constantly to be seen during
the summer season. From such abundance the settlers could
always keep their tables well supplied with a variety of the
choicest meats."



CHAPTER III.
THE OHIO COUNTRY.

The early history of Darke county is so closely interwoven
with that of the Ohio valley that it is impossible to get a satis-
factory knowledge of the one without a brief survey of the
other.

Between Ft. Pitt, the strongest American outpost, and De-
troit, the British capital of the old northwest, hostile demon-
strations were enacted which disturbed the peace and threat-
ened the stability of the early American government. Raids
were constantly made on the new settlements south of the
Ohio river, only shortly to be followed by retaliatory expe-
ditions by the hardy backwoodsmen.

After the Revolution ended in the east it was found neces-
sary to subdue the haughty red man, who had been exploited
and encouraged by the British agents of the north since the
end of the French war in 1763. Clark. Harmar, \\'ilkinson,
St. Clair and Wayne were successively sent against them
with varying fortunes, but final success.

Thus was enacted a drama of conquest, whose early scenes
are laid in the valley of the Ohio and the region of the lower
lakes, but whose final scenes appear in the valleys of the
Maumee and Miami. We have noted the unmistakable signs
of the early and extensive appearance of the red man in
Darke county, and will now consider his character, his ethnic
relations and note the eft'ect of his contact with the rapidly
advancing pioneer American settlements.

How long the various families and tribes of the North
American Indians had occupied the tracts of land respectively
claimed by them at the advent of the white man. it is impos-
sible to say in the absence of any written records or authentic
history. The legends of the tribes but add to the confusion
of the historian and give little encouragement to the hope
that a true account of their past wanderings and experiences
shall ever be constructed. It is known, however, that some
of the tribes made extensive migrations soon after the discov-
ery of the continent bv European explorers.
(4)



50 DARKE COUNTY

It has ever been difficult for the staid and cultured Anglo-
Saxon to understand and delineate the true character of the
North American Indian. Some writers depict him as the red
aristocrat of the forest, possessed of true virtue, chivalry and
valor, while others would make him appear a fiend incarnate,
delighting in rapine and brutal slaughter. Like all savage
peoples his character was unsymmetrical, and manifested
many crude and violent inconsistencies. Being children of
nature, they reflected nature's changing moods ; now dwell-
ing peaceably in skin tepees or frail bark huts in their se-
cluded forest homes ; again making the wilderness ring with
their hideous yells, as they danced in frenzied glee at the pros-
pect of the fearful slaughter of their foes. To them the natural
world was an enchanted fairyland whose spirits they wor-
shipped or cajoled, according to their changing whims, and
disease was an evil spirit to be driven out of the body by the
weird maneuvers of the Medicine Man. Easily elated by suc-
cess, they were just as readily dejected by defeat, causing
them to waver in their various alliances as prompted by ex-
pediency. As a nieans of personal decoration they loved to
smear their sinewy bodies with colored clays or tint them with
the juice of berries, and wear jangling trinkets and colored
beads. Living a rude and simple life they knew no law but
necessity, and no government save expediency. Their meat
was the flesh of the deer, the bufifalo and the wild game which
they chased with craft and glee through the primeval forest.
For a diversified diet they cultivated small areas of corn,
beans, melons, etc., and gathered the nuts and wild fruits of
the wood. The wife, or squaw, together with the children,
cultivated the fields and did the drudgery incident to the care
of the camp or village, while the brave or warrior roamed
the forest in quest of game, warred with hostile tribes, con-
structed the tepee, or hut, the swift gliding canoe, and the
various implements of war and the chase. When not on the
chase or fighting his hereditary foes, he loved to idle about
the camp and engage in racing, wrestling, gambling, chant-
ing and dancing, while incited by the frenzied yells of his fel-
low abettors. In feasting, smoking, jesting and repartee he
was a past master.

Lavish in hospitality and faithful to friends, he was, never-
theless, the implacable persecutor of real or fancied enemies.
Two remarkable traits seemed to lift him above the level of
common savagerv ; his stoicism, which made him insensible



DARKE COUNTY 51

to suffering-, fatigue and physical exposure ; and his eloquence,
which, aided by a well trained memory and keen intellect,
was a marvel to the whites who met him in council. Freedom
from conventional restraints and the beauty of his natural
haunts contributed, no doubt, to the dex'elopment of his ora-
torical powers.

Belonging to one ethnic group th.e North American Indians,
ne\ ertheless, manifested distinct characteristics and were sep-
arated into well-defined families and tribes, having distinct
dialects, traditions and definite places of abode. Two great
families occupied the basin of the Great Lakes and the valle_\'
of the Ohio river at the advent of the whites. The Algonquin
family were the more numerous, and were represented b_\- the
larger number of tribes, the more prominent being the Otta-
was, Chippewas and Pottawatomies in the upper lake region ;
the ancient and powerful Aliamis, with subject and related
tribes, along the JMaumee, the ^^'abash and the upper Miami
river valleys ; the active and warlike Shawanese in the valley
of the Scioto and neighboring territory; the Delawares in the
valley of the Muskingum and upper Ohio. The wandering
disposition of some of these tribes is shown by their various
migrations.

The Shawanese had recently emigrated from the valleys of
the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, from which they had
probably been driven by the hostility of the neighboring
southern tribes. They were active, egotistic, restless and
warlike and were destined to become more frequently en-
gaged with the advancing frontiersmen than any other of the
Ohio tribes.

The Delawares had emigrated from the Delaware and Sus-
quehanna river region, on account of the encroachment of
the whites and the hostility of their northern neighbors, the
Five Nations, and are especially prominent in colonial his-
torjr because of their treaty with William Penn. Their peace-
able disposition won for them the contempt of some of the
more warlike tribes, who called them "women." Their con-
duct in the Ohio country, however, proved them to be war-
riors worthy of respect.

The Miamis had lived "from time immemorial" in their
secluded abode, and their title to the lands claimed by them
was probably more valid than that of any of the northwestern
tribes. With their relatives, the Tawas, the Weas, the Piank-
eshaws.and Eel river Indians, they formed a powerful nation.



52 DARKE COUNTY

Their central and established location, together with intelli-
gent leadership, gave them a decided prestige among their
neighbors.

All of these prominent tribes had, no doubt, absorbed the
scattered remnants of the Xew England and coast tribes
which otherwise would have been exterminated.

The other great family of Indians, identified with the ter-
ritory under consideration, was the Iroquoian. This family
occupied the lands between the Ottawa river and the lower
lakes, and a portion of the region below the latter. Their in-
fluence, however, extended from Lake Champlain to the Mis-
sissippi, and from the Ottawa to the Ohio. Several of the
smaller tribes of this powerful family roamed over the Ohii
country and made some large settlements. Five of the most
powerful stationary neighboring tribes, the Senecas, Cayugas,
Onondagas, Oneidas and ]\Iohawks, formed a confederacy
known originally as the Five Nations, and later, after being
augmented by the Tuscaroras tribe from the Carolinas. the
Six Nations. This confederation lived mainly in central New
York from the Hudson river to the region south of Lake On-
tario, having several palisaded towns of bark huts and con-
siderable orchards and cultivated lands.

\\'ithin historic times they had practically exterminated the
Fries, who dwelt westward along the southern shore cf Lake
Erie, and the Andastes, who lived to the south in the resion
of the Susquehanna, both belonging to the same family.
They had also driven their brother tribe, the Huron ^^'yan-
dots, from their ancient abode below the Ottawa river,- caus-
ing them to retire to the southwestern shore of Lake Eric.
The Wyandots, however, ultimately became the leading m-
tion among the Indians beyond the Ohio and were addressed
as "uncle" by the other tribes. In their keeping Avas placed the
Grand Calumet, or peace pipe, which entitled them to assem-
ble the tribes in general council and open all deliberations.

The Five Nations came into contact with the Dutch and
English traders at an early date and were supplied with fire-
arms, which they used to advantage in awing and subduing
the western tribes. Although their population probablv never
exceeded twenty-five thousand, they were intelligent, aggres-
sive, eloquent and powerful, and continually waged war on
the northwestern tribes, whose lands they claimed by right
of conquest. But for the timely appearance of the Euro-
peans, they would probably have subdued or exterminated the



DARKE COUNTY



53



separate and poorly organized tribes of the wandering Algon-
quins, and thus have formed a powerful savage nation. It
seems improbable, however, that they would ever have es-
tablished a permanent and prosperous nation, worthy the re-
spect of civilized peoples.

While these children of the forest dwelt in this delightful
land of virgin rivers, lakes, prairies and woods, unmolested
save by their own kindred, the white man planted settle-
ments along the Atlantic seaboard and commenced a cam-
paign of conquest and expansion that was not to cease until
practically the whole continent had come into his possession.

Centuries of civilization had prepared the Anglo-Saxon for
a new abode where he might have sufficient room and re-
sources to work out the destinies of a new and mightier na-
tion than the world had ever known. His conquest was to
be not merely a matter of might, Init of fitness and greater
service to the expanding race of man. \\niere a few wander-
ing tribes had long made a precarious living, millions of a
civlized people were soon to subdue the forces of primitive
nature, establish the institutions of a higher life and raise
a new standard for all the races of the world.

In the carrying out of this great enterprise two powerful
nations, who had met on many a field of battle in their home
land, were to try their strength on new fields, in rough places.
and prove which was to be chosen for the high and responsi-
ble destiny of leading and shaping a mighty nation, yet un-
born.

The circumstances which caused the English to settle on
the James river in 1607 and on Cape Cod Bay in 1620. and the
French on the St. Lawrence in 1608. scarcely seemed to fore-
shadow the tremendous results that were to follow in less than
two centuries. Thus two active forces were located on con-
verging lines, and were to meet and come in deadly conflict
beyond the apparent barrier of the Alleghan}' mountains. The
hardy English, inheriting the vigor of their northern ances-
tors and inured to the rigors of the British Isles, settled the
coast from Maine to the Carolinas, laid the foundations of
an enduring civilization and depended largely upon the labor
of their own hands for subsistence. They subdued the red
man or drove him awa3^ and gradually advanced the frontier
westward. Desiring to extend the Catholic church and the
domain of France, the French took possession of the valley
of the St. Lawrence, establishing a strong base on the rock of



54 DARKE COUNTY

Quebec. From this advantageous center their missionaries,
fired with zeal to convert the savages, and their explorers,
anxious to find new lands, followed up the watercourses of
the St. Lawrence, crossed the upper lakes in their birch-bark
canoes and passed over the divide by easy portages to the
headwaters of the branches of the Ohio and ^Mississippi, and
finally reached the Father of Waters.

The most direct route from Quebec to the northern lakes
was by way of the Ottawa river and Lake Nipissing to Geor-
gian bay. This fact, together with the hostility of the Iro-
quois, who dwelt along the lower lakes, led the French to
establish posts at Kaskaskia, Vincennes and other remote
western points, several years before Cadillac fortified De-
troit, the most strategic point on the lakes, in 1701. For the
same reason the territory now comprised in Ohio, with the
exception of the ]\Iaumee valley and some lake points, was
the last explored by the French.

The early enmity of the Iroquois, incurred by Champlain,
was later taken advantage of by the British through the of-
fices of their invaluable agent, Sir Wm. Johnson, and became
a powerful factor in directing the fortune of the contending
whites in the Ohio country. On account of location and for-
tuitous circumstances, the northwestern tribes were destined
to align themselves largely with the French in opposing the
expansion of the English settlements beyond the Alleghany
mountains.

The early water routes explored by the French were sin>
ply those which the northwestern Indians had used from time
immemorial. They led from the Great La'.^es to the Missis-
sippi and Ohio rivers hv the most direct and convenient tribu-
tary streams and were traveled b}' means of canoes made of
birch-bark, the skins of animals, or some light wn(id. These
canoes were carried by the voyagers across the shortest port-
ages between the headwaters of the approaching streams and
launched at well-known landing-places, thus providing the
simplest, swiftest and most effective means of travel known
to primitive man.

By gaining the friendship of the northwestern tribes the
French explorers soon learned their best routes and were en-
abled to make rough maps of their country to be kept for fu-
ture reference and to support their later claims of discoverv.

The more prominent routes established were: From Lake
^Michigan to the ^Mississippi, (1) by way of Green Bay. the



DARKE COUNTY



55



Fox and Wisconsin rivers; (2) by the Des Plaines and Illi-
nois rivers; and (3) by the St. Joseph's and Kankakee; from
Lake Michigan to the Ohio by way of tht St. Joseph's and
Wabash rivers; and from Lake Erie to the Ohio by way of
the Alaumee and Wabash rivers. Other well-known routes
connected the Maumee and Great JNIiami, the Sandusky and
Scioto, and the Cuyahoga and Muskingum. For these early
and important explorations we are indebted to the zealous
and intrepid Catholic missionaries and daring French adven-
turers, such as LaSalle, IMarquette, Joliet, Nicollet, Henne-
pin, Brule, and others who faithfully served their country and
their cause and left a record that shall long add luster to their
names.

The Indian mind seems peculiarly susceptible to the elabor-
ate forms and ceremonies of the Catholic church, which ever
appeal forcibly to the outward senses and objectify the
teachings intended to be inculcated. Thus the spiritual labors
of the missionaries were not in vain from the standpoint of
the church and. in addition, helped to cultivate a friendly dis-
position toward the French traders who soon followed.

The Frenchman is naturally volatile, versatile and viva-
cious, making him responsive to change and excitement or ad-
^'enture. The wild, free, and changeable life of the savage
appealed forcibly to the trader, who snon learned his dialects,
married his women, adopted his customs, and finally won his
affection and confidence. The influence exercised b)- this class
is indicated by the freedom with which they penetrated to
the western plains and planted a chain of trading posts reach-
ing from the region of the Hudson Bay to the far south. They
supplied the natives with the things which they desired in the
way of fancy blankets, coarse, iDright cloths, guns, ammuni-
tion, knives, hatchets, kettles, beads, tobacco, intoxicating
liquors, etc. AMiatever may have been France's ulterior mo-
tive in searching out these lands, her early representatives
seemed content to establish posts on small tracts and live
peaceably among the natives, caring onl}' for the profit to be
derived from their extensive trade.

In due course of time, however, the French established
fortified posts at Frontenac on the northeast shore of Lake
Ontario, at Niagara, at Presque Isle (Erie, Pa.), at Detroit,
at Mackinac, and at Sault Ste. ^ilarie, thus guarding the en-
trances to the Great Lakes and strengthening their prestige in
the vast lake region. They also established palisaded trading



56 DARKE COUNTY

posts on the St. Joseph's of Lake [Michigan, at Ouiatanon on
the ^^■ abast, at the Miami villages on the Maumee ( Ft.