A. E. Hough J. W. Klise.

The county of Highland: a history of Highland County, Ohio, from the ... online

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Clark, and others of the famous men of that "dark and bloody
ground," w^ho had been instruments in the protection of the frontier
settlement from the blood-red tomahawk of the Indians. Soon after
the defeat of St. Clair, he was sent out with about forty others, whose
object was to collect and bury the dead of that unfortunate battle.
The Indians were so determined and hostile, that it was impossible
to accomplish their purpose, and they began their retreat to Ken-
tucky. They had lost three or four men of their number, killed by
the Indians, who skulked in every secret place and picked off witii
unerring certainty every straggler from the main body. Every possi-
ble effort was made to avoid a battle with their unseen foe, for McNary
was sure that their numbers far exceeded his own. It was deter-
mined to make a forced march, which continued until the party was
within a day's march of Manchester, on the Ohio river. Early that
mornipg they resolved to march four or five miles farther south and
stopped for some breakfast. Their camp was at the first fork of
Brush creek (since named), just above the little village of Belfast,
Highland county, and to the south of a mound which stands in the
forks of the creek. While they w^ere eating breakfast the Indians
suddenly appeared, and from the surprise manifested by them, quite
unexpectedly. The white men sprang to their guns and gave the
Indians a volley and fled from the spot Several of the Indians fell
at this fire, but the party did not stay to count them. The Indians
fired at the retreating party, but without effect, followed in hot pur-
suit but failed to overtake them, and after some hours' chase aban-
doned the effort. The party of hunter-soldiers reached Manchester
safely that evening. This was the second battle fought within the
lines of Highland county. McNary some years after the event, and
after the town of Belfast was built, visited and confirmed the state-
ment of the locality, by pointing out the mound and the forks of the
creek near the site of the fight.

In spite of these hostilities, Massie, in the winter of 1791-2, sur-
veyed the lands on Brush creek as far up that stream as the three

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forks. Toward the spring of 1792 he shifted his locality to the
waters of Little Miami, and traveled up that stream to the present
site of the city of Xenia without meeting any opposition from the
Indians. Early one morning as the party started out to perform the
labor of the day, Massie in advance of his company, an Indian was
discovered pointing his gun at him. William Lytle quickly fired
upon the Indian and killed him. Moving cautiously forward the
white men soon found themselves close to an encampment of a largo
body of their red foes. They quickly began their retreat from the
spot but were discovered and followed by the warriors. The pursuit
was kept up by the Indians without pausing until the surveying party
reached Manchester, not having lost a man. During the winter of
1792-93, Greneral Massie continued his surveying expeditions, locat-
ing the best lands within a reasonable distance from Manchester. In
company with Joseph Williams and one of the Wades, he explored
the fertile valley of Paint creek, and part of the Scioto country, and
finding the soil exceedingly rich, much beyond his expectations, made
entries of all the best lands, returning in safety to his station on the
Ohio river. In the winter of 1793-94, amid appalling dangers,
Massie explored the various branches or streams to their sources, that
empty into the Little Miami, and then going in a northerly direction
reached the head of Paint and Clear creeks and followed carefully
the branches that form those streams. By his extensive travel and
explorations, he formed a correct knowledge of the geographical posi-
tion of the country. In 1795, early in the winter, Massie with a
large party, equipped for surveying or fighting Indians if it became
necessary, made their starting point on Todd's fork of the Little
Miami. Large bodies of land were surveyed by this party. As
assistants in this dangerous business were Xathaniel Beasley, John
Beasley and Peter Lee. During much of the time of this survey,
which continued for thirty days, the groimd was covered with from
eight to ten inches of snow. In all this time not a loaf of bread was
in the camp. On starting out there were a few pounds of flour which
was served a pint a day to each mess and was used by stirring into
the soup in which the meat had been boiled. When the day's work
was ended they camped upon the snow-covered ground, built four
fires around which each mess gathered to feast upon whatever game
the day had brought to their hand, and chatted and sung in happy con-
tentment and were glad that the evening brought rest and repose.
When bed time came Massie always gave the command ; the party
would then leave the cheerful fire and taking their blankets, their
guns and baggage, they would walk some two or three hundred yards
from their fires, scrape away the snow, and lie down together for the
night. Placing half of the blankets upon the ground thus cleared of
the snow, they reserved the other half for covering, which they would
fasten with skewers to keep them from slipping. Each mess occu-

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pied one bed, and huddled together for greater warmth, would spend
the night in refreshing sleep. Their rifles and shot pouches shared
the beds with their owners, who were ready at a moment's warning
to use them upon prowling beast or skulking Indian. When morn-
ing came two of the most cautious and experienced would be sent ,to
reconnoitre the spot of their evening fires and when satisfied that no
deadly foe was awaiting their return to the slumbering embers of
their early camp, they would return. This precaution was taken in
all kinds of weather, for a careless neglect might end some precious
life or endanger the whole party by a successful ambuscade. If
immortality of name is bom of courage and endurance upon the
battle field, surely honor and fame is due the fearless men who braved
the dangers of the unbroken forest, the relentless Indian, the fierce
wild beasts, and the storm and cold, of the shelterless march.

The party continued to survey up Caesar's creek near to where its
waters mingle with that of Paint creek. While in this vicinity
Indian tracks were discovered in the snow. Massie immediately
called a halt and sent out runners to the various surveying parties,
calling them in, and also sent an experienced scout on the trail of the
Indians to discover their location and number. At sundown the
forces were all collected, and soon the scout returned and reported
the presence of a large body of Indians. They had seen some eight
or ten tents and concluded from the noise about the camp that quite
a force had assembled, preparing for war or hunting as the conditions
favored. It was concluded by Massie that the forces were too lai^e
to be attacked, and that it would be prudent to retire while yet undis-
covered. Collecting their stuff they began their march, not halting
until midnight, when they halted until daylight and began their
journey in a southern direction. About noon of this day they came
to a fresh trail made by four horses and some dozen Indians. This
trail they struck later in the day. It was concluded that the Indians
knew nothing of the presence of the whites, and they determined to
follow them so long as the trail led in the direction they were going.
They followed on until dark without overtaking their foe, and Massie
halted his men to consult about their future action. In a few
moments the sound of the tomahawks was heard, as the Indians were
cutting wood for their night fire, only a few hundred yards away.
Two or three men were sent to spy the camp and bring away their
horses, which was successfully done. Massie induced his men to
make a night attack upon the camp, which was promptly done, the
attacking party silently approaching within a few yards of the
Indians without discovery, when they fired a volley and rushed with
wild shouts upon the camp. The Indians fled in wild confusion, leav-
ing guns and everything else behind them, a considerable booty, which
was taken by the victors, who again started upon their homeward
march and reached Manchester without further trouble.

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THE lands in the Virginia Military District, now known as
Highland county, were not entered and surveyed as early
as some other parts of the district. Simon Kenton, how-
ever, made an entry as early as 1791, which was, no doubt,
among the first in the district. This tract consisted of five hundred
acres on the Rocky fork, about three miles southeast of Hillsboro.
The land was taken up on four military warrants in the name of
Samuel Gibson. It has been brought to prominent public notice by
the long and earnest litigation of which it w^as the cause. In the
office of the clerk of common pleas the original papers are on file,
giving a quaint yet elaborate history of the contest over this land.
Among the number is a deposition dated 1827, and signed by Simon
Kenton in a clear, bold hand, quaint but legible.

The merits of the Xorthwest Territory had become known, and
incited immigration from the old states, the Northwest rivalling
Kentucky in the minds of those contemplating removal from the east
to the Avest. But the Indian war diverted southward the stream of
emigration, and many who in after years came to Ohio settled first
upon the south side of the river for better security. Seven years went
by after the first settlement of the territory before it was entirely
free from the dangers that had kept the rich lands out of the hands
of the eager settlers from the east. What these dangers were have
already been told. They are illustrated also by an event in the his-
tory of Manchester. Manchester, in 1793, began to clear off her
outlots and prepare for the incoming tide of emigration. "Andrew
Ellison," says McDonald, "cleared a lot immediately adjoining the
fort. He had cut the logs and rolled them and set the heaps on fire.
The next morning, just about daybreak, he opened one of the gates
of the fort and went out to tlirow his logs together. By the time he
had completed this a number of the heaps blazed up brightly, and as
he was passing from one to the other, he observed, by the light of the
fires, three men walking briskly toward him. This, however, did not
alarm him, although he perceived that they were dark skinned fel-

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lows. It at once occurred to him that they were the Wades, whose
complexion was very dark, going out for an early hunt. So he con-
tinued to right up his log-heaps, until one of the fellows seized him
by the arms and called out in broken English, ^How do ? How do V
when to his sui*prise and horror he became conscious he was in the
clutches of three Indians. He therefore submitted to fate without
resistance or attempt to escape." The Indians silently but quickly
disappeared with their prisoner, going north in the direction of Paint
creek. When it was discovered that Ellison was gone, a party was
organized and started in pursuit They followed as rapidly as pos-
sible but the Indians had such a start that it would be useless to
attempt to overtake them, and on reaching Paint the party returned
to Manchester. Ellison was carried by his captors to Upper San-
dusky, where they compelled him to run the gauntlet and in other
ways tortured and tormented him, finally carrying him to Detroit,
where he was purchased by a Briitsh ofiicer for one himdred dollars,
and was sent bv this officer to Montreal, but was able to return home
before the close of the summer.

Another exciting and tragic story is told of the Edgingtons, who
started upon a hunting trip toward Brush creek. They made their
camp between where the towns of West Union and Fairfax now are
and began their efforts to secure game and were very successful, hav-
ing shot a number of deer and bears. Having dressed their game by
skinning the deer down to the hams, and taking as much of the bear
as would adhere to the hide, they cut off all the meat of the bear that
would adhere to the hide without skinning and placing the meat thus
prepared upon scaffolds out of the reach of wild animals they
returned to Manchester for pack horses. It was late in December,
and they felt no fear in regard to the return, as the winter time was
generally a time of inaction and repose among the Indians. Eetum-
ing with their horses and dismounting to make a fire, they were fired
upon by a party of Indians not more than twenty yards away. Asahel
Edgington fell dead, but his brother John was imhurt When the
Indians leaped from their hiding places, firing their guns and yelling
at the top of their voices, the horses, frightened, turned and fled in
the direction of home. As the Indians approached they threw down
their gims and with wild yells and uplifted tomahawk, nished upon
the dumbfounded man. John Edgington was very fleet as a runner,
and when he realized that his foes were upon him, turned and with
the swiftness of the deer started on the trail of his flying horses.
For more than a mile the race was so close that before the bending
grass beneath the feet of Edgington had straightened, the moccasin
foot of his savage foe pressed it down again. He could hear the
labored breathing of his pursuers, and imagined the keen edge of the
Indian hatchet w^as in his hair. But he succeeded in outrunning his
H— 4

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enemies, made his escape and readied his home, heartbroken and
wretched over the loss of his brother, scalped and unburied where he

In the spring of 1795, before General Wayne had made the treaty
of Greenville with the Indians and made the peace of Ohio secure,
Xathaniel Massie, with a surveying party, again attempted the work
of running lines in Highland and adjoining counties. March of that
year started in mild and pleasant., and promised fair to bring warm
and delightful weather to gladden the heart and quicken the step of
the hardy band who with compass and chain ranged the woods,
depending upon the gun and skill of their hunter scouts for tlie food
that was to sustain them in their trail. This party surveyed along
the head waters of Brush creek, passing from that point to the Rocky
fork of Paint, and thence on to the Rattlesnake fork of the same
creek, crossing Paint creek proper, going up Buckskin and across to
the '^old town" situated on the Xorth fork of Paint. xVfter reaching
this vicinity the weather suddenly changed and snow began to fall.
The snow fall lasted for two days and nights covering the ground
with some two or three feet of snow. Turning warmer, a fine rain
began to fall, freezing as it reached the surface of the snow, w^hich
soon formed a crust, not sufficiently strong to bear a man, but upon
which the smaller game and animals could travel with ease. After
the rain it grew intensely cold, hardened the snow crust and made it
almost impossible for' men to travel or hunt The cold continued,
provisions were gone and this band of snow-bound toilers lay around
their fires day and night — cold, hungry, starving — with naught to
greet their vision but measurelei^s acres of snow and the doleful sound
of sighing winds through the barren branches of the forest trees.
Ineffectual efforts were made to secure game by those whose duty it
was to supply the camp. Duncan McArthur, then a chainman and
hunter, and afterward governor of Ohio, on the third day of the
storm killed two wild turkeys which were divide<l into twenty-eight
equal parts and distributed to the men — not enough to satisfy their
hunger, but simply to sharpen their appetites for additional food.
The morning of the fourth day the party started homeward. The
strongest men were placed in the front to break the way. They
marched all the day in this manner and at night had reached the
mouth of the Rattlesnake about ten miles from their starting point.
The next day turned out bright and warm, melting the snow some
and making the jouraey less fatiguing. The second night of the
march the party rested by their fires without sentinels. The night
grew warmer, the snow melted fast and their prospects brightened
greatly. The next .morning all hands turned out to hunt. They
killed a number of turkeys, a few deer and one bear. There was a
feast that night around the red hot embers where turkey, deer and
bear sent out the appetizing odor so refreshing to the nostrils of

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hungry men. The weather growing wanner and the snow disappear-
ing, the forty continued their labor cheerfully until they had accom-
plished the work they had been commissioned to do. We could
scarcely hope to impress the people of today with the sense of hard-
ship and suflFering of men, houseless, shelterless, and foodless, who
simply endured because they were men with a work to accomplish,
a duty to perform, with the will and courage to do so.

All the early settlers of the Ohio valley were brave, fearless men,
able to cope with the mighty forces of this new world. Men who
had learned life's mission in the school of hardship, and while largely
unlearned and unlettered, they had the quick eye, the strong hand
and the warm heart that made the wilderness blossom like the rose,
and their log cabin home the place of virtue and contentment.
Classed among the fearless and noble men who people the Ohio valley,
were a number who outranked them in culture and social refinement
which is the result of education and training. While the surveyors
were not the first explorers of the country, they were the first to
bring order out of confusion, the first to make practical and perma-
nent the civilization that was to follow the advancing years. The
surveyors were all men of education and some of them of remarkable
talent, and none were lacking in the elements of courage and endur-
ance, so essential for those who are the advance guards in the stem
battle of life.

After the peace concluded with the Indians in 1795, a strong spirit
of emigration to Ohio from Kentucky began to assert itself. The
constitution of Kentucky, with which the state was received into the
Union in 1792, tolerated slavery, which was offensive to many of her
people, and preparation was made to cross the river into tlie land
where there would be no possible chance of meeting this objectionable
feature in the coming future.

The first of those to come from Kentucky was John Wilcoxon, the
first settler within Highland county. The history of this lonely
wanderer, as told by John A. Trimble, is that in the spring of 1795
he emigrated from Kentucky, crossing the Ohio river at Limestone,
and pushed boldly his way out into the vast and pathless Xorthwest
Territory, determined to establish himself and family in the midst
of its best hunting grounds, regardless of the prior claims of the
Indians. With his worldly wealth, wife and child, stowed upon a
strong horse, and himself and dog on foot and in advance, he struck
out in the direction of the already famous rich lands of the Scioto and
Paint creek country. He traversed the hills for several days, camp-
ing out at night, and frequently remaining four or five days at a place
to hunt and rest his wife and horse. The weather continued delightr
ful, it being the latter part of April, and IJfature in the first dawn
of vernal beauty presented a peculiar charm to the eyes of the lonely
emigrants. The long days of bright, warm sun, succeeding the cold

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rains of the first part of the month, had already covered the sunny
banks and hillsides with early plants and flowers. The sugartree,
elm, and buckeye were showing their green leaves, and the early wild
grass not only supplied abundant pasture, but covered and adorned
the surface of the ground. The nights, too, were more charming, if
possible, than the days in these grand old woods. The very stillness
was sublime. The mild rays of the moon, penetrating the forest and
tracing long lines of light and shade upon tlie irregular surface, pre-
sented a picture that none would fail to enjoy. As an accompani-
ment, and to enforce the consciousness of utter loneliness, the
J melancholy and spirit-like song of the whippoorwill arose at intervals,

^ mingling with the distant howl of the wolf, the hoot of the owl and

' the scream of the panther. But when the early dawn effaced the

night scenes, and hushed the sounds which had added to their peculiai:
beauty, the aroused tenants of the tent were more than delighted with
the music around them. The whole forest seemed alive with birds,
while each one resolved to excel every other in melody and variety
of song. The few and simple preparations for breakfast were soon
over, and Wilcoxon, his wife, child and dog, sat down to their roast of
fresh venison, with appetite, contentment and surroundings, that the
palace of no monarch on earth could rival. They did not then fear
the Indians, as it was known that they had agreed to go into treaty
with Wayne; and hostilities for the present were not apprehended.
Several weeks had now been passed in this leisurely half emigrating,
when the cold rains of May commenced. The little party were
entirely unprovided for this change, though a little exertion erected
a bark camp under cover of which they were enabled to keep dry.
The rains continued several days, and the time passed gloomily
enough. Hunting was impleasant and the provisions became scarce
in the camp. The horse growing weary of his position in the cold
beating rains, broke his halter and wandered off. As soon as the
storm abated, Wilcoxon with dog and gun started out, and after sev-
eral days of diligent search the horse was found. While searching,
Wilcoxon discovered a beautiful valley, and an unusually large and
most remarkable spring which furnished a great abundance of most
excellent water. Wilcoxon determined to strike his tent and locate
at this point. Arriving at the spring, which is now known as Sinking
Spring, in Ifighland county, he went to work in earnest to make
improvements and build a house. First he cleared off some land,
then planted some seed com he had brought with him from Ken-
tucky. Xext he cut ^mall logs, such as he and wife could carry, or
with the aid of the horse drag, to the spot near the spring, which he
had selected for his house. In the course of a few days it was so far
completed that it served for a siunmer residence. The luxury of a
bed was obtained by gathering leaves and drying them in the sun, then
putting them into a bedtick brought with them. For a bedstead,

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forks were driven in the ground and sticks laid across them, reaching
the wall of the cabin. Over these elm bark was placed and the tick
on the bark, forming a most excellent bed. Mrs. Wilcoxon had been
busily engaged in this while planting some garden seeds which her
thoughtful prudence had brought along. This accomplished, and a
chimney built, something over six feet high, made of poles and mud,
with back walls and jambs of flat rock, and a rough clapboard door
for the cabin, completed the dwelling place of this lonely pair by the
Big Spring, a home of joy and pride to the honest, simple-minded
husband and wife. Time passed on. The small patch of com and
pumpkins grew finely and promised an abundant yield, while in the
little garden opposite the chimney grew the gourd and bean, the let-
tuce and potato. Around the door clustered the morning-glory, and
in a carefully protected nook near the wall grew the pink, violet and
other favorite garden flowers, cherished memories of other days,
bringing back with their bright colors and sweet odor the scenes of
her girlhood days, in the old home amid loving friends, now dis-
tant, and, perhaps, never to be seen again.

Early one morning in July Wilcoxon started out with his axe and
a large wooden pail in his hand, the result of his owti skill as a cooper,
to cut a bee-tree which he had discovered and marked a few days
before. The tree stood some two miles from his cabin home. It
was a very large tree and consumed some time in the cutting. He
had felled it and gone with the pail to the part occupied by the bees,
leaving his axe at the stump of the tree. The honey appeared in

Online LibraryA. E. Hough J. W. KliseThe county of Highland: a history of Highland County, Ohio, from the ... → online text (page 5 of 63)