Pioneer Stories of Early Ohio and References to Our Family

Not long after the U.S. Revolutionary War, our maternal ancestors were settling what was at the time the western frontier of the country. They were literally some of the pioneers of the young United States of America.

Shown here are examples of how the log cabins they built might have looked, both inside and out. (Click on photos and exhibits to enlarge 'em.)

Some time ago I learned about an 1880 book, a portion of which describes the circumstances - and some events - of the early 1800s in the area where our pioneering ancestors settled. That entire section of the book is included below, but to set the stage, here’s some background.


To understand the background of the area, consider the following. 
This map of the U.S. in 1800 shows the states in red. As you can see, Ohio - the blue area furthest east on the map - had not yet become a state.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided for the creation of as many as five states in the northwest portion of the Ohio Valley on lines originally laid out in 1784 by Thomas Jefferson. Known as the Northwest Territory, the new federal lands were east of the Mississippi, and between the Ohio River to the south and the Great Lakes to the north.

The ordinance defined the boundaries of the states, excluded slavery and required that 60,000 inhabitants be present for statehood. Ultimately, the territory was organized into the present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Ohio became a state in 1803 and the earliest and heaviest settlement was in the southeastern part of the state, closest to Pennsylvania and Virginia - which provided most of the settlers. Early settlers were primarily of English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish descent.

Thanks go to Jones cousin Autumn Lovejoy, daughter of Lynette (Ditz) Jones Weise - and granddaughter of my generation's uncle Paul Jones. She lent me a copy of an article called “History of Kirkwood Township”, which discusses the early days in that area. I later found it online, and a link to it is included below. 
The significance of this article to our family’s history is that it is about the place where our ancestors settled, in a territory that had only recently become a state – and had not yet become fully civilized.

Rev. John McPherson and Lewis Jones are referred to in the article, as are others of our ancestral family. I've highlighted in red each family member named below to make them easy to see. I've also put in bold letters all the people whose surnames appear in our ancestral family tree, for they may also be family whose connection to us I haven't yet documented.

However, this article's real value to us is that it provides interesting info about those early days – and the circumstances and some of the events
and people our ancestral family would have encountered.

Among others in our family, the article refers to various members of the Perkins family, saying that Thomas Perkins was one of the earliest settlers in Kirkwood Township. That's interesting, in that we are directly descended from him - he was the father of Samuel Perkins, whose connection to our family's story is covered 

The article also mentions the “old Jones farm”. Because the source of this article is dated 1880, and Lewis Jones was a farmer in that area earlier in the century, and this may well be a reference to his farm.


Here’s a start on what the article covers. The village of Hendrysburg in Belmont County is where some of the events in our family history took place. Hendrysburg is described in the article as follows:

“It contains three dry goods stores, two grocery stores, one drug store, post-office, …two physicians, one dentist, two wagon shops, four blacksmith shops, one distillery, two saloons, two stream flouring mills, one with saw mill in connection, one livery and sale stable, two hotels, one school building containing four rooms, two churches, I.O.O.F. Lodge, Reading club, [anti-saloon] temperance organization…and one [Masonic] Grand Lodge.”

According to family obituaries and a narrative in my generation's uncle DeRand’s family history archive, the Methodist Episcopal Church was the church of choice for our maternal family in the early days. The article describes the M.E. church of those days as follows:

 “This society was organized in about 1810 or 1812, with eighteen or twenty members. They held their meetings in private residences until 1813 or 1814, they erected a hewed log church building near the western line of section ten, in Kirkwood township. Their benches in the house were small logs split in halves, the flat side shaved smooth, holes bored, and sticks put in for legs, which they used for seats for several years, then made seats of boards.

Their fire place was a box set in the middle of the house with dirt in, on which they made a fire place, and built a stone chimney in the center of the house. This house they used as a place to worship, until 1840; then they erected the present frame structure, situated near where the old log building stood, in which they hold their services.”

Here’s a link to the complete Kirkwood Township article.

What Life Was Like in the Pioneer Days of Early Ohio
Here are excerpts from “History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio”, by J.A. Caldwell, the 1880 book referred to above.

"The first settlements made in this, now Washington Township began in the year 1797, along Captina creek. It was then a dense wilderness - the home and rendezvous of the bear, wolf, deer, reptiles, wild turkeys and various game. Soon after the introductory settlement of a few pioneers was made, emigrants from Pennsylvania and Maryland chiefly came in pretty rapidly, and erected their smoky little cabins, and commenced clearing, away the forests and planting their small crops.

The pioneers were very neighborly and agreeable, and often turned out to a man when any new settlers arrived, to help them cut logs and build cabins. They would never stop, either, until it was made ready to move in. They needed no laws or justice - made their own laws and lived up to them. Peace and tranquillity abounded then.

Times were hard, extremely hard. Game and fish of course, were very plentiful, but they had no mills, stores, or even roads; had to go beyond Wheeling [West Virginia] to buy corn, and gave [a] dollar per bushel for it. It was packed home and pounded in a mortar. These were made of a log of gum wood about three feet long and eighteen inches in diameter, with one end burnt out in a funnel shape, and then cleaned out with an inshave, so as to hold a half bushel or more of corn. In these mortars were made their meal. Genius soon contrived the hand-mills, "and they got along a little better."
The bottom lands were first settled. The clearing was very heavy. The sycamore, sugar, walnut, buckeyes and such like had to be cut down, rolled up and burnt, on account of the shade.

The first settlers thought nothing of (frequently) doing with but one meal a day. Sometimes they went a long time without food, and could eat a large quantity when they did eat. A large turkey roasted was eaten in one meal by small families.

As a remedy for their privations, they practiced economy. For trace chains, ropes were used; for collars they used corn husk, for log chains hickory withes. Their wearing apparel consisted of buckskins of their own tanning - shirts, pants moccasins and all. They manufactured their own plows, which were rude implements indeed. The mould board was split out of a block of wood that had the right twist in it; the share and coulter were made of wrought iron, laid with steel. This was an excellent plow for rooty ground. The principal diet of the pioneers was hog, honey and johnny cake. 

Among the first settlers were the Danfords, Perkinses, Beans, Reads, & [children]. Some of the emigrants who moved here in real early days, remained but a short time, and then "pulled up stakes" and removed elsewhere. Others located permanently, and awaited the opening of the land office at Steubenville and other places, when they entered what land they wanted. The Danfords, perhaps, were the earliest permanent settlers."


History of Kirkwood Township

"Kirkwood formed one of the first four original civil townships and extended from the Ohio river to now Guernsey, in which part of said county was included. It was erected November 25, 1801, and named in honor of Robert Kirkwood, the pioneer. On February 24, 1802, and August 15, 1804, Richland, Pease and Union [counties] were erected from the eastern portion.

In January, 1810, part of its western territory was included in the establishment of Guernsey county. March 14, 1817, sixteen sections were taken off the northern end of the township in connection with twelve from Union township to create Flushing, since which time it has remained unchanged, with a square of thirty-six sections.

First Settlement

The first settlement in Kirkwood township was made on section eight, in 1800, by three brothers, Joseph, William and Barnet Groves, who migrated from Pennsylvania with their families, located and made improvements on this section. In 1802, a man by the name of McBride located and made some improvements on section eleven. In 1802 or 1803, John Israel settled on section two. John Bradshaw settled on section thirty-two in 1803 or 1804. In 1804, Hugh Gilliland and family settled on section twenty-five, and Hugh Ford on same section and John Heaney on section one during the same year. In 1804 or 1805, John Burton settled in the township; John McClain settled on section twenty-five; Anomias Randall on section thirty-two.

In 1805, Thomas Perkins and family settled on section seventeen. In 1805 or 1806, James McKinney settled in the township. In 1806, Ralph Cowgill settled on section thirty-one. William Spencer settled in the township in 1805 or 1806. In 1808, Robert Griffin settled in the township about the same time. In 1807 or 1808, John Honnold, Josiah McColloch, John Jarvis, John Marsh, Francis Hall and Hugh McMahon, made settlements in the township. Thomas Barret settled on section thirty-two in 1807 or 1808. In 1808, Robert Waddell made his first improvements in the township.

In 1808 or 1809, James Sheppard settled on section twenty-three. Daniel Conner and Basil Ridgeway made settlements in the township during the same years. Mathias Graves settled on land one-half mile east of where Hendrysburg now stands on section twenty-nine. Isaac Midkiff settled in the township in 1810 or 1811. Philip Ward settled on section 17 in 1811.

John Ball [settled] on section sixteen the same year. Charles Harvey, Nicholas Gazaway and the Moores were among the early settlers. Jacob Barnett settled in the township in 1813. William Bratton in 1814. Abner Moore in 1814. John McFadden, in 1815. Alexander H. McCormick, in 1815; Alexander McKeever, in 1816; Rev. John McPherson, in 1816; Lewis Jones, in 1816; Henry Acton, in 1817; Eli Taylor in 1817; Patrick Hamilton, in 1819; Samuel Boden, in 1821; Joseph Reynolds, in 1824; Charles Smith, in 1826; Samuel Smith, in 1824; Robert Armstrong, in 1823.

And there are many others who were here in an early day and endured the hardships of a pioneer life, labored hard to clear away the dense forests, make improvements and prepare the soil for cultivation. Some of them are mentioned in the history of Sewellsville.


In about 1798 a party of hunters were camping at a spring near where Jonathan Perkins' dwelling now stands. One evening when they returned to camp one of their party, by the name of Robinson, was missing. Diligent search was made for him, but he could not be found. They supposed him to be carried off [as] a captive by the Indians, as there were some in the neighborhood at that time. In 1807 there was a gun barrel and some human bones found on the Perkins' farm, section 17, which were thought to be the remains of Robinson. In honor of this unfortunate man one branch of Stillwater creek bears his name, and is known as Robinson's branch.

In 1818 or 1819, near the centre of the township, John Clark was killed by a tree falling on him.

In 1820 a man by the name of Gilbert was found dead in the dam. His shoes were lying on the bank, and the remainder of his clothing was on his body. It was supposed that he had drowned himself.

Henry Roberts was found dead in the dam one morning. His horse was standing near the water's edge and the man's body in the water.

In 1827 or 1828 there was a man killed while raising a tobacco house by a log rolling on him. His name was not known.

In 1830 Samuel Douglass, while holding a log on a hillside, the log rolled, struck him on the head, and killed him instantly.

In 1830 or 1832 James Gould was killed on the road leading from Henrdysburg. He was on his way home from town with his oxen and cart. The cart was upset, and a plow that was in the cart fell on him. The shear striking his side killed him.

In 1844 or 1845 William Jarvis was killed while raising a house, by a log falling on him.

In 1849 William Johnston was found dead on the hillside above Hendrysburg, supposed to have been killed by the horses and wagon running over him.

In 1851 there was a destructive fire in Hendrysburg, burning a steam flouring mill, storeroom, and dwelling house; also a stable with one horse was consumed by the flames.

In 1852 Philip Spear, a carpenter by trade, was killed while tearing down an old frame house, by one side of the building falling on him.

In 1856 or 1857 George Lewis and his son, Samuel, were killed in the coal bank at the old woolen mills by the bank falling on them.

In 1869 Louisa C. Fox was murdered by Thomas Carr on the farm now owned by Daniel Mummy. An account of this is found elsewhere.

Page 361


In 1809 or 1810, there was a log cabin school house erected on the Cowgill farm in section 31 near the southwest corner of the township. John Stewart kept the first school in this house, and continued teaching there for several years. David Long and James Round also taught several terms in this cabin.


The village of Hendrysburg is located on the National pike in the south central part of Kirkwood township, section fourteen. The pike was built through this part of the country in 1825-6. Charles Hendry purchased the land that is now occupied by the town shortly after the pike was completed. He first engaged in the mercantile business, meeting with success. In 1826 or 1827 he erected a stream flouring mill which brought people to the place and gave rise to the laying out of a town.

In 1828, Mr. Hendry employed Mr. Briggs, a surveyor, to lay out and make a plat of a town which he called Hendrysburg in honor of his own name. The lots extended on both sides of the pike, across a quarter section, except a short distance on the north side of the pike at the east end of the village, being 52 feet on the street or pike. A number of lots were at once sold and small log dwelling houses erected thereon, that have since been torn away and frame buildings erected in their stead.

The first building of any connection, in which he engaged in the mercantile business for several years. Since 1867 it has been used for hotel purposes by Mrs. Conner. In 1843 there was a woolen mill built by a joint stock company on the present site of the distillery, which was operated with success for a number of years, manufacturing all kinds of woolen goods until in 1860 it was abandoned. The stream flouring mill built by Charles Hendry, in 1826 or 1827, was owned and operated by different men until in 1851, it was destroyed by fire. Another mill of the same ground, operated about one year and was also consumed by fire.

In 1849-50, the flouring mill known as the National Flouring Mill, was erected a little northwest of where the old woolen mill stood, by Christopher Shaffer. It contains three run of burs, two for flour and one for chopping feed. The capacity of the mill is one hundred barrels of flour per day. It has been owned and operated by several parties since its erection. Since 1871 it has been operated by Job Dillon. In 1862 the old woolen mill building was purchased by Christopher Shaffer, converted into a distillery, and has been used as such since that time. At present it is operated by William Henderson, and owned by the Shaffer heirs.

In 1837-8, the M.E. Church society erected a brick church building, which was used for church purposes by the society until 1869; they then tore away the old building, and erected the present frame structure for church uses, in which they worship. The Christian church society erected a church edifice in the village in 1869, which they hold their meetings in at present.

In 1854 Messrs. E. Combs and McCartney built the Hendrysburg flouring and saw mill at the east end of the village. At present it is owned and operated by Trimmer & Hill.

At present the village contains about eighty-five dwelling houses, with a population of about 375.

Page 362

It contains three dry goods stores, two grocery stores, one drug store, post-office, with David McCoy postmaster, two physicians, one dentist, two wagon shops, four blacksmith shops, one distillery, two saloons, two stream flouring mills, one with saw mill in connection, one livery and sale stable, two hotels, one school building containing four rooms, two churches, I.O.O.F. Lodge, Reading club, temperance organization, and one Grand Lodge.

Page 363

Salem M.E. Church

This society was organized in about 1810 or 1812, with eighteen or twenty members. They held their meetings in private residences until 1813 or 1814, they erected a hewed log church building near the western line of section ten, in Kirkwood township. Their benches in the house were small logs split in halves, the flat side shaved smooth, holes bored, and sticks put in for legs, which they used for seats for several years, then made seats of boards.

Their fire place was a box set in the middle of the house with dirt in, on which they made a fire place, and built a stone chimney in the center of the house. This house they used as a place to worship, until 1840; then they erected the present frame structure, situated near where the old log building stood, in which they hold their services. The society has been very prosperous. The membership at present is eighty. In 1846, on account of their number being great it was divided into two classes, and continues so at present.

Early Members

Mr. Honnold and wife, John Clark and wife, Mrs. Thos. Major, Mrs. Waddell, George Waddell, John McFadden and wife, Henrietta Murphy, Sarah Moore, Eleanor Waddell, John Fox, and many others.


Revs. Knox, Thorn, Archibald, Springer, Wolfe, C. Waddell, Geo. Waddell, Worthington, McIllyar, Huston, Vertican, Feitt, Coil, Shaw, Rhodes, Slutz, and many others have been ministers in the circuit. Rev. Strahl is the present pastor.

Class Leaders

The first class leader was John Fox; 2nd, Isaac Midkiff, who acted in that capacity for about twenty-five years; 3rd, Alex. Carr Skadden, for ten years; 4th, Samuel Douglass for six years; 5th, Earl Douglass for three years; 6th, Jonathan Perkins fifteen years. William G. Major has been leader of class No. 2 for ten years, and is still filling the position. John T. Grove is leader of class No. 1 at present.

Burying Ground

Near the church is the burying ground. In 1815, there was but one grave, and that was the grave of a man by the name of Dallas. But since that time many of the first settlers, or those that suffered at the hands of a pioneer life, have been laid in their long resting place in this cemetery. In passing by the ground it is plain to be seen that the monster death has been doing its work in that vicinity. In this burying ground can be seen a monument, erected by the citizens of the neighborhood in memory of Louisa C. Fox, who was murdered by Thomas Carr in 1869.

Biographical Sketches

Ralph Cowgill was born in Berks county, Pa [in] 1775. He went to Virginia when a young man and there learned the blacksmith trade. He married Mary Carter, of Virginia, and in 1806, he, with his wife and six children, moved to Belmont county, and located in Kirkwood township, on section thirty-one. His first improvement was a round log cabin, in which he lived for a few weeks, then he erected a hewed log house with shingle roof, (it being the first shingle roofed house in the township) in which he lived during the remainder of his life.

There is a hewed log barn still remaining on the farm in a good state of preservation, 26 x 63 feet, that was built by him in 1808. He owned one section of land (No. 31) and followed farming during his sojourn in Belmont county. He reared a family of nine children, viz: Margaret, Isaac, William, Aquilla J., Tamer, Jesse, Sarah, Eliza and Ralph. All are deceased except three, Isaac, Aquilla J. and Eliza. He died in 1840; his wife survived him until 1851.

Aquilla J. Cowgill, a son of the above named Ralph Cowgill, was born in Loudon county, Virginia, September 28, 1801. He came to Belmont county with his parents in 1806, as previously stated, and located on the farm where he is now living. His education was acquired in a log cabin school house that stood on his father's farm. He was reared a farmer and has followed farming during his life. He married Margaret Clark in 1842, and settled on the farm where he is now living. Their union resulted in two children, (sons). His wife died in 1856, and in 1857, he married Sarah Milner. They are spending their old days in peace, surrounded by all the comforts of life, and esteemed all who know them.

Page 364

Samuel Kirk, a son of William Kirk, was born in Chester county, Pennsylvania, June 6, 1792. When in his fifth year his father moved to Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and in 1813, with his family, migrated to Belmont county, Ohio; settled on a farm one-half mile northwest of Flushing, and remained there until his death, which occurred August 27, 1841. Our subject married Rachel Jones in 1815, built a cabin in the woods on a tract of land which he had purchased, located two miles west of Flushing, near where the village of Rock Hill now stands, and lived there until his death, October 8, 1877. His wife died April 11, 1872. They reared a family of five children: Levi, Sarah A., Edith, Wm. B. and Lydia H.

Levi, the eldest child, was born July 11, 1817, he married Hannah Russell, and died in North Lewisburg, Champaign county, Ohio, October 21, 1871, leaving no children. Sarah Ann is still living; has been married twice; first to John Clark, second to John Riggott; she survived them both, and is living one mile south of Rock Hill, in Flushing township. Edith married Westley Russell, by whom she had eleven children: Simeon, Rachel A., Levi R., Mary M., Luther, Adaline, Jemima, William, Arthur, Everet and Nora; herself and husband are deceased.

William B. Kirk married Ann Jenkins, November 27, 1845, by whom he has four children: Cyrus H., now merchandising in St. Clairsville; John J., now merchandising in Henrysburg; R. Willis, clerking in his father's store in Morristown, and Elwilla, now in her eighteenth year. Wm. B. Kirk was mustered into Co. B, 126th O.V.I., [Ohio Volunteer Onfantry] as captain, on the 7th of August, 1862. He served until June 25, 1863, and was discharged on account of ill health. At present he is keeping a store in Morristown.

Lydia H. Kirk, the youngest child of Samuel Kirk, married H.L. Raymond, by whom she had four children: Flora Ida, Frank R., Etheline and Frederick.

Page 376

Elihu Hollingsworth was the son of Levi Hollingsworth, and first saw the light in a small log house one and a half miles west of Flushing January 12, 1813. At the age of 18 Elihu went to learn the trade of hatter with his brother. Remained three years. July 11, 1839, he married Lydia Ann Fischer, and set up business on his own account in the town of Belmont. Children born: Mary L., March 20, 1842; David A., November 21, 1844; Lovina A., March 2, 1849; Benjamin F. born April 21, 1840, and died June 1, 1963. He removed to Flushing May 1, 1847, where he followed his business three years, and then engaged in general merchandising.

In 1867 he retired from business, and now lives on his income, having during his active life by industry and energy, accumulated a competence. Mr. Hollingsworth, with commendable zeal and public spirit, has kept a meteorological record from April, 1857, up to the present time.

Page 380

Joseph H. Douglass, son of George and Eleanor Douglass, was born in Warren township, Belmont county, December 14, 1844. His occupation from boyhood has been farming. On the 10th of February, 1872, he married Annie M. Stewart, who was born April 8, 1848. They have two children, viz: Charles D., who was born November 30, 1872, and Jennie E., born April 20, 1876. After his marriage he removed to where he now resides, one and a half miles northeast of Barnesville.

George Douglass, Jr., son of George and Eleanor Douglass, was born in Warren township, Belmont county, on the farm where his father yet resides. He married Martha E. Stamp March 10, 1863, and is the parent of four children: Richard G., James C., Joseph E. and Eleanor S.. After his marriage he removed to Morgan county, Ohio, where he remained three years, and then to where he now resides on the old Jones farm. His farm is underlaid with excellent coal. His principal business has been the growing of tobacco.


Surnames from Our Extended Ancestral Family in the 1880 Census for Kirkwood Township, Belmont County, Ohio

As I researched our maternal family's history, the further back I went, the more surnames I found, because each marriage added another. Below is an abbreviated version of the 1880 Head of Household Census for Kirkwood Township in Belmont County. It contains many surnames that appear in our extended ancestral family tree.

First, however, consider the size of the township:

Land area: 36 square miles
Total Population (In 2000): 353 (all rural)

I don't have information about what the population was in 1880, but have no data to suggest it was much different in 2000. Now consider the fact that all the surnames shown below appear in our extended ancestral family tree (those currently documented as members of our family are in red. Others may be shown to be members of our family as the research continues.)
FRIZZELL, William K.
GOODMAN, Leander
MAJOR, David
MAJOR, John S.
MAJOR, John W.
MAJOR, Nicholas
PERKINS, Samuel W.
PERKINS, Jonathon
ANDERSON, Charles C.
JONES, Josiah
PERKINS, Stephen
PERKINS, William
MAJOR, Thomas W.
MAJOR, William G.
ACTON, Fransis
ACTON, John M.
ACTON, Edward H.
ACTON, Catherine
ACTON, Henry C.ACTON, Jacob H.
MAJOR, Robert P.JONES, Henry A.
ACTON, William M.
JONES, Lorenzo D.
JONES, William M.
JONES, Susan J.

The details of the connection between those named above and our current family is either covered elsewhere in this blog or will be as the creation of the blog continues. For now, just be aware that in the early days of the township and the county, the primary mode of transportation was the horse and buggy, meaning that people seldom traveled more than about 50 miles from where they lived. Add to that the fact that their primary opportunity for socializing with people outside their immediate families would have revolved around church-related activities.

The combination of these two things frequently resulted in their marrying within their close geographical range, as well as within their own religious tradition. That explains why so many of the surnames listed above show up in our family tree, as well as the preponderance of them being members of the M.E. church.



What Was Day-to-day Life Like for Our Ancestral Pioneer Families?

For a glimpse into what life would have been like for our ancestors, you may enjoy reading an excerpt from the following publication.

The description below would date from just before the period when John Wesley McPherson, my generation’s GGGG grandfather and his son-in-law, Lewis Jones, each settled in Kirkwood Township. Thus, I think it’s fair to assume that their lives would have been similar to that described below. The same applies to our early Belmont County Cash family line and the others.


I'm taking a detour here from the History of Kirkwood Township to inject another interesting item:

Historical Collections of Ohio, by Henry Howe, Vol. I, © 1888

"Among the best sketches of backwoods life is that written by Mr. John S. Williams, editor of the American Pioneer, and published in October, 1843. In the spring of 1800 his father’s family removed from Carolina and settled with others on Glenn’s run, about six miles northeast of St. Clairsville. He was then a lad, as he relates, of seventy-five pounds weight. From his sketch, 'Our Cabin; or Life in the Woods,' we make some extracts.


Our Cabin Described —  Emigrants poured in from different parts, cabins were put up in every direction, and women, children and goods tumbled into them. The tide of emigration flowed like water through a breach in a mill-dam. Everything was bustle and confusion, and all at work that could work. In the midst of all this the mumps, and perhaps one or two other diseases, prevailed and gave us a seasoning.

Our cabin had been raised, covered, part of the cracks chinked, and part of the floor laid when we moved in, on Christmas day! There had not been a stick cut except in building the cabin. We had intended an inside chimney, for we thought the chimney ought to be in the house. We had a log put across the whole width of the cabin for a mantel, but when the floor was in we found it so low as not to answer, and removed it.

Here was a great change for my mother and sister, as well as the rest, but particularly my mother. She was raised in the most delicate manner in and near London, and lived most of her time in affluence, and always comfortable. She was now in the wilderness, surrounded by wild beasts, in a cabin with about half a floor, no door, no ceiling overhead, not even a tolerable sign for a fireplace, the light of day and the chilling winds of night passing between every two logs in the building, the cabin so high from the ground that a bear, wolf, panther, or any other animal less in size than a cow, could enter without even a squeeze.

Such was our situation on Thursday and Thursday night, December 25, 1800, and which was bettered but by very slow degrees. We got the rest of the floor laid in a very few days, the chinking of the cracks went on slowly, but the daubing could not proceed till weather more suitable, which happened in a few days; door-ways were sawed out and steps made of the logs, and the back of the chimney was raised up to the mantel, but the funnel of sticks and clay was delayed until spring.

Our family consisted of my mother, a sister, of twenty-two, my brother, near twenty-one and very weakly, and myself, in my eleventh year. Two years afterwards, Black Jenny followed us in company with my half-brother, Richard, and his family. She lived two years with us in Ohio, and died in the winter of 1803-4.

In building our cabin — it was set to front the north and south, my brother using my father’s pocket compass on the occasion. We had no idea of living in a house that did not stand square with the earth itself. This argued our ignorance of the comforts and conveniences of a pioneer life. The position of the house, end to the hill, necessarily elevated the lower end, and the determination of having both a north and south door added much to the airiness of the domicile, particularly after the green ash puncheons had shrunk so as to have cracks in the floor and doors from one to two inches wide.

At both the doors we had high, unsteady, and sometimes icy steps, made by piling up the logs cut out of the wall. We had as the reader will see, a window [in the drawing included in the original article], if it could be called a window, when, perhaps, it was the largest spot in the top, bottom, or sides of the cabin at which the wind could not enter. It was made by sawing out a log, placing sticks across, and then, by pasting an old newspaper over the hole, and applying some hog’s lard, we had a kind of glazing which shed a most beautiful and mellow light across the cabin when the sun shone on it. All other light entered at the doors, cracks and chimney.

Our cabin was twenty-four by eighteen. The west end was occupied by two beds, the centre of each side by a door, and here our symmetry had to stop, for on the opposite side of the window, made of clapboards, supported on pins driven into the logs, were our shelves. Upon these shelves my sister displayed, in ample order, a host of pewter plates, basins, and dishes, and spoons, scoured and bright. It was none of your new-fangled pewter made of lead, but the best London pewter, which our father himself bought of Townsend, the manufacturer. These were the plates upon which you could hold your meat so as to cut it without slipping and without dulling your knife. But, alas! The days of pewter plates and sharp dinner knives have passed away never to return.

To return to our internal arrangements. A ladder of five rounds occupied the corner near the window. By this, when we got a floor above, we could ascend. Our chimney occupied most of the east end; pots and kettles opposite the window under the shelves, a gun on hooks over the north door, four split-bottom chairs, three three-legged stools, and a small eight by ten looking-glass sloped from the wall over a large towel and comb-case. These, with a clumsy shovel and a pair of tongs, made in Frederick, with one shank straight, as the best manufacture of pinches and blood-blisters, completed our furniture, except a spinning-wheel and such things as were necessary to work with. It was absolutely necessary to have three-legged stools, as four legs of anything could not all touch the floor at the same time.

The completion of our cabin went on slowly. The season was inclement, we were weak-handed and weak-pocketed; in fact, laborers were not to be had. We got our chimney up breast-high as soon as we could, and got our cabin daubed as high as the joists outside. It never was daubed on the inside, for my sister, who was very nice, could not consent to “live right next to the mud.” My impression now is, that the window was not constructed till spring, for until the sticks and clay was put on the chimney we could possibly have no need of a window; for the flood of light which always poured into the cabin from the fireplace would have extinguished our paper window, and rendered it as useless as the moon at noonday.

We got a floor laid overhead as soon as possible, perhaps in a month; but when it was laid, the reader will readily conceive of its imperviousness to wind or weather, when we mention that it was laid of loose clapboards split from a red oak, the stump of which may be seen beyond the cabin. That tree grew in the night, and so twisting that each board laid on two diagonally opposite corners, and a cat might have shook every board on our ceiling.

It may be well to inform the unlearned reader that clapboards are such lumber as pioneers split with a frow, and resemble barrel staves before they are shaved, but are split longer, wider and thinner; of such our roof and ceiling were composed. Puncheons were planks made by splitting logs to about two and a half or three inches in thickness, and hewing them on one or both sides with the broad-axe. Of such our floor, doors, tables and stools were manufactured.

The eavebearers are those end logs which project over to receive the butting poles, against which the lower tier of clapboards rest in forming the roof. The trapping is the roof timbers, composing the gable end and the ribs, the ends of which appear in the drawing, being those logs upon which the clapboards lie. The trap logs are those of unequal length, above the eave bearers, which form the gable ends, and upon which the ribs rest. The weight poles are those small logs laid on the roof, which weigh down the course of clapboards on which they lie, and against which the next course above is placed. The knees are pieces of heart timber placed above the butting poles, successively, to prevent the weight poles from rolling off. . . . .

The evening of the first winter did not pass off as pleasantly as evenings afterwards. We had raised no tobacco to stem and twist, no corn to shell, no turnips to scrape; we had no tow to spin into rope-yarn, nor straw to plait for hats, and we had come so late we could get but few walnuts to crack. We had, however, the Bible, George Fox’s Journal, Barkley’s Apology, and a number of books, all better than much of the fashionable reading of the present day—from which, after reading, the reader finds he has gained nothing, while his understanding has been made the dupe of the writer’s fancy—that while reading he has given himself up to be led in mazes of fictitious imagination, and losing his taste for solid reading, as frothy luxuries destroy the appetite for wholesome food.

To our stock of books were soon after added a borrowed copy of the Pilgrim’s Progress, which we read twice through without stopping. The first winter our living was truly scanty and hard; but even this winter had its felicities. We had part of a barrel of flour which we had brought from Fredericktown. Besides this, we had part of a jar of hog's lard brought from old Carolina; not the tasteless stuff which now goes by that name, but pure leaf lard, taken from hogs raised on pine roots and fattened on sweet potatoes, and into which, while rendering, were immersed the boughs of the fragrant bay tree, that imparted to the lard a rich flavor.

Of that flour, shortened with this lard, my sister every Sunday morning, and at no other time, made short biscuit for breakfast—not these greasy gum-elastic biscuit we mostly meet with now, rolled out with a pin, or cut out with a cutter; or those that are, perhaps, speckled by or puffed up with refined lye called salæratus, but made out, one by one, in her fair hands, placed in neat juxtaposition in a skillet or spider, pricked with a fork to prevent blistering, and baked before an open fire—not half-baked and half-stewed in a cooking-stove. . . . .

The Woods about us —  In the ordering of a good Providence the winter was open, but windy. While the wind was of great use in driving the smoke and ashes out of our cabin, it shook terribly the timber standing almost over us. We were sometimes much and needlessly alarmed. We had never seen a dangerous looking tree near a dwelling, but here we were surrounded by the tall giants of the forest, waving their boughs and uniting their brows over us, as if in defiance of our disturbing their repose, and usurping their long and uncontested pre-emption rights.

The beech on the left often shook his bushy head over us as if in absolute disapprobation of our settling there, threatening to crush us if we did not pack up and start. The walnut over the spring branch stood high and straight; no one could tell which way it inclined, but all concluded that if it had a preference it was in favor of quartering on our cabin. We got assistance to cut it down. The axeman doubted his ability to control its direction, by reason that he must necessarily cut it almost off before it would fall.

He thought by felling the tree in the direction of the reader, along near the chimney, and thus favor the little lean it seemed to have, would be the means of saving the cabin. He was successful. Part of the stump still stands. These, and all other dangerous trees, were got down without other damage than many frights and frequent desertions of the premises by the family while the trees were being cut. The ash beyond the house crossed the scarf and fell on the cabin, but without damage. . . . . .

Howling Wolves — The monotony of the time for several of the first years was broken and enlivened by the howl of wild beasts. The wolves howling around us seemed to mean their inability to drive us from their long and undisputed domain. The bears, panthers and deer seemingly got miffed at our approach or the partiality of the hunters, and but seldom troubled us.

One bag of meal would make a whole family rejoicingly happy and thankful then, when a loaded East Indiaman will fail to do it now, and is passed off as a common business transaction without ever once thinking of the giver, so independent have we become in the short space of forty years! Having got out of the wilderness in less time than the children of Israel we seem to be even more forgetful and unthankful than they.

When spring was fully come and our little patch of corn, three acres, put in among the beech roots, which at every step contended with the shovel-plough for the right of soil, and held it too, we enlarged our stock of conveniences. As soon as bark would run (peel off) we could make ropes and bark boxes. These we stood in great need of, as such things as bureaus, stands, wardrobes, or even barrels, were not to be had. The manner of making ropes of linn bark was to cut the bark in strips of convenient length, and water-rot it in the same manner as rotting flax or hemp. When this was done the inside bark would peel off and split up so fine as to make a pretty considerably rough and good-for-but-little kind of a rope. Of this, however, we were very glad, and let no shipowner with his grass ropes laugh at us.

We made two kinds of boxes for furniture. One kind was of hickory bark with the outside shaved off. This we would take off all around the tree, the size of which would determine the calibre of our box. Into one end we would place a flat piece of bark or puncheon cut round to fit in the bark, which stood on end the same as when on the tree. There was little need of hooping, as the strength of the bark would keep that all right enough. Its shrinkage would make the top unsightly in a parlor now-a-days, but then they were considered quite an addition to the furniture.

A much finer article was made of slippery-elm bark, shaved smooth and with the inside out, bent round and sewed together where the ends of the hoop or main bark lapped over. The length of the bark was around the box, and inside out. A bottom was made of a piece of the same bark dried flat, and a lid, like that of a common band-box, made in the same way. This was the finest furniture in a lady’s dressing-room, and then, as now, with the finest furniture, the lapped or sewed side was turned to the wall and the prettiest part to the spectator. They were usually made oval, and while the bark was green were easily ornamented with drawings of birds, trees, etc., agreeably to the taste and skill of the fair manufacturer. As we belonged to the Society of Friends [Quakers], it may be fairly presumed that our band-boxes were not thus ornamented. . . . . .

Pioneer Food —  We settled on beech land, which took much labor to clear. We could do no better than clear out the smaller stuff and burn the brush, etc., around the beeches which in spite of the girdling and burning we could do to them, would leaf out the first year, and often a little the second. The land, however, was very rich, and would bring better corn than might be expected. We had to tend it principally with the hoe, that is, to chop down the nettles, the water-weed and the touch-me-not. Grass, careless, lambs-quarter and Spanish needles were reserved to pester the better prepared farmer.

We cleared a small turnip patch, which we got in about the 10th of August. We sowed in timothy seed, which took well, and next year we had a little hay besides. The tops and blades of the corn were also carefully saved for our horse, cow and the two sheep. The turnips were sweet and good, and in the fall we took care to gather walnuts and hickory nuts, which were very abundant. These, with the turnips which we scraped, supplied the place of fruit. I have always been partial to scraped turnips, and could not beat any three dandies at scraping them.

Johnny-cake, also, when we had meal to make it of, helped to make up our evening's repast. The Sunday morning biscuit had all evaporated, but the loss was partially supplied by the nuts and turnips. Our regular supper was mush and milk, and by the time we had shelled our corn, stemmed tobacco, and plaited straw to make hats, etc., etc., the mush and milk had seemingly decamped from the neighborhood of our ribs. To relieve this difficulty my brother and I would bake a thin Johnny-cake, part of which we would eat, and leave the rest till the morning. At daylight we would eat the balance as we walked from the house to work.

The methods of eating mush and milk were various. Some would sit around the pot, and every one take therefrom for himself. Some would set a table and each have his tincup of milk, and with a pewter spoon take just as much mush from the dish or the pot, if it was on the table, as he thought would fill his mouth or throat, then lowering it into the milk would take some to wash it down. This method kept the milk cool, and by frequent repetitions the pioneers would contract a faculty of correctly estimating the proper amount of each. Others would mix mush and milk together. . . . . .

To get Grinding done was often a great difficulty, by reason of the scarcity of mills, the freezes in winter and droughts in summer. We had often to manufacture meal (when we had corn) in anyway we could get the corn to pieces. We soaked and pounded it, we shaved it, we planed it, and at the proper season, grated it. When one of our neighbors got a hand-mill it was thought quite an acquisition to the neighborhood. [The absence of mills to grind the first harvests was a large problem. When finally available, some families used a small hand-mill, properly called a sweat mill, which took the hard labor of two hours to supply flour enough for one person a single day.] In after years, when in time of freezing or drought, we could get grinding by waiting for our turn no more than one day and a night at a horse-mill we thought ourselves happy.

To save meal we often made pumpkin bread, in which when meal was scarce the pumpkin would so predominate as to render it next to impossible to tell our bread from that article, either by taste, looks, or the amount of nutriment it contained. Salt was five dollars a bushel, and we used none in our corn bread, which we soon liked as well without it. Often has sweat ran into my mouth, which tasted as fresh and flat as distilled water. What meat we had at first was fresh, and but little of that, for had we been hunters we had no time to practice it.

We had no Candles, and cared but little about them except for summer use. In Carolina we had the real fat light-wood, not merely pine knots, but the fat straight pine. This, from the brilliancy of our parlor, on winter evenings, might be supposed to put not only candles, lamps, camphine, Greenough’s chemical oil, but even gas itself, to the blush. In the West we had not this but my business was to ramble the woods every evening for seasoned sticks, or the bark of the shelly hickory, for light. "“Tis true that our light was not as good as even candles, but we got along without fretting, for we depended more upon the goodness of our eyes than we did upon the brilliancy of the light."Source


I now return to the History of Kirkwood Township after the detour into the story above:THE KIRKWOOD METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Is the only church in Sewellsville. It was organized in 1818 by Rev. Thomas Ruckle, who preached in a little log cabin, near where the present church now stands. This building was also used as a school house. Previous to the organization, a class meeting was held at the home of Basil Ridgeway, and some of the members of the class were Thomas Frizzell, Mead Jarvis, Thomas Miller and Zachariah Marsh. Some of the early ministers were John Carper, William Knox, Thomas Taylor, Daniel Limerick, Pardon Cook and John McPherson, a local preacher.

During the winter of 1836-37, there was a noted revival at which 100 professed conversion and united with the church. This great meeting was successfully conducted largely through the efforts of a local preacher, named Charlie Waddell. Some of the principal ministers who have served this congregation are: C. D. Battelle, S. R. Brockunier, N. E. Worthington, Charles Thorne, R. S. Strahl and M. J. Slutz. The church property is valued at $2,000. The membership is about 140. The present pastor is Harland Appleton.

The following constitute the official board: Stewards - A. J. Wheaton, G. W. Warrick and George E. Bell; trustees, - L. J. Goodman, P. L. Bell, A. J. Wheaton, G. W. Warrick, L. G. Bell, Charles Shrader, D. A. Reynolds, and F. O. Clay; Sunday school officials - A. J. Wheaton, superintendent; R. T. Armstrong, assistant superintendent; Lessie Frizzell, secretary; Mattie Sheperd, chorister; L. J. Frizzell, librarian.


As heretofore stated, the first school was held in a log cabin which served likewise as a church. It had split puncheons for seats, without backs. The first teacher of whom we have any record was David Harris, who was subsequently Probate Judge of Belmont County. Mr. Harris built a cabin and opened a school in the autumn of 1829. Some of his successors were John Berry, Angeline McPherson and D. Moore. After the passage of the Ohio State school law, section 12 was set apart for school purposes.

Among the leading teachers in Sewellsville form 1847 were D. Moore, Charles Gordon, Mary Penn, Annie R. Livingstone, Eliza J. Kennon and Howard Anderson. T. M. Sewell also taught a select school in 1869. The present school house was built in 1869 at a cost of $1,400. The superintendent in 1902 is S. A. Kupfer. The school at present numbers 34. The directors are: Edgar Wheaton, Elliott Frizzell and Leander Frizzell.

There are no mills and factories in Sewellsville. The principal business of this town is conducted by merchants.

Some of the old citizens are Prof. T. M. Sewell, Nimrod Frizzell and L. J. Goodman.


Kirkwood Lodge. No. 446, F. & A. M. [Free & Accepted Masonry], was removed from Fairview, December, 1894, and a new hall was dedicated August 16, 1895. The officers at that time were: W. M., C. M. Ault; S. W., C. H. James; J. W., A. H. Lynn; secretary, W. M. Sells. The number of members is 40. The present officers are: W. M., J. M. Majors; S. W., Z. H. Howell; J. W., Dr. C. L. Rosengrant; treasurer, C. H. James; secretary, H. H. Murphy.

Mancruetta Lodge, No. 360, I.O.O.F., was first instituted in the "fifties" but surrendered its charter during the Rebellion [the Civil War], and was re-organized May 12, 1876. The first officers were: N. G., W. S. Henderson; V. G., Job Dillon; secretary, R. A. Heaney; treasurer, John Davidson. The present officers are: N. G., J. C. Rosamond; V. G., E. M. Acton; secretary, W. M. Sells; treasurer, A. E. James; trustees, - C. H. James, financial trustee, and C. W. Virtue and W. C. Wesley. The lodge has a membership of 60, and is in splendid financial condition."


Please refer to the disclaimer on the index page of this blog for a statement regarding the accuracy of - and documentation for - the information presented in this blog.

Last updated 10/22/2010

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