VAN WERT COUNTY

 

Page 719

 

   VAN WERT COUNTY was formed April 1, 1820, from old Indian territory.  The surface is level, and the top soil loam, and the sub-soil blue marl and very deep, and, what is remarkable, of such tenacity that water will not sink through it.  Hence, in wet seasons, the crops are poor from water standing on the soil.  When the country is cleared and drained, this difficulty will be obviated.  The soil is very rich, and the surface covered with a great variety of timber.  The principal product is Indian corn.

 

   Area about 400 square miles.  In 1887 the acres cultivated were 113,001; in pasture, 15,839; woodland, 63,566; lying waste, 1,202; produced in wheat, 222,667 bushels; rye, 13,763; buckwheat, 692; oats, 396,763; barley, 502; corn, 1,201,750; broom corn, 1,000 lbs. brush; meadow hay, 17,055 tons; clover hay, 4,926; flax, 8,000 lbs. fibre; potatoes, 54,454 bushels; butter, 446,769 lbs.; cheese, 150; sorghum, 5,222 gallons; maple syrup, 326; honey, 8,551 lbs.; eggs, 571,773 dozen; grapes, 3,878 lbs.; wine, 36 gallons; sweet potatoes, 354 bushels; apples, 16,506; peaches, 29, pears, 177; wool, 49,388 lbs.; milch cows owned, 6,141.  School census, 1888, 9,545; teachers, 254.  Miles of railroad track, 102.

 

 

Townships

And Census

1840

1880

 

Townships

And Census

1840

1880

Harrison,

168

1,481

 

Ridge,

211

1,587

Hoagland,

  40

1,180

 

Tully,

  99

1,610

Jackson,

 

   800

 

Union,

 

1,026

Jennings,

  88

1,236

 

Washington,

  47

3,815

Liberty,

117

1,553

 

Willshire,

434

1,963

Pleasant,

192

5,413

 

York,

181

1,365

 

 

   Population of Van Wert in 1830, 39; 1840, 1,577; 1860, 10,238; 1880, 23,028; of whom 19,072 were born in Ohio; 888, Pennsylvania; 606, Indiana; 241, New York; 215, Virginia; 73, Kentucky; 768, German Empire; 329, England and Wales; 109, Ireland; 57, France; 45, British America; 9, Scotland; and 3, Norway and Sweden.  Census, 1890, 29,671.

 

   Three of the northwestern counties of the State, Williams, Paulding and Van Wert, were named from the three captors of Major ANDRE.  The details of the capture will be found under the lead of Paulding county.  ISAAC VAN WERT, who gave name to this county, was a farmer in West Chester county, N. Y., and was born in Greenburg in 1760, and died May 23, 1828, aged 68.  For many years he was an active member of the Greenburg church, and served as chorister until his death.  The three captors for their service received the thanks of Congress and an annual pension of $200 and a silver medal bearing on one side the word “Fidelity,” and on the other the legend “Vincit Amor Patria.”  He spelt his name Van Wart.  A monument was erected to his memory by the people of Greenburg.

 

   Below is the entire description of the county as it appeared in our original edition.  It was written for it by Mr. James Watson RILEY, who laid out Van Wert, and of whom a notice is given under the head of Celina, Mercer county.

 

SKETCH OF VAN WERT CONTY IN 1846.

 

[From the Old Edition.]

 

   Van Wert received its present boundaries and name in the spring of 1820, two years after the lands of the northwestern part of Ohio were purchased from the Indians, by the treaty of St. Mary’s.  With most of the fourteen counties

 

Page 720

 

formed by the same act it was almost an entire wilderness, the surveyors’ marks upon the township lines being, with a few exceptions, the only traces of civilization in the whole region.

 

   The ridge upon which stand the towns of Van Wert and Section Ten is a subject of curiosity to strangers.  It is of great utility to the people of this county, and the others (Putnam, Hancock, Wyandot to Seneca), through which it passes, being at all seasons the best natural road in this part of Ohio.  It is composed entirely of sand and gravel, and has an average width of about half a mile.  Its highest point is generally near the south side, from which it gradually slopes to the north.  The timber is such as is usually found upon the river bottoms, and although upon it are as large trees as elsewhere, yet in their character they form a striking contrast with the forest on either side.

 

   At a depth of about sixteen feet, through sand and gravel, pure cold water is found, while through the clayey soil in the country adjacent it is often necessary to dig from twenty to forty feet.  The ridge passes out at the northwest corner of the county and is temporarily lost in the high sandy plain near Fort Wayne.  Crossing the Maumee, it can be distinctly traced, running in a northeasterly direction; when, although frequently eccentric and devious in its course, it runs nearly parallel with the river, being distant from it from one to ten miles; it is again lost in the sandy plains nearly north of Napoleon.  Has not this ridge been the boundary of a great bay of Lake Erie! When its waters were, perhaps, 180 feet higher than now?  The sand, gravel, round smooth stones and shells, all bear evidence of having been deposited by water, and the summit of the ridge is everywhere at the same level, or relative altitude.

 

   Van Wert in 1846.—Van Wert, the county-seat, is 136 miles northwest of Columbus, and was founded in 1837, by James Watson RILEY, Esq.  It is handsomely situated on a natural ridge, elevated about twenty feet above the general surface of the country, on a fork of the Little Auglaize.  It contains 2 stores, 1 grist and 2 saw mills, and about 200 inhabitants.

 

   The site of the town of Van Wert has evidently been an Indian town, or a place for winter quarters; the timber standing when first visited by the writer, and probably by white men, in 1825, was all small and evidently of a growth of less than fifty years, and several wooden houses, covered with bark, were in pretty good repair when the town was laid out in 1837; numerous graves, on a commanding bluff upon the bank of the creek, as well as the deep-worn trails upon the ridge up and down the creek, and in various other directions, bear witness that this deeply sequestered yet pleasant spot, unknown to the whites in all the wars, from ST. CLAIR’s defeat to the close of the late war, and, in fact, until after the treaty of St. Mary’s, was cherished by the Indians as a peaceful and quiet home, where they could in security leave their women and children when they sallied out upon the warpath, or hunting excursions.

 

   At the time of laying out the town plat an old Indian of the Pottawatomie tribe was encamped near, and told the writer that he had with his family spent forty winters there and had expected there to leave his bones; but, added he, the game will soon disappear after your chain has passed over the ground; in a few days I shall take my leave, and, added he, while tears almost choked his utterance, I shall never return again to this place, and the haunts of the deer, the bear, and the raccoon, will soon be broken up, and brick houses take the place of my wigwam!!  This Indian had been a brave, said “he owned a farm on the river Raisin, in Michigan, which he bought from the government.”  He had a red-haired French woman, of near his own age, a prisoner taken from Montreal, in infancy, for his wife; but every winter he returned to his native haunts.

 

   Soon after the first settlement of Van Wert a spring of clear pure well-water was found, which had been carefully hidden years before by the Indians with a piece of bark about six feet square.  This bark had been peeled from a black walnut, flattened out, the earth scraped away from around the spring for about sixteen

 

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inches in depth, the bark laid flat over all, and then the whole carefully covered with earth so that no trace of the spring could be seen.  After removing the bark the spring again overflowed and resumed its old channel to the creek.

 

   CAPT. JAMES RILEY was the first white man who settled in Van Wert county; he moved his family into the forest, on the St. Mary’s river, in January, 1821, and began clearing up a farm and the erection of mills.  In 1822 he laid out a town on the west bank of the river, opposite his mills, and named it Willshire in honor of his benefactor, who redeemed him from African slavery.  His sufferings during his shipwreck on the coast of Africa, and subsequent captivity among the Arabs, have been detailed in a volume by himself, with which the public are already familiar.  In 1823 he was elected as a single representative to the State legislature, from the territory which now comprises the counties of Preble, Miami, Darke, Shelby, Mercer, Allen, Van Wert, Putnam, Paulding, Defiance, Williams, Henry, Wood and Lucas, fourteen counties, which now, with a largely increased ratio of votes, send eight representatives and four senators.  During that session, which is justly pointed to as pre-eminent in usefulness to that of any one previous or subsequent, he bore a conspicuous part, and assisted in maturing the four great measures of the session, viz.:

 

   The act for improving the State by navigable canals.

 

   The revenue act, in which the first attempt to establish an ad valorem system of taxation was made.

 

   The act providing a sinking fund, and an act for the encouragement of common schools.

 

   The last named and so much of the first as relates to the Miami canal, were originated by him, and called his measures.

 

           Capt. RILEY lived at Willshire seven years, but his health and constitution had been destroyed by his sufferings in Africa, and in the spring of 1828 he was carried to Fort Wayne for medical aid; after lingering on the verge of death for several months he was taken on a bed to New York, and in 1830 had so far recovered as to resume his nautical life.  In 1831 he made a voyage to Mogadore, to visit his benefactor, Mr. WILLSHIRE, established a trade there, and subsequently made nine voyages to that country, during one of which he sent his vessel home in charge of another and travelled through Spain, to Montpelier, in France, for the benefit of surgical aid.  The winter of 1839-40 he spent at Mogadore and the city of Morocco, which latter town he visited in company with Mr. WILLSHIRE, and in consequence of this visit the emperor granted him a license to trade with the people of his seaports, during life, upon highly favorable conditions, never before granted to any Christian merchant.  On the 10th of March, 1840, he left New York in his brig, the Wm. Tell, for St. Thomas, in the West Indies, died when three days out, and was consigned to the ocean.  The vessel returned to Mogadore for the cargo provided by him, and was wrecked and lost while at anchor in the harbor; all on board, save one, perishing.

 

   Willshire, founded in 1822, by Capt. James RILEY, is in the southwest corner of the county, on the St. Mary’s river, and contains 1 church, 2 stores, 2 grist and 1 saw mill, and about 100 inhabitants.  Section Ten is on the Miami Extension canal, and has a good canal water-power, as well as being the best accessible point on the canal from the county towns of Van Wert, Putnam and Allen.  It was laid out in 1845 by O. H. BLISS and B. F. HOLLISTER, and has about 300 inhabitants.—Old Edition.

 

   VAN WERT, county-seat of Van Wert, about 130 miles northwest of Columbus, at the crossing of the P. Ft. W. & C. and C. J. & M. Railroads.

 

   County officers, 1888:  Auditor, Lewis A. HARVEY; Clerk, Charles F. MANSHIP; Commissioners, Albert J. ROLLER, William FRECK, John C. ROBINSON; Coroner, Alexander S. KIRKPATRICK; Infirmary Directors, Abraham ALSPAUGH, Andrew J. STEWART, Andrew LYBOLD; Probate Judge, Barritt J. BROTHERTON; Prosecuting Attorney, Jacob Y. TODD; Recorder, Jesse W. BAIRD; Sheriff, Isaac

 

Page 722

 

 

Jas. J. Ream, Photo, 1888.

CENTRAL VIEW IN VAN WERT.

 

 

Page  723

 

R. TUDOR; Surveyor, Marion P. McCOY; Treasurer, John F. SIDLE.  City officers, 1888: J. O. BROWDER, Mayor; Henry ROBINSON, Clerk; Jacob FOX, Treasurer; Geo. W. CLIPPINGER, Marshal; A. N. GRANDSTAFF, Street Commissioner; Geo. E. WELLS, Solicitor.  Newspapers: Bulletin, Republican, SUMMERSETT & ARNOLD, editors and publishers; Republican, Republican. E. L. & T. C. WILKINSON, editors and publishers; Gazette, Prohibition, C. E. DETTER, editor and publisher; Times, Democratic, Geo. W. KOHN & W. H. TROUP, editors.  Churches: 1 Methodist, 1 Baptist, 1 Catholic, 1 Presbyterian, 2 Lutheran, 1 Evangelistic, 1 German Reformed, 1 Friends.

 

   Manufactures and Employees.—Eagle Stave Co., staves and heading, 78; H. BUTLER & Co., staves and heading, 28; Oil Well Supply Co., sucker rods, etc., 20; J. A. GLEASON & Brother, wagon wood-work, etc., 8; A. & F. GLEASON, building material, 14; People’s Milling Association, flour, etc., 6; D. SPANGLER, building material, 5, RUPRIGHT Brothers, drain tile, 6; Van Wert Foundry and Machine Works, foundry work, etc., 16; L. F. ROSS, drain tile, 5; Union Mills Flouring Co., flour, etc., 5; W. A. CLARK, flour, etc., 4.—State Report, 1888.

 

   Population in 1850, 268; in 1860, 1,015; in 1870, 2,625; in 1890, 5,548.  School census, 1888, 1,614; D. E. COWGILL, school superintendent.  Capital invested in industrial establishments, $215,000.  Value of annual product, $735,000.—Ohio Labor Statistics, 1887.

 

   The town and county at this time are highly prosperous.  The industries of the city are largely of wood.

 

HISTORICAL MISCELLANY.

 

   The reminiscences of W. Willshire RILEY (whose father made the first settlement in Van Wert county) are very interesting and instructive in the graphic pictures they give of the journey into the Ohio wilderness, and the manners and customs of the first settlers.  They have been published in the “County History,” from which we make the following extracts:

 

OUTRAGES ON TRAVELLERS.

 

    My father removed his family from Upper Middletown, Middlesex county, Conn., in May, 1820, to the town of Chillicothe, O., in two-horse covered wagons via. New York city; thence through New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Md., and thence followed the line of the Cumberland or National Road (which was being built in different sections, and large gangs of Irish laborers with some negroes were at work).  These men often committed outrages on travellers by felling trees across the road, and demanding pay for their removal.  They tried the game on father, but as he was a large and powerful man, well armed and resolute, he soon taught them better manners, and we were suffered to pass, where others had been forced to pay these highwaymen.  There were very few houses (cabins) along the road, and our journey was very slow.  We usually encamped at night, sleeping in our wagons, building camp fires and setting a watch to guard against horse thieves, then numerous in the mountains.  Near the top of Laurel Hill we passed a new grave, surrounded with new pickets made out of oak, said to be the grave of a traveller murdered for his horse and money but a few days before. . . .

 

A FAMILY DISGRACE.

 

    We crossed the Scioto river, and went, via Springfield and Troy, to Piqua, on the Great Miami river.  Here were a few log-cabins strung along the west bank.  A hewed two-story log-house was TOMPKIN’S TAVERN, where we took lodging, one stone house, the old Council House, occupied by Dr. SHAPPIE as a residence, John JOHNSTON, Esq. (Indian agent), Samuel YOUNG, Stephen WIDNEY, an Irish gentlemen, and some few others.  While we were at supper, in rushed Mrs. WIDNEY, wringing her hands, crying out: "Oh, gentlemen, my poor son John is lost in the woods; och hone! och hone!  What shall I do?  The opossums will kill him, and the deer will eat him; och hone! och hone!  It will be such a disgrace to the family!”  All turned out, fired guns, made a bonfire, and in about half an hour John WIDNEY made his appearance, a strapping fellow of sixteen years of age.

 

“DEVIL’S RACE GROUND.”

 

    Proceeding on their journey, Capt. RILEY’s party arrived, in January, 1821, at the temporary cabin which had been prepared for them, “about one-fourth of a mile south of the present bridge in the town of Willshire.” . . . . The wolves prowled around us all night, keeping the children pretty well scared.  This was the first night of the first settlers in Van Wert county at the “Devil’s Race Ground.”  The winter proved rather a mild

 

Page 724

one, and by spring a large two-story cabin had been built on the east bank of the river, at the foot of the rapids, near the site of the mill.  This cabin was, I think, sixty feet in length, built in three sections of twenty feet each.  The floors were split and hewed puncheons, with clapboard doors, with windows with sash and glass, the first glass windows seen north of Piqua.

 

A GUARDIAN SPIRIT.

 

    The woods swarmed with Indians, who came to grind their knives and tomahawks on the grindstone, the only one north of Piqua.  They would camp around for weeks, but we never allowed them to have any whiskey, although it was always on hand by the barrel, and each hand had to have his rations.  They always treated us with the utmost kindness.  My mother often doctored their papooses, and they appreciated it.  My father’s portrait, a very fine likeness, looking straight at the beholder, hung in our big room.  The Indians had all seen him while surveying, and all crowded in to see him, or his spirit, as they believed was there to report to him in the woods that they were depredating upon his fields or insulting his family.  Finding that to be the case, he did not deny it, and in the whole eight years that we were surrounded by thousands of them, we were never injured to the value of a dollar, but treated politely and kindly by all tribes.

 

A GRAND RAISING.

 

    During the winter, men were engaged hewing and hauling timber for a large frame grist mill.  Father and his surveyors were in the forests on the Auglaize until the time for raising the frame of the mill arrived, when all hands came in, and invitations were sent to Fort Wayne, St. Mary’s, and Fort Recovery, and great preparations were made for their entertainment by the hunters and Indians bringing in venison, wild turkeys, ducks, geese, and plenty of wild honey, maple-sugar and molasses, not forgetting eggs and whiskey with which to make egg-nog, without which no crowd could be gotten together; all used it, and tobacco, when they could get it, except my father, brother, and the Quakers in his employ, Messrs. LOUIS and POWELL, who used neither.  On the appointed day, people came from Fort Wayne, Fort Recovery, St. Mary’s and Piqua, to the number of about fifty, which, with the surveyor, settlers and millwright, swelled the number to over one hundred.  But very few had assisted in raising a frame of such large timbers; they were very awkward.

 

    The frame of the mill had been partly raised when some of the timbers fell, fortunately without injuring anyone, although Capt. RILEY narrowly escaped being crushed to death.  All agreed to adjourn in gratitude for their narrow escape and complete the raising the next day.  Accordingly brush and bark camps were made along the bank of the river to sleep in over night.  Long tables were set out, made by putting legs or pins through slabs, and standing them in rows, with similar ones not so high for seats.  With abundance of provisions, well cooked, and good coffee, all served in tin cups, and on tin plates, all partook of a hearty meal before dark.

 

A MOONLIGHT DANCE.

 

    Then they determined to have a dance on the green by torch and moonlight; bright fires were burning, so that the smoke might drive away mosquitoes and give light, and many hickory bark torches, held by lookers-on, which they would swing furiously through the air to rekindle once in a while, afforded a fine light, and to all a novel, grand and beautiful sight.  A man named FRESHOUR, from towards Fort Recovery, furnished music on a violin, and, as there were no women to dance, men personated them by wearing their chip hats or fur caps.  The dances were Scotch reels, Irish jigs, and Old Virginia hoe-downs, and, as there was ample room, many were dancing at one time.  Their joints were limbered by occasional tin cups of egg-nog.  One man, Fielding CORBIN, who had all day been lying down groaning with rheumatism, became so much excited with the dance, or the stimulating effects of the nog, that he forgot his lameness when an Irish jig was played, and jumped up and danced it to perfection, touching every note, keeping perfect time, and excelling all, so that ever after the settlers called him LIMBER JIMMY.  Many of the company danced until daylight, and in the morning, in a few hours, the frame was raised in sections, a hearty dinner partaken, and all started for their homes, delighted with the idea that they would soon have corn meal without pounding, and that they had been to the raising of the first frame building ever erected north of Dayton, Ohio.  The irons and millstones were hauled from Dayton, taking four yoke of cattle to haul them through mud and swamps, which they had to bridge with corduroy (poles laid crossways).

 

MULTITUDES OF FISH.

 

    Finally the mill was set running, and people came from all quarters with bags of corn and some buckwheat (no wheat had been raised as yet) from great distances to get their corn ground, camping out when more than a day’s travel.  The race was one-quarter of a mile in length, and no sooner was it closed at the mill than the fish began to accumulate below the dam, which was eight feet high, and they could not be sent over.  That being the only obstruction from Lake Erie, the river seemed to be perfectly filled with pike, pickerel, lake salmon, white fish, large muskallonge, black bass and suckers.  Father saw that by opening his waste gates at the mill and letting the water in at the dam, he could soon have the race full, when, by shutting the upper gate and opening the lower a little, they would be on dry land, and could be picked up with the

 

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hand.  He immediately set men to make barrels, and dispatched a two-horse wagon to Piqua for salt.  Opening his gates, the fish fairly swarmed, until they became so thick that, with a dip-net, they could be thrown out as fast as a man could handle his net.  Owing to the time taken by the team, the fish were so thick that they began to die in great quantities.  Father caught and salted all that he could with the salt on hand, raised the gate into the pond, and let them go; thus losing an opportunity to have made a fine fortune for that time.  The salt did not arrive for several weeks, as he had to go to Dayton, ninety miles and back.  The mill proved of inestimable value to the surrounding country, supplying the settlers with corn meal and sawing lumber, which was rafted down to Fort Wayne and Defiance.  Capt. RILEY, however, did not reap much benefit from the enterprise.

 

A SECOND BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.

 

    Settlers began to arrive, and about 1824 a Mr. HOOVER settled on the road to Shane’s Crossing, about a mile south of Willshire.  He came from Pennsylvania, and brought with him a tin-plate stove, the first one ever seen in the country—a great curiosity.  Next came Ansel BLOSSOM, from Maine.  He had a wife named Mercy, and a large family.  He had taught school in Maine, and imagined himself a second Benjamin FRANKLIN, and imitated him even to the sticking his thumbs in his waistcoat armholes, and on no account would go faster than a walk, even to escape a thunder shower, as it was undignified to run.  And to make sure that his children would bear great names—I will give such of them as I remember, in the order of their ages, I believe, viz.: Horatio Gates, Edward Preble, Ira Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Smith Mathias, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams; Catharine Bethiah, and Mary—don’t remember the other.  Benjamin worked for father, and the rest, clearing their land and farming.  The first wedding was that of Philip TROUTNER and Miss BOLENBAUGH.  About a week before, Mr. BLOSSOM, by his own vote, became justice of the peace, and was entitled to perform the marriage ceremony.  Philip had postponed his nuptials rather than go to St. Mary’s or Fort Wayne, but one morning the squire, on going to his milk house, saw a “Weathersfield kitten,” i.e., polecat, quietly drinking milk from a milk pan, when he very deliberately walked into the house and asked Mercy to hand him the fire shovel.  To her inquiry, “What do you want it for?” he replied, “You’ll be addressed presently.”  He found the animal with his head over the pan, and brought the shovel down upon his neck, cramming his head into the milk, intending to drown him; but the animal gave him such a sprinkling as to render him blind for a time, and to perfume his clothes, including his only white cotton shirt, with a high collar, which he wore on great occasions starched, so as to give his bald head the appearance of being held up by the ears.  He instantly called for Mercy to help him into the house, and changed his clothes as soon as possible, to deodorize them by burying.  This caused Poor Phil, as he was called, to put off his wedding, the whole settlement having heard of the squire’s battle with the odoriferous little animal.

 

“MOST GREAT MEN WERE BALD.”

 

    Ansel BLOSSOM was peculiar even in his having the ague, chills or shakes all together, and instead of wrapping up in blankets he would take off his coat, and shake until the perspiration would stand in beads upon his bald head and smooth-shaven face, so that children often went to enjoy the sight when told the squire had pulled off his coat to shake.  One night, just after he had been elected justice, he spent the evening with my father.  The subject of great men was his theme.  He remarked, “Capt. RILEY, have you ever noticed that most all great men were bald?  I remember many were.  Julius CĂSAR of old, our John Quincy ADAMS, and also Benjamin FRANKLIN, two of our decidedly great men, are bald.”  Raising his hat, which he always wore even in the house, “Did you ever notice that I am bald?”  Father humored his conceit, and told him that in many respects he reminded him of FRANKLIN, etc.  He left for home through the woods.  He heard some one call to him “Who, who, who, who, who are you, ah?”  “I am Esquire Ansel BLOSSOM.”  “Who, who, who, ah,” was repeated from a limb, and he heard the cracking of the mandibles of a huge white owl, the emblem of wisdom.

 

HELL LOCATED.

 

The first religious services were held at our house by missionaries, who visited Fort Wayne whenever the Indians were to receive their annuity, when there were a great many Indians and traders assembled from all parts of the country.  The missionaries were generally Methodists, but every denomination was invited by my mother to hold meetings (she being a Congregationalist); one, Mr. ANTREM, a Methodist preacher, most frequently.  He was a large, powerful man, and was considered a revivalist.  The Holy Spirit, as he called it, manifested its saving power by giving ladies what they called the jerks, which would commence with a loud groaning, and then the head would jerk back and forth, causing their long hair, which they braided, to crack like a whip-lash, they jumping up and down and shouting, while the preacher called on the congregation to alternately sing and pray.  He would exhort them, telling that hell was raging just beneath them with fire and brimstone.  “Yes,” said FRESHOUR; “I know it’s just under Shane’s prairie, ‘cause I dug a well last week, and the water was so full of brimstone and sulphur that they could not use it, and it turned every-

 

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thing black, and caved in.  I don’t believe but hell’s right under there.”  To this awful discovery ANTREM quoted several passages from the Bible; read from DANTE, John BUNYAN and MILTON.  Several young women from the prairie jerked until they fell exhausted, frothering at the mouth, with every nerve twitching.  They were pronounced by ANTREM to be most powerfully converted; and that appeared to be the uniform working of the Spirit at all his meetings in Ohio, Indiana or Kentucky.

 

A QUEER COFFIN.

 

    In the winter of 1841 there died of pneumonia a poor fellow of the name of Jacob D--.  His wife was too poor to purchase a shroud or coffin.  Some of the neighbors were consulted as to what should be done; they advised that a clean shirt and white drawers be substituted for a shroud.  For a coffin, in absence of planks, it was recommended that a white oak tree be felled, six to seven feet cut off, split in the middle, each half dug out trough fashion, and the body placed within.  These recommendations were adopted, and the next day a funeral procession, consisting of four men, two women, a yoke of oxen and a sled, upon which was placed the strangely-coffined corpse, proceeded to the grave at the headwaters of Blue creek.  Here poor Jake was reverently slid feet foremost into his last resting-place, and the grave duly filled.

 

   In the summer of 1854 that terrible scourge, the ASIATIC CHOLERA, became epidemic throughout the country; in some localities the mortality was very great; in Chicago over 900 died, in Brooklyn 650.  The epidemic spread throughout Ohio, with more or less fatal results in different parts of the State; the greatest fatalities were in the Black Swamp region, and an account of its ravages in one locality is typical of all others.  A description of the conditions preceding its advent, and its results in Willshire, is given by Dr. J. W. PEARCE, in the “Van Wert County History,” from which the following abridged account is taken:

 

WEATHER EXTREMES.

 

    The winter preceding the epidemic had been unusually cold.  Rivers, creeks and fountains of water were frozen, and when the spring freshets came the St. Mary’s river rose to overflowing, and being gorged with ice and driftwood the waters spread out and thousands of acres of land became inundated.

 

    This was followed by a season of drought.  From the latter part of May until July 28 no rain fell; everything was dried up by the scorching rays of the cloudless sun.

 

GLOOMY APPREHENSIONS.

 

The condition of our village, like all others unprovided with town ordinances, was in a most unhealthy condition.  Our streets, alleys and byways were filled with animal and vegetable remains, and the laws of hygiene were entirely overlooked.  Thus it was when hot weather and drought set in.  The atmosphere in time became surcharged with malaria, or the germ of disease, which commenced pouring out its unmeasured fury on the fatal 19th.  At this date, Dame Nature, with all her surrounding concomitants, appeared unmistakably to shadow forth something unusual.  Men’s countenances were overshadowed with fearful suspense, and there was a fearful looking for something out of the common order of things.  The red glare and almost scathing heat of the sun’s rays were poured down, and reflected back, as if in mockery, from the already parched earth.  The cattle went lowing to and for, as if in search of food and water.  The birds flew screaming through the air, as though pursued by some demon of hunger.  The very dogs, as if in mockery of the fearful doom that awaited us, sent up from their kennels their doleful howls.  Willshire up to this time had remained in stata quo, whilst her people retained their accustomed measure of the milk of human kindness and their liberal share of hospitality and generous feeling, for which she had always been proverbial; yet we must confess that, in point of morals and religion, Willshire had never been so low.

 

UNACCOUNTABLE PHENOMENON.

 

    The first case was that of a hard-working, also hard-drinking man, who was attacked on the evening of July 19, and expired within a few hours.  Dr. PEARCE says: “We will call attention to one of the most remarkable, as also the most unaccountable phenomenon connected with the history of cholera, viz., the migration or disappearance of the entire feathered tribe, together with the house-flies.  By the 25th of the month not a bird or house-fly could be seen or heard anywhere, and they remained in blissful seclusion until about August 7, when our ears were again solaced by the merry song and musical chirp of the birds.  But, alas for Willshire, out of a population of about seventy-five souls, forty had migrated to that ‘bourne from whence no traveller returns.’”  On the 21st, at the suggestion of L. D. PEARCE, a committee, consisting of Ira BLOSSOM, R. McMANNIS and Willis MAJOR, was negotiated with to oversee the burying of the dead, and to assist those in distress, as occasion might require.  And never in the history of any age did three great spirits merit a greater share of gratitude than did this brave

 

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trio, as they went forth in the discharge of their perilous undertaking.  No money consideration alone could have induced them to enter the cabin of STARKER, and remove therefrom five dead bodies, already in an advanced stage of decomposition, and that, too, after they had received orders to fire the building.

 

    They believed, however, that humanity and order demanded of them a different course.  Two of them have long since gone to their reward.  All lived, however, to receive the plaudit and homage they so richly deserved from a generous community.  At this time, Dr. MELCHEIMER and myself were the only practising physicians in town, and, as might be expected, our sleep we got in the saddle.  Dr. PEARCE thus relates the sickness and death of his wife:

 

RAPID COURSE OF THE DISEASE.

 

    A short time after we had left the house, a lady friend called for medicine.  Mrs. PEARCE at this time was in apparent good health, and left her parlor for the office, where she prepared the lady’s medicine.  On turning to hand her the same, she was noticed to reel and stagger, when, on beholding her countenance, the lady was horrified to see the change from the florid red to a dark leaden hue.  Mrs. P. was now in the last stages of cholera, and was led to her bed in a dying condition.  Messengers were immediately dispatched for us, where we were found seven miles in the country.  By the fleetness of our horse, we were able to be by her bedside in a few minutes, when and where she expired within a three hours’ illness.

 

    A strange coincidence connected with her death: one hour after Mrs. PEARCE had ceased to breathe, as she lay with her hands crossed upon her bosom, so powerful had been the contraction of the muscular system during the last throes of the fell destroyer, that the innate action of the nervo-vital fluid, brought to bear upon the extensor muscle of the arm, was sufficient to raise the right arm from her bosom, and lay it at the full length upon my breast as we sat by her bedside.  Nevertheless life had been extinct for one hour.

 

A DISAGREEABLE SURPRISE.

 

    We had a poor drunken fellow in our town called “Bill.”  To get drunk and whip his wife was the order of his time.  He was a terror to his family, and a pest of the town.  Bill took the cholera, and we were called to see him.  This was the first time he had ever been sick, and to him it was a disagreeable surprise.  This was our time, as we verily believed, to assist him in passing in his checks; hence we rolled up eight or ten pills of assafœtida and red pepper, and ordered them to be given two hours apart, and tried as best we could to prepare the mind of the prospective widow for the great change that awaited the little family circle, and departed.

 

    On calling around in due time to see if Bill was still alive, to our great surprise and no little chagrin we found him about well, and in due time he was restored to his whiskey and shillalah; and it has ever been a question with us whether Bill got well from pure contrariness, or whether assafœtida and red pepper was the proper treatment for cholera.

 

    Mother Ruby lay dead three days, one mile from town, before burial, wrapped in a sheet.  She was buried in her own garden.

 

PROFITABLE PHILANTHROPY.

 

    On the 22d of the month, the old Widow DUTCHER, a stranger to fear, who kept a saloon, agreed to open her doors for the reception of all in distress, upon condition that she be allowed to go anywhere in town to take what she needed for their benefit.  This appeared reasonable, and the arrangement was entered into.  The old lady’s house was soon filled with cholera patients, six of whom died.  But mark the sequel.  When the disease subsided, and the people began to return with their families to their deserted homes, they had nothing to eat.  The old woman had appropriated the entire stock of provisions to her own use, and had laid in a stock of groceries and provisions sufficient to stand a five-year siege.  Nevertheless, she received our united thanks.

 

OUTRAGEOUS INHUMANITY.

 

    George MILLER found he was taking the cholera, and left for his sister’s in the country, where he was refused admission.  He forced his way in, and threw himself on the trundle bed.  The inmates left, and, on their return next morning, George was found dead on the floor beside his bed.  He was buried in the garden, without coffin or box.  Inhumanity at that time could not be overlooked.  The author of this outrage was driven from the country, and not allowed to return.

 

DESOLATE HOMES.

 

Thus it was with our town and vicinity until the twenty-eighth day, when, to our unutterable joy, the heavens became aglare with lightning, the thunder rolled its deafening roar, the long-coveted rain began to descend upon the parched earth, and the atmosphere became cold and healthy.  The malaria germ was either burned up or beaten down to be trodden under foot, for the disease now disappeared as if by magic.  Men with their families began to return to their once happy, but now desolate, homes.  There were to be found but two remaining families.  Desolation and destitution were everywhere to be seen; doors were thrown wide open; death-beds were standing in the streets; sidewalks were white with lime used as disinfectant; no merry song or cheerful voice to be heard; sorrow and gloom reigned supreme.  Stout hearts quailed before the desolation and gloom that everywhere met their gaze.

 

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“Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted because they were not,” for about forty kind friends from the town and vicinity had left, never more to return.

 

AN OLD-TIME FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION,

 

Held in the Woods at Willshire, O., Independence Day, 1825.

 

   Mr. RILEY, in his “Reminiscences,” gives an account of the first celebration of Independence held in Van Wert county.  His father, Capt. James RILEY, filled with patriotic ardor, proposed the celebration and was appointed orator.  An arbor was erected under some oak trees on the river bank, just north of the mill, and a very long table of boards formed.  The meats were bear, venison, roast pig, turkey, with chicken pies baked in tin milk basins in old New England style, fish—black bass and pickerel and salmon—with all kinds of vegetables obtainable at that season, wild gooseberries, honey, coffee made in a large sugar kettle, maple sugar and syrup, pumpkin and cranberry pies.  The speakers’ stand faced the east and was between two large oak trees.  A salute was fired by charging the hole in a blacksmith anvil, which made a very loud report.

 

THE ORATION.

 

   The oration is of historical value.  It shows the feelings of pride and self-congratulation of those old-time American people, when they came together to celebrate their achievement of breaking away from the yoke of Great Britain and establishing a nation of their own.  It illustrates the then intense hate against the English government and the “myrmidons of Britain.”  It is, too, a literary curiosity, being in the style of the proud-swelling oratory so popular at that day, and universal with Fourth of July orators.  It was exactly what was wanted to fill the demands of the market.  “Thunder! how we did lick the British!” was on that day the cry of every small boy in the land, as he looked up to the fluttering of the flag on the “liberty pole,” and after the boom of every cannon run a race to secure the burning wads.

 

   The early part of the oration is occupied with a rapid sketch of the history of America, from the discovery of COLUMBUS down to the war of the Revolution, which is also described, and he then says:

 

   These battles, through which our fathers waded in blood, cemented the Union of American Confederacy, now the happy and prosperous United States.  The pride of Britain being humbled, although she called to her aid all the savages of our vast Northwest frontier, who broke in upon us with the tomahawk and scalping-knife, making indiscriminate slaughter of helpless men, women and children, she was forced in 1783, after the most sanguinary conflict, to acknowledge that the United States were free, sovereign and independent.

 

   The Declaration of Independence was signed and promulgated through the Union on the 4th of July, 1776, after which the war continued six years, waged in the most cruel and unfeeling manner by the British.  Those amongst our citizens who adhered to the British king were styled Tories.  These man, destitute alike of every feeling and principle, attacked, in a sudden manner, the citizens of their own towns, wreaking their bloodthirsty vengeance alike on their parents, brothers and sisters; burning towns, villages and the dwellings of their nearest relatives with relentless fury, and plunging the dagger to the hearts of their countrymen.  Oh, shame, where is thy blush!

 

   But let us turn from these disgusting pictures.  Peace was proclaimed, the soldier of the Revolution returned to his home after his severe trials penniless; his ardent patriotism did not forsake him; he mingled again with his fellow-citizens, and though neglected by the government, which was poor and without means, he uttered not a murmur, but strove to gain a subsistence by his daily labor.

 

   He saw everyone around him the fruits of his toils and sacrifices.  Towns, villages and cities reared their majestic temples where the forests had covered the country, and the beasts of the field, as well as the original inhabitants, fled before civilization and the arts; every

 

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house was opened and every hand greeted the war-worn veteran.  After a lapse of years he is made to partake of the bounty of a grateful government.

 

   Another war, rendered memorable by many battles and by sacrifices of a brave and generous people, has tested the strength and stability of our political institutions.

 

   It was waged by our old enemy.  Our navy, though compared to hers was but a pigmy to a giant, yet it rode triumphant on the ocean.  Our militia and raw troops again beat the proudest veterans the world could produce, with less than equal numbers, and the boasting conquerors of ensanguined Europe were themselves conquered.

 

   The genius of the free government of our country is daily developing its powers; its flag waves over every sea.  Its commerce extends over the whole globe, and equals that of the proudest nations of the earth; while the inventive faculties of the American mind in our immortal Fulton furnished to the astonished world the novel spectacle of ships propelled by fire, traversing every sea, and approximating the extremities of the longest river to a span.  Our free and happy population has increased beyond any former example.  In less than a half a century two millions of people have become twelve millions.

 

   Sciences and the arts have even outstripped our most sanguine expectations, and we now behold our beloved country, blessed by the fostering hand of an overruling Providence, one of the most prosperous, flourishing and powerful nations of the earth.

 

   Examples interest our country in many directions, for the spark that kindled the flame of our Revolution has spread its benign influence over the entire world.  In Europe it has been smothered and kept down by bigotry, ignorance, superstition and tyranny, through the most destructive wars occasioned by the French Revolution.

 

   The entire host of tyrants and religious fanatics in the Old World have marshalled themselves against our principles—they are arrested in Europe—they sleep but to rise again with redoubled vigor, when, bursting asunder their chains, they are destined to overwhelm their tyrants and oppressors throughout the universe.

 

   In their steady march the principles contained in our Declaration of Independence in the New World have fully triumphed, and under the genial influence of our example the republics of Buenos Ayres, Chili, Columbia, Mexico and Peru have recently sprung into existence.

 

   The land of the children of the sun is free; the holy horrors inflicted by bigoted and mercenary Spain under her Christian CORTEZ and PIZARRO, upon the Mexicans and Peruvians, have returned upon her devoted head; led by the virtuous and patriotic BOLIVAR, ST. MARTIN, HIEARS, LARE, O. HIGGENS and a host of other worthies the legions of liberty have established their independence.

 

   Kingly tyrants and religious fanatics have received a mortal stab in that portion of the world.  The blood of MONTEZUMA, the Incas and hosts of innocents has cried for vengeance, and the Almighty arm has avenged their injuries.

 

   Already the cry of liberty of conscience has been proclaimed, and may we indulge the pleasing hope that this monstrous struggle will satisfy the civilized nations of the beauties and benefits of self-government, destined to extend throughout the globe.

 

   We are assembled to commemorate the day and the patriots who proclaimed and established the most perfect system of equal rights and privileges; civilization keeps pace with the moral and religious freedom and toleration, and is the most conclusive proof that these States have outstripped the other quarters of the world.

 

   Look at the American female character!  The fairest work of creation here have all the advantages of polite and useful education, and of moral and religious liberty; as wives, mothers and daughters they hold the rank of equal with their nearest relations, and by their virtues and goodness are esteemed as the greatest blessing a bountiful Providence could bestow on man.

 

THE DINNER, DANCE, AND SONG.

 

   The oration being ended, the people, to the number of about seventy-five, took their places at the table, which had been loaded with all the luxuries the country afforded, and well cooked.  Mr. Golden GREEN, of Shane’s Crossing, asked a blessing, and those who were skilled commenced to do the carving.  A small roasted pig happening to be in front of one old gentleman, the skin beautifully

 

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browned (it was roasted before the fire), he deliberately took off the skin and placed it on his plate, remarking, “Some folks like meat best, and some folks like skin best; for my part I like skin best,” and carved the peg for the rest, no one objecting to his gratifying his taste, and all went off delightfully.

 

   After dinner toasts were drank, using what we called metheglin, made from honey, very delicious, but not intoxicating.  I only remember my father’s toast, which was, “The State of Ohio, the first-born of the ordinance of 1787.  May she lead the van in the cause of freedom and equality until our glorious Declaration shall be fulfilled, and we can with truth ‘proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof.’”  All cheered the sentiment; then followed many more of like patriotic sentiments.  My father, brother James, Uncle Roswell RILEY, J. W. MILLIGAN, Dr. EDMISTON, Tom SWEENY, and James HAGAR, with mother, and sisters Amelia and Phebe, Mrs. MILLIGAN, Mrs. Roswell RILEY, and Mrs. EDMISTON were all good singers.  Uncle Roswell sang comic songs as well as I ever heard since on the stage.  He sang several, and then “Perry’s Victory” and “Hull’s Surrender.”  Mrs. EDMISTON sand “The Meeting of the Waters” (Vale of Avoca).  She was a highly accomplished musician, and all wound up with BURNS’ “Auld Lang Syne,” shaking hands across the table.  Those that did not know the words joined in the chorus.  A plank floor had been laid upon scantling on the ground, and a dance by torchlight wound up the first celebration of the Fourth of July in Van Wert county, Ohio.

 

   There must have been present nearly every person then in the county, including the infantry in arms.  As stated above, “about seventy-five took their places at the table.”  As by the census of 1830, five years later, the entire population of Van Wert county was but forty-nine, it is surmised the surplus were “distinguished guests from abroad.”

 

   The large and flourishing town of DELPHOS lies on the line of this and Allen county, about equally divided between the two.  The post-office is in this county.  Delphos is described in Allen county, vol. I., page 249.

 

   WILLSHIRE is fourteen miles southwest of Van Wert, on the T. St. L. & K. C. R. R.  It has 1 Methodist and 1 Baptist church.  Population, 1880, 508.  School census, 1888, 224.

 

   CONVOY is eight miles northwest of Van Wert, on the P. Ft. W. & C. R. R.  It has churches: 1 Lutheran, 1 Methodist, 1 Baptist and 1 Catholic.  Population, 1880, 386.  School census, 1888, 189.

 

   MIDDLEPOINT is eight miles east of Van Wert, on the Little Auglaize river and on the P. Ft. W. & C. R. R.  Population, 1880, 386.  School census, 1888, 152.

 

                            SCOTT is eight miles north of Van Wert, on the C. V. W. & J. R. R.  School census, 1888, 136.


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