Mad River Township, Champaign County, Ohio
|There is also a Mad River Township in Clark County, Ohio|
|Excerpts from Beer's History of Champaign County|
This township includes all of Township 4, Range 11, and one tier of sections on the north side of Range 10, and contains 42 square miles, or 26,880 acres. On the north it is bounded by Concord Township, on the east by Urbana Township, on the south by a portion of Clark County, on the west by Jackson and Johnson Townships. The beautiful and fertile Mad River Valley . .
It is universally conceded that William Owens is the first white person who settled not only in the township but in the county as well. Of him but little is remembered. He was a native of Virginia, where he lived on a rented piece of ground, in comparative poverty. A desire to better the condition of himself and family, induced him to leave forever the land of his birth. The trip was made by wagon, and, as it was necessary to cut the way, it required much valuable time. Late in the fall of 1779, he arrived in this county and settled on the northeast quarter of Section 15, in this township . . .
At the beginning of the present [19th] century, several families emigrated to the lowlands of this township and settled on the different sections. . .
At the mouth of Storms Creek, near what is now known as Tremont, Clark County, Charles Rector, with his brother-in-law, Christopher Weaver, settled in 1801. Nature had fitted these men for a life in a new country; they were honest, sober and industrious. In addition to this, they exercised good judgment in the selection of lands. They were natives of Kentucky. They lived the lives of Christians, and when death knocked at their doors, he found them prepared. One of Rector's sons (Conaway) lives near the old homestead— Section 12—and is honored and respected by all who know him.
William Ross, a man of wonderful strength and physical endurance, also settled on the southern part of the township, near Tremont.
William Weaver, a brother of Christopher, was born in 1759, at Bucks County, Penn., near Philadelphia. He participated in the Revolutionary war, and was an eye-witness to Cornwallis' march from Yorktown. In 1783 or 1784, he was united with Mary Kiger, a native of Maryland. The couple removed to Kentucky in 1792, and, in 1802, they emigrated to Ohio. They settled in what is now known as Clark County, where they rented of William Chapman eighty acres of land, a part of which was prairie land. Here they lived for five years, when they removed to Section 24 in this township, on land now owned by William Weaver, where they resided until death. Henry Storm is remembered as the only man who lived in the neighborhood prior to the arrival of the Weavers.
Fifteen children were born to the couple. Of those yet living, William was born December 25, 1795, in Kentucky. He has been a resident of this State since 1802, and has never been beyond the State boundaries, nor has he ever been aboard of a train of cars. At the advanced age of eighty-five years he enjoys good health, is robust and is never so well satisfied as when the condition of the weather permits him to work in the garden. The bountiful supply of vegetables found in his garden attest to his skill as a gardener. He is a kind and benevolent gentleman, courteous to strangers and an indefatigable worker in the Lord's vineyard. We wish to add that, to our knowledge, he is the oldest resident in the township now living. Nancy was born November 6, 1801, was married to Erastus Wilson and is still living. Nelson, born December 22, 1817, the youngest child, lives on a part of the old homestead.
Thomas Redman, a Kentuckian, settled just above Falling Springs, but remained a short time only, and, in 1811, returned to his native State. . .
Another Kentuckian, named Abraham Shocky, settled on Nettle Creek. Of him, it is said, that he was muscular in form, weighing about one hundred and seventy-five pounds, and of a sandy complexion. As a pedestrian, he was without a peer. Rev. William Haller well remembers of seeing him start with good trotting horses and keep ahead. A tract of land, still in the possession of Uncle Sam, was well timbered with poplar. Shocky was in the habit of hauling the timber to his mill. One evening as he was coming in with a log, he met Judge Runkle, who said to him:
But Shocky realized the real worth of the land and determined to have it at all hazards. He borrowed the necessary money, and on that same night started, on foot, for the Queen City. On the morning of the second day, as Sims was going to Cincinnati, he met Shocky going home, who revealed to him that he had entered the land in question. The fact was confirmed, and Sims and Shocky went home together, one on foot, the other on horseback. On another occasion, Shocky offered to bet that he could walk from Urbana to Cincinnati in one day, but met with no takers. He accomplished the feat, however, to the great delight of the settlers. At another time, he undertook to make better time than the Xenia and Urbana stage. In this, also, was he successful.
Up Nettle Creek, on the northwestern part of the township, there was a neighborhood of Shenandoah Valley; Virginians, consisting of the Wiants, Kites, Loudenbacks, Runkles and Jinkinses, most of them enterprising citizens.
John Wiant was a tanner, and highly useful in his day. His sons are yet among the living, and one a talented and prominent figure in the Baptist Church. Adam Kite settled here in 1807, one-half mile east of the present residence of his son George W. He entered 200 acres at the Cincinnati Land Office. He died in 1842. Although the lowlands of the Mad River Valley could be purchased at a more reasonable figure than the highlands of this section, it was supposed by the Virginians that a land on which grew the trees of the forest could not be utilized into a grain country; therefore, they settled on the highest lands in the township.
Thomas Kenton (Simon's nephew) was a native of Virginia. He came to the Mad River Valley in about 1801. Was well made and of splendid stature, and noted for his great endurance and energetic industry. The first election held in the township, in 1805, was held at his house. He lived to a ripe age and possessed a remarkable memory up to the time of his death.
Ezekial Arrowsmith, a brother-in-law of Kenton, emigrated from Mason County, Ky. They left on the 3d of December, 1801, and arrived in the township in the same month. His actual settlement was made in Concord Township some years after.
John Kain entered a tract of land in the river valley in the year 1808. In 1810, he sold it to one Hill, and left for the West. On the western boundaries, settlements were made by William Hendricks, Jessie Goddart and a man named Dibert. Jacob Arney, a native of North Carolina, settled near the site of Terre Haute. Two Kentuckians, John Rouse and Elijah Standerford, were his nearest neighbors. The locality settled by Owens received, in the period of 1801 to 1806, the families of Mark and William Kenton and of William and Elijah Harbor. Henry Ritter was another early pioneer; he afterward removed to Adams Township.
A Pennsylvanian named Archibald McGrew settled on a fine tract of land and was a valuable addition to the enterprising class of settlers.
Basil West settled near the town of Westville in 1805. When he came he was poverty stricken. He negotiated for a cow and agreed to pay for her at a stated time in the future. When the time expired, he paid the money aa promised, remarking that it would certainly have been impossible for him to support his family had it not been for the cow.
We close our catalogue of early settlers by mentioning the names of John Hamilton, Christian and John Normand, John Norman, Robert McFarland. Christian Stephens, Thomas Redman, William Rhodes, Joseph Renolds, Clark, Thomas Pierce, John Wiley, Joseph Diltz, Adam Wise, Thomas Anderson, Henry Newcomb, Wm. Custor, Hugh McSherry, George and John Steinharger, George Faulkner, William and Henry Bacom, John Taylor, Arnold, Abraham and William Custor. There are others who deserve honorable mention, but space forbid.
John Haller was a native of Pennsylvania, but left for Kentucky in 1796, when quite young. He is described as being a spare, active man, weighing about one hundred and thirty-five pounds. His hair was of an auburn color, his complexion medium. He married a lady who was a Virginian by birth, but who was brought to Kentucky when a child. The nuptials were celebrated in 1798. Haller, in company with others, came to Ohio on foot, in 1796, to look at the country—then an Indian wilderness—and was delighted with the rich valleys of Miami and Mad River. In 1807, he again explored the Mad River Valley. He was well pleased with the country, and proposed to emigrate; but the dark war-cloud was gathering between this and the mother country, and, as it was certain that the savages would unite with the British and resent the intrusion by the pale-faced emigrants, he hesitated. Finally, he resolved to brave the danger, and, in October, 1812, bid adieu to Kentucky friends and landed in Urbana. In Urbana, he remained until 1814, when he removed to the mouth of Nettle Creek, in this township, following his trade of blacksmithing. At about thirty-five years of age, he became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was rigid in the observance of discipline. He opposed the use of alcoholic drinks, and would not allow any one to indulge in them while on his premises. For many years he filled the office of Justice of the Peace. His decisions were just, and never failed to give satisfaction. He finally disposed of his real estate and removed to near Defiance, where he passed his declining years. He died peacefully and without pain, fully prepared to meet his God. William, his son, was born in 1801. Until recently, he was a prominent resident of this township.' A few years ago, he removed to a farm near Kingston, in Salem Township. In his early days, he made a covenant to lead the life of a Christian. Has been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for many years. He enjoys the love and esteem of his fellowmen, and, when death calls for him, hovering angels will exclaim, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" He is now in his seventy-ninth year, but still retains the vigor of manhood, and possesses an excellent memory. To him are we indebted for much valuable information.
Lewis Cook was born in Vermont in 1777. Here he lived until twentyone years of age, when he removed to the western part of New York, where he remained until 1812. Up to this time, he had enjoyed a life of single blessedness, but now, at the age of thirty-five, concluded that it was not well for man to live alone, and took unto himself a helpmate in the person of Miss Annie Peck. A short time after, accompanied by his bride and father-in-law, he started down the Ohio on a flat-boat. The party landed at Cincinnati, and the men obtained employment with Gen. Harrison. In 1816, he and his brotherin-law, Earthman Warren, emigrated to this township with their families, and settled on Section 13. Upon their arrival, they saw nothing but a dense mass of forest trees. They proceeded at once to erect a place of abode. A large oak was cut down, poles were placed in the ground parallel with the fallen tree, and the two were connected by a roof of boughs and some lumber which they were fortunate enough to obtain. Deer were roaming through the woods in large numbers, but were never molested by Cook, he being no hunter. He was very poor, and exerted himself night and day in endeavoring to retain the land permanently. His wife died in 1823, and, two years after, he was united with Bodaisa Fay. She died in 1830. In 1832, he again took unto himself a wife, Mary Hartwell being the chosen one. In after years, he sold the old homestead, and, with his son Lewis, took a trip to Illinois. While there, he was taken suddenly ill, and erelong was a corpse. He was buried where he died. His wife also died while on a visit to the same State some years after. Three children survive, viz., Percy (wife of George Enock, now a resident of Kansas), Calvin (who possesses the "home farm") and Louisa (wife of Nicholas Shafer, residing in this county).
John Lee was born in Maryland. In 1810, he came to New Lancaster, in this State, with his wife, nee Elizabeth Lomond. They lived there two years, and then removed to this county, settling on a tract of land located three miles northeast of Urbana. Mr. Lee died here two years later. In 1818, Mrs. Lee, with four children, settled on the northeast corner of Section 19; the land they purchased from one Glover. Mrs. Lee was married to Philip Stout, in 1827, with whom she lived happily until her death, which occurred in 1848. William Lee, her son, now occupies the homestead; has accumulated considerable property, and is a well-known and influential citizen. Of the remaining surviving children, James is a resident of Oregon; Richard resides in Iowa; Fannie, now Mrs. Thomas, lives in Indiana.
Benjamin Gard was born in Clark County in 1814. In after years, he removed across the line to this township, where he now lives, enjoying the fruits of economy and industry. During a recent conversation with the writer, he remarked that he had traveled over nine States; but had found no locality so attractive as the beautiful Mad River Valley. . .
John Lutz, a Virginian, settled on the southwest corner of Section 18, in 1829. After living there ten years, he removed to , his present place of abode. He has accumulated a farm of 140 acres, which is in a state of cultivation.
Peter Baker, accompanied by his wife and nine children, came here from Virginia in 1816. Prior to their entrance to this township, they stopped at Columbus, as they had been informed that cheap homes could be purchased in the vicinity of that city. The land had been reserved for Revolutionary soldiers, however, and Baker was foiled in his attempt to settle there. The farm now owned by his son, Simon, was entered December 24, 1816. Peter settled on the land now owned by Joseph Rhodes. When they came to their future home, the land was found to consist of one dense forest of green beech-trees. Simon erected a cabin on his tract, and covered it with a shingle roof—the first in the settlement. Peter died at the age of ninety-four. His son, Simon, is still occupying the old farm. His fellow-citizens have elected him repeatedly to all the township offices, except Justice of the Peace. He erected the brick building which he now occupies, in 1835.
Joseph Rhodes came from Virginia with his uncle, John Craybill, in 1835, performing most of the journey on foot. He located in this township, and pursued his trade of shoemaking. A few years later, he removed to Urbana Township, and there erected a mill, which was afterward destroyed by fire. Growing restless, he again left, and this time settled in the State of Indiana. In 1853, he settled on a portion of Section 26, where he resides at present. His brother, Noah, came here in 1856, and purchased a part of the farm. Mr. Rhodes is seventy-one years of age, and never left the state of single blessedness.
John Jenkins was born in Shenandoah County, Va., about the year 1789. In 1811, he was united with Polly Burkholder. 'They left for Ohio in 1832, traveling on two horses. Several children were born before their departure. A son named Morgan walked the entire distance; thirty-one days were consumed in making the trip. When one-half the journey had been completed, they found themselves in need of provisions. They stopped at the house of a German and asked permission to wash their clothing, inquiring also of the family if they had butter to sell. The people received them very ungraciously, and, in the German language, ridiculed them. Finally, Mrs. Jenkins addressed them in German, which had the desired effect. They were accorded a cordial reception and all their necessary wants supplied. The little knowledge of the German dialect possessed by Mrs. J. had changed the state of affairs. The Jenkins family settled at Wilmington, Clinton Co., in this State, at which place they remained until the year 1835. Thence they removed to the immediate vicinity of St. Paris, in this county. Here they remained for a number of years. The father finally removed to Indianapolis, Ind., where he died. Of eleven children, but two are now residents of this township—David and Morgan L. David has been married four times, and is now living happily with his fourth wife. Morgan has been a resident of Terre Haute for nearly forty years. He follows his trade of shoemaking, and keeps a general store. He is classed as one of the representative citizens of the village.
David Miller is a native of Virginia, and was born in 1813. His father died when he (David) was but seven years of age, and he was adopted by an uncle named Good. At the death of the latter he was taken into the family of his son. At the age of sixteen he left his native land, accompanied by the Goods, George Serkle and the Kesslers—Abe and Jacob. The party traveled in wagons which were drawn by four horses. The party settled on different sections in this township. Two years later, Miller removed to Clark County, where he engaged himself to a wagon-maker as an apprentice. In 1836, he erected a wagon-shop on Storm's Creek, near the present village of Terre Haute. There was no other establishment of a like nature in the country, except those located at Urbana. Mr. Miller now resides in Terre Haute, leading a life of quietude, free from business cares, and enjoys the fruits of his own personal industry. He is one of the enterprising citizens of the village, and has contributed largely to all legitimate schemes offered for the public good. He is a stanch supporter of the proposed railroad, having subscribed a large sum to further its construction. He is an exemplary Christian and a good neighbor, honored and loved by all who know him. . .
The first [religious] class was organized at Ezekiel Arrowsmith's, Rev. Robert McFarland serving as Class-leader. About thirty members constituted the organization. Of these, Rev. William Haller is the only one yet living. Verily, time has wrought its changes. It is related that one Van Meter married a lady named Reynolds, who was a member of this class. Van Meter attended the meetings, but not through choice, as he was strenuously opposed to worshiping in the small, heated room in Arrowsmith's dwelling. Becoming disgusted, he, one Sabbath, crawled through the aperture in the wall while the brethren were engaged in prayer. The surprise and horror of the latter when they discovered that the bird had flown, can be more easily imagined than described.
A log meeting-house was built on the land of William Ross, by the Methodists. The Baptists erected a house of worship on Nettle Creek, which was also of logs. In 1820, a log church was built by the Methodists on the land of Christian Stephens. These buildings were uncomfortable, and, as soon as circumstances would permit, more commodious houses were erected. . .
It is now our pleasant task to record briefly, the histories of the different churches now in existence
Westville M. E. Church.—This church is the offspring of the first religious organization of the township. In 1801, a sermon was preached under a sugartree, on the land of Ezekiel Arrowsmith, by Rev. James Davidson. This, the first Scriptural discourse, was listened to by a large concourse of people. Soon after, a society was organized, and meetings were held in the log houses of Christian Stephens, Arthur Elliott and Mr. Brockmyer. The society prospered favorably, and, in 1820, erected a log house of worship on the land of Stephens. In this building they continued holding services until 1826, at which time the increasing membership demanded the erection of a more commodious structure. A neat one-story brick, 45x60, was built at Westville. . .
Terre Haute M. E. Church.—Diligent research has failed to trace the origin of this church. We will, however, endeavor to portray with as much accuracy as possible the career of the organization. That portion of the membership connected with the original society, residing in the southern part of the township, proceeded to erect a building on the land owned by William Ross, which was located in their midst. A desire to overcome the obstacles in the way of attending a church located so far from their homes was the object of this step. The house was built in 1814, and of logs. William Weaver was elected as one of the first Trustees, and has been continued in that office to this day. The society was re-organized in 1835 by Rev. Joshua Boucher. . .
The Baptist Church—Located one-half mile south of Westville, on the Valley Pike, is recorded as one of the oldest in the township. In 1806, some of the members of the King's Creek Church, in Salem Township, obtained letters of dismissal, and at once proceeded with others to effect an organization in this township, at the dwelling of Henry Pence. The Mad River Baptist Association was formed in 1812, and this church connected itself with the same. The primary meeting of this organization was held at the house of Abijah Ward. In 1819, a log building was erected on the site of the present building. . .
Myrtle-Tree Church.. .The church was organized April 24, 1830, by Elder William Fuson. The first meeting was held on the first Sunday of the same month and year. It was estimated that one thousand people were present on the occasion, every section of the county being represented. . .
The first mill was erected by John Norman, on Nettle Creek, where B. Wiant's mill now stands. Norman placed a slight obstruction in the channel, where he had a wheel for the water to flow against, and a little primitive gearing set in motion a small stone that he picked up on his land. When he got his mill in running order, he would fill the hopper in the morning, then would leave to engage in other labor until noon, when he would again replenish the hopper, and fill the sacks with meal or cracked corn to the same height that they were with corn, he having made a hole in the sack with a bodkin before emptying them.
John Pence built a mill on Nettle Creek in 1819. One Steinbarger erected a mill at the time of the construction of Norman's mil. . .
William Runkle (afterward Judge Runkle) was a tanner. John Wiants was also a tanner, and considered master of his trade. These men were valuable additions to the neighborhood. The hides of the cattle were tanned into shoe-leather, and made up into shoes by the traveling shoemakers of those day.
In "ye olden times," the scarcity of trading-points was a matter of great inconvenience to the pioneers. It was customary to haul four-horse wagonloads of grain to Sandusky or Cincinnati. Here the produce was sold at a nominal figure—wheat at 25 cents per bushel; corn at 10 cents per bushel; pork at $1.50 per hundred weight. The drivers of these conveyances did not enjoy lives of comfort and ease, by any means. Their journeys, on the contrary, were attended with many privations.
William Weaver relates, that, while returning from a trip to Sandusky, he was compelled to spend the night in the open air. Upon awakening in the morning, he found himself enveloped in snow. His iron constitution prevented the probability of any serious consequences.
Several pear-trees that were planted on the farm of Calvin Cook, sixtythree years ago, are yet in a healthy condition, and bear a bountiful crop each year.
In the year 1830, a number of Virginians came to this township, purchasing the farms of the settlers, most of which were in a good state of cultivation. Six dollars per acre was the average price paid for these lands. The settlers removed to Allen and Auglaize Counties, where they entered land at $1.25 per acre. Their children were arriving at maturity, and a desire to own land sufficient to provide for all of them was the object of this change.
By reference to the list of township officials, it will be noticed that John Haller served as Justice of the Peace for a number of years. The following incident will illustrate his unfaltering career as a public officer: A son of his engaged in hunting rabbits on the Sabbath Day. This desecration of the Lord's day was considered unlawful by the Squire. The culprit was arrested on the following day, and convicted after a fair and impartial trial. He was fined $5. The young lad was not worth that sum. But the demands of the law must be acceded to, and, to overcome the difficulty, the Squire himself paid the fine.
When the township was organized, a resolution prohibiting persons of color from settling within the township limits was passed by the people, showing the state of feeling then existing.
The writer does not wish to be considered disrespectful, and yet he is disposed, by actual observation, to conclude that Mad River can produce more bachelors and old maids than any other township in the county. Whether this is the result of pioneer instruction or not, we are not prepared to say. Recently, several persons, whose ages ranged from fifty to seventy years, left the state of single blessedness, to devote their remaining years to connubial bliss. "It is never too late to mend."
. . . The humble log cabin, with its huge fire-place and greased paper windows, served as a schoolhouse. A person whose intellectual powers were superior only to those of the most ignorant, acted as schoolmaster. The Bible, Webster's speller, and such other publications as could be obtained, constituted the text-books. But, by diligent study and firmness of purpose, many of the pupils of that day rose to.a high degree of distinction. These subscription schools were continued until 1826.
In that year, the township was laid off into eight school districts, containing 233 families. Competent teachers were engaged, and thus the friends of education had great cause for rejoicing. Among the early teachers, now living, who were employed under the provisions of the Common School Law, we mention Isaac Neff and David Laudenback [Loudenback]. The former began teaching in 1842, and continued for twenty years; the latter began in 1829, and continued for a number of years. . .
We are unable to give the date of the of the township organization and the names of officers elected at the first election. ...
April 17, 1815, the township was laid out in three districts for road purposes, and Christian Stephens, Pecer Smith and Nathan Darnall, appointed Supervisors. When the so-called State road, leading from Urbana to Troy was surveyed, the Trustees acted as follows:
On the first Monday in March, 1817, the Trustees met to select jurors for the Court of Common Pleas. Thomas Kenton, Ezekiel Arrowsmith and John Hamilton, were selected for the grand jury; Peter Smith, John Pence and James Thomas to the petit jury. This is the first selection of jurors by the Trustees, of which there is any record.
June 20, 1818, the survey of a township road was made by Ithamer H. Warrin. Said road commencing on the north bank of Storms' Creek, at the crossing of the county road near to John Hamilton, intersecting the county road from Boston to Urbana. Viewed on the 20th of June by John Hamilton, Francis Stephenson and Ithamer H. Warrin. May 30, 1818, an order was issued to John Hamilton, Francis Stephenson and Ithamer H. Warrin to view a township road from said Hamilton's down Storm's Creek to intersect the road leading from Urbana, on the west side of Mad River, to Boston.
For the purpose of paying all just claims exhibited against the township, the Trustees on May 30, 1818, levied the following tax: Each horse, mare, mule, etc., 3 years and upward, 18 cents; each head of cattle, 3 years old and upward, 6 cents. For his services as Supervisor for the year 1819, William Owens received $1.50. William Weaver, Sr., "made no charge" for the same services.
The Overseers of the Poor issued an order to Jane Taylor to depart from the township. Given to a Constable, as follows:
Trustees met at the house of Abraham Stephens in January, 1825, for the purpose of levying a Poor and Township tax, and voted that the Clerk make out a tax for the relief of the poor to the amount of $45 to defray the expense of collecting and the debt of keeping the poor for the year 1824; also, a tax to defray the expense of the township officers for 1824. This is the first record of a division of the township funds into separate Poor and Township funds.
©Roberta Tuller 2020