Richland Co., Ohio
source: Mansfield News, December 27, 1903
Submitted by Jean and Faye
History of Richland County
By A J. Baughman.
The second settlement with the present borders of Richland county was made on the Clearfork, where Bellville now stands and was called the McCluer settlement.
James McCluer came to that locality in 1808, and was so favorably impressed with the Clearfork country that he entered land, after which he returned to Pickaway county, where he had temporarily settled, and gave such glowing accounts of the Clearfork part of the “New Purchase,” that he induced his kinsmen, Samuel and Thomas McCluer, and Jonathan Oldfield to join him upon his return, and a cabin was put up the first in that part of the county. James McCluer then returned to his family for the winter, leaving his three comrades to keep “bachelors’ hall” in the cabin. They had laid in bread-stuff, and they could supply themselves with meat by killing game, which abounded in the forest. James McCluer brought his family to the cabin in the spring of 1809, which date is usually given as the time the first settlement was made.
The founding of Bellville, its growth and history, with mentions of its people - past and present - will be given in another chapter. This sketch deals with the township and its people.
The first election district, named Jefferson, was organized Aug. 9, 1814, and was eighteen miles long and twelve miles wide, embracing six congressional townships, to-wit: Jefferson, Perry, Congress, North Bloominggrove, Troy and Washington. On Sept 3, 1816, Jefferson township, as it is today, was organized, with an area of six miles square, and containing thirty-six sections.
Jefferson township has a diversified topography. The water-courses are generally from the northwest to the southeast, making a succession of ridges and valleys. The principal stream of water is the Clearfork of the Mohican, which enters the township near its northwest corner and leaves it about the center along its east line. While the land of Jefferson township, as a whole, is fertile and productive, the soil along the Clearfork is acknowledged to be as good as there is in the country, and the ridges that border the valley frame a landscape picture exceeding in beauty any creation of an artist’s fancy.
Honey Creek gathers its waters from the west-central part of the township, and empties them into the Clearfork, a short distance above the old Greenwood mills, at Wintergreen hill. This stream also courses through a rich valley - a country of historic associations and of restful beauty.
Another stream, a branch of the Owl creek, waters the southern part of the township. Its source is up in the Bangorville region, flows to the southeast and leaves the township where the railroad enters Knox county.
Deadman’s run comes down from the hills of the north part of the township and empties into the Clearfork at Bellville. Along this stream is the gold regions, where gold was discovered in 1853, by Dr. James C. Lee, who had been a miner in California Considerable gold has been taken out there, but has never been found in paying quantities.
A furious tornado swept over Jefferson in 1808, entering the township near its southwest corner and sweeping diagonally to the northeast, cutting a swath through the forest and felling every tree on chestnut ridge. This ridge has an elevation of 1059 feet above the lake. Young chestnut trees grew up in time and made the ridge a beautiful background for a landscape picture.
Just south of this ridge is where Bushong killed his wife on the morning of Oct. 4, 1840 - one of the coldest blooded murders in the criminal history of the county. Physicians testified that Bushong was a monomaniac and he went clear on the plea of insanity
John Fox was shot and killed on the evening of March 8, 1883, two miles south of Bellville, on the road leading east from the Honey creek school house and within a half a mile of his own home. The crime is one of the several murder mysteries of the county.
Bangorville, although now but a small country settlement, possesses an interesting history and back in the “forties” had bright prospects and a promising outlook of future greatness. The reasons of its rise and decline will be given in another chapter.
The Red House, one mile south of Bellville, was one of the most popular taverns on the state road in the old stage days, and of all the places of public entertainment on the route between Columbus and the lake, none surpassed in general favor this Red House tavern. The wood fire in the big fireplace in the winter not only warmed the spacious room, but also illuminated it. The words of an Irish comic song seem to be applicable to the spirit that pervaded the place:
“Now’s the time for mirth and glee,
Sing and laugh and dance with me.”
For in addition to its patronage by the traveling public, it was a favorite place for balls and other social functions. A rival was started across the way - “Morrow’s Inn” - but there was patronage enough for both until the railroad was built through Bellville, in 1850, and the stage and stage taverns were relegated to the past.
Thackery wrote, that one of the delights of traveling in England was the opportunity it afforded to laugh with the jolly hostess at the bar and to chuck the pretty waiting girls under the chin. ‘Squire James E. Howard, sitting upon the porch of his suburban home, can look down the old race track, near the Red House tavern of the long ago and recall sporting scenes of other years…. It was over that track that the young man who assumed to be an unsophisticated Yankee lad, won the stakes, thanked the crowd for the fun he had with them, then rode away.
Of the popular stage drivers Thomas, James, and Alex Huston - three brothers - whose home was in Honey creek valley, deserve special mention. They held the ribbons, blew the horn and cracked the whip for a number of years and had the Hon. Lewis Cass and other distinguished statesmen as passengers.
The Rev. John Moody was a pioneer preacher of the Disciple church. He built a gristmill at Bellville in 1831. The story of his good deeds during the period of the threatened famine has been told and re-told and should be repeated in the years to come as a memorial to him. Providence rewarded his generosity, for giving to the poor did not impoverish him, for the crops upon his farm yielded more plentiful than before. He was blessed in the giving as the poor were receiving his assistance. Capt. Miller Moody, son of the benefactor, gave his life for his country upon the bloody field of Antietam.
On account of their kinship, the Leedy and Garber families are often mentioned as one people. John Leedy came to Richland county from Pennsylvania in 1811, and Samuel Garber came from the same state in 1821, and married a daughter of John Leedy. The Leedys and Garbers are both numerous and prosperous. They are helpful to one another and the maxim “live and let live” has been a rule of their lives Their annual reunions are attended by hundreds of their friends.
The Gatton brothers, at Gattons’ Rocks, have one of the largest and best fruit orchards in Ohio. Their hospitable homes are always open to their friends and for an after-dinner talk, “Cy” can entertain his guests with coon and fish stories that would read like tales of fiction. The Gattons came to Richland county in 1819 and are people of property. “As rich as Gatton” is a familiar phrase and shows their financial standing as a people.
John Robinson was born in Ireland, came to America, settled in Pennsylvania, then came to Ohio and settled in Jefferson township in 1815 on section II, east of Bellville. His descendants are well-to-do farmers. The Robinsons are industrious people, whose endeavors are directed more in the line of good citizenship and home comforts than in the pursuit of fame.
A half mile below Bellville there was a sawmill and a carding mill owned by John LeFever, one of the pioneers of the township. These mills were successfully operated for many years. Mrs. LeFever whose maiden name was Huston, came to Bellville with her parents in 1813, when there were but four buildings in the town, and one of those a blockhouse She was then 6 years old. Mr. And Mrs. LeFever were the parents of Mrs. M. M Sheidley, of Chicago, O., and of J. M. LeFever, of Garrett, Ind., and of Samuel LeFever, who lives on the old homestead. These have other brothers and sister living, of whom mention would be made did space permit.
A Mr. Cornell built a sawmill on Honey creek, a half mile east of the Old State road, in 1821, and a pottery was operated in the same vicinity for some time, but both have long since been numbered with the things of the past.
These old mill seats are interesting from an historical point of view, although the generation of today know them not. The race of the old Samuel Heron mill is still discernible on the south side of Honey creek, where it crosses the New Sate road between John Robinson’s and John Baughman’s. Mr. Heron afterwards owned the Mar- [illegible] -further up the [illegible]
Of the early romances of Jefferson township that of Katy Ebersole was the most pathetic. Katy’s parents were honest, honorable people of high respectability and owned a large tract of land in the Owl Creek valley, between Fredericktown and Palmyra, and also owned a half-section in Richland, just north of the Knox-Richland line, on the new state road. This Richland tract was Miss Katy’s inheritance, and after the death of her parents, she made her home upon her own farm - a portion of her land having been cleared and a cabin built close to and upon the west side of the road, along which the stages then passed. Prior to this, however, occurred the events that constitute the first chapter of her heart-history - the first act in the sad drama of her life. Varied stories of Katy’s love affair and blighted hopes have been told, but the following true version is from facts furnished by Frank Caywood, who was born and reared in the Ebersole neighborhood. Katy Ebersole was engaged to be married to Taylor Willits, an estimable young man of the same vicinity. The Willits were Quakers and they said it would never do for a member of the Society of Friends to marry a ‘worldly’ person, as they called those who were not of their faith. Jacob Ebersole, Katy’s father, also forbade the bans, saying that the Dutch and the Quakers had never got along well together and never would. Katy was a girl of high character and nobility of womanhood, and one of the strong points of her nature was reverence for her father and obedience to his word. Taylor and Katy each accepted and obeyed the parental injunctions and thus their ways parted - Taylor’s leading to a premature grave and Katy’s to the life of a recluse. Taylor Willits had not the strength and courage to sustain him in the disappointment he felt in having his cherished plans for the future thwarted and blighted, and being predisposed to consumption, went into a decline and died, pleading to the last to see his “Katy.” He was buried in the Friends’ cemetery, southwest of Palmyra. Katy lived on for, as we are told, “Life may long be borne, ere sorrow breaks its chain.” She did not attempt to enter upon a “career,” but was content to live unostentatiously and in seclusion, bearing her sorrow in silence. Her semi-hermit life extended over a period of perhaps thirty-five years - from 1840 until a short time before her death, when she was taken to the residence of a relative and was tenderly cared for until the death angel came and took her home.
The student of history takes interest in studying race lines and clannish groupings and how the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of the early settlers leave their influence and impressions upon future generations.
Some of the prominent early settlers of Jefferson township were from Maine, which gave a Yankee impress to many things, especially in educational lines, upon which the people of that township have always been well advanced.
The Moore, the Drew, the Howard, the Walker, the Cross, the Greeley, the Gurney, the Ordway, the Alexander, the Bean, the Whitten, the French, and the Cutting families came from Maine; Evarts and Sweet from Vermont. The Gatton, the Strong, the Armstrong, the Bell, the Mahagan, the Thailkill, the Gibson and other families came from Maryland. The Laffertys, the Robinsons, the Lashs, the Leedys, the Garbers, the Swanks and others from Pennsylvania.
In the sketch a number of names are omitted - omitted so that the pleasure of writing about Jefferson township can be again enjoyed to mention those not given in this chapter.
The early settlers of Jefferson, as well as those of other townships in the county, were men of brain and brawn. There may have been no decadence, but where are the men of this generation who could be considered favorably with such pioneers as were Maj. Samuel Poppleton, Maj. Morrow, Capt. Joseph Johnson, ‘Squire John Young, ‘Squire Reuben Everts and others who might be named?
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