Richland Co., Ohio
Vernon Junction & Shelby Settlement
source: Mansfield News, 31 October 1903
Submitted by Jean and Faye
THE HISTORY OF RICHLAND COUNTY
By A. J. Baughman
Vernon Junction is in Sharon township, at the crossing of the Toledo, Walhonding Valley & Ohio, the Toledo division of the Pennsylvania, and the “big Four” railroads. The crossing takes its name from Vernon township, Crawford county. It was first called Junction City, then changed to Vernon Junction, in accordance with Goethe, that “Change amuses the mind.” But, there may have been more potent reason in this case.
Vernon Junction was founded in 1872, upon the building of the “Coldwater” railroad, and a fine hotel was erected there and was kept by a Mr. Sager, who had previously been a popular landlord at Shelby. A number of business rooms and dwelling houses were also erected, and whatever the little village lacks in size is fully compensated for in appearance. Fifty years ago a railroad junction was thought to be a big thing because there were so few of them in Ohio at that time, but they are so numerous now that their value and importance have diminished.
The country about Vernon Junction is generally level, and in its primitive state was covered with a dense growth of hard-wood timber. There were swamps in places along the Blackfork, east of Vernon.
An Indian trail passed through Sharon township, from the northeast to Pipestown or Wingenund’s on the Sandusky river near Leesville. There was an Indian hunting camp near to the present site of Vernon Junction for many years after the war of 1812. It is stated that about a dozen Indians under the lead of Johnnycake maintained a camp there until 1828. Civilization has blotted out all external evidences of Indian occupation, but here and there Indian relics are often plowed up. Many of those relics may be of a pre-historic instead of an Indian period.
After a greater number of the Indians had gone to other hunting grounds, a small arty of redskins called at the cabin of a settler with whom they were acquainted and upon invitation, gave an exhibition of one of their wardances. They chose one of their number named Buckwheat to personate a white man. “Buckwheat” was placed in the center of the room, and the other Indians then began to dance around him. Hideous as the Indians were themselves, they added to their repulsiveness, contortions of face and body. They jumped and whooped and yelled roughly upon the floor. Then one of the “braves” placed his foot upon “Buckwheat’s” neck and went through the pantomimic action of scalping him, while other “braves” acted the part of plunging their knives into the body of their victim. “Buckwheat” also played his part so well that the scene was horribly realistic and made a lasting impression upon those who witnessed the performance, and recalled vividly the atrocities perpetrated in certain localities but a few years before.
The pioneers endured many privations, especially during the period prior to the year 1820. The ? mills were but few, and from five to twenty miles distant from some of the settlements. Whenever trips to mills could not be made grain was pounded in a mortar with a wooden pestle. The mortar was made out of a log hollowed out by burning a hole sufficiently large to hold about a half bushel of grain. At the close of the “pounding,” the next process was sifting with staves of different meshes until the grade of flour or meal desired was obtained. The finest flour was made into bread. The coarser grades were made into batter and baked into pan-cakes or boiled into porridge. Corn-meal was made into pones, Johnny-cakes or mush. Sometimes both flour and meal chests were empty, but the pioneer women were always resourceful, and when that condition existed in the fall season, the children were sent to the cornfields to get ears of corn which the good women would grate into meal and prepare into food. If the cornmeal was mixed and baked in a Dutch oven it was called “pone,” if baked on a board in front of the fire it was called ‘Johnny cake,” and if made into balls and baked in the oven, the cakes were called :dodgers.” Another way to use meal was to boil it in water, and this was called “mush.” But if bread was scarce at times, game and ? abounded in great quantities.
As far as possible the pioneers chose the uplands, but many of them built their cabins upon land that rose up, island-like, out of swamps and marshes. They did not seem to care for the agre and malarial fevers, especially incident to the low wet lands. With no hope of ever seeing the land tiled and drained, they went to work to ? farms and let the sun in to dry up the stagnant water.
As there were but few roads in the county in the pioneer times, paths were “blazed” through the forests, and as they were often indistinct in places people sometimes got lost. A case of this kind occurred in Worthington township as late as 1851. A farmer living in Slater’s valley had occasion to go to Independence, and took a “nearent” through a half-mile stretch of woods, and got lost. He wandered through the woods for some time and finally got to the edge of the timber and saw a beautiful valley spread out before him. At the far side of the valley stood a large brick house, and the man said to himself, “What a lovely farm, what a fine residence; I wonder who lives there.” He crossed the fields, went up to the house and asked the way to Independence of a woman who was standing upon the porch. The woman was his wife, the house and farm were his own, but in his confused and bewildered condition he had failed to recognize them, as he was so thoroughly “turned around” that he thought north was south, and that east was west, but when his wife spoke, the points of the compass were right to him, and he then realized that he had been lost within call of his home. Children were frequently lost, a few of them were never found. A little girl some miles southwest of Vernon Junction, disappeared from a sugar-camp where her mother was foiling sap, and was never heard of. A number of strange Indians had been seen in the neighborhood, and it was supposed they had stolen her.
Bethlehem or the Shelby Settlement is situate about two miles southwest of Vernon Junction. The locality is often called the “German Settlement,” as the majority of the residents are Germans, or of German descent. At this settlement, the Rev. J. M. Henni organized a parish of the Roman Catholic communion in 1823. The church is called the “Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Father Henni later became archbishop of Milwaukee. Not only is Richland county, but all over the American continent, the Catholic church has been fully abreast of other religious bodies in missionary, educational and charitable work.
The first members of the Settlement parish were Matthias Olmchelder, Joseph Kurtzman, Joseph Wensinger, Heinrich Dellinger, John Ritschia, Theobald Singer, Carl Sutter, Mr. Helisman, Mr. Richerd, Sebastian Schedbiey, Gottleib Schuble, John Brodmann, Joseph Miller, Morris Keller, Mr. Elmer, Mr. Hinsky, Frederick Christian, Nicholas Rieglin and John Bomgardner.
Forty acres of land where the church stands were entered and deeded to the trustees and their successors. A part of this tract was subsequently sold. The land still owned by the parish is I use for the parochial buildings and cemetery.
At his first visit (1823) Father Henni found sixteen Catholic families in the “Settlement.” The excellent land and the prospect of having a church built, induced others to locate there, and when Father Henni made his second visit, a year or two later, the number of families had increased to thirty. For several years services were held in the log cabins of the settlers by visiting priests. In 186 a log church was built, which served its purpose until 1852 when it was supplanted by a brick building, 40 x30 feet, which was then one of the best of its kind in the county.
The Rev. F. A. Schreiber, now of St. Peter’s, Mansfield, was the pastor at the “Settlement” from ? to ?, and during his pastorate there, the long cherished project of building a new church in keeping with the growth of the parish, was begun under Father Schreiber’s direction. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Hostmann on May 29, 1892, and the same prelate dedicated the splendid church on Sept. 13, 1895. The occasion was a day of supreme joy for Father Schreiber, whose able management of the building affairs was seconded by the generosity of his devoted parishioners. The new church has a length of 149 feet, and a width of 48 feet, is of Bereaent stone, of Gothic architecture, and is doubtless the finest country church in the Cleveland diocese. Among the generous donors, Simon Metzer, Sr., and the late Elizabeth Brotmann should have special mention. Since 1891 the parish school has been conducted by the Dominican Sisters. The “Settlement” now numbers about seventy-five families and is in a prosperous condition.There was a post office called “Bethlehem” at the Settlement for a number of years, but it has been discontinued.
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