Putnam County, Ohio
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Genealogy and History



Early Pioneer Stories

Pioneer Reminiscences
The pioneers organized at Kalida September 6, 1873, with George Skinner as chairman, who appointed as committee to draft a constitution and by-laws, Dr. Moses Lee, Henry M. Crawfis, and George Skinner.

The first article declared all persons resident in the county prior to 1840 eligible to membership. The society issued two pamphlets of Reminiscences—one in 1878 and one in 1886. We give items from these "talks" in abridged form.

George Skinner, born in Hamilton county in 1816. Had his little stock of saddlery wagoned from Piqua to Kalida in 1839, and opened a shop. Nearest saddler on the south was at Lima; Findlay, east; Defiance, north; Fort Wayne, west. Two stores then in Kalida, Sheldon Guthrie's and Moses Lee's; two taverns, Dr. Lee's and James Thatcher's; court-house then building. First courts were held in the cabin of Abraham Sarber. First court, May 5, 1834.

The first settler in the county was David Murphy. He came down the Blanchard from Fort Findlay in a canoe, in 1824, with his family; went up the Auglaize three miles and settled on the bayou. Erected a cabin of poles ; ran out of provisions; none nearer than Fort Findlay; out also of rifle balls; recollected where he had shot a ball into a tree; hunted the tree, cut out the ball, recast it, and seeing a bear on the limb of a tree, took aim at the bear—a trying moment —killed the bear.

H. S. Knapp became at an early day editor of the Kalida Venture. Went one Sunday to a camp-meeting at Columbus Grove, in a wagon, with his wife. They were newly married. Started to return together on horseback and got dumped into a mud-hole. Knapp tried to pull his wife out but failed. Backed his horse; wife caught horse's tail and was pulled out. The Venture appeared next morning with editorials short and cribbed. [The opposition papers denounced his newspaper as the "Kalida Vulture." Knapp lived to write the history of the Maumee valley, and dedicated it to "Rutherford B. Hayes, late Governor of Ohio." The Venture was established in 1841 by James Mackenzie; in the course of years lost its unique, enterprising name, and is now the Putnam County Sentinel, with Geo. D. Kinder, editor "on guard."]

East from the barn of William Turner, in Pleasant township, is a low piece of bottom land some twenty rods wide. In 1845 there was an upheaval of the earth ; a ridge formed across from bank to bank, some four feet high and about thirty wide, which dammed up a creek there ; so that Mr. Turner was obliged to cut a channel through it to let off the accumulated waters. The cause of this no one knows.

For many years after the organization of the county a session of the court was deemed a fit time for a spree, a general good time; so it was common to hold court all day, and have a jolly good time all night during the entire term of the court.

Wheat, corn, potatoes and pork were raised with very little trouble, and, when properly taken care of, want was never known. Game was plenty. Coon and deer-skins, with the money brought by emigrants, formed about all the currency. Hand-mills for grinding corn were almost a household necessity, and the meal from one car, made into bread, was deemed ample for one meal for one person. On calling for a dinner, persons sometimes had to wait until the corn was shelled, ground and baked.

Hiram Sarber, born in Franklin county in 1817, settled one mile below Kalida in 1833. When corn began to ear, along came the coons and squirrels, and it seemed as though they would get it all. Father said to me, Hiram, there is the little gun and dog. I want you to watch the coons and squirrels out of the corn-field.'' I thought this would be fun, but I found out better in a few days. I shot squirrels by day and hunted coons by night. The dog would lay by daytime; when night came he was ready for a hunt, when I would open the door and say, "Go! hunt them," and wait until he barked. He would not kill them until I came. At last I got so tired of this that I tied him up to get some sleep. If I let him loose, he would soon find one, and then bark until father would call out, "Hiram! do you hear the dog?" and then I would have to get up and go ; for I knew better than to disobey him.

The Indians were plenty here, and we had considerable sport with them shooting at a mark, hopping, and running foot-races. The first winter and spring, ,if we boys wanted young company we had to go twelve miles to a settlement, where there were about a dozen boys and girls that attended meeting, and a singing at a log school-house.

The First Road in the county was the one cut through from Fort Recovery to Defiance, by Anthony Wayne, in 1794. This passed along the west side of the river, and has ever since, with few variations, been used as a public road. At the intersection of Jennings creek with the Auglaize, on this road, Col. Jennings erected, in 1812, a stockade for the protection of supplies between Fort Recovery and Fort Defiance ; and on this road the first mail was established, and the mail carried between Piqua and Defiance, once a week, on horseback, supplying between the termini the offices of Hardin, Wapakonetta, and Sugar Grove (this was at the house of Sebastian Sroufe, near Hover's Mills), the only postoffice in the county. The mail was carried by a boy. C. C. Marshall, from September, 1829, to December 31, 1831. This boy was afterward Mayor of Delphos. Superintendent of the Miami and Erie Canal, and a member of both houses of the legislature.

John Wilcox, born in Madison county in 1825 ; his parents settled in Perry township in 1827. One night, when the father was absent and the pioneer wife alone with her two babes in the rude cabin, "the rains descended and the floods came;" the mother took her babes, her axe, and pot of fire (matches then being unknown), and started for higher ground, which she reached after wading through water for a quarter of a mile, and built a fire where the first orchard was planted in the subsequent year, the trees being purchased from John Chapman— "Johnny Appleseed "—who was peddling in a boat from his nursery near Fort Findlay. The rise of the waters again compelled her to seek higher ground and here she was found later in the day by Demit Mackeral, who had come to her relief in a canoe.

The January Flood of 1830 was the highest ever known to white settlers. The river appeared to seek its level with the neighboring swamps as tributaries. Hog creek, on a "high," united its waters with the Blanchard at Prairie Run. When it was at its highest and the earth saturated with water, making it all slush and mud, the weather, being quite warm for the season, suddenly changed to extreme cold, and the almost boundless sea of water was frozen into a glare of ice to the depth of an inch and a half. Cattle lying down at night were frozen to the ground before morning, and the legs of some were frozen to the knees. On this glare of ice hundreds of deer were killed by wolves, they being headed off of the dry ridges upon which they had sought shelter; and once on the smooth ice they became an easy prey to the ravenous beasts.

William Galbraith. Ottawa Indians were his only neighbors when he settled in Putnam county in 1834. Sycamore and his squaw, who had a pappoose, got into a quarrel, when he pulled out his knife and cut the child in two. Each one had half, and they settled the quarrel.

Indian Tom would steal, so the tribe concluded to put him out of the way. One evening, when the river was rising very fast, they took him down into a low bottom, and tied him to stakes driven in the ground, expecting the river to rise before morning and drown him. But there was a young squaw, who went down in the night and cut him loose. Tom finally went with the Ottawa tribe west.

Stansbury Button settled on Ottawa Green in 1833. Indian Tom was a bad Indian. ' In the spring of 18o4 he stole a pony from some of his tribe. They tried him for stealing, found him guilty, took him from camp, divested him of his clothing, laid him on his back, tied him to a stake, and left him to remain all night, subject to the torture of the innumerable hosts of mosquitos and gnats. I saw Tom the next morning ; he was a fearful looking object. He looked as though every pore of his skin had been penetrated by the insects. I sympathized with him, notwithstanding I knew he was a thief. After Tom was released they procured whiskey, and the whole tribe (except Pe Donqet, the chief) got drunk and had a general spree, lasting two days.

In the early settlement of a new country there is to be found a larger development of a true and genuine brotherly love and magnanimity than in any other place. In the fall of 1833 a Mr. Owens lost two cows. Thinking he would find them on Tawa Green, he pursued them to that place. Finding they had gone on, he borrowed some money of my father to pay his expenses, and pushed on after them. On the third day he returned with the cows, returned the same money, saying he could not get any one to take accent of it.

J. Y. Sackett settled in Riley township in 1833. Devil Jim and two others were claimants for the chieftainship of the Ottawa tribe of Indians. The tribe chose one of the other two, and Devil Jim, stepping up to his successful opponent, knife in hand, stabbed him in the abdomen, causing death. The tribe decided that the heir to the chieftainship should execute Jim. The executioner took the knife in hand, and commenced stabbing Jim, but without much effect. Jim damned him ; told him he did not know how to kill a man, and, placing his hand on his left breast, told him to stab there. He obeyed ; and Jim fell dead.

Brockman Brower settled in Greensburg township in 1833. We obtained our fruit trees from John Chapman ("Johnny Appleseed"). When I first saw him he was floating down the Blanchard river in a canoe, loaded with apple-trees, distributing them among the early settlers along the Blanchard. Auglaize, and Maumee rivers. He would supply trees to all, regardless of their ability to pay for them. His nursery was near the headwaters of the Blanchard. Loading a canoe, he would descend the river, supplying all who were in need of fruit-trees. He thus devoted his time and means for the benefit of his fellow-man. The year 1834 was noted for the July flood, It rained a large portion of the time, from the 20th of June until the 4th of July, at which time the river was at its highest. It was rising nearly two weeks, and nearly as long going down. It will now rise to its highest point in three or four days, and recede in the same length of time.

Dr. R. W. Thrift, in an address before the Pioneer Association, said: "When I first came into the county the country appeared to be a dead level, densely and heavily wooded, with swales on every side that fed the streams, and kept them more or less swollen all the year round. The main roads had been recently cut out, and instead of there being any ditches as now to drain and dry them, they were walled up on either side by massive trees, that excluded from their surface the sunlight and the winds, and left them moist and muddy at all seasons when not actually frozen. So far as I know, there was not a bridge across the Auglaize, Hog creek, or the Blanchard, anywhere along their course through the county ; and perhaps not from their common source in the great marsh in Hardin county to where they unitedly empty into the Maumee at Defiance. One of the bast qualifications of the physician's horse then was to be a safe, high swimmer : and among the first lessons the physician had to learn in manual labor was how to ' paddle his own canoe.' "

It is related of one of the old settlers, that being sick and in need of a medical man, his nearest source of supply was Defiance, possibly Dr. Colby or Evans, as they were among the first of that town ; at all events a single visit was made, and the old settler was subsequently told that his bill was $20. He was astonished, and protested that it was too much. "See here," said the doctor, "that bill is not high, considering the result of my visit. Here you are sound and well again ; then you looked to me as though you were about to die. Of course, if you had died, I should not have charged you so much." "O my! O my!" said the old settler, "I wish I had died then, doctor." I suppose really that life on the Auglaize at that time had not as many charms as it might now have upon the banks of the Hudson.

[Source: Henry Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio- Vol 2, 1892]


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