Jacob F. Souers
"I was stronger than any of my brothers and companions of my younger days, is the reason I have lived so long, and out lived them all."
Such are the words of "Grandpa" Souers and his explanation of his life span of one hundred years. He has lived in three states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, and a pioneer in two of them. He was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, December 14, 1812, the second son of Jacob and Elizabeth (Franks) Souers, and of a family of nine children.
In 1816 when Jacob F. was only four years old his father entered government land in Wayne County, Ohio, where he moved his family and where they were pioneers. This land remained in the Souers family until about two years ago, being the home of Solomon Souers, the youngest of his father's family and now eighty-two years old, a resident of Wayne County and the only other survivor of the family.
When Jacob F. was twenty years old he visited in Pennsylvania. In those days husking bees were very common, coupling profitable labor with social enjoyment. At a very large husking frolic he showed the sturdy metal of the western woodsman. The company divided into two sides; one side hoisted up one as their champion and captain. They put up their biggest and best man to wrestle, with a challenge to the other side. Mr. Souers, although a comparative stranger, took up the challenge and threw their man, a second man was put up, but he quickly threw him, and established himself as "best man" at the husking. Another instance of his superiority as a wrestler and which was a little humiliating to his oldest brother, George, was at the home of Mr. Redd, neighbor in Ohio, at a husking bee. His brother and a man by name of Cravens had wrestled and Cravens had proven the "Better Man." Jacob twitted him saying, "you are a great wrestler!" "Well," he retorted, "I can thrown you." At it they went but Jacob threw him twice, and he was so "mift" about it, that he went home without his supper. What made it more embarrassing was, this occurrence was at the home of the young lady Martha Redd, who afterward became his wife and the mother of Joseph R. Souers, Mrs. W.T. Whitelock and Mrs. Annetta Cramer.
Grand Pa says his brother Reason was next to him in strength. "It was all I could do to throw him down."
About the time of his visit to Pennsylvania he worked on the National road breaking stone, for a wage of 87 1/2 cents per day; here, too, his prowess as a wrestler was established, throwing the "best man" on the job under his boss. Well grounded was Mr. Souers' reason for his long life.
When twenty years old he went to learn the cooper's trade with Solomon Franks. He worked six months, receiving $3.00 a month, and learned the trade.
Mr. Souers first entered 80 acres of land in Hardin County, Ohio. He did not keep it very long but sold it for $150 - borrowing $50 more of his uncle, Peter Franks, he, with three companions, in the fall of 1836, started on foot for Indiana to inspect lands, walking all the way from Wayne County, Ohio, to this County. The land office was at Ft. Wayne. They came down to Huntington and crossed Little River in a canoe, just below the present bridge of Jefferson Street. There were then only a few houses north of the river and not a single house on the south side where now live four thousand people. The party went through the woods to what is now Rock Creek township, where Mr. Souers selected land which he entered and two years later settled upon with this family, a wife and two children, Elizabeth Ann, three years old, and Micaiah, a baby one year old. After entering his land the party returned to Ohio.
Prior to this time, Mr. Souers had married Ruth Merriman, daughter of Micaiah and Anna Merriman, a young lady of his own neighborhood, whom he had known since childhood, she, also having been born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and on February 1, 1815. They became the parents of six children: Elizabeth A., born May 14, 1835; Micaiah M., May 5, 1837; James, who died in infancy; Mary E., born June 22, 1842; Sarah R., born February 2, 1846; and Xantha M., born October 9, 1852. Of these, four are living, Elizabeth A. Whitelock having died July 3, 1900.
Mrs. Souers was in every way a helpmate to Mr. Souers, in all his pioneer life. She always bore her part of the burdens cheerfully. They were both of kind disposition and devoted to their family and friends.
In the fall of 1838 Mr. Souers and his brother, Reason, with their families, started in wagons from Wayne County, Ohio, to establish new homes in the woods of Indiana. They had married sisters. Reason and wife lived the remainder of their lives in this County, he dying only a few years ago at the advanced age of about 93 years. The journey of the new settlers was over new cut roads and necessarily slow.
John Sheets in the fall of 1837 had located about three miles from the Souers' land and had a cabin and small clearing. Here the party stopped for a little time. From Mr. Sheets' home to the Souers' land a distance of three miles, the "movers" had to cut their own road through the unbroken forest. When they reached the place of their future home they camped until a hastily constructed cabin was erected out of poles and small logs. Poles were put across the cabin for beds. Such was the home for the winter.
The fall of '38 was very dry and no water for drinking could be had short of the home of Mr. Sheets, so water was hauled from his house, three miles away. Game was plentiful, deer and turkeys abounded, and bee trees were frequently found. One night while out hunting Mr. Souers' dog "treed" something, coming up Mr. Souers found a bee crawling on the trunk, so he camped all night under the tree; next morning he cut the tree and captured two coons and found 11 feet of honey comb, making nine gallons of honey. On Christmas day following, he found another tree with five gallons of honey. In two or three years he found twelve bee trees. So the forest supplied most of the food for the family.
The season of '39 was very dry so that the settlers raised no corn, and Mr. Souers had to go to a settlement on the Mississinewa river for corn, where he bough 50 bushels at 50c a bushel; this was ground into meal at a mill on the Salamonie river. For many years corn bread baked into poan or cakes before the open fire place was their only bread; a cook stove was too great a luxury. In the fall of 1839 Mr. Souers erected a hewed log cabin, which made a comfortable home for his family; he dug a well here. While digging this well their little daughter, Elizabeth, then four years old, wanted to go where the men were working, her mother consented, but she lost her way and went the wrong direction. She started about 10 o'clock; at dinner time they found that she had not been with the men. Search was immediately made; tracks were found going toward the Ft. Wayne road, the trail of Gen. Anthony Wayne; this was the only road near the settlement. On this road her tracks were found going toward Ft. Wayne; there was no house for miles. She had followed the road about five miles when she turned off into the woods. Her father, when he could not find tracks, called, she hearing him, answered and late in the afternoon with joyful hearts the father returned with the little girl to the cabin home. Wolves frequently howled around the cabin, and wild game would come about the door; one night grandfather killed two large white porcupines near his door and one night he shot a deer when it was so dark he could see the direction it ran when he fired, The shot broke its hip, as he found the next morning, when he got his game. The Indians would occasionally come to the cabin hunting their ponies but they were always friendly and never gave the family any trouble.
Mr. Souers was the owner of a team of mares and a colt, but he had no enclosure for them so they ran in the woods, having a big bell on them. In the fall of 1839, about one year after they had settled on their land the horses strayed away. When "Grandpa" discovered they were gone he got on the trail and followed on foot as far as Bluifton. Sometimes he could hear their bell, but could not overtake them. He decided to return home without them. This he did, but the day after started again on the trail, leaving his wife and two children all alone. He struck the trail beyond Bluffton and followed on and on; they had browsed along the way but he could not catch up, being on foot. He followed them for about 130 miles to Dayton, Ohio. Here he learned the horses were only a short distance ahead of him. But a man living about ten miles out in the woods from Dayton had taken the horses out to his settlement, believing that they belonged to a neighbor, so Mr. Souers had to follow out there. This took another day to get his horses and back to Dayton. He was gone about a week until he returned with his team, Mrs. Souers with the children being alone at the cabin all the time, but she was a true and brave pioneer and the howling wolves and screeching panther did not fill her with terror.
When Mr. Souers came to the County there were no roads, near the home, the only one being the Gen. Wayne trail, that he had cut when marching through, fighting the Indians. This was only a quarter mile from his land. The Huntington and Warren road was not yet cut out and Mr. Souers was notified to begin at Warren to help open this road through the wilderness, which be did. Most of the roads in that part of the County were marked by the ax of Mr. Souers. He helped to build the plank road from Huntington to Warren, giving $50 to help this great improvement; when new it was a splendid road compared with the other roads. He also gave $50 toward locating the Wabash R.R. The grand children and great grand children of Mr. Souers can hardly realize what were the hardships of the Souers' family in clearing up the farm, draining the swamps, building the home, and improving the almost impassable roads of that early day. But, with all the hardship and deprivations, the early settlers were rugged and enjoyed the log rollings, quiltings, husking bees, spelling schools, and hunting expeditions of the day "Grand Pa" was not a great hunter, that is, did not spend much time in that way; he was too busy clearing and improving his land, laying the foundation for the comfortable accumulations of his later life. Occasionally, however, he hunted. He was a good shot with his trusty rifle and his faithful dog as his companion had good results on his hunting expeditions. He killed only one bear. Tracks were discovered by a man by the name of Poff, in the bear pond two miles east of his home, Poff, his son and "Grandpa" followed the bear some 12 or 15 miles, bringing him to bay south of Bluffton. Poff claimed to be a great bear hunter, but he fired two shots without avail. The bear having turned upon the dogs, Mr. Souers fired the fatal shot. The meat was divided and the skin sold for $6.00, which was divided among the three hunters. "Grand Pa" helped kill only one wolf, but killed a great many deer. The last one he killed was 60 years ago this fall, about the time his youngest child was born. Sixty years ago he built a large and comfortable frame dwelling in which he lived until he left the old farm, and moved to Huntington in 1887, where he has lived ever since.
Rock Creek township, where "Grand Pa" Souers settled, was not organized into a township until four years after he moved onto his land. So he cast his first vote at Warren and has never missed an election since coming to the County. He did not get to vote for Van Buren at the election in 1836. He got to his home in Ohio from his trip to Indiana on election day, but not until after the polls closed.
In September 1842 Rock Creek township was organized and three trustees were elected; they were: Jacob E Souers, John Sheets, and N. Poulson, democrats. The township has steadily remained in that faith ever since with one exception-that was in 1860, when the majority voted for Lincoln.
"Grand Pa" has always been a Democrat, while never a politician, his devotion to his party was very pronounced.
Mr. Souers never figured much in the courts of the County. After the election of 1844 the election board of Rock Creek township had to face a Grand Jury charge for permitting illegal voting, this board was Jacob F. Souers, John Souers, a brother of Jacob F., and a man by name of Schenck, two Democrats an one Whig. "Grand Pa" was chairman but had no time piece. George Craiks, a Whig, insisted that it was four o'clock and the polls should close, seeming to be aware that some democrats were yet coming to vote. Mr. Souers hesitated, but declared the polls closed. In a few minutes Gideon Lantis and James Cline, two democrats, offered to vote, a parley ensued and finally their votes were received; for this, the board was indicted. This was at the election of 1844, when 12 votes were cast for Polk and 6 for Clay, and a hat was used for a ballot box.
James R. Slack, then a young lawyer, was employed for $10.00 a piece by the board to make the defense. The case came on for trial before Judge Borden and a jury. On the jury was Gideon Lantis, one of the men who had voted. The trial was on, the defense had submitted most of its evidence when Slack said "Let Mr. Lantis, one of the jury men, be sworn." He rose in the jury box, was sworn, and Mr. Slack said, "Mr. Lantis what time was it when you voted?" He answered, "Not four o'clock sir'; this settled the case, the jury promptily returned a verdict of acquittal.
Grandfather and Grandmother became members of the Baptist church in a very early day and ever remained faithful to the Church.
Before Mr. and Mrs. Souers moved to Huntington in 1887 they were very active on their farm, seldom going on a visit. In those days Mr. Souers was hardly ever known to go fishing, but after he came to town he came to be known as "Grand Pa Souers, the Fisherman."
His habits and sunny disposition as well as his strength have contributed to the length of days. He never used tobacco, nor liquors of any kind, was always a hearty eater and observed regular hours of sleep. He was sweet tempered and happy in disposition and when greeted by "How are you Grand Pa?' he always responded, "I'm all right."
The death of "Grandma" Souers was on February 12, 1895, she being a little past four score years. The tendrils of life that had been entwined about them since childhood and binding them closer and closer together had been severed to the natural eye but to the spiritual vision one tendril is on "on the other side of the river" and one on this side a century old, waiting patiently to be transplanted on the banks of the "River of Life."
Jacob E Souers and his Descendants
Jacob F. Souers, sixty-three living descendants. Four living children. Nineteen living grand children. Thirty living great grand children. Ten living great, grand children.
2nd. Elizabeth A. (Souers) Whitelock (deceased); Micaiah M. Souers; Mary E. (Souers-Funderburg) Mcllwain; Sarah R. (Souers) McClurg; Xantha M. (Souers) King.
3d. O.W. Whitelock; Mary L. (Souers) Smith; Icelone (Souers) Eikenberry; John E. Souers; Jacob M. Souers; James Souers; Viola (Souers) Shipley; Ella (Souers) Andrew; Anna (Souers) Canaday; Gertrude (Souers) McClellan; Edwin Funderburg; Rosetta (Funderburg) King; Lillian B. (Funderburg) Gray; Lizzie (Funderburg) Brown; Emma (McClurg) McFadden; Benjamin F. McClurg; Jacob M. McClurg; Otto U. King; Emmett 0. King.
4th. Wilfred J. Whitelock; Marietta (Whitelock) Ramey; Clarence Jacob Whitelock; Charles N. Whitelock; Florence E. Whitelock; Lewis Smith; Willie Smith; Mable (Smith-Floyd) Dowd; Edna (Smith) Hawkins; Carl Smith; Micaiah Smith; Rena Eikenberry; Margaret Souers; Robert Souers; James Souers, Jr.; Ruth Andrew; Roy Andrew; Bryce King; Vanice B. King; Harry C. Gray; Russel S. Gray; Ward D. Brown; Gratten McFadden; Helen McFadden; Luetta McFadden; Lola (McClurg) Clampitt; Lessie McClurg; Helen A. King; Walter W. King; Betty Louise King.
5th. Wilfred J.O. Whitelock; Robert W. Ramey; Wm. Edward Whitelock; Florence Celia Smith; Lewis Smith; Elbert Smith; Marion C. Smith; Ruth Floyd; Bryce Smith; Jay McClurg Clampitt.
["Originally transcribed by Betty Beem and published in the Indiana Historical Society Quarterly on December 1994 and transcribed here for Genealogy Trails by a Friend of Free Genealogy"]
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