Williams County Reminiscenses
Source: "Bryan Democrat", Jan. 5, 1871
Last week while hunting up matter for the Business Directory, published elsewhere in this paper, we encountered a number of "old settlers " from whom we learned the following particulars of the early settlement of this county.
The first actual settler in what is now known as Williams county was James Guthrie, who "squatted" near Bean Creek, in 1827. He put up a cabin and cleared a small patch of land, but gave little attention to agricultural pursuits, spending most of his time trapping along Bean and Beaver creeks, or hunting in the adjacent forests.
In 1830, Hollingshead and Lindenberer "squatted" on Bean creek, near Guthrie's claim, and cleared up the land. Daniel Colgan afterwards "entered the tract" settled on by Hollingshead, bought his claim, and occupied the farm until his death, which occurred some four years ago.
During the summer of fall of 1833, Joseph Bates and John Youn moved their families to the north-eastern part of the county, and were followed by Eli Oliver, Turner Thompson, Jabez Jones and John Miller, each of whom entered lands, and moved on to them.
About October 1st, 1833, Judge John Perkins and his two sons Isaac and Garrett, his son-in-law, John Plummer, and John Moss, George Lantz, Henry Jones and a man named Hood came with their families from Brunersburg to live near where the village of Pulaski now stands. The settlement was named Lafayette, but for some reason was subsequently changed to Pulaski. We are informed that the site for the new settlement was chosen by Isaac Perkins and John Plummer, who trapped along the banks of Bean and Beaver creeks as early as 1820.
Judge John Perkins, who seems to have been the leading spirit among the pioneers, was one of the earliest settlers of the Maumee Valley, having removed from Ross county, to Prairie du Masque, on the Maumee river, in 1816 or 1817, and from Brunersburg in 1819. He built the first grist mill at Brunersburg, and was one of the three first Associate Judges appointed for Williams county, a position he held for many years. He built the first grist and saw mills in what is now Williams county.
About the 20th of Nov., 1833, Wm. Wyatt moved from Delaware county and settled near the Perkins's, on lands he had previously "entered". Mr. Wyatt informs us that on the night when the "stars fell" (13th of Nov.) he was encamped between two Powell's creeks, and that he reached his destination on the 20th.
In 1839 the number of old settlers in this vicinity had materially increased. Dr. Thomas Kent, who had moved to Lafayette a year or two before, favors us with the following list of voters at the election in 1839: John Perkins, Garrett Perkins, Isaac Perkins, Ezra Wilson, Reuben H. Gilson, George B. Jones. Isaac Swagger, William Killpatrick, Jas. McKinley, Henry Johnson, James Alexander, Garrett T. Hill, David Pickett, Alonzo Rawson, Rob't. Thompson, George Everett, Thomas Kent, Benjamin Kent, Henry Cassatt, John Beaver, George Lantz, Daniel Wyatt, ?, Davison.
About that time an effort made to change the location of the county seat from Fort Defiance to a more central point in the county. Several locaties aspired to the honor, among them the villages of Pulaski and Center; also the Perkins' far, on Beaver creek, Bowman' s farm two miles south-west of Bryan, and the " Walnut-tree site", one and a-half miles west. The present site of Bryan was a howling wilderness, but its owner, Hon. John A. Bryan, then the Auditor of State, coveted the honors and was mainly instrumental in securing a change. In the year 1839-40 the Legislature enacted a law to change the county seat and appointed Hons. John McCutchen, of Crawford, Burns of Coshocton, and Culbertson of Perry, Commissioners to select a site. In the spring of 1840 the Commissioners arrived, and after a passing glance at the several sites, unanimousley decided in favor of Bryan's tract. It is quietly intimated that the location was agreed upon before the Commissioners left Columbus, but it was necessary to personally visit the localities before announcing their determination. But probably the strongest inducement for its location on the site finally selected was the fact that Mr. Bryan had offered a donation of several thousand dollars towards the erection of the county buildings.
At that time the plat was covered with a dense forest, not a stick had been cut for any purpose, and the "lay of the land" was considered low and somewhat marshy. The nearest dwelling in a northerly dwelling on a clearing owned by a man named Ingle. John Davis now owns and occupies the farm. East, Garret Perkins' was the nearest opening, just where the State road crosses Beaver creek, now occupied by Mr. Clodfelter.
South, seven miles away, was Crago's tavern, a small round log house, where the proprietor entertained men and beast in real old-fashioned, backwoods style. West, nearly two miles, Wm. Sheridan, sen., worked on a small farm and carried on blacksmithing in its various branches. Mr. Sheridan still lives on the farm cleared up by him over thirty years ago. During the summer of '40, and after the location of the county seat, the streets and lots were run off by Miller Arrowsmith, Esq., county surveyor, and the embryo city named Bryan and after its distinguished projector and proprietor. As soon as the survey was completed, Volney Crocker, (then living on land owned by Hon. E. Foster, south-east of town) struck up a bass-wood log shanty on the lot since for many years occupied by Reasoners' tavern, which he lodged in while engaged in clearing off the Court House square. The shanty could hardly be dignified with the title of cabin, for it was neither "chinked nor daubed", and was only occupied for a short time. Before the completion of Mr. Crocker's contract, Daniel Wyatt came on from Beaver creek, cleared a lot and built a round log cabin, about where the residence of Samuel White now is. The cabin was "chinked and Daubed", had a puncheon floor and a real chimney, made of sticks and run up on the outside of one end of the cabin. It was unquestionably the first dwelling house erected in Bryan, and was occupied by Mr. Wyatt and family a long time. Mr. Jacob Over, who had visited the site before the town commenced, returned a few days after the completion of the cabin and boarded with Mr. Wyatt during the following winter. Mr. Over still resides in Bryan and is a hale, hearty man.
Before the raising if Mr. Wyatt's cabin, Uncle John Kaufman commenced an improvement on the corner of Main and Bryan streets, where Dr. Graser's residence now stands, and soon had up a comfortable cabin into which he and his family removed during the fall of '40. Uncle John made the brick for the present Court House, in 1842-43, and assisted in its construction. He still resides in Bryan and finds much pleasure in recounting incidents in the early history of the country.
The third dwelling was erected by a man named Hamilton, on the lot owned by J. J. Snyder on Lynn street. During the fall and winter several other cabins were raised and occupied, and the county seat began to assume shape. Up to the spring of 1841 the citizens had been using surface water which they obtained from holes or reservoirs dug in the ground. Mr. Wyatt having received liberal encouragement, dug a well on his lot, just in the rear of his cabin. Fountains of flowing wells were unthought of and he was proceeding in the usual manner to dig a curb well. Having reached the hard-pan late in the evening he determined to rest from his labors. Returning to work in the morning he found that the water had burst the hard-pan, filled the well and was running out at the top. This was the first well in Bryan and it was dug several months after the town site was laid out. Hamilton dug a well on his lot a short time afterwards. The first fountain bored was on the lot where Carter's drug store now stands, by Dr. Thomas Kent, in 1842, with tools made expressly for the purpose by Wm. Sheridan, sen. It was the first fountain, so-called, in town.
During the fall and winter of 1840-41, a log Court House was raised on the lot now occupied by I. R. Whitmore, on north Main street, and in the spring of 1841 the county records were removed from Defiance. The county offices were in a log building in the south side of the square. The county officers did not come with the records, but entrusted the business in the hands of the deputies. The officers and deputies were - Ed Phelps, clerk, Levi Colby, deputy; W. A. Brown, auditor, S. R. Brown, deputy, E. Loyd, treasurer, J. L. Martin, deputy; C. L. Noble, recorder; W. A. Stevens, deputy; ? Daggett, sheriff, John Drake, deputy; Mr. Stevens, transacted nearly all the county business during the first year or two, except during court week and tax-paying time.
The first term of Williams county Court of Common Pleas was begun and held in the log Court House, April 19, 1841. Present, Hons. Emory D. Potter, President Judge, Jonas Colby and Wm. D. Haymaker, Associates, The Grand Jurors were; Horace Hilton, John Bowdle, James Partee, Jacob Kries, Zachariah Hurt, Wm. Travis, Francis Loughhead, Daniel Wyatt, Geo. W. Durbin, Jacob Dillman, Isaiah Ackley, Amos Stoddard, Seth Stinson, Fred Meizer, and Jacob G. Weldin. Jacob Dillman was appointed foreman, Our fellow townsman George W. Myers, was one of the Petit Jurors at the same term. It is safe to say that with such men "to the fore" justice between man and man was fairly and impartially administered. The first political convention of which we have any account was of the Democratic persuasion, and held at the house of Col. J. B. Kimmel, at Williams Center in the fall prior to the two dollars a day and hard cider year of 1840. Col. K. presided, and tradition says the proceedings were marked with the utmost harmony and good feeling. The harmony and good feeling, however did not prevail to any great extent a few years later. The first tavern opened in Bryan was on the east side of the square in 1841, by Thomas Shorthill. Mr. S. was appointed Postmaster the same year, but the business of the office was transacted by his brother, James Shorthill. The first store was started, also on the east side, by our fellow-townsman Wm. Yates, Esq. He continued in business at the old stand until the winter of '55-6, when his building was burned. The business amounted to about $2, 500 the first year. Twenty nine years later $2,000 will hardly cover the transactions of one year.
In 1841, E. H. Leland opened a law office He was soon after followed by George Higgings. In 1842 Leland and Higgings were candidates before the Democratic county convention for the nomination for Prosecuting Attorney. Leland was successful, and elected, of course, the county being reliably Democratic. Higgings soon afterwards moved to a more congenial clime.
A. J. Tressler, Esq., now cashier of the First National Bank of Bryan, was the first school teacher. He taught the young idea how to shoot, in 1842, in a log school house near where Brown's tailor shop now stands, south side of the square. The following notice might have appeared in the Bryan papers of 1842, had there been any papers printed here at that date:
Married - In Bryan, Ohio - 1842, by J. B. Kimmel, Esq., Mr. A. J. Tressler and Miss Olivia Kent, both of this place.
It was the first marriage consummated in the village of Bryan.
The new Court House, begun in 1842, was completed in 1845, and was at that time the best structure for the purpose in Northwestern Ohio.
The first newspaper started here was the The Northwestern, by Blacker. It was Democratic in politics and issued weekly from a small frame building on north Main street. It was sickly from its birth and lived about a year.
From 1840 to 1856 the growth of the village was slow, very slow, but the completion of the Air Line Road from Toledo to Chicago gave impetus to immigration and trade, and now we have one of the most flourishing business towns, backed by the most reliably productive regions in Ohio. It has now reached a position where it cannot stop, if it would. The country surrounding it is settled by a class of industrious, enterprising people who drive things to win, and they will rapidly force Bryan into a position of wealth and influence second to that of no other inland county seat in the state.
[Transcribed by Linda Dietz]