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An American Family History

Excerpts from The History of German Township

 
Springfield
Springfield, Ohio - 1846 - Henry Howe
 
The indigenous population in the United States before the arrival of Europeans included many distinct tribes and languages
American pioneers migrated west to settle areas not previously inhabited by European Americans.

Sixty-three years ago the township of German was formed. . .The township then comprised besides its present land, portions of Moorefield Township, which, in the year 1835, were taken from it leaving it with the present territory. It is in the northern tier of townships, and west but one, lying south of Champaign County, west of Moorefield Township, north of Springfield and Bethel, and east of Pike Township. The surface in general is an elevated table-land, beautiful and very fertile valleys extend from one-half to three-quarters of a mile on either side of Mad River, and Chapman's Creek. . .

The people are moral, industrious and frugal, being descendants of that plain and unassuming class peopling this region, which began to be settled at the close of the eighteenth century. . . coming to this region when it was a dense wilderness inhabited only by the red men. How great must have been the change witnessed by this pioneer woman! She often rehearsed the happenings of the days of yore to later generations, who frequently gathered around her blazing fire during the long winter evenings, to hear her interesting narratives of the past. She had often slept in the cornfield for fear of the Indians, and remembered distinctly the "block-houses" that stood up and down the valley. By her at one of the pioneer meetings held just prior to her death, was exhibited cotton fabrics she had woven and colored; showed calico she had purchased the first time she was ever in Urbana, when the village had but one store kept by John Reynolds, giving 75 cents per yard for it. Another piece of calico her mother had bought of a peddler-at $1 per yard, and still another scrap that they had gotten of the Indians. . . .

The settlement was increased in 1801 by the coming of Jacob Kiblinger, a native of Virginia, who purchased eighty acres of land and returned to his native State, and, between the years of 1801 and 1805, made four trips to this vicinity, moving several families of the Kiblingers and Pences.

Among the latter was a John Pence. These all became permanent settlers in German Township. Jacob Kiblinger, Sr., father of the one above given, erected the first saw and hemp mill, located on Mad River near where the "Eagle Mills" now stand, in this section of the country. . .

The timber here was very thick and exceedingly large, and it is said that Jones on the occasion of felling some trees just previous to erecting his cabin, spent one entire night in chopping to fell one mammoth walnut tree, it being so large that he was compelled to cut steps into it to enable him to reach it with the ax. What would our walnut tree men of to-day pay for such timber? And this timber was so thick that when felled one could walk over acres of ground without stepping off of logs, then so plentiful, thousands of feet being burned to get it out of the way. Now how scarce and costly.

The rude cabin was here built of small logs with its clapboard roof and weight-poles, and the split puncheon door swung on its hinges of wood, with the wooden latch and string, and the chimney of sticks and mud, and the greased paper window was soon ready for occupancy. . .

A blockhouse or garrison house is a small, isolated fort. The typical blockhouse was two stories with the second story overhanging the first. It had small openings to allow residents to shoot attackers without being exposed.

Most Americans were farmers in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The first Europeans settled in the Northwest Territory in 1788. The Miami Company managed settlement in the southwest and the Connecticut Land Company managed settlement in the northeast. Migrants came from New York and New England. Ohio was admitted to the Union as the 17th state on March 1, 1803.

Lutherans are Protestants who follow Martin Luther's religious teachings, especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Early American taverns were important town meeting places and were strictly supervised. Innkeepers were respectable members of the community.

Settlers often built log cabins as their first homes.

The Civil War had more casualties than any other American war. Disease and infection were the biggest killers.

The settlement was augmented in 1805, by the families of Philip Kizer, George Glass, Daniel Gentis and Abraham Zerkle (Circle). [Philip] Kizer settled east of Tremont, having come from Virginia; served in the War of 1812 as Captain. Zerkle was from Virginia, and entered land in Section 9. The Weavers, William and Christopher, were very early settlers in this locality, coming about the beginning of this century.

William Haller, from personal knowledge of several of these pioneers, speaks of them as follows:

William Ross was of medium stature, and had wonderful strength and endurance. Charles Rector was larger, was strong and very hardy. These men and families were fitted for a new country life, and were valuable Christian men. Weaver was also a man of fine stature, an upright and Christian man.

At the beginning of the century, when most of the above-named pioneers entered this region, it was a dense wilderness, inhabited only by the red man, and roamed over by wild beasts. The Indians were very numerous and quite hostile, so that the settlers lived in constant dread of them, many times being compelled to collect together for mutual protection. In 1806, during one of their outbreaks, all of the whites for miles around collected at the old block-house at Boston, when Col. Ward and Simon Kenton and other prominent men made a treaty with them. John Ross remembered well Tecumseh and other noted chiefs, and the oratory displayed by the former at this conference. False alarms were occasionally given, creating sometimes scenes of great laughter.

The pioneers of 1806 were Daniel Kiblinger and Thomas Nauman [Nawman], Jr., the former hailing from that State, in after years designated as the "Mother of Presidents," whence so many of our pioneers came. Nauman too was a native of Virginia, and came to this vicinity on horseback and made his home with Matthias Friermood (father-in-law of John Baker and Martin Baker), who was a settler at a still earlier date.

In 1809, Thomas Nauman, Sr., and family, settled in the township. He was one of the patriotic men who, just prior to the war of 1776, assisted in throwing overboard the cargo of tea in Boston Harbor. In 1810, Felty [Schneider] Snyder, of Virginia, effected a settlement in this locality. [Thomas' son Thomas Nawman married Henry Baker's daughter Catherine.]

Benjamin Morris, from the same State, came the year previous, and, in 1811, entered 160 acres in the southern part of the township. Served in the War of 1812. He died at an advanced age.

Samuel Baker and John Keller were added to the colony in the year 1811. And the next year, Rudolph Baker and Benjamin Frantz, the former from Virginia, and the latter from Pennsylvania. Frantz was another who served his country in the war then waged by the mother country. Virginia continued to send forth her sons,

Samuel Meranda emigrating in 1814, purchasing a tract of land where Jefferson Meranda now lives, and, in 1816 came Matthias Rust (father of Jacob Rust) and Frederick Michael, Jacob Maggart, his brother David [Maggart], and Philip Goodman, are also numbered with the pioneers of the township.

At a very early day, Jeremiah Simms and family came to this section of the county, but the country was so new and thinly settled that they returned to Virginia and again came out in about 1806, and entered a quarter-section of land in the southern part of the township. He was a valuable man, being a blacksmith by trade, a mechanic then greatly needed in the settlement. One of his sons, Jeremiah, Jr., was a local preacher, and preached the first sermon proclaimed in Rector Church over the remains of Catharine Peck in the year 1822.

George Welchaus and William Enoch, the former of Pennsylvania, and the latter from Virginia, settled here in 1808. [William Enoch's son, William, married Mary Branstetter.]

John Kemp, of Virginia, and Thomas Hays, a native of Kentucky, came in 1809, the former settling in Section 14, and the latter in Section 25. In 1812, Oden Hays, a son of the one mentioned, was lost in a snow storm and afterward found dead in a hollow log in Section 32. Joseph Perrin came from Virginia in 1810.

Jacob, Henry and Martin Baker were all early settlers of German Township, and natives of Virginia. Jacob settled on Section 14, died in 1821, and is buried in the Lawrenceville Cemetery. His sons Philip, Henry, Jacob, Martin, John and Samuel, as well as three daughters, resided in this township.

Andrew and Emanuel Circle settled in the southeastern part of German, on Mad River, at an early day. They were natives of Virginia, and have descendants yet living in the township.

Benjamin Ream, of Pennsylvania, settled with his family in Section 32 after the War of 1812, in which he served; and, in 1816, John Lorton and his wife Rachel, natives of Kentucky, settled in this part of Clark County; also Matthias Staley, of Maryland, who was a carpenter by trade, came in 1820, and each of these last-mentioned pioneer families have descendants now residents of German Township.

Among others who we may well call pioneers are Adam Rockel and Philip Kern, natives of Pennsylvania, who settled in Section 9 in 1822. Mr. Rockle married Polly Baker, daughter of Philip Baker, who had five children born to her, viz., Peter, Henry, William, Harriet and Mary. Mr. Rockle and wife yet reside at the old homestead, and are well known and respected. Mr. Kern married the sister of Mr. Rockle, and their son Adam now lives upon the old place.

John Beamer came from Virginia in 1816, settling on Section 13. His wife was Elizabeth Mulholland, and they had three children, viz., Thomas, Valentine and Eliza, the latter now the wife of Dr. McLaughlin, of Tremont, being the only survivor. Mr. Beamer and wife died on the old homestead.

Another family well worthy of mention is that of William Ballentine, a native of Ireland, who came to Ohio in 1831, and, in 1832, settled in German Township, where he died in 1851. His wife was Nancy Nail, also a native of Ireland, where they were married and of which union were born twelve children, five of whom are living, viz., Robert, Margaret, David, Elizabeth and James V. . .

Many of the pioneer families as, doubtless, has been observed, were of the Methodist persuasion, yet there were some of other denominations, and at fast it was expedient to unite, irrespective of sect, and worship harmoniously together. Dwellings were freely opened, and those little bands would worship together until each acquired sufficient strength, then societies were organized. For many years the houses of Jerry Simms, William Ross, Charles Rector and others were the preaching-places, schoolhouses being sometimes used.

The Methodists of the locality built in 1820, a log church or meeting house just over the line in Champaign County, where persons for miles around worshiped. While this church was out of our territory, most of the early settlers of the township were closely identified with it, and in justice to the few pioneers now living, and to their descendants, many of whom now attend services there, this mention is made. The land upon which it was built was donated by Charles Rector, whose name it adopted. Conway Rector was the prime mover in its construction. . . Several of the first families belonging to this organization were those of Peter Sintz, Sr., Jerry Simms, Benjamin Morris, Thomas Hays, the Leffels and Samuel Meranda.

The Lutheran and Reformed people of the township built a Union church at Lawrenceville about the year 1821. They continued to worship in this jointly built church until 1844. In a year or two the Lutherans built the Mount Zion Church and there worshiped. Among the early Lutheran ministers were Revs. Heinicke, Philip Pence and Klapp, and those of the Reformed Revs. Peter Dechant and John Pence.

The latter is still living, being a resident of the township and is strictly one of the pioneer preachers. He has passed his fourscore years and is yet hale and hearty, though more than a half century ago he rode the circuit of the church embracing a distance of forty miles in either direction, and has ever since served this people in his calling. In 1827 or 1828, Mr. Pence commenced occasional preaching at the house of Widow Caffelt, and out of this grew the Jerusalem Congregation, a church having been built in 1832. This was a hewed-log building, which gave way to the present brick in 1853.

The pioneers gave early attention to the training and education of their children, for as early as 1803, a schoolhouse was built on the Ross farm. Peter Oliver, a Kentuckian, was the schoolmaster of that day. He was succeeded by William Nicholson, who was later known as the first singing teacher in the township. In the early history of the township, the schools were carried on by subscription, which schools continued in vogue for many years, despite the several school laws passed looking to the establishment of the common school system. However, the educational interests of the township have always received that attention from the people that their importance demanded, and were early advanced to a flourishing condition. . .

At this date, the deserted frame structures of former large distilleries standing on the banks of Mad River, evidence the early activity and later decadence of that traffic in this vicinity. Prior to 1810, Charles Rector built a small distillery at the mouth of Storm's Creek. Later he put up a grist and saw mill near by. Chapman erected the first grist-mill in the township, on the stream bearing his name. Philip Kizer built a mill on Mad River in 1810, and later added a still. Messrs. Kiblinger & Kneisley built a mammoth distillery, grist and saw mill on Mad River near Tremont in 1839, the deserted remains of which loom up to the approaching traveler reminding him of the "haunted house of legends old."

About the year 1808, Jacob Kiblinger (son of Jacob Daniel Kiblinger) built a saw and hemp mill in Section 8, upon Mad River, which were used for many years, and, about 1820, Adam and Daniel Kiblinger and Ira Paige built a grist-mill at the same point, which they operated until 1832, when Merriweather & Clark bought it, the former remaining as proprietor until about 1837, when he sold it to Adam Baker. . .

At an early day, a small saw and grist mill was operated in Section 23, upon Chapman's Creek, in the northern part of the township, and, about twenty years ago, Jacob Dibert erected a large flouring-mill upon the same site, which he operated until the spring of 1881, when he leased it to Blose & Weaver. Many other mills and distilleries were built and run upon the streams of German Township, which have long since been abandoned or removed.

In 1836, upon the site of the Seitz Mill at Tremont, there was a small carding machine, and that year John Ross erected a small distillery, both kind of neighborhood affairs. About these had clustered several families. Ross owned land there and began to sell small lots, and shortly the whole gave a village-like appearance. Further lots were sold and soon a survey was made and a village platted. The plat was recorded in 1838. This became the village of Clarksburg. In 1836-37, the Rosses, John and William, kept a store (in the dry goods line) on the Carter corner. In 1837, a hotel, or tavern in those days, was opened by John Hupp, the Rosses retiring. Where now stands the Hotel Fennimore stood a one-story frame building almost at right angles with the street occupied by William McKinley, who boarded Elias Darnall, the schoolmaster, William Ross the Clerk, John Ballantine the Constable, then as busy as any Sheriff, and Dr. A. C. McLaughlin the physician, busy too, the place being dead ripe for a doctor. Oh! yes, we must not forget Gabriel Albin the carpenter, who constituted one of the boarders. One door east of the boarding-house, McKinley had a dry goods store, and on the opposite side was the blacksmith shop of Elias Heller. This was Tremont in 1836-37. The post office was established there in 1839, with Dr. McLaughlin as Postmaster. The name was then changed to Tremont, there being another town in the State of the name of Clarksburg. Benjamin Turman made an addition to the town in 1840. Several additions have since been made. To-day this is a flourishing little village, beautifully located in the Mad River Valley, having a population of about three hundred.

It has two good church buildings that would be a credit to any city, and several fine stores; three blacksmith-shops and as many carriage shops. A steam saw-mill and a mammoth grist-mill, four stories high, in which are three sets of buhrs-two wheat and one corn-having a capacity of making ten barrels of flour per day. This mill was erected at a cost of $5,000, and is operated by Andrew Seitz. The village has also a good hotel, and the proprietor, John Fennimore, has the happy faculty of making his guests feel at home. The school of the village is held in a substantial two-story brick building, and is in District No. 3. The number of scholars in attendance, in 1880, were ninety-nine, sixty-four in the lower room, taught by Alfred Blose, and thirty-five in the upper room taught by J. E. Smiley. Prior to 1838, the Methodists worshiped at Rector Church, and in that year they erected a brick building, which, was replaced by the present fine edifice in 1880. It is a large one-story building in the shape of a letter T, with a tall spire, containing a sweet-toned bell taken from the old church. In style, of Gothic architecture. The auditorium will seat 450 people. It has a reed organ. The church is nicely frescoed, and heated throughout by hot air furnaces. The dedicatory sermon was preached April 18, 1880, by Dr. Payne, President of the Ohio Wesleyan University. The minister in charge is Rev. McHugh. The cost of the building was about $10,500. The German Reformed Church was organized in 1863, under the administration of Rev. Jesse Richards. The present building was erected in 1865, at a cost of about $4,000. While the new church was building, the congregation returned to worship in the old log structure which they first used, and had abandoned forty years before. This is an incident seldom or never occurring in the annals of church history. It stands on a hill overlooking the village. Present membership about one hundred and twenty-five. At this church is a regularly laid out grave-yard.

Besides those cemeteries mentioned, the one at the German Reformed Church at Lawrenceville is one of the earliest burial places in the township, and has always been used by all who desired to bury there. It is in good repair and has many handsome monuments. At the old Mount Zion Church, upon Section 8, is a cemetery which was laid out many years ago, and is yet in use. At Jerusalem Church, in Section 35, is a graveyard; also a very old one at Simms' Church, in Section 25; one upon the farm of Jacob Ream in Section 32, and quite an old one on Section 24, near the Clark and Miami Pike; also a small cemetery upon the farm of Jacob Flick in Section 33.

Upon the site of the village of Lawrenceville, a store was built in the woods by Elias Over about 1836, he having cleared out a patch upon which his building was erected. And a few years later three Germans named Rice, Dipple & Rice built and operated a pottery at the same point, employing a number of hands in the manufacture of crockery ware of all kinds.

The present town was laid out by Emanuel Circle, and placed upon record in 1849. He called it Noblesville after a town of that name in Indiana, which he fancied, and the original number of lots were fifteen. The post office was established in 1875, and the name was then changed to Lawrenceville, there being another Noblesville in the State. The first Postmaster and present incumbent is Alexander Michael. The high school heretofore mentioned, and also the Reformed Church, Mount Pisgah, are located here. The new church building was erected in 1852. There is one store, a shoe-shop, one blacksmith-shop and a wagon factory in the village. . . .

In the War of 1812 (1812-1815) the United States declared war on England because of trade restrictions, impressment, and British support for Indian attacks. They signed the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814 after reaching a stalemate.

Early American Colonists and pioneers had to make everything necessary for daily life and skilled craftsmen were essential.


A blacksmith forges and shapes iron with a hammer and anvil.

A grist mill is a building where a miller grinds gain into flour.
A sawmill was an important developmental step in a community. Before sawmills, boards could only be sawn by two men with a whipsaw. In a sawmill, the circular motion of a water wheel was changed to the back-and-forth motion of the saw blade with a pitman arm.
 

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©Roberta Tuller 2017
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