Coshocton County Centennial History, 1811-1911, Ohio
It has been my chief purpose in the preparation of this work to so preserve the chronology of events and connect them as to make a continuous story of our history.
In the many histories that have appeared the plan of treatment has been subjective, thus giving the younger readers a distorted idea of proportion and a chaotic view of the order of events.
It has next been my purpose to confine the historical portion to such events and characters as have moulded, or produced marked influence upon, the various phases of our county's progress. Other things and persons that produced rather incidental effect I have striven to keep in their proper proportion by treating incidentally and have therefore eliminated them from the story of the growth and progress of the county.
The limitation to thirty thousand words has made it necessary to omit many things of interest which would cast strong side lights on the struggles of a new civilization and the building of the commercial character, but I trust I have succeeded in giving a fairly graphic panoramic view of the settlement and development of the county from an unbroken forest to its present proud state. I have written with the hope that familiar details might not prove tiresome to the well informed and the omission of essential general history and local incidents may not leave the local history vague in the minds of the youthful and uninformed.
If my efforts shall inspire in the minds of the youth of the county a desire to learn its early history and a pride in the achievements of her sons whose life work has ended, I shall not have written in vain.
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That I am a proper person to undertake the history of Coshocton County, in this its centennial year, with my official duties and private affairs en my hands, and with no special training in this line, I entertain the gravest doubt.
The uncertainty surrounding many so-called historic facts will demand much research and the collection of legends and folk-lore will require much more.
I have, however, been long interested in the subject and have long regretted that someone in the past generation had not given the necessary time to it, as the passing of each generation renders the period of our early history more uncertain. As we see the subject to-day, the line which separates historic truth from imaginative fiction is dim and tortuous.
Some years ago I resolved to undertake this work, if another better qualified did not soon do so, as a labor of love for my son's delectation.
Learning recently that Dr. Wm. E. Hunt had declined, at his time of life, to re-write his Coshocton Historical Collections, I have decided to undertake the work in the year of the county's centennial and present the manuscript and its copyright to the Coshocton Centennial Commission to make such use of it as they may deem proper.
I am reminded, however, of the exclamation of that spiteful old philosopher, "Oh ! that mine enemy should write a book." So I approach the subject with fear and trembling.
In attempting to compile from our historians a fairly authentic history of Coshocton County, probably the most embarrassing circumstance is the careless statement by them of important facts. This is well illustrated by reference to that usually reliable work, "Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio." On page 466 of Volume I the author tells us that the Indian village Goschachgunk (Coshocton) stood north of the mouth of the Tuscarawas River in the fork formed by its junction with the Walhonding," while on the very next page he says this village "occupied the lower street of Coshocton, stretching along the river bank below the junction."
As a further illustration of this, the story of the murder of the white woman known as the New Comer is in point.
Mr. Howe tells us, on page 468 of his Historical Collections, that this woman was killed by the Indians in White Woman's town (near the mouth of Killbuck), December 26, 1761, while Christopher Gist was in the town. This story is accepted and detailed as fact by Mr. Mitchener on page 108 of his "Historic Events in the Muskingum and Tuscarawas Valleys," except as to the date, while on page 38 Mr. Mitchener copies from the journal of Air. Gist under date of Wednesday, December 26, 1750, the story of a white woman who had long been a prisoner of the Indians and who was on that date brought into Goschachgunk, and not into White Woman's town, and there murdered in revolting cruelty, thus confounding two entirely different and dis- tinct events, for on this date Mr. Gist had not yet met Mary Harris, nor had the white woman known as the "New Comer" yet made her appearance in this part of the country.
It was not, according to Gist's journal, until Tuesday, January 15, 1751, that he arrived at White Woman's town and there for the first time met Mary Harris, the historic and erratic white woman; moreover, we have no intimation anywhere in Mr. Gist's Journal, nor in any other work, that Mr. Gist was in this part of the country in 1761, or that he ever saw the "New Comer," and the spot now called Newcomerstown was not known by that name till about 1755.
So confused, indeed, had Mr. Mitchener's mind become on this subject that on page 108 he has Andrew Burney, the blacksmith, at White Woman's town burying the body of the New Comer, when, in fact,
r. Gist tells us that Andrew Burney was the blacksmith at Coshocton, and that it was he who buried the body of the unfortunate white woman murdered at Coshocton, December 26, 1750.
I might continue these illustrations almost endlessly, but this much will serve to emphasize my difficulties and account for my failure to speak with confidence of matters by many students of the subject thought to be sufficiently established to be regarded as historic.