The pioneer history of Meigs County, Ohio
In 1876 a revival of interest in local history was manifest throughout the United States. The Centennial of the Nation — the Exposition at Philadelphia, exhibiting trophies of the Revolutionary period, while much attention was bestowed upon Colonial relics, and regard for Colonial ancestry. The older class of people had been retired from public observation, especially in the Western States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. The first settlers — the earlier emigrants — had braved the Indians, the wild beasts, the privations of a new country, had toiled to open up the primeval forests for cultivation, and broken in health, dispirited often by adversity, they had grown old before their "three-score-years and ten," and the generation following them had been unwittingly pushing them aside. They were in the way of modern progress, and they had retreated to the back rooms of their children's mansions. But in 1876 it was seen that the country could not celebrate her Centenary without bringing into honorable recognition the fathers and mothers, the soldiers and statesmen, whose achievements had wrought such evident prosperity for the country — such high rank among the Nations. So it came about that old records, old furniture, old tales of early days, old people tottering on their canes, were subjects of especial attention.
The Revolutionary soldier, old and gray, was escorted to a seat on the platform where jubilant oratory proclaimed his deeds of heroism. It was at this time that Stillman C. Larkin, Aaron Stivers, H.B. Smith and a few others, awakened to the fact that Meigs county had a past worthy of record, and in looking around discovered that the founders, the early emigrants, were gone! Not a representative left of the days of St. Clair, of men who came into this part of the county before Ohio was admitted into the Union. They became impressed with a sense of duty toward those forefathers, and to retrieve as far as possible the neglect of previous years, they organized the Meigs County Pioneer Association — H.B. Smith, President; Aaron Stivers, Secretary; later Stillman C. Larkin, President. Mr. Larkin as a son of a pioneer, Abel Larkin, who had been active in the organization and development of the civil and moral interests of the new country, began collecting and placing in manuscript, everything available of the acts and actors of all legislative affairs in the new country. First, the sparsely settled lands were incorporated in Washington county, and Marietta people were wise enough to keep a running account with Time, but Gallia county was taken out from Washington, and until 1819 all civil records were kept in Gallipolis, when Meigs county was taken out from Gallia county.
Mr. Larkin began at the beginning, and wrote the Declaration of Independence, declared in 1776, which made the Centennial of 1876 possible — he wrote out the Ordinance of 1787, that proclaimed freedom of the whole Northwest Territory of the Ohio river, from involuntary servitude of man for man. The first emigrants to Ohio — Washington, Gallia and Meigs, opened up the wilderness for cultivation, or the present generation would not have broad acres in meadows, or hillsides in wheat, or blooming fruit-laden orchards. These first settlers built their cabins and schoolhouses, had teachers for their children; they organized townships, elected township officers and kept records of local affairs.
For these men and these records Mr. Larkin had respect. It was no easy matter to collect and place in order the history of the first ten years of the settlements included later in the boundaries of Meigs county; for from 1798 to 1808, is an almost forgotten page, but the men who wrought for the good of coming generations — wrought wisely, intelligently, with broad views, and persistent effort to establish homes,roads, schools and churches, to assist in framing wholesome laws, and enforcing them for the protection and well-being of a growing community, men like George W. Putnam, Fuller Elliott, Levi Stedman, Brewster Higley, Peter Grow, Hamilton Kerr, John Miles, William Parker, Abel Larkin and others, whose deeds and names belong to the annals of those years from 1792 to 1808. That makes true pioneer history. From 1808 to 1818 the influx of emigrants increased rapidly. People seeking lands to found homes for their families, mechanics of all kinds, carpenters, blacksmiths, tanners and shoemakers, served for public utility and improvement.
In 1819 Meigs county was set off from Gallia county, and assumed importance. A court house and jail were built in Chester, the county seat. Courts of Common Pleas were held judges were appointed, county officers were elected — auditor, treasurer, recorder, sheriff and clerk of the courts. Township officers were chosen — esquires and constables, clerk, treasurer, assessor, trustees, school directors and supervisors. The discomforts of pioneer life had ceased. The people enjoyed comfortable homes, with growing families. From 1820 to 1830, there was an inflow of newcomers, representing all pursuits, civil and educational, lawyers, doctors, preachers and teachers. Farms changed owners, and new customs were introduced. The fertile Letart bottoms sent flatboats laden with produce annually on trips to the South, New Orleans being the final mart. The traders returning by keelboat or steamboat brought sugar and molasses, rice and coffee for the merchants and communities.
Nial Nye, Sr., & Sons were established at the mouth of Kerr's run, before the county of Meigs was organized, and kept a store of general merchandise, ran a sawmill, and had a boat landing, "a port of entry" for goods consigned to Levi Stedman and others at Chester and the interior of the county. A postoffice was located here and the place was called Nyesville. From 1820 to 1830, while a growing prosperity was seen throughout the county, no capitalist with means and energy had arrived to develop the natural resources of Meigs county. From 1830 to 1840 marked the beginning of commercial prosperity. Mr. V.B. Horton, with a wide personal influence, brought capital to operate on the development of the coal in the hills of Salisbury. He started the transportation of coal by means of a steamboat, the Condor, towing immense fleets laden with coal down the Ohio river, and farther down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, from whence ships conveyed it to Boston, and grates in Boston parlors glowed with Pomeroy coal. This enterprise opened up boat building — ship builders from Maine and Nova Scotia came to work and direct the labor in the Horton boat yard. It gave employment to river men to manage the tow-boat Condor, and the barges. English and Welch men of experience and judgment took charge of the mines, and miners from England, Wales and Germany went into the coal tunnels of Meigs county and with pick and hand-car brought to light the wealth of the hills. A rolling mill was set in operation, a foundry, machine shop, and Haven & Stackpole erected a three-story steam flouring mill. Pomeroy was laid out, lots sold, the town incorporated, and elegant residences were placed on the spurs of the hills at Naylor's run and Sugar run, while under the cliffs the Brothers Howe, Dr. Estes and the lawyer, U.G. Howe, Charles Pomeroy and Horace Horton built no less fine homes. Mr. Samuel Grant's sawmill had full orders, furnishing lumber as fast as possible. In this decade of stirring material prosperity, the little postoffice town of Graham's Station received an impetus. Mr. Lucius Cross came from Marietta in 1822 to lands of his own, and started a tannery, built flat boats to send hay to the South, opened a store of general merchandise, erected a mill on Bowman's run for making flour, and sawing lumber, giving employment to hundreds of men in these different enterprises. The name of Graham Station was changed to Racine. The town of Sheffield sprang into existence in these times, broad acres just above the mouth of Leading creek were laid out in lots, the town incorporated and a cotton mill built by Mr. Philip Jones, a novel project for a non-cotton producing territory. The Grant brothers put into the business of steam a flouring mill that prospered for more than forty years. The one great event in Meigs county was the removal of the county seat from Chester and establishing the seat of justice in Pomeroy.
The aim and intent of Mr. Larkin's book is to preserve a record of pioneer times, that later generations may have proper respect and pride in their forefathers. He was the prime mover in organizing the "Meigs County Pioneer Association," and devoted time, thought and research in order to place correct statements concerning those early days in his book.
We ask the "Pioneer Association of Meigs County" for a liberal patronage of the book, and of thinking men and women, who will find much to interest them in reading the work, and especially the favor of descendants of early settlers in Meigs county, who are scattered in other states and territories.
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The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states.
To prove this let these facts be submitted to a candid world: He has refused his assent to pass laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish their right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at pleasure, unusual and uncomfortable and distant from the repository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected whereby the legislative powers incapable of annihilation have returned to the people for their exercise. The States remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states, for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands. He has obstructed the administration of justice by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. He kept among us in times of peace a standing army without the consent of our legislators. He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.