NB Pioneer Days Series III:  A First-Person Account

By Tom Boltz and North Baltimore Ohio Area Historical Society

The following article was written by Hugh Campbell (born 1837-died 1914).  It describes the difficulties of the early settlers in transforming Henry Township from Black Swamp wilderness into a settled community.  This article is directly transcribed from the North Baltimore Beacon of August 2, 1901.

left – Hugh Campbell came to Henry Twp. with his family in the Fall of 1838.


Writes Entertainingly of Olden Times

Settled on Rockyford in 1838—The Old School House with Punchson seats

and “Punching” Boys

In the fall of 1838, my father, William Campbell with his family composed of Nancy, William, John, Henry, Sarah Jane, and myself moved from Washington County, PA. and settled on Rockyford Creek, two miles northeast of this place.  At that time there were but few settlers in this part of the country.

There was a log cabin on the place having been built by a man by the name of Musgrove near as I can recollect. It was 18 feet square  with a chimney built of sticks and mud. In that house we all lived for several years.

I well remember climbing the old rung ladder when I went to bed in the garret with my brothers, and in the winter, it was not an uncommon thing for the bed to be covered with snow in the morning that blew in through the clapboard roof.

My father, a man of strong constitution, came into the then wilderness determined to make an honest living at his trade, (shoemaker) and succeeded and cleared up his farm.

William and John as they grew up turned their attention to hunting in the winter which at that time brought in some money, as deer hides and furs of different kinds were the only things that brought ready money. Hogs had to be delivered dressed and poultry and grain had to be disposed of for one half cash and one-half store goods. I remember of my father taking a load of oats to Perrysburg; he could not get any money for it, so he traded the whole load for table ware.

At that time Perrysburg was our only market, twenty-five miles distant. It was not an uncommon thing to see 8, 10, or 12 wagons in a train going to market. They came from Hancock County and even farther south. They would return with store goods such as salt, sugar, coffee, fish, etc. It was a long and tedious trip.

The Perrysburg & Findlay Pike was not made for several years after we came. The road in front of our house was in the bottom ground and I remember seeing the people going along wading the water when the creek overflowed the bank.

I well remember the first school I went to. The first day when it came time to study the spelling lesson some of our folks took my book to study their lesson and I thought I was clear and free to do what I pleased and commenced to talk out loud for which infraction the teacher flogged me. That was the only whipping I ever got at school. The school house was near Gus Bartz’s 2 ½ miles east of this city. It was built of round logs with clapboard roof held on wooden hinges. Split puncheon floor and seats were then ideal.

For writing desk there were holes bored in the logs and pins put in and extended out far enough to lay a board on, so when we wrote we had to turn our face to the wall. There was a large fireplace in one end of the room. The fuel was furnished by each family of the school district delivering so much wood at the school house, usually cut in suitable lengths but some would bring it in long lengths and their boys would cut it at noon and in the morning before school was called.

We used to have lots of fun playing ball, bull-pen being the game most played. The Wileys, Archers, Copuses, Weavers, and other were good players. I will never forget one time: Andrew Archer was plaguing me and he continued so long I got angry and picked up a stone—there being very numerous on the school lot—and threw it a him withal my might. If it had hit him it might have killed him, but the next day we were as good friends as ever. The road I went to school was simply a path. Our folks would get the direction of the school house and would blaze the trees and cut some the brush out of the way.

Well all things have their time and so it was with the old school house. One night it burnt down so I didn’t have to go to school until we got a new house which was a frame up-to-date. Then we had board seats and desks and a stove to heat it. I went to that house until my school days were over. Now a brick house occupies the site with patent seats and desks.

The first grist mill I remember of was one a few rods south of the rail road bridge, one half mile east of this place. When I was large enough to rid a horseback, I used to go to this mill carrying a sock of corn. I would follow the track cut through the woods along the west side of the creek to about the place where of the rail road bridge. There I would for the creek to the mill. One day I had been at and going home through the woods. I thought I would make the horse run which was contrary to orders. So away we went but in passing over a log the horse tripped and fell down and I went on some two rods rolling on the ground, but got up good as new, but you may know I didn’t tell our folks anything about it. Then later a man by the name of Yeoman built a mill close where Cygnet is located. There I went to mill with a two-horsed wagon. Sometimes the mud and water was hub deep. That was a better mill than the first. Still later I went to mill to Perrysburg and Maumee. Finally, we got a mill at Vanburen and then at this place. What would the people think if they had to go to Perrysburg to mill now?

About the goods we wore:  In the summer we would raise flax, pull it by hand, then split, thresh the seed off with the flail, then spread it on the grass to water. When the stalk would be brittle we would take it up, beak and scutch it, then the women would spin it and take it to the weavers to be woven into cloth, then make it into garments of different kinds for summer wear. Many a time I went to Sunday School and preaching wearing my home-made linen and I didn’t go in a “rubber tire buggy” as referred to by Bro. Roberts, but rode behind my father on the same horse. We had a small flock of sheep, the wool from which was made into garments for winter nearly all the work being done at home. I think if the people of this generation had to do as we did in the early settlement of this country, there would be a great deal more sociability. At that time scheming was unknown; everyone tried to help his neighbor.

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