NB Pioneer Days Series III: A First-Person Account
By Tom Boltz and the North Baltimore Ohio Area Historical Society
In the late 1890s and early 1900s, George W. Wilkinson, the editor of the North Baltimore Beacon, encouraged elderly local residents to write about their experiences in the settling of Henry Township and the founding of North Baltimore, Ohio. He published their letters in a series of articles which he titled “Interesting Pioneer Sketches.”
The following article was written by W. H. Roberts. It describes life in Henry Township and northern Hancock County adjacent to Henry Township in the 1860s. This article is directly transcribed from the North Baltimore Beacon of September 20, 1901.
HALF NOT YET TOLD
Some More Interesting Recollections of Bygone Days
The Use of Cow Bells—
All Was Not Drudgery but People Enjoyed Themselves—
Experience with a Deer—
Value of Walnut Trees in ‘60
Editor Beacon: It seems that there has not been as liberal response to your call for pioneer letters as there should have been. The letters from Mr. Hugh Campbell and Mr. DeRodes have awakened recollections which I in my poor way will endeavor to record for the information and amusement of the BEACON readers. Of course, as the Queen of Sheba said when she first saw Solomon’s Temple, “The half has not been told.”
It is fact that those that came here when Mr. Campbell did, saw harder times, but clearing was the same in 1860 several commenced one and one-half miles south of North Baltimore. Our cattle ran to the woods for their living and after our day’s work we would listen for the sound of their bells. Everyone had bells on their cows and could easily recognize their own bells. Sometimes we would find them where Thomas or Deming now lives, sometimes over where Borough now lives and at times failed to find them for several days at a time, but we had the long walk all the same.
Many of the readers have cleared land and helped to raise log cabins and barns, but there are many who have not. There was a great deal of sport as well as hard work when we got the logs together. Four men were chosen for corner and some tall hustling was done among the men on the ground, there being always some rivalry to see who could make the best corner and some tall hustling was done among the men on the ground, each end anxious to get their end up first. It was generally a day’s work to build a barn of this kind for we often laid the clapboards and fastened them down with weight poles. Those buildings have been replaced by white houses and large red barns.
I think it was in 1863 that E. M. Heminger and myself were building a house for him where William Weisel now lives. Ephraim then lived on the farm now owned by Furtwangler. His wife came down to my cabin and with my wife started to find the new home, they got as far as they could about where that nice corn field is east of the house of L. A. Heminger and could get no farther for logs and water. They called for us and Ephraim went and piloted them over the logs, for we had a chain of logs that kept us out of the water. They were not very well pleased with the location but concluded that home would be home even in the woods.
There is one incident that after the lapse of forty years I feel very sensitive about, and that is how I shot a deer. I then lived where John Lyon now lives and in the winter of 1859 I went to the field north of the house to haul some straw for my horses and while loading I saw a fine deer grazing on the wheat field nearby, slipping off the stack I took my team to the house, I had no gun but had learned that Lewis John had one, after borrowing the gun I found there were no balls for it, but fortune favors the brave and I soon made some and started for the deer, a half mile away. The last forty rods I crawled on my hands and knees for fear it would see me and leave. Finally, I got to the place on the opposite side of the fence from the game. I then lay flat down, I had heard of buck fever and thought I noticed the symptoms, but I took a sight on the deer and my recollections are that it looked as large as the front of the Beacon Block, but after trying several times I let go and down came the deer. It is no use to try to describe my feelings after I had rested for some time and loaded the gun. After I had time to cut its throat several times it got out and dragged off to the fence and I walked around to shoot it again, but it saw me as I raised the gun and it turned its tail over its back that was the last I saw of it.
Frederick Heminger was then running a sawmill near where John Lyon now lives, and I went and told him of the incident. He said he would help me get it, so we tracked it by the blood as far as the Nelson Copus farm and lost track of it, men and dogs having there taken the track.
Then my great desire was to hire a mule by the week to kick me, but there was no mule to be had and I hadn’t the money to pay for that kind of amusement if there had been.
To give some idea of the value of timber at that time I will relate an incident that occurred in 1860. I went to Mrs. Ausenbaugh then living two-mile south of North Baltimore, to buy a walnut tree. She told me to pick out the one I wanted, and she would set a price on it. I showed her the tree and she said she thought it worth one dollar and a half (I thought so too) and that was a fair price at that time.
There was no sale for timber in any shape to any extent. We cut some cord wood and hauled it to Vanburen and got $1.25 a cord in trade at the mill or stores.