NB Pioneer Days Series III: A First-Person Account
By Tom Boltz and the North Baltimore 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 Henry Campbell (1829–1913). It describes his family’s arrival in Wood County in 1838 and their early years in the county. This article is directly transcribed from the North Baltimore Beacon of September 23, 1901.
R. R. EXCITEMENT IN 1838
425 Miles Traveled on Foot
The Prairie Schooner vs. Automobile
Cattle put up in the House—
No Sugar to be had in Findlay—
An 18×36 House considered unnecessarily large for family of 13—
First Newspapers, Postage, etc.
In the summer of 1836 my father William Campbell came to Wood County, Ohio, and entered two 80-acre tracts of wood land, one for himself and one for me, for which he paid $200. The next summer he came out again and bought a piece of cleared land from Mr. Peter Musgrove who lived on the place. The second trip my father made to Wood County, he walked the entire distance, 225 miles each way.
In the fall of 1838 after putting what household goods we could on a four-horse covered wagon—or prairie schooner—and taking provisions to last during the journey, my father with his family and accompanied by his two brothers James and John, and brother-in-law Thomas McFadden, moved from Washington County, PA, to their new home in Wood County, Ohio. What money they brought along was mostly silver, $300 of which was sewed up in a linen sack, rolled up in a feather bed and put in a store box with the household goods. I have the linen sack yet, but it is not full.
We had pretty good roads most of the way. At night we stayed at country inns where we had a warm supper and breakfast. At noon we usually ate our dinner under the shade of the trees. At a little town called Scipio (now Republic) where we stopped, the sign, in large letters on the public inn read “Railroad House.” Excited groups of people were scattered about talking of the prospective railroad which had been surveyed. The railroad was completed some years later and ran from Springfield to Sandusky City, and was the first road built in this part of the state, and possibly in the state.
After leaving Vanburen there was only a path cut through the woods and this at one place was obstructed by a fallen tree which we were obliged to cut away before we could proceed. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon of an October day we arrived at our destination, a cabin 18×20 built of round logs between which were plenty of air holes. We had been ten days in making the journey as we did not travel on Sunday.
When the former occupants left the place, they had taken the door with them, and cattle and horses had sought shelter in the house, consequently the puncheon floor was not very inviting, and it required a good deal of vigorous work with the hoe to get it cleaned off.
The chimney had been built of logs on the outside of the house and stones were built up at the back of the fireplace but some of the side logs had been burned off.
That evening our two dogs got after some hogs and they ran for accustomed shelter. One ran partly through the fireplace where it received a warm reception. It was then caught and pulled back by James Campbell.
We were thirteen in all and had brought but one bedstead. It was set up and other beds were made on store boxes and on the puncheon floor of the loft which was reached by climbing a ladder on the outside of the house. There was no shelter for the horses that night and they were tied to the wagon.
The next day we went to a sawmill north of Vanburen, got some boards and put a floor in the house and loft and made a door of rough boards and also got a sash and six panes of glass for the window. Next a shelter for the horses was built of logs. Then father came up to Henry Carl’s south-west of where North Baltimore now stands, for feed for the horses.
We got our grinding done out about Vickers’s at a horse mill owned by the father of John Franks. Later Nelson Copus built a water mill about a mile from us which was run wherever there was water enough in the creek. We had no cook stove but cooked in Dutch ovens and pots hung over cranes over the fire.
That fall father went to Findlay for a doctor and when he came we asked him if he could tell us where to get sugar. He said he knew there was none in Findlay but thought perhaps we could get it in Tiffin.
In the spring we made maple sugar and molasses and planted corn, and the following summer built the first frame house that was built in Bloom Township. It was 18×36. While it was being built one of our neighbors after surveying it said, “What do you want with such a large house?”
Our nearest neighbors were James Wiley, James Archer, and Joshua Bartlet. Each lived about ½ mile distant, but the woods were so dense that we could not see their houses. About two years after this enough clearing had been done so that we could see Mr. Archer’s house.
Everybody worked hard to clear the land and when one was ready for a log rolling all the neighbors sometimes for miles around would come together, some bringing their oxen to help haul the logs and roll them in heaps for burning. No charges were made, and each helped his neighbors.
The nearest church was seven-miles from us, at Pleasant Hill, where Mr. Van Emman preached every two weeks. When people went to church then they either went on horseback or walked.
The first buggy in this part of the country was brought from Pennsylvania by my uncle, Hugh Campbell, in 1842 and when he first drove to church it attracted more attention than an automobile does today.
The mail was carried from Bellefontaine to Perrysburg once a week by a man named Gordon. We got our mail at Vanburen. The only newspaper we had then was a weekly called the “Christian Herald” now the “Presbyterian Banner” which was at Pittsburg. Sometime after this we got a county paper which was published in Perrysburg, and later the Cincinnati Gazette, a daily paper. The postage on newspapers at that time was 26 cents per annum and letter postage 18 ¾ cents each. All postage was paid by those receiving the mail as there were no postage stamps then. At that time 50¢, 25¢, 12 1/2¢, and 6 1/4¢ pieces were the small coins. I well remember the first 5¢ and 10¢ pieces coined.
The first railroad train we saw was at Carey, in 1848, when father was taking me to school at Columbus.
Note: At the age of 20 months, Henry Campbell lost his eyesight due to scarlet fever and chicken pox. The reference to attending school in Columbus may have been the Columbus School for the Blind.