NB Pioneer Days Series IV: A First-Person Account
By Tom Boltz and 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 William Evilsizer (born 1816–died 1905). It describes the religious life of pioneer families. This article is directly transcribed from the North Baltimore Beacon of October 18, 1901.
Interesting Pioneer Sketches of the Lack of Religious Services in Pioneer Days
Editor Beacon: The pioneer or first settlers of this part of the state had their privations not only of temporal conveniences but the spiritual welfare was poorly provided for as far as human agencies are concerned. The churches were scarce and far removed from each other. Those who came from other settlements where preaching was weekly and commodious places of worship provided for their comfort, realized for the first time that it was no small matter to be deprived of the means of grace. There was but one house of worship in Vanburen in 1850 and a small frame church on the farm of Jacob Dirk.
I was about to leave the county because of society and the mud and water. I went to Vanburen and bought 10 bushels of corn and paid $7 for it. It took me from noon to dark to get home on account of the mud. I was determined to leave the country, but my horse died.
There was preaching at Levi Tarr’s place two or three times in the summer by the Church of God’s minister. In the fall of 1849 a preacher came and wanted a preaching place. I was living in a double log house and, taking out my furniture, I gave him the use of one end of the house. He commenced holding a protracted effort in December and all the people in the neighborhood attended. The people came carrying lanterns and hickory bark torches and it being good sleighing about all the time of the meetings, many came from a distance. There were some very unruly ones. John Lewis had to stand by the window with a revolver in his hand watching his team. This meeting continued six weeks and after a few nights’ preaching the people began to come forward and seek religion, many tried to see who could spit the most tobacco juice when they began to come forward to the mourner’s bench and the preacher had to tell them that folks didn’t want to go to heaven through a flood of tobacco juice. There were plenty of dogs in the congregation. When the preacher would speak in a loud tone one cur persisted in stepping before him and barking. Charles Grant took him by the fore-leg and carried him out over the people’s heads. We could say with Jacob “Surely God is in this place.” Our meeting resulted in the conversion of thirty-seven and a class of thirty-six was organized.
I spent the winter season largely in hunting and killed a good many deer and turkeys. There were no roads in the county except the Otsego pike and the road from Findlay to Perrysburg.