Belmont County Victorian Mansion Museum

Barnesville, Ohio

History of Warren Township, Belmont County, Ohio

Published on April 18, 2022 by Belmont County Victorian Mansion Museum

Friends Boarding School, Barnesville, Ohio

The following is an account of some of the early history of Warren Township, Belmont County, Ohio.

This excerpt comes from Centennial History of Belmont County, Ohio, edited and compiled by A. T. McKelvey. The book was originally published in 1903 by the Biographical Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois.

Seven years before the organization of Warren township, emigrants began to enter into the territory from Pennsylvania and Maryland, and large caravans of Quakers arrived from the Southern States.

The country was almost an unbroken wilderness, and the labors and hardships and dangers to which these early emigrants were subjected are scarcely understood by their descendants today.

The First Settlers

Among the first settlers are mentioned the names of George Shannon, father of Governor Shannon, John Dougherty, John Grier, who emigrated from Maryland in 1800, and built their rude cabins on section 9 and 12. The year following, Robert Plummer, the first Quaker to settle in the township, built his humble cabin of poles on section 10, not far distant from the settlers above mentioned. Mr. Plummer was a devoted Friend, and set apart land at the very outset for the establishment of a Friend’s Meeting House and graveyard. Indeed until 1806 the pioneers of Warren township were largely Quakers from the States above mentioned.

The winter of 1802-03 was remarkable for the intensity of the cold, causing the pioneers the utmost distress. It was during a violent snow storm in January that Governor Shannon’s father, who had gone off upon a hunting expedition to supply the family with game, was buried in a snow drift and perished before his body was recovered.

In 1804 Henry Grier located west of Barnesville, near the line, and John Kennon, father of Judge William Kennon, Sr., camped upon a tract adjoining Alexander Campbell’s, who had settled on the land just over the line in Guernsey County.

The First Mills

In 1806 Joseph Middleton erected the first horse mill for grinding grain. Prior to that time the corn was ground on hand mills or cracked on hominy blocks. A year later Cam Thomas built the first water mill, three and one-half miles south of Barnesville, and in connection with this grist mill a sawmill was operated, the first in the township. Between grinding grain and sawing lumber, this mill was kept constantly employed.

Some of the deprivations of the early settlers are little understood today. As only small tracts of land were open to the cultivation of wheat, white flour was a luxury, and what little was used was carried upon pack horses from Wheeling. Salt that today is worth but 25 or 35 cents per bushel was then sold for $6 per bushel, and like flour was also transported on pack horses from the East.

Blacksmithing was then hard to obtain, and shops were frequently six or eight miles apart. The few nails used in early days were hammered out by the blacksmith and sold at 35 or 40 cents per pound.

Numerous children composed the pioneer families, and these hardy boys and girls spent much time in digging ginseng, which, when dried, was hauled to St. Clairsville and exchanged for groceries wherewith to support the family.

The First Child

The first child born in Warren township was Wilson Shannon, afterward Governor of Ohio, and Governor Shannon thought it not unworthy of him in after years, to boast of having spent his childhood days in digging and drying ginseng wherewith to aid in the support of his widowed mother.

Wild Game

All kinds of game were plentiful, and the pioneers killed large numbers of bears, deer, wild cats, panthers and wolves. And, incredible as it may seem, wild turkeys were so abundant that flocks containing as many as a thousand turkeys were not an uncommon sight.

A noted hunter in those days was a pioneer named Otho French, whose skill in trapping wolves, fighting wild cats, killing bears and deer, and gathering wild honey, are still listened to with entire credulity and enthusiasm by the younger generation.

French was a zealot in the cause of temperance, and in those days of universal indulgence in the strong drink, refused to entertain in his cabin those carrying liquor about their persons, or shelter the drovers’ hogs that were fattened at a distillery.

The Society of Friends

We are indebted to Edwin and Sarah D. Sears of Warren township for this interesting history of the Society of Friends in the western section of the county. As one of the molding influences in the early history of Warren, Wayne and Somerset townships, we give a brief account of the settlements made by the Society of Friends, some of the improvements with which they have been connected and items of history thought worthy of preservation as being of general interest, together with some of the characteristics of that people.

The eastern half of Warren township was settled mainly by Friends, who came principally from the South, leaving comfortable homes, to become pioneers in the forest wilds north of the Ohio. “Their main object was to remove their children and themselves from the blighting influences of human slavery, against which their religious principles required them to bear a faithful testimony.”

Robert Plummer and family, from Maryland – ancestors of the Plummers now living near the Children’s Home – were the first “Friend” settlers and were the fourth family in the township, coming about 1801. There was then no open road from the site of Morristown to these parts and it required five days to make the road before them and perform the journey – about six miles. In 1802, William Hodgin and William Patten came prospecting, from Georgia, and were so favorably impressed with Belmont and Jefferson counties that they arranged with Jonathan Taylor to secure a section of land for each of them – that being the smallest amount then subject to entry. As they returned to Georgia, they had to swim their horses through all unfordable streams this side of Cincinnati.

In 1803, they came again, accompanied by Stephen Hodgin, Joseph Stubbs and daughter, Deborah, and others. After this, the settlers came in companies, so in the next five years the exact date of arrival of certain families is not now known; but (gleaning from a list very carefully prepared by Jonathan T. Scofield for the Belmont and Jefferson County History, to which able article recourse has been had for valuable information) we find many in that time and later, whose descendants remain in this and adjoining neighborhoods as useful and honored citizens. There were the Vernons, Williamses and Thomases from Georgia; the Starbucks, then but recently from Nantucket; the Pattersons, Bundys, Stantons (ancestors of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton), Edgertons, Doudnas, Boswells, Outlands, Halls, Middletons and Hansons from North Carolina; the Baileys from Southeastern Virginia, and the Smiths from Pennsylvania. Soon after came Mary Hicks, Peter Sears, Sr., the Parkers, Wilsons, Joel and Carolus Judkins, Joseph Garretson, the Crews and Nicholsons, Abisha Thomas, James Barnes (the founder of Barnesville), Issachar Scofield, William William Dewees, Daniel Strahl, and later the Kennards, Francis Davis, Samuel Walton, James Steer and many others.

Dr. Ephraim Williams – for many years one of Barnesville’s ablest physicians – was of Welsh descent, and came here when but eight years of age. He was for more than 40 years a resident of Barnesville.

Friends assembled for divine worship at the home of Robert Vernon, until a meeting house could be built, which was in 1803 or 1804. This was, and still is known as “Stillwater Meeting,” and was a branch of Concord Monthly Meeting in Colerain township. The house was a single “log pen,” to which an addition was made in 1805. This was the first house built for religious service in Warren township, and Ruth Boswell preached the first sermon there. It served as both meeting and school house for a number of years and was replaced by a larger, better one in 1812, which, in turn was enlarged about 1823 and stood, serving the meeting well till 1878, when it was replaced by the Yearly Meeting with a plain, substantial brick building, 60 by 100 feet, at a cost of $9,000. Its seating capacity is 500. The Yearly Meeting convenes there each autumn and is composed of subordinate meetings in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa and California, from all of which places members at tend, beside many visiting Friends from other Yearly meetings. We quote the words of one, not a Friend, who, in referring to these grounds having been thus occupied for nearly 100 years, and to the meetings held there, said: “Out from its influence has come the greater part of the moral dignity of the township and throughout the West its power for good has been felt.”

Other settlements were soon made; one in Wayne township in 1808, another at Leatherwood in Guernsey County in 1809 (where a meeting is still held), one at “Ridge,” near three miles south of Barnesville, in 1811, one at Somerton and one at Jerusalem in Monroe County, – all being branches of Stillwater Meeting. David and Christiana Grey, parents of Elisha Grey, inventor of the telephone, were members of Ridge Meeting and Warren township is glad to claim him as one of her sons. The first religious services in Somerset and Goshen townships were held by Friends, – the former near Somerton in 1818, the latter in Belmont in 1818, where they also built the first school house in the township, Joseph Wright being the first teacher. In Warren also the first school was established by Friends in 1806; it was on the farm now owned by Daniel E. Stanton, three miles southeast of Barnesville. Samuel Berry was the first teacher. As a people, the Society has always maintained a zealous care on the subject of education – it being one of their religious tenets to “assist pecuniarily those members who are unable to fray the expenses of their children’s tuition.” Thus we find them establishing schools in the different neighborhoods soon after their settlement: sometimes in buildings for the purpose, sometimes in the meeting house or part of a dwelling, until other arrangements could be made, and always, then as now, maintained by private subscription – no part of the public funds being used to defray their expenses.

When the Boarding School was built in 1875, the necessary funds – approximately 45,000 – were raised by subscriptions of the members composing the Yearly Meeting, together with a generous donation from Philadelphia Friends. Addison Hutton of that city planned the building, Francis Davis was appointed general superintendent of the work, and different divisions were assigned to careful, experienced foremen. Three-fourth of a million brick, burned on the farm (which had just been bought for the location of the School) were used in the walls; as evidence of the care exerted that the work be of good materials and thoroughly done, these bricks were three times carefully selected before being used. The School was opened New Year’s Day, 1876. It is located a short distance south of the Yearly Meeting House and is composed of a center building. 120 by 68 feet, and two wings, each 40 by 58 feet – all four stories high. It will accommodate 75 to 80 pupils; one term opened with 108, but the usual number is from 60 to 70 in winter, while the spring term is quite small, owing largely to the fact that a large percent of the pupils are farmers’ children who wish to be at home during the spring and summer. An observatory, containing a telescope, is located on the grounds, and, together with some chemical, physiological and other apparatus, greatly aids in thoroughness of work, which is aimed to be one of the chief characteristics. Necessary improvements have been made from time to time; at present we note the installation of a new “low-pressure” steam heating plant, at a cost of $1,800. Barclay and Hannah Stratton were the first superintendents and Jesse and Susan Edgerton are the present incumbents. In the history of the institution, only two deaths have occurred there. A regular course of study was adopted some years ago, and there is now a small class of graduates each winter session – the total number being 121. During the 26 years the Boarding School has been in successful operation, many hundreds of pupils have obtained a portion of their education there, and it is rare to find any who do not in after years regard the lessons there learned, both from books and the larger school of life, as some of its best discipline.

As illustrations of the hardships of pioneer life, we give two authentic incidents. George and Elizabeth Starbuck, who came to Warren township in the spring of 1805, erected a tent, covered it with canvas, drove forked stakes in the ground, upon which they fixed their beds, to protect themselves from rattlesnakes and other venomous reptiles, and lived in this way until four acres were cleared and planted in corn, after which they built a cabin. Jesse Bailey and family arrived too late in 1806 to build before winter set in. He found a projecting rock, along whose outer edge he stood puncheons upright, enclosing a space 15 to 20 feet wide. In one corner the rocks formed a natural chimney; four puncheons made a funnel-shaped top; he daubed the sides with clay mud. Here, in comparative comfort, they wintered, while by day, timid deer bounded away, and by night, wolves howled, bears clawed at the door and panthers screamed from trees near-by. Before 1806, the pioneers ground their corn in hand-mills or cracked it on hominy blocks. In that year, Joseph Middleton built the first horse-power grist mill in Warren township, where also the first water mill and sawmill were built by Camm Thomas, the former in 1807, and it was for eight years the only one in the township. The first fulling mill in Wayne township was built in 1824 by Samuel Berry. Throughout the dark days of slavery, Friends felt and manifested warm sympathy for the slaves; it found expression here in making some of their homes stations on the “Underground Railroad,” and in helping them in their escape by night to the North.

On the subject of temperance, Friends’ discipline requires its members to abstain from “the unnecessary use of spirituous liquors,” and it is rare to find any who make use of them.

The Society in this and other sections has suffered from two divisions – one in 1828, known as the “Hicksite Division” and one about 1850, known as the “Guerney Separation,” caused respectively by teachings of Elias Hicks and Joseph John Guerney at variance with the principles of early Friends.

The last official statement as to the number now in this section is 400. The question may arise why so many of the early settlements have decreased in numbers or entirely disappeared; in addition to the “Separation,” this is in part explained by the fact that Friends, although not an unsettled people, are enterprising, industrious, and, owing to simplicity in manner of living, well adapted to pioneer life, very many emigrated to Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and California, where they are now thriving communities. The zeal of these early pioneers in establishing and attending their religious meetings is worthy of imitation by all. Under adverse circumstances as to distance and modes of travel, they were faithful in attendance twice a week. Their meeting houses were humble structures, warmed by charcoal fires, built on a raised hearth near the center of the room. As they had no matches, the fires were sometimes kindled by means of a flint and steel, powder and tow. At other times a chunk of fire was carried from some dwelling; an instance is recorded of one woman who frequently rode horseback, with a little child behind her, and carried fire nearly two miles.

Orthodox Friends believe in the use of the Scriptural language, thee and thou. They do not feel it right to uncover the head as a mark of respect or superiority to fellow men, realizing that “One is our Father, even Christ,” to whom alone such deference is due. Their ministers preach without compensation from the hearers, remembering the example of Him who said: “Freely ye have received, freely give,” and that the apostle wrote: “I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

The following are some of the prominent ministers of the Society who have resided here a part or all of their lives: Ruth Boswell, Elizabeth Patterson, Hugh Judge, Jared Patterson, Jehu Middleton, James Edgerton, William Flanner, Sarah Mott, Joseph Edgerton, Mary Jones, Ann Langstaff, William Kennard, Rachel E. Patterson, Benjamin Hoyle, Elizabeth Smith, Asenath Bailey, Hanna H. Stratton, James Henderson and Jesse Edgerton.

While fully believing that the principles of the Society are primitive Christianity revived, and that for them this way is best, still with the broad-mindedness that should characterize all followers of Christ, Friends believe there are good people in other religious denominations as well, and that the Fatherhood of God extends to all His faithful children and will at last gather into His fold of rest and peace “all the children of God, who are scattered abroad.”

The First Churches and Schools

In the township were erected outside of Barnesville. The first church was built in 1804 on section 9. It was a Quaker meeting house, and the first sermon was preached by a woman, Ruth Boswell.

The first school house was likewise built by the Friends on section 1, on the ridge, near the present school house in District No. 1, and the teacher was Hezekiah Bailey.

There are 11 district schools and 12 teachers employed in Warren township, outside of Barnesville.

The following teachers for Warren township schools have been elected for 1902 : District No. 1, Elmer Hoge; No. 2, E. Grace Porterfield; No. 3, H. G. Finley; No. 4, Nora Bailey; No. 5. Charley Dew; No. 6, Katherine Murphy; No. 7. Cleve E. Warrick; No. 8, J. H. Chaney; No. 9, Mary E. Udell; No. 10, Sadie Frasher; No. II, Lucinda Nabb; No. 4, primary, Dessie Galloway.

Organization of the Township

Warren township was organized in 1806-07, and the first justices were John Grier, Jacob Myer, David Smith, John Dougherty and Jesse Bevan. These gentlemen were elected in the order named. The first election was held in the cabin of John Grier, at which time Mr. Grier was chosen the first justice of the peace.

Tobacco and Berry Culture

While the soil of Warren township is adapted to farming, it is peculiarly adapted to tobacco and to berry culture.

The cultivation of tobacco in Ohio was begun in Warren township, Belmont County, in 1819, by a Methodist preacher named John D. Price, who, desirous of escaping the baneful influences of slavery, removed to Ohio and located in Warren township, near what is now known as Bethel. Persuaded that the soil which surrounded him would successfully grow tobacco, he sent back to his old home in Calvert County, Maryland, for seed, and planted the first tobacco grown in the State in 1819.

The yield was so profitable that thenceforth tobacco culture became a specialty in that section of the county. Since 1820 Barnesville has been one of the principal centers of the tobacco trade in Ohio.

Because of the exhausting nature of the crop upon the soil, tobacco is not grown to the same extent today it was 25 years ago, though Mr. Bradfield of Barnesville, who is perhaps one of the largest purchasers of tobacco, says the annual output of Barnesville and vicinity is a thousand hogsheads per annum.

Berry culture for years was the leading industry with the farmers residing near Barnesville, and the fame of the Barnesville strawberry became national. Today, because of unsatisfactory returns, the business is practically abandoned and the farms are largely devoted to grain growing and stock raising. One of the foremost Jersey cattle stock farms in Eastern Ohio is conducted by L. P. Bailey, near Tacoma. Here annual sales are held that attract large gatherings from all parts of the country: In connection with stock raising, Mr. Bailey also conducts an extensive creamery.

The Population and Township Officers

The population of Warren township, as revealed by the 10th census, is 5,881, an increase of 425 over the census of 1890.

However, the tax duplicate for 1902 shows a loss of $2,366, as compared with the returns of 1901. The falling off is largely in the rural districts. In one ward in the city of Barnesville there is an increase of $33, 293.

The tax levy for 1902 in the township is 1.67, as against 1.92 in 1901, and 2.84 in Barnesville corporation, as against 3.02 in 1901.

Township Officers

The present township trustees are Smiley Bernard, Otho Duval and John Howard; township clerk, S. B. Piper; township treasurer, F. L. Harrison; township justices, – Joseph W. Chappell, James A. White and W. F. Outland.