History of Belpre, Washington Co., Ohio
By C. E. Dickinson, D. D.
Formerly Pastor of Congregational Church
Author of the History of First Congregational Church
Published for the Author by
Globe Printing & Binding Company
Parkersburg, West Virginia
CHAPTER IV -
MUTUAL INSURANCE SOCIETY
SOON after the
commencement of the war, the inhabitants who owned cattle and
hogs, formed themselves who owned cattle and hogs, formed
themselves into a Society for the mutual insurance of each
others stock against the depredations of the Indians; and also
for carrying on their agricultural labors. Each one was
accountable for any loss in proportion to the amount he owned.
For this purpose the animals were appraised at their cash value,
and recorded in a book by the Secretary. Quite a number of
cattle and hogs were killed or driven away by the Savages during
the war, the value of which was directly made up to the owners
by the company. Horses they did not attempt to keep during
the war as they were sure to be stolen, and were a means of
inviting the Indians into the settlement. It was a wise
and salutary arrangement and found to be very useful in
equalizing the burdens and losses of a community who had located
themselves in a wilderness and had to encounter not only the
toil and privations of reclaiming their new lands from the
forest but also to contend with one of the most subtle,
revengeful, and wily enemies the world ever produced. The
leading men in Belpre had been acquainted during their service
in the Army, at a time which tried mens souls, and they felt a
degree of kindness and interest in each others welfare not to be
found in any other community. Their mutual dangers and
suffering bound them still closer together in the bonds of
friendship. There was also an amount of intelligence and
good sense rarely found in so small a number, as will be more
distinctly shown in the biographical sketches (See
Early in the summer of
1791, the settlers, being disappointed by the Indian war in
completing the mill, com- menced on the Little Hocking, concluded to
might be called a floating mill. This could be anchored out in
the river and be safe from destruction by Indians. The labor
of grinding corn on a hand mill for a community of more than one
hundred and fifty persons was a task only known to those who have
Griffin Greene, Esq., one of the Ohio Company
directors, and also an associate in Farmers Castle, had traveled in
France and Holland three or four years before, and in the latter
country had seen a mill erected on boats and the machinery moved by
the current. He mentioned the fact to Captain
Jonathan Devoll, an ingenious machanic, of ardent
temperament and resolute to accomplish anything that would benefit
his fellow men; and although Mr. Greene had not
inspected the foreign mill so as to give any definite description,
yet the bare suggestion of such a fact was sufficient for Captain
Devoll, whose mechanical turn of mind immediately devised the
machinery required to put it in operation. A company was
formed and the stock divided into twelve shares of which Captain
Devoll took one-third, and Mr. Greene about
one-fourth; the rest was divided among five other persons.
When finished it cost fifty-one pounds eight shillings,
Massachusetts currency, according to the old bill of expenditures.
The mill was erected on two boats one of them five and the other ten
feet wide and forty-five feet long. The smaller one was made
of the trunk of a hollow Sycamore tree and the larger of timber and
plank like a flat boat. They were placed eight feet apart and
fastened firmly together by beams, running across the boats.
The smaller on the outside supported one end of the
shaft of the water wheel and the larger the other; in this was
placed the mill stones and running gear, covered with a tight frame
building for the protection of the grain and meal and the comfort of
the miller. The space between the boats was covered with
planks forming a deck fore and aft of the water wheel. It was
turned by the natural current of the water, and was put in motion or
checked by pulling up or setting down a set of boards, similar to a
gate in front of the wheel. It could grind from twenty-five to
fifty bushels of grain in twenty-four hours, according to the
strength of the current. The larger boat was fastened by a chain
cable to an anchor made of timbers and filled with stones, and the
smaller one by a grape vine
to the same anchor. The mill was placed in a rapid portion of
the Ohio a few rods from the shore and in sight of the Castle.
The current here was strong, and the position safeguarded from
Indians. With the aid of a bolting cloth in the garrison,
turned by hand, very good flour was made, when they had any wheat.
The day of the completion was a kind of jubilee to the inmates of
the Castle, as it relieved them from the slavish labor of the
handmill, which literally fulfilled the prediction to Adam:
"In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread." The
floating mill was a great relief, and was visited by all the
settlers on both sides of the Ohio for a distance of twenty miles,
in their canoes, the only mode of transportation at a period when
there were neither roads nor bridges in the country.
MURDERS AT NEWBURY.
This settlement was begun
at the same time with that at Belpre, considered a part of it and
called the "Lower Settlement." The location was six miles
below Farmers Castle and was commenced by about fourteen associates
. On the breaking out of hostilities, Jan. 2nd, 1791, they left
their new clearing and joined the garrison at Belpre. Finding
it out of their power to cultivate their land at so great a
distance, early in the Spring of 1792, the men returned and built
two blockhouses, with a few cabins and enclosed the whole with a
Stockade on the bank of the river opposite a spot called "Newbury
bar," and moved back their effects. There were now four or
five families and eight single men ; in all about twenty souls.
A man by the name of Brown, from headwaters, with his wife
and four children, had recently joined the settlement, and commenced
clearing a piece of land about eighty rods from the garrison.
On Sunday, March 15th, a mild and pleasant day, his wife went out to
see him set some fruit trees they had brought with them. Not
apprehending any danger from the Indians so near the garrison, she
took along with her the children, carrying an infant in her arms,
and leading another child of two years old by the hand, while Persis
Dunham, a girl of fourteen, the daughter of widow Dunham,
and a great favorite with the settlers, for her pleasant
disposition, kind consiliating manners, and beautiful per-
son, led another child, and the fourth loitered some distance behind
them. When they arrived within a short space of Mr.
Brown, two Indians sprang out from their concealment; one seized
Mrs. Brown by the arm and sunk his tomahawk in her
head. As she fell he aimed a blow at the infant which cut a
large gash in the side of the forehead and nearly severed one ear.
He next dashed his hatchet into the head of the child she was
leading, and with his knife tore off their scalps. The other
Indian fell upon Persis and the remaining child, sinking his
tomahawk into their heads and tearing off their scalps with the
remorseless fury of a demon.
The men in the garrison, hearing their screams,
rushed out to their rescue; but only saved the little fellow who
loitered behind, and commenced firing at the Indians. Brown,
whom they had not discovered before, now came in sight but being
without arms could render no assistance. The Indians
immediately gave chase to him but he escaped and reached the
garrison. As the men were not familiar with Indian warfare, no
effective pursuit was made; whereas had there been several
backswoodsmen among them they would doubtless have been followed and
killed. When the bodies of the slain were removed to the
garrison, the poor little infant was found in a state of
insensibility lying by the side of its dead mother. It finally
revived and was nursed with great tenderness by the females at
Farmers Castle, where the child was soon after brought, whose
deepest sympathies were awakened by its motherless condition and
ghastly wound which had nearly deprived it of all its blood.
By great care it was restored to health, and the father, with his
two remaining children, returned to his relations. Newbury was again
deserted and so remained until the end of the war.
In the summer of 1792, in
addition to their other calamities, the inhabitants of Farmers
Castle were assailed with Scarlet Fever and putrid sore throat.
It commenced without any known cause or exposure to contagion.
The disease was sudden and violent in its attacks and very fatal,
some of the children died within twenty-four hours. It was of
a very putrid type and the seat of the disease
confined chiefly to the fauces and throat, many having no scarlet
effloressence on the skin. It continued for several weeks and
overwhelmed this little isolated community with consternation and
grief. Medicine seemed to have little or no effect in
arresting the progress or checking the fatal termination of the
It gradually subsided after carrying off ten or fifteen
children. Like many other epidemics it was most fatal in the
first few days of its appearance. It was confined to Belpre,
while Marietta and the other settlements escaped its ravages.
In the Summer and autumn the inhabitants were more or less affected
with intermittent fevers of a mild type, to the production of which,
no doubt, the swamp back of the garrison afforded a large share of
the malaria. Bilious fever also occasionally attacked the new
settlers but the disease was seldom fatal and gave way to simple
No people ever paid more
attention to the education of their children than the descendants of
the Puritans. One of the first things done by the settlers of
Belpre, after they had erected their own log dwellings, was to make
provision for teaching their children the rudiments of learning,
reading writing and arithmetic.
Bathsheba Rouse, the daughter of John
Rouse, one of the emigrants from near New Bedford Mass. was
employed in the summer of 1789 to teach the small children, and for
several subsequent summers she taught a school in Farmers Castle.
She is believed to have been the first female who taught a school
within the present bounds of Ohio. During the winter months a
male teacher was employed for the larger boys and young women.
Daniel Mayo was the first male teacher in Farmers
Castle. He came, a young man from Boston, with the family of
Col. Battelle, in the Fall of 1788, and was a graduate
of Cambridge University. The school was held in a large room
of Col. Battelle's block house. He was a teacher
for several winters, and during the Summer worked at clearing and
cultivating his lot of land. He married a daughter of Col.
Israel Putnam and after the war settled in Newport,
Ky. Jonathan Baldwin, another educated man, also
school a part of the time of their confinement in the garrison.
These schools had no public funds as at this day to aid them but
were supported from the hard earnings of the honest pioneers. (They
received a small sum from the Ohio Company.)
The larger portion of the
time during the war religious services were held on the Sabbath in
Farmers Castle by Col. E. L. Battelle. The people
assembled in the large lower room in his block house which was
provided with seats. Notice was given of the time to commence
the exercises by his son Ebenezer, then a lad of fifteen or
sixteen years, and a drummer to the garrison, marching up and down
beating the drum. The inmates understood the call as readily
from the "tattoo" as from the sound of a bell, and they attended
very regularly. The meeting was opened with prayer, sometimes
read from the church service and sometimes delivered extempore,
followed by singing, at which all the New Englanders were more or
less proficient. A sermon was then read from the writings of
some standard divine and the meeting closed with singing and prayer.
Occasionally, during the war. Rev. Daniel Story visited
them and preached on the Sabbath, but these calls were rare, owing
to the danger from Indians of intercourse between the settlements.
After the war his attendance was more regular, about once a month;
on the other three Sundays religious services were continued by
Col. Battelle, at a house erected on the Bluff, which
accommodated both the upper and middle settlements until the time
when they were able to build another and more convenient place of
worship. The holy day was generally observed and honored by
the inhabitants but not with the strictness common in New England.
Very few of the leading men of that day were members of any church;
yet all supported religion, morality and good order.
OF THE SPIES AND RANGERS.
To the vigilance
and courage of the men engaged as spies and rangers may in part be
attributed the fact, that so few losses were sustained by the
inhabitants during the Indian war, compared with that of most other
border settlements. This species of troops were early employed
Ohio Company at the suggestion of Gen. Rufus Putnam, who had
been familiar with their use in the old French war and subsequently
taken into the service of the United States. The duty of the
spies was to scour the country every day the distance of eight or
ten miles around the garrisons, making a circuit of twenty-five or
thirty miles and accomplishing their task generally by three or four
o'clock in the afternoon. They left the garrison at daylight,
always two in company, traveling rapidly over the hills and stopping
to examine more carefully such places as it was probable the Indians
would pass over, in making their approach to the settlements, guided
in this respect by the direction of the ridges or the water courses.
The circuit in Belpre was over on to the waters of the Little
Hocking river, and up the easterly branches across to the Ohio,
striking this stream a few miles above the entrance of the Little
Kanawha and thence by the deserted farms down to the garrison.
The spies from Waterford made a traverse that intersected or joined
their trail, forming a cordon across which the enemy could rarely
pass without their signs being discovered. While they were
abroad the inhabitants, at work in their fields or traveling between
stations, felt a degree of safety they could not have done, but for
their confidence in the sagacity and faithfulness of the spies.
Their dress in summer was similar to that worn by Indians.
Their pay was five shillings, or eighty cents a day as appears from
the old pay roll. They were amenable to the commanding officer
of the station but under the direct control of Col. Sproat,
who was employed by the United States. They had signs known to
themselves, by which they recognized a ranger from an Indian even
when painted like one.
The men who served at Belpre, but not all at the same
time, two or three being a proportion for each garrison, were
Cornelius Delano, Joel Oaks, Benjamin
Patterson, Joshua Fleehart, George
Kerr, John Shepherd, and James Caldwell.
The first two were New England men; the other five had been brought
up on the frontiers.
In September, 1793, the
small pox was introduced within Farmers Castle, whose walls could
not protect them from this insidious foe, by Benjamin
Patterson one of the
spies. He was at Marietta where it prevailed and thinking
himself exposed to the contagion was inoculated by Dr.
Barnes who was then there, and engaged him to inoculate the rest
of the family.
Great was the consternation of the married females and
children when the news of the Small Pox being among them was known.
Their sufferings and losses from the Scarletina were still fresh in
their minds, and the dreaded name of Small Pox seemed like the final
sealing of their calamities. Few, if any of the inhabitants,
except the officers and soldiers of the army had gone through with
the disease, and as there was no chance of escaping it, a meeting of
the inhabitants was directly called. It was voted to send for Dr.
True to come down and inoculate them in their own dwellings.
The Doctor accepted the invitation and Farmers Castle became one
great hospital, containing beneath each roof more or less persons
sick with this loathsome disease. The treatment of Dr.
True was very successful, and out of nearly one hundred patients
not one died.
Of those under the care of Dr. Barnes in
Major Goodales garrison, a colony which moved out of
Farmers Castle in the spring, two or three died; among them was a
child of Mr. Patterson. The cause of its
fatality was the failure of those first inoculated to take the
disease, probably from deteriorated matter; and several took it in
the natural way, so that on the whole they got through with this
pest very favorably.
- END OF CHAPTER IV -