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Source:
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
Marietta, Ohio
Published for the Author by
Globe Printing & Binding Company
Parkersburg, West Virginia
1920

CHAPTER VI -

AMUSEMENTS IN FARMER'S CASTLE
Page 48

     DURING the long and tedious confinement of the inhabitants to their garrison, various plans were sought to make the time pass as happily as circumstances would allow.  The sports of the boys and young men consisted of games of ball, foot races, wrestling, and leaping, at all of which the larger number were adepts.  Foot races were especially encouraged that it might give them an advantage in their contacts with the Indians, those of a more refined character, in which both sexes could participate, consisted chiefly of dancing.  Parties of young people from Campus Martius and Fort Harmar used to come down as often as four or five times a year and join in these festivities.  These visits were made by water, in a barge or large row boat, attended by a guard of soldiers from the fort.  They brought Musicians who were attached to the military service.  A player on the violin from Gallipolis named Vansan who was one of the French emigrants, celebrated for his musical talents always accompanied the young men from that place in their visits to Farmers Castle where they were very welcome visitors. It is true they did not abound in nice cakes and rich wines; but they treated their guests with the best they had, while the hilarity and cheerful looks of the company made amends for all besides.  The garrison at Belpre contained about twenty young females in the prime of life, with fine persons, agreeable manners, and cultivated minds.  A dangerous recreation of the younger girls was to steal out of the Castle in the pleasant moonlight summer evenings, and, taking possession of a canoe, push it silently up the shore of the Ohio for a mile or more; then paddle out into the middle of the stream, and float gently down with the current.  Some favorite singer then struck up a lively song in which they all joined, their voices making sweet melody on the calm waters of the "Belle riviere," greatly to the delight of the young men and guards on the watch towers, but much to the alarm of their mothers who were always in fear of the Indians.


CURTIS HOME, NEWBURY, BUILT BY JUDGE WALTER CURTIS  1827


HOME OF MAJ. F. H. LORING

[Pg. 49]
     Promenading up and down the smooth broad avenue between the rows of block houses, about eighty rods in extent, was another favorite summer evening recreation for the young people, while the elder ones gathered in cheerful groups at each others dwellings, to chat on their own affairs, or the news of the day, collected as it might be from the passing boats or the rangers in their visits to other garrisons.  The first newspaper printed in Marietta was started in 1802. Previous to that time they had only stray copies which might reach some families from eastern friends.  The first mail route was established in 1794.  Early in the Autumn parties of young people visited the Island, where several families resided, for the purpose of gathering grapes, paw paws, mints, &c.
     July 4th was regularly celebrated in a bowery within the walls of the garrison. where the old officers and soldiers of the Revolution again recounted the trials and hardships of that eventful period, over a flowing bowl of whisky punch, while the report of their noisy little howitzer awoke the echoes among the neighboring hills at the announcement of each patriotic toast.  A celebration of this glorious day without gun powder or punch would at that time have been called a burlesque. 
     During these years Griffin Greene, Esq., a man of great inventive genius, conceived a machine which he honed would possess the power of perpetual motion.  Captain Devoll constructed a machine after his model but it shared the fate of all perpetual motion machines.

A WINTER HUNT.

     Joshua Fleehart, already mentioned in this narative, was born in Pennsylvania and from his boyhood had been brought up in the woods, knowing as little of letters as the red man of the forest, whom he greatly resembled in habits and instincts.  He was well known as a hunter and secured much meat for the dwellers in Farmers Castle. 
     Having become tired of the sameness of garrison life and panting for freedom among woods and hills, to which he had always been accustomed, late in the fall of 1793, he took his canoe, rifle, traps, and blanket, with no one to accompany him; leaving even his faithful dog in the garrison with his family.  As he was going into a dangerous

[Pg. 50]
neighborhood he was fearful lest the voice of his dog might entrap him.  He pushed his canoe up the Scioto a distance of 15 or 20 miles into a country amidst the best hunting ground for bears and beavers, where no white man had dared to venture.  These two animals were the main objects of his pursuit.  The hills of brush creek were said to abound in bears and the small streams that fell into the Scioto were well suited to haunts of beaver.
     The spot chosen for his winter residence was within 25 or 30 miles of the Indian town of Chillicothe but as they seldom go out for a hunt in winter he had little to fear from their interruption.  For 10 or 12 weeks he trapped and hunted in this solitary region unmolested, luxuriating on the roasted tails of beavers and drinking the oil of bears, an article of diet which is considered by the children of the forest as giving health to the body with activity to the limbs.  His success equalled his most sanguine expectations, and the winter passed away so quickly and pleasantly that he was hardly aware of its progress.  About the middle of February he began to make up the peltry he had captured into packages and to load his canoe with the proceeds of his winters hunt, which for safety he had hidden in the willows a few miles below the little bark hut in which he had lived.
     The day before that which he had fixed for his departure, as he was returning to his camp just at evening Fleehart's acute ear caught the report of a rifle in the direction of the Indian town, but at so remote a distance that none but a backwoodsman could have distinguished the sound.  This hastened his preparation for decamping, nevertheless he slept quietly, but rose the following morning before dawn; cooked and ate his last meal in the little hut to which he had become quite attached.  The sun had just risen and while he was sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree examining the priming and lock of his gun, casting a casual look up the river, he saw an Indian slowly approaching with his eyes intently fixed on the ground, carefully inspecting the tracks of his moccasins left in the soft earth as he returned to his hut the evening before.  He instantly cocked his gun, stepped behind a tree, and waited until the Indian came within range.  He then fired and the Indian fell. Rushing from his cover on his prostrate foe he was

[Pg. 51]
about to apply the scalping knife; but, seeing the shining silver broaches and broad band on his arms he fell to cutting them loose, and tucking them into the bosom of his hunting shirt.  While busily occupied in securing these spoils. the sharn crack of a rifle and the passage of a ball through the bullet pouch at his side caused him to discover throe Indians within one hundred yards of him.  He seized his rifle and took to flight.  The others as he ran fired at him without effect.   The chase was continued for several miles by two of the Indians who were swift runners.  He often stopped and treed, hoping to get a shot and kill one or disable him and then overcome the other at his leisure.  His pursuers also treed and by flanking to the right and left forced him to uncover or stand the chance of a shot.  He finally concluded to leave the level ground on which the contest had thus far been held and take to the high hills, which lie back of the bottoms.  His strong muscular limbs here gave him the advantage as he could ascend a steep hill more rapidly than his pursuers.   The Indians seeing they could not overtake him, as a last effort, stopped and fired, one of their balls cut away the handle of his hunting knife jerking it so violently against his side that for a moment he thought he was wounded.  He immediately returned the fire, and they, with a yell of vexation, gave up the chase.  Fleehart made a circuit among the hills and just at dark came to the river near where his canoe was hidden.  Springing lightly on board he paddled down stream.  Being greatly fatigued by the efforts of the day he lay down in the canoe, and when he awoke in the morning was just entering the Ohio river.  Crossing over to the southern shore he, in a few days, pushed his canoe un to Farmers Castle without further adventure where he showed the rich packages of peltry as the proceeds of his winters hunt and displayed the brilliant silver ornaments as trophies of his victory, to the envy and admiration of his less venturesome companions.  It was not uncommon for western hunters to spend months alone in the woods although they usually preferred one or two comrades.
     Among the privations and trials of the early settlers was the dearness and scarcity of marine salt.  From 1788 until some years after the close of the war, their salt was all brought over the mountains on pack horses at an expense to the consumer of from six to ten dollars a bushel.

[Pg. 52]
This great scarcity was a serious draw back to the prosperity of the country and a source of annoyance to the people.  The domestic animal suffered from its want as well as man; and when ranging in the woods visited the clay banks that sometimes contained saline particles, licking and gnawing them into large holes.
     The "Deer licks," so common at the day, were seldom anything more than holes made in the clay by wild animals and filled with water sometimes of a brackish quality.  Nearly all the salines since worked were first pointed out to man by the deers and buffaloes.

DISCOVERY OF A SALT SPRING

     In the Autumn of 1794, Griffin Greene, Esq., whose fertile mind was always full of projects for the benefit of the country had heard from the report of some white man who had been a prisoner with the Indians, that they had made salt from a spring on a tributary branch of the Scioto river, afterwards known as Salt Creek.  He described the spot as somewhere near the present location of the town of Jackson; and although it was in the midst of the Indian war, and in the vicinity of their towns, so great was the anxiety to ascertain its truth that a company was formed to visit and search out the spring.  Mr. Greene associated with himself in the enterprise Maj. Robert Bradford and Joel Oakes; he paying one-half of the expense, and his two partners the other half.  A large Pirogue was provided, with provisions for twelve men for ten or twelve days, the period supposed necessary to accomplish the journey.  They hired some of the most experienced woodsmen and hunters from Belleville as guides and guards.  Among them were Peter Anderson, Joshua Dewey, and John Coleman, all noted for their bravery and knowledge of the woods.  They left Farmers Castle in the fail of the year, at a time when the water in the Ohio was quite high; accompanied with the good wishes of their neighbors for their success, but dampened with many fears and evil forebodings from the dangers that attended the enterprise.
     At the mouth of Leading Creek the adventurers landed their boat, secreting it among the trees and bushes as well as they could.  This point is about forty miles from Jackson, and probably about thirty miles from the heads of the south branch of Salt Creek ; but of the actual distance they

[Pg. 53]
were ignorant, only knowing that it lay some distance beyond the west boundary of the Ohio Company's lands.  After several days travel and making examinations they fell upon a stream which led in the right direction and, fol- lowing it down, soon met with paths leading as they supposed to the spring.  They soon discovered where fires had recently been made, and searching carefully in the bed of the creek, found a hole which had been scooped out by the Indians in the sand rock and filled with brackish water.  A small brass kettle which they had with them for cooking was filled with the water and, boiled away, made about a table spoonfull of salt.  Although the water was weak, yet it proved that they had discovered the long talked of and desirable fountain whose waters afforded the precious article of salt. It was like the discovery of the philosopher's stone to the alchemist, for every ounce of it could be turned into gold.  After spending one night and part of a day at the place, they commenced their homeward journey, well pleased with the success of their search.  They dare not remain longer and make a larger quantity, lest some straggling Indian should discover them and give notice to the village at Chillicothe, distant about twenty-five miles.  They were too numerous to fear any small hunting party.

A NIGHT ALARM

     Their return to the mouth of Leading Creek was accomplished in a much shorter period than in going out.  The night after they left Salt Creek, while all were buried in sleep by their camp fire, they were awakened by a terrific scream.  All sprang to their feet, seized their arms, and extinguished the fire, expecting every moment to hear the shot and the shout of the Savages.  After listening a moment or two, and no enemy appearing, they began to inquire into the cause of the alarm, and found that one of the party had been seized with the cramp in his sleep and made this terrible outcry.  They were rejoiced that it was from no worse a cause, and lay down quietly until morning.  When they reached the mouth of Leading Creek the water had fallen ten or twelve feet, and left the pirogue high and dry on land.  It required half an hour or more to launch the boat and get under way.

[Pg. 54]

PROVIDENTIAL ESCAPE. - pg. 54

     By the time they had reached the middle of the Ohio, proposing to cross over and go up on the Virginia shore, a party of Indians appeared on the bank, at the spot they had just left, in hot pursuit. Fortunately they were out of reach of their shot.  The adventurers felt very thankful for their providential escape, for had their pursuers reached the river a few minutes sooner, when all hands were engaged in getting the boat into the water, they would in all probability have fallen a sacrifice to the Indians.  At the treaty two years later, an Indian, who was with the pursuing party, told Col. Lewis of Kanawha, that the whites had been discovered while at the creek boiling the salt, by two Indians, who were then on a hunt, and had seen the smoke of their fire.  They were too weak to attack so large a party, and hastened back to their town for assistance.  Twenty Indians immediately went in pursuit, but greatly to their disappointment, did not overtake them until they had left the shore and were out of danger.  They reached the garrison unmolested and relieved the fears of their families as to their safety, it having been in fact a very dangerous enterprise.
     So desirable a discovery was considered to be very valuable and Maj. Green, on a visit he made to Philadelphia soon after, sold the right of his discovery, for the benefit of himself and partners to John Nicholson, a merchant of that city for fifteen hundred dollars, who was to come into possession of the Spring by purchasing land on which it was situated, as soon as it was surveyed by the United States and offered for sale.  But the lands were considered so valuable that they were never offered for sale, but were ceded with othr Salt Springs, to the State of Ohio when it became a member of the Confederacy in 1802, as one of the most precious acquisitions and under an express stipulation that the state should never sell them or lease them for more than ten years at any one time.  Small quantities of salt were made here as early as 1797 by individuals on their own account increasing in quantity until they came under the control of the State.  The greatest quantity was made in the years 1805 and 1808, when there were twelve or fourteen furnaces in operation averaging from fifty to sixty bushels a week or about twenty thousand

[Pg. 55]
bushels a year. The price at this period was from two and a half to three dollars a bushel, and the larger portion of the middle counties were supplied from these salines; the salt being transported on pack horses.

- END OF CHAPTER VI -
 

NOTES:

 

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