History of Clear Creek Township, OH
From: The History of Ashland County, Ohio
By A. J. Baughman
Published By The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1909

Clear Creek township was surveyed in 1807, by Mansfield Ludlow, but the date of its organization as a township cannot be ascertained by either township or county records. However, it is known that the population of the township in 1820 was three hundred and nine. The number had increased to one thousand three hundred and twenty-seven in 1860. When the first settlers came to this township they found the land covered with a dense forest, and had hard labor in clearing and improving their farms. The first list of township officers on record were those of 1862, to-wit: trustees, A. F. Shaw, John Bryte, and E. T. Garrett; clerk, M. C. Percival; assessor, John Gibson; treasurer, David Stem; constables, John Swineford and John Neff..

The town of Savannah being pleasantly situated and on a leading road it was a place of considerable business for a number of years, and during the period of the evolution of counties it was a prominent candidate for the seat of justice for a new county. Savannah was laid out December 25th, 1818, and was named Vermillion, although the place was locally known as Haneytown, for the Rev. James Haney, an early resident of the place, and who had served several terms in the legislature as a representative from Ashland county. Rev. Haney was a man of good sense as well as of Thie sentiment, and in a letter to a friend, speaking of the prosperous condition of the township, the result of the labors of the pioneers, also looked forward with an interest somewhat tinged with melancholy from the past to the future and expressed the inquiry as to whether succeeding generations would be informed of the names even, of those who had cleared the forest in fields and first cultivated the same. He recalled the lines of Henry Kirk White, that—

Fifty years hence, and who will hear of Henry
Oh! none; another busy brood of beings
Will shoot up in the interim, and none
Will hold him in remembrance.”

The histories then written were of a general or national character and the Rev. Haney did not anticipate that local histories in time would come.

The selection of Ashland as the county-seat of the new county of Ashland gave a back set to Savannah and the business of the town began to decline, but its downward course was checked by the erection of the Savannah Academy in 1858.

The first school taught in Clear Creek township was by Mrs. Elliott in her own house in 1817-1818.

The first instance in which the population of the village of Savannah was taken separately from that of the township of Clear Creek was in 1860. It then contained three hundred and thirty-six inhabitants.

A Presbyterian church was organized in Savannah in 1833. This church was an offshoot from the Hopewell church of Ashland. A Free Presbyterian church was organized in Savannah in 1851, with F. M. Finney, minister. The United Presbyterian church was organized there in June, 1858, by combining members of what was before known as the Associate and the Associate Reform Presbyterian churches, with J. W. Ashenhurst as pastor. The Associate Reform Congregation of Savannah was organized in September, 1831, by the late Rev. James Johnson, of Mansfield. The first house of worship in Savannah was built in 1834. A Disciple church was organized in the township in the year 1830. The denomination which was then known as the Disciples is now called "Christians," but the proper denominational name for this sect of people is The Church of the Disciples of Christ."

In 1837 the names of the town and postoffice were changed from Vermilion to Savannah.

In 1822 the only mill in the township was a horsemill, built and owned by Thomas Ford. The first sawmill in the township was erected by Joseph Davis on the Clear Creek in 1822. In 1824 John Hendricks built a frame gristmill on the Vermilion, a short distance below the mouth of the Clear Creek. In 1827 John and Thomas Haney erected a gristmill on Mulhollen's run, a short distance south of the town. Prior to the erection of gristmills in Clear Creek township, the pioneers had to take their grists to Odell's in Wayne county - a distance of from thirty to thiry-five miles.

The first election in the township was held at the house of John Freeborn. The first physician in the township was Dr. Cliff. Prior to that the nearest physician was at Ashland.

The cabin of Thomas Ford was a prominent place of holding religious meetings in pioneer times in Clear Creek township. Men and women traveled often six or eight miles on foot, through the woods, at night they lighted their pathways by torches of hickory bark, to enable them to attend the services. In 1830, a church building was put up, known as "Ford's Meeting House." This meeting house was considered the best structure devoted to religious services in that part of the county. The four quarterly meetings of the circuit of the Methodist Episcopal church - Mansfield being included in the circuit - were held in this church for several years. The first religious service held in Ford's Meeting House was the funeral of Thomas Ford, who died October 10, 1830, aged fifty-seven years. His was the first interment in the graveyard adjoining the church.

In about 1820, the first schoolhouse in the southern part of the township was built on the line of the land of Abraham Huffman. The house was of hewn logs, eighteen by twenty feet, cabin roof, puncheon floor, puncheon tables and puncheon seats. It had greased paper windows, and the facilities for heating were limited to fires made in a ifreplace such as were in general use in the cabins of those days, and afforded in cold weather insufficient heat to admit of practice in writing, as the ink would almost freeze in the pen in the process of transferring it from the inkstand to the paper. The ftrst teacher was Robert Nelson, of Milton township, who continued in that capacity two or three years.

As evidence of the privations endured by many in the early settlement, Mr. Vanostrand mentions the case of a worthy family who came to the country destitute of either provisions or money, who subsisted a greater portion of one season upon pumpkins alone - commencing their use as food while the vegetable was yet unripened. The family would perhaps have suffered death by starvation, had it not been for the friendly aid afforded them by the neighbors, after learning their situation.

Every house in Clear Creek, as was the case in other townships in the early settlement, manufactured the wearing apparel for its own household. . The males were dressed in buckskin and domestic linen; and the women and children were also dressed in fabrics the product of their own fields and households.

There were no woolen goods, as sheep would be devoured by the wolves; and after the wolves had so far disappeared as to invite the introduction of sheep, the climate and wild food were discovered to be unfavorable to their life and health.

Jacob Myers immigrated to Clear Creek township, April 23, 1829. His native state was Pennsylvania, Green county, where he was ordained as a clergyman of the Baptist church. He purchased and entered the land which forms the tract upon which he has since resided, on sections 3 and 4, Clear Creek township.

Among the pioneer families of Clear Creek township, the following names are recalled: Elias Ford, Peter Vannostrand. William Shaw, James Haney, John Freeborn, David Burns, John Richards, Thomas Ford, Abraham Claberg and John Bryte.. Elias Ford came to Clear Creek township in 1819, and the Fords have been numerous and prominent in the township ever since. One of the number, Thomas H., became lieutenant governor of Ohio and was later a Colonel in the Union army in the war of the Rebellion.

David Bryte settled in Clear Creek township in 1821. He later located in Mansfield, where he served as deputy sheriff for two terms and in 1840 was elected sheriff of Richland county. He died in 1872.


Under date of November 10, 1861, the Rev. John Haney wrote the following communication from Lansing, Iowa, to Editor Knapp. of Ashland. Mr. Haney writes as follows;

"In compliance with your request, I will state that the settlement of what is now Clear Creek township, Ashland county, commenced in the spring of eighteen hundred and fifteen (1815). In the winter preceding the Rev. James Haney, (my father) John and Richard Freeborn and William Shaw built a small keelboat in Cross Creek township, Washington county, Pennsylvania, and hauled it a distance of twelve miles to the Ohio river. On the evening of the 10th of March of that year, Richard Freeborn, William Shaw, Daniel Devlin, my father and myself embarked on the boat which we had freighted with our goods, provisions, etc., from Wellsburg, Virginia, to the nearest navigable point on the Muskingam waters, thence to our destination. John Freeborn went by land with our horses and cattle. On reaching the mouth of the Muskingum we met unusually high water, which retarded our progress and made the labor of propelling our keelboat very severe. Daniel Devlin and I were then only sixteen years of age each. After many asventures and perils, we arrived at a place called Finley's bridge, about five miles south of Jeromeville, on the 26th of April, where we met our horses and pack saddles. On the evening of the 29th, we encamped on the ground now known as the old grave yard, on the line between Clear Creek and Orange townships, one and a half miles southeast of Savannah. The names of the parties there encamped were John Freeborn, Richard Freeborn, his wife Elizabeth and infant daughter Mary, William Shaw, his wife and daughters Eleaner and Jane, small children, Rev. James Haney, his Sons John and Thomas and daughter Mary, aged respectively sixteen, fourteen, and twelve at that time. The balance of the family came out in the fall.

"Abraham Huffman, Robert McBeth and Patrick Elliott, were among the first settlers of Clear Creek township.

"The entire range of surveyed townships from the north to the south side of Richland county, in which Clear Creek was situated, constituted but one organized township, at first named Vermilion. The date of the organization of Clear Creek township I do not distinctly recollect. It was either John or Richard Freeborn who personally applied for the organization and gave the name. It was the name given by the Messrs. Freeborn to the principal creek in the township when they first saw it in the summer of 1814, and they gave the township the same name. I do not recollect who were the first officers of the township, but I do remember that, for several years the officers served without pay. Robert McBeth was the first justice of the peace.

"I am unable to recall the years that my father represented Richland county in the Ohio legislature. It was, however, during the period that the state organized its canal system.

"My impression is that Mrs. Elliott taught the first school in the township at her own house. I think the first religious meeting was held at father's house, three-fourths of a mile east of Savannah.. At any rate, Rev. James Haney preached the first sermon ever preached in the township. For sometime after the commencement of the settlement of the country, religious meetings were held at private houses. If .1 am not mistaken, the first religious society was formed at Mr. Thomas Ford's and the first administration of the sacrament took place there. The precise time when and where the first church building was erected, I do not recollect.

"The village of Savannah was laid out in the winter of 1818, by myself. It was first called Vermillion. The first man who settled in the town was Joseph Fast. The first schoolhouse was a small log building erected on the northeast corner of the town plat. Jacob McLain was the first brickmaker and hatter in the town. Garnett Whitelock was the first blacksmith. Joseph Davis built the first sawmill on Clear creek, one and a half miles west of Savannah.

"John and Richard Freeborn planted the first apple seeds, which furnished the trees for several of the oldest orchards in the township. Thomas Ford erected the first horsemill for grinding grain in the township.

"The Indians hunted for several years after the first settlers came. They were principally Delawares and Wyandots. Game was plenty for several years after the first settlements were made. The wild pasture was good at first. Horses and cattle did well, but sheep were unhealthy until the country was improved.

"The streams had more water in then than now. The general health was pretty good, consilering that the climate was damper than at present. The principal diseases were intermittent fevers and rheumatism. The social condition of the first settlers was good. Their common wants brought them in contact favorable to the cultivation of the social virtues. Few of the settlers did more toward improving the country than Abraham Huff man. He was a man of great industry and energy, always ready to administer to the wants of the needy. His uncompromising hostility to what he considered wrong, sometimes caused him trouble that many others could have avoided.

"Robert MeBeth was an intelligent man, of fine social qualities, and sterling integrity.

"Patrick Elliott was emphatically an honest man.

"Thomas Ford was a highly reputable and intelligent citizen."

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