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


Mifflin township was surveyed in 1807, and settlements were made there in 1809. Before the creation of Ashland county, Mifflin was in Richland and was a full township, but it was divided when Ashland was erected, less than one half of the territory and population falling within the boundaries of the new county. For the most part the western limit is the center of the Blackfork.

The surface is generally broken and hilly, but the soil yields bountifully to cultivation. The township is well watered by the Blackfork and smaller streams.

Long before Mifflin was settled by white men, it was a favorite hunting ground for the Indians, as all kinds of game abounded in the primeval forests. The settlement and history of Mifflin township have been similar to that of the other townships of the county. In the beginning there were dangers from savages and from the climatic diseases of a new country. But in time Mifflin grew, improved and prospered, keeping step with her sisier townships and is hopeful that trolley cars will in a few years traverse her territory.

Interlaken, Switzerland, is said by tourists to be a small place unless you count the mountains; and Mifflin is a small place unless you count its environing hills and its chain of beautiful lakes, the latter lying placidly between the village and the Blackfork of the Mohican.

Among the oldtime residents of Mifflin township mention should be made of J. F. Benninghof, who was born in Germany and came with his parents to America when he was seven years of age and settled in Mifflin township a few years later, where he became quite prominent and served for a number of years as justice of the peace. As a printer, he held a "case" in a number of offices, both German and English, but is now living in retirement in Mansfield.

Prominent among the first settlers were the Bradens, the Croningers, the Cullers, the Harlands, the Hersheys, the Selbys, the Stamans, the Zeimers, the Copuses, and others.

The Zeimer-Ruffner massacre and the Copus battle occurred in this township, accounts of which are published elsewhere in this work.

THE PETERSBURG LAKES.


"And still it is said, when the day is fled,
And moonbeams gild the night,
That the sheen of the lake is grander
Than in the mid day light."

Those who have never visited the lakes may want to know more about them, for the contemplated improvements will make the place more noted. The number and location of the lakes, the size and depth of each, arid other matters pertaining to the locality are objects of inquiry now, and it is the purpose of this article to give information along these lines.

The Petersburg lakes are situated in Ashland county, eight miles east of Mansfield, and are three in number, forming a chain. The upper lake is the smallest, having an area of only about ten acres, and is called Mud lake. The middle, called the Bell lake, has an area of about thirty acres, and the lower or Big lake (sometimes called Culler's) has an area of fifty to sixty acres, and is a half mile or more in length. There is a surface connection between the lakes, and it is supposed there is also a subterrean one. There is an outlet from the lower lake into the Blackfork, a short distance to the west. The lower lake has a depth of from fifty to one hundred feet. The lakes are fed by subterranean springs from the Mifflin hills on the east, and the waters are clear and cold. These lakes are noted for their abundance of fish and the locality for its myriads of mosquitoes.

Interlaken, Switzerland, is not a large town, it is said, unless you count the mountains; and Miffin is a small village, unless you count the Petersburg (or Miffin) lakes that lie between the town and the Blackfork. These lakes are evidently counted - figuratively - and have aided in making Mifflin one of the most noted villages in this part of Ohio, and its prominence will be still further enhanced when a trolley line connects it with the city of Mansfield.

These Petersburg lakes are in an oblong basin on the east side of the Blackfork and are surrounded by native forests, the greater part of their direct environs being marshy ground, too wet for cultivation. However, the elevation on which the summer hotel stands is high and dry and commands a good view of the lake. The Big lake is a clear, beautiful sheet of water, but the forest surroundings impart a feeling of loneliness, and causes one to exclaim:
"0; Solitude! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?"

With suitable buildings and other improvements, the lakes could be made a desirable summer resort.

In this Blackf ark region there may yet be developed a more lucrative industry than a summer resort. Ore mines may be opened there.

When General Hedges made a survey of that locality in 1807, he was embarrassed over the variations of his compass. In order to test the accuracy of the survey, the lines were resurveyed, still the variations existed. He thought the chaining might be imperfect, and had the lines surveyed the third time, with the same results. Jonathan Cox, in 1808, had a similar experience. The consensus of opinion was that magnetic ores in the earth influenced the needle.

But the only ore yet discovered in that village is "bog ore" at the lakes. Bog iron ore is a mineral of variable composition and is found in alluvial soils, in bogs and lakes. There may, however, be other ore in that locality, which, if unearthed, would add another page to that storied valley and material wealth to its people.

"UNCLE" JONAS' LAKE.

"Uncle" Jonas' lake is in Mifflin township, Riehiand county, but being within a mile of the Ashland county line and its history being a very interesting one, an account of its creation is here given:

"Uncle" Jonas' lake is in Mifflin township, seven miles east of Mansfield. It covers an area of eight acres and its depth is about seventy feet. This little body of water has been called by different names, such as Sites', Swearingen's and others, but in the past was simply "Uncle Jonas' lake," after Jonas Ballyet, the first owner. It is now more generally known as the lake where the wagon load of hay sunk, meadow and all, according to tradition.

In 1821, Jonas Ballyet entered the northwest quarter of section 15, Mifflin township, and near its center he found a lake covering about an acre. Its immediate surrounding was level land to the extent of eight acres, all enclosed with a rim of hills of gentle slope, except a place at the east side where the ground was lower as though inviting an outlet for the pent up waters of the lake. Through this depression, "Uncle Jonas" cut a ditch with the view of making the low land about the lake tillable.

The lake lies a mile west of the Blackfork of the Mohican, and between them is a tract of marshy land called the Black Swamp, into this a ditch was cut from the lake.

"Uncle Jonas'" theory seemed quite plausible, but he was later confronted with a condition he had not anticipated. The ditch was opened on the 25th day of July, 1846, and was of sufficient depth to lower the surface of the lake eight feet. On the day following the greater part of the level land surrounding the lake, comprising about six acres, was engulfed, sank out of sight, leaving only the tops of the higher trees, with which the land had been covered, visible. And in time the tree tops also disappeared. The opinion was that the lake was of greater size beneath than was apparent upon its surface and that lowering the water caused the ground to break off from the rim of hills, and being thus loosened, sank to the bottom.

This sinking caused the earth to quake and tremble for miles around, and alarmed the people of that vicinity, some thinking the "end of the world" had come, began to pray as they had never prayed before.

As this incident occurred during the Millerism period, people were more prone to attribute the trembling and jar to heavenly than to earthly causes, for although there may not have been a Millerite in that neighborhood, yet the doctrine and teachings of the Rev. William Miller had been so universally disseminated and propagated that they influenced many unconsciously.

The time set by Miller for the "second coming of Christ" was the year 1843, as he interpreted the prophecies, but as the expected event did not occur other dates were given later, and the people were admonished to say not in their hearts, "My Lord delayeth His coming."

Digging this ditch outlet to the lake was a losing enterprise to "Uncle Jonas," for instead of reclaiming land, he lost six acres thereof, timber and all.

A few years later there was another sinking of grounds into the water, increasing the lake to its present size of between eight and nine acres, but as the low land has all been engulfed, no apprehension is felt that any similar occurrence will take place in the future, as it is not believed that the lake extends beneath the hills.

Prior to this land sinking episode, catfish, sunfish and some other varieties abounded in the lake in great quantities but are not so abundant there now.
The water of the lake when viewed as a body is an ocean green in tint of coloring, yet when clipped up seems pure and clear. The lake is circular in form and in its hill frame setting is one of the most beautiful of the many attractive places in old Richland. The slope at the southeast is covered by a shady grove, from whose retreat one might imagine some highland maid might appear and-

-With hasty oar
Push her light shallop from the shore,"

to meet her Malcolm at the other side. But, alas, no Ellen comes in answer to the hunter's call.

The lake is not only beautiful in sunshine but is interesting in storms, when the thunder's deep reverberations roll like billows over its waters. And when the gleaming rainbow sheds it lustre upon the placid surface, no artist can sketch its beauty, while in the background of the picture may be read by faith the eternal promise that the earth shall not again be destroyed by water.

Pleasure parties find "Uncle Jonas' " lake interesting by day and still more attractive under the pale light of the stars.

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