History of Jackson Township, Champaign County, OH

From: History of Champaign County, Ohio
Judge Evan P. Middleton, Supervising Editor
B. F. Bowen & Company Inc. (Publisher)
Indianapolis, Indiana 1917



JACKSON TOWNSHIP.

Jackson township is the southwestern township of the county, being bounded on the north by Johnson township, on the east by Mad River township, on the south by Clark county and on the west by Miami county. It was a part of the original Mad River township which was organized on April 20, 1805, and continued a part of that township until it was set off in 1817 at the time Clark county was organized. It contains thirty six full sections, thirty of township 3, range II, and six of township 3, range 10. The township was named in honor of Gen. Andrew Jackson whose battle of New Orleans was fresh in the minds of every settler in the township in 1817.

DRAINAGE AND TOPOGRAPHY.

Jackson township is one of the best farming townships in the county. Much of its surface is composed of what is locally known as "second bottom" or "valley" land, and this designation sufficiently describes it. The surface is gently undulating, but not so rolling as to render it unfit for cultivation. It falls, as does the remainder of the county in the glacial region, but it happens in this township that the gravel in most places is deeply covered with the drift. This has left beds of clay here and there, and some of the clay makes as fine brick and tile as any clay in the state. There have been both tile and brick kilns in the county for more than half a century.

The natural resources not only include a very fertile soil, plenty of excellent gravel and a high quality of clay, but also a good outcrop of stone. The limestone which outcrops in section 15 is of the same quality of limestone which outcrops in Logan county. As early as 1840 a quarry was opened in the southwest quarter of section 15, but it was closed down shortly after the Civil War. The quarry in section 2 of Salem township produced the same quality of stone. However, the most valuable stone crop in the township is the boulder crop. These granite boulders of all sizes and shapes are found over the western part of the township and within the past few years have begun to command a good price. All of these boulders were swept down at the same time the gravel was deposited in the county.

The natural drainage of the township is easily effected through the numerous streams and creeks which wend their ways through all the little valleys of the township. Most of the township lies in the Mad river basin. Chapman creek and Blacksnake creek drain the eastern and southern parts of the township, while the remainder of the township falls within the Miami river basin and is drained through Honey creek and Lost creek.

FIRST SETTLERS.

The first settler of Jackson township was a soldier of the Revolutionary War and he is recorded as having built a cabin on section 2 as early as 1802. Charles Dorsey, this courageous pioneer, came to the county alone and entered a quarter of a section and after building his cabin and clearing a small tract returned to Virginia for his family. He returned to his new home with his wife and children, but died in a few years. His tombstone which was fairly legible in 1880 gives July 14, 1811, as the date of his death and but little more is known of him. He was buried on the old Grafton farm in section 3. If Dorsey left any descendants they left the county early in its history, the local records making no mention of anyone of this name.

Between the time that Dorsey returned to his home in Virginia and his second coming to Champaign county, the next permanent settlers found their way to Jackson township. This places the arrival of John Kain (Cane or Kane) and William Lemon in the township sometime prior to 1805. They settled on section 2 and both men seemed to have sold their entries in 1814. The recorder's record shows that John Kain sold one quarter of section 2 to Nathan Hill and another quarter to William Darnell, both quarters in 1814; also the records show that one Joseph S. Reynolds sold part of his land to William Lemon in 1814. This Kain was evidently the same man who laid out Mechanicsburg in 1814. Lemon built a cabin and after clearing a small patch of ground returned to Virginia to get his wife and four children. Like the Dorsey family the Lemons early disappeared from Jackson township history.

Following the Dorsey, Kain and Lemon families, the settlers began to come in groups and most of them from Virginia.

LIST OF ORIGINAL LAND OWNERS.

In this township as in most of the other townships in the county west of the Ludlow Line the records of deeds seldom indicate the original entry from the United States government. In Jackson township there are not over twenty five patents recorded, and not more than fifty deeds of any kind recorded prior to 182o. Therefore a study of the records themselves fails to show who were the earliest settlers. To catalogue the settlers, or at least those whose deeds to land are recorded prior to 1820, would be to name a few of the earliest settlers. The following list of landowners is taken directly from the deed book in the recorder's office and shows those who owned land in the township prior to 1820, but does not necessarily prove that they were bona fide residents of the land.

Section 2 - Joseph Reynolds and Isaac Reynolds, 181o; John Kain, Nathan Hill and William Darnell, 1814; William Lemon, 1814; Jacob Conklin, 1816.

Section 3 - James Black, March 5, 1812.

Section 5 - George Faulkner and Zachariah Putnam.

Section 15 - Robert S., John and Martin Reynolds, January 1, 18th; each acquired seventy one acres.

Section 17 - Jacob Malin, 1816.

Section 21 - Richard Southgate, 1817.

Section 22 - Henry Huddleston, 1817.

Section 31 - Robert Stapleton and William Stapleton, 1814; Robert Williams and Samuel Martin, 1817; Joseph Butcher and James Smith, 1820.

Section 32 - John Merritt, June 1, 1814. A deed recorded May 1, 1819, transferred one acre from Merritt to the trustees of the Baptist church. This became the Honey Creek Baptist church, which has had a long and eventful career. The church has made several additions to its holdings, most of which have been evidently additions to the cemetery. The successive purchases of land and amounts are taken from the records, to-wit: January 16, 1834, one acre; April 15, 1874, one half acre; September 20, 1879, one half acre: December 5, 1900, one and three fourths acres; January 4, 1901, lot ten feet by thirteen and one half rods; October 18, 1913, one acre.

Section 35 - David Brower, 1815; John Sills, 1818.

The early local accounts pertaining to the first settlers make no mention of several of the landowners above listed. As before stated there is no certainty that a landowner ever saw the tract which he entered or later bought. It is true that most of the early settlers entered the land on which they lived, but there was a considerable number who were "squatters" or what were known as "tenants at will." Scores of early settlers were not landowners and for that reason failed to get in the early records.

EARLY IDENTIFIED WITH TOWNSHIP.

The names of Thomas Grafton, Thomas Cowie, George Wilson, Sampson Kelley and Joshua Darnell are identified with the history of the township before 1810. Wilson was in the township in the spring of 1805 and built a cabin on half of section 36, which he had entered at Cincinnati on his way to the county. Part of this section he later sold to the Howells and it eventually became a part of the present village of Christiansburg. Sampson Kelley was an Irishman, born in 1773, came to this country in 1791, located in Virginia, married there and came to Jackson township in 1806 and located on the southwest corner of section 3. He was married and had three daughters when he arrived in the township and had three sons born after he came to this county. His son, Joseph, was the first white child born in the township. Kelley lived only a short time after his youngest son was born and after his death his farm vas sold because the members of the family could not meet the payments. It brought between five and six dollars an acre.

Thomas Grafton, a native of Rockingham county, Virginia, came to Jackson township in 1806 with his son and entered the southeast quarter of section 3, and impressed his individuality upon his generation so that his farm is known as the "old Grafton farm" to this day. He and his wife had a family of eight children: James, Ambrose, Susan, Elizabeth, John, Sarah, Thomas and Amelia. Some of the boys were large enough to be of considerable help to their father when the family located here, and consequently he was soon able to have a goodly tract ready to put under cultivation. James and Ambrose fought in the War of 1812; Thomas, another son, became the largest landowner in the family and in his time had more land in the township than any other man. The senior Grafton died August 12, 1851, in his ninety second year.

Thomas Cowhic came to the county from Virginia in the spring of 1806 and located in the township, where he made his home until his death. It has often been remarked that the early settlers used poor judgment in entering land, in that they were not able to distinguish good from bad land. With many of them the presence of a spring was the largest determining factor in their choice of a section of land; the fact that the land might be very poor never occurring to them. The later settlers usually exercised better judgment in the selection of land. They were also frequently able to buy for a small amount in advance of the price of government land, a tract which had been previously entered and which had several acres cleared, or at least "deadened."

THE FOUNDER OF CHRISTIANSBURG.

One of the most influential of the early settlers in Jackson township was Joshua Howell, the founder of Christiansburg, who came from Virginia in 1808 with his wife, Mary, and eight children: Joshua, John, Thomas, James, Daniel, Jeremiah, Abigail and Nancy. He located on section 31, part of which is now within the corporate limits of Christiansburg. He and his sons at once built a rude log cabin and set about clearing a tract large enough to furnish food for a family of this size. The Howells are said to have put out the first apple orchard in the county and there were trees in this orchard bearing as late as the seventies. Most of the Howell children left the township after they reached maturity, and the old pioneer himself spent his last days in Indiana at the home of one of his children.

Daniel Howell, one of the sons of Joshua, was married in Virginia before coming to the county in 1810 and entered a tract of land in the vicinity of his father's place. About the same time David Field came to the township from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and entered a quarter section south of Christiansburg, in section 36. He built the usual cabin, cleared a good sized tract and lived on the farm until 182o when he sold it to David Sills. After disposing of his farm near the village, Field bought a farm of seventy four acres immediately north of the village and erected a second log cabin. In the section south of Christiansburg there were settlers by the name of Samuel Martin, Robert Williams and James Smith before 182o, but nothing is known of their personal history. It is presumed that all of them came directly from Virginia or from Kentucky.

John Fitzpatrick, a Virginian, had come to Urbana in 1810 and located on the farm of John Reynolds. In 1816 he came to Jackson township and entered the southwest corner of section to, where he at once located with his wife and six children. He left a large number of descendants in the county. John Johnson and William McCrea came to the township before the twenties and both became prominent figures in its early history. Johnson was born in Fremont county, Kentucky, in 1794 and had lived in Ohio for a time before coming to Champaign county. He bought a tract from Elijah Dawson and James Reynolds for five dollars an acre, a piece of ground so wet that it is strange that he should have wanted to locate on it. He picked out a high and dry spot in the midst of his large tract, built a round log hut, the kind with a stick and mud chimney, clapboard roof, puncheon floor and greased paper windows. Johnson reared a large family and many of his descendants are still found in the county.

FIRST MERCHANT IN CHRISTIANSBURG.

William McCrea was only fourteen years of age when he came to Champaign county with his father and mother from Scotland. His father entered a half section adjoining Christiansburg, but later had to relinquish a part of it. This Scotch lad grew to manhood on his father's farm and later had the honor of being the first merchant in the village of Christiansburg. More of his mercantile career is set forth in the history of the town, but it may be stated here that his little log store where he dispensed all kinds of goods and wares - wet, dry and hard - a department store, it would be called today, was an important factor in the life of Jackson township.

McCrea had the first frame house in the township. This also was the first house that boasted of plastered walls. It was as much of a curiosity to the people in its day as a flying machine would be at the present time should it land in the midst of Christiansburg. This Scotchman can certainly be called the most prominent man in the history of Jackson township for several years. He was not only one of the wealthiest men, but was interested in all public movements. He held at one time or another practically every township office and closed his official career by a term in the state Legislature as a representative from Champaign county, serving three consecutive terms.

A LIST OF THE TOWNSHIP'S "FIRSTS."

Jackson township local records have been preserved a large number of "firsts" and as many of these as could be collected are here presented. It has been stated that the first settler was Charles Dorsey and that Josph Kelley was the first white child born in the township. George Wilson is credited with being the first shoemaker; William McCrea, the first storekeeper, and William Kelley, the first tanner. He was in charge of a tannery in Addison from 1832 to 1850. John Johnson started the first corn cracker on his farm and his mill must have run on low speed if the story preserved of its method of operations may be believed. One of his neighbors was fond of relating an incident in connection with the mill.

After the mill was ready to run there was a lapse of several days before a grist was brought to be ground. The first grist turned into the hopper fell down through the funnel as it was supposed to do and presumably it was being ground in the ordinary fashion. Upon opening the box where the meal was supposed to. drop after being ground, the miller was surprised to find no meal. A closer investigation revealed the fact that a chipmunk was concealed in the mill and had eaten the meal as fast as it was being ground. The record fails to state how many bushels of corn this chipmunk got away with or what the miller did to it when he found the gourmand.

John Merritt had the first saw mill in the township on his farm in section 32 as early as 1816. It was a water power mill located on the west fork of Honey creek. The deed records enumerates five separate mill and race sites along this creek, and it is fair to presume that there was a mill at each, although there is nothing to indicate what kind of a mill. The first steam saw mill made its appearance in 1850 and was located in section 14 on the farm of John Baker.

A man by the name of Ludd brought the first fanning mill to the township about 1835 and this was the first artificial aid which the farmers had in threshing wheat. Prior to this time the grain was tramped or flailed out and then shaken in a large sheet on the top of a hill or some place where a good breeze could be had. After the fanning mill came into use the grain and chaff were separated by machine. Jacob Baker had the first sorghum mill on the St. Paris-Dalton road.

The first blacksmith was Jesse Julien who located in the township about 1817. He was joined in 182o by a New Englander named Gridley. The only definite information preserved regarding the latter is the fact that he charged an outrageous price for all his work. He would have fit in better with conditions as they are in 1917 than as they existed in 1817.

The Tonnahills were the first masons in the township, locating here in the latter part of the twenties. They built all of the first brick houses in the township. About 1831 the highway projected to run from Urbana to Greenville via Troy was built through the township and passed through Christiansburg. This road was several years in building and was not completed until the latter part of the thirties, being made a free road.

The first tavern was opened in Addison between 1835 and 1840 by David Kyle, and was operated by him for several years. The first doctors were a couple of brothers who located in Addison about 1818-19. They were too bibulous, however, to win the confidence of the settlers and soon left for more congenial surroundings. Doctor Van Mewter is recorded as the first regular physician. Born in Scotland and educated in England he was a well educated physician and built up an extensive practice in this section of the county. Later physicians were Doctors McFarland and Marshall (both in 1832), and Dr. J. J. Musson, who later located in St. Paris and became one of the most prominent politicians in the county.

CLAIRVOYANT APPEARS ON THE SCENE.

This township boasts of one "industry" which has not been recorded in the early annals of any other township in the county. About 1828 a clairvoyant appeared in the village of Addison and announced that he was ready, willing and even anxious to forecast the future for any and all of the citizens of the township - for a pecuniary consideration. How much forecasting he did or how much money he secured from the credulous settlers is not on record, but his industry was soon cut short. Another and more profitable industry was the manufacture of spinning wheels by a man named Wood. This Wood was a justice of the peace for thirty one consecutive years. Other industries of the early township settlers may be found in the section devoted to Christiansburg.

One of the prominent citizens of early Jackson township history was Andrew Wilson, who was in his time the biggest trader in the county and one of the largest in the state. There are those who aver that he was one of the biggest in the United States, but this would seem to cover too much territory. Wilson bought and sold everything raised on a farm all kinds of stock and all kinds of grain. There was nothing he would not buy if he thought he could make any profit on it. He drove his live stock to Cincinnati on the south or Toledo on the north, and, so it is said, his stock never lost any weight en route. This farmer trader of Jackson township finally landed in New York city at the opening of the Civil War, launched out as a real estate agent, platted an addition to the largest city in the world, became involved in some sort of financial disaster due to Civil War conditions and cut his throat with a butcher knife.

The first church in the township was Baptist in denomination and was located in section 32 on the banks of Honey creek - hence the name Honey Creek Baptist church, by which it has been known for more than one hundred years. Since that time there have been churches in various parts of the township, although most of the church going public attend the churches of St. Paris, Christiansburg and Thackery. The Lutheran church at Thackery is the last to be organized in the township.

RAILROADS AND ELECTRIC LINES.

The township was first crossed by a railroad in 1893 when the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton road was completed. The town of Thackery did not come into existence until after the building of this road. The Pennsylvania road cuts across the northeastern corner of the township and is on the boundary between Jackson and Johnson townships for practically the whole distance. The Springfield, Troy & Piqua electric line was built through the southwestern corner of the township in 1903 and places Christiansburg in direct connection with Springfield on the south and Troy and Piqua on the west. The building of this electric line has been of incalculable benefit to the township and especially to the farmers who are thus insured a better market for their grain and stock. By the time the electric line was ready to operate Adam Bright had an eleven thousand dollar elevator ready for use in Christiansburg, the finest of its kind in the county. Since Christiansburg is not on a steam road the electric line does an immense amount of freight business at that point.

CHANGES IN FARMING METHODS.

The outstanding feature of the agricultural history of the township during the past twenty five years is the introduction of modern farming methods in all lines. Even corn is cut by machines at the present time; potatoes and cabbage plants are planted with drills; cream is separated from milk and the cow herself is milked by machinery. The creamery at Thackery has worked a great change in things in that section of the township. More than one hundred thousand dollars in actual cash was paid to the farmers in the vicinity of Thackery in 1916, and this money could not help but be of untold benefit to the general welfare of those receiving it. One farmer told the historian that a good cow would yield a gross return of at least one hundred dollars a year, and that fifteen acres of ground and a dozen cows would make a very comfortable living for a family.

A creamery was organized at Thackery by a number of farmers, but at the present time practically all of the stock in the company is owned by E. B. Smith. The growth of this industry during the time it has been in existence is little short of remarkable. Starting out with a score of patrons it has built up a list of three hundred patrons and in the spring of 1917 was distributing ten thousand dollars each month in actual cash for milk supplies. The creamery condenses one thousand four hundred pounds of milk daily and manufactures one thousand pounds of butter weekly. The milk is gathered from the patrons by automobile trucks, three of which are on the road all the time. Two other trucks are employed in hauling condensed milk across the county to Marysville, trips being made daily.


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