History of Franklin Township, Ross County OH

From: The County of Ross
Henry Holcomb Bennett, Editor
Published by Selvyn A. Brant
Madison, Wis. 1902


FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP.

THE organization of this township occurred on the 9th of September, 1806. The following is the entry in the county commissioners' book of records of that date: "Ordered, that a part of the townships of Scioto and Pee Pee be laid off to form a new township, and bounded as follows: Beginning on the Scioto river at the lower corner of McNeal's upper survey; thence with lower line of said survey, and continuing on the same direction until it will strike the former line of Pee Pee township; thence with said line so far that a line drawn from the divining ridge, between Indian creek and Crooked creek, will strike the mouth of Indian creek; thence down the Scioto river to the mouth of Paton's run; thence with the line of Jefferson township and Lick township so far that a west line will strike the place of beginning. The same to be known by the name of Franklin township." The house of Benjamin Foster was designated as the polling place of the township.

The boundaries established by this action of the commissioners remained undisturbed until September 8, 1814, when it was "ordered that so much of Franklin township east of the Scioto river and not included in Beaver township, be attached to Jefferson township." This action made the Scioto river the eastern boundary, and established the outline of the township as at present. It is very nearly in the form of a triangle, bounded by straight lines, about eight miles in length, on the south and west, and a river front of about ten miles on the east. The portion near the Scioto is exceedingly rich, and is not surpassed in fertility by any land in the county. The higher ground, which lies in terraces or plateaus, is also fine farming land, and this terminates in bluffs and broken country, of much less value for agricultural purposes. The valley of Stony creek, though not wide, comprises some excellent land. The other streams besides Stony creek are Pettinger's run and Wilson's run. These maintain a generally eastern direction, and empty into the Scioto. A peculiar trait of the hill land in this section, due, no doubt, to the action of the waters in the glacial period, is the fact that the north side of the hills has a deeper deposit of alluvial soil than the south. This feature is noticeable in nearly all of the hilly districts of the county.

The "Norfolk and Western railroad traverses about seven miles of the eastern boundary of the township, having some eight miles of track and sidings within its territory, and a station, known as Rigby. The Ohio and Erie canal is also a "common carrier," traversing the entire river boundary of the township, and running nearly parallel with the railroad until the latter crosses the river. In the days of active operations on the canal, Three Locks gave an air of business to the locality.

The township is fairly well supplied with well kept roads, and has two excellent turnpikes within its borders, the Portsmouth and Columbus turnpike, through the western portion, and the Waverly and Chillicothe pike following the valley in the eastern part. In the early days, the territory of Franklin was a popular hunting ground, the hills, and heavy timber, affording excellent cover and favorite resorts for all the larger game found in the country. Even after the general settlement had progressed for some years, large game was plentiful, and foreign hunting parties frequently visited the locality, and were well rewarded for their efforts. Being located in the Virginia Military District, the farms in Franklin are surveyed and described by the metes and bounds system, and some descriptions are very unique. Heavy timber of the usual varieties found in the county, covered almost the entire townships, this being relieved only by small patches of prairie on the bottoms.

The Mound Builders have left evidences of their existence in various forms of ancient works; but there are none in this township which excite as great interest as elsewhere in the county. There is an enclosed work near Rigby, which is about seventy five feet square, with rounded corners. A mile and a half from this, on the Waverly pike, is a deep hole, or basin, circular in form, about sixty feet in diameter, and still maintaining a depth of several feet. When first known to the white man, it was fifteen or twenty feet deep, and excited great curiosity. It is thought to have been designed for storage, though its purpose, like that of the others, is only problematical.

It is known that Rev. John Foster, and his brother Thomas, were the first white settlers within the limits of Franklin township. These were sons of John Foster, sr., who settled in Piketon, in the year 1798, the sons selecting their home in Franklin the same year. They were natives of Maryland. Others of the family emigrated to the county from time to time, and this became a numerous and prominent family in the early days of settlement. The first election held in the township was ordered at the house of Benjamin Foster, a member of this family. Rev. John Foster was the first preacher in the township, and a zealous Methodist who was active in establishing the church in the wilderness. He was a captain in the war of 1812, and a useful and honored citizen in later life. There were five brothers of the parent stock of the Foster family in Ross county - Thomas, John, Benjamin, Joseph and Richard. According to the "Pioneer Record of Ross County," the last named of these was the first settler of Franklin township, other authorities giving this honor to John and Thomas. But it is a matter of little moment, since, in either case, the distinction belongs to the Foster family.

Col. John Foster, son of Thomas, was born in Franklin township, August 4, 1801, and spent his entire life on the farm where he was barn, and more than seventy years in the same house. He was a practical and successful farmer, not caring for political honors, though achieving some distinction both in civil and military life. He was colonel of a militia regiment for some years, and a representative in the legislature in 1848. He held various township offices, and was appointed associate judge of Ross county, a distinction which he ignored by resigning the office soon after his election. Colonel Foster had a family of nine children: Joseph William R., Mary (Davis), Thomas, Jane (Davis), John W., James P., Samuel D., and Rebecca Ann. The last named son was an officer in the civil war, attaining the rank of major. It is said that the father and grandfather of Colonel Foster were the first white men who ascended the Scioto river in a canoe.

Thomas C., son of Colonel Foster, had a family of six children who lived to years of maturity. These were Martha, Hannah, James C., William, John and George. While they were all highly respected and upright citizens, one, in particular, deserves morel than passing notice. Reference is made to Maj. James C. Foster, who achieved distinction in his young manhood days, as a soldier in defense of the Union. He entered the service under the first call of the President for three years' volunteers, and served faithfully for four and a half years. Beginning in the ranks, his soldier like bearing, intelligence and capability won him promotions, until he attained the rank of major in 1864, serving in that capacity until his discharge in January, 1866. A portion of the time he did staff duty under General Veatch, and was always at the front. Returning to his home after the war, he resumed the pursuits of civil life, and while busied as a farmer, was also active in local and general politics, serving in various official positions He was for several years treasurer of Franklin township, and in 1901 he was elected representative from Ross county in the State legislature.

One of the earliest settlers of Franklin township was John Johnson, who was probably elected justice of the peace at the first township election, and served in that capacity for twenty three years. His brother, George Johnson, accompanied him to the township about 1800, both coming from Virginia. Definite information as to the date of settlement of many of the early pioneers is not obtainable, since early records of the township seem to have been imperfectly kept. The first school teacher in the township was James Greearly; the first minister, Rev. John Foster, as previously stated; Samuel Wilson built and operated the first mill.

Early township officers were Joseph Crockett, also one of the first settlers on Stony creek; Elias Scammehorn; Richard Tomlinson; Samuel Wood; Peter Bennett; S. a Baker; Thomas Tomlinson.

The Davis family came to the county in 1808, and located in Franklin in 1815. James Davis, a son of the founder of the family in the township, gives the names of his brothers and sisters, as follows: William, Lotha, James, Hannah, Mary, George, Charles and Louisa. These married and located, for the most part, in Franklin and adjoining townships. James Davis followed the flatboating business for some years, making trips with farm and forest products to Natchez and New Orleans. He usually sold his cargo and boat, and returned on foot. He held different township offices and was prominently identified with the early history of Franklin. It was on this farm that an enterprising company bored an oil well to the depth of seven hundred feet, but failed to strike the elusive fluid. In them same vicinity, General McArthur bored a salt well, from the water of which a considerable quantity of salt was made in the early days. The Foster Chapel was located on the Davis farm about 1830, and served the Methodist Episcopal organization in the vicinity for half a century. James Davis had a family of three children: Emma, Mary E., and J. Russell.

Franklin township furnished a number of soldiers for the war of 1812, and several others were in the Revolution. John and George Pushon, Peter Bennett, and John Foster were patriots in the war of 1812. Daniel Swyers was a Revolutionary hero, and fought at Lundy's Lane in the war of 1812. Joseph Fern, a soldier under Bonaparte, came to Ross county in 1817, emigrating from Germany. He was a farmer and grocer, living near Three Locks and the State Dam, where he ended his days.

Thomas Tomlinson was the first lock tender at these Locks, after the opening of the canal, and his brother, Richard, opened the first grocery store at this place of public resort. The State dam across the Scioto, established to give a water supply for the canal, has long been a resort for fishing parties.

In addition to the names previously given, the following were early settles and prominent residents of Franklin township: Q. C. Goddard, William Ridenger, Enos Moore, John Beauman, Allen Nixon, Thomas Louzatta, Saul Phillips, Benjamin Phillips, J. E. Rigby, Sylvester Higby, James Pry, Edward Hurdell, Jesse Tomlinson, Alexander Argo, Elijah Lockard, Joseph Mounts, Edward Dawson, Daniel McMullen, William McCorkle, James Riff, Asa Mounts, Eli and Jesse Ragon, Abraham Lave and William Ellerton.

This township was once the home of William Hewitt, the eccentric recluse known as the "Hermit of the Scioto," from 1820 until his death fourteen years later. Various theories are advanced as to the cause of his isolation from mankind, but he died without divulging his secret; if such he had. He lived, for the most part, in a cave in Franklin township, located in the dense forest, remote from any human habitation. This was at the southwestern extremity of the dividing ridge on the west side of the Scioto, and several miles from the river. The cave furnished but poor shelter in its natural state, being simply a low, shallow den, under a projecting rock, which supplied only a back wall and roof. The occupant walled up the sides and front in a rude way, enclosing a room in which he could not stand upright, but, apparently, sufficient for his purposes. A rude bed of dressed skins of his own preparation, and blankets which he brought with him, were sufficient for his comfort. There he lived in absolute seclusion, spending his time in hunting, and dressing his skins and furs, and these he only marketed when necessity compelled him to replenish his supply of ammunition or other necessaries. Then he would load his stock into a boat and go to Cincinnati, or Louisville, and exchange it for supplies. It was understood that he was a native of Botetourt county, Va., though he was never known to return to his native country. The Columbus & Portsmouth turnpike now passes near the cave, which is eleven miles south of Chillicothe. Learning of the local historic interest in this spot, the company building the pike caused the erection of a neat stone monument on the shelf just above the cave, which bears the inscription: 'William Hewitt, the hermit, occupied this cave fourteen years, while all was a wilderness around him. He died in 1834, aged seventy years." Reliable authority fixes the date of Hewitt's death as 1838 instead of 1834, as recorded on his monument; and the same authority says he first made his appearance in Ross county in 1823. He died in the town of Waverly, and was humanely cared for by the poor officers, who buried him in the cemetery of the town.

In the early days, several postoffices were established within the bounds of Franklin township, and these proved a great convenience to the busy farmers, who are thus enabled to send and receive mail without spending precious time in going to Chillicothe. But the "star route" system of distribution has been superseded in recent years by the admirable system of rural free deliveries, and the country offices have been abandoned.


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