History of Thompson Township, OH
From: The History of Seneca County, Ohio
From the close of the war to July 1880
By: W. Lang
Published By: Transcript Printing Co., Springfield, Ohio, 1880




T. 3, N. R. 17 E.


THE name of this good old township is especially dear to the writer, for among its best men and prominent citizens many years ago, he counted many true and devoted friends. Its early settlement and organization, etc., have already been mentioned, and it remains only to refer to several subjects not previously touched upon.

The first township election was held on the 6th day of May, 1820, at the house of Joseph Parmenter.

Among the first settlers in the township were William and Nathan Whitney, Joseph Parmenter, H. Purdy, David Underhill, James Whitmore, James Underhill, Eli Whitney, Jasper Underhill, Benjamin Clark, Solomon Dimick, Benjamin Murray and A. H. Twiss, most of whom the writer well knew. They are all dead but Jasper Whitney, of whom mention will be made hereafter.

There were several squatters upon the openings in Thompson, who, owing to the scarcity of water at that time, left the country.

In 1830 the popullation of the township was 362; in 1840 itwas 1,404, and has increased to about 1,900 flOW.

The face of the country is beautifully undulating and the soil remarkably rich and fertile. The very many improvements all over the township, the large barns, splendid farm houses and excellent stock, indicate comfort and wealth, industry, economy and intelligence. The German element predominates very largely, both in the old Pennsylvania and the European stock. There is a large settlement of German Catholics in the southeastern portion of the township, where they have a splendid church and a nunnery, under the auspices of the Precious Blood Society, mentioned in the chapter on Big Spring township. These German Catholics were among the first settlers in that part of the township and had organized a society as early as 1832-3. Among those early pioneers I will mention Anthony Krupp, John Host, Michael Reinhart, John Glassner, Anthony Zahm, George Zahm, J. M. Zahm, Franz Hen, David Umlor, Peters Schoendorf and John Gerhartstein.

Among the prominent men of later years may be mentioned Jacob and John Bunu, Samuel Stewart, Jacob and Peter Karn, John Royer, John Decker, Daniel Close, M. Good, John Heter, Peter Dewalt, and others; also the Schochs, the Douglas's the Manleys, the Purdys, the Murrays, the Bloomers, John Hobbes, Elder Jackson and others.

The soil in Thompson, as elsewhere in the county, is drift, resting upon a sub stratum of loose, shaley limestone, which is full of fissures, forming humerous sink holes, which are found all over the township. A little stream called Sink creek runs into one of these, where it disappears. Many years ago a saw mill was erected upon this stream, with sufficient water to run it about three months in. the year. There is a similar creek with a small saw mill a little west of this. Whenever there is a heavy or continuous rain, these sink holes overflow, doing a good deal of damage sometimes.

The greatest natural curiosity in Thompson is its celebrated cave. The entrance to the cave is near the south end of the east half of the northwest quarter of section one, on the land once owned by Mason Kinney, one and one half miles from Bellevue, and three quarters of a mile from Flat Rock. The discovery of the cave is generally attributed to George and Henry Hasson. It was probably first discovered by Lyman and Asa Strong. It was known as early as the year 1815 by the settlers on the Fire land, and visited frequently by the hunters for the purpose of killing rattle snakes, which were found here in great numbers, and which gave the name of Rattle Snake's Den to the cave. The mouth of the cave is six feet long and three feet wide. Upon examining the land in the immediate vicinity, it appears that about five acres, from some unknown cause, have sunk several feet. Some have conjectured that the limestone rock once rested upon a bed of soapstone, which being washed away in course of time, left a cavity that swallowed up the whole mass above. There is no doubt but that sometime in the world's history a great convulsion has racked the substratum here, for as you descend the cavity, you find the rocks on one side in a horizontal position, while on the other side they incline to angle of 45 0.

Upon entering the cave a natural passage leads downwards, gradually in a northeasterly direction. At a depth of about thirty feet, the light from abOve is obstrncted, below which, darkness forever reigns, unless driven away by the torch of the curious explorer, who examines wonders of this gloomy place. After a descent of about forty feet, you enter a large cavern, and here, as the eye surveys the lofty ceiling and penetrates the recesses all around, the mind is peculiarly impressed with the awful grandeur and magnificence of the scene. Proceeding onward, water is observed dripping from the rocks above, which is found, upon examination, to be impregnated with sulphur and not disagreeable to the taste. Beneath are discovered the tracks of harmless animals that roam about in places inaccessible to man; while overhead bats are seen suspended from the rocks, apparently lifeless, but when brought to the sun, they soon recover, and immediately direct their course to the cave.

After a descent of nearly two hundred feet, the passage is interrupted by a stream of pure cold water, which is very pleasant to the taste, and has a slow current to the northward. This stream rises during the wettest season of the year about eighty feet, and again recedes upon the recurrence of dry weather. In 1844, a year remarkable for rains, the water rose in the cave is 70 feet, and within thirty feet of the surface of the earth. When at its minimum height, the stream presents only a few feet of surface, but its bottom has never been reached.

This cave is certainly an object of interest to all who admire the works of nature or delight in subterranean wonders, and were the rocks excavated around the mouth, so as to render the ingress less tedious, it would doubtless be visited by thousands.

I have taken the foregoing description of the cave from Butterfield, and copy also a communication signed "W." to the Sandusky Clarion of August 17, 1844. It is so intimately connected with the subject that the reader will peruse it with interest:

MESSES. EDITORS: I have seen going the rounds of the papers, as a "singular phenomena," the flowing of the water from a well about eleven miles from this place.

Singular, I think it is not, and new I know it not to be. Neither as represented did it commence "all at once to flow," for it was known to rise many days before it commenced to overflow, and had been daily watched. Some days it rose a little, and some days it fell a little, until the last violent rain, when it commenced running over.

But perhaps you will better understand the subject if I give you the result of my observations, and what I have learned concerning the subterranean waters of that region, for the last quarter of a century.

Cold creek, probably the principal outlet of the water, rises in Margaretta township about three and a half miles from Sandusky bay (and at an elevation of fifty feet above Lake Erie), into which it flows in a northerly direction, and in that distance supplies the water for four large flouring mills.

The spring that the creek flows from was originally about an acre in extent, but by damming it close to the head, the course of the water was changed under ground, so as to divert a part of it, which again bursts out at about two hundred rods distant, from a great depth in the earth, forming a hole about ten feet across, which was afterwards partially surrounded by a circular dam, with the intention of forcing the water back to the old creek; but as the water would not run up hill, the dam was extended and a canal dug, uniting the springs in one level. The new spring is now about 100 feet across, bowl shaped and from 40 to 60 feet deep, with the water so clear that a person looking from a boat on its surface, can see small objects floating at the bottom, and seem themselves to be floating in the air.

These springs rise less than two miles from the Fire lands, which is also our county line, west, within which distance another rises, called the Rockwell spring, which flows west into Sandusky county, and supplies water to a saw mill.

The water that supplies these springs is supposed to come from the extensive swamps and marshes that lie from 2.5 to 30 miles in a southetu direction, and about five miles north of the dividing ridge that separates the waters flowing into the Ohio river and those flowing into Lake Erie at this point, and at rather a gradual elevation of about 400 feet above the level of the lake.

From Cold creek to these swamps, there is strong evidence of large quantities of water running under the surface of the earth. The first is about fifty rods from the head of the creek where the breaking out of a few stones at the bottom of a small ledge. exposed a large and deep stream of water, constantly running, the bottom of which cannot be reached at twenty feet in a slanting direction, and the surface can be seen ten feet wide. At another place, some two miles south, water can always be obtained by sinking a bottle from 40 to 60 feet in the crevices of the rock. Then, again, about five miles south of Cold creek, is. a dishing prairie, of from one. to two hundred acres of land, which, after a series of rainy seasons, fills by the water rising from its bottom, through the alluvial soil that forms the surface of the prairie. Then about one mile further south, is a similar prairie, from the south side of which, at about ten feet elevation from its bottom, is the flowing well. The first account of the flowing of this prairie reaches back about twenty seven years. A man who had settled on the north bank for the purpose of cultivating the lands below, which he found ready for the plow, was in the night alarmed by a loud report and the shaking of the earth, and upon going to the door of his cabin, he heard a sound as of running water. Upon going towards the spot from whence the sound proceeded, he found the water rushing from the surface of the earth with tremendous force, on the south bank of the prairie, in a volume larger than a hogshead, which continued to flow until the prairie was filled, and the water ran off from the northeast side of the basin. After this, the prairie filled several different seasons, through the alluvial soil on its sides and bottom, but not always so as to run over, until about twelve years ago, when the flowing well burst out about 60 rods east of the first one. After it had ceased flowing, a man living near thought to follow the water as it settled down, so as to have a well, it'being difficult to find water in this neighborhood. After digging about eighteen feet in a perpendicular direction. the course diverged to the westward, in a descending direction. about as much further; then after removing the rubbish about twenty feet further in a perpendicular direction, it was abandoned at a distance of fifty feet from the surface of the earth. Since that time.water could always be found at the bottom in the spring of the year. Eight years ago it overflowed again, since which time there has occasionally been high water in it during a wet season, when it filled the prairie to the extent of about seventy five acres, floating off the fences and destroying the crops. It lasted about ten days, when it ceased flowing, and ran back, so that the prairie was dry within a week, notwithstanding the bottom of the basin is eight feet below where the water was drained to the well, the water settling away through the soil at the bottom.

While the water was at its highest point at this time, the family upon the farm where the "flowing well" is situated, heard a loud report in the night, which seemed to come from the earth, during a thunder storm. In the morning it was fotrnd to have come from the "blowing out" of another hole about three quarters of a mile in a northwesterly djrection, from which the water was flowing in a stream as large as a hogshead. Around all the "blow holes," as they are called, the broken limestone is scattered for many feet, thrown out by the force of the water when it first burst out.

From this spot for ten miles or more, towards the dividing ridge, the face of the country is indented in numerous places, with flowing prairies, and "sink holes," from a few rods to many acres in extent. Many of the "sink holes" are mere bowl shaped depressions of the surface, occasioned. probably during periods of high water, by the wasting away of the earth below, into the cavernous region, through some crevice in the compact limestone, immediately beneath. I am led to this conclusion, from the fact that in some places wells have been dug into the compact limestone, that have furnished water, until some dry season, when it has become low, and in blasting for more. they have broken through into the loose limestone, and lost what they had.

Others of the "sink holes "have openings at the bottom, through which the water rises in a wet season, whilst through the bottom of others the surplus water from the surface of the country runs off.

Advantages have been taken of some of these depressions to form the pond of a saw mill near Bellevue, that runs from two to four months in the spring of the year, carried by water that is accumulated from the draining of a large tract of country above, which after supplying the mill, runs off through a sink hole.

I think if it were not for the sink hole to carry off the water. in many places the country would be full of ponds and swamps rendering it unhealthy. The citizens of Bellevue have been compelled, this season for the second time to drain a pond caused by the overflow of a sink hole.

About two miles. still south of Bellevue. there is an opening into a cavernous limestone, that can be traversed about two hundred feet, at the extremity of which runs a large stream of water. at more than 130 feet from the surface of the earth. and this season the cavern was filled to within from twenty to thirty feet of the surface.

A few miles still further south is a sunken prairie, in the bottom of which stands a black walnut tree that holds a rail cut eighteen inches through amongst its branches, more than twenty feet from the ground, floated there when the water was at that height.

In connection with the above I will mention a circumstance that took place a few years ago in the region of the sink holes: A man well known to myself had a team of three yoke of cattle plowing in the spring. When it commenced raining he stopped his work and turned his cattle loose in the field. The rain proved to be a long storm, lasting several days. When it held up and the cattle were looked after, one of them was missing. and supposed by the owner to have jumped the fence and strayed off, until more than three weeks afterwards the ox was found in the lot, where he had settled down through the soil into a crevice of a rock below, arid nothing but his head and shoulders out. He was taken out and lived, with no other injury than the loss of hair from the buried part. Another ox was lost three weeks, and found at the bottom of a sink hole in the woods, the sides of which he had browsed clean.

I will further state that when some parts of the country I have been describing were first settled, they were very much infested with rattlesnakes, which were sometimes found early in the spring in large numbers upon the surface of the earth in their torpid state, driven from the rocks below by the rising of the water, before the sun was sufficiently powerful to warm them into active life.

I have written so much more than I had intended when I commenced that I will finish by adding, that notwithstanding the immense quantity of water in the country above, Cold Creek is never affected by the rising or falling of the water (in Thompson) to the extent of six inches. Yours respectfully,

W.


I have thus copied at length for the purpose of directing the attention of some geologist to the Investigation of the subject. The old notion that Cold creek is the outlet of the subterranean stream in Thompson; might as well be abandoned.

Esquire Sherk, of Bellevue, tells me that whenever the water was high in Thompson after a freshet, and running into the sink holes, great quantities of water came Out of the ground in the southeast corner of Sandusky county - York township, and in Groton also, in Erie county, and overflowed great tracts of land there, showing that Thompson has a higher altitude than either of the other places named. In 1872 the great "Royer ditch" was constructed, which now carries away all the surface water in its vicinity, and since this time the overflowing in York and Groton has ceased.

On the 1st of January, 1841, Jonas Harshberger, the surveyor, platted a town on sections eleven and twelve, in Thompson. George Schock, Frederick Rarpster and Jacob Korner were the proprietors. It is a pleasant little village, but Bellevue absorbed it, and checked its growth. The town was named Lewisville, but the name of its postoffice is Flat Rock, and the name of the town is heard but seldom. The country about the town is rich and beautiful. Two of the proprietors, Harpster and Korner, have gone to their long homes. Mr. Schock is still living.

The Orphans' Home, under the care of the Evangelical church, is situated here, and under the care of its present gentlemanly and intelligent superintendent, the Rev. Mr. Dresbach, will do great good, as it has already established a reputation for itself, to the honor of the church and the county alike.

Thompsontown was surveyed and platted on the corners of sections fourteen and fifteen and twenty two and twenty three, on the 14th day of November, 1840. William McCauley, Abraham Sherk and Samuel Sherk were the proprietors. The survey was made in the same month when General Harrison was elected President of the United States: That ended the "hard cider" campaign, but it was no reason why Thompsontown never prospered.

JASPER WHITNEY

Was one of the early settlers in Thompson. He and old father Royer are, perhaps, the only survivors of that class of pioneers. Mr. Royer still resides in Thompson, but Mr. Underhull lives in Wood county as I am informed.

It is said that many years ago Mr. Whitney, while living in Thompson, near Nathan Whitney, was taken sick very suddenly and, after a short illness, died and was laid out on a cooling board. The neighbors rendered every assistance possible and the doctor assured them all that Mr. Whitney was dead. A coffin was made and brought to the house and preparations made for the burial. Mrs. Whitney could not persuade herself to believe that her husband was dead, and the funeral was put off to an indefinite time. A consultation of physicians was held at the house and no trace of life could be discovered. The doctors, neighbors and all, tried to prevail on Mrs. Whitney to let the funeral take place, but she was unmoved and insisted that her husband was not dead. Some people now began to doubt whether she had her right mind, and matters began to look serious as to her. She cared but little, however, about the gossip of the neighbors, but kept her sleepless watch by the side of her dead husband, occasionally applying restoratives. In the forenoon of the ninth day she discovered signs of life, and in a short time she succeeded in bringing Mr. Whitney to life.

With prompt medical aid and good nursing, he was restored to good, vigorous health in a short time. He heard, while lying in this trance, everything that was said near him, and when he recovered sufficiently to express himself, he said. a great many ugly things of those who wanted to bury him alive.

The undertaker refused to take the coffin back, and the family put it up into the loft of the cabin, where for many years thereafter, it was used to keep dried apples in. Several years thereafter the father of Mr. Whitney died and was buried in the same coffin. His name was Gunworth.

Mr. Whitney is still living near, and west of, Woodville, in Wood county, Ohio.

The father of my old friend, Samuel Homer, lived on a farm about one mile east of Flat Rock, which had a little spring on it. All the neighbors came there for water, and kept the spring in bad condition. Mr. Homer thereupon made up his mind to have a well for his own family use, and dug down some six feet, when he came upon a rock. He took a crow bar and struck the rock, when a stream of water burst up that overflowed the well and formed a constantly running stream. Mr. John Burman lives on the farm now.

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