History of Swan Creek Township, OH
From: The History of Fulton County, Ohio
Thomas Mikesell, Editor
Published by: Norhtwestern Historical Association, 1905


THIS is one of the townships that was included in the township of York when the latter was erected, and prior to the organization of Fulton township, it included all the territory now embraced by the latter, south of the ‘Fulton Line.” When originally organized, Swan Creek township was described as follows: All the territory belonging to Town seven north of Range eight east; also, the southern tier of sections in Town eight north of Range eight east, and including all the territory north to the Fulton line. It will be noticed that this description does not include the two southern tiers of sections in the present limits of the township, but it must be remembered that this strip of territory was a part and parcel of Henry county prior to April 1, 1850, when Fulton county was organized. Swan Creek was organized in 1836, but the names of the officers who were elected then to administer civil affairs are no longer remembered; neither can it be learned who first served after the township was given its present limits. In March, 1841, Fulton township was organized, and nine years later Fulton county, as it now is, was created, thus giving to Swan Creek its present limitations.

The surface of the township is gently undulating in some parts and quite level in others. The greater part of the northern portion of the township was heavily timbered, and contains, naturally, the strongest and readiest soil for agricultural purposes. A great deal of this township is what, in local parlance, is called “openings,” or “open lands,” a designation or qualification as applied to the character of the land the origin of which is somewhat difficult to determine. There is comparatively little waste land in the township, and the condition of the farms, buildings, and surroundings are indicative of thrift and prosperity. The natural drainage of the township consists of a small sluggish stream called Blue Creek, a somewhat larger one called Bad Creek, both coursing in a southeasterly direction, and Swan Creek, from which the township was named, running almost due east, and all tributaries of the Maumee river. These streams are the objective points of all the numerous ditches now threading the township, by means of which it has, within a comparatively few years, obtained a very excellent drainage.

Swan Creek township was mainly, especially in the northern part, covered with heavy timber, though there was originally considerable marshy land upon which there was only shrubs and brush. But the wet lands have been recovered by ditching and under-tiling, until they are very valuable and highly productive. It is said that this boggy land originally seemed like earth floating on water, and that in the early days a pole could be forced into it to the depth of twenty feet. The principal varieties of timber were black walnut, sugar maple, elm, ash, oak, beech and hickory. Some of the choicest timber was used for buildings, making rails, and sawing into lumber, but much of it which would now be very valuable was burned in clearing the land.

Among the first to establish a home within the bounds of Swan Creek township was William Meeker, who was found there in the woods as early as 1833. according to the reminiscences published in regard to the life of Peter Manor, the Frenchman of the Maumee. Another conspicuous figure in that early day wilderness was Nathaniel Leggett, an extended mention of whom is given on another page. Clearing the land and hunting was his occupation for about ten years, and there was no doubt fully as great a fascination in those pursuits as in many of our later day pastimes and vocations. He located in Swan Creek, about 1834, and he is said to have been a great worker and hunter. He encouraged settlers to come to the place, and did much toward starting the township on its final prosperous career.

Others of this township’s first settlers were John Witmer, Wells Watkins, Joshua Fassett, Thomas Gleason, David Williams, Eccles Nay, Looman Hall, Sidney Hawley, William Fewless and Jesse Browning, all of them becoming residents therein prior to 1840. John Witmer settled in the northwestern part, on what is now section seventeen, in 1834. He came from Berne, one of the three leading cantons of Switzerland, and both he and his wife were natives of that country. After settling in Swan Creek, they first lived in a bark shanty, in the woods, and on June 21, 1834, a terrible storm of wind and rain blew down the trees of the forest in a frightful manner; but fortunately not one limb struck the pioneer’s cabin. In due time a portion of land was cleared and planted and a better house erected.

Wells Watkins was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, April 7, 1818. He grew to manhood there, and on August 6, 1838, when but twenty years of age, he left the place of his birth and journeyed nine days to reach Fulton county, where he settled and endured the hardships of pioneer life. The first winter he carried his grists three miles on his back to a horse mill; walked to Perrysburg to market, starting on Monday morning and returning on Saturday evening, paid fifteen dollars per barrel for flour, fifteen cents a pound for pork, one dollar and fifty cents per bushel for potatoes, etc. At that time he had to chop two and a half cords of green hickory wood for a day’s work, for which he would receive fifty cents. Indians were numerous, the nearest village was Maumee, and this state of things continued for some time after his settlement in the township. Mr. Watkins was in Company H, One Hundred and Thirtieth regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in the one hundred day service during the war of 1861-5.

Joshua Fassett was a native of Ontario county, New York, and settled in Swan Creek township in 1834. Eccles Nay was born in Bristol, Vermont, September 11, 1807. In early manhood he migrated to Ohio, and settled in Swan Creek township in 1834. After paying for his land he had no money left, and no personal property of any kind except an ox team. But the few neighbors, among whom were David Williams, William Meeker and Sidney Hawley, were kind and accommodating, and subsistence was partially provided from the abundance of wild game all around. The settlers had to go with ox teams to Maumee for provisions, a journey of three days. Wolves were abundant, and the early settlers used to build tires to scare them away from their cabins at night. Mr. Nay was at twenty-seven log-house raisings the first summer after his arrival, and that fact gives us some idea of the rapidity with which that locality was being settled at that time. James Nay, grandfather of Eccies Nay, was one of the “Tea Party” at Boston, and carried away some of tile tea in his shoes, which was in the possession of his friends at his death. He was also in the Revolutionary war and took part in the battle of Bunker Hill.

In 1834, as nearly as can be ascertained, William Fewless, an Englishman by nativity, came from Long Island to Swan Creek, but the malaria and mosquitoes were so annoying that he became discouraged, and returned to his former home. He did not remain at Long Island a great while, however, before he returned west and came into Swan Creek township once more, where he lived for many years and cleared and improved a farm. He died there in 1881.

John Watkins, a native of Steubenville, Jefferson county, came into this township about a year later than William Fewless, but he was a resident there only a few years, when his land, on the organization of Fulton township, was included therein, and in consequence his allegiance was changed. He was a cousin of Wells Watkins.

Jesse Browning, who died in Swan Creek in 1867, went there from Oswego county, New York, his native State, in 1835, and about the same time Alexander and Africa Spalding became settlers; also John Viers. Africa Spalding was a native of Maine, and John Viers was born in Jefferson county., Ohio. The latter died July 2, 1873. In 1836, Ormand Pray settled on land in the neighborhood of the farm known as the J. D. Lutz farm, and about this time a man named Crosby, who was a hatter by trade, located about three miles due south of Centerville. Mr. Crosby has been dead many years and left no descendants. In 1839, Jacob Reighard, a member of that provident class of people known as Pennsylvania Dutch, came from the Keystone State and settled in section twentyeight of this township, where he lived the remainder of his life, dying in 1866. He was buried in the Raker cemetery, which burial ground was established in 1836.

Socrates H. Cately, who is given appropriate mention elsewhere, was also one of the early settlers of Swan Creek township. Coming to those who settled her at a later date, among the more prominent are to be found the Templetons, Braileys, Bassetts, Blakes and Lewises. Thes families were all people of push, energy and resolute intellectual force, some of the members rising to local prominence as business and professional men and teachers.

John Templeton, the progenitor of the Templeton family in Swan Creek township, was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, September 28, 1807. Early in life he came with his parents to Ohio and settled in the thriving county of Wayne. There he lived until 1853, when he removed to Fulton county and located in Swan Creek township. The family descended from the Highland Scotch and Irish and its members were very stout and robust. John Templeton, in his best days, weighed 446 pounds, and could take an iron bar seven inches square in his hands and lay it out of his road. He was known to lift a dead weight of a thousand pounds, but his splendid gifts of nerve and muscle were never expended in the physical opposition of anyone. Nathaniel Templeton, grandfather of John, lived near where Simon Girty led the Indians across the Ohio into Pennsylvania, and was with Crawford in the battle with the Indians on the Sandusky plains. He was wounded in the first day’s fight, and, overcome by the loss of blood, was captured on the third day and tomahawked and scalped by the Indians. His comrades obtained and buried his body and carried his gun home to his wife. This relic is still in the possession of the Templeton family, considerably over one hundred years old.

John S. Templeton, the third son of John Templeton, was born in Wayne county, Ohio, March 22, 1833, and died in Swan Creek township in 1886. He inherited largely the physique and strength of his father, but was one of the most genial and best-natured of men. A considerable portion of his life was spent as a railway conductor, but he always made his home on the old Swan Creek township farm. He enlisted in Company I of the Thirty-eighth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on August 21, 1861, was elected first corporal, and was promoted through all the intermediate offices to a first lieutenancy. He took part in the battles of Stone River, Chickamauga and others, and was mustered out of service, January 4, 1864, on account of deafness.

In 1857, Moses R. Brailey, being then in the prime of a vigorous manhood, came from Huron county, Ohio, and settled in section twenty-two in Swan Creek. Mr. Brailey is given appropriate mention in the chapter on Bench and Bar.

Palmer R. Lewis was born in Seneca county, New York, November 27, 1821. In 1848 he settled on a farm in this township and there spent the remainder of his life. Previous to removing to Fulton county he lived during several years in Erie county, Ohio, and after removing to Swan Creek he was identified with the official affairs of the township as justice of the peace or trustee for twenty years. He was first lieutenant of Company A, One Hundred and Eighty-fourth regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in the war of the early sixties.

Orra Blake was born in Alleghany county, New York, August 25, 1821, and settled in Fulton county in 1852. Besides clearing and improving an excellent farm he built many farm buildings throughout the township and was a prominent and very useful citizen. The same year that Orra Blake settled on his farm, Wesley Knight of Middlebury, Vermont, bought and took charge of the old tavern at Centerville. Mr. Knight was born in the Green Mountain State in 1808. For nineteen years he kept the public house of Centerville, but never sold any intoxicating liquors of any kind, taking a wide departure from the example of those who had preceded him there.

Centerville was formerly quite an important gathering place for the people of the township and the old tavern furnished entertainment for the traveling public before the days of railroads. There is perhaps nothing in its annals of any great historical importance, other than the fact of its existence; but the mention of the name to some who still survive brings back recollections of by-gone days that are doubtless pleasant to dwell upon in memory. The construction of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad through the northern part of tile township changed the mode of travel and transferred the business center to Swanton, a few miles away. All that part of the village of Swanton which lies south of the railroad is in Swan Creek township, and comprises a population of about five hundred. The minor share of the business is on the Swan Creek side, but there are several energetic and enterprising business establishments in that section of the place. The entire village is included in a special school district, and the schools are graded to a high degree of excellence.

Although it had a poor start, Swan Creek now enjoys the distinction of being one of the best agricultural townships in Fulton county. Its soil is especially adapted to diversified farming, fruit growing and truck-gardening, in which pursuits, combined with stock-raising, the intelligent and industrious farmers have met with phenomenal success. The pleasant homes and thrifty surroundings are abundant proof of this, while an occasional handsome mansion, with modern improvements and appliances, affirms the conclusion that even in this favored land, some have been more successful than their worthy rivals. And thus it will ever be. so long as accumulated wealth is the measure of success and Cunning sits upon the throne that Merit should occupy.

One of the religious landmarks of the community is represented by the Methodist Episcopal Church, now located in the village of Swanton, but originally established in the little hamlet of Centerville. In the northwestern part of the township there is a Union church, so called, belonging to no religious denomination and under no ecclesiastical control, but intended and used for united services. where any and all religious bodies of people can meet for worship. It is known as the Viers church. Another church building, erected with the same view, is the Raker Union church in the western part of the township. . It was dedicated in 1881. In October, 1886, the members of the United Brethren church in the neighborhood of what was formerly known as the Union schoolhouse, in section 31, purchased the school building and removed it two and three-fourths miles east, in section 35, upon land owned by William Phare, and dedicated it to the service of their denomination, making four churches or places of religious worship in the township. Methodism, however, is the prevailing church faith, but there are also some Presbyterians, and a few Catholics and Free Methodists, the last named being an offshoot of the powerful sect founded by John Wesley.

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