History of Buckskin Township, Ross County OH

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


ON AUGUST 10, 1807, the county commissioners of Ross county made the following official record: "Ordered, that a part of Paint township, beginning on Paint creek at the lower end of Nathaniel Bunnell's land in Paxton township; thence to Robert Greenlee's, and continuing the same course until it will intersect the line of Twin township; thence along said line to the east line of William Ranking's land; thence to the mouth of John Clouser's spring run; thence to the old Miami trace, including where George Miller now lives; thence along said trace until it strikes Paint creek; thence down said creek to the place of beginning to be known as Buckskin township. The place of holding elections to be at the house of John Robbins."

The name of the township is derived from the principal creek, which flows from the north through the central portion of the territory, and is its principal source of interior drainage and water supply. Tradition bases the naming of Buckskin creek upon an incident which occurred in the days of Indian depredations, when the whites surprised a band of redskins on the banks of the creek, and the Indians fled in great haste. They left a lot of skins hanging in the hollow trunk of a sycamore tree, and these being mostly deer pelts, naturally suggested the idea of "Buckskin." Whether the tradition is true or otherwise, it is stated as a fact that a hollow sycamore tree, of immense size, did exist in that locality for many years after the settlement of them country. This tree is said to have had a hollow ten or more feet across, or "large enough that a rail could be turned end for end in it:" In this aperture, as the story goes, the Indians had hung up a large number of skins which they were drying with a fire underneath.

Paint creek forms a part of the western boundary of the township, while a branch of Lower Twin crosses the southeast corner, and a small tributary of the north fork of Paint traverses the northeast corner. These are two branches of the Buckskin which cross the township in a nearly parallel course, until they unite near South Salem, when the direction of the stream changes to a southwesterly course, and passes into Paint township. The hillside rivulets and spring branches, in considerable numbers, enhance the water supply for grazing purposes, and assist in swelling the volume of the streams which are dignified with names.

Reference has been made in other chapters to the irregular system of surveys, as shown in the Virginia Military District; but in no township of the county has this system been fraught with greater confusion and inconvenience than in Buckskin. This is due, no doubt, to the great difference in the character and value of the lands, since a land warrant would hold the stipulated number of acres in any form or location desired by the holder of such instrument. Naturally, the first settlers would select the best lands, and have them surveyed in the form best suited to their convenience. The hill lands were ignored, and the bottom lands were surveyed to conform to the width and extent of the desirable location. Thus the surveys run in every imaginable direction and are numbered with great irregularity. This is especially noticeable in the southeast corner of the township, where the land is mostly broken and hilly.

The surface of Buckskin township is generally undulating, with broad and rich valleys along the streams. Except in the south and southeastern portions, the hills are not precipitous, but are susceptibly of cultivation, and the hillside land is fertile and well adapted to general agricultural purposes. In the valleys, the soil is a rich black loam, quick and responsive to the efforts of the intelligent farmer. The hillsides and terraces are mostly a limestone and gravel subsoil, mixed with clay, in the western portion, and with sand and slate in the eastern sections.

The township was originally coveted with excellent timber and was one of the finest hunting grounds in the county. Game of all kinds known in the country were here to be found in almost exhaustless supply. The heavy growth of timber and convenient hills afforded ample cover and protection, and many are the "bear stories" and daring feats of frontier life remembered of the early pioneers of Buckskin, They were brought in daily contact with bears, wolves, wild cats and panthers, and these were formidable enemies to the young domestic animals about the settlers' cabins, as well as dangerous companions in the lonely wilderness. Deer and wild turkeys were also to be found in great numbers, and these, with an occasional "bear steak," furnished the principal meat supply, to which the epicurean of today would have no occasion to object. Venomous reptiles, and especially the dreaded rattlesnake, were among the enemies 'of modern civilization, and these found an abiding place in the rocks and hills, and added their share to the discomforts and perils of pioneer life.

The settlement of the township began under the same discouraging circumstances which prevailed everywhere in districts remote from the natural thoroughfares. The meager supplies of actual necessities had to be brought long distances, through trackless forests, infested with dangerous opponents of civilization. The pack horse was the faithful friend who was the means of connecting the pioneers with the outside world, carrying to them the few articles of commerce which this simple mode of living demanded. Ammunition, meal and salt were the three articles most required, but the first was always an absolute necessity. The periodical trips to the "base of supplies" were always fraught with peril, both to the lonely travelers who made them and to the helpless and defenseless ones who were left behind. Several days were required to go to the Ohio and return with a cargo of supplies.

The first settler of the township was James Wilson who located on Buckskin creek in 1799, and established his home near the present site of South Salem. Two sons of James Wilson, Robert and John H., probably accompanied their parents to the country, or followed them soon after. One account states that John H. Wilson emigrated from Kentucky to Ohio in 1800; that he was a native of Pennsylvania, from which state he emigrated to Wheeling, thence to Kentucky, and finally to Ohio. He located on survey 2,295, where he died. Mr. Wilson was a soldier in the war of 1812, and served a number of years as justice of the peace in Buckskin township. He was a consistent and active member of the Presbyterian church for many years, and died in 1865 at the age of eighty seven. Robert Wilson located in the southwest corner of the township on the Paint creek bottom and there ended his days. His sons were Anderson, William, Newton and Alfred L., most of whom located in the township or across the line in Highland county, and became a numerous and prosperous family.

Noble Crawford settled near the James Wilson family in 1800 and built Ms house on Buckskin creek near the present town of South Salem. Crawford's was the second house in the settlement. He sold his interests the same year to Frederick Free, and removed to Paint township where he spent his remaining years. Frederick Free came to America as a Hessian soldier in the service of the English crown, but deserted the king's army and allied himself with the Patriot army in which service he fought through the Revolution, and in his old age received a pension for injuries incurred in the service. He married in the east, and had a large family, some of whom settled in the county and others removed to the west. Jacob Davis located on the west side of Buckskin creek about 1800, and there owned about seven hundred acres of land which he occupied for over fifty years.

The May family located on Twin hills, in the southeast corner of the township, about 1800, and after a residence there of four or five years sold their property to Francis Tullys who occupied it until his death. John Vanderman emigrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio in 1800. He and his brother Frederick were soldiers in the Revolutionary war and fought in the battle of Brandywine. John. Vanderman died in Buckskin township at a ripe old age, leaving a numerous family, of whom Joseph was lieutenant of a militia company, and John, Matthias, Conrad and Henry enlisted for the war of 1812. Conrad died on his way to the front.

Alexander Harper located, temporarily, on the Pickaway plains in 1798 and there raised a crop. In 1800 he removed to the north part of Buckskin township, and settled on six 'hundred acres of land on Survey No. 2,291. He raised a family of nine children. James and Robert, brothers of Alexander Harper, settled on the same survey a year or two later, and Alexander and Robert died there in 1843.

The Waugh brothers, Joseph and Leaman, located in the northeast corner of the township as early as 1800 and improved farms, which they occupied for many years; but the family name is no longer represented in the township.. James McConnell established a home near the Waughs about 1800. One of the first tanneries in the community was established by this family. Robert Braden came from Pennsylvania in 1800 and settled on Survey 2,292, opening up a farm of one hundred acres, and spent the balance of his life. He died in 1842 at the age of seventy one. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. His son, Samuel Braden, spent his life in the township.

James Robinson settled on Survey 653, soon after 1800. William McMillan and family located on the same survey about 1812. This property was the site of the proposed town of New Alexandria, which never passed the imaginary stage. William Taylor was another of the settlers" of 1800. He located in the Paint creek valley and improved a farm upon which he died. All of his family moved away except one daughter, Eliza, who became the wife of John Morton, whose descendants still reside in the township. John Cunapton married a daughter of the first pioneer, James Wilson, and settled on Survey No. 2,292. about 1801. They reared a family who married and lived, for the most part, in Buckskin township where numerous descendant still reside.

John Proud was one of the prominent early time pioneers. He emigrated from New Jersey to Ohio in 1801. After remaining two years in Paint township, he occupied a farm in Buckskin, a mile and a half west of South Salem. He was a noted trapper and hunter, and paid for his farm with the pelts and furs. He bought from General McArthur. Mr. Proud served several years as constable, and was a soldier in the war of 1812. He died at the age of seventy four, and his property descended to his daughter, Mrs. Matilda Hitchcock, whose descendants still live in the township.

James McGinnis emigrated from Pennsylvania to Ross county in 1801. He was one of the pioneer shoemakers. His father, whose name was James, also, came to Ohio with his son. James McGinnis, sr., was a Revolutionary soldier, and received a wound in the service, carrying a musket ball in his thigh until his death. He died at the age of eighty. James McGinnis, jr., was a soldier in 1812. He achieved considerable local notoriety as a hunter and trapper. He died at the age of seventy two. Rev. Alexander McGinnis, a local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, was son and grandson of the two pioneers above mentioned. He built the third house in the town of South Salem where he died in 1878, at the age of seventy six years. Alexander McGinnis married a Miss Taylor, whose father was a soldier in the war of 1812. Mr. Taylor was an elder in the Presbyterian church for forty years.

Samuel Davis was one of the earliest carpenters in the township, and assisted in building many of the pioneer houses, in which capacity he was a very welcome addition to the settlement. He located in the township in 1802, and took a farm in Survey No. 3,69S. John Wallace and family located in Buckskin between 1800 and 1802. He was a justice of the peace in 1811 and served for several years afterward in the same capacity. Henry Hester came from Pennsylvania in 1804 and settled in the southeast corner of the township. He was a millwright, and soon after coming west, erected an oil mill on his farm, which he operated some six years. Being called into service as lieutenant of a company to defend the frontier during the war of 1812, his wife and sons, during his absence, remodeled the mill and turned it to good account, in doing custom work as a grist mill, the proceeds of which assisted materially in supporting the family. Returning from the army, Mr. Hester continued the grist mill for many years, finally selling it to his son. This family also owned one of the early saw mills of the township. Mr. Hester and wife died of cholera in 1833.

The Mathews family located in Buckskin township in 1804, and two brothers, Andrew and John, located on Survey No. 5,830, where they made homes and ended their lives. Robert Mathews, a son of Andrew, was a justice of the peace in the township for a number of years. David Edmiston and wife, with eight children, located in Buckskin township in 1804. Mr. Edmiston planted one of the first orchards in the township. The homestead was a mile west of South Salem, where the parents died. The children married and many of their descendants still reside in the township. Josiah Finch located in the north part of the township previous to 1804, and numerous descendants of the family are still residents.

One of the early school teachers was James Caldwell, who came from Chatbersburg, Pa., in 1805, and made teaching his principal business during life. He was orderly sergeant of Captain Kilgore's company during the war of 1812. He married a daughter of James Wilson, and they reared a family of nine children, all of whom moved away except John G., who has spent his life in the vicinity of his parental home. Hugh Milligan located in the township about 1804. He married the widow of Captain Kilgore, and they raised a family, and passed the remainder of their lives in Buckskin township. Hugh C. Milligan, a son, succeeded to the ownership of the old homestead. John Morton settled in the township about 1806, and here passed his remaining days. His children were mostly residents of the township, though one son died in Iowa. Samuel A., one of the sons, was a physician for many years in South Salem, where he died. James married Iva Junkins, and he removed to Iowa where he died. John chose for his companion Eliza Taylor, and remained in the township during life. Dr. Samuel A. was twice married, his first wife being a daughter of Rev. William Dickey, and after her death he wedded Mary Wentworth, of Huntington township George Graham emigrated from Maryland in 1804 and took up a residence in Buckskin. township the same year. He was a carpenter and cabinet maker, which trade he followed mostly during his life. He served in the war of 1812, and died at the age of nearly eighty five.

The following named persons settled in the township prior to 1815, and most of them lived there for many years, some during life: Daniel Hixon, Robert Cunningham, Andrew and Michael Simmerman, Alexander Morrow, James Harper, Abraham and Isaac Black, Charles Black, James Watt, John Cassel, James Clark, George Frame, Matthew Simpson, Andrew Knox, Reuben King, Billingsley Brown, Adam Kerr, Frederick Parret, Philip Robbins, Jacob Hyper, Edward Shields, Robert Edminston, Robert Holding, Benjamin McClure, Michael Hare, Robert Young, William Grant, Daniel Thorp, William Thorp, James E. and Alexander Kerr, James Watt, Abraham Stookey, John Ferneau, John Sample, John Wallace, Robert DuBois, and James Dickey.

Besides those designated in personal sketches, as soldiers in the war of 1812, and other early wars, the following list of soldiers is added, some of which are duplicated in the foregoing list of early settlers: George Graham, Frederick Parrett, Lieut. Henry Hester, ___ Taylor, George Pricer Michael Hare, Robert Edminston, Jacob Davis, Abram Dean, Robert McGinnis, Capt. Nathan Kilgore (killed in service), Cant. Daniel Hare, James McGinnis (a Revolutionary soldier), Adam Howard (served in the Revolution), Joseph Warnuch (a soldier in the Revolution), as were, also, William Smith and John McLean; Robert Wilson in 1812; J. Ricketts served in the French and Indian war; Ezra Lucas in the war of 1812, and his grandfather, Isaac Lucas, served seven years in the Revolutionary war; John Sample was a captain in the war of 1812. Capt. James Collier, born in Dauphin county, Pa., in 1752, entered the Patriot army in 1776, participating in nearly all of the prominent battles and maneuvers of the army under General Washington; endured the sufferings at Valley Forge, remaining in the army from the beginning to the end of the great struggle. He came to Buckskin township in 1814, and lived there for thirty years, being called to rest in 1844. General La Fayette, in his visit to America, presented Captain Collier with a fine sword which is still treasured as an heirloom by his descendants.

The pioneer subscription schools were early established in Buckskin township, but the exact date when the first school was opened is unknown. John G. Caldwell, previously mentioned in this chapter, taught school in the township as early as 1805, and continued to teach in the locality for several years; but it is probable that Mr. Caldwell was not the first teacher. A school was established on the farm of Aaron Cox in 1815, and John Organ was the first teacher at that location. In a very early day the people assumed quite a literary turn of mind, which seemed to justify the establishment of Nesbit's college in 1820. This was located near Salem, and the institution afforded instruction in the languages and higher scientific branches. From that day to the present, South Salem has been an educational center, the Academy at that place being established in 1842. This institution is noticed in the Educational chapter. A pioneer school was located on the Waugh farm in 1808, of which Samuel Buck was the teacher. This was continued during the winter seasons for a number of years. A schoolhouse was built in the Waugh neighborhood about 1818, and another was located near Joseph Harper's a year or two later. The latter is one of the districts still existing, and a fine brick schoolhouse succeeded the old log structure. A school was established on Hop run about 1814, and was taught in that year by Benjamin McClure, who was followed, successively, by Hugh McKenzie and James Caldwell. This school was discontinued about 1820. There are fifteen schools in the township at the present time, in charge of a corps of specially qualified teachers, whose tenure of office is dependent upon their success in their chosen calling.

The primitive saw mills of pioneer days were erected as necessity demanded, and, being inexpensive in construction, they were abandoned when neighborhood needs were supplied. The oil mill, on the Hester placed, was merged into a grist mill in 1812, and continued as such for a number of years, as previously stated. Benjamin Brackney erected a grist mill and saw mill on Buckskin creek, near Salem, about 1820, and these existed for about twenty years. Joseph Morton operated a horse power mill for a few years after 1830.

The early settlers of the township were, as a rule, averse to the presence of distilleries among them. Three or four stills were operated, but these had short lives. The opposition to them led to the organization, in an early day, of various temperance societies rendering the traffic both unpopular and unprofitable, and South Salem has never had an open saloon from the day of its incorporation to the present. Several tanneries existed in the early days, the first of which seems to have been established by James Blain, near Greenfield, in 1814. But these have long since ceased to exists.

The village of South Salem was laid out about 1846, some four years after the opening of the academy, the primary object of the proprietor, Mr. John Sample, being to establish a home for the school. The first two years of its existence brought it very nearly to its present status as regards population. It was never expected, and apparently not desired, that the village should ever become very populous, but that it should afford a clean, pure home for the students, remote from the corroding influences which usually prevail in large towns. The population consists largely of persons who are retired from active pursuits, and have located in Salem because of the admirable facilities afforded for educating their children. Others are there because of religious opportunities, while still others represent the various business interests of the town.

There are several well stocked mercantile houses, a hotel, livery and mechanical shops. South Salem is a desirable trading point, and is sustained by an excellent farming community in southern Buckskin and northern Paint townships.

Lyndon is a small village on the line of the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern railroad, the only town on a railway in Buckskin township. It was laid out• about 1853, by John N. Huggins, and was first named Zora. A few years later, when the Langdons bought the land, they, in remembrance of their native town in Massachusetts, changed the name, to Lyndon. It is a pleasant little town of about two hundred inhabitants, in the center of a rich agricultural district There are several mercantile houses, a grist mill, mechanical shops, produce houses, and school. Samuel A. Langdon was the first postmaster, and, probably, the first merchant. The village does a thriving business, and is located in the midst of a rich agricultural district

The first religious organization in Buckskin township which had more than a nominal existence was Salem Presbyterian church. This was known in the early years of its existence as Buckskin congregation. It was organized October 27, 1802, by Rev. Dr. Ralston of Pennsylvania. But Revs. Dunlevy and Marquis were the first ministers to visit the infant settlement, and the first religious services in the township were held by them under the leafy canopy of an elm tree near the residence of James C. Irwin. Thirty members joined at the organization of the church, and these elected John McConnell, David Edmiston, John Edwards and Abram Dean as ruling elders. The membership embraced residents of Buckskin, Concord, Paint and Twin townships, as at present organized, though the majority of them lived on territory now included in Buckskin. A communion service was held in the woods four days after the organization was effected. Meetings were held in this "first temple," or in the cabins of the settlers, during the first two years of the existence of the church; but in 1804 a log meeting house was erected near the site of the first communion. This was torn down a year later and rebuilt at a more central location, the site chosen being near the present village of South Salem, near where the burying ground had previously been established. The old log building, after being enlarged when rebuilt, was occupied by the congregation until 1828, when a new brick church was erected. Robert Steele was instrumental in bringing into existence the first Sunday school, and this at first met with considerable opposition from some of the members. But, as time passed, having enlisted the co operation of some of the prominent members, among whom was David Edmiston, it was tolerated, and at last recognized as a valuable accessory. The church succeeded from the start, and soon became one of the lead; g religious organizations in that section of the county. Rev. Tames H. Dickey was in pastoral charge from 1811 until 1824, and his successor, Rev. S. H. Fullerton, occupied its pulpit for twenty six years, his pastorate being terminated by his death. Rev. Alexander H. Young succeeded to the pastorate about 1850 and continued that relation until 1869. Rev. Robert K. Campbell was installed as pastor in 1870, and sustained that relation for many years. During the anti slavery agitation there was a division of the congregation, and some twenty seven members withdrew and allied themselves with the Free Presbyterian church, and effected an organization under that name February 22, 1858. This estrangement from the parent church existed some eight years, when, after the abolition of slavery, and under the inspiration of a successful revival, the organization was abandoned and the fifty three members returned to their former church relations. Soon after the founding of the village of South Salem, the name of Buckskin Presbyterian church was dropped, and the organization has since been known as Salem Presbyterian church. It is in a prosperous condition, and, as the parent of Salem Academy, has attained more than local prominence.

Pisgah Presbyterian church was the outgrowth of religious zeal in Salem church, and was established as a mission in 1810. Seven years later it became self sustaining, and has since maintained an independent organization, having a church building and regular pastor. The Associate Reformed church was organized on Hop run about 1812, and after some eight years of precarious existence the organization was abandoned, some of the membership going with the Presbyterians and others assisting in establishing a church at Greenfield. The latter is still in existence, and has grown into prominence and usefulness.

For several years previous to 1810, religious services were held by the Methodists in the settlers' cabins and in the groves, according to the convenience and desires of the people. Rev. James Havens and Rev. James B. Finley were the pioneers of Methodism in Buckskin township. The church was formally organized at the house of Joseph Waugh, in 1810, and a log building was erected on the Waugh farm. A neat frame church succeeded this primitive cabin, the latter being occupied by the congregation until 1878, when it was replaced by a large and substantial brick edifice which serves the people at present. The congregation is strong and prosperous.

Carmel Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1804. A log meeting house was erected on the Wright farm near Salem. But the congregation was weak, numerically, and the organization was abandoned in 1879. The New Cannel church was established at Lyndon about 1841, and this continued its existence about ten years, when the membership was absorbed by the church at Salem and the organization was given up. Rowe's Chapel, another Methodist organization, came into existence about 1855 under the ministerial labors of Rev. William Rowe. The building was located in( the southeast part of the township, where a small church was erected, and this was sold and moved away in 1879.

The Protestant Methodists organized a class, and built a church in Salem about 1851. After a struggling existence of some ten years, the building was sold to the colored Baptists, and they still maintain an organization known as Mount Zion Baptist church.

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