History of Colerain Township, Ross County OH

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


COLERAIN was set off from Green township on June 11, 1804. There is some speculation as to the origin of the name, the most plausible account of which is, that through the influence of George Renick, a prominent early time stock raiser and surveyor in Ross county, echo came from Coleraine, in the north of Ireland, this township was named in perpetuation of the name of this native town in the Emerald Isle. This is the northeast corner township in Ross county. The surface of the country is quite varied. The northwestern portion is generally level, partaking somewhat of the character of the prairies of Pickaway county, which bounds the township on the north. South and east of this portion, the surface becomes elevated and rugged, culminating in a divide along the center line of the township, extending in an easterly and westerly direction. This divide marks the southern limit of the glacial deposit. The hills to the north are worn and rounded, and numerous deposits of sand and gravels are found, evidently in the nature of terminal moraines. To the south of the divide the nature of the surface is very different. The hillsides are steeper, and show no marks of rounding and wearing. The native rock is exposed in the valleys of the streams flowing southward, and waterworn pebbles and boulders are found north of the divide in abundance, but few are found to the south. At least seven streams of some size have their beginning in the township. Flowing to the northwest is a branch of the Kinnickinnick. Two streams take a northerly direction, and find their way into Salt creek, in Pickaway county. The most easterly of these is Beech fork. Patrick's branch rises to the east of the center of the township, flows in a northeasterly direction, and passes out of the township to the south of Adelphi, entering Salt creek in Hocking county. South of the divide are three streams, one flowing southwesterly, another takes a southerly course, while the third runs southeasterly until they unite and form Walnut creek. Springs are abundant in all localities, enhancing the value of the lands for grazing purposes. The soil is mostly clay, or clay loam, with a subsoil of gravel. The valleys and level portions are very fertile, while the hill soil and uplands are moderately so.

Colerain was originally covered with heavy timber, mostly of the hard wood varieties, as walnut, butternut, hickory, the various kinds of oak, chestnut, beech, maple, yellow poplar, whitewood, white ash, elm, cottonwood and locust. These were abundant, while the buckeye, sycamore, wild cherry, ironwood and dogwood were less generally distributed. The shrubs were the hazel, blackberry, huckleberry, Juneberry, hockberry, spice and paw-paw. On the hills to the south were some yellow pine and spruce. Most of the varieties of timber and shrubs are still represented, though the best has long since found its way to the mills and markets, if not to the pioneer "log heaps."

The township was noted in early times for its abundance of wild animals, and was a favorite hunting ground for the Indians for many years after the cession of the land to the whites. By the terms of the treaty, they were permitted to make annual visits, which they seemed to greatly enjoy. There were bears, panthers, wolves and wildcats in the hilly districts, in great numbers, while deer and wild turkeys furnished the principal meat foods to the early settlers. The larger wild animals were for many years a great source of annoyance and danger to the early settlers.

There are not so many mounds of past ages in Colerain township as there are in other localities in the county. Neither are those which do exist so fully defined or generally interesting in character as some of those in other localities. A mound once stood on the farm of Jonas Dreisbacla which was utilized for the manufacture of brick, to which purpose the clay was found to be specially adapted. A house was built in Kingston by Doctor Prettyman from this brick; which is all that remains to perpetuate the recollection of this ancient work. During the disintegration of the mound six or seven human skeletons were discovered which crumbled to dust on exposure to the air. Another and fair sized mound is located near the Hocking county line on land formerly owned by Frank Cruder. It is now about four feet high, but is said to have been at least ten feet in height at the time of its first discovery by white men. It has a diameter of sixty feet. South of this, and near it, were a dozen or more hillocks a few feet in diameter and about three feet in height, but these have been leveled by the successive plowings of a hundred years.

Colerain township was settled nearly as early as any of the townships of Ross county. In 1797 Zedekiah and Thomas Dawson, brothers, emigrated from Virginia and located east of the present town of Hallsville. Thomas Hinton settled near them on the northeast quarter of section nine. Here, and by these people, the first improvements were made and the first crops raised. Isaac Dawson came to Colerain as early as 1800. He was born in Hampshire county, Va., in 1773. Previous to this he had sought a home in Bourbon county, Ky., but abandoned his lands there because of the uncertainty of title. Dawson built a mill, carried on the distillery business, was the first stock dealer, and was conspicuous in the war of 1812, rising to the rank of colonel. In 1813 he was representative of Ross county in the legislature.

In the autumn of 1796 Conrad Bitzer and wife came from Barks county, Pa., by way of Portsmouth and Chillicothe, and passed but a single house on their journey up the Scioto. They lived in the vicinity of Kingston until 1801, when they located on the west half of section eighteen in Colerain township. Here in the same year was, born their daughter Elizabeth, probably the first white child born in the township. William Throckmorton came in 1801, from Hampshire county, Va., and he and his wife and six children settled about a mile west of Hallsville. Two of his sons, John and Peter, were soldiers in the war of 1812. Jacob Bowsher settled in 1801, coming on horseback from Berkshire county, Pa.; purchased one hundred acres in. section two, and ip the following year returned and brought his family to the new home in the wilderness. This became a very numerous and prominent family in the community, many of their descendants still being residents of the township. Three grandsons of Jacob Bowsher were killed in the war of the Rebellion.

In 1802 Abraham Jones settled near Hallsville, and two years later his brother David came to the neighborhood. Three sons, Aaron, Moses and Jabez, were soldiers in the war of 1812, and the two first named became enterprising and thrifty farmers in the township. In April, 1808, Peter Jones, a brother of Abraham and David, entered land in Colerain. Isaac Larick located at Ade1phi in 1804, and entered a quarter section of land in Salt Creek township, which is now in Hocking county.

Samuel Merriman, one of the noted characters of early days, was born at Lansing, Pa., in 1789. He followed the Ohio river as a boatman for twenty years, and was typical of a class of frontiersmen, always ready for a "scrimmage" on provocation. By practice he acquired the ability to imitate the scream of the wild cat so perfectly that even the most experienced hunters were often deceived by it, and he was known as the "wild cat squealer." He located in Colerain in 1818 and lived to a ripe old age.

Peter Dumm came with his family from Berks county, Pa., in 1805, and located in what is known as "Brimstone Hollow." He had a numerous family, and many of his descendants now live in Colerain. His son Peter was a soldier in the war of 1812, in Isaac Dawson's company, and went on the raid into. Indiana. Jacob Bunn, coming from Berkeley county, Va., settled with his family in 1805 one mile north of Hallsville, where some of the family still live. Henry Strauser settled in Brimstone Hollow in 1806. Some of his descendants became prominent in civil affairs in later years. The Betz family is another of the early established ones, and prominently identified with the history of the township. They settled a mile north of Adelphi in 180S. John Betz was among the first to introduce sheep into the township.

Matthias Engle was a man of prominence and usefulness in the early days. He served as a major in the war of 1812, and afterward held various offices in the township, but died in 1826 His brother James, though stricken with blindness from youth, worked at cabinetmaking. Night and day were the same to him, and it is related that he continued his labors until late at night, with unabated zeal, the neighbors hearing the sound of his hammer from a shop enshrouded in total darkness.

Martin and Benjamin Dreisbach, brothers, became residents of Colerain in 1809, near Hallsville. Numerous representatives of the family still live in that vicinity. Daniel Goodman also settled in 1809, at Adelphi. Several of his descendants live in the neighborhood of the old parental home.

These were all residents of the township previous to 1810; and to this list may be added the following names, as comparatively early settlers, whose descendants are mostly residents of the territory where their ancestors settled in the pioneer days, or of the adjacent townships: The Pontius family; William Roberts family; Abram Cryder; Archibald Shaw; John Patterson; Jesse Spencer (for many years in charge of the Chillicothe land office); Jacob DeLong; John Ebert; Jacob Harpster; Joseph Poland; Peter Markel; Ambrose Grafton; John May; George Flanagan; John Beach; Peter Strauser; John Abernathy and Frederick Haynes. Joseph Buchwalter, who came in 1812, was joined by his brother Abraham in 1819. They and their sons and grandsons have been valued citizens of the county, and the family has prominence in the State.

The experiences of the early settlers were similar, regardless of locality, and, to some extent, without regard to wealth. Necessaries of life, as we of later generations class them, were not to be procured, by reason of the great distance to be traveled, and hazards encountered in reaching the older settlements. The forest supplied the meats, for the most part, as it did, also, the fruits and sugar. Coffee and tea were luxuries seldom used. Colonel McDonald, in his admirable "Sketches," says that he saw the first cup of tea at the house of General Massie, thought its use very foolish business, and still remained of that opinion, though his sketches were written many years after the event described. This is cited to show the simple fare which satisfied the demands of the times. A dinner of corn bread alone, or of meat without bread, was a common repast. Often the corn was pounded on a stone, or in a mortar, and thus prepared for cooking before the open fireplace, and no doubt there are those living today who remember the relish with which they devoured grandmother's "pone." Potatoes were easily raised, but had not become a household necessity as now. Maple sugar and syrup were among the old time luxuries easily obtained. The cabins usually had a "shake" roof, fastened on by weight poles, with a clay or puncheon floor and a door made of boards split from native timber and fastened together with wooden pins, or, in the absence of this, a blanket hung in the opening; if a window was provided, the aperture was covered with greased paper instead of glass. The dimensions of the cabin were usually limited to the smallest size which would accommodate the family, the walls of rough logs, crack "chinked" with split sticks or stones, and plastered with clay, with sometimes a little cut straw mixed in the "mortar" to prevent its falling out. The chimney was usually the most liberal arrangement on the premises, and often filled nearly the entire end of the cabin. It was generally built of split sticks liberally plastered with mud to prevent their taking fire from the heat of the tremendous "logheap" beneath. In those days, there was no scarcity of fuel, as the timber had to be removed before the land could be cultivated, and the logs which could not be utilized in making rails, or constructing buildings, were rolled together in great heaps and consumed on the ground. With the advent of sawmills, and various other appliances for manufacturing lumber, as devised by the ingenious pioneers, the best of the timber was usually worked into lumber.

A "full dress" suit in those days consisted of buckskin, over a flax shin, and moccasins for the feet, the latter sometimes "reinforced" by a sole of stiff leather fastened on with buckskin thongs These were all the product of home industry, even to the raising, heckling, scutching, spinning, weaving and making, of the flaxen garments.

The pioneer shoemaker, gunsmith and blacksmith were welcome adjuncts of the early settlements, as were, also, the back woods school masters and preachers. The first schools were conducted on the subscription plan, and usually embraced only the rudiments of the "three R's." The "master" taught twenty two days for a month, at a salary of about eight dollars per month, and "boarded around." He was oftener selected because of his muscular development than on aceount of his literary attainments, though both were considered essential to complete success. The unruly boys of pioneer days were prone to mischief, and happy indeed was the schoolmaster who escaped "bar-ringout," for a treat, on holidays. Should the master arrive in the morning before a sufficient number of the belligerents reached the scene of hostilities, they would smoke him out by placing boards over the chimney The school "furniture" was in keeping with that which adorned the homes of the scholars, entirely home made, and of the variety created for utility rather than beauty. The desks were puncheons, or at best planks, resting on wooden pins driven into auger holes in the logs of the wall. These were bored at an angle of about thirty degrees. Fronting the desks were stationary seats made of slabs or puncheons, with flaring legs of wooden pins, and these were made high enough to accommodate the largest pupils, while the smaller ones sat with their feet dangling in mid air. Usually there was no floor in the schoolhouse, and globes and outline maps were unknown to the pupils, and a mystery to the masters. The "text books" comprised Dabol's arithmetic, and Webster's elementary spelling book. These covered the curriculum of reading and spelling, mathematic, language and literature, history and science. The ancient "pot hooks," more difficult to form than any letter in the alphabet, comprised the first lessons in writing, but were never heard of afterward. There was no system by which these characters were made, hence each "master" had a "system" of his own. Sundry boxing of ears and other barbarous punishments often followed the scholars' futile efforts at imitating these useless hieroglyphics. And yet we must credit the pioneer schools with producing a class of plain and neat writers, a. feature very noticeable, and often commented upon, in the reading of ancient. documents. It is equally true that most of the students of those early days were excellent spellers, according to the rules then in vogue. But the primitive schools of pioneer days have long since been succeeded by the excellent school system so wisely provided for, in part at least, by the reservation of a portion of the public domain for that purpose.

Adelphi, originally spelled "Adeiphia," is the principal town in Colerain township. It is located in the northeast corner of the township and county. The town was surveyed and laid out by Gen. Nathaniel Massie for Reuben and Henry Abrams, who entered the east half of section one on the 16th of April, 1804. The town was laid out the same year. Reuben Abrams was one of the colony that settled Chillicothe in 1796. The town is pleasantly located on an elevated table land, comparatively level, about midway between the Salt Creek valley, which lies to the north and east, and the adjoining uplands to the west and south. In 1804 there were but one or two small clearings in the forest, but each year after the town was established some settlers were attracted to it. While Adelphi had no phenomenal growth, its progress was steady and substantial. The population has been nearly stationary for the last twenty years, increase in that direction being retarded to some extent by the advent of railroads in near by towns. Adelphi was incorporated by act of the State legislature in 1838. The first officers elected under the new regime were James Hall, mayor; John Patterson, Abraham Cartlich, John A. Smith, William Hugh, and Peter Marker, councilmen; John Lewis, recorder; John Fowler, treasurer, and Amos Howell, marshal.

One of the early justices of the peace in Colerain township was Col. Isaac Dawson, probably installed in 1804, and on January 12th of that year he solemnized the marriage of Alex Cowgle and Mary Crow, the first marriage in the township of which we have any record. George Will was a justice of the peace in 1806, and re elected in 1809 and 1812. James Webster was a justice in 1807, and Jacob Larick served a term beginning in July, 1808. Benjamin Williams sewed two terms, elected in 1809 and 1812. John Perkins was dignified with the honors of the office two terms, elected in 1808 and 1811.

The first white child born in Ade1phi was Israel Zimmerman, December 12, 1804; but his sister Hannah was born in Colerain township in April, 1802. The earliest recorded death is that of a child named Joseph Engle, July, 1807. His grave is in the Lutheran cemetery, marked with a plain sandstone slab, evidently taken from the bed of some near by creek.

The first mills were established outside of Colerain township. In 1797 Henry Zimmerman started a corncracker and saw mill on Beech fork near its junction with Salt creek, just over the line in Pickaway county. About the same time William McCoy built a grist mill in Green township, on the Kinnickinnick. This was locally known as Crouse's mill. Some years later a mill was erected on Laurel creek by Anthony Swinehart. Though inexpensive in construction, these early mills relieved the settlers of a vast amount of labor and perplexity. The "pounding stone" and primitive mortar and pestle were relegated to the back yard, while the quality of the prepared material was much improved. Colonel Dawson, who erected a saw mill on section eight, about 1805, took a step in advance, and built a grist mill near by, which, a few years later, was changed into a woolen mill, where woolen blankets of excellent quality were woven, as well as goods of finer texture. This proved a real blessing to the people. In 1805 Jacob Larick established the first tannery in "Brimstone Hollow," just south of Ade1phi.

There are men now living who well remember that on all occasions of public assemblages of the people, whiskey was a commercial product which always "passed at par." It invaded the homes of all classes. Even the ministers received it in exchange for their efforts toward ameliorating the spiritual condition of mankind. There was no market for the surplus grain, hence the introduction of a distillery in the community met with approval. Jacob Karschner met this demand in the erection of the first distillery. He came from Berks county, Pa., bringing his still with him, and set it at work in Colerain township in 1807. But it was not many years later until the stills were about as numerous as the farms. Their product always played an important part at log rollings, house raisings, fax pullings, "shucking" bees, elections, training days, as well as in the homes and in the daily labors of the farms. However, there were temperance men in those days, and we are informed that Martin Dreisbach was the first in the community to withhold the "invigorator" from his laborers in the field.

Ade1phi has progressed along social and literary lines, as well as in the affairs of general business. A lodge of Odd Fellows was organized in July, 1848; the first newspaper, under the title of the "Adeiphi Border News," was established January 1, 1879, by D. F. Shriner. This paper is still in existence, its present editor being Hugh F. Egan. The town boasts of an excellent school, in which the patrons take great interest. For many years it was taught by Isaac M. Jordan, now the clerk of Ross county.

For many years after the. settlement of the township, religious exercises were conducted by the traveling ministers, of various denominations, usually at private houses, or in the school houses of the township. The first religious organization in Adelphi was that of the Lutheran church in 1810. The Presbyterians, assisted by a new society of Lutherans, organized, and erected a quite pretentious church in 1834. This organization has long since passed out of existence. The New Society of Lutherans, differing somewhat from the old society in matters pertaining to the social life of its members, flourished for a. time, but also abandoned its organization.

The German Reformed church was organized about 1844, absorbing most of the members of the defunct Presbyterian church, and has since been prosperous and successful. The Methodist Episcopal church effected an organization about 1820, and their first church building was erected within one week from the time of cutting the first log. It was situated on the southwest corner of Market and High streets. This was vacated in 1858, on completion of a much larger edifice on the southwest corner of Main and Dawson streets. The society has been prosperous, and has stood at the head of religious organizations in the town and township, speaking in a numerical sense, for many years.

In the vicinity of Hallsville, the first house of worship was erected for a private residence, on the southwest quarter of section nine. The walls of this primitive cottage resounded with the eloquence of such men as Peter Cartwright and David Young. In 1815 a famous campmeeting was held just. north of Hallsville, at which great religious enthusiasm was manifested, resulting in large accessions to the churches. It is said that. of the great assemblage of people, some came from Kentucky. The present. church at Hallsville was erected in 1844, through the united efforts of the Evangelical Association and the Methodists who occupied it, jointly, until 1874, when the former association sold their interests to the United Brethren. The Swamp church near the center of the township was erected jointly by the United Brethren and German Reformed societies, though practically a union church, free to all worshipping people. This building was erected, and congregations organized, about 1845. In 1859 another and larger church was built north of the old one, though not far distant. This flourished for many years. But deaths, removals, waning interest, and the encroachments of the village churches at last caused the discontinuance of regular services.

The Pine Grove church was organized about 1871, at the head of Pike run, in the southeastern part of Colerain township. The United Brethren were the founders. The first cemetery in Colerain township was established in connection with the Lutheran church, on Concord street, in Adelphi. Interments were made there as early as 1807. There is also an ancient cemetery near Hallsville where Jacob Strauser was buried in 1811. Two other small cemeteries were established in Adelphi at different times, but these have been superseded by a large and well kept public burial place located outside of the town.

Colerain is one of the most wealthy and prosperous townships in Ross county. Agriculture being the principal industry, and in fact almost the exclusive occupation of the people, it has received careful and thoughtful attention, and the farms are equipped for the varied branches of agricultural pursuits, including extensive stock raising and fruit growing Early attention was given to the introduction of improved strains of domestic animals, and this has proved a source of pleasure and profit. The well tilled farms, with their substantial residences of modern design, or the old and well built mansions of more ancient days, together with an occasional log house or unpretentious cabin, all evince the varying degrees of prosperity attained by their owners, and emphasize the fact that "there is no place like home." The inhabitants are a class of intelligent, public spirited people, who, in most instances, trace their lineage, with just pride, to the founders of the great republic whose perpetuity they are ever ready to defend. The villages of Colerain township, notwithstanding their isolation from railroads, are inhabited by a class of progressive people where all the varied interests of mercantile and mechanical life are carried on successfully, and in accordance with the demands of the agricultural community which they serve. In addition to the numerous religious and educational institutions previously mentioned, the civic societies are also well represented, thus enhancing the social interests, and contributing to the relief of the unfortunate.

Hallsville, a beautiful little town about five miles west of Adelphi, was laid out June 22, 1837, by John Buchwaiter, Ephraim Dreisbach, and Ambrose Grafton. Its first name was Economy, chosen by Mr. Buchwalter because of pleasant memories of his old Pennsylvania home. But William Hall was the first postmaster, and on the establishment of the office, the department at Washington gave it the name of Hallsville. By common usage, this came to be recognized as the name of the town. The first merchant there was Russell D. Rockwell, who brought his goods in wagons across the mountains. Dr. Kinsey was the first physician.

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