History of Deerfield Township, Ross County OH

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


THIS is one of the smallest, territorially, of the townships in Ross county. It occupies the border between the fertile level of the Pickaway plains, and the more diversified areas of adjacent territory in Ross and Fayette counties. The surface is generally level, with just sufficient undulation to afford good drainage. Like nearly the whole area of the Military District, of which Deerfield is a part, it is well watered, and admirably adapted to all classes of diversified agriculture. The principal stream is Deer Creek, an affluent of the Scioto, which drains it from the south central portion to the eastward. Numerous smaller streams traverse the land as tributaries, and contribute to the facilities for grazing, an industry which is well represented in connection with general farming and fruit growing.

The township is almost triangular in shape, bounded on the southwest by Concord and on the southeast by Union. Fayette county forms a small portion of the western boundary, while the great Pickaway plains join it on the north. Like all other territory in the Military District, the system of surveys is irregular, the land being described by the "metes and bounds" system, so prevalent in the eastern country before the adoption of the admirable plan of Congressional surveys. The territory was originally covered with an abundant growth of excellent timber, and these desirable features early attracted crowds of immigrants who had followed the Chillicothe pioneers into the new country.

Deerfield was organized as a separate township on July 7, 1804, from portions of Wayne (now in Pickaway county), Union, and Concord townships. The indefinite boundaries then provided by order of the county commissioners were subsequently modified and established beyond dispute. The first election for township officers was held at the house of Jared Davis, on the first Monday in April, 1805, and resulted in the selection of the following named persons: Samuel Langdale, clerk; Peter Jackson, White Brown, and Jacob Davis, trustees; Ignatius Sellers and Simon Hornback, assessors; John Timmons and Abraham Ater, fence viewers; John Sewell, lister; John Baker and John Clark, supervisors; Richard Williams and John Riddin, constables. By reason of irregularities in the matter of qualification and filing bonds, some of these officers were declared ineligible, and the trustees on April 25th appointed successors. Of these John McLain was appointed trustee in lieu of Peter Jackson, who administered the official oath to himself. James Blair was appointed constable in the place of Richard Williams, who failed to file his official bond; and Moses Colvin and Michael Alkire were appointed fence viewers, in lieu of Timmons and Ater, who failed to qualify. The first annual meeting of the trustees occurred on March 3, 1806, and the following named persons were selected as the first jurors from the township, viz.: Michael Alkire, John Timmons, and Isaac Cade, as grand jurors; Abraham Ater, Samuel Phebus, Stephen Timmons, and Moses Colvin, petit jurors.

There is in existence a book including a record of marks and brands of domestic animals, opened by Samuel Langdale when assuming the duties of township clerk, in the spring of 1805. The presumption is that this record contained the name of every owner of domestic animals at that time living in the township. But the entries are confined almost exclusively to the official list, as given above, hence we infer that they represented the population of the township at that time.

Of the early settlers of the township, no one is more worthy of the post of honor than White Brown, not only because of his early residence in the territory, but because of his prominence and usefulness in the young community. He was a man of marked intelligence and strong religious principles, one of the few who willingly yield personal interest and make financial sacrifices for the sake of principle. Mr. Brown was reared under the influence of slavery, and was himself the owner of forty slaves in his native state of Delaware. The institution became so repugnant. to him that he decided to seek a. home on free soil, and this led to his removal to Ohio, in 1799. He promised freedom to his slaves on leaving his native state, and only requested their assistance in establishing a new home in the wilderness. This service they cheerfully rendered, and thus beame the ancestral stock of many of the well to do negro families in Deerfield and elsewhere in Ross county. In the year above written, Mr. Brown made an expedition to Chillicothe and adjacent country, and finally selected a tract of land on Deer creek, which subsequently became his home. He purchased five hundred acres of the Massie and McArthur survey, for which he paid two dollars per acre. It was at that time an unbroken forest. In 1801 Mr. Brown and his sons, accompanied by the negroes, occupied the land, and began its improvement. They raised a crop of corn in that year on the land now occupied by the Ross County infirmary. The Brown family reached the Deer creek farm on the 13th of August, 1802. Rev. Stephen Timmons, a son in law of Mr. Brown, accompanied the family, and assisted in the clearing and building. Their house was one of the earliest in the township. During the year 1803, a log barn was erected near the house, and this structure enjoyed the distinction a few years ago of being the oldest barn in Ross county, if not in the State of Ohio. But it also possessed another interest besides its long continued existence in that it was the birthplace of religious services in that whole region. Within its walls, from 1803 to 1818, were held the services of the pioneer Methodist Episcopal church in Deerfield. Rev. Stephen Timmons was probably the first to gather the settlers of the new country into this rude and primitive sanctuary, to hear the preaching of the word of God. The log walls afterward echoed to the eloquence of such men as Bishops Francis Asbury, Whatcoat, and Mchendry, as well as George and Lorenzo Dow, and the Finleys - father and son. In 1818 a church was built on the site of the present. handsome structure known as the Brown chapel. As if not satisfied with an open and unrestrained hospitality to the living, Mr. Brown donated land for the first cemetery in Deerfield township, wherein fully two hundred interments were made previous to the establishment of the new cemetery at the chapel. But two graves can be identified in the old cemetery - one being that of Rev. Ralph Lotspeich, who died June 16, 1813, and the other that of "Lima Brown," who died in 1815. He was one of Mr. Brown's liberated slaves, and an active and zealous worker in the early days of the church. The first religious organization of the township was effected on Christmas, 1802, with Mr. Brown and his wife and five colored people as members of the class. For thirty four years following that date, a camp meeting was annually held on the Brown farm, with the result of making the neighborhood a stronghold of Methodism. Brown chapel, a stately brick edifice, was erected in 1871 on the site of the old church which had served the people for thirty six years.

Mr. Brown was also active in secular affairs. In 1805 he erected on his farm a primitive saw mill, which was the first mill of any kind in Deerfield. The dam was a crude affair - a tree felled across Deer creek, with brush, stones, and earth piled on the upper side. But it served its purpose, and the old mill proved a real blessing to the community. In 1815 he built a grist mill adjoining the other, and from that day, for many years, controlled the business of the neighborhood. These were rivals to the early mills on Paint creek, and, of course, cut off a large volume of business from them. The Brown mills were owned, in turn, by William Brown, son, and Austin H. Brown, grandson, of the builder. Hall's mill, three fourths of a mile below Brown's, established in the twenties, was the only competitor in the vicinity.

It may be remarked, incidentally, that the camp of General Massie's surveying party in 1790 was located on land later embraced within the Brown farm. The reader will remember that they were surprised and fired upon by a party of Shawanees. This is the only spot in Deerfield rendered interesting by its connection with Indian hostilities.

Cot Peter Jackson was one of the earliest settlers in Deerfield. He built a cabin in 1801, within one hundred yards of the spot where Brown's mill was afterward located. He, with the families of Brown, Timmons and Clarke, and the colored people who accompanied the Browns, comprised the entire neighborhood for several years.

John F. Fulton, who was a member of the Massie surveying party, returned, after completing his work in that capacity, and purchased a farm from a portion of the land surveyed, and located about a mile south of Clarksburg. His nephew, John F. Burris, came from Pennsylvania in 1807, being then a lad of six years. Hem lived upon a portion of the land originally purchased by his uncle, where he attained a ripe old age. He was considered the historian of the community, possessing, even in old age, a remarkable memory of historical events, which he delighted to recite for the edification of his many friends.

William Baker, a Virginian, came to the Scioto country in 1799, and located in Deerfield in 1801, on a farm near Colonel Jackson. He was accompanied by his father, John Baker. They purchased one hundred acres from General Massie, and this, with subsequent acquisitions, has been transmitted to succeeding generations.

The township responded most nobly in the war of 1812, and was the home of some distinguished officers in that war. Among these are Capt. Clement Brown, brother of White Brown. He commanded a company in the regiment of Col. William Clark, and was stationed at Fort Seneca. Bye reason of his extensive improvements and increase in values, he died wealthy. His son, Thomas W. Brown, was a wealthy and influential citizen in the township, who served in various official capacities. The town of Clarksburg derived its name from Col. William Clark, this distinguished veteran of 1812. In civil life he was a tanner by trade, and an early settler of Deerfield.

E. Hide served thirty three years as justice of the peace. He and Abram Atler, Jacob Lister, and Thomas Hardy were early settlers in the war of 1812. J. H. Hervey, Ives Wagill, and William Kirkendall came to the township about 1801. Rev. David Jones was a chaplain under General Wayne, in 1793-5, and among the first settlers. Colonel Evans was a soldier in the Revolution, and settled in Deerfield in 1796. Byron and Baron Leffenwell were in the war of 1812, and William Pennell was fife major under Colonel Clark. Benjamin Grimes, Curtis Williams, James Tender, Thomas Junk, David Hagar, John McCarthy, M. P. Junk, Amos Serapes, William Jones, Michael Bush, John Bush, S. Mangold, John Farlow, David Pliley, Edward Young, C. Stratton, Martin Peterson, John Holloway, G. Vincent, John Junk, Henry Colsten, J. Clemens, Aaron Beatonham, Lemuel Holloway, Thomas Carney, S. Chester, and Rufus Betts were all early pioneers, and, with few exceptions, served in the war of 1812.

James Teinplin emigrated from Kentucky to Deerfield township in 1795. Oldtown was then the headquarters of the Indians in the Scioto valley. He and his brother John were soldiers under Colonel Clark, and assisted in building Fort: Wigs. Others of the same regiment were Captain Hoddy, Lieut. John Jackson, James Huffman, Noah Downs, fife major of Captain Brown's company, James Baker, drummer, Rev. P. Baker, first Baptist preacher of the township, Edward and Thomas Noland, Stephen Emory and Lriah Betts. They were all farmers and came to the township between the first days of settlement and the date of enlistment.

Edward Tiffin, a relative of Governor Tiffin, located in Deerfield in 1803. He was a son in law of White Brown, and left a numerous family. Levi Noble was a resident of the township in 1800. His name was also on the extensive list of patriots in 1812, and his father fought in the Revolution. Other members of Captain Brown's company were Jacob Switzer, Jacob Robinson, Daniel Counts, Len. Counts, Isaac Fleming and James Miner. To the list whose organization in service is not known we add the names of Abraham Shanton, Colonel Healer, George Hill, William Haggard and M. Bragg.

George Smith came to Ross county in 1806, in company with Henry Porter, Samuel Turner, and Thomas Coons. Smith was also a soldier in 1812, and in 1817 located in Clarksburg, where he opened the first general store. He was prominently identified with the business interests of that place for more than fifty years.

Clarksburg is the only village of importance in Deerfield township. It was laid out in 1817 by George Clark, whose settlement dated from the beginning of the century. As an interior town, it assumed and maintained progressive business interests, and, being in the center of a rich agricultural district, is destined to hold its own, notwithstanding the aggressions of railroad towns near by. In the last decade the village has had a substantial growth, showing an increase of nearly two hundred in population. James Timmons opened the first tavern in the town, and George Smith, as before related, was the first merchant. He was also the first postmaster, and to him and George King is given the credit of establishing the first school. This was sustained by the old method of subscriptions. The school house was located in the public square, a teacher hired, and the educational machinery set at work. The old school house has long since been superseded by a new and better one, in which the citizens take a lively interest and render willing support.

Much of the church history of Deerfield township is embodied in the account of the organization of the Methodist church in the Brown neighborhood, that being the pioneer religious organization, as it is today the principal church of the township. But the Baptists also were zealous and aggressive in the early days, and their self sacrificing itinerants invaded the territory, almost with the advent of civilization. This sect established a church in Deerfield, in 1820. It was first supplied by the pioneer local preachers of the neighborhood, as the Revs. William Baker, Nathan Carey, Peter Sperry, and John Littleton, but afterward had a regular pastor, and became, for a time, an influential and prosperous organization. But the membership, never numerically strong, was depleted by deaths and removals, until finally the surviving members attached themselves to other churches, according to their preferences, and the old church, with its pleasant memories of more prosperous days, became a thing of the past. For several years the organization was maintained by holding public services, by volunteer preachers, on the fifth Sunday of the month but as this did not often occur, the plan proved more visionary than real, and that was discontinued.

The Presbyterians organized a. church at Greenland, where occasional services are held, and the Christian church has an organization at Clarksburg. Two Methodist Episcopal churches have been organized in the township since the founding of the present church at Brown chapel, one of these at Dry run and the other at Clacksburg, the latter known as "Asbury Church." The Dry run church was abandoned, and the Clarksburg class has not prospered to the extent desired by the promoters of the enterprise.

Deerfield township is one of the best agricultural districts in Ross county, and the thrifty. farmers are profitably engaged in all classes of diversified fanning. Considerable attention is given to the raising of fine stock, and someare buyers and shippers of the same. A very large proportion of the grain raised is fed to stock on the farms There are many fine homes in the township, an evidence of thrift and prosperity.

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