History of Springfield Township, Ross County, OH

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


THE organization of this township dates from March 9, 1808, on which date it was set off from Green township, with boundaries described as follows: "Beginning on the Scioto river at the Cedar bank, the northwest corner of township eight, in range twenty one, and township nine, range twenty; thence down the Scioto river to Joseph Gardner's ferry; thence along the line of townships seven, eight and nine, to the southeast corner of section thirty two; thence north to the northwest corner of section five; thence along the line of townships eight, nine and ten, to place of beginning. The said township to be known by the name of Springfield." The house of James Wallace was designated, by the same order, as the place for holding elections; but this was subsequently changed to a more central location, at the house of Zachariah Jones. Since the division of the township into two voting precincts, elections have been held at Hometown and school district number four.

The surface of the township is generally broken, and, in. many localities, exceedingly rugged and hilly. A narrow stretch of the valley of the Scioto bounds the western end of the township, and comprises, by far, the greater portion of level land within its borders. There are many interesting natural features within the bounds of Springfield township, not the least of which is historic Mount Logan. This is a rugged eminence, rising to a height of six hundred and seventy four feet above the level of the Scioto. From its lofty summit, a delightful view is afforded, taking in, at a glance, the beautiful city of Chillicothe a mile to the westward, the Scioto valley above and below, for many miles, and Circleville in the distance. The location of Columbus is also seen from the crest, as marked by a heavy cloud of smoke. North Pinnacle is another enduring monument in the same range, almost as lofty, and presenting a view as entrancing. The "ancient race" has also left traces of their handiwork in this township, in the form of a combined square and circle, embracing about twenty acres. But the depredations of the plow have mostly obliterated these interesting relics of past ages, and their identity would scarcely be recognized by the casual observer. This interesting work is located on the Dunn and McConnell farms.

The varieties known as hardwood predominated in the forests. The bottom lands were covered with maple, black walnut, shell bark, hickory, and some varieties of oak, while the uplands and hills were mostly covered with white oak. There were bears, panthers, deer, wolves, wild cats and wild hogs in great numbers. Springfield boasted of some noted hunters in the pioneer days, and one of these, Samuel McRoberts, achieved more than locale notoriety. At the age of fourteen he encountered a female bear and five cubs in the woods, having nothing except his trusty rifle and a small dog as companions. It is stated that he killed the six bears. He was a companion of Daniel Boone on various hunting and trapping expeditions, and received valuable instructions in this line from the famous frontiersman.

Michael Cryder was among the earliest settles in Springfield. He emigrated from Huntingdon county, Pa., in 1796, bringing his wife and seven sons by way of the Ohio river on a fiat boat, thence up the Scioto, to Chillicothe, on a keel boat. The wife and small children remained at Chillicothe until the father, and the sons who were large enough to assist, had erected a cabin on the banks of the river near Hopetown. Mr. Cruder entered some fourteen hundred acres of land in the vicinity of his first cabin, and there he and the stalwart sons soon established a comfortable home in the unbroken forest, where the parents ended their days. The sons, who were named Daniel, John, Michael, Henry, Emanuel, Jacob and David, spent their lives, for the most part, in Ross county, and numerous descendants still live in Green and Springfield townships and elsewhere. These sons were remarkable specimens of physical manhood. It is said of Michael that in a trial of strength with another physical giant, he lifted a cannon which weighed fourteen hundred pounds. Elizabeth, the only daughter of Michael Cryder and wife, was born in Pennsylvania and came to Ohio from Kentucky, as the wife of Henry Musselman, an early pioneer of the county. Israel, the eldest son of Michael Cryder, remained in his native state, and never joined the family in the west, while two other sons, Henry and Daniel, located in other parts of the State.

Martin Overley and his sons, Boston, Frederick and Martin, emigrated from Bourbon county, Ky., in the spring of 1797. Though all were heads of families, they erected a bark cabin on section five and lived together until they had cleared land and raised a crop, subsisting, principally, on con bread and sugar water, with occasionally a "relish" in the shape of scalded nettles. After securing their crop, they returned to Kentucky and brought their families on pack horses. The wife of Frederick Overley carried on the horse a babe only eight weeks old, and a spinning wheel, besides the other necessary effects for housekeeping. The four families occupied the bark shanty until their several cabins could be built. Frederick Overley served as a scout in the Revolutionary war. He died in 1848, at the age of eighty two, and his wife died two years later, at the age of seventy five. Their family of two sons and four daughters married and located in the county where their lives were spent. Boston and Martin settled in the same neighborhood, the former dying in Springfield about 1825. After raising his family here, Martin sold out and removed to Indiana, where he died.

Alexander McRoberts came from Kentucky in 1796, though his native state was Virginia. He located in Chillicothe, where he built a cabin on the northwest corner of Second. and Mulberry streets. He entered three hundred acres of land in the south part of section seven, in Springfield township, and returned to Kentucky for his family. On this farm he erected what is believed to have been one of the first frame houses in Ross county, but he did not live to enjoy his prospects of success in the new country. He died in 1800, and his was one of the first deaths in the township. Mr. McRoberts was a soldier in the Revolution, and served from the battle of Bunker Hill until the final capitulation at Yorktown He left a family of three sons and four daughters, all of whom have long since passed to their reward on the unknown shore of eternity. Samuel McRoberts, previously mentioned in this chapter, was the first volunteer in the township, during the war of 1812. He died in 1859. His son John succeeded to the parental home, and was the last representative of the family in the county. Alexander H. McRoberts, the second son of this venerable pioneer, spent a long and useful life as a citizen of Springfield, and served many years as a justice of the peace. He died in 1853.

Henry Muscleman, previously mentioned in this and other chapters, was induced to emigrate to the new country by the favorable reports and recommendations of his father in law, Michael Cryder. He entered the north half of section seven, and erected one of the first mills in the new country, this being located on the Scioto river. Mr. Musselman died in 1848, at the age of eighty five years and ten months. Besides the distinction of owning and operating one of the first mills in the valley, he was also one of the first justices of the peace, and an unsuccessful candidate for the legislature.

George Haynes, sr., came to the country in 1798, from Shepherdstown, Va. He was a blacksmith, and, together with Joseph Yates, a mill wright, came to the Scioto valley under contract with Col. Thomas Worthington, the purpose of this visit being the erection of mills on the north fork of Paint creek. Colonel Worthington had visited Chillicothe the previous year and purchased lots upon which he had erected a frame house. Mr. Haynes brought the iron material for a saw mill and grist mill, and located a shop in Chillicothe, which was, without doubt, the first blacksmith shop in Ross county. The first product of this shop was a pair of pot hooks, made for a resident of the town. After a six months' residence in Chillicothe, he returned to Virginia, and brought his wife and child, their conveyance being pack horses. The family resided in Chillicothe until 1815, hen they located on a farm in Springfield township. The little family of one child which they brought across the mountains was augmented by eleven more after locating in Ross county. Those who attained years of maturity married and located in the vicinity.

The Orr families, as represented by Thomas and Zebulon, were among the earliest pioneers of Springfield township. They were sons of Thomas and Sarah Orr, and were natives of the. Emerald Isle, accompanying their parents to this country in early youth. The families first located in Virginia, on the south branch of the Potomac; but as early as 1797 they came to Ross county, Ohio, and built their first cabins on High Bank prairie where they lived five or six years, subsequently removing to Dry rim. Reference is here made to Thomas Orr, though Zehulon settled in the same neighborhood and spent his life in the township. After locating on Dry run, Thomas Orr made some substantial improvements in clearing land, building, and planting an orchard; but, by some error at the land office, another entry held the land, and he lost his improvements. He returned to Virginia after a few years spent here, and brought out his family, also his brother William, and his sister Jane. William joined with him in the purchase of three hundred and eighty acres of land, upon which they both passed the remainder of their lives. The homestead is now owned by some of the numerous descendants. Thomas Orr was twice married, his first wife being Rebecca Alexander, who died in middle life. He then chose for his companion Mary Jones, who survived him. He was the father of twelve children who dived to years of maturity, and eleven of them have spent their lives in Ross county. No family in Springfield is more prominent and well known than the descendants of the Orrs. Some of them have held honorable and responsible political places, and all have been prosperous and influential citizens.

James Outright was born at Station Prairie, February 26, 1798, and was, therefore, a formidable candidate for the honor of "first white child" born in Ross county. His father, John Cutright, a native of Virginia, came with the Massie party in 1796, and remained at the Station for a short time, when he moved across the river and located on land belonging to General Massie. He died there in 1830, and his wife, whose name was Elizabeth, died the same year. These were the parents of nine children: Catherine, a daughter of John and Elizabeth Cutright, was the wife of Col. John McDonald. James Outright, whose name introduced this brief sketch of the family, married Sabra Neff, and, for a time, occupied a portion of his father in law's farm. He afterward located on a farm of his own on the east bank of the river, and subsequently bought out the Neff heirs, and ended his days on his wife's old parental homestead. He was a useful and influential citizen of the county, where he spent his entire life, and served in various official capacities, being at one time a member of the board of county commissioners. He left a family of twelve children to perpetuate his memory. For many years they all resided in the vicinity of their parental home, and their posterity are representative men and women of the township and county at the present time.

John and James Davis emigrated to the county from Virginia in a very early day. They located on the ridge north of the Cutrights, and occupied government land for two years. John then bought land and settled near Richmond Dale, and James located on "big bottoms" where he was prosperous and died wealthy. Zachariah James located in the central part of the township among the early pioneers, and enjoyed the distinction of exceeding the century mark in life's existence. Numerous descendants of this pioneer still live in the township. George Wheeland came from near Winchester, Va., in 1802, bringing his widowed mother and her family. He located on section eight, where he died in 1856. He married Jane, daughter of Alexander McRoberts, and she survived him nine years. They left three sons, Samuel, Jonathan and Walter B., all of whom remained in the vicinity.

Thomas Hanks located in the township about 1800, coming from the south bank of the Potomac. He entered half a section of land in Harrison township after a short residence on High Bank prairie, but subsequently removed to Logan county, where he died in 1834. His son Isaac Hanks was born at High Bank in 1803, and spent his life in Springfield township. He married Margaret Raypole. Thomas and John Arthurs came from Brooke county, Va., in 1805, and located in East Springfield. Thomas Arthurs had a family of two sons and one daughter. The eldest son, whose name was Samuel, served in the war of 1812 and his brother Thomas was a lieutenant in Captain Wall's company of militia.

The Senff family was founded in Ross county by Michael Senff, a native of Pennsylvania, of German extraction, who located in Springfield in 1803. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. Michael Senff died in 1845, leaving five sons whose numerous posterity are prominently identified with the agricultural and horticultural interests in northern Ross county. The sons' names were Michael, Jesse, Andrew, George, and John. Representatives of these are found in the four northeastern townships of the county.

Thomas Jones accompanied his parents to Ohio in the early part of the last century, he being then only a lad. His father, Moses Jones, settled in Green township near Kingston, and there died. Thomas married Margaret Haynes, daughter of the early pioneer, George Haynes, and settled on the farm afterward known as the George Umsted place. There ten of their eleven children were born. In the spring of 1840 Mr. Jones removed to the Newton Jones farm, where he died in 1868. In the old militia days Mr. Jones acquired the title of major, by which he was well known by the people of his day. Of his large family but one is known to have remained in the township, that being Newton, who succeeded to the ownership of the parental home. Another son, Jeremiah by name, located in Green township, and a daughter, Mrs Mary Jones, lived in Harrison township.

Leonard Neff entered the southwest quarter of section twenty four in 1809, and there ended his days. He was a Virginian by birth. His homestead finally passed into the hands of his son in law, James Cutright, and descended to his heirs, who still own it. John Veail came from Virginia with his parents in 1809, he being then a youth of seventeen. His father, Thomas Veail, settled in Pickaway county. John entered the employ of Major Kilgore, and spent eighteen months as a farm hand, at eight dollars per month, after which he served several months as a soldier in the war of 1812. After the war he bought a farm in Liberty township, which he improved and occupied for twenty three years, when he relocated in the southern part of Springfield, purchasing a farm in section thirty, where he died. Mr. Veail married Emily Hampton, a native of Loudoun county, Va., and had a family of ten children.

James H. Abernethy emigrated from Hampshire county, Va., in 1809, bringing his wife and two children. After a two years' residence in Kingston, he located on a farm in the Cryder bottom, remaining there until 1825. In that year he moved to Scioto township, locating near the Marfield mill. He died in Chillicothe in 1847, at the age of sixty four. He had a family of eleven children, descendants of whom are still residents of the county.

Col. Lewis Sifford, an early settler of Liberty township, was for many years a resident of West Springfield. He was prominent in political life, and a useful and honored citizen. He represented Ross county in the legislature in the seventies, and served in several important county offices. By profession, he was a civil engineer, and was at one time superintendent of the Southern division of the Ohio canal, and also United States marshal for the Southern district of Ohio. He was a resident of Springfield township at the time of his death.

The first school of which we have any knowledge was established about 1815. This is said to have been located on the farm of George Haynes, who had been a resident of the county for seventeen years, though a recent corner into the township. Mr. Haynes moved a cabin, which had formerly been occupied as a residence by Martin Overley, and fitted it up for a school house. The first teacher was James Finley, a veteran of the Revolution. He was followed by a Mr. McIntosh, who was also a soldier in the Revolutionary war. The first female teacher was Tirza Robinson, and Abigail March was her successor. Since those far away days, schools have been established according to the needs of the people, until at the present time there are seven modern buildings in the township where the children and youth receive practical instruction, under a corps of capable and specially qualified teachers. The course of study is a graded one, having a definite object in view; and, when completed, a diploma of graduation from the common schools entitles its holder to special consideration on entering institutions of higher order.

In this township, as in some others, the Methodists were the pioneers in religious effort. The only churches existing in the township at present are of that denomination. Musselman's mill was a preaching appointment, established as early as 1806, by that pioneer in Methodism, Rev. James Quinn. Michael Cryder, sr., was one of the earliest local preachers and a zealous worker in the early religious organizations. A class was formed very early in the history of the settlement, composed of Henry Musselman and wife, Jahn Cryder and wife, Jonas Rudisill and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Coleman and others. Henry Musselman was an active member, and was the first class leader. In 1834 he donated to the Hopetown congregation sufficient land for a church site and cemetery, and the church was erected the same year. Previous to this, public services were held in the log schoolhouse, in the homes of members, or in "God's first temples." It may not be sacrilegious to repeat the facts of an incident which is said to have occurred in one of the last named "temples": A very enthusiastic Methodist camp meeting was in progress, in a beautiful grove belonging to Emanuel Cryder. The worshipers gave vent to their enthusiasm by marching and singing: "We are marching through Immanuel's ground." Mr. Cryder, believing this some kind of thank offering or recognition of his kindness in allowing the use of his land, promptly responded: "You's welcome to it; it's paid for."

The church at Hopetown has been in existence since 1834, and is the strongest religious organization in the township. Mount Carmel chapel became a fixture in Springfield township about 1851, though the organization of a Methodist congregation known as Mount Carmel church had a much earlier existence across the line in Harrison township. A meeting house of the pioneer period stood near Walnut creek, and services were conducted previous to its existence at the house of Thomas McNeal. These, together with the congregation at Overley's chapel, constituted the religious organizations of the township.

Hopetown is the only village in Springfield township, a very old town, though it never made much progress in a business way. As early as 1805, Jacob Weider kept a tavern at the cross roads, or at a point where two diverging roads separated. But the village was not laid out until the spring of 1819, when Henry Musselman, who owned the land, had the village site surveyed. Jacob Weider's plant consisted of a still, brewery, and a long building of nine rooms, which was appropriately termed the "long nine." This was the hotel property, but the general title of the place was "Barley Forks," owing, no doubt, to the brewery being located there. On the platting of the town, the name was changed to Hope, and afterward to Hopetown. The town has one store, which has been in existence, under different proprietors, for more than eighty years. Peter Slimmer was the first merchant. There is also a church of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, a school, and mechanical shops. On the town site, proper, there are probably twenty families, though the surrounding territory is quite thickly populated.

The pioneer mills of the township have long since ceased to exist, and Springfield is now an exclusively agricultural district. Henry Musselman's mill was the first erected on the Scioto and among the first in the county. It was southwest of the present site of Hopetown, and was erected about 1797. At first it was a crude affair, hastily and cheaply constructed of logs, and operated by horse power. But it was a real blessing to the pioneer, and they gave it liberal patronage. Some years later Mr. Musselman erected a large frame mill, but that, too, has gone out of existence. Another saw mill was built on Spring branch by Michael Cruder in 1799, and his son, Daniel Cryder, built a grist mill at the same location about 1817. Major Kilgore erected a grist mill on the river in the southwest corner of the township at a very early date. John Cutright and James Miller had a mill on the Scioto in the southwestern part of the township and had a dam near what is now the east end of Main street. But all have passed away, as have the enterprising pioneers who founded them.

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