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The following story is reproduced from a book titled, the "Combined History and Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio." The material for this book was taken from two nineteenth century books: (1) 'History of Monroe County Ohio,' a product of the H.H. Hardesty & Co., publishers, Chicago and Toledo, 1882 and (2) 'Caldwell's Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio,' a product of Atlas Publishing Company, Mount Vernon, Ohio, 1898. The "Combined History and Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio" was reprinted and is available from the Monroe County Historical Society.
It is of interest to note that the author (unknown) of this article states that he was old enough in 1829 to " take his "turn" at the horse-mill" used for grinding grain. This probably meant that he was at least 11 or 12 years old which would have made his birth date 1818-19.
The first permanent settlement in the territory, now within the limits of the county, of which there is any well authenticated history, was made in the year 1791. It is probable that some improvements may have been made, in the way of clearing up small patches of ground, prior to that time, and as early as the permanent settlement at Marietta, by settlers from the Virginia side of the river. There are some evidences of this, but where or by whom is unknown. Settlements were made on the opposite side of the river as early as 1786, but the frequent depredations and hostilities of the Indians prevented settlements on the western shore. Ezekielton (now Sistersville, West Virginia) was laid out in 1800; but prior to that time settlements had been made by the Caldwells, Scotts and others. At this point, in 1804, a ferry was established across the river, which is now known as Tuel’s ferry.
Philip Witten, brother-in-law of the noted scouts and Indian fighters, Kinsey and Vachel Dickinson (having married their sister) settled on the Ohio river, in what is now Jackson township, in 1791. He came there with his family from Wheeling and his descendants still live on the same farm. Some of his grandchildren, still living, have a distinct recollection of their grandparents, and have heard them frequently talk of their early settlement, and the hardships and dangers the first settlers had to overcome.
The next settlement, in the order of time, was on Buckhill bottom, in 1794, and was made by Robert McEldowney, who was soon followed by Jacob Ullom and others. Settlements were made at and near the mouth of Sunfish creek and Opossum creek, by the Vandevanters, Henthorns, Atkinsons and others, about the years 1798-9. A settlement was made about where the town of Callais now stands in 1802. An improvement was made there in 1798, by Aaron Dillie, from Dillie’s Bottom, Belmont county.
About the same time a settlement was made by Michael Crow and others on Clear Fork creek. Cline’s settlement, on the Little Muskingum river, was begun about the year 1805; the settlement near and around where Beallsville now stands was made about the same time. And Dye’s settlement in Perry township, in 1812.
More particulars of these early settlements are given in the historical sketches of the several townships.*
Few of its present inhabitants can realize the hardships endured by the early settlers of the county. Being without mills they were compelled to resort, in the early fall, to grinding corn for bread, and when too hard for that, to hominy, pounding it in large wooden mortars, called "hominy blocks," with iron wedges in the ends of round sticks of wood for pestle. "Hog and hominy," "johnny cake," and wild game, and mush and milk, constituted their chief diet. When hand mills were introduced they were indeed, a great acquisition; but a still greater were the horse mills. The writer was old enough in 1829, when the water mills were dried up, to take his "turn" at the horse-mill, after a stay of a day and a night, sleeping on a pile of unbroken flax laid on rails in the corner of the mill. There were no markets or mills, at the period of the first settlements, for grain or other farm produce nearer than Wheeling or Marietta; and to those places from the settlements along the river, long journeys in canoes had to be made. Then every farmer had his flock of sheep and his patch of flax. The wool was carded with hand-cards, spun and woven at home, and made up into garments for both sexes. The older people can remember what nice suits were made for men of "fulled cloth," and what nice gowns for women of "pressed flannel." The flax was pulled and spread out in rows on the ground and "wetted and then "broken and swingled," and was thus prepared for carding and the "little wheel," as the machine was called on which the flax was spun, to distinguish it from the larger machine for spinning wool. It was woven into cloth for table-covers, toweling, sheeting and shirting. The "tow," which was the course portion combed out on the hatchel, was spun into course yarn of which a cloth was made for summer suits for men and boys. The tow shirt, so commonly worn, was, when new, an instrument of torture to the wearer, as it was full of prickly spines left from the woody parts of the stalk.
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