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Salem Township

Salem Township

Salem township was organized on July 19, 1815. Although not at an earlier date, the larger settlements were made in this township. This is attributed to the fact that Sunfish Creek, the largest creek in the county, was in Salem Township and furnished a great attraction to the settlers.

Below the mouth of Opossum Creek, a settlement was made by Cornelius Vandevanter prior to 1802. At about the same time, John Vandevanter and the Hurd's settled on the farm owned by Vachel Gamble in 1880. Thomas Howell settled on the farm owned by Levi Baldwin in 1881. A few years later, Grancis Martin settled about a mile up the creek. His son, John Martin, Esquire, still owned the land in 1881. William McLain, Aaron Howell, and Martin Boughner also settled along the creek.

In 1798 or 1799, James Henthorn settled at the mouth of Sunfish Creek after moving there from the old fort on Wheeling Creek. His children were as follows: James; John; Henry; William; Adam; Ann; and Mary. He made improvements where Clarington now is located. At the same time, Charles Atkinson cleared 15 acres which later was known as the W.H. Mallory farm. In 1802, Alexander Newlen cleared 10 acres on the Joel Yost farm. Other settlers includes Elijah Johnson; James Scott; Robert Baldwin; James Walton; and Jonathan Rutter. William Powell settled at the mouth of Sunfish Creek and kept the ferry. The following persons settled along the valley of the creek in the order given: John Vandevanter; Peter Vandevanter; Andrew McKee; William McCoy; Joseph Blare; Matthew Brown; Richard Cain; and Samuel Buskirk. David Howell, Reuben Redman, and Reuben Sturgeon lived on the hills near the mouth of the Creek. Other large settlements were made by the Bowen family; the Roby family; the Twible family; the Preble family; the Gillmore family; the Davis family; the Ross family; the Watson family; the Jones family; and the Kyger family. These settlements furnished settlers for many other parts of the County -- especially further up the creek and on Will's Creek.

Most of the first settlers were squatters -- families who moved into the County and settled on Congressional land and, when the head of the family was able, entered the land upon which he had squatted or settled. It was considered a very mean trick in those days for another person to "enter-out" a settler who was doing his best to raise enough money to pay for the home he was making for himself and his family. Hardly anyone would "enter-out" a settler without the consent of the squatter when he found he was unable to enter the land himself. At the time the early settlements were made, the Indians were generally peaceful.

The following story is told of two settlers. "One Sunday in the summer of 1801, a bear was seen swimming the river opposite Sunfish Creek. William Henthorn and John Hilmore, both young men, decided to capture it. They got into a boat and rowed out to halter it with a chain and tow it to shore. Just as William was throwing the chain over the bears head, it put its paws on the side of the boat and deliberately crawled in. No sooner was the bear in the boat than the young men were out and were swimming to shore. The bear took a seat on the seat-board and, quite contentedly, floated down the river. William's Uncle, John Henthorn, and a man by the name of Mr. Twible, hastened down the river, paddled out into the river on a hurriedly constructed raft, and shot the bear. For a long time after that, whenever the young men felt like bragging, their companions would tell them that they had better capture another bear. That was quite sufficient to stop the bragging."

Doctor N.E. Henthorn (who died around 1880), in a letter to John B. Noll, Esquire, says: "In 1831, I was returned home from Cincinnati by land. I stopped overnight in the Town of Reading, 12 miles from the city, and stayed at Jackson's Tavern. When the landlord asked where I was from, he said his father and an old Indian would like to talk to me. I went to their room and Mr. Jackson, Sr. said he knew my Grandfather at the old-block house in Wheeling. He further stated that, at the time Boggs was killed at Bogg' Island, the Indians were pursued by the white men. He said he had wounded this Indian and, when about to kill him with his tomahawk, the Indian told him that he was a medicine man of his tribe and that if he would spare his life, he would cure the cancer on Mr. Jackson's nose -- which he did. He said that the Indian had lived with him ever since and that he was with him in the War of 1812 under General Harrison. The Indian told me that the Indian name for Sunfish Creek was Buckchitawa and the Indian name for Opossum Creek was Eagle Creek. He further told me that a big Indian was killed at Buckchitawa at about the same time Marietta was settled in 1788. The Indians had a white prisoner whom they forced to decoy their boats to the shore. A small boat was descending the river carrying white people when the prisoner was placed under the bank to tell those in the boat that he had escaped captivity and to come to the shore and take him in. The Indians were concealed but the big Indian stuck his head out from behind a large tree and, as a result, it was pierced by a bullet from the gun of the steersman of the boat. The Indians cried out "Wetzel, Wetzel" and fled. The prisoner was never seen again. The Indians returned the next day and buried the big Indian.

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