Back to Newspaper Article Index

Source: The Zanesville Courier, Zanesville, Muskingum Co., Ohio
Saturday, December 8, 1877, page 1, columns 1-2
Contributed by Ky Longley

The Early History of Zanesville
by E.H.C.

For the Courier,

    The first shoemakers in Zanesville were Irishmen by the euphoneous name of Smith and John Cain. Smith came to Zanesville in 1800, and Cain came in 1801 or 1802. In those early days there were no such things known as shoe shops, or repairing shops in this western country. The shoemakers in those early days were generally jolly fellows. They took their lasts and "kits" in a wallet, and traveled from door to door for employment. When they came across a family in need of a new supply of boots or shoes, or wanted repairing done, they were taken in and boarded until the job was completed, when they went in search of other jobs. This was the practice for a number of years in Zanesville in the early part of the present century, as was the custom in the county districts for many years after the custom ceased to exist in the towns. This mode of shoemaking was called "whipping the cat" by the shoemakers. The young ladies and gentlemen of those early days were not so particular about fits as they are in these latter days. They didn't have very nice fits, but then they didn't have so many painful corns and bunions. Each member of the family was restricted generally to one pair of shoes a year. That rule put in practice now, would not only raise a rumpus among the members of a family, but bankrupt every shoe dealer in the city in one short year.


    Joseph Robinson and Thomas Moorehead arrived in Zanesville in 1805. They came from St. Clairsville together, and walked the whole distance. They put up, on arriving, at the Montgomery Hotel. Mr. Robinson was a tanner by trade, and came to Zanesville for the purpose of erecting and conducting a tannery for Moses Moorehead, who then resided at St. Clairsville. Thomas Moorehead was a carpenter by trade, and a brother to Moses Moorehead. Joseph Robinson and Moses Moorehead purchased from John McIntire one and one-half acres of land, at the head of Main street, including the spring above Ninth street, for one hundred and fifty dollars, and in addition the old brick-yard lot of James Herron, where Herron made brick in 1802 or 1803. Mr. McIntire reserving the privilege of the use of the spring for the citizens of the town, with the exception of those who might not be agreeable to the purchasers. Mr. Robinson could not in that early day get sawed lumbar with which to construct the vans, and used what was known in that day as puncheons. These puncheons were split from sticks of timber, and made straight and smooth by hewing. There are six of these vans still in existence, and the timbers are just as sound and in as good preservation, as they were when constructed seventy two years ago, with the exception of the top planks which are always renewed every few years.

    Mr. Thomas Moorehead built the beamhouse and barkhouse, and other necessary buildings. After the completion of the buildings, Joseph Robinson and Moses Moorehead entered into a partnership to conduct the tanning business, in 1805, for a limited number of years, Mr. Moorehead putting in $500, and Mr. Robinson $150, and his own labor, each being owner of one half of the property, and each receiving one half the profits from the business. In looking over the old documents in the office of the Clerk of the Court, I discovered the contract made with John McIntire at the time of the purchase of the tanyard site, and the articles of agreement between Robinson and Moorehead when the partnership was formed. Joseph Robinson and Moses Moorehead become acquainted with each other in Paris, Kentucky, while working in the same tanyard. Mr. Moorehead left Kentucky for Sharpsburg, Maryland, in 1800, traveling through from Maysville, on the Zane trail, and walking the whole distance from Maysville to Wheeling. He was married in 1801, and moved to the West, sopping at St. Clairsville, his wife having friends there. At St. Clairsville he built a tanyard and carried on the business of tanning. In 1801, or 1802, Mr. Robinson left Kentucky and came through from Maysville on the Zane trail, to Wheeling. From that point he went to Fayette county, Pennsylvania, his old home.

    In 1804 he came to St. Clairsville and worked for Moses Moorehead in the tannery, and from there came to Zanesville in 1805, as mentioned heretofore. Mr. Joseph Robinson was married in Zanesville to Miss Elsea Crowell by 'Squire Spangler on the 10th of January, 1808. In those days there were no ministers in Zanesville, and the marrying business was monopolized by the justice of the peace. The partnership between Moses Moorehead and Joseph Robinson continued until the spring of 1815, when Mr. Moorehead purchased Mr. Robinson's interest in the property and business. Mr. Robinson moved to Cambridge and purchased a tanyard from John Carlow, who came to Zanesville and started a bakery. Mr. Robinson conducted the business of tanner in Cambridge until 1825, when he sold out and removed to Zanesville, and formed a partnership with Thomas Moorehead, the two purchasing the property and business from Moses Moorehead. The partnership continued for several years. On the dissolution of this partnership the property was divided between the parties, Mr. Robinson keeping the tanyard, and Mr. Moorehead taking the ground upon which the brick currying shop stood, north of the old tanyard, extending to Main street, where he built a new tanyard and conducted the business of tannery for several years. Joseph Robinson died a number of years ago. His sons carried on the tannery business at the old tanyard until two years ago. The first tanyard constructed at Zanesville was located on Chapp's Run. It was built in 1802 by Reuben Jennings. He sold it to Mr. Levi Clapman in 1804. Since 1802 there have been constructed in the vicinity of Zanesville sixteen tanyards, and some of them in former times did a large business. Among the men engaged in this business were Moorehead, Robinson, Culbertson, Darlington, Nye, and Blue.

    Today they are idle, and going to decay with the exception of the large steam tannery on the River road which is still in operation and doing a fine business.

    Zanesville from its earliest history has been a manufacturing site. The early pioneers were wise men.

    They perceived at a glance even at that early day that Zanesville ought to be one of the chief manufacturing cities of the West. It was the next generation, the generation following the pioneers who attempted to direct the business of Zanesville into other channels and to a great extent succeeded. Mr. Samuel Parker come to Zanesville at an early day, and built a hewed log house in Mud hollow. Messrs Parker and Launder built a frame house for a chair factory on the corner of South street and Diamond alley and Fourth street, and manufactured chairs for some years.

    Mr. Parker was the first toll-keeper on the upper bridge, from 1814 when it was completed, until 1819 when it fell.

    In 1829 Mr. Parker was Coroner Sheriff for a few months on the death of Sheriff Stanton. He afterward served the city as Coroner for 1834 to 1838, and filled several offices in the town Council. He was a citizen much respected by the early inhabitants of Zanesville. The old pioneers are all gone. The names of some of the families have been forgotten. Many of the inhabitants living in Zanesville today do not know the name of some of the men who labored here more than half a century ago, to lay the foundation of this prosperous community. And the next generation or the next after that, at least, will forget us the same. It is well to call to mind occasionally the great work our ancestors did. It is well to keep in mind how they labored and endured hardships and denied themselves the luxuries of life, that their children might have a better start in life than they had. The sacrifices they made for us, and for the good of the public should keep their memories green in the hearts of those who now live in the city, whose foundations they laid.

Return to the top of this page

This county is part of the USGenWeb Project, a non-profit genealogical resource web system, and is maintained by Denny Shirer < drdxneo.rr.com >