Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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source:  Mansfield News, 12 September 1903


Submitted by Jean and Faye


History of Richland County

 By A. J. Baughman



Lexington was laid out in 1812, and named in honor of Lexington, Mass., where the first blood of the Revolutionary war was shed, Aril 19,1775.  The town site is on the northwest quarter of section twenty-four, of Troy township, and borders on the Clearfork of the Mohican.  The land was originally owned by Amariah Watson, who built the first house - a log cabin - in the town.

It is the custom of writers of history to dilate upon how railroads have affected certain towns, favorably or unfavorably, as it is often necessary to show cause for the prosperity or decadence of the same.  But Lexington has been but little, if any, affected, pro or con, by the railroad that skirts its northern border.  The town was not platted with the expectation that it would ever make a great city.  It was founded to be a country town for the convenience of country people, and as such it is, a successful village, whose inhabitants have always been reputable among their fellow-men.  Even during the civil war times, at mass gatherings, where social probity was at times somewhat lax, the statement that a certain group of ladies were from Lexington, was to them both passport and shield.  Such women give tone and character to any community.

Amariah Watson and Elisha Robins settled at Lexington in 1812.  Then came William Gass, Calvin Culver and Frances Mitchell, “Uncle” Noah Cook came in 1814.  Mr. Cook was a Presbyterian and conducted the first prayer meeting in the township.  An account of this service has been given before, but as a good story, especially one of far reaching beneficent results, will bear a brief repetition here.  The meeting had been announced for the school house of that neighborhood, and at the appointed hour, “Uncle” Cook was the only person present.  He hesitated only for a few moments, then opened a service of worship, and sang and prayed and read a lesson from the scriptures and then preached a sermon.  It is not on record whether he stated, “I take my text,” etc., as some preachers do now, thinking, it seems, that the matter is not entirely clear that the extract of the scriptures read is intended for that purpose, but such doubts did not trouble Mr. Cook, for he had no congregation.  But he had an unseen hearer for a part of the service.  A passerby, hearing the singing, did some eaves-dropping - pardonable in this case - and left at the close of the service, without making his presence known.  But he told of the appointment and induced a number of his friends to attend, which resulted in a fair-sized audience for the next meeting, and from that humble beginning the religious interest of the settlement advanced, even until this day.

The Cooks have been prominent in war, and prominent in peace.  Jacob and Noah Cook were soldiers in the war of the American revolution and their descendants have been prominent and successful citizens of Richland county for the past ninety years.  The Rev. O. L. Cook, of Lexington, has accepted a call to Mansfield, to be pastor of the Christian church, and will begin his work here the first week in October.  He is the son of Carter Cook, and is one of the most successful ministers of his denomination

The Watson family is also one of note, as are also those of Gass et al., too numerous to give a sketch of each in this short chapter.  Among those of a later and also those of the present time, are the Beverstock, the Sowers, the Abernathy, the Cockley and other families of wealth and position.  But to mention all, another chapter must be given.

In the educational field, Lexington had several school teachers in the olden time who afterwards became noted men in both state and nation.  One of these was the late Hon. Columbus Delano, and Judge Kennon was another.

The Lexington seminary - a continuation of the Monroe seminary, was successfully conducted for a number of years, by the late Rev. Richard Gailey, and gave additional standing to Lexington as an educational center.

The Lexington of today is a cozy village with a surrounding country of beautiful landscape views and of productive farms.  The town has stores and shops to meet the wants of trade and there are school buildings where in the children can be instructed, and churches at whose altars the people may worship.

Troy township was a favorite hunting ground for the Indians and later, for the pioneers.  But the bears and the deer have gone, and only the smaller game remain.  Among the latter, the raccoons still hold a place, but their number is ___ed.

The raccoon is a carnivorous animal, somewhat larger than the fox, and originally inhabited most parts of the American continent, and abounded, particularly in this part of Ohio.  The animal lodges in hollow trees, feeds occasionally on vegetables, and its flesh is palatable, and its fur is deemed valuable next to that of the beaver.  A sketch of coon hunting in the past, before Cy Gatton introduced modern methods, may be of interest to the reader.

In the old-time way of coon hunting, a trained dog was indispensable.  In the selection of a dog for the sport it was not thought best to choose a hound, as its persistence in “giving tongue” warns the raccoon of his danger, and gives that crafty little animal ample time to seek safety in the hollow of some high tree, the size and value of which would prevent the hunter from cutting it down.  A good coon dog will not follow the trail of a rabbit when hunting the coon; but many a dog about whose ancestry there clusters much uncertainty, develops into a remarkable “coon dog.”  Some of these dogs are very keen-scented, and will follow the trail of a raccoon over the ground where the scent of rabbits and other animals is encountered every few yards.  A well-trained dog of the old days would take large circles and skirt along the edge of the woods that bordered on the cornfields, never giving tongue until their approach to the coon was so close that it would try to escape by climbing the nearest tree, and then the frantic barking of the dog would proclaim to the hunter that the “game was up” - up a tree.  If the tree was small, so much the better, the animal was either shaken off the tree, and the dog given an opportunity of testing his metal, or else the coon was shot, and the dog allowed to be in at the finish.  It often happened that the tree was large, and then the scientific part of coon hunting was brought into play.  This was called “shining the coon,” which was done by placing a lantern upon the head of one of the hunters, who would walk around the tree until the reflection of the light located the game.  The coon is a tricky animal, especially if he be an old timer; he would take to rail fences across streams, run along the bottom of shallow streams and jump long distances.  The time for coon hunting was in October, when they would visit corn fields for food at night.  A coon pelt was worth from one dollar to one a dollar and fifty cents in the market.  Sometimes a dog would blunder upon one of those little animals that have large, bushy, black tails and a white stripe down the back, when the odor that filled the night air and enveloped the dog, convinced the canine that he was in the vicinity of a different kind of game.

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