SOME PIONEERS WHO PAVED THE WAY
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This file was contributed for use in the OHGenWeb Ross County by: Charles L. Weidinger
Charles L. Weidenger
Aug. 19, 1932 - July 30, 2006
Pioneering landowners in early Ross County were vital in establishing the history of many farming families who did not own their own farmland. While the following names are only a few of those notables, they were important names in the development of my ancestors and the early development of the state of Ohio. These names were HURST, BROWN, and ZURMEHLY. I have not weighed this article down with documentary footnotes. I invite any and all with knowledge of these families to submit suggestions.
Note: I must thank Mrs. Ursula A. Ogden of Kingston, Ohio, a remote relative of Levi Hurst. Her input was vital in understanding the history of this prominent landowner family.
In 1801, Levi and Sophia Badley Hurst moved from their home in Dorchester County, Maryland, to Ross County, Ohio. The move was made by one-horse carts to Wheeling, then in Virginia, by flatboat down the Ohio River to Portsmouth, then again by horse carts to Chillicothe. Both were then 31 years old. They brought with them sons Charles (age 11), James (age 10), Hooper (age 8), William (age 5), daughter Maria (age 3), and son Levi Jr. (age 1). Also with them were Levi's 25 year old brother Thomas W. Hurst, his wife, Elizabeth, age 21, Sophia's father, Samuel Badley, and a Robert McCollister and his family. I must stress here that there was more than one family with the name Hurst in southern Ohio, and also more than one McCollister.
Levi Hurst and his family arrived in southern Union Township north of Chillicothe in September 1802. Three more Hurst sons were born there, Samuel (1803), Thomas W. (1805) and John Nelson (1808). Another daughter, Matilda, was born in 1813. Hooper Hurst married Elizabeth James. Hooper's son, Samuel H. Hurst, was an attorney in Chillicothe, and served with distinction during the American Civil War, advancing to the grade of brevet Major General. In 1896, Samuel H. Hurst and others founded the Ross County Historical Society.
In 1875, this pioneer family held about 485 acres of land consisting of five separate plots in Union Township, between 10 and 12 miles northwest of the city of Chillicothe. The largest of these farms was a 175 acre plot in the name of Levi and Sophia's youngest son, John Nelson Hurst (1808-1889). His father, Levi, died on this farm on 21 February 1860, about 9 months before Johann Tobias Weidinger, his wife, and little son arrived at the Port of Baltimore and made the arduous trip overland to Ohio. Other Hurst children lived nearby on the remaining plots, several of which were deeded in the name of "Nelson" Hurst's nephew, Samuel H. Hurst.
Levi Hurst's death was not the only misfortune which occurred in 1860. Shortly after they arrived in Ross County, Johann and Anna lost a newborn son, the second of their first three children to die as an infant. This occurred in Chillicothe, and little "Johnny" was buried in an unmarked grave in Union Cemetery. "Koonie" Distler Ebenhack's father in law, Johann Adam Ebenhack, was farming land near Yellowbud, a small but booming provisioning and boat repair town along the Ohio and Erie Canal near the Pickaway County line, some 12 miles north. Word likely spread through the Ebenhacks that Johann and Anna Weidinger were looking for a place to settle down on their own. After Levi Hurst's death, his wife Sophia likely moved to one of their other farms nearby, and the young Weidinger family took lease on the John Nelson Hurst property. The actual move may not have occurred until after Sophia Hurst's death on 18 July 1861. Levi and Sophia were buried in a small private family cemetery on their land. The Hurst Cemetery was last recorded by the Ross County Genealogical Society in 1987, but I could not find anything in 1996. The first person to be buried at this location was probably Levi Hurst's brother, Thomas, who died on 18 November 1809, at age 31.
On 6 November 1867, the Bavarian family patriarch, Johann Adam Ebenhack, died near Yellowbud of injuries sustained when he fell from his horse. While records are far from complete or clear, "John" Ebenhack bought a parcel of property from Robert Zurmehly (1818-1893), and his wife Harriet Lutz Zurmehly, a 120 acre plot about three miles west of Yellowbud. His family residence at this location is strongly supported by the fact that today, along the west boundary of this land, there is an "Ebenhack Road."
The remainder of Robert Zurmehly's land is owned today by Mr. and Mrs. Myron Gearhart, and is aptly named "Z-Acres." In studying plat maps of Union Township, I noted several errors. First, the 175 acre farm of John Nelson Hurst was, in 1875, noted as the "John A. Hurst" farm. This must be an error in transcription from documents in Chillicothe. Second, a dry goods and grocery store in the village of Yellowbud was listed as belonging to a "James McCallister." I feel very strongly that this was James McCollister, a simple spelling error.
Early in 1868, Johann Tobias Weidinger and his growing family moved from the Hurst farm to the Brown farm, located on much richer, less rocky land, about a mile west of the Zurmehly and Ebenhack farms. Some Brown family history is now in order.
Born in Hampshire County, Virginia in June 1796, The Rev. Matthew Brown moved with his wife and growing family to Perry County, Ohio, in 1826, and from there to Plain Township, Wood County, west of Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1864. He was a Baptist Minister, a carpenter, and a farmer. Matthew died on his farm on 27 October 1884 at the age of 88. Matthew and his wife, Mary Constance Queen, had 14 children, nine boys and five girls. Their middle child, John W. Brown, born in Virginia on 3 September 1818, later became a relatively prosperous land owner in Pickaway and Ross Counties.
In 1842, John W. Brown married Sarah Colborn, who was born in Perry County, Ohio, on 30 October 1819. About 1843, John W. Brown became acquainted with Job E. Stevenson, a fast-rising attorney and landowner from Chillicothe. Stevenson knew nothing about farming, and found, in John W. Brown, the "perfect" tenant for his large spread. While he never owned Stevenson's farm east of Kinderhook, Ohio, Brown's diaries began each year for seventeen years by stating they were "still living on Job Stevenson's farm of 1300 acres." A son, Cary Brown, was born in Ross County near the town of Yellowbud on 28 November 1860, soon after Brown moved from Stevenson's farm to one of his own properties.
A Weidinger Family Sketch done in 1936 says plainly that the landowner was Cary Brown. This was a minor error, in that Cary was managing several of his father's farm properties. In the sketch, Cary was mentioned as one of those who, along with Johann Weidinger's eldest son, John, convinced the old man, in 1884, to take out citizenship papers to qualify him to vote in the coming general election. I find this interesting, because in 1884, Cary Brown was all of 24 years of age, a very young man to be entrusted to manage valuable farm properties. John Brown's diary also stated that property rentals varied from "$1,000 to as little as 10 cents" (likely per acre per year for rich farmland to scrub hillside brushland).
Johann Tobias Weidinger lived on the Brown family property until the gravely ill Anna Weidinger was moved to Darbyville and there died in November 1888. With that, the initial chapter of our family line came to an end in Ross County, Ohio. John Nelson Hurst died on 19 August 1889, and was buried at the Hurst family cemetery. John W. Brown died in 1898, and was buried at Springbank Cemetery. Cary Brown lived until 1934, and was also interred at Springbank Cemetery. At least some of John Brown's former farm, including the ancient house, is now owned by a Roberts family, and the previously very simple two-story structure has been added to and updated, the owner says it is the oldest house in the immediate area.
In his diaries, John W. Brown made little mention of specific properties and renters. The writings contained items of a more philosophical and personal nature, pertaining to family members, births, illness and deaths. It is too bad that John's son Cary didn't keep a diary. A lot of family background might have been there. However, on 19 January 1888, the following notation appears with the only mention of our family name.
"Road was sheet of ice. I paid George W. Sweyer note in 2nd National Bank of $100. I also went on George Weidinger and Charles Weidinger's note in 2nd National Bank of $100 due in 90 days."
It is of interest to note that $100 in 1880 was worth the buying power of about 5,000 current dollars.
On April 21, 1996, the author made a visit to the areas described. Ebenhack Road, a narrow gravel trail without even a sign to identify it, was closed 1.6 miles from Lutz Road. No houses could be seen along it as far as the eye could see. Further south, there is also nothing left recognizable of the John Nelson Hurst farm or the Hurst Cemetery. The area is totally built-up with houses and trailer sites. In fact, the corner of the Egypt Pike and Cattail Road is now a Union Township Fire Station. While this brief article recognizes only three landowners, they were vital in the history of my family and the development of Ross County.