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Samuel Highway's Journey To Waynesville


Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 11 February 2005


The History of Warren County Ohio
Part IV Township Histories
Wayne Township by Judge John W. Keys
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)


The first settlers at Waynesville were accompanied on the journey, from Philadelphia down the Ohio to Columbia and thence to the site of Waynesville, by Francis Baily, a young Englishman of education and means, who afterward became well known as the author of some valuable works and a promoter of the science of astronomy. Baily's "Journal of a Tour in the Unsettled Parts of

North America in 1796 and 1797," was published at London, in 1856, after the death of the author. The following liberal quotations are made from that work:

"I set off on the 1st of September, 1796, to make a tour of the Western country. * * I was in company with a gentleman by the name of Highway, who was going down to the Northwestern settlement to form a plantation." [He then describes their travel by horseback to Baltimore, where Mr. Highway bought his goods and had them hauled by wagons to Pittsburg; he continues their travel by horseback with a fine description of the country, towns, etc., until their arrival at Pittsburg, having traveled that way about 300 miles. At Pittsburg, Highway bought a flat-boat twelve feet wide, thirty-six feet long, drawing eighteen inches of water, and loaded into it over ten tons, and, the river being very low, they were required to wait for a rise. ]

'' Thursday, November 24, 1796—The river having risen these last few days, * * we started from Pittsburg this afternoon about 3 o'clock; however, we did not proceed over four miles down as the stream was very slow, and we were afraid to venture in the night in consequence of the riffles, which were not completely covered. Therefore, seeing some other boats near the shore, we made toward them and joined them for that evening. * * As the gentleman who traveled with me was going to establish a settlement on the Miami River, he had got every article that he thought would be necessary in his new habitation; therefore, we were not so badly accommodated as some of the boats were, who went sometimes most miserably supplied, with scarcely a covering to the boat or a blanket to lie down on, and barely a pot or a kettle to dress what provisions they might chance to meet with. We had laid in a sufficient quantity of beef, mutton, flour, bacon and what other provisions we thought we might want, and we had three or four good feather beds and plenty of bedding; and, as it was very cold weather, we stopped every crevice we conveniently could, and made ourselves a very comfortable habitation. *****

'' Friday, November 25, 1796—By daylight, we started in company with another boat. * * We stopped this night opposite the mouth of Big Beaver Creek; * * the wind was high and the weather very cold, the effects of which we found next morning, Saturday, November 26, for we observed several large pieces of ice floating down the river. * * The next morning, Sunday, November 27, having proceeded about two miles farther on the river, we observed two other boats made fast to the shore and accordingly joined them.

* * Wednesday, November 30, the river having cleared itself of ice, we determined to proceed. * * Thursday, December 1, we got fast on a riffle near Brown's Island; * * we got off without any danger on lightening the boat.

* * The next day, Friday, December 2, 1796, we met with a disaster which threatened us with very disagreeable consequences, but from which we were happily relieved without experiencing any material loss. It was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon; the river was very full of ice, and we were floating along at a (slow pace, when, about a mile above the town of Wheeling (where there was a riffle), we got aground, and all our endeavors to get her off were ineffectual and no remedy was left but to unload the boat. Accordingly, we loaded a little skiff which we had with us, and sent her down to the town; and this we repeated twice before it grew dark; but our endeavors to get her off were still ineffectual, and we were obliged to remain in this situation all night. * * Early next morning, Saturday, December 3, we sent another skiff load down to the town, and, a flat coming down the river about breakfast-time, we got the men to stop and we then unloaded the boat sufficiently to let her float down to the town. * * Wednesday, December 7, after laying in a fresh stock of

provisions at this place and repairing the little damage, we pushed off from the shore and proceeded down the river. *******

''Thursday, December 8, 1796, we floated about 6, and at 12 we put ashore. * * The weather had been very cold for several days and the river had continued to fall, so that we determined to moor our boat in some place of safety, where she might not be exposed to the logs and large trees which were continually drifting down the river, and there to wait for a change of weather.

''Accordingly, the next day, Friday, December 9, 1796, Highway and myself walked down the banks of the river about five miles to a place called Fish Creek, and, to our sorrow, found it completely blocked up with ice and frozen over for several miles down, so that it was absolutely impossible to proceed. We observed four or five boats on the opposite shore who were in the same predicament with ourselves. Having satisfied ourselves in this respect, we returned home to our boat, and, the next day, Saturday, December 10, we dropped down the river about a mile to a place which we had observed yesterday in our walk, and which we conceived more secure from the bodies drifting down the river than the one we were in. Having moored ourselves, as we conceived, in a place of safety, and having every prospect of passing the winter in this situation, we began to apply ourselves to laying in a good stock of provisions. Mr. Bell's boat was with us, and another boat, which was proceeding down the river, joined us, and we all lay moored together, so that there were fourteen or fifteen of us in company, and we every day sent out some of the men into the woods with their guns to hunt for deer, turkeys, bears or any other animal fit for food.

"Wednesday, December 21, we were awakened out of our sleep with a noise like thunder, and, jumping out of our bed, we found the river was rising and the ice breaking up. All attempts would be feeble to describe the horrid crashing and tremendous destruction which this event occasioned on the river. Only conceive a river near 1,500 miles long, frozen to a prodigious depth (capable of bearing loaded wagons from its source to its month), and this river, by a sudden torrent of water, breaking those bands with which it had so long been fettered! Conceive this vast body of ice put in motion at the same instant, and carried along with an astonishing rapidity, grating with a most tremendous noise against the sides of the river and bearing down everything that opposed its progress—the tallest and stoutest trees obliged to submit to its destructive fury and hurried along with the general wreck. In this scene of confusion and desolation, what was to be done? We all soon left the boat, in order for every one to provide for his own personal safety; but, seeing the precautions we had taken the day before, prevented the ice from coming upon us as soon as it otherwise would have done, and that there was a chance, though at great risk, of saving some, if not all the things from the boat, we set to, as earnestly as we could to unload her.

"There were near eleven tons of goods in her, the principal of which were implements of husbandry designed for Mr. Highway's plantation; the rest consisted of articles of barter intended for the Indians and the provisions and other necessaries for our journey.

"We, in the first place, endeavored to secure these last mentioned; and then we set about getting out the others, some of which were very bulky, weighing upward of 500 pounds.

"We had not proceeded in the undertaking above a quarter of an hour when a large sheet of ice came against our boat and stove in one side of her; we saw it coming, and happily escaped from the boat before it reached us. She was immediately filled with water, but, as she was near the shore and al-

rapid rate, and, as we knew if we once lost sight of her we should never see her more, and, as we saw there was still a chance of saving some things from the wreck (though at the risk of our lives), which might tend to make our situation more comfortable while we were obliged to stay here, and not leave us utterly bereft of every necessary, we determined upon making one more effort; therefore, jumping into the boat up to our middle in water, we continued to work near three hours amidst vast fields of ice, which were continually floating by us, and whose fury we would escape when they made toward us, by being warned by one of our party whom we set on the bank to watch. In this manner did we persevere till we had got most of the things out of the boat in one of the coldest nights ever remembered in this country; the thermometer was 17 degrees below zero, and so intense was the cold that the iron chain which fastened our boat, had the same effect on our hands as if they had been burned with a hot iron.

"Further, while we were in the boat this last time, the moment we raised our legs above the water (in walking), our stockings froze to them before they were put down again, as tight as if bound with a garter! In such a situation, and in such severe weather, it is a wonder we had not perished, and possibly, we might, had not the river, which was now rising rapidly, completely covered our boat and obliged us to desist from our attempt. Thus went our boat; and thus went every hope of our proceeding on our journey; thus were all our flattering prospects cut short, and none left but the miserable one of fixing our habitation on these inhospitable shores. It was still dark when the event happened, and this, added to the desolation which was making around us, whose power we could hear but not discern, heightened the effect of our forlorn situation.

"Some women who were of our party had kindled a fire on the banks; and when we saw that no more could be done, we took our blankets, and, clearing away the snow, lay ourselves down before it, and, overcome with fatigue, gave ourselves up to rest. Some of the party were so affected by the intense cold, and by so long exposure in the water, that their feet was frost-bitten; others had their legs swelled up in large knots as big as an egg. As to myself, I felt no ill effects from either,

"When morning approached, a scene most distressing presented itself to our view. The river was one floating wreck. Nothing could be discerned amidst the vast bodies of floating ice (some of which were as big as a moderate-sized houses, but trees, which had been torn up from the banks, and the boats of many a family, who had scarcely time to escape unhurt from such an unlooked for event, and whose whole property (perhaps scraped together, to form a settlement in this distant Territory), was now floating down, a prey to the desolating flood. Canoes, skiffs, flats, in fact, everything which was exposed to its fury, was hurried along to one general ruin.

"As daylight advanced, we had also an opportunity of seeing in what situation we stood ourselves; and here, instead of finding any ray of comfort or hope, we observed our misfortunes increasing upon us, for the bank where we lay was fully fifty feet high and nearly perpendicular—so much so that it could not be ascended or descended without great difficulty. There happened to be a little bit of level where the boat was, and where we placed the things we had preserved from the wreck; but the wafer was rising so rapidly that it had almost covered this place, and we were under the necessity (worn out as we were) of carrying them still higher up the bank, or they would have shared the fate of our vessel. This was a most laborious undertaking, and to have hauled them to the top of the bank would have taken us some days; we were, therefore, un-.

der the necessity of hauling them up one by one, about two or three feet at a time, and lodge them behind the trees which grew on the bank, and which prevented their rolling back into the river; and this we were obliged to continue to do until we saw the river had ceased rising; and then we left them for a day or two, in order to rest ourselves from our fatigue and to fix up some kind of habitation to protect us from the inclemency of the weather.

"Having thus happily escaped from this danger and saved most of our property from the flood, we set about erecting a covering under which to lodge it; and this we did with a number of blankets and some coarse linen which we had brought with us; it was a rough sort of building, but such an one as answered our purpose in the situation we were in. We made it by fixing two poles in the ground, about ten or twelve feet asunder, and laying another traversely at the top of them. This was the front of our tent and was left always open; the back and sides were formed by straight poles leaning against the horizontal one, which was placed traversely across, and over them were thrown blankets, etc.; this secured us, in a measure, from the rain, which ran off almost as fast as it fell; and, in order to keep off the cold, we kept a large fire burning in the front of our tent; and thus circumstanced, we endeavored to make ourselves as comfortable as we could, consoling ourselves that it might have been worse with us, and that even now we were not so badly off as many of those who had descended the river this season.

"Here we found full employment for some time in drying our goods, which had got wet when the ice stove the boat. Some of the packages were so much frozen as to take three days constantly standing before the fire ere we could get out their contents to dry them. This took us near three weeks, during which time we had got into more comfortable lodgings. In the neighborhood of this place we had found a log house, which appeared to have been used for the purpose of keeping fodder for cattle. It was open on all sides between the logs, but this we soon remedied by lining the whole with blankets and coarse linen which before we had covered our tent with. We also built up a chimney in it, and had our fire wholly within doors; so that now we began to look a little more in order, though there was no flooring to the house, neither was there any window, for all the light we had came down the chimney, which was large and wide, or in at the door; however, this was a luxury with which we could dispense, considering the hardships we had gone through; therefore, hauling all our goods to this place and stowing them under this roof, we may not improperly be said to have commenced housekeeping. This was on the 24th of December, and, as it was about a mile from where we were, we made a sledge for the convenience of dragging our goods to the house, or we should never have accomplished it. We had four horses aboard with us, which expedited us in this undertaking very much.

"December 25, Christmas Day, two of our party being ill with the fatigues we had undergone on the 21st, the task of superintending the conveyance of our goods devolved upon me. We had been employed at it the whole of yesterday, and, as soon as daylight approached this morning, we began the same career again—nor did we cease this routine, except to take the scanty pittance we had saved from the wreck, till the setting of the sun, and our weary limbs told us it was time to close the scene once more. * * Circumstanced as we were, we were under the necessity of getting another boat to carry us on; but ere we could come to any resolution of this kind, or determine where we could get it accomplished, we had the mortification to see the river frozen over once more and close up as fast as ever; this did not prevent us from getting a boat ready against it should break up again. Accordingly, two of the men who accompanied us, being pretty good mechanics, we dispatched them off to

Grave Creek across the woods, where they might have the advantage of a saw to saw the planks for the boat (for as to all other tools we had plenty of them with us) and where they might have the assistance of more hands if required. Accordingly, about the middle of this month (January), they set out for Grave Creek, taking with them all the tools which they might have occasion for in their undertaking; and they set about felling some trees immediately and soon put their work in a state of forwardness. But what relieved us most in our distress was their meeting with a supply of gunpowder, which, though small, was very acceptable to us, as we were reduced to our last charge and were in a great dilemma what to do, as we depended on our gun for our daily food.

"Whilst they were getting the boat ready in this manner, we would occasionally take our guns and go over to see them and encourage them in their undertaking. These two men had lately come from England, and, Mr. H. meeting with them at Philadelphia, gave them £50 currency for their services for two years, and they were now going down with him to help him form his settlement on the Miami River; they had got their wives with them, which, together with another person, Mr. Highway and myself (seven in all), formed our whole company. But what is very remarkable, and what may never happen to seven other people who were traveling near 4,000 miles from their country, we happened to be all English. This made it very pleasant and in this distressing situation in which we were, even to talk of England, afforded us pleasure; and it was a conversation in which we all could feelingly join, for, in the wilds of America, all distinctions of rank are necessarily laid aside.

"January 31, 1797—The river which had been frozen up near five weeks, broke up again to-day, with a repetition of all those destructive circumstances which attended it the last time, and we had the anxiety of beholding its ravages.
* * We made another visit to our men who were engaged in building the boat, and, expediting it as much as possible, we had the satisfaction of seeing her launched on Friday, February 17, and the next day, February 18, we brought her down to the place where we lay. This boat was thirteen feet wide and forty feet long; * * it was about 9 o'clock in the evening when she arrived, * * and before daylight the next morning, February 18, we got up and proceeded to load the boat. This took up the whole day, so that, it was next morning, February 20, 1797, Monday, about 10 o'clock in the forenoon, when we pushed off from the shore, and, on bidding a final adieu to our old habitation, proceeded down the river on our journey. *******

"Monday, February 27—About half-past 3 o'clock we came to Columbia—our long-wished-for port—having, through unforeseen difficulties and unavoidable delays, been six months on our journey. We put our boat into the mouth of the Little Miami River, and my friend Highway having some business to do with a gentleman in the town, whose house was about a mile off, he took a canoe and went down to him this afternoon and did not return until quite late. Mr. Highway had purchased, in company with two other gentlemen of this place, 30,000 or 40,000 acres of land on the banks of the Little Miami and about forty miles up that river, and he was now going to form a plantation on that land and encourage settlers to do the same. He was down here about twelve months ago and made the contract He gave Judge Symmes $1.25 per acre for it. * * Highway informed me that nearly half his land was sold and a great part of it settled; the price he asked for it was $2 per acre; * * the lots in town which he had laid out were $6; they consist of a half acre of ground, and you were obliged to build a house in a certain time.

"Highway remained here, housed his goods, sold his boat, etc., and hired two wagons to take what goods they could, and, on March 4, 1797, the two wagons started, accompanied by a guide, to conduct them through the wilder-

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ness and three or four pioneers to clear the road of trees. * * And, on the 6th of March, Dr. Bane and myself started about noon, accompanied by several others in the neighborhood, some of whom were tempted by curiosity and others with a prospect of settling there. We were mounted on horses and had each a gun, and across our saddles we had a large bag containing some corn for our horses and provision for ourselves, as also some blankets. * * We kept the road as long as we could, and, when that would not assist us any farther, we struck out into the woods and toward sundown found ourselves about twenty miles from Columbia; here, having spied a little brook running at the bottom of a hill, we made a halt, and, kindling a fire, we fixed up our blankets into the form of a tent, and having fed both ourselves and our horses, we laid ourselves down to rest, one of us by turns keeping watch, lest the Indians should steal our horses. The next morning, Tuesday, March 7, as soon as it was daylight, we continued our journey, and the middle of the day overtook our friend Highway almost worn out with fatigue. * * His wagons had been overturned twice or thrice—in fact, he related to us such a dismal story of the trials, both of patience and mind, which he had undergone, that I verily believe if the distance had been much greater, he either would have sunk under it or formed his settlement on the spot. We encouraged him with a prospect of a speedy termination and the hopes of better ground to pass over, and with this his spirits seemed to be somewhat raised.

"We all encamped together this night and made ourselves as happy and comfortable as possible. My friend Highway also seemed to put on the new man, and from this and from his being naturally of a lively turn, we found that it was a great deal the want of society which had rendered him so desponding and out of spirits, for, after we had cooked what little refreshment we had brought with us and finished our repast, he sang us two or three good songs (which he was capable of doing in a masterly style), and seemed to take a pleasure in delaying as long as he could that time which we ought to have devoted to rest.

"The next morning, Wednesday, the 8th of March, by daylight, our cavalcade was in motion and some of the party rode on first to discover the spot, for we were traveling without any other guide than what little knowledge of the country the men had acquired by hunting over it. I could not but with pleasure behold with what expedition the pioneers in front cleared the way for the wagons. There were but three or four of them and they got the road clear as fast as the wagon could proceed. While we were proceeding on at this rate, we observed at some distance before us, a human being dart into the woods, and endeavor to flee from us. Ignorant of what this might mean, we delayed the wagons, and some of us went into the woods and tracked the footsteps of a man for some little distance, when suddenly a negro made his appearance from behind some bushes and hastily inquired whether there were any Indians in our party or whether we had seen any. The hideousness of the man's countenance (which was painted with large red spots on a black ground) and his sudden appearance startled us at first, but soon guessing his situation we put him beyond all apprehension and informed him that he was perfectly safe. He then began to inform us that he had been a prisoner among the Indians ever since the close of the last American war, and that he had meditated his escape ever since he had been in their hands, but that never till now had he been able to accomplish it. He asked us what course the nearest town lay from us, and, after telling him, he said that the Indians no doubt had been pursuing him ever since they had missed him, and that he intended to escape to the first town for protection. He said that they had used him remarkably well ever since he had been with them, treating him as one of their own children, and

doing everything in their power to render his situation comfortable. They had given him a wife and a mother (it is their usual practice to put white people whom they wish to encourage to come among them, under the protection of some matron who is called his mother) and plenty of land to cultivate if he chose it, and the liberty of doing everything but making his escape. With all these inducements, he said he could not give up the idea of never seeing again those friends and relatives whom he left in his early days. This man, when he was taken prisoner, was a slave to a person in Kentucky, and, though amongst the Indians he enjoyed liberty and all the comforts which can be expected in a state of nature, and which were more (I may safely pronounce) than when he tasted of the bitter cup of slavery, yet was this man who so lately enjoyed all the blessings of heaven, going to render up a voluntary slave to his former master; for what! That he might there once more embrace those friends and relatives from whom he had been so long separated. We could but look upon the man with an eye of pity and compassion, after giving him something to pursue his journey with, and desiring him to follow our track to Columbia, we separated.

"About 3 or 4 o'clock the same afternoon, we had the satisfaction of seeing the Little Miami River; here we halted, for it was on the banks of this river that the town was laid out, and we were soon joined by our other companions, who had proceeded on first, and who informed us that they had recognized the spot about half a mile up the river. We accordingly went on and got the goods out of the wagons that night, so that they might return again as soon as they thought proper; and here we could not but congratulate our friend Highway upon his arrival at the seat of his new colony. He appeared heartily glad that his journey was at an end, and he seemed to eye the ground and the country about with that degree of secret pleasure which a man may be conceived to take in viewing a spot which, in point of cultivation, was to be the work of his own hands; he seemed to anticipate his labors and fancy he saw fruitful corn-fields and blushing orchards in every object he beheld, and expressed a secret satisfaction in thinking he should end his days in this delightful country.

"The next morning, nothing was to be heard but the sound of the ax resounding through the woods. Every one who was expert at that art was gone out to cut down trees to build our friend a house, and before night they had got several of the logs laid and the house raised several feet. They all joined cheerfully in this work. * * While the major part were engaged in this necessary employment, Dr. Bane and myself and two of the men took our guns and a couple of axes and went bear-hunting. We had discovered marks of several in coming along, and we were now going to see if we could shoot some of them, in order to furnish ourselves with provision. * * It is easily discoverable whether a tree has a hole in it, and it may also be easily ascertained whether there is a bear in it or not, for in climbing up the trees they scratch off the bark in such a manner as to leave an indelible track through the whole winter; when, therefore, the hunters have found one of the trees in which they imagine a bear to be lodged, they set about cutting it down, which those who are used to it will very soon do, and three or four of the party, with loaded rifles, will plant themselves at a little distance off, and in the direction where they expect the tree to fall. As soon as the tree comes to the ground, bruin starts from his hiding-place and endeavors to flee into the woods, but the person who stands nearest to the course which he is going to pursue, immediately aims his piece and most probably kills him; however, if he should only wound him, the bear will generally turn upon his attacker, and, in this case, the others come to his assistance and put an end to the contest by shooting him through the head.

"This being a new species of diversion to me, I embraced with pleasure the opportunity of going with them to enjoy it. We had not proceeded far in the woods ere we discovered a hole in the top of a lofty oak, whose diameter was upward of three feet at the bottom. * * These immense trees are generally those to which bears fly—in fact, no others of a smaller size could contain them at a height of sixty or seventy feet from the ground. We saw evi-ent [sic] traces of his claws on the bark of the tree, and it was soon resolved that the tree should come down. Accordingly, our two men set at it, and when they had nearly got through, we took our appointed stations to watch the egress of the tyrant of the woods. In a short time, the immense trunk began to give way, and, carrying all the lesser trees before it, fell with a tremendous crash upon the ground; bruin, finding his habitation in motion, began to look out before it reached the ground, and, with a sudden spring, arrived there first. Immediately, Dr. Bane leveled his piece and shot him through the body, but only so as to wound him, and the bear began to turn on him. * * This afforded me time to come round to Dr. Bane's assistance, when I shot the animal through the head and put a period to his existence. After that we left him to our men to carry to our camp, whilst we went to discover the haunts of some others, and in this expedition we killed two or three deer and saw a great quantity of wild turkeys, so that we had not any prospect of extreme want whilst we were here. After this, we returned home and received the thanks of our party for supplying them so sumptuously with provision. This diversion I pursued as often as the weather favored almost every day I was here. * *

"Friday, March 31, 1797—I had now been with my friends near a month, during which time I had an opportunity of observing the steps which are taken in first settling the country. It opened quite a new field to me, as it must to every one who has never been witness to it."

(Here he enters into a lengthy description of the country, soil and timber and the progress of the settlers in building, laying out gardens, prospects, etc., which I omit.)

"Having, as I observed before, been with my friend near a month, I began to think of leaving him and pursuing my journey down the river. It was my intention to go down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans—a city in the Spanish dominions, * * and from thence to return to New York by sea. A long voyage was before me. * * I determined upon taking the early part of spring, that I might have the whole summer before me. Accordingly, as Mr. Highway was going to Columbia this morning (March 31), I determined to accompany him and to bid adieu (perhaps forever) to this little society of which I had seen the first rise. * * Furnishing ourselves, therefore, with a little provision, and mounting our horses about 10 o'clock this morning, we struck into the woods. * * We proceeded on our journey, and, before the second day was closed, we reached Columbia, where Dr. Bane was expecting us."

The foregoing narrative illustrates the hardships of the early settlers in reaching the West, and is a fair illustration of nearly all. Perhaps all did not encounter the same incidients and hardships, but the majority experienced severe privations. Not so now, when all parts of the country can be reached within a short time by railroads. It may be of interest to know what became of Baily. On the 3d of April, 1797, he boarded a flat-boat at Cincinnati, and in that manner went to Orleans and the Southern country; returned by horseback through the country to Knoxville. Tenn., and, on the 28th of January, 1798, boarded a ship at New York for England and arrived at Bristol March 1, 1798.

FOOTNOTES: [a place to add additional information that you might want to submit]


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