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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Harveysburg - "Town By The Lake" Originated With Col. Buford

Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 93
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Harveysburg has in recent times been known as the "town by the lake." However, each village has its own history. It is neatly situated about 100 feet above the original course of Caesar's Creek. Its land lies in the Virginia Military District of land distribution. The original owner under this jurisdiction was Colonel Abraham Buford; deed recorded August 6, 1787.
The second proprietor was Rhoden Ham who located on it in March 1815. William Harvey was the next owner and proceeded to lay out Harveysburg in 1828. Harvey divided the town into forty-seven lots along the state road, now known as S.R. 73.
Harveysburg, like many other small communities, was a Quaker settlement. One of the beliefs of the Society of Friends was nonviolence in any form. This encompassed the slavery issue. This small town has on its east side (approximately one-half mile) an old Indian trail called the Bullskin Trace. This trace, or trail, was at one time one of the main routes the Negro slaves used for their escape from Southern oppression. The principle objective of the slaves was to traverse the Northern States and exit into Canada. This trace served the purpose. The Bullskin Trace was an extension of the many trails that wound through the South. It started its Ohio course at the Ohio River, near the town of Rural on S.R. 133 (Rural was washed away in the 1913 flood), east of Cincinnati and wound its way through the State to Detroit, Michigan.
Mrs. Walter McCarren notes that many of the slaves came up from Cincinnati through Lebanon on present U.S. 42 and proceeded east on Middletown Road, which, before the lake project, was complete to Harveysburg.
I have before me a paper written by an early resident of the vicinity of Harveysburg, Jane F. Wales Nicholson. She was born in 1806 and died in 1906. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Wales. I will humbly endeavor to rewrite portions of her story. She writes:
"I can recall many features for our new home which I greatly enjoyed as a child. My father worked on the land all day, sometimes in the evening would be busy in the blacksmith shop. I being small could just reach the great bellows. It was interesting to watch the iron grow red, and then see the sparks fly as it was struck on the anvil. My father made hinges and all the iron work needed for the new brick dwelling, which he soon prepared to build, except nails--these he bought at Cincinnati, and made the purchase by carrying down a load of bacon, which sold at two cents per pound. It took five days to make the journey then from Harveysburg to Cincinnati, two to go and two to return, leaving one for business there.
"There was plenty of game in the woods. It was not unusual to see a flock of thirty or more wild turkeys fly up from the ground and alight on the tall trees. They were fond of the beechnuts that covered the ground.
"Squirrels were abundant, and very destructive traps were set on every few panels of fence around the corn field, and it was the duty of the morning to go around and gather up the dead squirrels and re-set the traps.
"One quiet Sabbath when our parents had gone to Waynesville meeting and we were alone, we were startled to see eight deer walking one after the other, in Indian file down the bank of the creek, and drink from the salt lick near where the bridge now stands.
"There was abundance of native fruit - excellent wild plums, crab apples and wild gooseberries, which made excellent pies when green, cut when ripe the beards hardened to thorns, and made it difficult to eat. There were wild raspberries, and black berries sprang up wherever the ground was cleared.
"The first opening on the new farm was appropriated for an orchard. There were no nurseries near and it was difficult to get fruit trees. One neighbor brought his trees all the way from Kentucky, on horseback - besides peaches and currants. We could get but sixteen apple trees, two of these died and the remaining fourteen were cherished with greatest care.
"Three acres first cleared were sowed in rye the first fall, which ripens early, and would be off in time to sow wheat the next fall. When ripe, my father's hand cut it all with the sickle, in the absence of a wind-mill my mother helped him winnow it with a sheet. Their first little harvest lay piled up on the bare floor, when the officers came and took it all for a muster fine. The Friends ignored all obligations to train for war, and one neighbor south of us on the Miami, had, at great pains, collected a flock of forty Merino sheep, the first in that section of the country, and the officer took them every one to pay his muster fine.
"Improvements of all kinds came slowly but surely - compared with the present comforts, the first settlers endured many privations. There were no washboards; the soiled clothes had to be rubbed with the hands or pounded in a barrel. The houses had very little except necessary furniture, of which the loom, the wheel, the cards and reel, the break and hackle were an essential part. Every new farm had its flax field. The fabrics for clothing and bedding were made in the home; and the two Miami's, which have since turned so many mills for manufactories, then flowed free from duty along their wooden banks. The improvements and inventions have been greater in the last 70 years than ever before. In the next 70 they may be still greater.
"The recreations and amusements were determined by the necessities and industries of the time. For young people, apple cuttings; for men, huskings and log-rollings, while matrons would quilt and pick wool.
"Travel often interrupted by swollen streams over which there were at first, no bridges; heavy rains and melting snow would so increase the little runs along the hills that fed Caesar's Creek, that it was often impassable at the ford.
"Many and frequent were the water-bound travelers waiting for its fall. I recall one incident that caused great anxiety: The Friends who had discarded form in worship retained some rigid ones in regards to dress; one of the desirable symbols was the Quaker bonnet, its crown of stiff folds of intricate pleats, was what few bonnet makers attempted. Those who could send to Philadelphia for their bonnets; in a large assembly, as a Yearly Meeting we could always tell the Philadelphia bonnet although they were also made at Richmond and at Waynesville.
"There was to be a wedding at Friends' meeting in Wilmington. The bride and her attendants came to Waynesville for their bonnets, and sent for them a day or two before the ceremony. The messenger did his errand, and came by on his way back on horse-back, well loaded with hand-boxes, and finding Caesar's Creek roaring too loud between the banks, he could not cross.
"He stopped with us. Next morning the creek was rising; he waited all day - no fall. Next morning was the day of the wedding. The creek still too high to ford, what was to be done? Would the wedding take place without the bonnets? A council was held, S.G. Welch, an obliging young man, volunteered to see them safely over the angry stream in time for meeting. He did so by going down the stream a few miles to a shallow ford, and got them there in season. Long afterward, he had the happiness to see his nephew married to a daughter of the bride."

First School in the Neighborhood

"We did not have books and papers in such numbers as are seen on the tables today; but such as we had were chaste and good. I have now the copy of Stearne's Reflection that my mother used to read, and several volumes of Addison's Spectator that her father loved.
"There was a great desire among the people to educate their children. Some other neighborhoods had schools, but they were far from us, and thick woods intervening. Father and a few others met to select a place on his farm for the school house. The intended patrons all volunteered their work. They brought their axes and cut the trees and cleared a place for the house. They felled a large oak tree to make clap-boards for the roof and puncheons for the floor. Next day they brought horses and log chains to drag up the logs - a froe to rive the boards and dress the puncheons.
"The chimney was built of sticks filled with mud, some stone slabs for the back wall, no jams - the fire-place occupied the entire end of the room. Stones instead of andirons held up the burning logs. Three or four logs from, four to six feet long with scaly bark between, made the cabin shine with light, and feel warm and comfortable. Boards were nailed over the openings of logs inside plastered with mud on the outside to keep out the cold. A board door with openings for light completed the first house of education between the Miami River and Caesar's Creek. But how were the children to find their way there? It was all dense wood excepts a field now and then cleared and planted in corn and pumpkins. The fathers took the course, and blazed the trees, and made a path through the under-brush. And over this narrow road through the woods, young feet traveled, many and many a day. We were afraid of the wild hogs. They were ugly looking creatures - red in color, with sharp noses and tusks. In winter they lived on acorns and beech-mass, under the dry leaves in summer they lived on the mussels which abounded in the creeks.
"On our way to school, we had our little trees picked out to climb, in case we should meet a bear, as we were told they could not climb small trees. Our first teacher was Judith Welch. It was feared that a young woman could not manage boys, but she gave a good satisfaction for several months. A large tree felled before the door, served for a table. To this we carried our blankets and ate our mid-day meal.
"When the nooning was over the teacher came to the door and called 'books, books!' Bells were scarce in those days - we could hardly get one for the cow, and had none to spare for the school.
"The next teacher was Robert Way, a Pennsylvanian, but had taught in Athens, Ohio. He brought the three readers: the Introduction, English reader and Murray's Sequel; also a grammar by John Comley, a Quaker preacher. I still have those old books.
"Some one passed the school house one day and found that all was still and orderly; they mistook the quiet for idleness, and reported no learning there, because the pupils did not 'say out of their books.' They called a meeting to investigate and the teacher had to explain his method. He was a member of our family a part of time--was a diligent student and studied late at night, wishing exercise before retiring, that he might sleep well, he would walk briskly, up and down the yard from the gate to the house. Passersby who did not understand this gymnastic exercise, reported him. The neighbors watched him and became alarmed, fearing reason was dethroned; this also had to be explained. He had many prejudices to contend with. One of his older pupils, F.K., had a turning lathe. Mr. Way got him to turn a sphere of wood upon which he traced the countries, the zones, and meridians - thus making a globe to study geography from.
"The young man's mother was distressed, she thought it blasphemous for man to imitate the works of God. She was, however, a strong character in the community, a German by birth--had united with Friends in the South where she walked seven miles to their meeting, often carrying a child in her arms, but such was her early training that she could not divest her mind of superstition. Robert Way remained a popular and useful teacher through a long life. He afterwards taught my children and later, had a school for boys in Springfield, Ohio.
"The next teacher was Isaac Thornburg, a native of North Carolina and a graduate of one of her institutions. He was learned in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, which few of his pupils needed. I remember, Owen Evans, Cornelius Clark and Webster Welch studied the languages. We had but few school months in the year, for the children, both large and small assisted their parents at home.
"A school in the O'Neal neighborhood was superior to ours in numbers. By boarding at our grandfather's and walking two miles we were able to attend this.
"The first teacher I remember there was Morris Place, a Friend from Richmond, Ind. He was succeeded by Thos. O'Brien, also a Friend and just from Ireland. He was a cousin to William Horton, who was also from Erin, a fine scholar and successful teacher.
"Thos. O'Brien had the hot temper and old country severity in governing children, which did not agree with the liberty loving natures under our institution. Aside from this, he was pleasant, kind, a very capable teacher; but his threats, 'I'll flog you if you don't do thus and so,' rang continually through the room, and he too often put in into practice. Both my nature and training revolted at this, for there never was a switch in my father's house.
"One day, in the forenoon, he announced that he would whip M.E. before night. I did not relish my dinner and trembled all day for fear the threat would be executed. I don't remember the offense, a light one, but he was to be made an example before the school. "This little boy, not over twelve, took off his linsey coat and bore the stripes bravely. I felt like going to the boy and comforting him. I could not study any more that day. I found an excuse to remain at home next day for fear of a repetition of this sad practice. If teachers and parents would practice kindness and forbearance, they would lay a much better foundation for knowledge and goodness, than if they used threats and punishment.
"Outside of school he was a refined, genial man, very intelligent and good company. He was a frequent guest of my parents, and afterwards often sat at my own table as long as he lived. I have met many of his pupils in Indiana, and we have tried to excuse his severity, and use of the rod as a remnant of the arbitrary rule of his own country. Let us hope there is a reformation there as well as here in the treatment of tender children, whose unfolding minds look to us for help and strength.
"Owing to the enterprise of Dr. Jesse Harvey, Harveysburg was favored with a high school and boarding house to accommodate pupils from a distance and those too remote to attend as day pupils. Excellent teachers were employed, David S. Burson, who graduated at Friends College, Haverford, Penn., and William Horton, before mentioned. Dr. Harvey was fond of the natural sciences, and had besides a botanical garden, a good museum, and from time to time specimens of wild animals.
"Early in the twenties my father hired a colored laborer to help him clear the land, which was a very difficult thing to do. He gave one man the use of twelve acres for five years if he would deaden the timber and cut down all the trees that were one foot in diameter and under.
"This black man, known as Sam Green, came from South Carolina with Wm. Henley. He had 'bought his sef,' to use his own expression, vis., had hired his time of his master - worked for wages elsewhere - and kept the overplus, and after it had accumulated to the price of his manhood, paid this to his master, and by this means made a present of himself to himself. He was honest and industrious and assisted in clearing many a field of stumps and roots that others might turn the soil with an uninterrupted plow-share.
"But as old age crept on, the horrors of his early life in slavery, stood so vividly before him, that he became deranged. He would hide around in fields and woods, thinking that the slave-hunters were seeking him to take him back to slavery. He carried with him a long stick into which he had driven nails to defend himself.
"Once he stayed out so long that he was almost starved. My sympathy with him was great, he confided all his fears to me and asked me to conceal him. I took him up in the garret where I hoped he would rest; but he stole out and went again to the woods. Shortly after he was found sitting up by a tree, dead. This was a very sorrowful case. My interest in him prepared me for further work which I afterwards had to do for the poor unfortunate Negro in his efforts for freedom.
"About this time there were many slaves fleeing from their masters and from blood-hounds on their track. On their way to Canada they required shelter, food, clothing and transportation. In this capacity I worked for twenty years - until all were free by the Emancipation Proclamation. Hundreds that passed through, stopped at my house - ate at my table - I heard their tales of hardship; their desire for freedom, and the danger and sacrifice they were making to obtain it. Many had left near and dear relatives behind; some mothers left babes in the cradle.
"Nearly every one had a story of tragedy of pathos that will fade with the memory that now holds them. In the record of one year the number that came was eighty-six, but in other years I know we had many more.
"We were but one short night's ride from Cincinnati, and to our home came the slave, Lewis, whose case is notable, because the first tried under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The trial was in Cincinnati, and lasted many days.
"John Jollif aided by Rutherford B. Hayes tried all the technicalities of the law to secure his freedom, but in vain. He sat in the court room between his master and the state marshal who had him in custody.
"While the sentence was being read that remanded him to slavery, Lewis slipped his chair back quietly, arose, and before the judge had finished reading, stepped into a group of colored people conveniently near, one handed him a hat, another pointed to the door.
"The court room was crowded but a way opened to let him pass. In a moment he was in the street and gone, before the multitude in the court house could realize what had happened. He made his way out of town and hid for a few hours in a colored grave yard.
"At night the sexton brought him to a friend's house in the city. In the disguise of a woman they took him to the basement of a Presbyterian Church, where he remained concealed for several weeks in one of the committee rooms, his meals being carried to him.
"One morning he came out dressed as a nurse with a veil over his face and a child in his arms, took a seat in a carriage with the pastor and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Boynton, and before sunset they were at our fireside.
"A little daughter, was rather astonished to see an awkward molatto woman go upstairs, and come down a brisk slender young man.
"The foiled master claimed one thousand dollars from the marshal for the loss of his slave: but by compromise he received but eight hundred.
It is known that the marshal, disguised as a Quaker, visited, under various pretenses, our and other neighborhoods of Friends in hopes of finding Lewis and saving his money."

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