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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Eaton First County Resident

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 27 July 2004
Source:
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 198
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

There were many early pioneers to venture into Warren County shortly before Statehood and after, and from the many histories of these settlers, it seems the County got the cream of the crop. However, the writer shall focus on its first occupant, his life and residence. His name is Jonah Eaton. This story is taken from a paper written and read by George T. O'Neall at the annual meeting of the Miami Valley Pioneers Association in 1889. Its title was, "The Oldest Inhabitant."
Jonah Eaton was reported to have been born about 1735 in New Jersey. His family moved to Pennsylvania when he was a mere child. Young Eaton was amongst a hunting party near Fort Bedford in the summer of 1750 and was captured by a band of Iroquois. He was taken to Presque Isle in Lake Erie where he was totally accepted by the Indians. He was treated kindly and even joined in the hunting parties of the Indian tribe, traveling to New York and occasionally into Pennsylvania.
The French commandant requested all his Indian allies assemble and march to deter General Braddock's march to capture the French encampment at the site of present Pittsburgh. Eaton was engaged in this fateful battle on the side of the French.
In 1758 the English marched against Ft. DuQuesne and Eaton again joined the Indians and the French army. The fort was vacated on November 25 of that year, and Eaton was later transferred to a band of Shawnees, and departed for central and southern Ohio.
The Shawnee Indian leaders seemed to admire young Eaton. He became a favorite of the Shawnee Indian Chief, Red Hawk, and was adopted into his family where he was treated with the utmost kindness. He joined their hunting parties and felt at ease to travel, his exploration taking him to the extremes of his new land. These journeys took him from the Ohio River on the South to the Lakes in the North, from the Muskingum River in the East to the Great Miami River on the West.
Eaton spent six years in this drifter type life. During this time he learned the customs, language and manners of the Indians. Eaton's Indian family life was to end with General Bouquet's victory in November of 1764. At this time the Indians were forced to accept, against their will, a treaty that included the surrender of all white prisoners.
A total change of presence from that of a nomad in the untamed wilderness, to that of civilization, proved disturbing to Eaton. He was now about thirty years of age. A story goes that while Eaton was considered a captive of the Indians, the Indians murdered his only white friend. This event turned the tide and Eaton returned to the white society. He soon quested for action and joined General Dunsmore at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.
He later traveled to Kentucky and served as a guide for General John Bowman in his battle against the Indians on the Little Miami (Battle of Oldtown).
He next served as a guide for General George Rogers Clark in his expedition against the Shawnees at the Battle of Piqua in 1780.
He spent the next three years hunting and roaming over southern Ohio and down into Kentucky. He also spent some time amongst the settlers; however, he desired the peace and contentment of a nomadic life.
While at Fort Pitt, in 1784, he met General Richard Butler who asked him to be an interpreter at the Treaty of Fort Stanwick. Butler was one of the three peace commissioners, while Red Jacket and Cornplanter represented the Indians.
Two years later, he was asked again for his services as an interpreter, this time at the Treaty of Fort Finney at the mouth of the Great Miami River.
General Butler, General Clark and Samuel Parsons were in attendance for the white nation, and representing the Indian nation were the heads of the tribes of the Delawares, Wyandottes and Shawnees. The treaty relinquished the rights of all lands by the Indians east and south of the Great Miami River.
The opening up of the Northwest Territory by land speculators initiated a further need for Jonah Eaton's expertise in his land savvy. Eaton became acquainted with Colonel Richard Anderson who employed him to create topographical maps of the Little Miami Valley. He assisted in drawings of rivers, creeks and landmarks. The drawings were excellent as a resource pertaining to drawing up land warrants without official surveys being drawn. Eaton explored the next fourteen months what are now the counties of Warren, Greene and Clinton. He restricted himself mainly in Warren and Greene opposite the portion forming the Virginia Military Purchase located east of the Little Miami.
Eaton ventured to Louisville, Ky., in 1787, and rejoined Colonel Anderson. He took with him his rather crude maps and a verbal description of his venture. The colonel at this time had been engaged with land handling in Kentucky, but the lands were being settled with such great vigor that he turned his total attention to land later to be named Ohio. (One source said that 40,000 acres were deeded to Eaton for his services. He was given Survey 1732 lying on Anderson's Fork, which empties into Caesar's Creek at New Burlington in Greene County.)
The Louisville endeavor brought more than a huge land acquisition; it brought Jonah Eaton a wife. In no time, he found the woman of his choice had duped him. His disposition was greatly wounded, and he left with his gun and dog for the life he so long adored, the wilderness.
He again returned to this area, the land he so loved, and from 1789 to 1802 he occupied his time hunting and trapping. He was advancing in age at this time, being well into his sixties.
He settled in Survey 57 and prepared himself an unusual home. The site was located in a small valley through which a stream flowed, and which ultimately joined the waters of Caesar's Creek. (It should be mentioned the little stream is known today as Jonah's Run. There is also a church, Jonah's Run Baptist Church, which was in all probability named for Jonah Eaton. It is located two miles east of Harveysburg.) The dwelling consisted of a hollow sycamore tree of extraordinary proportions. The tree was a double one, actually two trees joined to make one. The two elements joined at a height of about seven feet when they then ascended in the form of two separate trunks. The site of the home overlooked a beautiful valley lined with sycamores, elms and oaks. Vines of wild grapes climbed gracefully on the assorted trees. The undergrowth added to the spectacular view from his isolated tree house.
Jonah Eaton's tree-home was located on the north bank of the stream. It was about a half- mile from Caesar's Creek and established in an inlet to shield him from the cold, wintry blasts. The entrance to his home was from the west and stood not more than three feet from the ground. A heavy slab of hewn timber was used for a door; it could be closed and barred from within. The interior of his home was of unusual design; it was about ten feet by seven feet while it varied in heights ranging from five feet at the lowest to seven feet at the highest point.
As time moved on, Eaton made improvements in his tree-home. He structured an addition in the form of an open shed of poles over the front of his residence and covered it with bark. This formed a resting place in which he could merely relax and view the surroundings.
His age simply would not let him lead the active life he once so loved. Peace and contentment were in order. Eaton sought the solace of a retired man, but as the emigration of the population called out, he answered with his explicit knowledge of the land and surroundings. He lived in his tree-home until 1795, and was periodically frequented by people asking advice.
It is believed that Eaton Township was named for him. It was a township created in Warren County, located on the extreme eastern portion, and afterward canceled out. It was established June 28, 1806, and in 1815 was made a part of Clinton County. The retaining of this township would have been a great tribute to Warren County's "first resident."


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This page created 27 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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