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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Early Days Of The Steddom Family

Dallas Bogan on 28 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The third annual meeting of the Steddom descendants was held on Waynesville Road at the Turtlecreek Friends Meeting House, Tuesday, August 14, 1916. Rain showers had dampened the morning hours, but it did not lessen the enthusiasm of the family members. It had been almost 112 years since the Steddom family had settled in the area of Oregonia. The family owned large tracts of land all up and down the Little Miami River in Turtlecreek Township. The 1875 Atlas shows the land ownership for the entire family. Henry Steddom owned 301 acres just south of the Wilmington Road, which extended to the river, or to Emmons Road.
Samuel Steddom owned a tract of 111 acres just south of Henry's property. Moses owned some 395 acres on both sides of the Oregonia Road.
Land holdings by the Steddoms show a real estate possession of over 1,400 acres. The combined acreage owned by the families of the Steddom, Hollingsworth and Kersey's in the Oregonia area show a total of over 2,000 acres.
A history disclosing family traditions and incidents was written and read by Prof. W. Rufus Kersey during the 1916 reunion. It is quite lengthy, but the substance shall be revealed in this text.
Prof. Kersey starts his account by telling of the Steddoms who settled in the area in the winter of 1804. They were described as well behaved, law biding, industrious and frugal.
Their protest against slavery took the form of migration with Waynesville and vicinity becoming the escape route from this immense oppression.
The Quakers declared neutrality during the stirring times of the Revolution. Men of this religious faith were compelled to leave their homes and become "outliers," hiding in the pine thickets. The ladies left at home would conceal food in a number of places in the hope that the men would find at least some of it during their period of exile.
Life at Bush River in South Carolina was a harsh one, but so was frontier life in the grand unexplored land of the Northwest Territory.
A general route from North Carolina to Lebanon was by way of Newberry County, which led by way of Greenville, through Saluda Gap to Ashville. Thence along the French Broad River, past Bald Mountain, to Greenville, TN., through Cumberland Gap and Lexington, Ky., to Cincinnati. From this point the road led to Reading, a distance of twelve miles, the only improved highway in Ohio in 1804. Thence to Lebanon and up the valley of Turtlecreek to their destination. This journey usually required about six weeks.
Henry and Martha Steddom's granddaughter asked a question as to why they stopped in this locality. The answer was simple: "We just drove till we came to the spring and stopped."
Henry's stone home was built in 1839. He also built a large log barn with stables at the ends, a threshing floor between them, and an abundance of storage room above.
After the clearings, he planted a large apple orchard and a number of peach and walnut trees.
One day about dusk, as he was returning home from his day's work at Spencer's ford, he suspicioned that timber wolves were following him. He quickly found a tree, climbed it, and escaped the menacing terrors. They kept him treed for several hours, but finally they departed and Henry returned home.
An event in the life of Martha Steddom that took place in South Carolina was one of near calamity. Both the Continental and British soldiers had a way of entering houses and taking whatever they chose. On one occasion they cut from Martha Steddom's loom the cloth that she was then weaving and carried it away with them.
She also had many stands of bees. An attempt of a party of soldiers to rob the hives resulted in a rather comical episode. One soldier, armed with the family butcher knife, was using it in his attempts at gathering honey.
Naturally the bees attacked. In his retreat, the soldier used the knife repeatedly, striking out at the stinging bees. With one unfortunate stroke, he struck his own nose, almost severing it from his face. He rapidly ran to the house asking Mrs. Steddom to "tie it on" for him. She took bandages, fastened the loose object, and "tied it on" the best she could.
After arrival in the new setting, the first spring found the men folk busily setting up a sugar camp. Troughs were made for catching the sap by hollowing out sections of the smaller tree trunks two and a half feet in length.
A deep notch was cut in the tree in which rested one end of the trough, this being supported at the outer end by two wooden legs. This was the forerunner of the modern pail with its sap spout and bucket hanger.
Iron kettles were used in which to boil the sap. Sometimes the process continued all night. Samuel, second son of Henry and Martha Steddom, told how he as a boy of nine arose at 4 o'clock every morning to relieve the men who had labored all night.
Salt and its scarcity played a big part in the Steddom household. The dirt from the smoke house floor had received the brine from meat that had been hung in previous years. These ingredients were dug up, placed in a hopper and leached. The water with its briny solution was then boiled down, and in this way the salt was recovered.
Prof. Kersey submitted an account of the earliest means to reduce corn-to-corn meal. He said a section of an oak or gum tree trunk, four feet in length and two feet in diameter, provided a rude mortar. It was burned out at one end to a depth of 18 or 20 inches. Into this container a portion of grist was placed and beaten with a stick of wood that served as a pestle. When adequately pounded the meal was then sifted and deemed ready to be made into bread.
Because of the growth of the tall trees good wheat could not be raised. The grain was light in weight, often moldy and not fully matured. Its color was of a pinkish nature and was called sick wheat.
Henry Steddom, Jabez Hollingsworth and other Quakers joined in an effort to establish the Turtlecreek Meeting House.
The Miami Monthly Meeting, from Waynesville, granted the request for the founding of the Turtlecreek Meeting House, which was dated April 10, 1806; it officially opened on May 10, 1806. Where the first meetings were held is not known, possibly in a private home.
Henry and Martha Steddom to John Steddom, Abraham Hollingsworth, Thomas Evans, Thomas Sherwood and Samuel Steddom deeded Land for the church in the amount of $1.00.
In 1832, a one-story frame structure was built which served as a house of worship until 1869. Another was built and has since been torn down. The location of this old building was across the road from the late Ralph Stolle's farm, just south of the Turtlecreek Cemetery on Waynesville Road.
An Englishman built the original log building by the name of Kirby. While in this capacity he boarded with Samuel Steddom. He was a man of labor, for he would not quit work on the structure until the last chore was done for the day. All attempts were made to break his habit of being late for supper, to no avail.
Some years later a schoolhouse was built in the community, which was also called Turtlecreek. It stood west of the original Meeting House site. It contained one window, which was cut out of one of the logs on the east side. The floor was made of puncheons.
A single row of narrow benches was placed around the room, they being split from logs and supported by wooden legs. No backs were used, and were so high that the feet of small children hung unsupported by several inches.
The writing desks were boards laid upon wooden pins driven into the wall.
The original school's successor was a brick building that still stands about a mile south of the old Meeting House.
This school became an excellent facility for students from Wilmington, Waynesville, Lebanon, and from the more distant Miami County.
Before the arrival of Alfred Holbrook in Lebanon, and before individual high schools were developed, the little Turtlecreek Academy was unsurpassed within a radius of twenty miles.

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This page created 28 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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