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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Emigrants Came To Ohio Valley For Resources, Opportunities

Dallas Bogan on 18 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Why did the early settlers leave their home in the East and migrate to the lands of the great Ohio valley? These pioneers were instilled with a great ambience to explore what appeared to them to be a land of glorious rewards.
Land! Land! Land! After the Revolution the most impressive migration in the Ohio valley began in the form of free lands given in the service of the soldiers for their contribution to the war of freedom.
Wayne's defeat of the Indians opened the great region of the Northwest Territory to a population flow never before seen in the history of the country. The Miami Valley, rather small in size, received a much larger share than any other area of equal size.
The counties of Warren, Butler and Hamilton received the largest number of immigrants. A census taken in 1803, during Ohio's first year of existence, showed that Warren County had more inhabitants than Butler, Montgomery, Greene and Clermont counties combined.
The foremost western emigration route was via the Wilderness Road and the Ohio River. Daniel Boone, with 36 ax-men, opened up a bridle path, or pack-horse trail as it was sometimes called, from the Holston to the Kentucky River through Cumberland Gap in 1775.
The trail was often called the Wilderness Road or Boone's Trace. This was the most famous roadway in the early days of Kentucky. Tens of thousands of settlers used this route from Virginia and the Carolinas undertaking a new venture in life.
However, the mighty Ohio River was the leading highway of travel westward. Journeying by water was the cheapest, quickest and the most comfortable form of travel.
The pioneer would customarily build or purchase a flatboat and ferry his implements and household goods on the long journey down river. Passengers and livestock would generally be huddled together on the small craft because of lack of room. There was little protection from the elements and low water frequently caused irritating delays. The emigrants generally chose late fall or early winter for launching their flatboats, reasoning being the river was normally too low for flotation during the summer. Sometimes cold weather set in before the rise of the river.
Judge Dunlevy stated this was the case in the autumn of 1779. The Judge lived in the Red Stone country of Pennsylvania and saw crowds of emigrants gathered in wait for the rains that would raise the river. They had traveled from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas in an effort to construct their boats on the primary branches of the Ohio.
The summer had been exceedingly dry and the rivers remained low until Christmas when a heavy snow fell and the cold became severe. Many hundreds of men, women and children lay in open camps or crude structures until early spring. Dunlevy revealed that some emigrants were Pennsylvania and Virginia inhabitants who had sold their lands in a country still new in order to remove further west.
Most emigrants had many miles to travel just to get to the place of embarkment. After the long journey downstream these hearty folks experienced a rather tiring overland journey in an effort just to locate their lands.
Travel by foot, ox-cart, horseback, the great Pennsylvania wagons, or the smaller wagons, all were designed for the pioneer's pursuance of a dream.
Cattle and hogs were among most pioneers' repertoire. Every so often the women and smaller children would ride and the men and older boys would walk, driving and caring for the livestock. Now and then an array of packhorses would be led along in single file loaded to capacity. In moving from Pennsylvania to Marietta in 1789, one mother walked most of the way leading a cow.
The first settler in Coshocton County, Ohio, tells that as a youth he walked over the mountains barefooted from his home in Maryland starting in October 1779.
James Trimble, in the fall of 1784, moved from his home in Virginia to the Ohio valley and first settled in Kentucky. A gathering of emigrants, who were mostly Scotch-Irish, from that State accompanied him.
Mrs. Trimble made the journey on horseback, carrying an eleven-month-old infant in her arms, baptized Allen. This youngster was thereafter twice chosen governor of Ohio. The journey took several weeks. Their food was cooked at the campfires. Shelter from the rains was nonexistent.
Governor Trimble, in his autobiography, tells the dramatic story of his mother crossing the swollen Clinch River on horseback, having two little children on her horse with her. The horse had plunged into the hazardous waters and gone too far to turn back. With complete control of her emotions, Mrs. Trimble gave the horse the rein, held her two children with her left arm, and clutched the horse's mane with her right hand. The stout horse fought the current for about 300 yards and all safely reached shore.
Another daring episode was when the father of Dr. Ezra Ferris, of Lawrenceburg, In., and two other families, started from Stanwich, Conn., for the Little Miami on September 20, 1789. This journey was looked upon as venturesome and original. As the wagons began to move a rather inquisitive audience encircled the families.
Their route was along the road on the north side of Long Island to New York City, thence through New Jersey and Pennsylvania and over the Alleghenies to the Monongahela River. From this point they traveled by boat to Columbia at the mouth of the Little Miami. They arrived December 12, 1789, taking two months and twenty days for the journey.
George Washington, the great American, was the first to reveal in words the journey from the origin of the Ohio to the waters of the Kanawha, keeping a journal of his observations. This excursion took place in 1770, five years before the Revolution. The voyage was taken on behalf of the soldiers' claims to a bounty of 200,000 acres that had been promised by the colony of Virginia to officers and men.
Col. Washington and his neighbor, Dr. Craik, set out by horse on October 5. Accompanying them were three Negro servants, two belonging to Col. Washington and one to Dr. Craik. They traveled periodically and reached Fort Pitt in twelve days. The two left their horses behind and commenced in a large canoe for the voyage down the Ohio. Captain William Crawford along with two Indians and an interpreter accompanied them.
In his journal Washington recorded the distances each day. On the downward voyage, while rowing all day, they averaged over 30 miles, the greatest distance being 32 miles.
The upstream venture was more of a chore, the greatest distance being 27 miles in a single day. Heavy rains caused the river to rise and, after rowing tirelessly the greater part of the day, the distance was reduced to only 18 miles. The next day the current was so strong that only five miles was gained.
Washington took his only long walk in Ohio at the southern boundary of Meigs County, a long bend in the river being located at this point. Washington ordered the boat around the neck and he and Captain Crawford walked across this portion. They spent two and one-half hours in this walk, the distance estimated at eight miles. The hike was taken November 5, 1770.

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This page created 18 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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