Recollections of Pioneer Days in Bloom Township.
(By Elder Lewis Seitz.)
Elder Lewis Seitz, Jr. provides a description of
Bloom Township, Seneca County, Ohio
for a book to be written on the history of Seneca
County. (Access to the contents of this
book thanks to Google Books!!!)
1825, at the age of twenty-three, with my wife and one child, I
removed to my present home (on an adjoining farm) in Bloom township.
The name of Bloom had been suggested by my brother
John just one year before my arrival, and adopted in 1824 at the
organization of the township. I came from my native county,
Fairfield, into an almost unbroken wilderness of forest trees, with
less than a score of settlers in advance of me. Nearly all who were
here before me had settled along the rich valley of Honey creek.
For two or three years before mine was reared, cabins had begun to
appear in our wilderness. Among their occupants I remember
Joseph McClellan, James and Thomas Boyd, the Donalds, George Free,
Roswell Munsel, Nehemiah Hadley, John Stroh, Lowell Robinson, my
brothers John Seitz and Noah Seitz. J.C. Hampton (who came in
1822 with the Boyds and Donalds, from Ross county,) informs me that
he aided in erecting the first cabin put up in the township.
This was for my brother Noah, on Silver creek. Hampton made
his home for a time with his companions from Ross. Their
shelter at first was in a log pen covered with logs split in twain,
the under tier being with flat side up, and the top tier covering
the cracks with the flat side down. The beds were for the
women, on bedsteads, with one post. That is, in one corner of
the "pen" two poles were entered in the logs, with the other end in
this "post." Basswood bark furnished the "cords." The
men slept on the ground, with hickory bark spread down for sheets.
Hampton says: "Our first supply of flour was brought by us on
horseback from Mansfield, through the woods." I also helped cut out
the small timber west and south of Roop's Corners, to make a public
road. But to continue with the names of the first settlers:
Jacob Rodegeb, Abraham Kagy, John Davis, Edward Sutherland,
Christopher Perkey, Bartholomew Stout, John Stinchcomb and Richard
Ridgely. Within a very few years after my arrival came also
Jacob Webster, the Bixlers, John Pennington, J.T. Reed, John Einsel,
Edward Cooley, Samuel Gross, John Valentine, Gain Robinson, Zelaphel
Owen, Joshua Watson, Samuel and Henry Nisley, Lewis and Jacob
early days a wilderness of forest trees covered the earth, and the
first need of the settler was to clear away space enough for a
cabin, and then it was "root, hog, or die." While I brought
from Fairfield county enough flour to last two years, very few of my
contemporaries were thus provided. One season, however,
usually sufficed the industrious pioneer to clear a small field and
grow bread to do. As for meat, everyone had his gun to supply
him with wild turkey or venison, which were abundant. Often,
too, as we lay upon our pillow at night, were we saluted with the
howl of wolves, apparently at our cabin door. Not only did
they make night vocal with their cries, but woe to the sheep or
young pigs not well guarded. An occasional bear passed
through, but I think none made their home in our township.
There were some otter about the marsh near Bloomville. A wild
cat was shot within one hundred rods of our cabin. Indians
often visited us, generally of the Wyandot tribe, who then had their
headquarters at Upper Sandusky. A few Senecas, from
their reserve below Tiffin, straggled hither occasionally. Our
red brother was uniformly friendly, and, as a rule, honest, but a
tricky one appeared sometimes. Unlike his white brother of
modern times, however, he had not the cheek to attempt a repetition
of his trick in the same vicinity. Shamed by that conscience
which, as Shakespeare puts it, "makes cowards of us all," his victim
seldom saw him again.
Mr. H. Hadley
was admitted to be the boss hunter and trapper on Honey creek.
Mr. Hadley, at a single hunt, brought down seven deer, six of them
by torchlight, and the seventh by sunlight in the morning. So
fond was Hadley of hunting, that, game getting scarce, he had J.C.
Hampton to haul his family and goods (mostly steel traps) to the
head of canoe navigation on the Scioto, in Hardin county. Here
he dug out two large walnut canoes, lashed then side by side, and
started for Cairo, on the Mississippi. With one boat wrecked
on the raging Scioto, he nevertheless reached Portsmouth with the
other, his family walking most of the way. At this point a
captain of a steamer bound for Iowa, whither Hadley was going,
struck with admiration for a man who would venture his all in a
canoe on the Ohio, offered to carry him without charge to his
destination. Thus the boss pioneer hunter of Bloom township
left for Ohio for game in the far west.
of a Wyandot Indian with a pack of hungry wolves in South Bloom is
worth recording. He had tracked a wounded deer some distance
in the snow, when suddenly he came upon it surrounded by a pack of
wolves, making of it a hasty meal. Intent upon having some of
the meat himself, he tried to drive the wolves by shooting one of
them. This enraged the rest, and they rushed upon.
Backing against a tree, he dept them at bay with his tomahawk, till
hunger overcoming rage, they returned to finish their meal upon the
deer. The Indian, convinced that "discretion was the better
part of valor," was glad to escape. The pioneer who succeeded
best in making a comfortable living, did not make a business of
hunting, but chopping and logging and burning was the chief work.
Much timber, which to-day would be valuable in the marked, was
burned on the ground. No where could finer poplar, walnut,
blue ash and butternut trees be found than in Bloom township.
The first saw
mill was built by Roswell Munsel and the Donalds, on Honey creek,
near the present Kaler mill. Soon after John Davis built
another mill, a mile further down, where my first lumber was made.
A few years later Abraham Kagy put up a saw mill, and the Steeles a
saw and grist mill on Sliver creek. It may be well to remind
the reader that in those days our water courses furnished power much
more steadily and for a greater part of the year. Through the
clearing away of fallen timber and general drainage, our creeks gave
short lived spirts of water, and then Steele's grist mill could be
heard day and night for more than half the year. My first
grinding was done at Hedges' mill, just below Tiffin. When we
began to have wheat to sell our nearest public market was at Venice
or Portland (Sandusky City.) This was so until the pioneer railroad
in Ohio made us a market at Republic.
In those days
neighbors were neighbors, indeed. Was a cabin to be "raised,"
lost to be "rolled," or assistance of any kind needed, a simple
notice was enough. A "neighbor" could be found at a much
greater distance than now. The whisky of those days was not
charged with "killing at forty rods" as now, but the "brown jug" or
the "barrel" was found in nearly every home, and it was esteemed an
indispensable "mechanical power" at "raisings" and "loggings," etc.,
schools were held at first in cabins like our dwellings, with a huge
fire place on one side, with a stick and mud chimney on the outside.
Religious meetings were held in these "school houses," or in the
cabins of the settlers. The Presbyterians, Baptists and
Methodists were the first to organize societies or churches in
Bloom. James Robinson, a Presbyterian clergyman, organized the
first church of that name, about the year 1830.
On the 27th of
May, 1827, the Baptist church, named "Honey Creek," was organized.
The "council" was composed of Elders Thomas Snelson, of Highland
county, and Benjamin Caves, of Pickaway, and Deacon John Hite, of
Fairfield. In 1830 the undersigned was chosen pastor of this
church and has sustained this relation ever since. As will be
noticed, ministers in those early days traveled a great way in the
pursuit of the calling. But now as now, cosily and swiftly in
a railway coach, but invariably of horseback, equipped with
"saddle-bags," with Bible, hymn book, a few "dickeys" (a sort of
shirt-front with collar attached), and some provisions, perhaps.
The messenger of "peace and good will," through the cross of Christ,
traveled in all kinds of weather, over all sorts of roads (or no
roads through the wilderness). Perhaps such experiences, if
presented to many of our clerical brethren to-day, as part of their
labors, would lead to some more congenial calling. But it must
be remembered that the privations and trials of pioneer life were
shared by all classes, and hence borne the more cheerfully.
While we may freely admit that this generation is enjoying much that
is good and desirable as the fruit of the labors and purposes of
their pioneer fathers and mothers, it is a matter of profound regret
that the rugged virtues and beautiful friendships could not have
been transmitted with the improved culture, conveniences, comforts
and luxuries enjoyed by our children. The are enjoying the
material blessings for which their fathers and mothers toiled and
dared and suffered. Modern improvements have obviated the
necessity for much of the personal effort and deprivation of pioneer
life, but when we cease to practice their manly and womanly virtues,
all our boasted progress cannot save us from the penalties of
violated moral law.
Of all my first
neighbors, Abraham Kagy, J.C. Hampton, Mrs. Thomas West and John C.
Martin alone remain. The rest have passed to that "bourne from
whence no traveler returns." We, too, shall soon pass away,
but may He who guides the destinies of men and of nations, bless our
children and our country with civil and religious liberty, and every
good resulting from the reign of truth and righteousness is the
prayer of Yours truly Lewis Seitz.