Madison County History and Genealogy

History and Genealogy

History of Madison County

Darby Township History

From History of Madison County, W. H. Beers & Co, Chicago, 1883

On the 30th day of April, 1810, the Commissioners of Madison County created this township, and we find on record the following, under the head of that date: "Ordered, that all that tract of country comprised in the following boundaries be, and the same is hereby created into a separate township, to be known by the name of Darby, and is bounded as follows to wit: Beginning at the upper corner of Jefferson Township, thence north with said line to Delaware County; thence with said line east, to the northwest corner of Franklin County; thence with said line to the place of beginning." This creation existed for only one year, and was then declared void. The reason for this action is not given, but we find the following record under date of June 11, 1811: "At a meeting of the Commissioner of Madison County ordered, that all that tract of country comprehended in the following boundaries be, and the same is hereby created into a separate township, by the name of Darby, and is bounded as follows: Beginning at the northeast corner of Madison County, thence south with Franklin County line, so that a point turning west will strike Calvin Cary, Sr.'s lower corner; thence westwardly to Abraham Johnson's lower corner, on Little Darby; thence to Peter Paugh's southeast corner; thence westwardly so as to strike the Champaign County line, two miles north of William Frankabarger. Sr.'s; thence with said line to Delaware County line; thence with Delaware County line to the place of beginning. The above territory has been greatly reduced by subsequent creations. Canaan and Pike Townships were taken from Darby, the former of these in the year 1814 and the latter in 1819. Union County, in the year 1820, was created from the territory of Delaware and Madison Counties, and a strip of land two and a half miles in width was taken from the northern boundary of Darby Township. Thus it has been reduced in territorial advantages until it is among the smallest townships in the county.

From Atlas of Madison County, J.A. Caldwell [Condit, Ohio, 1875]

This is one of the original townships of the county. It formerly embraced much more territory than at present; a portion of Union County belonged to it before the organization of union, April 1st, 1820. West of Big Darby, it is composed of oak openings and prairies; the surface of the soil is level, with a deep, black loam, well adapted for corn and grass. The farms are large; the principal occupation of the farmers are the raising of cattle, sheep, and hogs. East of Big Darby the surface is also level, as on the west, and top soil loam and the sub-soil clay, and very deep. The soil is very rich, and the surface covered with a great variety of timber; the farms are not so large here as they are in the plains. This township is watered by Big Darby and its tributaries. Plain City (formerly Pleasant Valley) is located on the west banks of Big Darby, near the Union County line; it is a place of considerable business. The Columbus, Piqua and Indiana Railroad passes by the same. Joshua and James Ewing were the first settlers of this township, in 1797. Beachs, Bigelows, McCunes, Wilsons and Sherwoods are among the pioneers.

From History of Madison County, Ohio, Chester E. Bryan, Supervising Editor, B.F. Bowen & Co., Indianapolis (1915)

Darby was among the first townships settled in Madison county, its history dating as far back as 1795. The first white man to locate within this township was Jonathan Alder, who was discovered by Benjamin Springer living on the banks of Big Darby creek with his Indian wife in 1796. Alder was born in New Jersey, about eight miles from Philadelphia, September 17, 1773. His parents were Bartholomew and Hannah Alder. When Jonathan was about seven years old, the family moved to Wythe county, Virginia, where the father soon afterward died. In 1782 he and his brother were captured by a band of prowling Indians, his brother being killed but he being held a prisoner. He was adopted by the tribe and became, in practically every sense, an Indian. He married an Indian woman and made his living by hunting and farming through the country now covered by Madison county.

In 1796, as mentioned above, Benjamin Springer, with his wife and two sons, Silas and Thomas, also his son-in-law, Usual Osborn, and wife, settled on Big Darby creek. They were natives of Pennsylvania, and built their cabin on land later owned by John Taylor, close to the north line of Canaan township and just within the limits of the same. But their names are mentioned here because of their close proximity and close relations with the early pioneers of Darby township. In 1798, the Ewing brothers, James and Joshua, emigrated from Kentucky to present Darby township and settled a short distance northeast of the site of Plain City. They bought farms lying on both sides of Big Darby creek. One reason for making their purchases on both sides of the stream was that they might have ready access to the prairie grazing lands, and at the same time have tillable lands on the elevated bottoms along the creek. They supposed, as did many others, that the open prairie land would afford them pasturage for many years to come. In this, however, they were mistaken, for they were in time owned by industrious farmers and inclosed with good fences.

Financially, James Ewing was more favored than the average pioneers and was known in the neighborhood as a rich man. He was one of the directors of the Franklin Bank, of Franklintown, Ohio, and this connection made him useful to the community in which he resided. The person in need of capital, by getting Mr. Ewing's recommendation as to the financial safety of his note, could always get ready cash. For many years the only postofiice in that region of the country was kept by him for the accommodation of his neighbors, and in connection with it he handled dry-goods, groceries. notions, etc., in such quantities as would meet the pressing demands of those early people.

Joshua Ewing died during the "sickly season" of 1822-23. He was a surveyor and made many of the early surveys of Madison county. Upon the erection of Union county, in 1820, the property of the Ewing brothers was thrown into the new county.

The Taylor brothers, John, Daniel and Richard, natives of New York state, emigrated to Kentucky in 1795 and settled on land they purchased near Lexington. They became discouraged and disgusted because of the constant litigations over titles, and determined to seek new lands. John Taylor, going to the man from whom he had made his purchase, made a trade with him for lands in the then territory of Ohio. By this exchange he became the owner of three hundred acres of land on the banks of Big Derby, now in Union county. He moved to his new farm in 1800, sold his first purchase to Frederick Sager, and bought another about one mile south of Plain City, On both sides of Big Darby creek, from John Graham. Here he erected a log cabin, stable and outbuildings, and soon afterward, probably about the year 1804, he married a widow McCullough, sister of Judge Mitchell. Two children blessed this union, a daughter and a son. The daughter died in infancy, but the son, John Taylor, Jr., lived on the old homestead for many years, and is still remembered by the older residents of Darby to Vnship.

The other Taylor brothers followed John from Kentucky about 1803. They had lost much of their property in the bogus land titles of Kentucky, and were, like most of the early pioneers, comparatively poor. Daniel Taylor, with his family, went directly to the Indian village above Plain City, where Jonathan Alder was at this time living. Alder surrendered the use of his hut to Taylor and his wife, and they immediately took possession. He, however, soon afterward built another beside this one, the former being used for a kitchen and the latter for bed, parlor and sitting room. There the children of Mr. Taylor and those of the Indians became intimately associated in their plays.

All of the Taylor brothers settled on or near Big Darby, and, by industry and economy, they secured a generous competence.

Another early pioneer of this township was James Norton, who came here with his family in about 1810 or 1812, purchased a farm on Sugar run, east of Big Darby, and lived there until his death, in 1836. With him came his two sons, John and Solomon Norton. John Norton, in 1820, married Sarah Taylor, daughter of Daniel Taylor.

In the year 1814 Jeremiah Converse, a Revolutionary soldier, and Rhoda Converse, his wife, emigrated with their family to this township. Converse was born in New Hampshire in 1760. He emigrated with his father to the state of Vermont prior to the Revolutionary War. Before the close of this conflict he enlisted in the American cause. During his service he was severely wounded, and was discharged. He subsequently became a traveling minister in the Methodist Episcopal church. On his arrival in Darby township he and most of his sons bought land in close proximity to each other and about three miles west of Big Darby creek, on what was then known as the Darby Plains. The Rev. Mr. Converse was the first pioneer minister in this portion of the county. He always lived on the farm he first purchased, where he died in 1837, at the ripe age of seventy-eight years. His eldest son, Sanford Converse, settled in Licking county, Ohio, but the following sons settled near their father: Parley, Squire, Lathrop, Jeremiah, Jr., Silas and Charles Converse.

Parley Converse was a farmer and mechanic. He was an exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal church for over forty years. He was also elected a justice of the peace and filled that office with great credit to himself and justice to the persons he met officially. On his retirement from his farm he moved to Plain City, where he died in 1866. He was the father of two sons, Caleb and Parley, Jr., who were both for many years residents of Union county. Squire Converse was also a farmer, settled on the plains and died during one of the sickly seasons. He was the father of Jasper R. and Edwin Asa Converse. Jasper R., the eldest, was a large farmer on the plains and made a specialty of breeding thoroughbred sheep. He died in 1859. He was the father of Augustin Converse. Lathrop Converse, a son of Rev. Jeremiah Converse, lived on the plains until his death, in 1822, one of the sickly periods. He had three sons, two of whom were Darius and Joel N. Orinda, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Converse, married Samuel Sherwood, who lived in Canaan township.

Jeremiah Converse, Jr., son of the Rev. Jeremiah Converse and a native of Vermont, was born in 1790. In 1813 he married Malinda Derby, a descendant of the titled family of Derbys in England. He emigrated with his and his father's families to Darby township in 1814. He was the father of a large family, and, like others, suffered many privations incident to the life of the pioneer and early settler. He bought a small farm of Walter Dun, for one dollar and a quarter an acre, and even at this low price it took him nine years to complete his payments. He was a drum major in the militia regiment of this county under the then existing military laws of the state. He was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal church for over thirty years. He died in 1849. He was the father of C. D., Jeremiah and L. D. Converse. The eldest son, C. D. Converse, became the owner of one of the finest farms in the township and was a resident of the township for many years. Doctor Jeremiah, the second son, practiced medicine in Darby township for years. L. D. Converse, the youngest son, also became a farmer and spent his life in Darby township.

Silas Converse, another son of Rev. Jeremiah Converse, came as a young man with his father to this township in 1814. He was married four times. Charles Converse, the youngest child of the Rev. Mr. Converse, was a mere child when they enmigrated to this state. During his childhood he was subject to terrible attacks of inflammatory rheumatism, which left him a cripple the rest of his life, necessitating the use of crutches in walking. He became a prominent stock raiser in the township. He died in 1869. He Was the father of three sons, James N., R. B. and Charles Converse.

Later in the same year that the Converse family came (1814) Abner Newton, Sr., emigrated from the state of Vermont to this township and purchased a farm in the Converse settlement. He was a wheelwright and chair manufacturer. The demand of the times for that class of articles made him rather prominent in the affairs of the township. His wheels were unsurpassed for workmanship and were a necessary article in almost every family. The chairs he made were less in demand, but were purchased as the people became able to afford such luxuries. The more common seats used were long benches, or three-legged stools. Prior to and after Mr. Newton's death, his youngest son, Abner Jr., continued to manufacture the above articles as long as they were in demand or until machinery supplied their place. He later became quite an extensive manufacturer of boots and shoes, and partly in connection with it, or soon after, he dealt in dry-goods, groceries, etc. His health later broke down and he was forced to retire.

The pioneer millwright of this portion of the county was Daniel Bowers, who came to Darby township in 1814. He settled near the present village of Amity, being a single man at the time of his emigration, but within a few years thereafter he married Diadam Phiney, a young lady who came with Abel Beach and family in the same year. He was early employed by Frederick Sager to put up the building and make all the necessary machinery for a water-power grist-mill. This was the first mill of the kind ever put up in this part of the county and was situated about one mile north of Plain City, on Big Darby, which at that time was in Darby township, but now in Union county. The grinding-stone used in this mill was made from a great boulder taken from the farm of John Taylor, being worked and dressed into proper shape by Mr. Sager himself. This part of the machinery was used for many years, being almost equal to the French buhr. He was later employed by Uri Beach to build a saw-mill, and, soon afterward, a carding machine. This latter was run by horse-power. The nature of the tread power used was a great novelty, consisting of a great wheel, perhaps twenty feet in diameter, with a strong center shaft and iron journals and bearings. Into this shaft strong arms were framed, extending about ten feet from the center and well braced underneath, and the whole was covered with a tight floor. The wheel was then set inclined, one side much lower than the other. The horses were harnessed, taken upon the floor and hitched to a stationary post or beam; hence their weight and the act of walking revolved the wheel beneath their feet, and thus set the machinery into motion. This was considered a wonderful achievement over the former method of carding all the wool for clothing by hand. In the Settlement by the government of some Indian reservations, Mr. Bowers was employed by the agency as an interpreter, being the only person here who understood the Wyandot language. His trade being insufficient for the support of himself and his family, he purchased a farm in the Converse settlement, where he lived until his death, in 1834. There were three children in this family, two sons and a daughter. The eldest, John P. Bowers, resided for many years on the old home estate as a farmer. He became a man of great promise in the township, being several times elected to the office of trustee, also as township assessor, real estate assessor, and held the place of justice of the peace for twenty-seven years. The youngest son, S. W. Bowers, likewise became prominent in agricultural circles of this part of the county.

Charles Warner also came to the Plains in the year 1814 and purchased a farm that was to become known many years later as the I. W. Converse farm. Here he made farming his business and, as a side line, took up distilling. He erected a distillery, where he made whiskey and peach brandy for the market. He usually kept three or four yoke of cattle, which were used in wagoning the products of his still to the chief trading points—Chillicothe, Sandusky and Zanesville—taking, in exchange, salt, glass and such other articles as were in demand among the pioneer families. During the spring of the year he turned his heavy ox teams to good account by breaking large quantities of the prairie sod, which was too tough for the ordinary horse team to plow. He died quite early in the history of the township and left no descendants.

Also in the year of 1814 came Charles McCloud, Sr., to Darby township, buying a farm and settling near the post road. Here he supported his family and made an honest living out of his farm. He died at his son-in-law's in 1844. He was the father of two sons, Curtis and Charles McCloud.

Charles McCloud, the youngest of these two sons, lived and worked on the farm of his father until of age, when his inclination and desire for a profession induced him to select the science of medicine as being the most congenial to his nature. He went to Granville, Ohio, where he studied in the office of Dr. Alpheus Bigelow. On completing his studies, he returned and settled in Amity, and for many years, by close application and undivided attention, he was not only a successful physician, but a leader in the profession. But, like many others in a new country, as this was at that time, with almost impassable roads at times, he became weary of the hardships incident to the profession, and longed for a more retired and less responsible life. With this end in view, he, in company with Wesley Carpenter, purchased quite an extensive tract of land below Amity, with a view of making stock-raising and farming a specialty; but, by a few years' experience in this new enterprise, he was convinced of the fact that bone and muscle, especially in those days, were among the essential features of success. He, therefore, sold his interest in the farm to Mr. Carpenter, and immediately purchased a large stock of dry-goods and groceries and entered the general merchandise business in Amity. Here he remained until after that place was visited by the Asiatic cholera. He subsequently sold his property and purchased in Plain City, where he engaged largely in the mercantile business. In 1844 he was elected a member of the Ohio Legislature and filled that position with credit to himself and his constituents. During the campaign of 1840, he had taken a very active part in county politics. He made quite a reputation for himself as a public speaker and so favorably impressed the people in this and subsequent campaigns that when the call came for delegates to the constitutional convention of 1852 he was the people's choice. He died at his home in Plain City in the year 1860, survived by his widow and two sons, R. C. and Newton McCloud.

Early in the history of the township came Titus Dort, who purchased a farm about one mile south of Plain City. As he was a blacksmith by trade very little of his time could be taken up on his farm. At this time good blacksmiths were very scarce, but very necessary, as the people were dependent upon them for most of their farm implements, such as trace chains, hoes, axes, plows, and many necessary and indispensable articles.

In the year 1818 Sanmuel Smith and family came from the state of Vermont and settled in this township. He purchased a large tract of land, containing about six hundred acres. On this farm he built the first brick house on the plains. The roof of this house was made by pine shingles, purchased in Cincinnati, from the dairy products, and wagoned through an almost trackless forest, requiring two weeks or more to make the round trip.

Simeon Hager, who was born in 1766, emigrated to Ohio and settled in this township in 1814. Soon afterward he purchased a farm near Plain City and spent the remainder of his life in its management. He died at his home in 1843. He was the father of Simeon, Jr., Baldwin and Aurelius Hager.

In the year 1817 Isaac Bigelow came to this part of Ohio with the idea in mind of opening up a great stock farm, and purchased land now covering, in part, the site of the village of Plain City. But the tide of emigration seemed toward the central portion of Ohio. The chief trading points of Zanesville, Chillicothe, Cincinnati and Sandusky were so distant that Mr. Bigelow conceived that idea of platting a new town for the convenience of the future Settlers, where they might make their necessary purchases of nails, glass, salt, etc., and so planned to lay out a new town. Accordingly, in 1818, the original town plat of Plain City was laid out by him, but a more comprehensive sketch of the founding of Plain City will be found in the history of that village. Mr. Bigelow was a physician by profession and for many years enjoyed a wide practice in this and neighboring townships.

Israel Bigelow, his father, came to the township in 1828 and purchased property in the village of Plain City. He was also a practicing physician and for several years followed his profession in Plain City and the surrounding country. He died in Plain City in 1838.

Dr. Daniel Bigelow, a son of Israel and a brother of Isaac Bigelow, settled in the township in 1831, and likewise spent his life in the active labors of a medical practitioner. He was ever ready to attend all calls in his profession, and his greatest delight was embodied in his efforts to mitigate the sufferings of his fellow creatures. He was sociable, pleasing and winning in his manner; his presence in the sick room dispersed the gloom of his patients, and, in a word, cheerfulness was traceable in every lineament of his features.

Another settler who arrived in the year 1818 was Eber McDowell, who purchased a farm about two miles west of the Converse settlement. He was a Soldier in the War of 1812. With others, he experienced many of the hard struggles incident to pioneer life. Though the price of land was seemingly very low, yet all the farm products were correspondingly reduced in price, and, in order to make the last payment on his farm, he sold and delivered two hundred bushels of corn to a Mr. Wright, of Dublin, Franklin county, for ten cents per bushel. This delivery was made by hauling the corn, with a heavy pair of cattle, a distance of fifteen miles, requiring two days to make the round trip. The oxen were also sold to the same person for twenty-seven dollars. The money thus obtained enabled him to procure a deed for the farm, on which he spent his days. He died at the advanced age of ninety-six.

Amos Beach emigrated from Vermont to Darby township in 1814. He became the owner of a small farm on the Plains, where he lived and which he successfully managed until about the year 1830, when, selling his property, he removed to Union county. He later returned to this county and lived in Plain City, where he died.

Abner and David Chapman, two brothers, came to this township in about 1810. Abner Chapman, a man of good education, first purchased a farm near Plain City, but later sold this and located on the banks of the Big Darby. It was included in Union county on its erection in 1820. He spent a portion of his time for several years in teaching school. His brother, also a young man of good education and a surveyor by profession, taught school and did a great deal of surveying for Walter Dun, of Virginia. At this time there were many small strips of land that had been unentered by former speculators. Many of these were now entered and patented by him. He later married a daughter of Joshua Ewing and for many years lived on his farm on the Plains. He later, however, moved to Union county and from there to the state of Iowa.

William McCune, a step-Son of Andrew Noteman, came with the latter in 1803 and settled on the east bank of Big Darby creek, immediately opposite the Indian village or camping ground referred to above. In the creation of Union county he was included within its territory. But the stepson above referred to began to support himself early in life. At the age of twelve, he went to Franklinton to learn the trade of blacksmith. He remained there for some time and, it is said, assisted in the forging of the nails that were used in the construction of the old State house at Columbus. Mr. McCune afterwards went to Buck Creek and learned the tanning business, but, after completing his trade, he came back and purchased and moved onto a farm near Plain City. Mr. McCune's tannery was one of the first in this part of the county. Here was an accommodation kindly appreciated by the people, and his thorough knowledge of the business, in connection with his honesty, won for him a large proportion of the custom of the county. A few years prior to his death, he became entirely blind. His home was cut off from Darby in 1820.

Another pioneer who hailed from New England and who came to settle in Darby township was Richard Morgridge, who came with his family from Connecticut to Licking county, Ohio, in 1816. Here he was compelled to stop and remain a short period because of sickness in his family. He came with more property than was customary among those early, hearty woodsmen. He emigrated with a good pair of horses and wagon, and with him he brought a large box of Yankee clocks, which he had purchased very cheap in his native state, but which he sold at a great profit in the new country. All this property was converted into cash within a short time. However, this cash was in paper and, being issued by many different banks, he went to Marietta and there exchanged it for notes of the Muskingum Valley Bank of that place. This banking house became insolvent a short time afterward and closed business, leaving him penniless and with his property gone. The sickness in his family forced him to remain in Licking county for three years and also forced him to incur expense that he could not meet. In 1819 he purchased a yoke of oxen and moved his family to Darby township. There he purchased, or rather contracted for, one hundred and thirty acres in the Converse settlement of Walter Dun. The debts incurred in Licking county were still hanging over him, and his creditors came and attached all of his chattel property; but, this being insufficient to satisfy their claims, his body was also taken by the sheriff, to be lodged in the county jail for debt. But, before leaving home with that officer, his wife placed in his hands all the money in their possession, being one dollar and thirty cents. After they had proceeded some distance, it occurred to Mr. Morgridge that the law required the creditor to support the debtor while in jail, if he had no means of supporting himself. Therefore, he made an excuse to stop by the roadside, where he secretly placed his money under a rail in the fence, near a large tree. After their arrival in London, a Search was instituted, and he was found without any means of supporting himself. The creditor was then asked to give bond for the maintenance of the prisoner while in jail, which he refused to do, whereupon Mr. Morgridge was set free. Richard Morgridge never completed the payments on his farm, but, after his death, the family met those obligations.

There were other pioneers, whose descendants have long since left their ancestral homes and pushed on to more remote parts, and among these should be mentioned the Marquis, Petty, Nickels and Frazell families. The emigration to this part of the county from 1812 to 1820, as shown in the pages above, was little short of wonderful. By far the greater portion of them came from the New England states, whose soil was so inferior in fertility to that of Madison county that the fame of the latter became proverbial for its fertility and productiveness. The sad years of 1822 and 1823, with their murderous "sickly seasons," cast a great cloud of gloom over the township and draped the previously prospective outlook for a rapid and early development of her resources, with death and disease that threatened depopulation. The shock thus produced was felt all over the county, but the heaviest burden of it seems to have fallen on Darby and Canaan townships. Emigration ceased, practically, until 1830 and 1832. The only residents of the township from 1823 until 1830 were the survivors of those two sickly seasons, and even some of these returned to their native states or moved on to other settlements. The great portion of the present inhabitants of Darby township are the descendants of these pioneer families.

Back to Darby Township index


Ohio History & Genealogy