Madison County Photo Album
The Old Markley Homestead, Somerford Township
The accompanying cut represents the oldest farm residence now standing in Central Ohio, having been erected in the year 1813 by one Levi Cantrill. This house is situated on a beautiful eminence on the old Federal Road leading from Springfield to Columbus and one mile north of the village of Summerford. The site of this house is on a natural terrace situated a few rods north of the headwaters of Deer Creek. The Federal Road was used as government post road before the national pike was built and the house is less than one mile from that historic thoroughfare.
On the south side of said stream, about the same distance, is also another gradual and slightly sloping terrace, overlooking a beautiful valley. This valley was a favorite resort and rendezvous for the Indians. Tecumseh, a war-like and noted chieftain of the great Shawnee tribe, would often bivouac there. This valley was once covered with a dense growth of towering maple sugar trees. Hull's army camped in this inviting grove a week on his march to Detroit, at which point, notwithstanding, he had three times the number of men the British had, he disgracefully surrendered his entire army to Gen. Brock, without the loss of a man or the firing of a gun.
A small portion of this grove in subsequent years was cut off from the main grove by the Urbana pike and became a famous camping ground for the wandering Gypsies, to whose mystic shrines the unsophisticated youngsters of Summerford and vicinity would wend their way on Sundays to be relieved of their small change.
The main structure of this now historic house was built out of hewed logs, with a wing on the west side thereof, which wing was detached a few years ago. The interior of the remainder of this old landmark is in a fair state of preservation, while the exterior is marked and dimmed with the rust and dust of age.
One of the most striking features connected with this old homestead is the double willow trees, one of which was planted by Grandmother Kate Markley about the year 1815 and the other by Mrs. Nancy Roberts Wilson in 1825, and now overshadowing a bubbling spring of pure water. This tree, from a mere twig has assumed gigantic proportions, measuring 27 feet in circumference, and there are limbs that measure from 2 to 3 feet in diameter.
This house was used in pioneer days as a tavern or inn, by John Roberts, the grandfather of John M. Roberts, of the West End, at one time one of the most efficient and foremost teachers of Madison county, who first saw the light of day in this house and is still lingering on the shores of time and is an able and entertaining literary contributor to the leading newspapers of this county. Valentine Wilson, an early settler and who became one of the most extensive land-owners in this section of Ohio, courted and married two of his wives in this house, and if its mute walls could speak, truly could give to the present generation a history of the trials and tribulations through which their fore-parents passed in the early settlement of this country, now lost except as handed down by tradition. Mr. Wilson was the owner of this place at the time of his death.
The illustrious Henry Clay of Kentucky, while en route to and from Washington, D. C., was want to make this old tavern one of his favorite stopping places and he and the elder Roberts would sit beneath the generous shade of the aforesaid willow tree and smoke their cigars and sip their sweet cream together, and incidentally discuss the political issues which engaged the attention of the people of this country now in the remote past.
The venerable John Markley, whose picture appears accompanying the cut of these premeses, is one of the oldest lineal descendants of Gabriel Markley, who at one time owned them, and was also the paternal ancestor of the Markley, Prugh and Potee family of this country. We suggest that a portion of these premises be purchased by the Wilson and other families herein mentioned to the end that the same may be preserved, as it is one of the leading and most historic old landmarks in the now great, grand and glorious State of Ohio.
John Roberts, Sr., could talk the Indian language and was a very useful scout connected with Hull's army as he could easily work his way through the Indian lines to carry dispatches. He was carrying dispatches south when Hull surrendered. His sister, a beautiful girl, had married a colonel in Gen. Brock's army and located in Canada. After the war his British brother-in-law told him that Gen. Hull had sold his army to the British at $12 per head.
— H. H. Prugh
From Madison Democrat 50th Anniversary
Published by the Madison Democrat, 1908