Somerford Township Pioneers
From History of Madison County, W. H. Beers & Co, Chicago, 1883
To particularize the individual who first entered the vast wilderness that once existed in what now comprises the territory of Somerford Township is at this late day very difficult to do, but we have succeeded in obtaining the names of nearly fifty of the early settlers, and, as is usually the case in most new countries, we find they came in companies of several together, or at least several were found settled in the same neighborhood at about the same time.
The first settlement in this township was made in the eastern part, on or near Deer Creek, between the years of 1802 and 1805. In 1803-04, there came from Kentucky two brothers, Robert and John Scott, who probably located on what is now either the Richmond or Gwynne land, but of them we learn but little. Also, at about the same date, and from the same State, came Tobias Shields and two sons, John and Andrew, and located in the same vicinity. There were probably more of the family than these two sons, but if so, of them we learn nothing. After the organization of Madison County and of Deer Creek Township—the latter embracing a large scope of territory, including Somerford—we find John and Andrew Shields holding various offices of the township for several years. Tobias, the father, was a true backwoodsman, rough in his habits and nature; and was blind for thirty years before his death. About the same date, Charles Atchison, also from Kentucky, settled here, and proved a most worthy and useful citizen, and was probably the first Treasurer of the township after its erection. He also filled many other offices of the township. Daniel Ross was another pioneer setter of the same date. He had a large family, of whom we find record of the following sons: Angus, David, John and Alexander, who were all more or less in the various offices of the township until 1830. And it is believed that, about that time or soon after, they left this county, emigrating to the West, In 1805 came John Wilson, from Greenbrier County, Va., who, with John Arbuckle, erected a double log house, in which they both resided for some time. He was one of the first Trustees, which office he filled four years in succession. About 1808-10, Gabriel Markle, a native of Maryland, emigrated to Ohio and settled in this township, on the place now owned by George Prugh, one mile north of the village of Somerford, on Deer Creek. Here he remained through life, and died about 1825, nearly eighty years of age. He was of German descent, a good, industrious man and a worthy citizen. He had four sons and nine daughters, who grew up and became worthy citizens, but are now all deceased. About 1811, Samuel Dickerson, a native of Virginia, settled here. He was a noted hunter, a good farmer and a respected citizen.
George Prugh was bom in Maryland, but of German descent, and married Margaret Markle, a native of Maryland, and in 1812 emigrated to Ohio and settled in what was then Deer Creek Township (now Somerford), about one mile north of the village of Somerford, where they remained till their death. He died in 1841, and she in 1864. He was a very excellent citizen, and held the offices of Trustee, Treasurer and Justice of the Peace. Two of his sons, Samuel and G. W. Prugh, now quite advanced in years, are still residents of the township, and are most honored and respected citizens. The former was born in Maryland in 1811, and the latter in this township in 1816. William Pepper a native of Maryland, settled here on land now owned by Charles Mitchell about 1810-12, as we find by the township records. He was a Supervisor in 1812. John Summers, from Virginia, settled here about 1813; was a blacksmith by trade, and perhaps the first settled in this township.
Shedrick Preston, from Greenbrier County, Va., settled on the tract of land purchased by John Arbuckle about 1812 or 1813, as in 1814 he served as Township Trustee. Subsequently he removed to the Big Sandy, since which nothing has been known of him. Abner S. Williard was a native of Vermont, born in 1791. He emigrated first to Canada, thence to New York, and in 1812 came to Champaign County, Ohio, and in 1815 removed to Madison County, where he lived till his death. He married Hulda Colver, who was born on the banks of Lake Champaign, in New York, in 1796. They were married in Madison County in 1817. He died December 16, 1872. She died June 3, 1861. He was a man of undoubted character, and esteemed and respected by all who knew him. David Colver, a native of Vermont, settled on land now owned by Reason Louck about 1815-16. In early life he was a sailor, and followed the sea. After settling here he remained till his death. He was an active, industrious man, a good neighbor, and a firm Universalist in religious belief. He raised a large family, who are now all deceased.
John Barrett, a native of Maryland, was a brother-in-law of John Arbuckle, they having married sisters; came to Ohio soon after Mr. Arbuckle came, and settled on the same tract of land, and lived here till his death, dying with that prevalent yet much-dreaded disease, milk-sickness. He had six children, but all have moved away and sought other homes. Jacob Steele settled where Rev. Overturf now lives about 1815. Thomas Taylor came from Chillicothe, Ohio, and settled on Deer Creek, near the grist-mill, about 1815, where he lived about five years; thence he settled on the place now owned by Thomas Woosley, on the old Columbus & Springfield stage road, and there kept a tavern in an early day. He made good improvements; was an excellent and intelligent man, and a good citizen. He raised a family of six children, who all became honored and worthy members of society. Late in life, he moved to the village of Somerford, where he died at the age of about eighty years.
Valentine Wilson, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1786, with his father's family emigrated, in 1790, to Clark County, Ky., where he remained a citizen twelve years, and, in the year 1802, emigrated to Ohio and settled on the head-waters of Beaver Creek, in Bath Township, county of Greene. In 1816, Mr. Wilson removed to Madison County and settled on the headwaters of Deer Creek, on land still owned by Mrs. Wilson, his widow. He was married three times, and was the father of nineteen children. He was first married in 1806, to Eleanor Judy, by whom he had six children. She died on the 5th of September, 1818. In 1819, he married Mrs. Susanna Umble, who became the mother of four children. She died August 18, 1825. On June 18, 1827, he married for his third wife Miss Nancy Roberts, who became the mother of nine children. Of these nineteen children, all but one grew to maturity; and of the eighteen who arrived at maturity, all but one became heads of families. Mr. Wilson died July 2, 1855, on the farm where he first located in 1816. From a small beginning on 160 acres, bought of the man who had but recently entered it, with Congress scrip, in the thirty nine years of his after life he had accumulated nearly ten thousand acres of land, and died the wealthiest man in Madison County. It is believed he erected the first brick-yard ever in Madison County. John J. Roberts settled here about 1817. He was the successor of Gabriel Markle to the grist-mill on Deer Creek. He remained in this township till his death. Sutton Potee, a native of Baltimore, Md., emigrated, with his wife and three children, in the fall of 1817, to Ohio, and settled on the farm now owned by his son Gabriel, near the National road, on Deer Creek, Somerford Township, and here opened out right in the woods. He rented three or four years, then bought the place, and remained here till his death. He married Hannah Markle, by whom he had six children. All grew to maturity, four now living. Mr. Potee was a very active, stirring man, and devoted his whole business life to farming. He was cautious in all business transactions, of firm and undoubted character, and a lifelong member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with which he united when a young man.
William and Charles Soward, two brothers, settled on the James D. Statler land about 1817. The latter subsequently removed to Logan County. The former remained in this township through life. They were men of character and good business ability. William started in life poor, but became quite wealthy. Amos Howard was born on Goose Island, in the Connecticut River, Grafton County, N. H, April 9, 1775. He married Miran Mills, born March 18. 1774; were married March 22, 1796. In 1808, removed to Virginia; in 1809, came down the Ohio River in a flat-boat and settled on the site where he died. Amos Howard became a settler of the northwest part of Somerford Township about 1817-18, and lived and died there. He was burned to death about 1843. He came here a poor man, but, by industry and economy, and close application to his business, he accumulated a good competency. He had two daughters and one son. The daughters never married, but died single, and the son, Amos J., and his children, became possessed of all the property. Amos J. settled on the home place, and lived there through life. He died April 16, 1882. The Howard family have ever been known as most worthy and respected citizens. John Cory settled in the north part of the township about 1818, and served as a Justice of the Peace. Eli Williams, a native of Virginia, settled on the D. Ward place about 1818-20.
Thomas Orpet, a native of Maryland, married a sister of George Prugh, and settled on Deer Creek, on land now owned by William Arbuckle, about 1818-19. Subsequently he bought seven acres near Mr. Gabriel Poltee, where he died about 1861. He was of German descent, uneducated, and would never educate his children, believing it dangerous and injurious to become educated. Erastus Hathaway, a native of New York, and a ship carpenter by trade, settled with his family on land now owned by Hiram Richmond, about 1818-20, and lived and died here. He purchased his land of John Caperton. a native of Virginia, who settled here about 1814, but who, about 1832, returned to his native State. Mr. Hathaway was a man of character and ability, and served as Trustee and a Justice of the Peace. James and Dwyer Brown, two brothers, were natives of New York, but became residents of Somerford Township about 1818-20. James was born June 21, 1795. He first emigrated to Canada, and thence to Ohio. His wife, Mary Arm, was born in Virginia in 1803. They were married in Madison County. He died March 13, 1875. Dwyer Brown married a Miss McMullen, and subsequently moved West. Mr. James Brown was an excellent neighbor and citizen, a useful member of society, and was intrusted with many of the offices of the township. He raised a large family of children, who became useful members of society, and whose characters are above reproach.
Ansel Bates came to this township and settled just north of Tradersville, on land now owned by Thomas Bales, about 1818. He finally died in Champaign County. Of his children, we mention Asa, Ansel, Elijah, William, Sylvanus and Zenas. The last two mentioned were twins. These sons for several years were quite prominent and well known in the affairs of the township, but finally they all emigrated to the West. William Scott settled near the Charles Rigdon place about 1820. He married Betsey Rigdon. Subsequently, he moved to Pekin, Ill., where he died. They were a good family and esteemed citizens. Charles Rigdon came here from Champaign County and settled about the same time—1820-21. Richard Baldwin, it is believed, came here from Chillicothe and settled on the Rigdon place, in Surveys 9,285 and 10,626, about 1820, where he resided till about 1837 He moved to Mechanicsburg, where he resided till death. He was one of this township's best citizens, and served as a Justice of the Peace several years. Samuel Houston was a native of Pennsylvania, and settled here about 1820. He married Elizabeth Arbuckle, by whom he had two children, deceased. He was an intelligent and well-educated man. He taught school, and was Township Clerk, and resided here till his death. Michael Statler, a native of Virginia, settled where his son now lives, on the Urbana road, about 1824, where he died about 1842. His wife survived him about thirty years. Mr. Statler was killed while cutting down a tree upon which another had lodged, which fell on him.
Luther Newcom, a Yankee, settled here about 1820, and was among the first teachers. William Harber, a native of Virginia, and the only surviving one of his father's family—who were all killed by the Indians when he was but a child, he having escaped by secreting himself in the tall grass—grew to manhood, married, and settled in the north part of this township about 1825. He raised a large family of children, but who, in after years, all moved away, since which nothing is known of them. Samuel Wilson came here from Paint Township, and settled in the west part of this township, in Survey 6,078, about 1825, but remained here only five years, when he removed to Illinois, where he died about 1872. He was a very moral and worthy citizen, and, while residing in Illinois, he became a devoted member and worker in the Methodist Church. William Kirkley settled in the north portion of the township, on land owned by Thomas Bales, about 1825-30. He died on the farm now owned by D. Ward. He married Mary Cowan, who was an excellent Christian woman. Peter Smith, a native of Clark County, Ohio, settled here about 1825. Subsequently he became quite noted as a school-teacher and as a literary man. He removed to Illinois about 1842, where, in 1880, he was killed by being run over by a train of cars. Samuel and John H. Kennedy, natives of Virginia, settled here quite early, probably about 1815-20. The latter became a prominent and useful citizen; was a Justice of the Peace forty years; also Probate Judge from 1864 to 1876.
Jonathan Markle, a brother of Gabriel Markle, it is supposed, came here and settled at the same time of his brother, and lived and died near where his son Philip now lives. Ezra Markle, of same family, was also an early settler, and they were all worthy citizens, and among the true pioneers of this township. A few others who were here prior to 1830, we mention the following: John Nagley, Asa Owens, George Vance, Bennett Warren, Benjamin Hull, Levi Umble, John Osborn, John Groves, Henry Groves, Noah Marsh. Newman Mitchell, Joseph Geer, James Geer and John Osborn.
Still later, from 1830 to 1840. we find the following settlers, who have been quite prominently connected with the growth and prosperity of the township: Gardner Lewis and his son, Schuyler, who were natives of New York, but settled here in 1836. He died in 1862. Mr. Schuyler Lewis is now one of the prominent and large land-owners and stock-dealers of Madison County, and a good neighbor and respected citizen. Rev. Eli Adams, a native of Maryland, settled in the extreme west part of this township, where he died in 1870; was a most excellent man and minister of the Gospel. A. J. Clingan, a native of Maryland, settled in Somerford in 1839, and has now resided here forty-three years; is a tailor by trade, which business he has followed many years. He has at different times had intrusted to his care all the important offices of the township, and is now a Justice of the Peace. John M. Houston, a native of Kentucky, emigrated to Clark County, Ohio, in 1814, where he married Maria E. Cartmell, a native of Clark County. They settled in this township in 1837; removed to London in January, 1877, where he died January 29, 1879. He served as a Justice of the Peace and as a Trustee of the township for several years. He was an active member of the Methodist Church, and a Steward in the same for
Although the above may be an imperfect list of the pioneers or first settlers of Somerford Township, and some of the dates of their settlement may not be exact, yet we feel that, at this distant day. with the limited sources at hand, the above is so complete as to give to the rising generations quite a comprehensive view in retrospect of the noble men and women who entered this then unbroken wilderness, braving all dangers of Indians and wild beasts, and the miasmas and malaria with which the atmosphere was then filled; baring the brawny arm to give the stroke of the ax to fell the mighty "kings of the forest;" living in the rude log structures called houses, with but little to wear and but little to eat, and that of the roughest kind, and enduring trials and deprivations innumerable—and all this for what? That their descendants might see, possess and enjoy the beautiful homes and fine farms of the present day, with their attendant comforts. And yet how comparatively few of the present generation have a true appreciation of the toils and labors of those devoted ancestors! Aud how many there are who take an interest in recording upon the pages of history their names and noble works, to commemorate them and save them from an irretrievable oblivion.
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