EDITOR’S NOTE–This is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.
By R.L. HEMINGER
The history of Hancock County written by D.B. Beardsley, Findlay lawyer, in 1881 contains much material found in no other account of the early days in Hancock County. This 472-page volume was the first complete history of the local community to be compiled.
In Chapter 12, Mr. Beardsley relates what he describes as an “anecdote” of pioneer days that is especially interesting. It was told of two pioneers, Wilson Vance and Philip McKinnis, who were among officials chosen in the first election ever held in Hancock County. In April, 1824, Mr. Vance was named a trustee of what was then Findlay Township and Mr. McKinnis was named constable. Eighteen ballots were cast in the election.
“IN CONSEQUENCE OF the want of flouring mills in the county,” relates the history, “flour and other bread stuffs had to be procured from distant and more favored settlements. Urbana, Perrysburg and Sandusky city were the principal points visited.
“On one occasion, Vance and McKinnis, who were warm friends, had occasion to go to Urbana for provisions, each with his own team of oxen. Everything went along smoothly until they arrived at the Mud Fort near the south line of the county on their return. (The Mud Fort was Fort Necessity, which Gen. William Hull has erected on what is now the Hardin-Hancock boundary line on the march to Detroit in the War of 1812.)
“From that point there were two roads leading to Findlay, one of which Vance wanted to take, but McKinnis objected, desiring to travel the other. They were in a dilemma, neither wanting to yield the point and yet both compelled to travel the same route as a protection against the savages as well as to assist each other in case either team should get stalled in the mud.
“After a heated discussion of the matter for some time, and not being able to agree, McKinnis proposed this novel compromise. They should take the road indicated by Vance with the understanding that if either of the teams stalled before reaching Findlay, that Vance should submit to a whipping from McKinnis, but if they did not stall, that he — McKinnis — would submit to a whipping from Vance for insisting that they should take the other road. The whipping was to be done with an ox-whip. To this Vance agreed.
“THEY THEN STARTED, with Vance in the lead. In this way they traveled until they had almost reached Findlay, without meeting with any mishap and McKinnis began to shrug his shoulders and had made up this mind that Vance had beaten him for once. But Vance’s team suddenly halted, having failed to touch solid bottom in one of the mud holes so common at the foot of Chamberlain’s Hill. Nor could they with all the whipping and coaxing expended on them by Vance extricate the wagon and with a rather solemn countenance, McKinnis was called upon to assist. He readily consented and with the help of his team, Vance’s wagon was soon placed on solid ground again.
“Now came McKinnis’ time and insisting on the contract, Vance accepted the situation as gracefully as possible while his opponent who had fairly won laid on the ox-gad right lively.”
The Beardsley history provides no information as to the exact dates of the incident, but it undoubtedly took place in the very early decades of the settlement.
Vance was the town’s founder, having come here in the early days of the 1820s, after his brother Joseph Vance and Elnathan Cory, together with William Neil, had bought the land from the federal government. He died in 1862 and his monument is to be seen on the east end of the main drive in Maple Grove Cemetery.
The McKinnis family also arrived in the settlement in the early 1820s. A brother of Philip was one of the first county commissioners. His name was Charles, who was first elected in the fall of 1828 and served for five years. A female member of the McKinnis family was one of the contracting parties in the first marriage performed in Hancock County. Her name was Rachel and she became the bride of Samuel Kepler on Sept. 2, 1824.
Oddly enough the officiating official was Wilson Vance, who also was a justice of the peace, and who was to figure in the anecdote related above in which Philip McKinnis was a party.