Great Black Swamp, first families recalled

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following 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

 

(This is the fifth of a series of eight articles concerning the Job Chamberlin reminiscences of early Hancock County.)

Job Chamberlin, in his reminiscences which are now being reviewed in this column, discussed the perils of the Great Black Swamp which covered much of Hancock and some surrounding counties when the first settlers came.

“Travel was very difficult between Findlay and Perrysburg when we had to go to Perrysburg on business. Hancock County was still part of Wood County, whose county seat was located at Perrysburg when Wood was first organized.

“The swampy area was filled with water so much of the time, so that travelers had to leap from log to log many times to make any headway. In the winter the traveler could go on the ice. Father told of a man he had met in the swamp driving sheep. He had to catch them one at a time and slide them along the ice. Travel under such circumstances was a very slow process.

“Father said he could see the smoke from one of the temporary encampments to another in the swampy area. It was almost impossible to get through with a team of horses, so bad was the footing.”

Mr. Chamberlin wrote that the Indians of those days were under some fanaticism of witchcraft and would inflict capital punishment on the victims of their suspicion. He told of the murder of an old squaw, into whose side long knives were thrust.

The Indians had hogs of their own. They were described as “wild” and when they became excited they were dangerous. The bears tangled with the hogs of the Indians and the white man too, according to Mr. Chamberlin, who went on to say that “it was an uncommon sight for a hog to come home minus a large piece of flesh from its side or back.”

“It was a frequent occurrence for persons to get lost in the thick forest,” wrote Mr. Chamberlin. He tells of a young girl getting lost when she went into the woods to hunt hickory nuts. It was late in the day before she was found.

Mr. Chamberlin says there were six white families in the Hancock County area when they came here early in the 1820s. He names them as follow: Benjamin Cox, who had been in the area about six years, having been the first white settler, coming not long after the fort was constructed; Wilson Vance, who laid out the town of Findlay after his brother, Joseph, and two other men had bought the land from the federal government; William Moreland; a man named Smith; John Simpson; and Asa Lake. Mr. Simpson had bought a tract of land beside the Chamberlin farm at the same time the Chamberlin purchase was made at the U.S. land office at Delaware, Ohio. He lived in a log cabin not far from where the Chamberlin house went up. His father lived with him, but was killed soon after coming when he collided with a tree limb.

Mr. Vance, according to the Chamberlin account, lived in a log building in Findlay at the northeast corner of what was to become South Main and East Front streets. Mr. Cox lived in a cabin 20 or 30 rods southeast of the Vance property. Mr. Smith lived some distance to the west on the Blanchard River bank and Mr. Moreland lived across the river. Mr. Lake resided at Mount Blanchard, which he founded.

Mr. Cox had seven girls and three sons, one of the girls became married to a man named Eberly and resided in Wood County for quite a while. Her recollections of the pioneer days are contained in some detail in the R.C. Brown history of Hancock County.

“We had some interesting times as children,” wrote Mr. Chamberlin. “There were Indian boys of our size and age. We enjoyed wrestling, running and jumping a great deal. Mr. Moreland had six children, four girls and two boys, to complete the roster of young people in the pioneer area.”

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