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Fairfield County, Ohio
History & Genealogy



Pioneer Period and Pioneer People of Fairfield Co., Ohio.
by C. M. L. Wiseman
Publ. F. J. Heer Printing Co., Columbus, O.  1901

Transcribed by Sharon Wick

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     WE will name a few teachers of old time who were good scholars, especially in certain lines, and many of them taught fairly well.  The schools of the period we refer to were taught in log school houses, benches without backs, with writing desk along the wall; many of the houses were poorly heated and destitute of every comfort or convenience.  The scholars ranged from six years up to stalwart men and women of about twenty-one years.  Many of them were rude and unruly and went to school for fun.  The teacher who kept good order was rare and he had his hands full.  The rod, a good hickory, was relied upon by the teacher.  In many cases boys were flogged unmercifully - they deserved it, and parents seldom interfered.  Indeed, it was customary for fathers to tell their boys, if you are whipped at school and I hear of it you will get another at home."
     There was one well authenticated case when the teacher was told that he could never manage the school and the names of the rowdy boys were given to him.  He procured a few good hickroy withes and on the first day of school he met the boys at the door, asking each his name.  He severely flogged each one and told them that that was the way he commenced, and if necessary he would keep it up.  The parents did not complain and he conducted the school without any trouble.  The boys who received the flogging had

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broken up two or three schools.  Then schools were a very poor place to study, but if the teacher had a fair chance, good places to get instruction, and the ambitious boy thirsting for learning fared very well in spite of his surroundings.  Occasionally a teacher could be found unworthy of the name.  A school was once taught in Pleasant township by one of this class.  A visitor noticed a Latin book on his desk and inquired if he taught Latin.  He replied in the negative and his attention was called to the book.  He then remarked that one of his scholars had used that book for his reading lesson since he came to the school—and he thought the language was rather strange.  On another occasion one of his scholars came to him to explain a page of his arithmetic devoted to bookkeeping.  The teacher told him that he could not explain the matter as it referred to surveying.  We are pleased to know that there were not many such teachers, even among the old-timers.  To the list of old teachers we must add the names of Thomas Ewing and Hocking H. Hunter—their teaching was only temporary.  One of the greatest liberties taken with the teacher by the scholars, and tolerated, and in many cases encouraged and promoted by the parents, was the barring out of the master at Christmas time, if he refused to treat the school.  Two or three bushels of apples were generally more than sufficient to satisfy their wants.  If the teacher refused—and they often did—the door was barred, the windows defended and the master kept out until he relented, if it required a whole week.  This custom was universal 60 years ago—all old men remember it.
     In the Reber district, south of Royalton, one of the old fashioned Irishmen referred to previously, was bar

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red out.  He came to the school house and demanded entrance.  The reply was, treat and you can come in.  Faith and I will, but it will be meself, he replied, and wended his way to Royalton and began to get quite tipsy.  This was kept up for a day or two.  On one occasion
he climbed to the roof and placed a board over the chimney in order to smoke the boys out.  A few of the parents who were near got upon the roof, took the old fellow by the heels, swung him clear of the building and threatened to drop him to the ground if he did not agree to treat.
     This was one of the crude things peculiar to pioneer times—what was fun to them would be called rough and vulgar now.
     One of the greatest features of the old-time schools was the spelling match, one school against another, or the half of one school against the other half.  These matches created great excitement and filled the houses.  There were numerous scholars in a township who could
spell every word in Webster's American spelling book.
     The father of James Buchanan, of Basil, was one of the oldest teachers of this county, and a worthy man.  The father of Thomas Pugh was a well known teacher and brought up two of his sons to the same profession.
     Isaac Kerns, more recently a commissioner of this county, was a teacher for many years.
     All have passed to the great beyond and many of them have been forgotten.  Would that the names of all could be rescued from oblivion and placed upon a tablet of enduring bronze, that the children of this
and succeeding generations might at least read the names of those who in times past taught the young idea of their forefathers how to shoot.

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     The Centennial History gives a very full account of Lancaster teachers.
     The schools of pioneer days were not numerous.  Previous to 1830, when our common school system was adopted by the Ohio legislature, all schools depended upon private subscription.  A teacher was selected and employed and the parents of each scholar paid his or their proportion of the expense.  Parents too poor to pay tuition had to be content with such instruction as they could give their children at home, and in most cases this was very limited.
     In this day of good schools and thorough teaching it is a mistake to suppose that the early schools, few as they were, were without merit and ability on the part of the teachers.
     Thomas Ewing bears wholesome and worthy testimony to the ability and scholarship of his first teacher in those early days—an Irishman whom he gratefully remembered.
     There were many teachers in Ohio and Fairfield County in the early days who came from Ireland or were sons of Irish parents.  They were good teachers and good scholars—especially were they good in grammar and mathematics.  But unfortunately, many of them were intemperate and rather dissolute in their habits: often bachelors who tramped from one neighborhood  to another—and like the old minstrel immortalized by Walter Scott, welcome wherever they happened to stop or tarry to teach a school.  An Irishman named Welsh was an early teacher of this class and he was a great favorite.
     One of the first men to teach school in this county was John Goldthwait.  The school was in the McCleery district in Greenfield township.  Goldthwait

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came from Massachusetts, having been born in the city of Springfield.  He came to this county from Athens, where he had taught in the year 1801.  He died near New Salem in the year 1829.  He was a good man and upon his modest tombstone is inscribed his hope of immortality.  He was a lover of fruit and the people of Fairfield County owe him a debt of gratitude on that score.  He established a nursery and brought from Marietta the scions of Golden Pippen, Newtown Pippin, Seek-no-Farther, Rhode Island Greening, Roxbury Russet, American Golden Russet or Pearmain and that rare apple, the Vanderver.  He planted the first orchard in the county on the old Levering farm near the camp ground.
     Peter McMullen was one of the early teachers, a very successful one and a good scholar.
     New England, Maryland, New York and Virginia gave to Fairfield County several teachers of the class referred to.
     John T. Brasee and Salmon Shaw were able teachers, but better educated than the class referred to.
     James Allen, of Maryland, came to this country at a very early day and settled in Walnut township.  He
was a good common school teacher, and beloved and remembered by his pupils.
     Simon Ortman was another old-time teacher.  He also came to Walnut township from Maryland.
     Josiah Smith came from Connecticut and for several years taught school.  Late in life he was a prominent
citizen of Hardin County.
     Father Monroe was a good teacher of the early period of the common schools.  He came from New England.  One of his last schools was taught in Bremen.

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     A man named Brent taught school for years in the neighborhood of Pleasantville.  He came from Winchester, Va.  A brother of his was cashier of the Bank of the Valley of Virginia.  Brent was dissipated, but withal a good teacher.
     Dr. Simon Hyde was one of the early teachers and the best scholar at that time in the county.  He came from Connecticut.
     Father Bryan. long a resident of Pleasantville, was an Irishman, a fair scholar and a good teacher.  He was the grandfather of Dr. Gilliam, the eminent surgeon of Columbus, and great-grandfather of Attorney Gilliam of this city.
     We had one old-time teacher who was on his last legs when he came to the county.  He was competent, but dissipated.  He was tolerated, but in time could not procure a regular school.  He opened one on his own account for boys.  On one occasion he had a spelling class on the floor and he remarked.  "Boys, I am going to pronounce a word (of course the word was such as to excite their risibilities) and if any of you laugh I will whip you like h--- ."  Of course they all laughed immoderately, but no one was whipped, for the teacher joined in the merriment.  Doubtless there are men still living who attended his school.
     A witty Irishman, named Skenmore, taught school in Berne township in the year 1813, and was called a very good teacher.  John May and a Mr. J. Addison had previously taught there.  This was in the Carpenter or Koontz district. 
Camp taught a German school in Pleasant township and Abraham Winters taught one in English, both prior to 1810.

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     John Griffith and John Grantham taught school in the Murphy district prior to 1830, and as early as 1824, in Walnut township.  Richard Clarke was one of the early teachers of Madison township.
     The late John Crook states that John Addison taught in the Koontz, or Prindle district in the year 1809.  He was a good natured man and was liked by his scholars.  A Mr. Burrows and Hocking H. Hunter afterwards taught in the same district, and in later years a beloved brother of the writer, long since dead, William Wirt Wiseman.
     Warren Case and his sister, Sarah, taught school in Royalton as early as 1810, and Henry Calhoun in 1812.
     In addition to James Allen, previously mentioned, Jesse Smith, was a very prominent early teacher in Walnut township.  A. Cole and W. H. Coley were early teachers in Hocking township.
     Bartholomew Foley and Thomas Paden were teachers in 1828, in the Koontz school house in Berne township.  Paden was afterwards a merchant in New Salem.  He married a Miss Frey, of Rushcreek township.
     James Hunter, uncle of the late Andrew Hunter, was an early teacher in Hocking township and was one of the first to teach a school in Lancaster.
     A Mr. Watsbaugh and a Mr. Irvin were very early teachers in Pleasant township, near the Trimble farmEli Ashbrook, of Illinois, in his young days was a good teacher in Pleasant.

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     Thomas McGee, Thomas Moore and John Young were early teachers in the Barr district, Amanda township, also John Cunningham.
     Moses Stutson
and Solomon Grover were early teachers in the Landis district of Madison township
     Samuel Shaw was an old-time teacher of Liberty township.  He was a giant and when bad boys fell into his hands they trembled.  Many teachers were cowed and compelled to give up their schools.  Not so with Samuel Shaw.  He was a match for the stoutest boy or the largest school. 
     Dr. Bryson, of Millersport, and the late Dr. Aldred of Carroll, were competent and successful teachers in their younger days.  The wife of Dr. Bryson was an Aldred.  The first wife of Dr. Aldred was a Crawford, a relative of the late Jacob Van Meter Crawford, of Berne township.
     Abraham Winters, who taught school as early as 1810, lived on Pleasant Run, northwest of the Taylor Huber farm.  He came early from Rockingham County, Virginia.  He reared two daughters who were once belles of the township.  The oldest married Col. Valentine Cupp who, while gallantly leading his regiment, was fatally wounded at Chickamauga.  His wife is also dead.  The other daughter, Margaret, married Lieutenant Lafayette Pickering.  Pickering has long been dead, but the once handsome girl is still living.  Margaret Winters lived in the days when horseback riding was popular, as well as a necessity.  She was a daring and accomplished equestrienne and captured more than one prize at the County Fair.
     We will name a few good teachers who taught in and about Rushville after the time of Simon Hyde, the greatest scholar of his time.  John W. Fauble was

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one of them.  He afterwards married a daughter of Rev. James Quinn, and became himself a Methodist preacher of the Ohio conference.
     Isaiah Bell, born and raised on Pleasant Run, was a teacher for some years and then entered the Ohio conference as a popular preacher.
     John Mason Dick, grandfather of Rev. Dick, of the Ohio conference, was one of the early teachers.
     Robert J. Black taught school fifty years ago, or about that time, in Rushville.  He resides upon his farm in Rushcreek and is now a cultivator of and an authority on fruit.
     Rev. Anderson, pastor of the Presbyterian church of West Rushville, was for some years the teacher of a popular select school.
     Wm. Coulson, after his failure as a merchant, was a good teacher.  He lived to a good old age, passing his ninetieth year.
     The venerable David Pence, grandson of Emanuel Ruffner, in his early days, was a successful teacher.  His only daughter is the wife of Joseph S. Sites, of this city.  He is a distinguished member of one of the large and distinguished pioneer families of this county.
     Most of the school houses in which the foregoing pioneers taught were built of round logs chinked and daubed and a single log cut out of sufficient width for windows.  The fire places in many instances were as wide as one end of the building, and huge logs used for fuel.
     The seats were made of slabs with round legs at each end and destitute of backs.  The schools were all taught on contracts signed by each patron, agreeing to pay a stated price for each pupil.

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     In one instance a public-spirited citizen, father of Broad Cole, built a school house and employed Abraham Cole to teach the school at eight dollars per month and invited his neighbors to send their children and pay pro rata share or not, as they chose or were able.  There were no special school hours then.  The teacher was there at daylight and had a good fire ready to receive his pupils, make them comfortable and go to work.  There were no gold or steel pens in those days all were made with pen-knife of goosequills by the teacher.  Fancy a teacher at that interminable task now.
     As stated above, the early school houses had huge fire places, some as wide as the building, and in one case, and perhaps others, the back logs—children raised in our modern home never saw a back log—were drawn in by horses, ropes being run through the cracks between logs.
     All middle age men will remember the ten plate stove used to warm school houses and in universal use, with big letters on the side, "Made by John Moore, Mary Ann Furnace."  This furnace and foundry was located in Licking County, on the Licking river, a few miles from Newark, east.  Moore, the proprietor, was a famous man, for is it not fame to be known to thousands of school children?  He was the father of Mrs. Judge Silas H. Wright, long a resident of Lancaster, now of Washington.
     This same stove once adorned and warmed the country and village stores and many farm houses.  Many readers of this sketch will be reminded of a dear old friend.  A friend that gave them comfort and never

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boasted of it.  A friend around which the scholars gathered at noon time of cold days, chatted and ate their lunch.  But alas, the stove has gone and others have taken its place, and saddest of all, the scholars, most of them, are gone and others have taken their place.




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