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Rome, Athens County, Ohio History

Rome was formed from a portion of the township of Troy in 18 11. The first entry on the subject, in the records of the county commissioners, is as follows:

“Thursday, April 4, 1811.-Ordered by the commissioners, That so much of the township of Troy as is contained in the original surveyed townships, numbered 5 and 6, in the 11th range, and 6 in the 12th range, be erected into a new township by the name of Rome. .

“Ordered by the commissioners, That their clerk notify the inhabitants of the township of Rome to meet at the house of Amos Crippen, in said township, on Saturday the 10th instant, for the purpose of electing township officers.”

But no election was held under this order, and, on the 4th of June ensuing, the commissioners

“Ordered, That the boundaries of the township of Rome be as follows, to wit: beginning at the southwest corner of township No. 6 in the 12th range, thence east on the township line until it intersects the river Hockhocking, thence up said river until it intersects the range line between the 11th and 12th ranges, thence on said range line (being the line between the counties of Athens and Washington) to the south boundary of Ames township, thence west on said township line to the township of Athens, thence south to the place of beginning, and that the remainder of the township of Rome be and is hereby attached to the township of Troy. [This refers to the previous order of April 4th.]

“Ordered by the commissioners, That their clerk notify, by advertisement, the inhabitants of the township of Rome to meet at the house of Daniel Stewart, on Saturday, the 15th instant, for the purpose of electing township officers.”

The only change that has since been made in these boundaries, was by an act of the legislature, passed February 10, 1814, which detached sections 31 and 32, township 6, range 11, from Washington county, and added them to Rome, thus taking in the strip east of the Hockhocking, and causing the offset at the southeast corner of the township.

The population of Rome in 1820 was 497; in 1830 it was 522; in 1840 it was 852; in 1850 it was 1,309; in 1860 it was 1581.

The Methodist church was planted in this township at a very early day. Daniel and Archelaus Stewart were the first to move in the matter of forming a society here. They settled here in 1802. About two years later Daniel Stewart rode twenty miles to meet the Rev. Jacob Young, who was then on the Marietta circuit, and engaged him to visit Rome township. Mr. Young came according to promise. In his autobiography, published a few years since, in narrating the events of 1855, Mr. Young speaks of Daniel Stewart:

“Under whose hospitable roof I have spent many a happy night, and from whose hand I had received many a dollar, when I stood in great need of money. I first lodged with this good man in 1804, preached and organized a church in his house. He was then in the vigor of manhood, and was one of most active and enterprising men in Ohio.”

William Pilcher, Job Ruter, Eliphalet Case, Elijah Rowell, and their wives, were among the earliest members of the society thus formed by “Father Young.” The Methodists now have three neat and substantial church buildings in the township, where services are held regularly. One of the first ministers who preached in the township, was the Rev. Cyrus Paulk, jr., who preached in 1803, and, thereafter, regularly for many years. He was a “Calvinist Baptist.” There is one Baptist and one United Brethren church in Rome.

The first school house in the township, a log structure sixteen feet square, was built in 1804, on the east bank of Federal creek, about two hundred yards below the bridge and near the mouth of the creek. Abraham Richards was the first teacher, and Mrs. Polly Driggs, a daughter of Ebenezer Barrows, was the next. The school was supported by subscription, and was the center of a school district about five miles in diameter. There are now eleven school houses in the township, each with ample accommodations for forty scholars.

The “Miller seminary,” owned and managed by the Rev. Amos Miller, is pleasantly located on his farm, about one mile east of Savannah, near the Hockhocking river, and three miles from the Marietta & Cincinnati railroad. When first established, in 1841, Prof. Miller used a large room in his dwelling house as a school room. As the school increased a separate building on his farm was made use of, and, in 1859, Prof. Miller erected a handsome and convenient two-story building, in which the school has since been kept. Neat cottages have been built close at hand, for the use of pupils who desire to board themselves.

The seminary will accommodate one hundred pupils. Some hundreds of youths of both sexes have been taught here, and the institution is a credit to the founder and to the county. Professor Miller has taught in Athens county at intervals, and most of the time for the last forty-two years.

At Savannah is located the ” Savannah academy.” This school, the management and success of which have been highly creditable to all concerned, was founded in the spring of 1867 through the efforts of some public spirited citizens of the township. Frederic Finsterwald, Peter Boyles, Vincent Caldwell, Harvey Pierce, and John Caldwell were elected the first board of trustees of the academy and have been its steady patrons and supporters. They employed Mr. George W. Boyce as principal teacher, and the school has been well patronized from the beginning. More than one hundred and forty scholars, in the aggregate, attended during the first year. The active interest in education thus manifested, and the liberal support accorded to this enterprise by the leading citizens of the neighborhood, are worthy of the highest commendation.

There is also a good school at Big Run, founded in 1866 through the voluntary contributions of the citizens. A neat and convenient school building has been erected, and the school is useful and prosperous. It is under the management at present of Miss Elizabeth Monahan.

In 1808 the first bridge in the township was built over Federal creek, near its mouth, by Elijah Hatch, and in 1818 a second one was built at the same place. Both were clumsy structures, and neither of them very permanent. In 1842 a greatly superior bridge was erected by Peter Beebe, Isaac Jackson being the architect; it was at first a toll bridge but is now free. About the year 1851 or 1852, a bridge was built over Federal creek near the mouth of Big Run but was soon swept away; another has since been erected on the same site. The bridge at Savannah was built about ten years ago, the funds being supplied partly by the county and partly by subscription. Another has been built over the Hockhocking about two miles below Savannah, the funds being raised in the same manner.

The first grist and saw mill in the township was built in 1802 by George, Henry, and James Barrows on Federal creek, about a mile from its mouth. The mill was a log building with only one run of stones, which were made of the ” Laurel hill granite ” and run by a large undershot wheel. This enterprise was hailed with delight by some half dozen infant settlements, some of them distant fifteen or twenty miles. Before this the nearest mill, where wheat could be ground, was Devol’s, on the Muskingum, at least forty miles distant. Many families, however, possessed that great desideratum of pioneer life, the primitive hand mill and the ” hominy block.” There were also a few horse mills in the county, but they were only used for grinding or, as it was called, “cracking” corn. In 1818 Reuben Farnsworth built the first mill on the Hockhocking river, within the township limits. This was one of the most solid and substantial mill structures ever erected in the county. Farnsworth failed, and the mill passed into the hands of Peter Beebe, who afterward sold it to Thomas Welch. It was sold by Mr. Welch to Cook, Crippen & Co., who are the present owners.

In 1820 the Savannah mill (grist and saw mill) was built by Ezra Stewart and his brother Charles, sons of Esquire Daniel Stewart. It has three run of stones and does a great amount of custom work. It is situated on the Hockhocking river, in the village of Savannah, about three miles from the west line of Rome township. About 1834 Alexander Stewart and George Warren built the Stewart mill (a saw mill), near Savannah; but it was soon destroyed by fire, and a large three-story grist and saw mill was erected on the site by Daniel B. Stewart. In 1844 Mr. Stewart connected a woolen factory with the establishment, which is now owned by Captain Charles Byron, late of the 3d regiment 0. V. I. It runs four hundred and seventy spindles, has four looms, four carding machines, two spinning jacks, and a full set of fulling and dressing machinery. During the season of 1867 the mill manufactured eight thousand pounds of rolls, ten thousand pounds of yarn, and six thousand pounds of wool into cloth. The grist and saw mill are still in active operation. Two miles above Savannah are the Kincade mills built in 1842 by John and Allen Kincade, and now being rebuilt by John Kincade on an enlarged plan and in a more substantial manner. About 1854 Heman Frost-son of Abram Frost, one of the pioneers of Carthage township-built a grist and saw mill three miles below Cook & Crippen’s mill; it was subsequently replaced by a saw mill, which was swept off by a high “freshet” in the spring of 1867.

What was called ” upper settlement ” of Rome township was formed in the year 1808 by Joshua Selby, John Thompson, Robert Calvert, and Jonathan Simmons, from Virginia, and Richard, George, and James Simmons from Pennsylvania. They were all good citizens. In 1810 or 1811 Christopher Herrold, one of the pioneers of Ames township, settled in Rome. He was a Pennsylvania German and a man of enterprise and thrift. He afterward removed to Dover.

A singular evidence of the enterprising spirit of the early settlers is afforded by the fact that in 1811 a seagoing vessel was built in Rome township, a mile below the mouth of Federal creek on the south bank of the Hockhocking. She was launched and taken to New Orleans in the spring of 1812. The vessel was built by Captain Caleb Barstow, from Providence, Rhode Island, and was called The Enterprise.

Elections, musters, and house raisings were in early times events of special interest. Plenty of good cheer abounded on such occasions, and boisterous frolicking, with the roughest sort of practical jokes, was the order of the day. Colonel Wm. Stewart, an early resident of the county, furnishes the following account of a house raising in Rome township:

“As early as the spring of 1804 father built what was then called a double log barn, about eighteen feet high, all of white oak timber. It required nearly all the settlers of Rome, Carthage, Troy, Ames, and Canaan townships to raise it. In those days, however, no one thought of not responding to such a call, and on this occasion they were all present. As early as sunrise there were about fifty men on hand. As was the universal custom in those days father furnished a copious supply of old rye whisky, and by breakfast time-about 7 o’clock-many of the men felt its effects. The building went on, however, with a will, and the heavy logs were rushed up on large skids with a strength and daring that were surprising, the men cheering and laughing all the while. Dinner came on. According to custom three large chicken pies were placed on the table, one in the center and one at each end. A large decanter of whisky stood by the center one. The crowd being seated grace was said by father, and all being hungry were ready to fallto vigorously when James Crippen (he and his brother Amos were the leading spirits of the day), having made an excavation in the center of the chicken pie, seized the decanter and said, ‘ Gentlemen, it has all got to go one way at last, so here goes,’ and with that he poured the whisky, more than a quart, into the smoking pie. It produced a great laugh; some ate heartily of the pie, some cautiously, and some declined the new sauce, yet all in great glee. After dinner all hands went to work again, and by dark the barn was completed-the greatest day’s work, I suspect, ever performed in the county. The work over, father thanked them all for their kindness. James Crippen responded, saying, I No thanks, Daniel, what we’ve done to-day we owe to every one that makes a like call; but before we part we desire to have a social dance, and especially do we wish to dance with the good old lady Mrs. Wickham and her husband,’ and walking up to the old lady he immediately led her out for a jig. In less than a minute they were dancing with all their might, the men singing and beating time. At least twenty of the men danced a jig in turn with Mrs. Wickham till she was tired out, and then they danced with old Mr. Wickham till he was exhausted. But they were not through yet. Mr. Wickham being tired out it was proposed in great glee to bury him. An old ox sled was immediately procured, two boards laid on it, and Mr. Wickham laid on the boards. Numbers of the men seized the sled and prepared to drag it over the ground, while others with cowbells and sleighbells led the procession. The sled was drawn several times around the yard amid great noise and laughter, and then the old man was released. It was nearly midnight before the scene closed, and all left. During the whole day and evening there was no profanity nor any hard words used. All was cheerful labor, and innocent, though boisterous, mirth.”

Esquire Elmer Rowell, to whom we are indebted for many facts concerning the early settlement of Rome township, says

“When I first settled here the nearest post office was at Athens, sixteen or seventeen miles distant, and I have frequently gone that distance for a single expected letter; now there are four post offices in the township. Then we went thirty miles to obtain our necessary dry goods, groceries, hardware, etc.; now there are seven or eight good country stores in the township. While musing on the times and people of fifty-five years ago, the whole scene for thirty miles up and down the valley seems photographed on my memory-the men and women, their costumes, the log cabins and the cleared patches. The men all dressed in homespun during summer, and during winter a great part of the clothing consisted of buckskin; the females, both matron and lass, for every day in homespun, except in later years, now and then began to appear in a ‘ factory dress,’ and all had for Sunday and holidays the more costly and gayer calico and cambric dresses. Those were the days of warm friendships and close attachments. Common hardships and labors begot a fellow feeling. If there was a cabin to raise, every man for miles around turned out with alacrity to help raise it and put on the last clapboard. If there was any job too heavy for one man to do, all assisted. When a hunter or any one else was belated, be he a stranger or acquaintance, he found a home and a welcome in any log cabin he might chance to find.”

Between 1800 and 1810 the township received a number of good settlers. John Johnson and father on the Hockhocking opposite Federal creek; Job Ruter, with his sons Martin and Calvin, on the river about two miles above Federal creek; and about the same time came Nathan Conner, Rev. Moses Osborn, the Calverts, the Thompsons, the Selbys, and the Mitchells, all of whom settled on the river. Most of these came from Virginia. Also prominent among the early settlers were Abraham Sharp, who gave his name to Sharp’s run and Sharp’s fork of Federal creek; Francis Munn, a revolutionary soldier, Archibald Dorough, Thomas Richardson, Dr. Seth Driggs, the Hewitts, Jeremiah Conant, Wm. Pilcher, Aaron Orm, Thomas Swan, Aaron Butts, Eli Catlin, Daniel Anderson, a lieutenant in the revolutionary army, David Chapman, and Enos Thompson, a Methodist preacher.

When war was declared in 1812 Athens county was called on for a company of infantry to consist of fifty men. To raise these the militia regiment, then commanded by Colonel Edmund Dorr, was summoned together and volunteers called for. The quota was filled in a few minutes by volunteering, and of the fifty men, nearly one-fifth were from Rome township, and all of these from the school district of which the old school house was the center. Their names were James Crippen, Peter Beebe, Thaddeus Crippen, Ebenezer Hatch, Charles Stewart, William Starr, Andrew Stewart, John

Wickham, and Daniel Muncie. Subsequently, when the company was enlarged to sixty, Rome sent one more volunteer, George Driggs, and he is the only survivor of the whole number. In 1813, when the governor of Ohio called for forty days mounted riflemen, George Barrows, Montgomery Perry, and a young man named Swann, went from Rome.

William T. Hatch, son of Elijah Hatch, was the first male child born in the township, and his sister Harriet, the late Mrs. Hill, is said to have been the first female. Mrs. Elijah Hatch, mother of Judge Hatch, was the first person who died in the township.

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