Early history in Madison County

A series of local history columns written by Clarence O. Loy ran in the The Pendleton Times beginning May 4, 1949. The Times-Post is revisiting this series, republishing the columns as space permits.

In this series of articles on Sections in Fall Creek Township, I have tried to give a brief story of the beginning of our community. To the individual who is not a native, this may not be of interest, but to those who were born and reared here, I think it approbate if not a duty, to know more about this wilderness country and the men and women who by shear physical strength and courage conquered it. Today you are proud of your neighborhood, whether it be in Pendleton, Huntsville, Ovid, Mt. Gilead, Mendon, or Alfont, just let the finger of scorn be pointed at any of our towns or communities and there will be many who will answer, there is no other place as good. We of this generation cannot take all the credit for creating this Utopia, neither can our fathers or grandfathers back through the five or six generations to the original Ellsworth, Williams, Shaul, Brown, Syberts, Nicholsons and the other 70 some old families who came in here in the 1820s. Primary, my interest was to try and trace the original roads or trails that these first settlers followed, I have have been interested in this for a long time. It was not until I tried tracing these trails on the map that I realized how little I knew about them. I talked to the older people, studied our County Histories, Folk Lore and other material that I thought might give information and found there were leads here, but most of them too indefinite to use. Then on day while trying to follow the road that led from near the Hervey Stephens home to the Mt. Gilead Community, I stumbled on a lead that proved helpful. I noticed that along the known parts of this old trail were cabin sites, some of these, I as a youngster remembered standing back in the fields, quite a distance from our present highways, the thought struck me that most homes of the early settlers were undoubtedly built near some trail, so I started hunting possible cabin sites, and this proved to be a definite lead in locating some of the old trails.

The entry dates and the length of ownership by the first settlers proved to another lead. Those who came here before 1825 and for a year or so later, evidently followed trails established by Indians. A study of the map with entries and locations marked for those first few years of this period clearly show evidence of trails along both sides of of Fall Creek Valley, so far there is no definite clue as to which of these trails was the first used by the settlers nor is the evidence clear as to where they came into the county. There are a few tracts of land in some sections that I do not have early dates, but so far the land of the Reformatory known as the Junction Farm (the 80 where the buildings were) is the first entry or one of the first two entries. Richard Tyner entered this 80, Oct. 1822, and Minor Thomas entered entered a 160 just south of this on the same date, both of these tracts are in Section 30. I don’t have the entries in 31. There may be dates that precede this. Checking the abstract on the Thomas entry, it stated that Thomas was in Wayne County and he owned the land for only a short period, so evidently did not make his home in Madison County. I have no check on Richard Tyler except he entered other land in 1824, this might indicate that the first settlement started near here. But 5 miles to the northeast over on the Ovid road, John Ellsworth entered an 80 just 17 days after the Tyner entries. Ellsworth entry was made Nov. 9, 1822 and on Dec. 25, William Williams filed on an 80 just one-half mile west of the Ellsworth tract. We know something of these families, the Williams came in 1821 and built a cabin close by the present Ralph Williams home. There is no record of when the Ellsworth came but Hannah Ellsworth who was the sixth child of a family of 11 was married to Stephen Corwin in 1821, the Corwins were associated with the settlement in the southwest part of the Township, Moses Corwin owned the Minor Thomas entry. How did the Corwin Ellsworth families become acquainted, had they came from the same locality back east or did they happen to meet on their way out here?

Or did the Corwins come into this community from the east and pass the Ellsworth home, if we knew the answer to this, it would help solve many more perplexing questions. When I started my series of articles on sections I planned to stay away from personalities, I wanted to mention location of trails and cabin sites and what data I could find on churches, schools, mills, and old cemeteries but I found that these are so closely related with the story of the settlers that I was forced to use some of the families. A more through trace of all these early families should be made and a record of their movement up until 1850 or later, also a record of different religious organizations who came into the community, more definite data on the first schools and business enterprises. I think we need an organization here in our own community to work this out, and to those who are interested in seeing this done, I suggest you drop a line to the local paper. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you in helping. Many have shown me their abstracts, private papers, helped locate cabin sites and above all (this means many more than you may think) there was not a single person who sicked the dog on me or ordered me off the place. For this I say thanks and I hope we can work together in the future. Next week I will give you a list of voters and property owners as taken from the 1843 tax records.