Previous to this time several companies of militia from Knox County, Coshocton and Guernsey Counties had been sent to Mansfield to protect the pioneers. Father, with us, were back to see our premises every few days. So he got a number of our old neighbors who were then soldiers to assist in transforming our cabin into a block house, which was accomplished by taking logs which we had provided for a larger house, and with them building the upper story of the cabin two feet wider than the lower, having the logs extend out a foot at all the corners and leaving a space all around and affording a chance to shoot down the outside of the lower wall and producing numerous portholes for firing out at a foe. Our friendly Indians were taken away, I believe to Dayton, and supported for a time by the government. When the cold weather commenced we thought danger was over for the present and in November we moved our family back into our new blockhouse.

In December, brother Benjamin shot a huge bear which when whole, without the intestines, weighed a few pounds over four hundred pounds. The dogs were fighting him in the little brook north of where Mr. Griebling's barn now stands. We had many chases after bears, wolves, deer and other wild animals.

The summer of 1813 we raised a good crop of corn but had no wheat to harvest yet. The war still raged and there was danger of the Indians along the frontier. Levi Jones of Mansfield was killed and scalped by two Indians in daylight in what is now the north part of town. This occurred in August. We thought it too dangerous to remain here and in a few days started back with our horses and cattle to our old neighborhood near Mr. Vernon. About this time, Major Croghan defeated a small army of British and Indians at Fr. Stephenson, where Fremont is, and on the memorable 10th of September 1813, Commodore Perry defeated and captured the British fleet on Lake Erie. The war movements were then arrested in this region and people felt more secure, so when the leaves began to fall, we repaired back to our block house feeling quite relieved from Indian troubles and applied ourselves to hard work, hunting, etc.

In the fall of 1813, Father was elected to the legislature as representative of this county and Knox. In the spring of 1814, a few neighbors settled in our township, among them were John and Aaron Young, Noah Cook, Ichabod Clark, Andrew Perkins, and perhaps some others. In the fall of 1814, Father was again elected to the legislature.

In the winter of 1815, peace was concluded with Great Britain and during the spring we had quite a rush of immigrants from the south and east settling in this township and Springfield.

In the winder of 1812 and 1813, Mr. Amariah Watson got his first sawmill started and in the autumn of '13 raised his grist mill, and had it in operation in 1814; and about that time, laid out the village of Lexington. Mansfield took a new start and immigration poured into all parts of our county. From that time, old Richland seemed to put off it wilderness garb and assume the aspect of civilization. During the winter of 1816-17, our first school was taught in Lexington by a young gentleman named Levi Woodruff. Had not been to school myself since the winter of 1811-12, so I attended school, I think eighteen days, trying to study arithmetic most of the time, but could not succeed well as our teacher was not very good at explaining in that branch. Mother lay sick all winter so that our attendance at school was very irregular. Our worth and much beloved Mother died on Sabbath, the 23rd of March 1817, of dropsy, with which she had been afflicted and suffered severely from for many years. Our bound girl was free about the time of Mother's death but remained with us until the spring of 1818 when she went to her friends in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.

During the winter of 1817-18, our school was taught by a youth from Guernsey County, William Kennon, who had studied surveying with Esquire John Stewart, our County Surveyor. He was an excellent teacher of arithmetic and to him I went something over forty days and made rapid progress. He recommended me strongly to study surveying. From the time our bound girl us we kept bachelor's hall (Aunt Mitchel doing our baking and washing) until Father was married to Mrs. Rebecca Meredith of Coshocton County, which event occurred the first week of July 1818. Our stepmother was a native of Virginia, had a family of four sons and six daughters, her two oldest daughters, being married before she and Father were, and the next two sons after. She came to live with us about the middle of July, brought her five youngest children with her, three sons and two daughters, which more than doubled the number of our family. I feel duty bound to pay this tribute to her memory and say she was a most worthy and estimable woman with whom we lived in peace and comfort.

I had a strong desire to study surveying, so in the autumn of 1818, I visited the two schools then kept in Mansfield and several others but could find no one who could teach surveying.

I sought an interview with our County Surveyor, John Stewart, Esq., and found him glad to take me in. So early in the winter of 1818-19 I went to live with him, assisted in taking care of his stock, chopping wood, etc., and attended laboriously to my studies in which I was much interested and made much progress. I was there in all twenty-eight days and nights. This was all the tuition I had under a living teacher in the branch of mathematics never went to school afterwards. In the fall of 1820, I taught a school through the winter in a new log cabin built for that purpose on Esquire John Mitchel's land about a half mile west of what now is known as King's Corners, finished up three months term of seventy two days the latter part of February, 1821, had about twenty three scholars at two dollars a scholar, boarded around among the employers. There was no school district or school tax in Ohio and teaching was not the fortune making business it now is. I got through with my term quite successfully, had the pleasure of being well liked as a teacher, but never undertook the business again. Our former teacher, William Kennon, became a prominent lawyer of Belmont County, was judge of the court and several times elected to Congress.

On Christmas Day 1821, I left home on horseback to visit my grandparents then living in Brooke County, Virginia, and other relatives in western Pennsylvania. The first night after leaving home I put up at Mr. John Burn's of near Ashland (which was then called Uniontown). There I first saw her who afterwards became my wife and mother of all my children. There I learned that here youngest sister, Cynthia Burns, was to be married the next week to Mr. John Carr of that neighborhood. On the following morning I bade them adieu without having intention of visiting them soon again, though quite favorably impressed toward the family. I pursued my journey eastward until Saturday the 29th of December when I arrived at the home of Mr. Bailey in Jefferson County, whose wife was a full cousin of my father. I tarried with them a few days. Two of their sons had informed me how to find them. Think it was on Wednesday the 2nd of January 1822, that I ferried over the Ohio River at Steubenville and landed in Virginia, the first time I had seen my native state since leaving it the summer of 1800. Traveled down the River to Wellsburg where I happened to meet Uncle Patrick Gass who soon piloted me home to his parents with whom he then lived.

My grandparents, of course, did not know me, and my grandmother seemed reluctant to believe it was me. She said I looked so much stouter and bigger than she thought I would ever be. Their family then consisted of the two old folks, Uncle Patrick (who was still single) and the hired girl. Grandfather was then seventy-eight years old but could with Uncle Pat's assistance, still attend to his fulling mill.

After fixing things up generally for a few days, providing them with a good supply of fuel, Uncle Pat went along with me over the rough hills of Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, visiting our relatives who were mostly strangers to me.

Visited my uncle, Benjamin Gass, who had a fulling mill on Peter's Creek, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, some forty miles from grandfather's. Our relatives all seemed very kind and courteous toward us and particularly interested in me as they of course considered me a wild unpolished backwoods Buckeye. After remaining some weeks among my kind relatives in the latter part of January, I bade them all an affectionate adieu and started for home by way of Wheeling. Arrived safely home according to appointment on the last night of January 1822. Then applied the mattock and axe pretty hard at clearing what is now our middle ten acre field on the west side. Had it deadened some years before, and with some assistance from brother Benjamin, William and the Meredith boys, and a good amount of hard labor, we succeeded in planting it in corn that spring. About this time I began to be impressed with that ancient truth that "it was not good for man to be alone," so acquired the habit of making acceptable visits to Mr. Burn's family. The old gentleman was a widower but got married that summer to Mrs. Rosanna Reznor, an amiable widow lady, who had two sons, perhaps twelve and fourteen years old. Immediately after harvest, I commenced chopping and hewing logs for a house at which I labored hard and got it raised on the first day of October, finished it off with clapboard roof and puncheon floor, all split and hewed with my own hands and chimney built in the south end of it, and fire place for cooking, did not think of a stove that day. On the 21st day of November, 1822, I was married to Miss Jane Burns at the residence of her parents near Ashland, by Rev. Robert Lee, a venerable Presbyterian clergyman.

In a few days after our marriage we commenced housekeeping in our bright and shining log cabin. It was then quite a stylish residence in our little neighborhood. In the spring of 1823, I was elected Justice of the Peace which office I held for fifteen consecutive years, found it attended with a large amount of responsibility and trouble but not much honor or profit. By James R. Gass - 1869


1. Biographical History of Richland County, Ohio, 1983, The Richland County Genealogical Society, Library of Congress Catalog No. 83-062557, printed in U.S.A. by Walsworth Publishing Company

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
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