As it were
Settlement came slowly to Dublin area
The northwest side of Franklin County was opened to settlement a little more slowly than was generally the case across the rest of the county.
This portion of central Ohio was more removed from the main lines of settlement in the central and southern part of the state. The land, while rich and fertile, was covered with a dense old growth forest that would take many years to clear. And the land was wet. The water table was close to the surface and it would take several years of ditching and draining to bring the area to its full agricultural potential.
Still, in spite all of the difficulties, a number of early settlers did find their way to what is now the northwest quarter of Franklin County. The land north and west of the Ohio River was very attractive to residents of the new nation emerging from the American Revolution. Some of the land was given to veterans of the Revolution for their service.
Other land was available at very low prices and was attractive to settlers. And even though much of the area was still occupied by Native Americans and would be for several years, the rewards seemed to be worth the risk.
The earliest settler was a man named Ludwig Sells. Born in 1743, he had married Katherine Deardorf in 1780 in Pennsylvania. Attracted by the promise of Ohio, the couple and their nine children left from Pittsburgh on a flatboat.
Traveling down the Ohio River, they poled their boat up the Scioto River against the current and eventually reached the settlement of Franklinton at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. After a brief stay, they continued north until they found a place they liked and built a cabin. Later called the Sells Plantations, the family was soon joined by other settlers. In time the community became the village of Dublin.
But most settlement was not made in the villages scattered about central Ohio. For most of the pioneer residents of central Ohio, life was more of a lonely adventure in a vast wilderness. The stories of two families illustrate some of the challenges and satisfactions of frontier life.
During the American Revolution, Virginia encouraged settlement in Kentucky and the arrival of newcomers sparked a violent reaction from Native Americans living in what is now Ohio. To learn the location of native villages, spies were often employed by the governor of Kentucky.
One such intrepid frontiersman was named Samuel Davis. He made a number of trips deep into Ohio and returned to report his findings. In 1792, he was captured and taken to a village in Jackson County for a very painful death. Escaping his captors, he raced through the forest all the way to the Ohio River with his captors in hot pursuit. His successful escape and rescue by passing boatmen on the Ohio became the stuff of legend.
Marrying Eliza Smith of Virginia, Samuel Davis came into Ohio and located along the Scioto River south of the Sells Plantations in 1816. One story from that time shows Eliza to be as fearless as her husband. Samuel had gone to Chillicothe to help with a land survey.
Late at night a knock came to her door. She answered it and saw a Native American man with a sick baby. By signs he made it clear the child was sick. Eliza made some tea for the baby and put it in a cradle beside her own baby. The baby recovered and the grateful father remained a friend of the family.
Some distance to the south, another family named Davis moved into the area. They had not fought in the western wars. But John Davis and his wife, Ann, had seen more than enough conflict in the American Revolution.
An officer in the Continental Army, John Davis served with the Marquis De Lafayette. Ann Simpson Davis carried messages from Gen. George Washington to other American officers who could not be reached by traditional couriers. She reputedly smuggled the messages to their recipients in sacks of grain. A local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is named for her.
Ann and John Davis were married in 1773 and came to Ohio in 1816. Settling first in Delaware County they later relocated to a four hundred acre farm along the east side of the Scioto River adjacent to the old Indian trail that later would become Dublin Road.
Living first in a log house and then a larger home, Ann and John Davis raised eight children and were later buried in a small cemetery which can still be seen along Dublin Road. Most people passing by probably are not aware that the cemetery holds one of the few examples of a husband and wife who are both veterans of the American Revolution.
Of course there are many veterans of the Revolution buried in Ohio. This place was their reward for service in a great and successful endeavor. Their story, after all, is our story.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.