The Franklin County Pioneer Association lasted from 1866 to 1935. It was founded by some of the first settlers of central Ohio with the idea of preserving at least some memories of the earliest days of their venture.
To that end, on June 3, 1871, Joseph Sullivant appeared before the assembled group and delivered a lengthy address on the beginnings of frontier settlement in and around Columbus. His talk was so well-received that it was later reprinted as a pamphlet.
Sullivant was well-qualified to make the presentation. His father, Lucas Sullivant, had been an early surveyor in central Ohio in the years after the cessation of conflicts with local Native Americans with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. Taking his pay in land, Lucas Sullivant had laid out a few towns. The one he liked best was at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. He called it Franklinton and settled there in 1797.
It was in frontier Franklinton in 1809 that Joseph Sullivant was born. He was the youngest of the three sons of Lucas Sullivant and came of age as Columbus, across the river, emerged as the new state capital of Ohio. By the time he appeared before the pioneer association in 1871, he'd gained experience in a variety of professions and occupations. Most recently, he had helped ensure that the new Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, now Ohio State University, would be in Columbus.
But on a pleasant Saturday in June, Joseph Sullivant was less interested in current events, instead asking his audience to remember with him a world that had been left behind:
"Previous to 1800, it was impossible for men of moderate means to buy a home in the territory, for the smallest body of land offered for the sale by the government was one section or 640 acres, but in this year a half section or 320 acres could be purchased, and at the land offices in Cincinnati, Marietta, Steubenville and other places the lands were rapidly bought up; and subsequently when a quarter section , 180 acres could be had for two dollars an acre on five years credit, the county began to settle with great rapidity ...
"At first our roads were mere traces through the woods, and long afterward were of the poorest description, without bridges, and notwithstanding corduroys (lined with logs), were almost impassable in winter, and I remember that wagons were stalled by the mud betwixt Franklinton and Columbus, and they remained until they were dried out by the spring sun and winds.
"Salt, nails, iron, hard and hollow ware were brought from Pittsburg on pack horses, and as late as 1828, the chief mode of transporting our goods or our products was by the great Conestoga wagons, with their four and six horse bell teams ...
"There was but little use for corn, even to feed cattle and hogs, for the cattle found subsistence in the abundant range, and hogs lived all winter in the woods and fattened on the mast of hickory nuts, acorns and beech nuts, and in 1825, 1000 bushels of corn would have overstocked and glutted the market of Columbus, where no purchaser could be found to pay cash for such an immense quantity.
"At an earlier period, there were few or no mills, and the early settlers had to go to Dyer's mill on Little Darby, Sell's at Dublin, or down to Kinninkinick in Ross County, and therefore hand mills, graters and hominy mortars were brought into frequent requisition to furnish the material for bread.
"Salt was scarce and high -- $3 to $5 per bushel -- as it was brought from Pittsburg and Wheeling by pack horses. Iron was also scarce and high, and the nails used in the first buildings in Franklinton were hammered out by hand ...
"Blankets and coarse woolens were also dear, and after the first stock of clothing was exhausted the settlers fell back upon the coarse flax linen, spun and woven by industrious pioneer mothers, who, when wool was afterward to be had, made blankets and coverlets and the linsey woolsey for themselves and family. As for the men, buckskin hunting shirts and breeches were not uncommon, and were warm and comfortable, except when they were wet ...
"The surface of the county, with a few exceptions, was covered by heavy forests, requiring prodigious labor to open and cultivate a farm; but notwithstanding the need for constant physical labor and great attention to material things, the early settlers were not unmindful of their mental and moral improvement, and to supply their wants in these particulars, schools, churches and newspapers were established ...
"It is in my recollection when the city of Columbus had no existence, and its present site was covered with forest where the deer and wolf found shelter and safety amidst its solitude.
"What marvelous changes have I witnessed since I was a school boy."
Joseph Sullivant died in 1882. He is buried with his family at the crest of a ridge in Green Lawn Cemetery.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.