Monday, July 22, 2013

Where Are You From?

Perspectives change over the decades, and so it would follow that they change even more over the centuries. Today the United States of America looms large in our loyalties and fills our vision of who we are and puts the emphasis on UNITED and AMERICA – we are Americans, then Californians or Ohioans. In an earlier time, for instance 1800-1850 the title might look like this -  the United STATES of America.  The state where our ancestors lived loomed large on their horizon. Back then when Obediah Meredith,  traveled to Washington D.C. (not that he did, we’re imaging here), and was asked where he was from he would respond with Ohio. He might even give his town or village – “I’m from New Castle, Ohio. And, then he might add – “That’s back in Coshocton County.”

For back then, if you lived in the great state of Ohio or Pennsylvania the county you resided in stood next to the state in your loyalties.  Today, come to think of it, I often refer to my home as San Diego County, but that is the exception of a large metropolitan area.  On average, if you are from Orlando, your response would not be – I’m from Orange County.  If you are from Des Moines it is likely that you’ll never mention that you are a Polk Countian (there is such a word but spell check doesn’t even recognize it).  I wonder how many people, a great number probably, would assume that Des Moines is in Des Moines County in Iowa.  There is a Des Moines County but the City of Des Moines is in Polk County, named after a rather lack-luster president, James K. Polk.

$1 Coin, Wikipedia
In Ohio from 1800-1850 it was the time of county formations, town and village building, and the fight over which of those towns was to be the county seat.   The county often stood beside the state in a farmer’s loyalties. They had a hand in clearing and farming the land. The county was the next tier up for the grass roots and held an important place in their everyday lives.  They were from Coshocton, Brown, or Miami County, by golly.   

It is only right that we turn our attention to the counties these hardy pioneers helped to establish. Here are the counties where our families were ‘first families’ and pioneers: 

Ashland, Belmont, Brown, Clermont, Coshocton, Darke, Erie, Franklin, Hamilton, Harrison, Miami, Muskingum, Scioto, Shelby, Warren, and Washington.  Last night, with our ever growing project, I added another – Wyandot.
Ashland County Ohio, Wikipedia
Our families helped pioneer 17 of the 88 counties in Ohio. That is huge! County governments, not first to come to mind today, were extremely important to the pioneers as was the County Seat, where they often built imposing courthouses.  There are exceptions to this rule – but the towns that became county seats most often rose like cream in a bottle of milk to the top – becoming the largest and most prosperous town in the county. (As I write this I realize that the majority of readers have never seen an un-homogenized bottle of whole milk with the cream sitting on the top – the layer that is ‘skimmed’ off for your non-fat milk.)

Last night I worked on the structure of the book a bit more – setting up County History pages and grouping the families with their respective counties.  In some cases families lived in more than one and are represented with the county in which they spent the most time. The county page (so far) includes a brief history, the flag and description, pertinent URLs – and most importantly – a map showing where the county is located within the state of Ohio.  Ohio County flags are often quirky and sometimes beautiful. Often they are designed by contest winners, school children, old folks home residents – in short it is ‘the people’ who proudly create and fly the county flags.
Ashland County Townships - Wikipedia

But, beyond that our pioneers were very aware of a county division that is simply not a part of our consciousness in 2013 – the township. Unless you are making a rural land purchase there is no reason for us to consider townships.  But, back when a county was first established it was divided into townships (at least in the homesteading states) and that township was important to the pioneer farmers who settled there. Townships are important to family researchers in the field when you want to track down the farm that great grandpa owned.  If I know that John Cullins lived in Ohio that narrows it down a bit and lets me trim off the other 49 states. That I know he lived in Muskingum County is most helpful as I can go to the county court house in the county seat of Zanesville to begin my search.  But, if I know that he farmed in Washington Township within Muskingum County this makes my search much easier and Google maps can show me the way.  Today the Zanesville Courthouse is only 3.2 miles down the Adamsville Road from the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department. The township is a very good thing to know and will save you hours of tracking through the ‘wilds’ of Muskingum County.

Happy Hunting!

1 comment:

  1. Driving down the East coast there were 2 or 3 states that had big, proud county signs. I wondered why there was such an emphasis in some places and not others. It's pretty cool that Ohio has county flags. I think the bit about the township is interesting. You really don't hear about that any more


Comments Welcome!