Saturday, September 7, 2013

Shelby County ~ Freed Slaves, a Nobel Laureate, and our Hessian Soldier

Paul Lauterbur,
Shelby County is unique. Not every county in Ohio has its own Nobel Prize laureate. Paul Lauterbur (1929-2007) was a chemist, researcher, and professor who, with Sir Peter Mansfield, were honored for their work in the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Shawnee Leader
Shelby County is a section of Ohio carved out of Miami County in 1819. The size of Shelby County was later pared down with the establishment of Auglaize and Allen Counties.  It is an area of conquests and shifting populations. The Shawnee pushed into the area displacing the Ottawa, who moved to the northwest. Then the Iroquois, Seneca and Mingo joined them. They, in turn were displaced by European-American pioneers from the east.  The first county seat, Hardin, was named after John Hardin who was killed by the Shawnee In 1792.  The current county seat is Sidney. (If you follow this link it gives a great little summary of Sidney’s history.)

John Randolph,
Wikipedia Commons
What, especially, sets Shelby County apart from its fellow Ohio counties is related to the death John Randolph in Virginia. He was a southerner and an American, but possibly in his heart he was an Englishman. For, his death in 1833 coincided with the abolition of slavery in England.  In his will Randolph freed his nearly 400 slaves and provided money for them to settle in a free state. This action must have shocked his slave-owning neighbors as his will was challenged in the Virginia courts; but finally in 1846 the “Randolph Slaves” traveled to Shelby County, Ohio and lived in and farmed around a community they called Rumley in Van Buren Township. Beginning in 1900 reunions were held for the Randolph (Ex)-Slave Association. That first year 62 original settlers, all of them children at the time of the migration, attended as well as many who had since been born free in Ohio.

In the opposite corner of Shelby County our Princehouse family was one of the earliest to settle. Our immigrant ancestor had an interesting story and I was completely side-tracked (in a good way) researching this German-America family. My mother’s grandmother’s maiden name was Princehouse. I was 13 when my great grandmother passed and I remember her well.  She was adored and venerated by everyone who knew her. Even my father, who lived in a distant state and had been divorced from my mother for eleven years, appeared at Great Grandma’s funeral. She was one of those people of whom you might say on their passing that “a light has gone out of the world.”   Many of her fine qualities must have come from her Princehouse ancestors who lived in Shelby County, Ohio.
Our immigrant ancestor was a young man of 19 living in Hesse in Germany. His family must have been in service in some way to a noble family and connected to the royal household as his name was Henrich Prinzehausen. Maybe having many siblings and few prospects he enlisted as a private in a Hessian regiment to fight those pesky rebels in America. I believe, at that time, the English thought this was a rebellious few that would be easily and quickly put down. Not so, of course, as we Americans were serious and at the Battle of Yorktown (VA) where the English and Germans were defeated by the Americans and the French Henrich was captured and marched to imprisonment in Frederick, Maryland.

Surrender of Lord Corwallis,
Wikipedia Commons
At the close of the war the Americans offered amnesty to Hessian soldiers willing to help settle this new and wild county. Here was Henrich’s opportunity – he adopted the name ‘Henry Princehouse’ and was now a young man with prospects and as the Northwest Territory opened up for settlement he headed for what would become Shelby County. He seemed to be a brave, adventurous, and enterprising man and we’re proud to have him on our family tree.

Historical information on Randolph Slaves, & early Shelby County - Wikipedia 
Photo of Ada Princehouse coutesy of Sharon Deaver
All other photos - Wikipedia Commons


  1. Ah, yes... Hessians on both our trees....

  2. Interesting because none of my ancestors are from these areas :-)


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