From History of Darke County 1880 By W. H. Beers
Page 271: “Darke County was first settled by an industrious, hardy race of pioneers poor men who had been renters in other parts of the state. As soon as they were able to raise $100 or upward, they came here and invested it in land in order that they might have a home of their own and not be compelled to work one-third of their time for an exacting landlord. As about all the means of the settlers were out in land and as there was a heavy growth of timber all over the county to be cleared away before there could be anything raise to live upon.”
To procure breadstuff milling had to be done many miles from home. A single trip occupied from two to five days. Salt and leather must be had once a year by a journey to Cincinnati which required from seven to ten days. If as was sometimes the case, some products were in excess of the family need and it was desired to sell, there was no market nearer than Piqua or Dayton and the roads were so intolerably bad that it required a good span of horses in the most favorable season of the year to haul twenty give bushels of wheat.
Page 272: Under the impulse of making, having living at and enjoying a home the people in their poverty labored diligently, lived frugally and contentedly cleared up their farms, minded their own business, helped their neighbors and were accorded the favor and blessing of their God.
Money payment was out of the question and the settlers (teacher in this case) needs were great. He said “I was poor and scares of money and my clothing was not the kind suitable for winter. I went to the grist mill five miles away for corn meal at night after school.” *The story goes on to tell of the teacher needing clothes. He had no money. At the store the owner told him he didn’t want his services as a teacher in trade for the clothes or the corn, potatoes or produce. But would take whiskey. So the teacher went to the distillery between Greenville and Mina and sold the mill the teachers corn in exchange for whiskey. The corn was lower than the market but the whiskey higher value and used that to settle the store account for the clothes.
Page 309: Agriculture and Market
Settlers dealt with sickness, the hatchet, hindered by insufficient implements from doing good farming, deprived to access to store and shop, without roads almost without mills and dependent upon the soil and the forest for the supply of every want.
The staple grain product of Darke has constantly been corn. Next in order came wheat. In earlier days the market was at the mills of Piqua. We have a variegated soil well adapted to wheat, corn, rye, flax, potatoes and various grasses.
Page 301: The Statistics of 1853:
It list all products, grains, livestock etc. Interesting was flax product from 2,481 acres, 21,270 bushels, 55, 850 pounds fiber; tobacco from 793 acres, 836.296 pounds. It goes on to list dairy products, sweet potatoes, and apples.
P. 825 Roads-Turnpikes and Railroads
The first state road laid out in the county was the highway from Troy to Greenville. This was the road traveled by the settlers coming into the county in 1811. A short time before 1817, a survey had been made and a road located from Piqua to Greenville but the road has not been opened. (On western side of county Wayne’s Trace came up from the south, Rt 503 –Ithaca Pike and Rt. 121).
In 1850 the first locomotive intended to be used for laying the track of the road from Dayton to Greenville arrived at Dayton. It goes on to talk about the different railroads.
The grain crop of 1851 was unprecedentedly large and the road was expected to highly benefit all interests, whether farming, mechanical mercantile or commercial. In the summer of 1854 the road was completed from Dobson to Dayton and the company continued to operate the line from Dayton to Union City until 1863,
When the road was opened in 1850 land along the track was bought for $5.00 an acre. It has since been sold for $100 per acre. The country was wet and water stood in the woods and clearings along the track for months at a time This is now drained, arable and valuable. Then about Arcanum, houses were to be seen at long intervals; now the fine farm houses dot the landscape in all directions.
P. 458 Twin Township:
Corn, wheat, oats, flax and barley are successfully and profitably grown and the cultivation of tobacco is gradually assuming greater proportions as acreage increases. Page 460: Milling was done at Stillwater and Big Twin at the Lewisburg settlement. First mill was section 32 by John Osbrook. Was corn cracker as cracked corn then constituted one of the staple articles of food. The mill was limited daily to a few bushels and the mill ran a short time during the year (could be due to water level). First saw mill was by Ithaca ran by John Colville (Founder of Ithaca). Later there was three grist mills and four saw mills.
Please follow AWTHS blog guidelines. Article is credited to The Beers Book.
Further information on the trains that went through Arcanum can be read in the Businesses of Arcanum by Anita Short available for purchase at AWTHS as well as our website under “publications”.
The AWTHS archives contain files on the Colville’s of Ithaca as well as other mills and saw mills in the area.