Exponent Telegram
May 5, 1929

The following was published in the Exponent Telegram on May 5, 1929. Being over 82 years since the article was published in the Exponent Telegram I offer it to the WVHCGS Web Site. Submitted by Ethel Nielsen.

PIONEERS WHO SETTLED AT SALEM BLOCK HOUSE
NEW JERSEY SENT FIRST SETTLERRS TO SECTION

Church Constructed from Rude Logs; Early Names Recalled.
by Wilbur C. Morrison

     Early settlers of Salem, this county, laid out a block house as soon as they arrived to protect themselves from Indians. It was built on high ground east of the present railroad station.

     A town was laid out and called New Salem. Every family of the forty who came from New Jersey, some say from Salem in that state in that state while others say from near what is (now?) Asbury Park and from near Piscataway, built a cabin in the (area) around the block house, according to reminiscences of the late Isaac Fitz Randolph, one of the founders of Salem, and took up a farm in one of the surrounding valleys, some of which were several miles distant.

     Then they cleared a piece of land for a crop on their respective holdings, and went in companies to do their work. While some stood guard with guns in their hands ready to resist Indians, should they appear, others cleared the ground and plated, cultivated and harvested crops.

Church Erected

     Religiously inclined, they built a log church of two stories, with a gallery and high, box pulpit In the middle of the structure, there was chimney with a fireplace on either side. Men and women sat apart, the former in one end of the house and the latter in the other end. Later the chimney and fireplace gave way to a stove.

     The first church stood on the (site of?) the present Seventh Day Baptist church. Logs, split in (?aim>, were first used for seats, and armed guards stood sentinels against Indian raids while men and women worshipped in the pioneer sanctuary. There is no history that the red men of the primeval forests ever disturbed their devotions.

     When the crops were raised the men had no mills with which to grind their grain, but they made hand-mills which served them for (?) time. After a number of years “Bottom Billy” Davis built a horse mill down on what later became know as the Horner farm, and it proved a great labor-saving device.

Forty Families

     Isaac Randolph, already mentioned, says the original colony consisted of about forty families of the surnames of Lippincott, Maxson, Babcock, Plumer, Randolph, and Davis; that William seemed to be a very common Christian name among them but it was always Billy, such, for instance as “Bottom Billy,” “Greenbrier Billy,” and “Jarsey Billy” of the old settlers. In the next generation, he says there were “Flint Billy,” Buckeye Billy,” “Rock Run Billy,” and “Little Billy.”

     “After peace had been made with the Indians,” he says, “It was ascertained that they had nothing against the colony from New Jersey; and to avoid disturbance, party of them coming up Tenmile Creek and turned out of their direct course which was through Salem, and had crossed over onto Hall’s run through Bandy gap.

     “My father, (Jonathan Fitz Randolph), being and Indian scout, when he learned that these Indians were in neighborhood, went with a body of men to look for them. They went as far as the Ohio river and saw that the Indians had passed peacefully through the country.

Quit Scout Work

     “After peace was declared with the Indians my father, no longer needed as a spy, arranged to settle down to a peaceful home life and built a two-story hewn log house(?) east bank of Jacob’s run just south of the alley which leads to the Baptist Church. (The church(?0 in a different place now.)

     When his house was built, he married Mary, the daughter of Greenbrier Bill Davis, and took her to his new home. He lived (?0 the rest of his life and raised (nine?) children, six sons and three daughters, and I alone live to tell the story. (Mr. Randolph wrote this in 1905.)

     “As the family grew larger, another house was built back of the first. In that house several of his children, including myself, lived the first years of our married lives. A little later I built the larger log house in which Ralph Young lived until it burned three of years ago.”

Served Under Wayne

     It is said there is evidence that Jonathan Fitz Randolph, the Indian spy referred to, served under “Mad” Anthony Wayne at the battle of Fallen Timbers on the Maumee river in Ohio, August 20, 1794.

     Wild game, such as deer, bear, turkey, and so on, was plentiful in the olden days around Salem. Bears were said to be so numerous and so fond of pork that hogs could not be raised in the section. (?) bears boldly went into the hog(?> or enclosures and killed them. But the people retaliated, taking bear meat in place of pork.

     Mr. Randolph says that his father and two neighbors, being good hunters and having good(?), made it a practice each fall for a number of years to kill sixty bears, twenty to family. When game became scarce around Salem, hunters camped out some distance from home. Once when a party of hunters were camped out on Hughes river, they treed a large bear. One of the hunters, shot at it, but did not hit it. The bear slid down and made it rough for the do.

Injured by Bear

     Mr. Randolph’s father tried to shoot the bear, but the gun snapped -- it was an old flint-lock- the priming having been lost out of the pan, and bear got close enough to snap him through the knee. Finally, the bear was killed and injured man was taken home. The scar remained on the knee the rest of his life.

     The hides of game were dried, made into large rolls and carried on horseback to point east of the mountains and there traded for salt, pot metal, tin ware and other things.

     Mr. Randolph’s father never wore shoes until he was 12 years old. He slid on ice barefoot. Young people had but little education. So keen did the elder Randolph feel his lack of education that after his first children were large enough to go to school was there was an opportunity to send them, he attended with them. , earning rapidly, he became a good reader, wrote a plain, neat hand was quick in figures.

Wholesome Food

     Wholesome food contributed to the health of people in the early days. They had corn bread, bear meat, rye coffee, and sassafras and dittany tea. The older women were largely their own doctors, using native herbs and other natural remedies.

     Families made their own sugar in those times. A rude stone furnace, arched over the top, with holes left in which to place kittles, holding up to twenty gallons or more, in which the sap was boiled for evaporation was employed and the sugar made from water from sugar or maple trees. The molasses supply also came from the tree supply sap, unless of cane variety, which later became quite common in the rural sections, and some of which is still made in rare instances.

     Mr. Randolph stated in his reminiscences that in two weeks one season his family made 525 pounds of sugar, some molasses and a barrel of beer. His description of how the beer was made is interesting.

Beer Making

     “We boiled three barrels of sugar water into one,’ he said. “In one kettle we put sassafras, burdock root and spice brush; in another a gallon of scorched corn meal. All was then put in a barrel and gallon of yeast added. In twenty-four hours we had beer that was both delicious and healthy; not like the tangle-foot beer that we have now which sets men so crazy that they get into the lock-up, or go home, and beat their wives and children.”

     People dress very differently now from what they did when Mr. Randolph was a little fellow. According to what he said, the men wore leather pants then, a blue hunting-shirt with a belt around the waist and a large cape on the shoulders, all nicely trimmed with fringe. The little boys and girls wore nothing during the week days in summer but a tow-and-linen shirt that came down a little below the knees. On Sundays the boys had home-made linen shirts, tow-and-linen pants, calico jackets, moccasins and coonskin caps. That was their church going attire. Then it took eight yards of calico to make a lady’s dress. That’s more than it takes now.

Prayers Answered

     That the prayers of grandmother were answered Mr. Randolph had not the slightest doubt. He related an incident in that connection, as follows:

     My grandfather, Greenbrier Billy Davis and grandmother lived to be quite old. He was for many years afflicted with chilblains. The flesh sloughed off some of his toes and some bones were taken out.

     “Grandmother was stout and hearty, so that she did the milking, churning and her housework to the last day of her life, and she was particularly faithful in caring for her afflicted husband. She told her neighbors repeatedly that it would be a great satisfaction to her to wait upon her aged husband on his death bed and then die before he did. For this she prayed.

Die Within 3 hours

     One day word came that grandfather was very ill. Father and mother went over there and found him very low. Grandmother was a well as usual and did her evening work. During the night she was taken ill and died at 6o’clock in the morning, and in just three house Grandfather died.

     Isaac Randolph was a cousin of the father of late Jesse F. Randolph. He was born at Salem June 3, 1821, but some time after 1853, the year his father died, he moved his family to Louisville, KY., where he lived until his death, June 27, 1905, following a visit to his old home in the early summer of that year, and during which he became fatally ill.


Part Message

     As a parting message, this man of other years, grows eloquent in an epitome of the lives of men and women who lived that generation to follow might find life easier and quite worth while. His words are worth of serious reflection. He says:

     “Such jovial gatherings of sturdy men to gratuitously help a neighbor are called for no more. The forests are cleared away; the game and the Indians have disappeared. The old time friends have gone too. Few indeed remain to tell the story the ancient hardships and those few also will soon be silenced. But before I go, I am glad to remind the present generation, surrounded with all the comforts and advantages of modern life, of the obligation it is under to the sterling men and women of the log.

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