Saline township, so called from its salt wells, which lies immediately north of Knox, and occupies the extreme northeastern section of Jefferson County, shares with Steubenville Township the honor of being early historic ground. As early as 1764 Bouquet and his army of 1,500 soldiers marched through here into the heart of the Indian country, taking the lower part of the Yellow Creek Valley, whose march is thus described by Parkman:
"Early in October the troops left Fort Pitt and began their westward march into a wilderness which no army had ever before sought to penetrate. Encumbered with their camp equipage, with droves of cattle and sheep for subsistence, and a long train of packhorses laden with provisions, their progress was tedious and difficult, and seven or eight miles were the ordinary measure of a day's march. The woodsmen of Virginia, veteran hunters and Indian fighters, were thrown far out in front and on either flank, scouring the forest to detect any sign of lurking ambuscade. The pioneers toiled in the van, hewing their way through woods and thickets; while the army dragged its weary length behind them through the forest, like a serpent creeping through tall grass. The surrounding country, whenever a casual opening in the matted foliage gave a glimpse of its features, disclosed scenery of wild primeval beauty. Sometimes the army defiled along the margin of the Ohio, by its broad eddying current and the bright landscape of its shores. Sometimes they descended into the thicket gloom of the woods, damp, still, and cool as the recesses of a cavern, where the black soil oozed beneath the tread, where the rough columns of the forest seemed to exude a clammy sweat, and the slimy mosses were trickling with moisture; while the carcasses of prostrate trees, green with the decay of a century, sank into a pulp at the lightest pressure of the foot. More frequently the forest was of a fresher growth; and the restless leaves of young maples and basswood shook down spots of sunlight on the marching columns. Sometimes they waded the clear current of a stream with its vistas of arching foliage and sparkling water. There were intervals, but these were rare, when, escaping for a moment from the labyrinth of woods, they emerged into the light of an open meadow, rich with herbage, and girdled by a zone of forest; gladdened by the notes of birds, and enlivened it may be, by grazing herds of deer. These spots, welcome to the forest traveller [sic] as an oasis to a wanderer in the desert * * * On the tenth day the army reached the River Muskingum."
Hutchins, the historian, supplements this by the following: "Friday, the 12th the path led along the banks of Yellow Creek, through a beautiful country of rich bottom lands on which the Pennsylvanians and Virginians looked with covetous eyes, and made a note for future reference. The next day they marched two miles in view of one of the loveliest prospects the sun ever shone upon. There had been two or three frosty nights, which had changed the whole aspect of the forest. Where a few days before an ocean of green had rolled away there now was spread a boundless carpet, decorated with an endless variety of the gayest colors, lighted up by the mellow rays of an October sun."
Just below where Yellow Creek enters the Ohio, the present site of the old McCullough mansion, is the reputed location of the camp of Logan's relatives, who were inveigled to the Virginia shore and slaughtered. An Indian trail extended up Yellow Creek for five miles, at the end of which there was a spot used regularly for encampments, and stones have been unearthed there still bearing the marks of fire. The same trail was used by American soldiers traveling to and from Fort Laurens, and it became one of the earliest wagon roads in the county. Nature was especially bountiful here, the streams crowded with fish and the forests with game. Martin Saltsman, one of Knox Township's early settlers, declared that in a few days' hunt on Yellow Creek he would kill more than fifty deer. No wonder the Indians parted from these hunting grounds with reluctance. Prehistoric remains are found on the De Sellem farm near Port Homer, so-called fortifications and mounds, from which numerous relics have been collected, a carved stone column about two feet long and fifteen inches in diameter. On Yellow Creek are remains of white pine forests, destroyed by Indians who tapped the trees for rosin, which they used as salve and to aid in kindling fires. A fair amount of hemlock yet clothes the rugged hillsides, but the other evergreens have practically disappeared.
While Jacob Nessley, Sr. (coming from the German settlements of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), did not settle on the Virginia side of the river until 1784, he was in this region much earlier, and of this fact he left an enduring monument. On the river bank, a short distance south of the mouth of Yellow Creek and in sight of the McCullough mansion, is an overhanging rock, upon which is carved "Jacob Nessley--1776." The tradition is, as related by William G. McCullough (a great grandson), that Jacob was prospecting in Virginia, and crossing the river to the Ohio side (Indian country) was chased by the Indians. Reaching this overhanging rock, he jumped into the river; he then dived and coming to the surface under the rock, he remained in hiding, and the Indians supposing him drowned, left him to his fate. As soon as the way was clear, he returned to Virginia, obtained a tool and cut his name and the date upon the surface of the rock as noted.
Samuel Vantilberg settled in what is now Saline Township, near Port Homer, in 1796. Joshua Downard came in 1785, and returned permanently in 1796, living more than one hundred years; William McCullough at the mouth of Yellow Creek about 1800; Jacob Nessley, Jr., a little earlier, buying large tracts of Yellow Creek land from the government, also Jeremiah Hickman and James Rogers. Joshua Downer was here by 1800, prospecting among the hills and valleys, being the first to discover salt in this township about 1806. Samuel Potts and his brother Henry came about 1803, and preceding them were William and Henry Maple, the father of Andrew Downer, the Crawfords, Jacob Groff, Charles Hammond, who gave his name to Hammondsville, the Householders and others whose names are lost.
William Wells, one of the first justices, bought land in february, 1798, from Robert Johnson, of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, being lots four and five in the ninth township, second range, at the mouth of Little Yellow Creek. The same year Wells sold to James Clark. There was a formidable blockhouse on a point immediately south of the creek's mouth, erected, perhaps, by squatters previous to 1784. While the site has been washed away, the foundation was seen by persons now living. This blockhouse, until very recently supposed to have been west of the creek's mouth, on Blockhouse run, was so constructed on the first river bank that it was surrounded by water, and had command not only of the river, but likewise of a vast expanse of territory, the most natural point in all this region for defensive works.
The country developed very rapidly. As we have seen the land was good, and Yellow Creek with its tributary streams furnished water power for numerous flour and other mills that were among the last in the county to succumb to the new order of things. The knowledge of the complete mineral resources of Yellow Creek was yet in the future, but there was progress.
A stone hotel was built at the mouth of the creek, and when destroyed by fire in 1897 the date of its erection (1803) was discovered carved in a chimney stone. The first road in the county was made from a point opposite Charles Town (Wellsburg) to Yellow Creek in 1804. It is possible that the masons who built the hotel also built the two stone-arch bridges, one over the mouth of Wills Creek, the over the mouth of Island Creek, both doing service until recently. They were of the architecture of the bridges afterwards adopted for the National Pike.
Irondale and Hamlets.
Joshua Downer's discovery of salt-water on Yellow Creek in 1806 was on the present site of Irondale, and a well was put down by Samuel Potts. It furnished sufficient brine to make six barrels of salt per day, and soon after James Rodgers sunk two more wells, each yielding five barrels per day. This infant industry naturally built up a hamlet around it, and soon there was in existence a village, to which was given the name Pottsdale. A bank was opened by the Potts brothers, and as salt was in good demand at $16 a barrel the little community assumed quite a business-like aspect. The salt was hauled to the mouth of the creek by carts or wagons and then shipped by boat. In a few years the competition from larger wells in other parts of the county compelled a discontinuance of the salt industry here, and Pottsdale reverted to a rural community. Thus it remained until 1861 when coal mining was begun here. With John Hunter as manager, the railroad now furnishing transportation. A new village was laid out, taking the name of Huntersville. The advent of the Pioneer Coal Company in 1869, with its rolling mill employing 150 hands, gave a boom to every class of business. The town was enlarged and renamed Irondale. It first appears in the census of 1870 with 751 inhabitants. The same year a store was started in the village by Morgan and Hunter, r. G. Richards as manager, who was also the first postmaster. Mr. Richards served about two years, and was succeeded by C. P. Evans, Geo. Burnside, James Dennis, Burnside second time, John F. Gilson and T. A. Hoyt. The erection of the large blast furnace by the Morgan Coal and Iron Company in 1870, a large hotel built by Mrs. Mary Crans, and other improvements, made Irondale the most flourishing community in the county, and when the panic of 1873 came it had an estimated population of 1,500. When that panic came, however, the mills shut down and the declension was nearly as rapid as its rise. The census of 1880 showed a population of only 399, but with the inauguration of new enterprises noted in our chapter on manufacturing, the village began to pick up, and in 1890 there were 694 inhabitants, who had increased to 1,136 in 1900. Its permanent prosperity is now assured.
Linton at the mouth of Yellow Creek was a small hamlet for several years prior to 1831, the old hotel building dating back to 1803. Jacob Groff kept a small store. In the year first mentioned William H. Wallace, then twenty years of age, a native of the province of Quebec, came there from new Lisbon, and entered into partnership with Groff, and became the first postmaster. He left there in 1839. Although there never was much of a town here yet coal mining, the ferry, railroad station, and the fact that it was the entrance to Yellow Creek Valley gave it some importance. But the mines were worked out, the old hotel burned, the postoffice was discontinued, and the place is now simply a railroad junction under the name of Yellow Creek station. The electric road along the river shows some good engineering work in undergrade crossing beneath the C. & P. railroad.
When Mr. Wallace left Yellow Creek he opened a store and postoffice three miles below, and called the place Port Homer in honor of his son Homer. It soon became a prominent shipping point for all that section. The product of the numerous distilleries, flour mills and salt wells hauled to Linton and Port Homer created an active trade that was surprising. Although steamboats were in operation flatboats were still favorite carriers for down river shipments. They were comparatively inexpensive, and time was not an important item. Boat building, milling, salt boiling and distilling employed a large force of men, and the river warehouses would be filled with the products mentioned, their handling giving employment to hundreds of men. All this has passed away and the flood of 1884 practically annihilated the few remaining warehouses, leaving nothing but the foundation stones, and sometimes not even them. Mr. Wallace sold out his Port Homer business in 1851. The place is still somewhat of a center for shipment of apples from the extensive orchards in that vicinity, with probably a dozen families in residence.
Hammondsville, lying between Irondale and the river, was laid out on the property of Charles Hammond in 1852. W. H. Wallace came from Pot Homer the same year and started the first store and postoffice. A hotel was built by Joseph Russell, and building generally was quite lively that year. The Hammondsville Mining and Coal Company was organized with Mr. Wallace as manager, who also began making fire brick in 1856 but sold out to Lace and Saxton in 1858. There were steam saw mill, merchants, blacksmiths, wagon makers, etc., but no church, although the Roman Catholics bought a schoolhouse and held services in it. The panic of 1873 affected the town seriously, but its effects were somewhat counteracted by the four large stores of W. H. Wallace & Sons, which carried on trade in every branch of business only since emulated by the extensive department stores in the larger cities. Among other evidences of their enterprise they published a newspaper whose main object was to advertise their business. Mr. Wallace continued to be postmaster until his death, September 10, 1897, having served sixty-seven years in the three offices named, for a longer period than any other postmaster in the United States. He was succeeded by his son, R. G. Wallace, then by George Crook and John Madden, the present incumbent. Hammondsville in the census of 1870 with 504 inhabitants, and after that is counted with the township generally.
The fraternal societies are pretty well represented in Saline township, Irondale Lodge No. 533 having been formed in 1869. A lodge of free and Accepted Masons was formed in Hammondsville in 1873, and on March 1, 1906, removed to Irondale. A Knights of Phythias Lodge was formed at the latter place about ten years ago, and to these have been added the Junior Order United American Mechanics and United Clay Workers of America.
Schools and Churches.
An Irishman named McElroy taught a school in a log cabin at the mouth of Yellow Creek in 1800, and at about the same time there was a school on Pine Ridge; in 1804 there was one on Yellow Creek, above the site of Hammondsville. A stone schoolhouse was erected by the Nessleys and McCulloughs on the McCullough farm, at the mouth of the creek, and the supposition is, it was built by the masons who built the hotel and bridges.
In a few years it rose to the dignity of an academy. Here Jacob Nessley McCullough was educated, and in material success he rivaled Senator Sharon, his railroad and other interests at his death being valued at about $10,000,000. At present the most imposing school house in the township is the two-story seven room brick structure at Irondale, built about twelve years ago, with a capacity of 400 children. The present enrollment is 317. Hammondsville has a two room frame structure, the lineal successor of the old school of 1804. Port Homer has a comparatively new building. The other township schools are located in section five near De Sellem place, section seventeen, "Tarburner," and section seven, McCullough.
The first religious services in Saline Township were held at the mouth of Yellow Creek, and in 1800 an M. E. Society was organized at the cabin of Jeremiah Hickman. It was many years, however, before there was a church within the township boundaries, Sugar Grove and other churches over the line being convenient. When Irondale began in 1869 to grow into a good-sized hamlet union services were held in the school house, which were continued with more or less regularity until about 1872, when the Methodists formed a separate organization and built a neat frame structure. Among the early pastors were Revs. G. b. Smith, A. W. Gruber, J. R. Keyes and W. I. Powell. This place with Hammondsville was served from other points for several years, but since 1890 has had the following pastors: W. C. Meek, 1890-92; A. c. Girdefield, 1893-4; W. J. Powell, 1895-7; S. A. Peregoy, 1898-1900; J. H. Conkle, 1901; M. C. Grimes, 1902-4; P. C. Peck, 1905-7; J. F. Rankin, present incumbent.
Shortly after the M. E. organization the Presbyterians formed a separate organization and built a neat brick church. Rev. Mr. Brown was a pioneer pastor, and there was a good congregation. The place has been vacant, however for the last nine years, Rev. K. P. Simmons having been the last incumbent. Shortly after this the Disciples organized a congregation and built a neat brick church. Subsequently the free Methodists, most of whom came from Empire, formed a congregation and built a place of worship.
On December 4, 1873, thirty persons who had attended the Disciples Church at New Somerset organized a congregation at Hammondsville with William McConnell and J. R. Maple, elders and Isaac Iddy and D. Z. Maple, deadons. J. W. Kemp was pastor for several years, but the place Is now vacant. TheRoman Catholics also established a church here, but no services are now held. Subsequently an M. E. Church was organized, of which Rev. J. A. Young was an early pastor. The later have been M. J. Ingram, 1890; H. W. Westwood, 1891; D. Davies, 1892; R. O. Payne, 1893-4; J.A. Young, 1895-7; E. S. Smith, 1898-9; J. F. Ellis, 1900-1; J. G. Gamble, 1902-3; e. e. King, 1904-5; P. N. Phillips, 1906-9.
In Section 17, adjoining the Taylor farm near the Knox Township line, is a tract of about seventeen and one-half acres which has become famous as the Hollow Rock camp-meeting ground. These meetings were inaugurated about seventy years ago, and each summer have attracted crowds from all quarters. At times they have been conducted by the Methodists, and then by branches from that organization, but at present the institution is conducted by an incorporated company which is undenominational in character. At present the ground is held on a twenty-year lease, of which eleven years have expired. (Pages 463 - 516)
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