Cortland - Bazetta Historical Society
"The first settlements in Bazetta were made about 1804 or 1805. Edward Scofield, John Budd, and families were the two first settlers, moved from Hubbard, Ohio. They cut their way through the woods, and settled on the farms now owned by Nelson Cowdery and Cassius Kennedy, in east part of township south of Cortland, formerly Baconsburg. Soon after, these two settlers were followed by Henry K. Hulse, Joseph Pruden, John Godden, Joshua Oatley, and Moses Hampton and families. One of this number, John Godden, lived but a short time; was buried in a corner of where William Davis planted his orchard, which was the first orchard in this township. These constituted all the settlers previous to the year 1811, as near as can be ascertained this year.
"William Davis, with a family of five, came from Washington County, Penn., and settled on a farm now owned by his son William, in the northeastern part of the township, where all the settlements up to that time were made, and afterward for a number of years. Soon after that time the settlement was increased by the addition of Mr. Rowlee, with quite a large family of young men and women. Also, about the same time, Widow Dixon, with a large family, came in, and soon afterward came James Parker and Moses Macmahon, bringing their families.
“In 1812 the war commenced, which very much retarded the growth of the settlement, and which affected it for several years. In 1813 these settlers, together with others from neighboring townships, were called upon to defend their country, and all who were capable of bearing arms, to-wit, Henry Hulse, Benjamin Rowlee, Constant Roslee, James Dixon, Walter Dixon, William Davis, and Samuel Tanner, were ordered into the field. William Davis went as far as Cleveland, and was allowed to return and care for the families of those left. After a few skirmishes with the Indians at Sandusky, Ohio, they all returned safe except Walter Dixon, who was wounded. He afterward recovered. The time of the year they were called out was oats-harvest. Some had their oats in swath; those of others were standing, and the wives of those who had gone, filled with the courage and ambition which characterized the heroes of 1776, took their little families into the field, set the older children to the taking care of the infants, while they, with rake and pitchfork in hand, secured the harvest; and, upon the return of their husbands, it was found they had taken care of the family and the farm with that judgment which prevailed among the women of earlier days.
"At this time the major part of the township was almost an unbroken wilderness, with here and there a log-hut, and some of them without door, window, or floor, and those who had floors laid them of what was then called puncheons, made of split logs, one side hewed. For doors some used a quilt or blanket until they were able to obtain better, and for windows greased paper was used instead of glass. The windows were made by cutting a piece out of a log, putting sticks across the opening, and pasting the paper on with paste made of flour and water. Some lived in this way for a time, while others of more ability and enterprise lived more comfortably.
"Game was very plenty. Every man had a dog and gun; most of his meat he obtained from the forest; deer, bear, wolves, turkeys, raccoons, opossums, and squirrels were plenty. Wolves could be heard howling at some seasons of the year every night, for a week or more at a time, and sheep were kept from them with much difficulty, a high fence having to be built around a small piece of ground in which the sheep were herded. The fence being built so high the wolves could not get over, and so close together they could not crawl through. The inhabitants were forced to keep a few sheep in order to get wool for their clothing. It was the business of the boys to guard the sheep and fasten them in every night, and it was very seldom they forgot or neglected to secure them. The women carded the wool by hand, spun, wove, and made their wearing apparel. In every house might be found a spinning-wheel, in many a loom and a weaver.
"My father, like others, had no enclosures in which to pasture his stock, and put bells on his cows and horses and turned them out on the common to feed. One morning, desiring to do some plowing, started for his horses without dog or gun. Hearing the bells on the horses, went in that direction. When he arrived at the place, he found five wolves who had killed and were eating his colt, which was about a month old. The mother, which had a bell on, was fighting them. He took his other horse and rode home as quick as possible and got his dog and gun and returned to the scene of destruction. The dog made an attack upon them, and being overpowered by the wolves, returned to his master. All the wolves followed the dog in single file, and, when within a few paces, shot one of them and returned home with the scalp and hide, for which he received seven dollars. Some few years after, when they began to let the sheep lie out at night, twenty-two of twenty-seven were killed in one night.
"Bears were also plenty, and proved destructive to hogs running in the woods, as they were feared and fattened on shack. One instance I remember of the herd coming home — one wounded and one missing. After a few days the carcass was found on the root of a tree, turned out where the beast could see far around, as well as eat his victim. Some of the inhabitants would kill and eat them when young, and, if old, secure the oil, which they burned in lamps. As the country became more settled they retreated back to the more dense forests or swamps. Aaron and Joy Sperry, of Mecca, caught several in a steel-trap on their travel way from Cranberry Marsh, in Johnston, to Tamarack Swamp, in Bloomfield. In earlier days they destroyed corn in the field when green.
"Deer were very plenty in the Fall. The inhabitants would kill all they wanted for meat, and use their skins, after being dressed, for wearing apparel. The material used for dressing the skins was the animal's brains, prepared by being mixed in warm water and being rubbed until it assumed the appearance of thick soap-suds, the hair having been loosened by soaking the hide in water. The hair, grain, and flesh is removed by a rubbing with something like a currier's knife. The skin them is allowed to remain in the brain-water for some time; after which it is taken out and stretched, pulled, and rubbed until it assumed that porous, spongy, and peculiar feeling to the touch found only in buckskin.
"Wild turkeys were more common than any game, except squirrels, and were often so plenty that the boys had to watch in the fields to prevent them from destroying buckwheat and other grains. I have driven out hundreds in a day to preserve the crops. If the buckwheat failed, Pittsburgh was the only resort for supplies, and little money to buy with. William Davis at one time ran short of grain. In company with a neighbor they started toward Pittsburgh, but found some flour at Poland. They bought one barrel, put it in a four-bushel bag on their horse, and led the horse home — a distance of twenty-four miles — after paying sixteen dollars for it.
"The first school-house was built in the valley of Walnut Creek, just above where the Cortland cheese-factory now stands. It was a small log structure, with one log cut out for light; the opening was covered with greased paper, as before described. Desks for writing were made by boring holes in a log in the wall, driving in pins, and tying boards thereon. When this was abandoned another was built some better, but after the same plan. The second house was built about they year 1814.
"The first Church organized was the Baptist. They met sometimes in the schoolhouse, other times at private houses. There is yet one person living who was a member of that organization — Ann Davis, aged ninety-two years. Had preaching sometimes by Matthias Luce, her father, of Washington County, Penn., sometimes by Adamson Bentley, of Warren, Ohio. The next Church organization was of the order of Presbyterians; erected a log meeting-house near where the first settlement was made, on farm now owned by Armine Casterline. Their preachers were Revs. Miller, Leslie, Pepoon, and others.
"The first white child born in this township was John Hulse, son of Henry K. Hulse, about the year 1808.
"A great amount of hospitality prevailed among the early settlers. They would go six or seven miles to help their neighbors raise their buildings. No castes nor aristocracy prevailed among them. Would visit one another, riding on ox-sleds; and to Church in same way. Wagons or carriages of any character were hardly known. Traveling at a distance was performed wholly on horseback. Mrs. Ann Davis, the woman before mentioned, went to visit her parents in Washington County, Perm., on horseback, carrying her infant child with her, a distance of two hundred and forty miles.
"It was said by some of the early settlers that on a marked road, near the Big Run, in the cool of the day, they found a pile of rattlesnakes as large as a barrel. They went back, rallied others, and returned, They found them crawling around, as the sun had warmed them up. They killed about eighty. They were very plenty along Walnut Creek, Confusion Run, Big Run; and, in short, all the streams which had high and stony banks. They have all long since disappeared.
"This township did not settle as rapidly as some of the neighboring townships, in consequence of the land being owned and held by speculators. Most of the early settlers bought their farms on credit, cleared them up, and paid for them from the products of the same. They deserve great credit for their heroism, frugality, and self-denial."
Written by Aaron Davis, Bazetta, Ohio, on December 25,1875.