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Memoir of David Hoover  

Part 1 

            I think it is Lawrence Sterne who says that – among other things which he mentions – every person should write a book; and as I have not yet done that, I am now going to write one.  As it has always been interesting to me to read biographical sketches, and historical reminiscences of bygone days, I have concluded that some information concerning myself and family might, perhaps, amuse some of my descendants, at least.  The name is pretty extensively scattered throughout this country; such information may therefore be of some interest to them, as it may enable them to trace back their genealogy to the original stock.

            I was born on a small water-course, called Huwaree, a branch of the Yadkin river, in Randolph county, North Carolina, on the 14th day of April, 1781; and am now [1] in the seventy-third year of my age.  It is customary, in personal sketches of this kind, to say something of one’s parents and education.  I can only say, that my parents were always considered very exemplary in all their walk through life.  As to education, my opportunities were exceedingly limited; and had it not been for my inclination and perseverance, I should, in all probability, at this day be numbered among those who can scarcely write their names, or perhaps should only be able to make a “X” in placing my signature to a written instrument.  In order to show the state of society in my early youth, as an evidence of the intelligence of the circle in which I was raised, I can say of a truth, that I never had an opportunity of reading a newspaper, nor did I ever see a bank-note, until after I was a man grown.

            As to my ancestors, I know but little.  If my information is correct, my grandfather, Andrew Hoover, left Germany when a boy; married Margaret Fouts, in Pennsylvania; and settled on Pipe creek in Maryland.  There my father was born; and from thence, now about one hundred years ago, he removed to North Carolina, then a new country.  He left eight sons and five daughters, all of whom had large families.  Their descendants are mostly scattered through what we call the Western country.  Rudolph Waymire, my grandfather on my mother’s side, emigrated from Hanover in Germany, after he had several children.  He used to brag that he was a soldier under His Britannic Majesty, and that he was at the head of the battle of Dettingen in 1743. [2]  He left one son and seven daughters by his first wife.  Their descendants are also mostly to be found in this country.

            My father had a family of ten children, four sons and six daughters. [3]  In order to better our circumstances, he came to the conclusion of moving to a new country, and sold his possessions accordingly.  He was then worth rising of two thousand dollars; which at that time, and in that country, was considered very considerably over an average in point of wealth.  On the 19th of September, 1802, we loaded our wagon, and wended our way toward that portion of what was then called the Northwestern Territory which constitutes the present state of Ohio.

            Here permit me to make a passing remark.  I was then in the twenty-second year of my age.  I had formed an acquaintance and brought myself into notice perhaps rather more extensively than falls to the lot of most country boys.  Did language afford terms adequate to describe my sensations on shaking hands with my youthful compeers, and giving them a final farewell, I would gladly do so.  Suffice it to say, that those only who have been placed in like circumstances, can appreciate my feelings on that occasion.  And although I have lived to be an old man, and experienced the various vicissitudes attendant on a journey through life thus far, I yet look back to that time as the most interesting scene through which I have passed.  My mind at this day is carried back to my early associations and school-boy days, to my native hills and pine forests; and I can say that there is a kind of indescribable charm in the very name of my natal spot, very different from aught that pertains to any other place on the globe.

            After about five weeks’ journeying, we crossed the Ohio river at Cincinnati, then a mere village, composed mostly of log houses.  I think it was the day after an election had been held at that place for delegates to the convention to form a Constitution; at any rate a Constitution was formed the following winter, which was amended only within the last few years.  After crossing the river, we pushed on to Stillwater, about twelve miles north of Dayton, in what is now the county of Montgomery.  A number of our acquaintances had located themselves there the previous spring.  There we encamped in the woods the first winter.  The place had proved so unhealthy that we felt discouraged and much dissatisfied, and concluded not to locate there.  My father then purchased tow hundred acres of land, not far from Lebanon, in Warren county, as a home, until we could make further examinations.  John Smith, afterward one of the proprietors of Richmond, purchased one hundred acres in the same neighborhood, with similar views.  Our object was to find a suitable place for making a settlement, and where but few or no entries had been made.  But a small portion of the land lying west of the great Miami, or east of the Little Miami, was settled at that time.  We were hard to please.  We Carolinians would scarcely look at the best land where spring water was lacking.  Among other considerations, we wished to get further south.  We examined divers [sic] sections of the unsettled parts of Ohio, without finding any location that would please us.  John Smith, Robert Hill and myself partially examined the country between the Falls of the Ohio and Vincennes, before there was a line run in that part of the Territory; and returned much discouraged, as we found nothing inviting in that quarter.

            Thus time passed on until the spring of 1806, when myself and four others, rather accidentally, took a section line some eight or ten miles north of Dayton, and traced it a distance of more than thirty miles, through an unbroken forest, to where I am now writing.  It was the last of February, or the first of March, when I first saw Whitewater.  On my return to my father’s, I informed him that I thought I had found the country we had been in search of.  Spring water, timber, and building rock appeared to be abundant, and the face of the country looked delightful.  In about three weeks after this, my father, with several others, accompanied me to this “land of promise.”  As a military man would say, we made a reconnaissance, but returned rather discouraged, as it appeared at that time too far from home.  Were it necessary, I might here state some of our views at that time, which would show up our extreme ignorance of what has since taken place.  On returning from this trip, we saw stakes sticking among the beech trees where Eaton now stands, which was among the nearest approaches of the white man to this place.  With the exception of George Holman [4]and a few others, who settled some miles south of this, in the spring of 1805, there were but few families within twenty miles of this place.

            It was not until the last of May or the first of June that the first entries were made.  John Smith then entered south of Main street, where Richmond now stands, and several other tracts.  My father entered the land upon which I now live, I having selected it on my first trip, and several other quarter sections.  About harvest of this same year, Jeremiah Cox reached here from good old North Carolina, and purchased where the north port of Richmond now stands.  If I mistake not, it had been previously entered by John Meek, the father of Jesse Meek, and had been transferred to Joseph Woodkirk, of whom J. Cox made the purchase.  Said Cox also entered several other tracts.  Jeremiah Cox, John Smith, and my father, were then looked upon as rather leaders in the Society of Friends.  Their location here had a tendency of drawing others, and soon caused a great rush to Whitewater; and land that I thought would never be settled was rapidly taken up and improved.  Had I a little more vanity, I might almost claim the credit (if credit it be) [5] of having been the pioneer of the great body of Friends now to be found in this region; as I think it very doubtful whether three Yearly Meetings would convene in this county, had I not traced the line before mentioned.

            I was now in the twenty-fifth year of my age, and thus far had been rather a wayfaring disciple, not doing much for myself or any other person.  Having now selected a spot for a home, I thought the time had come to be up and doing.  I therefore married a girl named Catharine Yount, near the Great Miami; and on the last day of March, 1807, reached with our little plunder the hill where I am now living.  It may not be uninteresting here to name some of the first settlers in the different neighborhoods.  On the East Fork were the Flemings, Irelands, Hills, Wassons, Maxwells, etc.  At the mouth of Elkhorn were the Hunts, Whiteheads and Endsleys.  In this neighborhood were the Smiths, Coxes, Wrights and Hoovers, several of whom commenced operations in the woods in the spring and summer of 1806.  This may emphatically be said to have been the day of “log-cabins” and log-rollings; and, although we were in an unbroken forest, without even a blazed pathway from one settlement to another, we yet enjoyed a friendship, and a neighborly interchange of kind offices, which are unknown at this time.  Although we had to step on puncheon floors, and eat our corn-bread and venison, or turkey, off of broad pieces of split timber, and drive forks in one corner of our cabins, with cross timbers driven into the walls, for bedsteads, there was no grumbling or complaining of low markets and hard times.  The questions of Tariff and National Bank were truly “obsolete ideas” [6] in those days.  It was the first week in April before some of us commenced operations in the woods; but we mostly raised corn enough to do us.  There was, however, no mill to grind it, and for some weeks we grated [7]  all the meal we made use of.  About Christmas, Charles Hunt started a mill, on a cheap scale, near the mouth of Elkhorn, which did our grinding until J. Cox established one near to where Richmond now stands, and which now belongs to Basil Brightwell.

            The Indian boundary was at this time about three miles west of us.  The Indians lived on White river, and were frequently among us.  They at one time packed off 400 bushels of shelled corn, which they purchased of John Smith.  In 1809 a purchase was made, called the “Twelve Mile Purchase,” [8] and a goodly number settled on it before it was surveyed; but the war of 1812 coming on, the settlers mostly left their locations, and removed to places of more security.  Those who remained built forts and “block houses.”  The settlers in this neighborhood mostly stood their ground, but suffered considerably with fear.  George Shugart then lived where Newport now stands, some miles from any other inhabitant.  In the language of the Friends, he “did not feel clear” in leaving his home, and he manfully stood his ground unmolested, [9] except by those whom we then styled the “Rangers,” from whom he received some abuse for his boldness.  The Indians took three scalps out of this county, and stole a number of horses.  Candor, however, compels me to say that, as is usually the case, we Christians were the aggressors.  After peace was made, in 1814, the twelve mile purchase settled very rapidly.

[1] This appears to have been written in 1854.

[2] He also, it is said, served under Frederick the Great, of Prussia, in a certain company into which no man was admitted, who was not some seven feet in hight [sic].

[3] Andrew Hoover, Judge Hoover’s father, died about the close of the year 1834, aged about eighty-three years.  It was stated in his obituary notice, that he had then over one hundred descendents.  Except the eldest, who died young, his children were all living until March, 1857, the oldest survivor being seventy-eight, and the youngest fifty-eight years of age.  In December, 1854, an interesting re-union of these brothers and sisters was had, at the house of one of their number, in Richmond.

[5] I presume Judge Hoover would not seriously question the fact.

[6] Or rather, unoriginated ideas.

[7] Many persons at the present day may perhaps not comprehend the process referred to in the text.  A grater was a sheet of tin, thickly perforated, bent in a semi-circular form, and nailed to a piece of board, the rough side outward.  On this the ears of corn, before becoming thoroughly hardened, were grated.  The meal thus produced escaped down the board into the receptacle provided for it.

[8] See Appendix, II.  Among the first settlers of the twelve-mile purchase, rather in the vicinity of Centreville, were Danial Noland, Henry Bryan, Isaac Julian, William Harvey, Nathan Overman, George Grimes, etc.  Other pioneers, whose names I can not now recall, were thinly scattered over other portions of the “purchase.”

[9] The same course was pursued, safely, by Louis Hosier, another pioneer of the “new purchase.”

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