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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Dr. Samuel Hildreth - Part II

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 19, 2012


Last week, I provided information about Dr. Samuel Hildreth, one of the first “men of science” to arrive in the Ohio country following the American Revolution.


Hildreth traveled Ohio extensively, and by 1848, he wanted to share his accumulated knowledge with the publication of a book titled, “Pioneer History.”


He developed his book in conjunction with the Historical Society of Cincinnati, and it was published by the Derry Pub. Co. of the same city.


Several chapters are devoted to his study of the natural history, and much of his research and work has been used in later years in the study of the natural history of Ohio.


Hildreth reprinted two journals of early Ohio settlers, and in doing so, he has saved that information for future generations.


My favorite is the Journal of John Mathews (1765-1828) who came to the Ohio country in July 1786 as our area was being surveyed for the Seven Ranges.


Several days into his journey down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, he joined the surveyors who were waiting for troops from Fort Steuben to accompany them to begin surveying the second range of townships.


The Fort itself had not yet been constructed and the troops were stationed along the Ohio River from Beaver to Mingo Bottom.


Mingo Bottom was described as a broad extensive tract of bottom lands, once occupied by a band of Mingo Indians, where Crawford’s Trail left the river for the inlands.


Several of the Seven Ranges were in the process of being surveyed, with different surveyors in charge of each Range.


At the end of October 1786, the group in which Mathews traveled had all of their horses stolen, probably by the Indians.


The theft was reported to Hamtramck, the commanding officer of Fort Steuben.  By their return on Oct. 31, “we found one good blockhouse in such a state as to offer good shelter in case of attack.”


November found the band of surveyors moving between the 3rd Range and 5th Range trying to finish as much work as possible before the winter sets in for good.  They appeared to use both Fort Steuben and Wheeling as home bases for extending into the Ohio country.


On Nov. 11, he visited the home of Harman Greathouse on the Virginia (West Virginia) side of the river where the neighbors were seated around a heap of corn.


“The inspiring juice of rye had enlivened their imaginations, and given their tongues such an exact balance,” telling stories of boxing, wrestling, and hunting.


On Jan. 27, 1787, Capt. Hutchins, the U.S. Geographer, left the area and returned to New York, as the primary surveying work was complete.


Capt. Hamtramck, commander of Fort Steuben, requested that Mathews come to the Fort and take charge of the commissary.  Mathew’s Journal states that Fort Steuben is “three miles above the mouth of Indian Cross Creek, on the west side of the Ohio.”


Mathews arrived at the Fort on Feb. 4, 1787 accompanied by “Mr. Ludlow, one of the surveyors,” who was responsible for what is today called, “the Ludlow Line.”


John Mathews eventually settled in the Zanesville area after journeying across much of today’s State of Ohio.


Dr. Samuel Hildreth initially lived in Belle Prairie, today’s Belpre, O., married and moved to Marietta where he lived to be more than 80 years old.


He constructed a three-story brick home in Marietta, which remained in the family into the 1920s when Washington County purchased the home as it was located next to the Court House.


In 1965, the Hildreth Building became the center-of-attention as the space was needed to expand the Court House.  After the windows were removed for preservation by the Ohio Historical Society, Hildreth’s home was demolished and the annex was constructed in its place.


His collection of papers and books has been archived and remain available today for research, still housed in the cabinet where they were when he died in 1863.