Editor note: The Clear Spring Settlement was a Quaker settlement that was at one time located in Greensboro Township and later (1838) when new townships were evolved from the larger ones, Clear Springs became a part of Harrison township.
1830 - 1913
A paper read before the Historical Society in 1892
The Clear Spring settlement is an interesting subject to me, as it was the home of my childhood, the home of my youth and is still my home. I would be glad if I had a memoranda from which I could give correct dates and names, but as I have not I will give, as nearly correct as I can, and hope to be excused for any error that may occur.
Clear Spring is on Duck creek, the central point being about four miles west of New Castle and three miles north of Greensboro, Henry county, Ind. It extends over a territory about three miles each way, pretty well filled in. The land was mostly rolling, very fertile and covered with an immense growth of timber and underbrush. The most valuable of the timber was oak, walnut, poplar, ash, cherry and hickory; the sugar maple, however, ought to be mentioned, as it furnished the sap that made quite an industry at that time, furnishing all the sugar and molasses they could use, and some as well.
The early settlers with whom I was best acquainted when a boy, and whom I well recollect now, were Rice Price, William Hosier, Phineas Ratliff, Robert Price, Eli Stafford, Aaron Hastings, Gabriel Ratliff, Joseph Ratliff, Richard Ratliff, Dempsey Reece, Elias Newby and Nathan Hutson. These men mostly came from the State of North Carolina as early as 1822, and perhaps some earlier. Jphn Pressnal, Danny Pressnal, Peter Pearson, Joseph Modlin, Nathan Pearson, Jacob Lamb, Daniel Hutson, John Bond, Richard Hiatt, Nimrod Dickey and Jesse Weesner, and others came later. They were mostly poor and quite dependent on each other in some respect. This fostered a neighborly and charitable spirit, and they were friendly and accommodating. Some in our day of pride and selfishness might well envy them their enjoyment. When they had a cabin or a stable to raise, or logs to roll, they only had to get the words around, and they came from all quarters, with axes and willing hands and the work was on the way.
The improvements of their lands was not all that engaged their minds. As early as 1830 they built a log schoolhouse on the east bank of Duck creek, near a nice natural spring, hence the name "Clear Spring."
It is remarkable, and yet true, all of these early settlers were members of the religious Society of Friends and they carefully maintained their religious and educational privileges. As early as1834 Phineas Ratliff deeded them six acres of ground off of the southwest corner of his farm. On this they built a log meeting house, in which they met twice a week and worshiped God. As they had no recorded minister of the Gospel they worshiped in silence. Very seldom was anything spoken in their meetings in those days. On the southwest corner of this lot and just south of the schoolhouse they located a graveyard. The first person buried here was my brother, John Stafford, son of Eli and Elizabeth Stafford, he died in 1834, aged twelve years. The next was Lydia Newby, wife of Elias Newby, she died in 1835. The next, Ephraim Ratliff, son of Phineas and Christian Ratliff, he died in 1835. This boy was drowned in a mill race that ran nearby his home. Here I will mention as an item of interest, those who have come to an untimely end and have been laid to rest at Clear Springs: Joseph Ratliff, a son of Joseph and Letitia Ratliff, a grown man, fell in a fit with his mouth in some water and smothered to death as early as 1838; a child of Nathan Draper, run over by a wagon. Elias Modlin, murdered in Missouri, brought here and buried; Charles F. Presnall, son of Jehu Presnall, killed in New Castle in 1876; a son of Jonathan E. Pickering, ran over by a wagon; a son of Frank Kiser, accidentally shot by his father, and lastly Jerome Hutson, killed in a railroad wreck on the I. B. & W, west of New Castle on the memorable night of May 12, 1886. This spot is very sacred to many of us, being the resting place of our dear parents and their children. In those early times Friends were opposed to putting up tombstones and monuments, so that many of the graves in Clear Spring burying ground are unmarked.
The first school at Clear Spring was taught by Moses Rich, then followed Jabez H. Henley, John M. Macy, Mathew Henley, Edmond Bowman, Price Wickersham, Elizabeth Ratliff, Sarah Ann Pitts and Sallie Price. The furniture of the schoolhouse was a teacher's desk, two broad boards extending nearly across the room on either side, and set up on legs for the pupils to write upon, and a slab of benches for them to sit upon; a switch laid up in one corner; a water bucket and tin cup finished the outfit. If big boys became unruly they had to draw their coats and take a decent whipping. This practice and relic of heathenism I am glad to say soon dropped out of use. In preparing our spelling lessons we were allowed to spell aloud, then we would make things lively for awhile. Webster's spelling book, Walker's dictionary. The English reader and Introduction, Olney's geography, Pike's arithmetic, Kirkham's grammar and the New Testament, were the books used. Those early settlers, though scant of means and having but little education themselves, were very anxious to give their children some education. Some of their ideas in regard to the matter were not very high. A girl to read and write and a boy to read, write and cipher to the "rule of three" were thought by some to be quite an attainment, sufficient for common purposes. But we are thankful they were not slow to imbibe the spirit of the age. They were industrious, persevering men and women and prided themselves in getting an honest living. They were almost self-supporting, they raised, besides their provisions, flax and wool, and made nearly all of their wearing apparel, beds and bedding. Their implements for this work, so common in that day, and made by their own hands were a flax break and scotching knives, out about the barn; a weaver's loom, warping bars, winding blades, reels, spinning wheel, large and small, wool cards and a flax hatchel about the house. Well did they know how to handle them. They could take the flax from the fields and the wool from the sheep's back and soon make a fabric that was strong and lasting, and with scissors, needle, thimble and thread of their own making, they made their own clothing, good and warm, not to be slapped out in a day.
Their food was course but very wholesome, not a great variety, but the toil of the day made them relish it. Corndodger, corn pone, meat and cabbage, milk and butter and occasionally a mess of Carolina biscuits, were their principle articles. Their strength of muscle, well-developed bodies and rosy cheeks evinced that their food was well digested and properly assimilated. The low of the ox, the bleating of the lambs, the sound of the woodsman's ax, the bang of the loom, the hum of the wheel, and the merry laugh of children made up the music that cheered them on their way.
They soon cleared away the forest, and mother earth stirred by their rude implements, yielded abundant crops. But they had no mills; they had to go to Wayne County to get their grinding done; this was very unhandy. The first gristmill in the settlement was built by Eli Stafford on Duck creek, just below Clear Spring. He ran it a little over a year then sold it to Jehu Wickersham, who sold it to Joseph Draper, who ran it for many years. Draper's mill was a noted place for a long time in Henry county. A little earlier a saw mill was built further down stream by Jacob Pickering, and still later a carding machine and oil mill were built by Nathan Hunt and Robert Polk. This was considered a great convenience and advantage to the neighborhood. When those worthy pioneers were once blessed with these conveniences right at their doors, and a post office and mail once a week, they almost forget the fatigue and privations of the past, in the enjoyment of the present. As yet threshing machines, steam powered mills, turnpikes, Railroads, telegraphs and telephones were not dreamed of. Dempsey Reece though mot able to assist Jesse Rose much in his noted "Deer Squabbles", was equal to the task of wagoning over mud roads, our surplus produce to Cincinnati, and return with necessities of life for our community. Well do I remember his noble team of four and six horses, rigged out in heavy harness, some red flannel about their heads, and bells on their harness. Dempsey on the saddle horse with line in one hand and a whip in the other guided well his train, through thick and thin, cold and hot, wet and dry. When he cracked that whip the horses understood. They were as familiar to the children as a train of cars is now.
Many incidents in the lives of these early settlers would be both novel and interesting if they were here to relate them. But alas! They have passed away. Yet they are cherished in our memory with fond recollections. Well do I remember, though but a boy, when they met at Clear Spring to worship God, how they were seated, how venerable they appeared. Nathan Pearson, Rice Price John Presnall and Elias Newby sat on the upper seat, and so on down. To mention all the children and their whereabouts would make this too long; suffice it to say that many of them have carried out their principles instilled in their minds in their youth and have made good and honest citizens wherever their lots have been cast; many of them in the far west revert to Clear Spring as the happy home of their childhood.
One more remarkable thing in regard to them I must not omit. Notwithstanding their coarse diet, their extreme toils, hardships and exposure, they reached a good old age, many of them reaching seventy, seventy-five and eighty years, and some went to ninety. This no doubt, was attributable to their strong constitutions and temperate habits. Although in their raising, whiskey was common in every family, they discarded its use and lived temperate lives, setting an example before their children worth of imitation. A few of these Friends moved away, Gabriel Ratliff moved to Spiceland and died there. His wife died in Grant county. Aaron Hastings died in Dublin, Wayne county, William Hosier and his wife died in Grant county, Rice Price died in Minneapolis, Minn. His wife died in California, Peter Pearson died in Iowa and John Bond died in Hamilton county. The rest all died in the home of their early choice, where they had spent many years in honest toil, and where God had pleased to bestow many blessings upon them. They were buried by their friends in the place they had prepared on a hill at Clear Spring.
Rest, quietly, sweetly rest,
Ye fathers and mothers dear.
Long we'll cherish in our breasts
Your memory so fond and dear;
Summer's heat nor wintry blast
Can e'er disturb you now;
While the cycles of time shall last,
You'll rest as sweet as now.
Soon we'll join your silent throng,
Though tender ties on earth be torn;
Our bodies by yours laid along
To wait the resurrection morn.
At Gabriel's trumpet we'll burst the sod,
From grave and coffin flee away;
Then together with the angels of God
We'll spend that eternal day.
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