Joseph Boyd, Sr.
JULY 14, 1893.
In the primeval "flatboating" days each man was as good as his neighbor, and the "middleman" was not recognized as a distinct variety of the species "man," and even the commission merchant had not become totally distinct from the character of boss flatboat owner or captain.
In those days of pure and absolute democracy the subject of our sketch, a dweller upon the proud Monongahela, in his twenty-ninth year conceived the plan of filling a "broad horn" with some salt and bacon, and much apples and cider, to navigate over the long course of the Ohio and turbid Mississippi to the far-away City of the South--New Orleans. In the fall of 1807 the design was carried out, and, with none but the usual adventures, succeeded so well that he returned to Brownsville a richer man The succeeding fall he tried again the experiment, with much the same success. Upon this trip he had the satisfaction of selling many of his best apples at the landings of the river and on the levee at New Orleans for a dime each.
This daring character and the forehandedness brought him to the favorable notice of Miss Rebecca Crawford, of a family, and in a congregation, of sturdy Covenanters But we shall not pass without relating that, at the end of the second trip, he was attacked with yellow fever and had a narrow escape, as did all of Northern acclimation. Early in 1810 Mr. Boyd and Rebecca were married by the old-style Covenanting clergyman, climaxed by the "old country" wish of "great age, much goods and many children"
The same year found his wife living comfortably near "the Fort," while he daily rode on a roan horse to his land--a quarter-section--half a mile east of the present Westwood schoolhouse, until a log cabin was built. Then the couple began to keep house on their own land, but no infantile life made its appearance until 1812, when James was born. Like the other settlers, he gave more than Congress price for his land, but was content; for he was forehanded enough to pay down.
While building his first cabin, he had hewed a hole in an ash log, out of which the roan ate his dinner of oats; and the log was in existence when Joseph, Jr., was fourteen years of age, and he has embalmed it in humble verse, which may be given in a future chapter.
He worked at clearing, fencing and farming for fourteen years before James began to help at 12, and then the great body of his smooth land was under plow. Of course much was subdued by girdling, and many such trunks stood in the late '30's. Early an orchard of seedling apples was planted, and one of the original is yet standing--eighty-one years old. Joseph Sr, was not much of a hunter, notwithstanding game was very abundant, but far preferred to be at work, for a new cabin, and a well and another orchard were all clamoring to be made, and the family increased space.
He dug out a huge oak log for a trough in which to pound up apples for making cider, mostly to be turned into vinegar for the market; the first trough the writer ever saw used for such purposes, with pestles hanging from the apple limbs. But the couple were so forehanded and thrifty that Rebecca had marketing even as early as 1812 and went to market on the roan horse. Several times she passed the camp of the army of 1812.
But the time arrived when James became a young man and married Miss Catharine Mills, the daughter of Thomas Mills, a soldier of the Continental army, who had voted twice for General Washington, and who enjoyed such longevity, that he did not die until 1863, about 106 years of age, and never knew that the great war of the '60s was raging; for it was carefully hid from him by his grand and great grandchildren. James was also honored by an appointment upon the noncommissioned staff of the Second Regiment, First Brigade. First Division, O. M., as color sergeant--an office which he held until the disbanding of the establishment. Male heirs of this Mills blood are entitled to a place in the society of the "Sons of the Revolution."
It is related that once when going in a wagon to the little city with his family aboard, Mr. Boyd pointed out to Miss Margaret the huge excavation for the Miami Canal as the "place where men were making a river."
Huge copper and brass camp kettles were in use in early days, holding from ten to twenty gallons. Some were of good and many of poor material. Mrs. Boyd wore out three in her lifetime, but in 1828 she borrowed one which was made of as solid material as the original purchaser, "Deacon" Gaines, of chapter I. It was afterward bought by Mrs. Boyd, taken to the city and put in order, and is now (1893) used by Mrs. Margaret Morton, who has owned it thirty-two years. Such kettles were used to boil cider, apple butter and maple sap, and to "try" lard.
In 1834 Miss Margaret, unaided, tapped nearly forty sugar trees, and made the supply of sirup and sugar for a year. At the present day, and for forty years past, it would not sound like a hardship to be confined to such supplies! Also it might be related that a few were not long in learning that a bucket of New Orleans molasses to the barrel of maple sap increased the yield to that extent, and that analysis or taste cannot detect the difference.
A tradition exists that somewhere subsequent to 1814 a family of "Greens," near North Bend, became frightened by rumors of Indian depredations, and fled to Boyd's, where they staid several days, until the danger--true or fancied--was past.
Taxes in early days were preposterously small and one wonders how officials existed; but the frontiersman could adapt himself to circumstances.
The Boyds almost lived within themselves, for they had sheep, geese and flax and the spinning wheel was humming from New Years's Day until December 31. Mrs. Boyd was a famous weaver and could produce a variety of wearing fabrics and household drapery. Her older girls, when married, left home with a generous "trousseau" from the home industries, and "Aunt Margaret'' reports that she had a "Benjamin" allowance!
Not many years after settling Mr. Boyd acquired a neighbor on his northeast line named James McManamy, whose daughter, Sarah, as the respected wife of O. H. P. Carson, still lives among us, with prospect of many long years,
But we return to the wonderful fabrics woven in the early days to relate that Mrs. Morton owns a flannel skirt made eighty years ago by her deceased husband's mother, and possessed by Mrs.
Prior to the '40s Mrs. Boyd and her neighbors dried pumpkins by paring and cutting a continuous strip, which could be hung upon a pole. It required but little more boiling than when fresh; but the canned pumpkin of to-day is as good as the fresh vegetable.
Here we digress to relate a facetious story told by Will Boyd, of Cumminsville, who, as a son of Catharine Mills, is entitled to membership in the "Sons of the Revolution," that an odd frontier character, Reuben Fisher, when getting a dram at the old Cheviot bar was asked by the tender to say "when." The liquor was steadily poured into the old style two-gill tumbler until just at the brim, when Reuben said "when" so sharply that the bartender jumped and spilled some of the whisky. But another romance was in the loom, which in time would take up threads which ran through the Boyd woof.
Just before their departure for the far-away Miami country, the newly married Boyds paid a last visit to the Covenanter house of worship, on the banks of the Monongahela, to see an infant boy christened by the revered pastor. The infant grew to youth and manhood, and then developed in his Covenanter breast the desire to try his fortune upon the broad waters and to visit the frontier home of the couple that had graced his baptism by their presence.
Joseph Morton was a character of much the same stamp as the early Joseph Boyd. In the late '30s he bought and loaded with salt, bacon, apples and cider a modest flat-boat on the Monongahela, with which he and his small crew floated to the great market--the "coast" of Louisiana. Success was all he could desire, and he returned as far as Missouri, where he found and paid for a tract of good land. Then onward to the Miami Purchase he hastened--for some surmise that by some secret means he knew what might await him--and began to work at day labor in the Boyd neighborhood.
Here the acquaintance began, which never ended until it ripened into solemn words spoken over him and Margaret Boyd by a staid Presbyterian minister. Nor did he marry one of the unbaptized; for every Boyd, Armstrong, Gain or Mullen--as stanch Covenanters--were always duly christened, and that tradition and custom is handed down, even to the present day. Morton loved his gun, and was never seen by the writer without his rifle--a superior piece--on his shoulder.
In that day of indulgence in drinking he was temperate and abstained from profanity, but never signed the pledge until he so did to encourage a drinking neighbor to pledge temperance. So far did he carry his conscientiousness that friends could scarcely persuade him to drink a stimulant in his last sickness (typhoid), which proved fatal. To the neighbor in whose interest he had pledged abstinence he said: "John, is this breaking the pledge ?" M. for sixty-two years. Both sides of the garment are covered with calico.
Joseph Morton's two sons were in the Thirty-ninth O. V. I. with the Armstrongs, Stathems, Moores, Craigs, Hildreths, Vanzants and others not remembered, but all faithful to the stars and stripes. A peculiar halo surrounds this Margaret who, tradition echoes, never gave parent an unkind word, and in whose house the mother--aged Rebecca--died.
Elizabeth, now a widow, rnarnied John Bracken, and lives in and owns the old homestead, and honors her worthy parent by firmly holding the ancestral acres. Martha married John Moore and was widow before the wedding was an old tale. Joseph "Jr," staid with his parents dutifully administering the homestead until married to Bertha Heun; and he too, retains the parental fields which fell to his share.
When Joseph Morton proposed to carry Margaret away to his Missouri possessions, parental affections were so strong that both said: "Joe, don't take Margaret away, and we'll give you the choice of four acres." He heeded their pleadings, accepted thr gift, sold out in Missouri, built a frame house and the widow of many years lives in the house with her loving sons, in good circumstances.
"Uncle Joe," as all lovingly call him passed away with typhoid fever in 1854 and lies in the North Side Bethel yard. Mrs. Boyd died of heart disease July 22, 1867 and lies near him.
The Covenanter's word is his very self and his friendships are true.
--R. P. K.
The Pioneer Annals of Greene Township also include a William Armstrong who married Martha Crawford from Pennsylvania in 1819 and a Samuel Crawford who came from Pennsylvania in 1820 and leased land from Joseph Boyd.
In 1830 Joseph Boyd, Sr. was enumerated next to William Lyle, a son of James Lyle and Rebecca Crawford of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It is likely that Joseph Boyd's wife and William Lyle's mother were related. Brownsville, Pennsylvania, on the Monongahela is just a little south of Elizabeth Township in Allegheny County where the Lyle family lived.
Contact author Jean M. Hoffman via e-mail