The settling down

Batavia’s bicentennial year is 2014, and this is the fourth in a series of historic vignettes concerning the community. The late Rosanna Hoberg, author, was a columnist for The Clermont Sun. This column appeared in the Sun in observation of Batavia’s sesquicentennial celebration. Charles Robinson of Maryland came to Batavia in 1806, and he and his family became the first neighbors of Ezekiel Dimmitt and his family.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Robinson belonged to the Methodist Church, and their home was one of the early preaching places in this area.

There was no lack of children to teach the Gospel to, for the Dimmitts sired nine, and the Robinsons were the parents of seven. From these two families came the beginnings of Batavia’s well-known families, including the Weavers, Hulicks, Nashes, Smiths, Duckwalls, Teals and Blairs. Mrs. Alice Dimmitt Larkin, the late Edmund Dimmitt Parrott, Brice Hendrixon and Mrs. Shirley Wall have the distinction of being descendants of the first family, the Dimmitts.

Other settlers came soon after the Robinsons. Robert Townsley was one, and in 1808 John Wageman came to the valley. He volunteered in a Cavalry Company in the War of 1812, returning home to marry Margaret Robinson, and from this union came the Dial and the Whittaker families. James Glancy came from York, Pennsylvania. James Hulick preferred his land up on the hill, one and one-half miles northeast from his valley neighbors, because he deemed a higher location healthier. John Weaver, Jr., immigrated from Virginia and liked the location so well that he went back home and induced his father and the seven unmarried members of his family to join him on the land just above the village. This proved a great boon to the unmarried females.

John Slade, a native of Kentucky, served in the War of 1812, enlisting twice. “Afterwards he engaged to run flat boats down the Ohio, but met with misfortune, which caused him to settle in Batavia,” according to Rockey & Bancroft, who did not explain whether the misfortune was financial or otherwise.

Captain Charles Moore came from New Jersey and planted one of the first orchards. Henry Rust is well remembered as one of the pioneer shoemakers. After the War of l812, he shouldered his kit of tools and tramped all the way from Baltimore to the valley.

Joseph Fairfield was from Kennebunkport, Maine. He went to sea at the age of 16 and for 12 years lived a seafaring life, until he came to the valley of the East Fork to settle down, traveling part of the way there on the brand-new steamer, “The Clermont.” Leban Brazier, a Methodist minister, came from North Carolina, and it is said of him that he preached nearly all the early funeral sermons. William Brunaugh brought his wife, two sons and three daughters from Eastern Virginia, but was soon a candidate for one of Rev. Brazier’s sermons, for he died from the amputation of one of his legs, and neither Mrs. Robinson’s prayers nor her medical powers could save him. Daniel Duckwall, then in his 25th year, came from Virginia on horseback, possessing only his horse, saddle and $500 in money. On Aug. 6, 1816, he married Miss Keziah Dimmitt, daughter of Ezekiel Dimmitt.

Those mentioned are a few of our early settlers. They came at first at a slow trickle, but after the War of 1812, many prominent settlers were added to the population of the valley.

From the year 1797, with the coming of Ezekiel Dimmitt, these many people made a life for themselves in the Ohio wilderness. They were in a condition of complete social equality. The rich and the poor were dressed alike. The women and the girls of the families wore coarse fabrics produced by their own hands, while the men wore buckskin pants. It has been said that sometimes the material of the buckskin pants was not well tanned, and when dried after being thoroughly soaked, became hard and inflexible. When thrown on the floor, they bounded and rattled like tin kettles, and the pioneer on a cold morning, in drawing on a pair of pants, was about as comfortable as if thrusting his limbs into a couple of frosty stove pipes. Marty of the men wore coonskin caps with the fur on the outside and the tail dangling down the back of the wearer. The settlers subsisted mostly on corn bread and wild meats, one of the most plentiful being wild turkeys.

Those who suppose that pioneer life was one of continual hardships are very much mistaken. Pleasure was often combined with business, resulting in house raisings, log-rollings, and corn huskings. Almost all affairs were for the entire family, and girls had it made in those days, for they were in demand, they were scarce, and the young men outnumbered them two to one. Young folks in the fall and winter evenings were often assembled at a quitting bee or an apple cutting party.

The pioneers were self-reliant and comparatively independent. Each family did a little of everything. They made their own garments out of their own raw materials, manufactured their own soap and dipped their own candles. They helped each other with their problems. When they had an abundance of food, they sent some to their neighbors, and the neighbors performed the same kind office in return. They were in fact, a little group bound closely together, through both necessity and brotherhood.

Excerpted from History of Batavia, Ohio, 1814–1965, by Rosanna Hoberg. Mrs. Hoberg drew on previous histories, including History of Clermont County, Ohio, by J.L. Rockey and R.J. Bancroft, 1880.