Shelby County


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Isaac Harshbarger

"History of Shelby County, Ohio"
by A.B.C. Hitchcock; Sidney, Ohio; 1913
Richmond-Arnold Pub. Co.; Chicago, IL.
Page 420

     Our esteemed townsman, Isaac Harshbarger, now somewhat bowed with the burden of more than four score of years, was born in Montgomery county, not far from Dayton, in 1825 and has been a resident of Salem township and Sidney for seventy-five years. He was the oldest of ten children in the family of Mr. and Mrs. Jonas 
Harshbarger, the former of whom was born in the year 1800 in Rockingham county, Virginia, the latter in Franklin county, Pennsylvania. In 1838 the family left Montgomery county and after three days of continuous travel settled on a farm of 100 acres, three miles northeast of Sidney, which he had purchased in Salem township, and which is now owned by the Oliver C. Staley heirs. There were no bridges north of Piqua and the streams had to be forded. Of course most of the land was a virgin . Tillable farms had to be reclaimed from the shadows and Isaac did what he could to let the sunlight in. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to learn the tailor's trade, at which he worked in Port Jefferson and Sidney for forty years.
     Port Jefferson became a booming village and after the canal was finished, being at the head of navigation, had a most brilliant prospect. Gerard and Thomas bought on the site 160 acres and laid out about 120 in streets and lots; a man by the name of Jackson laid out twenty acres and Mr. Wright thirty acres, which he called North Salem. Three long streets running east and west were made and buildings constructed rapidly. In fact the future for Port Jefferson looked so propitious that the late Samuel Rice, who went on horseback from Buffalo to Chicago to make an investment, concluded that Port Jefferson had a brighter look and made a purchase there in preference to the Windy City, now the metropolis of the West.
     Soon after the canal was done, five warehouses were in operation, cooper and stave-shops employed at least 150 men, there was one grist mill, two asheries for the manufacture of potash, where seven cents a bushel were paid for ashes, which was no inconsiderable revenue to the farmers as forests were burned in clearing the land. There were five stores, the father of Lot Ogden being among the first who came from Chambersburg, near Dayton, with a $400 stock and eventually accumulated $50,000 or more. Mr. Cromer did about the same and moved back to Dayton, and Mr. Thirkield and Mr. Thompson also had general stores. The trade at this little giant of a town was immense, reaching far to the north and east. Streets were thronged whenever the roads would permit. Previous to this grain had to be hauled to Sandusky on the lake, so that the scope of country tributary in a business was far reaching.
     Two large hotels were built, at one of which Mr. Harshbarger boarded two years at $1.25 a week and it makes his mouth water to think of the excellent fare provided at about six cents a meal with lodging thrown in.
     Peaches and berries were abundant and could be had for the gathering, game fairly swarmed in the woods and numerous birds snapped up the codling moths, so the luscious apples were not bored and preempted at the center with a vermiform appendix.
     The bugs and flies with which the present generation has to contend had not rallied their warring forces, so living was cheap, and well that it was, as even shin plasters, which were current, did not lie around loose.
     Mr. Harshbarger says that there was more and finer poplar in the forests of Shelby county at that time than in any other county in the state, with abundance of walnut, both of which are now so valuable, but they were ruthlessly cut or destroyed.
     There were three sawmills in the vicinity and as there was plenty of snow in the winter of 1847, the sawmills were crowded with poplar logs from three feet to five feet in diameter.
     In January a thaw and rain set in, the water rose to an almost unprecedented, height and swept them away. He says he saw logs that would cover ten acres float down the Miami.
     In the campaign of 1840 the whigs got together one day and cut the monarch poplar on the south side of the river, which was over six feet in diameter and sixty feet to the first branch. The mammoth log was converted into a canoe in which four or five could sit side by side. This was drawn to Dayton and sold to a party in Hamilton and was used in the Tippecanoe and Tyler too" stirring campaign.
     Two or three canal boats were built in Port Jefferson when the canal got in operation and the now lonesome feeder of the Miami and Erie canal was a busy throughfare for packets and freight boats but the notes of the horn of the captain have been superseded by the steam whistle of the railway engine. A dry-dock for the repair of boats was constructed at the basin near Philip Smith's foundry.
     As soon as the Big Four and C. H. & D. railways intersected at Sidney, a cloud came over the business sky of Port Jefferson which has never lifted and the golden prospect of this pretty, spot, still beautiful in its decay, went glimmering and Sidney commenced to boom into consequential importance, sapping the very life blood of Port Jefferson, until today there are not as many inhabitants as there were voters in 1847.
    Mr. Harshbarger was a life-long democrat and held local offices in Port Jefferson for many years. In 1853 he was elected coroner of the county and with Dr. Park Beeman and Dr. Albert Nelson was present at the inquest on the body of the murdered Artis girl. It was held in February with the snow fifteen inches deep on the ground. He was present at the hanging of Artis a year later in the county jail and was deputized to help Sheriff J. C. Dryden. The African fought so hard when they started from his cell that he had to be choked and knocked into insensibility before they could adjust the noose. He was four years United States marshal for the counties of Shelby, Auglaize and Mercer under Gen. Andrew Hickenlooper, and in 1868 was elected sheriff of Shelby county, serving six years.
    He married Miss Joanna Staley, who was a schoolmate of his boyhood, and seven children were born in their household, four of whom are living. Mr. Harshbarger bought the old home farm of 100 acres where he lived for many years but since 1902 he has been living with his daughter, Miss Verdy Harshbarger.

Owner/SourceSubmitted by: Diana (Souders) Smith
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