Eighty-four years ago, December 3, 1908, Morris Honnell, the third in a family of twelve children enlivened his parents household in Greene county, Pa., where his boyhood was spent until about nine years of age when Mr. and Mrs. Honnell turned towards Ohio with their hopeful in a large wagon, the only means of transportation known in, those times between the two states. The progress was not swift but sure and the vehicle not as ease inviting as a Pullman palace car nor did it run nights. It had a commissary department for man and beast The leisurely gait gave ample time to take in and enjoy the rugged scenery on the way. In fact it often became monotonous rendering a more rapid transit desirable. But that was in the days when heroic patience characterized people and noone was in a hurry, as now, consequently nervous diseases were not as fashionable as at present. In due time they reached the pan handle of Virginia, crossed it to Wheeling and half forded and half ferried the Belle Riviere into the Buckeye state and finally brought up in Dingmansburg on the east side of the Miami where they remained, for three years.
One night when Morris was nine years old Morris' eyes flew open and was amazed and frightened to see meteors falling like snow flakes, making it as light as day. He aroused the household and Mr. Honnell alarmed the neighborhood. The celestial fire works of meteoric dust was the most awe inspiring panorama he ever beheld and the end of the world was thought to be at hand. Those who had clean robes donned them so as to be as presentable as possible when their wings should be pinned on to meet the angels in the upper air. The woods in the vicinity were all lighted up. The wonderful pageant lasted from 2 o'clock in the morning until daylight and extended all over the United States, the Caribbean islands and Mexico.
The meteors seemed to start from the zenith like sky rockets or Roman candles and shoot in all directions athwart the arch of the sky in all directions to the horizon. While the luminous dust and fire balls with a train of white or blue light descended in a shower they seemed to fall at some distance from the observer and the illusion was as perfect as the ostensible ends of a rainbow.
In the South the superstitious negroes threw themselves upon the, ground and rolled in mental agony crying to God for mercy, deeming the judgment day at hand. No meteoric stones were found in this vicinity though they were hunted for. The astounding phenomena has never been accounted for even by the most astute astronomers and scientists. It is said that the shower continued for eight hours but was not noticed by ordinary persons after the sun arose. In any event nothing like this was ever observed before or since of which there is any record.
The Honnell family farmed the old Fielding place for three years and then moved to the north part of Sidney where they lived for three years more when Mr. Honnell bought 100 acres lying on the Russell pike a mile northwest of Sidney.
In due time a round dozen children made their appearance in the following order: Archibald, Maria, Morris, Eli, William, Jesse, Henry, Catherine, Cynthia, Thomas, Martha and Francis. Mr. Honnell did not clamor for the markets of the world as his home demand was about equal to his supply until the older ones left the parents' nest and partook of the provender from some other table.
Morris did farm work until 1848 when he broke out into the wide, wide world having been hired to take four horses overland to Vermont for Almon Hitchcock who had bought them in this county. This trip was made on horseback at a rate of thirty miles a day, riding one and leading three. It took the biggest part of a month to reach his destination but he delivered the goods all right and after remaining a few days so that he could occupy a chair without sitting straddle he took a packet at Whitehall on the Champlain canal for Albany, and then one on the Erie canal to Buffalo. Here he engaged passage on Lake Erie for Sandusky, then came to Bellefontaine by rail and completed his trip to Sidney on foot as the Big Four railway was an after consideration.
In 1850 he was seized with the California fever which literally took him off to the Golden state, leaving Sidney for St. Jo., Mo., March 26, in company with the late N. R. Wyman, Harvey Guthrie and some others from this city.
At St. Jo an outfit of ox teams, wagons and provisions were procured and daily, for several months, they pursued the sun in its course.
The overland Californians of 1850 had to undergo trials far worse than the forty miners experienced unless they were in the advance of the immense army of adventurers as the grass along the trail was consumed faster than it grew so that the oxen had to subsist frequently by browsing on the brush. He immediately went to placer mining with fair success; then was employed for a time at seven dollars a day to superintend a gang of miners, and subsequently he ran a saw mill. He remained in the Golden state for four years then returned to this county by the oceans to New York and bought 160 acres in Washington township which be still owns though at one time he had over 200 acres.
He did not farm it long until he realized that a wife was a commodity that a bachelor needed to make a desirable home, and at this dire juncture Miss Martha MacDonough, of Lebanon visited a neighbor in Washington township. He looked upon her visit as a providential event as in his eye she filled the bill, and as his advances were looked upon with favor by her they were married in Lebanon, May 15, 1855, when his successful career commenced and a happy married life set in and continued until about four years ago, when she was. laid to rest in Graceland, leaving two daughters, the only children that were bom to them, Emma, now Mrs. I. N. Woodcox, of Piqua, and Olive, his affectionate stay in his declining years and the light of his beautiful home. Its two and one-half acres have given him healthy employment for the last twenty-one years, furnishing him with the vegetables and fruits of the soil in abundance and to spare, while, at the same time, he has enjoyed the social and church advantages of the city.
Wyandotte chickens lay for him high toned eggs, and are at hand whenever he feels like a pot pie, fry or roast, and grapes and pears in profusion garnish his table, while his early sweet corn has a city distinction which grocerymen are eager to get for the growing demand, and the probability is that corn not grown on his estate, labeled the Honnell corn, is sold to innocent purchasers, for it seems that in its season the supply from his acre is as inexhaustible as the widow's cruse of oil.
Being a whig in politics he had to keep mum on his California trip for the Missourians, of whom there was a large number, persisted that no whig should be allowed in California because of opposition to the Mexican war by which the golden plum fell into the hands of the United States.
Of the twelve children only three are living, Morris, Henry and Thomas of Brown county, Kansas. In the fifties the Rev. William Honnell was employed at the Kickapoo mission, Kansas, and Henry soon followed to that state and went through the perilous time when overrun by the border ruffians of Missouri which gave the name of Bleeding Kansas, and be knew old John Brown. Thomas did not go there until after he returned from the war. Each got wealthy at cattle raising and the rise in real estate and became prominent citizens. Henry is a large stockholder and director in a bank at Horton of which his son-in-law is president, and Thomas is president of a bank at Everest and has a farm of 640 acres worth $100 an acre, at one time he bad over 2,000 acres.
Francis Honnell went to the army, was taken prisoner and died in Libby prison in the early days of the strife; Eli of Port Jefferson, died within the past year. Morris has voted for sixteen whig and republican candidates for president, commencing with Zacharay Taylor and ending with William H. Taft.
If the temperance question has been left to this strong and highly moral family to settle, there would have been no wet and dry agitation in Ohio nor need of the county local option law nor Beal statute. In religion they were of the Presbyterian persuasion without any higher criticism as an appendix.
The eighty-four years which so far have been allotted thus graciously to Mr. Honnell have been-the most important and eventful in the world's history, excepting, perhaps, the advent of the Christian era. The strides upward in the scientific, the mechanical, the educational, the moral and political world have no approaching precedent. His recollection, which is undimmed by years, as he sits in his easy chair and sees the trolley cars pass and repass his door, views the trains on the railway near by, converses with friends at any distance over his telephone engaged his reflective thought and makes him wonder what the twentieth century can possibly bring that is new. The uplift of the people in the different nations, the crumbling of absolute monarchies and the restriction of oppressive despotisms everywhere, the marked advances of Christianity and the growth of republican and democratic sentiments, the manumission of slaves in this country and the freezing of serfs in Russia and other parts of the earth, all furnish with mental food and is a source of gratitude that he has been permitted to live through such an eventful era and has "crowned his labor with an age of ease."