I recently corresponded with a 5th cousin, a descendant of John Simpson, the brother of my 3x-great-grandfather, Clement. John and Clement moved out of Delaware about 1818 and headed west for Ohio, although they may not have moved straight there, according to the research done by my cousin.
Interested in Clement and Ohio again, I was poking around in various records in a completely random and unfocused manner, my most effective research habit, and stumbled across a small collection interesting memoirs of Circleville in Pickaway County, Ohio. They were not written by any of my family but they do reflect the conditions and way of life in the region.
Clement and Minty Simpson lived only a few miles north of Circleville in Harrison Township. On the 1826 tax list, Clement was taxed in Harrison township but in 1827 and 1828 he was taxed in Madison Township before he returned to Harrison Township from 1829 to 1836. On the 1830 Census, Clement lived next to Enos Cutler, who was recorded as having lived in section 25, which bordered on Madison Township.
While Clement and Minty did not own land, they owned a few horses and cows, suggesting they rented their property, which may have necessitated some moving around. Clement may have also worked as a "mechanic", which at this time was a tradesman or manual worker, so the term could apply to a blacksmith, tailor, leather worker, or farm laborer.
Clement may have moved his own crops or crops he helped to harvest down the canal to the large gristmill just past Millport, on Walnut Creek. Other goods and milled flour may have then been hauled south down the canal ten miles to Circleville for sale and distribution or twenty miles north to Columbus.
Between 1830 and 1840, Circleville grew from 1136 to 2330 inhabitants. By 1843, the town had 3000 inhabitants, two hardware stores, two stove stores, two drug stores, three printing offices, two confectioneries, two groceries, nine warehouses, six churches, an academy, a female seminary, a jail, eight hotels, a bookstore, and many mechanics shops. From the port in Circleville, merchants shipped large quantities of flour, pork, bacon, lard, butter, tallow, wool, wheat, corn, and clover seed.
While the Simpsons may have traveled to Circleville on occasion, it was not the closest village. South Bloomfield would have only been a mile or two away and had more than 150 people, along with two taverns, one store, and several mechanics shops. South Bloomfield also had a stop for the stagecoach route, which went from the state capital at Columbus through Circleville to Chillicothe. Also nearby, within sight of Bloomfield, was Millport, population 98 in 1844.
The Simpsons were Whigs, opponents of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. Clement died in 1838 and Minty and the family relocated to Tippecanoe County, Indiana by 1840.
In 1885, G.F. Wittich wrote a memoir of his experiences in Circleville 60 years earlier. Below is an abridged version.
The sheep were sheared in the spring, the wool washed, picked and carded by hand, and spun on the big spinning wheel, and woven into cloth on hand looms for winter clothing for both men and women. Wool picking was done by inviting the women to spend the evening, which took the place of the party of today. Refreshments or a regular supper of flannel cakes, stewed chicken, store coffee, warm ginger cake, &c., were served. No angel food or pound cakes were to be found in those times.
For hats for men and boys we depended on the hat manufactories of the town. We had fur hats for the men and wool for the boys. The measure of the head was taken and we waited for the hat to be made. For shoes (no boots in those times), the leather owned by the head of the family was taken to the shoe shop, where each member of the family, boys and girls alike, went to have their feet measured to have shoes made for winter. No shoes were worn in summer by boys particularly; usually only the girls had shoes in summer.
Clothing, such as it was, was also made at home. There were no clothing stores, no hat stores, no shoe stores, no stores to sell groceries exclusively, no queensware stores, no furniture stores, no stores for hardware exclusively. The so-called stores then kept groceries, queensware, and a general assortment of goods with usually a bottle of whisky on the counter for such customers that wished to help themselves.
All dry goods and articles brought from the east were hauled over the mountains in large wagons drawn by six large horses, which were generally provided with bells. There were no railroads anywhere in this country at that day. No cooking stoves in those days. In their place were the large fireplaces in the kitchen with cranes for pots, and the tin reflector to set before the fire to bake the bread. Wood only was used for heating purposes and cooking, the fire being covered at night to be rekindle in the morning, and if the fire went out someone was sent to the neighbors for a coal. Failing in this, the steel and flint to strike a fire were resorted to. We had no matches in those days.
The culinary department of a household was not then as now. No fruit was put up in cans in their season, but fruits of all kinds were dried and preserved. Tomatoes were not known as an article of food, but were known as Jerusalem apples and were set on mantle-pieces as ornaments only.
For school books we had Webster's spelling book, Murray's grammar, Smiley & Pike's arithmetic, Olney's geography, and the Bible and New Testament were used as readers. For books to read at home by the fireside in winter we had Scottish Chiefs, Thaddeus of Warsaw, Children of the Abbey, Alonzo and Molise, Charlotte Temple, Robinson Cruse, Lives of Washington and Marion, &c.
For currency there were six and a fourth cent pieces, called fips, twelve and a half cent pieces, called nine pence, and a quarter half, and whole dollars. We had no five or ten cent pieces. Money of all kinds was so scarce that a half-dollar looked to almost any one as large as a cart-wheel.
In those days a large part of the mechanics of the town would go to the country in harvest time to help the farmers reap their wheat as nothing but sickles were used for cutting. We had no wheat cradles and no reapers and binders in those days. Fifty cents per day was paid for a day's work, for a full hand, twenty-five for a half hand. The writer then made a half hand, coming home from a full week's work Saturday evening with six bright quarter dollars jingling in his pocket.
We had no buggies or carriages, no livery stables. We all went horse back or in common road wagons. On Christmas our stockings were hung up with the prongs of a fork and filled with gingerbread, mint candy, and nuts. An occasional concert was given with such songs as Pretty Polly Hopkins, How do you do. My Long-tailed Blue, Jim Crow, Coal Black Rose, Barbara Allen, etc.
Y.H. Yerington wrote his memoir in 1887, about his experiences fifty years earlier. Below is a very abridged version, focusing on general life, rather than the particulars of the town and its residents.
At that date there was not a railroad in Ohio, all the produce was shipped by canal, and all the goods were brought here by the canal or by wagon. All the traveling was done by stage. It took two days and night to go from Columbus to Cleveland, and then often the passengers had to get out and pry the stage out of the mud. After the National road was built, our merchants went east by that route, goods were generally sent by rail to Cumberland, and from thence to Wheeling by wagon; if there was plenty of water in the Ohio river, they were put on a steamboat to Portsmouth and from thence to Circleville by canal. If the Ohio river was low they usually wheeled them clear through.
I recollect, one spring D. Peirce, the veteran merchant had his goods wagoned from Cumberland, one wagon carried ninety-six hundred pounds. It was a large Conestoga wagon, four inch tire, six horses, bells on each horse, driven by a single line, and the driver rode the off horse, and when the wagon was backed up to the pavement in front of his store, the team reached across the street.
The merchants carried everything, hardware, glassware, queensware, earthenware, boots and shoes, hats and caps, groceries and liquors. It was a very common thing but it was thought no disgrace then to get drunk, everybody drank, and if you went to a farmer's house, the first thing he would do, would be to hand out the bottle, and if you did not take some he would consider it an insult. Whiskey was cheap.
Money was very scarce and not much in circulation, and what was in circulation was paper money. There were plenty of banks throughout the state which issued their paper freely, and their standing was not the best. Most all the business was done by trading. If any body wanted to go to house-keeping, the merchant would give them orders to the furniture store, to the stove and tin shop, or if he wanted a saddle or a set of harness, the merchant would send a clerk or an order and get them and the manufactors would pay his employees by giving them orders on the store.
That fall [of 1840] was the great campaign when Harrison ran against Van Buren for president. Dr. Olds being a strong Democrat [the party of Andrew Jackson], and believing that Van Buren would be elected he offered to sell, and did sell, quite an amount of goods, at double price if Van Buren was elected or nothing if Harrison was elected. The result was that he supplied a good many Whigs with dry goods for nothing.
I shall never forget the exciting times during that campaign. The political meetings were immense, with their long processions. Everybody seemed to be fully aroused and excited and to see the log cabins, coonskins, strings of buckeyes, and hard cider, was wonderful. On one occasion I remember seeing a very large wagon made for the express purpose, filled with men, drawn by thirty-six yoke of oxen.
General Harrison came here one evening, the people build a temporary platform around the sign post that stood in front of the ("Ohio House" I think it was called then) and he made a speech from it. During that season we had some of the most able and talented speakers in the state, such as Thomas Ewing Sen., the old salt boiler, Thomas Corwin the waggoner boy, Henry Stansbury and others.
Circleville Reminisences: a Description Of Circleville, Ohio (1825-1840), Also an Account ... Of the 115-year Old Sister Of Commodore Oliver Haz; Chillicothe, Ohio : D.K. Webb; digital image; Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/circlevilleremin00webb)
A brief history of Pickaway County, to accompany Wheeler's map; 1844, Scott & Teesdale's press; digital image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/briefhistoryofpi00circ)