Pickerington 200 years ago


 Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
 In 1808, when Violet Township was founded, settlers traveled on horseback and by foot through the Ohio woods to build homesteads around Sycamore Creek. The small village they created eventually became the city of Pickerington.

Two hundred years ago when Violet Township was founded, instead of today’s bustling suburbs or the rolling farm land of 40 years ago, much of Ohio including Fairfield County was a lush forest.

Settlers began pouring into the new state after a rough road known as Zane’s Trace was widened to allow for wagons. Where Zane’s Trace crossed the Hocking River, Lancaster quickly grew and people began expanding further into Fairfield County’s wilderness.

The pioneers had little fear of encountering friction with Native Americans, since the Treaty of Greenville had forced the Native Americans from most of Ohio in 1795.

In his 1883 "History of Fairfield & Perry Counties," A.A. Graham describes the plight of the settlers in the early 1800s: "Thrown upon their own resources, in a fertile, but new and wild region, these adventurers found that their lot would henceforth be one of hardship and inevitable privation, but they faced their self-imposed trials bravely, and after creating a shelter for their families and limited worldly goods, tickled the earth so effectively, that she laughed back with a harvest of corn the same year."

Settlers traveled through the forest on horseback or on foot to reach their claims.  

"When the settlers had wagons, the tedious process of cutting a road through the woods with axes was the only resource, and required unlimited patience as well as great muscular exertion," Graham wrote. "The settlement of a family in Fairfield County, for at least two decades of the present century, meant plenty of ‘elbow room,’ but it also meant unremitting toil. The rude cabin had to be built, and it was generally necessary to have a crop of corn planted immediately, for, although game was abundant and varied, the beasts of burden, upon which the settler was so dependent, were not carnivorous, and even the family of the pioneer could not subsist entirely upon animal food."

Wildlife in what would become Pickerington and Violet Township included deer, turkeys, bears, wolves and wildcats.

Many settlers to Violet Township served in the Revolutionary War and as a reward, the government granted them land. Land to the north of the current Refugee Road, was granted to Canadians who had joined the American fight for independence and could not return to their British-ruled homeland.

However, not all the land was awarded to refugees. Revolutionary soldier George Kirk received 80 acres along Sycamore Creek, upon which he built a cabin.

In 1811, Kirk would sell his property to James Looker. By 1815, Looker’s son-in-law Abraham Pickering would establish the town that would soon bear his name.

What motivated these pioneers to settle in the isolated Violet Township wilderness?

Pickerington historian Gary Taylor can only speculate.

"It’s a gene all of us have for something bigger and better," Taylor said. "Why migrate west? Why did Lewis and Clark keep going?"

(Sources: Violet Township and the city of Pickerington Web sites; fairfieldgeneology.com; and the "History of Fairfield & Perry Counties" by A.A. Graham.)

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