From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 339
Inasmuch as portions of this county were the scenes of many of the events in the life of this sturdy pioneer, it is proper to devote some space to such brief sketches as can be procured relative to him. He was born in Farquier County, Virginia, on the 15th of May, 1755. Of his early years nothing is known, save that his parents were poor and that he was never taught to read and write. At the age of sixteen, he, with many others of about his age, were suitors for the hand and heart of a young lady of that neighborhood. Kenton and a young farmer named Leitchman were the most favored, until finally Leitchman found an opportunity to challenge Kenton to a trial of their mutual prowess in an old-fashioned fight, in which Kenton was defeated. This and the loss of the lady's hand he silently endured for a time, but resolved to wipe out the foul blot upon his hopes and pride as soon as he should attain sufficient strength — in other words, "whip him when he got big." In due time, the boy came to be a man, and he determined to delay the hour of retribution no longer. So, having sought out his old enemy, the former rivals clinched in combat once again. Now, Leitchman's har was long, and as they rolled and struggled, Kenton managed to bring his adversary's head near enough to a small tree to enable him to make a quick turn of Leitchman's scalp-lock around the tree. This enabled to return with interest the debt he owed his enemy, and so efecutally did he do it that Leitchman soon ceased to move. Kenton supposed he had killed him, and instantly fled, and directed his steps Westward. From this time forward for a period of years, he knew no home but the forest or camp. As hunter, scout, spy or guide, he participated in most of the events which transpired upon the then broad field of our Western frontier. During his captivity among the Indians, he was eight times exposed to the gantlet, three times tied to the stake, and as often thought himself upon the eve of a terrible death. He was a companion of George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, and other noted frontiersmen; also of the celebrated renegade, Simon Girty before Girty joined the Indians. From Howe's "Historical Collection of Ohio," the following is quoted: "About the year 1802, he settled in Urbana, where he remained some years and was elected a Brigadier General of militia. In the war of 1812, he joined the army of Gen. Harrison, and was at the battle of the Moravian towns, where he displayed his usual intrepidity. About the year 1820, he moved to the head of Mad River. A few years later, he was granted a pension of $20 a month, which secured his declining years from want." In Dr. Ludlow's "Early Recollections of Springfield" is the following article:
"In the year 1802, Simon Kenton lived within the present limits of our Moorfield Township, in Clark County, and made some improvements on the land now owned by the family of the late Maj. Hunt as a residence, and designated as the Kenton farm. At the time of Kenton's residence there, and at a place about a mile up the run, was the residence of Philip Jarbo, who was a brother-in-law of Kenton, and the two were steadfast companions and friends. Both came into the Territory and to the Mad River country in the year 1790. The run above mentioned crosses the Urbana road near the present farmhouse of Edward Cassily, and was named by Kenton as Jarbo's Run; the old apple-trees yet standing in irregular order about the Hunt mansion were planted by Simon Kenton. He also planted a peach orchard, which bore fruit before he left the place. But Kenton's roving disposition led him to quit the place in 1806, when he moved to the rapids of Buck Creek, now known as the village of Lagonda. Here he built a grist-mill, and undertook to connect a carding-machine with it, but the enterprise almost failed. The mill was a poor affair, while the bolting-machine was propelled by hand-power. Mr. Caleb Tuttle, who is still living (1871), in Springfield Township, says he often went to this mill when a boy, and well remembers its appearance and location, and many a time he has labored at the bolting-machine to complete his father's grist. While Caleb thus labored, his heart grew light at the presence of a fair 'young damsel whose father worked in the mill.' In after years, she became the wife of Mr. Tuttle. There is also another person living in Springfield who often went to this mill when Kenton was the proprietor. The mill was located just on the narrow gorge of the creek where the turnpike bridge now crosses the stream. Kenton left Lagonda and his mill in the early part of the year 1812, to join the army of his country in the war with Great Britain. He was made a Brigadier General of militia, and joined the army under Gen. Harrison."
As Urbana was then the county seat of Champaign County, which extended over nearly the whole of what is now Clark County, and his first location was only a few miles south of Urbana, it is easy to account for the statement in Howe's Collections that "he settled in Urbana in 1802."
In an appendix to a small pamphlet (1852) by R. C. Woodard, entitled "Sketches of Springfield," we find the following: "My first visit to Springfield and the Mad River country was in October, 1832. I took lodging with Col. Werden, then keeper of the National, for the night. When I entered the two-horse hack in the morning, I found seated therein a very elderly and dignified gentleman, who at the first glance commanded my respect. By his side sat a lady, much younger in appearance than himself. We three formed the load. The lady and myself soon fell into a running conversation, and I found her to be a very agreeable and companionable traveler. Among other facts, she told me that Springfield was so named at her suggestion, on account of the many delightful and valuable springs within and around the plat located for the town. While we chatted, the old gentleman sat in silence, and, as his grave appearance was not of a character to invite conversation, with a young and bashful man, I had to be content, for the while, with looking at him, and wondering who he was! At length, however, when we came into the neighborhood of Maj. William Hunt's, I ventured to ask him if he were 'going far north.' He said, 'No.' The lady then said they were going to their home near Zanesville, in Logan County. The question happened to break the ice a little, and the gentleman became somewhat talkative — in a slow way. He told me that he had been to Newport, Ky., to attend a meeting of pioneers appointed fifty years before, but that the cholera had thwarted the meeting. He pointed out along the verge of the road, nearly opposite the Half-Way House, the path along which the Indians had once escorted him, a prisoner, on the way to Zanesfield, to make him run the gantlet, and gave me sundry snatches of detail as to his early harships in the backwoods, and adventures with the Indians, so that by the time we came to Urbnaa, we had all become quite free talkers. All the time, I did not take any hint as to who he was, though I tried hard to study him out, and thought I had been somewhat familiar with his history from my boyhood. When we landed at Urbana, at the house kept by Daniel Harr, Esq., the people collected pretty feely [sic] around the hack, all anxious to see and speak to who I now became convinced was a man of eminent distinction. On eager inquiry, I soon learned that I had been traveling with him whom I had, till then, known only in history — the celebrated pioneer, SIMON KENTON, and his excellent lady."
The many incidents of his romantic and eventful life are well detailed by his friend and biographer, Col. John McDonald, from whose work we extract the following description of his personal appearance and character:
"Gen. Kenton was of fair complexion, six feet one inch in height. He stood and walked very erect, and, in the prime of life, weighed about one hundred and ninety pounds. He never was inclined to be corpulent, although of sufficient fullness to form a graceful person. He had a soft, tremulous voice, very pleasing to the hearer. He had laughing gray eyes, which appeared to fascinate the beholder. He was a pleasant, good-humored and obliging companion. When excited, or provoked to anger (which was seldom the case), the fiery glance of his eye would almost curdle the blood of those with whom he came in contact. His rage, when roused, was a tornado. In his dealing, he was perfectly honest; his confidence in man and his credulity were such that the same man might cheat him twenty times; and, if he professed friendship, he might.
In the Addenda to Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio, under the title, "Clark County," it is stated very directly that Simon Kenton came here in 1799, in company with John Humphreys and six other families from Kentucky. This party made a settlement at or near the confluence of Buck Creek with Mad river, and erected a fort or block-house station; fourteen cabins were raised and partly finished within the cover of this work. At the time Howe visited this county (1846) for notes to his collections, Mr. Humphreys was living, and either communicated the above directly to him, or for him. In a communication from T. McKinnon, of London, Ohio, read at the Clark-Shawnee Centennial, held on the old Piqua battle-ground in August, 1880, he states that, while Kenton lived on the Hunt farm before mentioned, he discovered, among a party of Indians camped near by, one of his former captors, who had grossly mistreated him while a prisoner in the hands of the Indians. Kenton cut a hickory withe and whipped the redskin severely; this affair created no little alarm in the neighborhood, the whites fearing that the Indians would take revenge; but a big dinner for the whole party, served the next day, so appeased the wrath of the Indians that nothing further ever came of the circumstance. Kenton died April 29, 1836, aged eighty-one years and twenty-six days, according to the inscription on the slab at his grave, which is in Logan county, on the head-waters of Mad River.*
From the records of the Common Pleas Court, June term, 1818, the following is taken:
"Be it remembered that James McIllroy, Robert Renick and Zephaniah Platt (the Sheriff having returned non est inventurs as to Simon Kenton, against whom the capias ad respondendum in this case was also issued)," etc. This is interesting as showing the entire uselessness of following Simon Kenton with a civil writ, unless he was willing to be found. A Sheriff might as well go after a deer.
Kenton's remains were removed to Urbana in 1865, where they now rest.
* The statement at the head of this article that he was born in Farquier County, Virginia, on the 15th of May, 1755, was taken from McClung's Sketches of Western Adventure, but is not confirmed by the inscription on the tombstone, which fixes his birth at Culpeper County, Virginia, on the 3d day of April, 1755. The latter is undoubtedly correct.
Battle of Piqua
Early Clark County
George Rogers Clark
Education in Clark County
Indians in Clark County
The National Road
Springfield in 1852
Springfield in 1863
SHS 1951 Yearbook
Then & Now