In American history, being the first is most often a distinction of honor. It is so with trailblazing pioneers. In settling the American frontier, those who established the first permanent habitations showed unbridled courage, grit, and industry. They truly had the qualities that define American heroes.
Who were the very first brave pioneer settlers in Scioto County? I wonder how many present-day residents could even venture a guess. Considering the limited resources for verification, the notability may be up for some dispute; however, ample documentation exists that gives evidence that greatly limits the field.
The noted historian of Scioto County, Mr. James Keyes, often considered the historian of Scioto County, stated that Samuel Marshall, Sr., the father-in-law of Thomas McDonald, built the first cabin at a point about two miles above the site of Portsmouth in February 1796. He had passed down the river the year before in company with General Anthony Wayne, who was sent out by President Washington to conclude a treaty with the Indians.
Keyes points out that others may have “built a cabin and stayed a year or two, but it was not their intention to stay in this county.” People such as the French, who settled at the mouth of the Scioto River in 1756 at the time the French held Canada, stayed for a brief time then moved on.
Henry Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio (1847) gives Thomas McDonald credit for building the first house in Scioto County. But Keyes says McDonald did not build a house or have a long stay, instead he “went up the Scioto and settled at or near Chillicothe.
But, Keyes notes, those who came after the Indian War settled here, remained here, and assisted in developing the resources of the county. This means they and their descendants remained long enough to establish a civil government and, thus, maintain a permanent home.
Keyes acknowledges these two, separated by just a month, were “probably the first permanent settlers in Scioto County.” Keyes also states that Samuel Marshall put in the first crop of corn in the county; that the first person married there was a daughter of his (Lord knows who served as justice of the peace.); and that the first child born in the county was another of his daughters.
Samuel Marshall, Sr. was born June 29, 1750, in Washington County, Pennsylvania. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and after serving in the Northwest Indian War with General Wayne, Marshall sold his property in Pennsylvania for about ten thousand dollars and took his pay altogether in continental money. He wanted to take this small fortune and invest it in government lands, but surveying in the lands northwest of the Ohio had yet to be done. And, he evidently loved the area he had seen while on his journey with General Wayne.
Therefore, Marshall left for Ohio and waited in Manchester for a treaty to be made with the Indians. It is written he “wanted to be on the ground when Congress lands should come into market.” By that time he had a large family of children, some already grown up. In fact, he had three married daughters. One was wed to Thomas McDonald, a brother to the celebrated hunter and Indian scout Col. John McDonald.
General Wayne then negotiated the Treaty of Greenville between the tribal confederacy and the United States, which was signed on August 3, 1795. The treaty gave most of what is now Ohio to the United States, and cleared the way for that state to enter the Union in 1803.
So, in February 1796, 46-year-old Samuel Marshall loaded his family and his goods in his perogue and moved to a point about three miles above the Scioto River, nearly opposite the mouth of Tygart's Creek. Here, he built his house. This is a brief account of the new settlement:
Keyes offers this image of the land …
“Grand primeval forest surrounded them on every side with gigantic trees from four to six feet in diameter rearing their heads 80 to 100 feet without a limb and as straight as an arrow. Huge grapevines dangling from their branches gave the scene an awful (yet) grand appearance. The tops of the trees being so interwoven with grapevines that the sun never penetrated to the earth while the trees and the vines were clothed with leaves.”
Yet, the Marshalls were not alone for long. Soon, John Lindsey came from Manchester and built a log cabin at the mouth of the Little Scioto, and this dwelling became the first regular built log house within the present limits of Scioto County.
The settlers had no horses, cattle, hogs, or sheep, so there was no need to build fences. But, the pioneers cleared off pieces of ground for raising corn. They remarked how the corn grew very large – much larger than what they were used to seeing in Pennsylvania.
It was actually Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Marshall who gave birth to the first white child born in the county. Fanny was born here later in 1796. Later, she would marry George Shonkwiler. She died in 1870 and was buried in Bennett Fairview Cemetery in Minford.
Marshall had another daughter, Mary “Polly,” who married John H. Lindsey. Commonly called “Captain Jack Lindsay.” The first marriage known to have taken place in Scioto County. She died in 1860 and was also buried in Bennett Fairview Cemetery.
And, what about that fortune of $10,000?
When Samuel Marshall tried to buy government land with his money, his currency was “not worth a cent.” Although he made several improvements on Congress lands, other men “turned him out of his improvements” At that time, there were no pre-emption laws. It was said that the money lay “in piles and rolls around the house for many years” -- basically just trash.
Marshall eventually leased a school section on the Little Scioto. (Land Ordinance of 1785 – Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools.) There he made improvements that could not be taken from him. He lived on his land until he died in 1816. Marshall was buried on top of one of the hills surrounding Scioto Furnace now known as Scioto Furnace Cemetery in South Webster.
Frances Mary Hazelrigg Marshall, Samuel's wife, died in 1830 and is also said to be buried in Scioto Furnace Cemetery.
Andrew Feight, Ph.D. “Connecting Local History to American History in Friendship, Ohio.”
James Keyes. Pioneers of Scioto County. 1880.
Kay L. Mason. “History of Lower Scioto Valley Ohio. U.S. GenWeb Archives.