Wednesday, December 9, 2009

BILL JACO REMEMBERED


        During the 60s, when I was growing up, I thought Toronto was nicknamed the Gem City because it had so many colorful characters like Nick Yanick, Singing Kate, Johnny Wasco, Chief, George Tarr, Joe Hitchcock, George Peckins, Naughty Dotty and many others.  None, however, was more memorable than the man himself who said "the town's full of nuts"--Bill Jaco.
      My first recollection of Bill came at the old A & P where the abandoned Save-a-Lot now stands.  My father was pushing a cartful of groceries to the family Ford while my mother was trying to herd her four children safely across the parking lot.  "Push cart, push cart," Bill said, knowing this courtesy usually amounted to tips of dimes and quarters.
      "That's all right," my father replied, "I can handle it."
      Bill trailed us to our car, anyhow.  As my father began stowing grocery sacks inside the trunk, Bill said, "Ford junk.  Ford junk.  Hit a bump and the seat falls down."
      I would later learn every model of car made was junk in Bill's estimation, except for funeral cars, not many of them being drove those days other than by Clarkie, of whom Bill said was goosey.
      To me, back then, Bill appeared as tall as Wilt Chamberlain, but in truth, during his prime, he stood, at tallest, six-foot, three-inches.  He was naturally big-boned and broad shouldered and had a Santa Clause-like belly.  Legends abounded about his strength, including being able to lift the rear end of a Volkswagen Beetle off the ground.
       When I was first married, my wife Debbie and I lived across the empty lot from Bill and his sister May at the top of Daniels Street.  Many people were afraid to let their children go near Bill, but he was a gentle giant who would hold the hand of our daughter Sevy and walk her up and down the block.
      Bill did not know Monday from Tuesday or a weekday from the weekend, but he did know garbage day and took out the trash faithfully the evening before garbage day, and, on cue, the following morning, regaled the truck crew with his Jaconian philosophy, usually always referring to junk Fords and that Clarkie was goosey.
      Whenever I saw Bill toting an umbrella, I knew rain was probably coming sometime soon.  The weather, however, never stopped Bill from taking his daily and evening strolls.  Wherever Johnny's Pizza Shop was located, Bill would walk in that direction, or toward whoever was passing out free goodies to Bill--nearly everybody.  I could always determine what Bill had eaten because half of it was smeared on the front of his shirt.
      Back then, Johnny's was the only pizza shop around, and it frequently moved.  For a while it stood at  the corner of Federal and Franklin, later next to the Manos Theater and still later in the heart of downtown Toronto.  No matter the location and the change of pizza cooks, Bill would always be there, one minute calling my date "skinny girl," the next minute telling me, "Man marries girl something's loose."
      Bill almost always repeated his statements as though his diaphragm had a built-in echo chamber.  He would sneak up behind you, poking his finger in your back, and in that signature flutey nasal voice, utter, "Whoops.  Goosey.  Goosey.  Clarkie's goosey."
       The Dairy Aisle was another regular stop for Bill, who held an equal affection of free ice cream, courtesy of the Henry family.  One evening, a young man coasted his car onto the Dairy Aisle parking lot, stopped by Bill and asked him directions for Kuhn's Hardware Store.
       Naturally, Bill assessed the man's car first and called it "a piece of junk."  Then Bill said, "Turn up bay.  Turn up bay.  Drive junk by Clarkie's--by Clarkie's.  Clarkie goosey.  Clarkie goosey.  Turn up bay."
        Frustrated the man crisscrossed his arms and yelled, "Just stop now; you're nuts!"
        Bill casually replied, "Ain't lost."
        Another signature quote of his was "push daddy."  I could never quite determine what that one meant, but maybe it bore some reference to his old A & P days when pushing grocery carts was in vogue.  Or just maybe he used such phrase to fill in conversation gaps.  Bill was certainly not quiet or one for a loss of words.
       The seats of my cars have never fallen down, sometimes I agree with Bill that the town was full of nuts.  About his assessment of marriage, I am going to have to plead the Fifth.
        "Push Daddy."
  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

WE ARE MARSHALL


     Andy Warhol once said everybody has fifteen minutes of fame.  Eight of my fifteen minutes probably were spent in the 2006 movie We Are Marshall, starring Matthew McConaughhey.
      Fellow THS 1971 graduate Bob Eshbaugh and I played on the Young Thundering herd team that followed the one devastated in the tragic plane crash November 14, 1970.  We won two games that year, the big one against Xavier just our second contest of the 71 season.
      I tell everyone that I am the long-haired skinny blond kid who disrespectfully picks up the Falls City beer and drinks it inside Reggie Oliver's dorm room.  I was probably the skinniest player on the team, undoubtedly the main reason my football career was short.  Truth of the matter is that we were not allowed alcoholic drinks in our rooms.  Even truer, I did not like Falls City, despite the fact it fit a college boy's budget.
      Despite the Hollywood fictionalizing of a true story and all the slow motion sport cliches, We Are Marshall conveys the loss, grief and suffering of a college and a community in an artistic and sensitive manner.
        I am very proud to have been a part of the rebirth of Marshall football.
       PICTURES:  Me on the sidelines against Potomac State.
       My Young Thundering Herd Certificate
       Matthew McConaughey, who played head coach Jack Lengyel and Matthew Fox as assistant coach Red Dawson.
       Number 43 Bob Eshbaugh, holding football Jack Lengyel, number 58 me, Bob Petras.
       1971 football team and coaching staff--the Young Thundering Herd.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE DIAMOND MINE OF YELLOW CREEK


      "To the paleontologist there are few places in the world more interesting than the Diamond Mine at Linton," wrote Cleveland geologist John Strong Newberry in 1856, "since here he gets such a view of the life of the Carboniferous age as is afforded nowhere else, and of the great number of species found there."
      Few people other than men of science have heard of the Linton, Ohio to which Newberry referred, but it was a small village that once sprawled along the mouth of Yellow Creek.  No more  than a roadside park now sits at this historic site, and yet paleontologists still refer to it as Linton, and have excavated the hillside for fossils as recently as 2007.
      Linton was known primarily as the mouth of Yellow Creek prior to the 1800s when settlers erected a small blockhouse as protection from hostile Indians.  It remained an unincorporated village for more than a half-century, although a post office and a railroad depot put Linton upon maps by the mid-1850s.  This began the period when Connecticut entrepreneurs started operating the Diamond Mine, which produced a nine-foot seam of Freeport coal.  Below this rich seam, miners discovered a six-inch slate-like coal called canal from which they culled one of the richest pockets of fossils produced in the United States.
      Newberry and some of the most renowned paleontologists have visited the Diamond Mine, one such being Edward D. Cope, perhaps the most prominent paleontologist of the 19th Century.  His most notable contributions to science included the discovery of dozens of dinosaurs and the development of Cope's Law, which expounds upon the gradual enlargement of mammalian species.
     During the 150 years scientists have documented fossils gleaned from the Diamond Mine, ten dozen taxa of invertebrates, including small worms, millipedes and crustaceans, and forty taxa of vertebrates, mostly fish, have been documented.  According to Dr. Mark J. Camp in his book "Roadside Geology of Ohio," some fossils found at Linton are the only such kind ever discovered.
      "The Linton location ranks as the most prolific Pennsylvanian vertebrate fossil in the world," Camp wrote.
      Camp also stated that the most common fish found at Linton, numbering in the thousands, is the coelacanth, a carnivore that attained sizes of 6.5 feet in length and weighed nearly 198 pounds.  It was thought to have gone extinct with dinosaurs, but was discovered off the south coast of Africa in 1938.  A group of scientists theorize the coelacanth represented an early stage in the evolution of fish to terrestrial four-legged animals like amphibians.
      Long before the Ohio swept past what is now Linton, once sat an ox-box lake in which these fish including sharks and the coelacanth--as well as invertebrates inhabited.  A complex chemical process under enormous tonnage of sedimentary deposits preserved and fossilized these once living creatures in the canal seam of the Diamond Mine.
      The Diamond Mine officially operated from 1855 to 1921, collapsing during 1924.  In the ensuing years, scientists continued collecting specimens at dump sites of the mine and by the 1960s were taking them from the road cut nearby the development of the four-lane highway now consisting of Ohio Route Seven.  Scientific activity at the hillside cut discontinued during 2007.
      Many of the Linton fossils can be observed at numerous museums, including the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Orton Geological Museum of Ohio State University and the Smithstonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

WILLIAM PITTENGER, HERO AND AUTHOR


      Bold, loyal, dutiful, intrepid and faithful--all are words that appropriately describe the attitude of the 22 Union soldiers who had participated in the Great Andrews Train Robbery during the Civil War, but none describe it better than Daring and Suffering, the title of a book written by Knoxville native William Pittenger.
      A son and eldest sibling of seven to Thomas Pittenger and his wife Mary Mills, William was born January 31, 1840 on the south skirt of Knoxville on a small farm his father rented from in-laws.  Young William attended one-room schools in the Knoxville area and developed into a voracious reader, becoming especially interested in history, astronomy and law.  By the age of 16, despite the handicap of being shortsighted, Pittenger obtained teaching certification from the Jefferson County School Board.
      His teaching duties took him to Ravenna,Ohio and Cleveland where he became an editor and publisher for School Day Visitor.  By 1860 he was intensely studying law under the direction of Miller and Sherrard of Steubenville when the Civil War erupted.
      The twenty-year-old Pittenger enlisted with the 2nd Ohio Regiment from Steubenville and soon found himself fighting beside friends and relatives in the first battle of Bull Run.  Afterward, the regiment served in Kentucky and Tennessee campaigns, but it was the latter in which he and 20 other volunteers became famous under the leadership of civilian James J. Andrews, of Holliday's Cove, West Virginia, present day downtown Weirton.  The band pirated a Confederate locomotive, the General, with orders to burn bridges, derail track and cut telegraph lines between Marietta, Georgia and Chattanooga.
      The mission was delayed a day, forcing the Union operatives to perform their mission during a day of heavy Southern rain.  On April 12, 1862, they stole the General without incident near Big Shanty, Georgia.
      Andrews and the soldiers did manage to cut telegraph lines and dislodge some track, but the heavy rain made bridge burning nearly impossible.  The deposed engineer, William Fuller, pursued the hijackers on foot and handcar several miles and eventually commandeered a faster, more powerful locomotive, the Texas, and caught up with the Union operatives when they ran out of fuel 76 miles from Big Shanty.
      The hijackers all fled through the surrounding countryside and were captured within several days and then imprisoned at Chattanooga, Knoxville and Atlanta.  It was the Georgia capital where Andrews and seven other members of the raid were executed as spies.  The rope by which the hangman had noosed Andrews was too long so that prison guards had to shovel beneath Andrews's feet, inflicting upon the mission leader a tortuous death.
      The Union's blockade of all major Southern ports created a deficit in food and other goods within confederate lines and severely affected supply to Southern military prisons such as the notorious Andersonville and those holding Pittenger and the participants of the Andrews Raid.  For the majority of their confinement, they struggled in squalid, crowded, dank cells and suffered malnutrition and disease.
      The survivors learned they, too, would hang for spying and began preparing for the afterlife.  "It is an interesting fact," Pittenger wrote in Daring and Suffering, "which the rationalist may explain as the will, that from the times of that long prison prayer meeting--from early afternoon to midnight--the fortunes of our party began to improve.  There were fearful trials still before us, not much inferior to any we had passed; we held our lives by the frailest thread; yet till the close of war, though many perished around us, death did not claim another victim from our midsts."
      Soon afterward, penetration of the Union Army probably saved the party's life, the Confederates sending them to different prisons, one being Knoxville, Tennessee.  Ironically, General John Hunt Morgan was stationed there at the time.  In a year, the Confederates would lead a raid passing near Pittenger's hometown, Knoxville, Ohio.  The Rebels later returned the Union raiders to Atlanta.
      At the Georgia prison, a Methodist minister befriended Pittenger, lending him books to read, furthering his religious transformation.  "I did not care, as in Knoxville, for law books, but the fact that many, though not all, of the minister's books were of the theological and religious cast only made them more welcome.  This Atlanta jail was my seminary."                                                                                            
       The Rebels eventually shipped all surviving members of the locomotive raid to Castle Thunder in Richmond, Virginia where they were exchanged for Confederate prisoners in March, 1863.
      At Washington D.C., Pittenger and his comrades received Congressional Medals of Honor from Secretary of War and Steubenville native Edwin Stanton and President Abraham Lincoln, making them the first soldiers on record to receive the nation's greatest distinction.
      And then Pittenger took a friendly railroad ride home, his family picking him up at Sloane's Station.
      "The journey over the old familiar hills about which I had dreamed in Southern dungeons," he wrote, "the tearful welcome of father and mother, the surprise and joy of the little brother and sisters.  For the first time in history a public supper was given  in honor of an individual in the little village of Knoxville. The next Sunday I attended the Methodist church in New Somerset and had my name enrolled as a probationer.  The vow I had made to God in hour of trouble was not forgotten."
      Honorably discharged for disability August 14, 1863, Sergeant Pittenger soon studied for the ministry and became ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church.  While his ministerial duties took him to numerous locations across the country, he published his account of the Great Locomotive Chase in a series of stories to the then Steubenville Herald, in 1887 republishing them in book form.  He authored several other books, including Toasts and Forms of Public Address and Extempore Speech.  All Pittenger books remain in print and can be borrowed through public library services or purchased via Internet catalogs.
      Daring and Suffering generated two movies, The General, starring Buster Keaton in a silent comedy, and a 1956 Disney made-for-television film, The Great Locomotive Chase, the latter erroneously portraying Pittenger as becoming the first-ever person awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
      Pittenger died in Fallbrook, San Diego County, California and is buried there.  A U.S. Army base, Sergeant William Pittenger Camp, is nearby.
    

     Pictures above:  Portrait of hero and Knox Township native son sergeant William Pittenger, and his birth site, on Ohio Route 213, just south of the old Knoxville School.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

THE PHANTOM KILLER OF WHEELING STEEL



     William McCloskey peered out the curtains of his picture window facing the ghostly shadows of Lincoln Avenue on this unseasonably cold night.  As a full silver red- moon was rising in the east, he turned from the window toward his wife Mary and said, "someone is going to be shot tonight."
     Down the block, amongst the shadowy light, lumbered a barrel-chested figure with an ape-like gait toward the Steubenville plant.  He was reclusive mill sweeper, David D'ascanio, known by the neighbors as just Dasco, whom when encountered along the sidewalk women and children and even some men gave wide berth.
     McCloskey, the Wheeling Steel chief of police and a World War I veteran, had good reason to fear the full moon; after all, one employee had been shot and killed, another wounded, under two preceding full moons at Wheeling Steel, and his Irish instinct made him feel uneasy about the night--the same inner sense that made the Irish such good cops and priests.
     Stressful events often brought a relapse of malaria that McCloskey had suffered as a soldier during the construction of the Panama Canal.  He had already broken into a cold sweat in bed when the phone rang shortly before midnight.  Two more mill workers lay dead, the third and fourth victims of what the press hailed as the "Phantom Killer."
      The series of slayings began under the full moon on January 20, 1934 when Fred Melsheimer, on his way from the cafeteria to start the midnight shift at the rail yard, was shot multiple times from a .38 caliber revolver, dying shortly thereafter, the coroner determining from shock and hemmoraging.
     Authorities had few motives with which to work regarding Melsheimer's slaying other than he had recently relocated to Steubenville from Chicago and perhaps he was hit for a previous transgression with the Chicago mob.  Otherwise, the train conductor had proven to have been a model citizen and had served his country during the first World War.
      There were few leads.
       "The man who killed Melsheimer," the Steubenville Herald-Star reported, "approached him as the latter was walking between the cafeteria and the mill office when about 25 feet away he opened fire and continued to walk toward Melsheimer, firing as he went.  He then turned, ran to the fence separating the mill yard from Mingo Boulevard, mounted the fence and disappeared in the darkness.  He was clad in overalls."
      The killer escaped by vaulting over a chain-linked fence, and just vanished, the exit seeming almost superhuman, and, with the full moon bathing the death scene, preternatural.
      With little information other than conjecture and theories to follow,  McCloskey, Jefferson County Sheriff Ray Long,  and Steubenville Police Chief Ross Cunningham  had little to follow or to conclude, other than the mill murder was an isolated incident.
     That sentiment, however, changed two full moons later when on March 24, shortly after the midnight shift began, the Phantom Slayer riddled another rail yard employee, James Barnett, with six bullets, and then kicked him in the face.
     Again the phantom vanished into the smokey moonlit night.
      Barnett, however, somehow survived the assault, paralyzed from the waist down.
      Authorities stepped up their investigation while McCloskey and the mill increased security.  Mill workers no longer worked solo--on any shift--but with groups and suspicious of everyone.
      Barnett gave police a sketchy description, stating "the Phantom was a tall man, wore a slicker and a uniform cap, resembling the type of cap worn by the mill police."
      McCloskey watched with interest the man they called Dasco, who lived on the next block up Lincoln Avenue.  The chief of police knew little of the Italian immigrant other than he had won his U.S. citizenship by serving with the Army in World War I and that he was a very hard laborer.  Dasco spoke broken English, the cop attributing his reclusiveness partly to the speech barrier.
     Still McCloskey had hear rumors of Dasco's uncanny strength and agility, such as hanging like a flag full sail from a pole and performing one-handed chin-ups.
      Common sense told McCloskey these tales of the five-foot five-inch, 47-year-old Italian immigrant were no more than fabrications often tagged to the mysterious.
      His Irish instinct told him otherwise.
      McCloskey's unease at the full moon proved correctly because soon after the onset of the July 1 midnight shift, the Phantom grew bolder and shot to death two open hearth workers, Ray Kochendarfer, 36, and William Messer, 42, both of Steubenville.
      This time, several witnesses watched the assassin flee, a third victim that night spared by an empty chamber.  The consensus discribed him as short and stocky with an odd, waddling gait, and abnormally long arms for his height.
      Another inference investigators concluded was that all four shootings occured between 11:35 and 11:40 when the mill was exchanging shifts.
       But each time the Phantom disappeared into the darkness.
        Dasco was now a suspect, but no motive or conclusive evidence existed for his arrest.  He had been clocked in the mill during those shifts.  McCloskey insisted the mill police keep a scrutinous eye upon Dasco.
       Meanwhile, the mill and Jefferson county commissioners offered a reward of 7,500 dollars leading to the arrest of the serial killer--quite a sum of money when the average salary was near 20 dollars a week.   The award and national attention drew a slew of private detectives to Steubenville.
      Opinions and theories varied widely regarding the killer's nature, some pundits attributing it to moon madness, many others maintaining German hatred was the motive because everyone slain was of Teutonic descent.
      Another oddity about Dasco, McCloskey noted, was that the Italian immigrant lived smack dab in the middle of the Irish-Scotch district of Steubenville.  What was he hiding?
      Four weeks later, under another full moon, mill policeman, Lieutenant C.H. Baily, of Steubenville, watched Dasco clock in at 11 p.m. and then trailed the suspect to the cafeteria where he bought a small pie.  At this point, Dasco knew he was being followed and in his distinctive apelike gait zigzagged through several departments of the new process mill, attempting to distance his pursuit from the mill entrance gate.
       Faster and faster the diminuitive Dasco moved around and around machinery, stacks of finished steel, down an alley, across the annealing floor, the entrance gate now in site.  Dasco was now nearing the safety office where mill policeman John Fonnow, of Clark Street, Toronto, was stationed.  Baily drew his gun, ordering Dasco to halt.  Then Fonnow subdued him.
      McCloskey and his staff soon arrived.  An ensuing body search revealed that Dasco had cut out one of the pockets of his extra baggy pants, inside glinting the hard steel of a holstered .38 caliber pistol.
       Dasco's trial opened October 22.  Cross examined by prosecutor Ray Hooper about his possession of the revolver, Dasco replied, "I buy the gun for protection.  Everybody in the mill afraid."  He went on denying he had ever fired the revolver.
     "If you didn't fire it, how did you know that it would even shoot?" Hooper asked.
    "I no know," Dasco replied, "but maybe it make big noise and scare people away."
     Although no motive for murder was produced, the trail lasted only six days, the jury ruling guilty.
     On that night a full moon rose once again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

THE BIG LITTLE ISLAND

    During a 1754 surveying journey down the Ohio River, George Washington noted in his journal about Brown's Island: "At eleven or twleve miles from this (Yellow Creek), and above what is called the Long Island, which though distinguished is not very remarkable for length, breath or goodness."  As a military leader, as the first president and as a surveyor, the ambitious Virginian made many mistakes, amongst them his assessment of Brown's Island, for its history has been anything other than unremarkable.
     Long before young Washington snubbed the two-mile river island, Indians had made it a frequent stop as evidenced by the large number of projectile points and artifacts gleaned from its rich soil after the arrival of the first settlers there during the late 1700s.   Artifact hunters have continued finding these little treasures until the construction of the Weirton Steel coke oven was completed during the early 1970s. Also signifying the importance of the island was petroglyph known as Harts Rock at the island head.  A petroglyph is a rock into which was carved or pecked crude renditions of animals, celestial objects and other symbols of importance to indigenous people.
     On his watch from Mingo Town to Yellow Creek during the Revolutionary War, Michael Myers claimed to have slain an Indian who was carving an image into Harts Rock.
     Brown's island was named after Colonel Richard Brown, of Baltimore, who had fought under the command of George Washington.  Around 1800, he purchased 1,150 acres of land in present day Weirton, including the 350 acres comprising the island.  Brown became a local magistrate and built a farm on the island, one manned by slaves.  On the Ohio side of the island, he had a grist mill constructed,  arguably the first-ever dam on the Ohio River.
     "The slaves, cattle, officers and the appearance of everything here," wrote Reuben Gold Thwaites in his journal, "indicated the greatest abundance of the produce of this plentiful country.  Though he does not keep a tavern, he knows how to charge as if he did, we having to pay him a half dollar for our plain supper, plainer bed, and two quarts of milk we took with us the next morning, which was very high in a country where cash is very scarce and everything else very abundant."
       Brown's brother Hugh returning from a visit from the island, drowned on the Ohio side of the river, along with his horse.  The perils of fording the river and impending floods did not deter further settlement on this land bisecting the river.
      "We passed Brown's Island," wrote Gilbert Swing in his 1889 book, Events in the Life and History of the Swing Family, "a great summer resort six miles above Steubenville, containing two hundred acres of land, with large shade trees, beautiful lawns and extensive boarding-houses erected upon it.  This is one of the most beautiful islands in the Ohio River."
      Families continued to live and farm on the island until the great flood of 1937 wiped out all existing structures.
      One of the more notable characters to have called the island home was Samuel Burnell, known as the hermit of Brown's Island.  Around 1870, when the federal government established pilot lights along the Ohio River, Burnell took charge of those on Brown's Island and vicinity.   "He built a little cabin among the thick hillside forest, just visible from passing boats, and there he lived alone, doing his own cooking and household chores.  When the boats passed they would sound their whistles, he would come out and salute, and then retire to his cabin again," noted the 20th Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County.
      Another notable journey down the Ohio was commanded by Merriweather Lewis en route to join George Rodgers Clark at Louisville in 1805.  September 5 of that year, Lewis wrote in his journal while his expedition camped at the head of Brown's Island: "Foggy again.  It grew very dark and my canoes which had on board the most valuable part of my stores had not come up, ordered the trumpet to be sound and they answered."
        A little more than 30 years later, in 1836, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the first navigation dam upon the Ohio River, one of square sandstone blocks spanning from the Ohio shore at Wellsmar across to the island.  Two years later, the crops constructed a diagonal dam stretching from the head of Brown's Island to Jeddo Run and by 1840 erected a half-moon dam on the Virginia shore opposite the head of the island.
      The diagonal dam would later become the site of what the New York Times heralded a disaster when on March 15, 1888, three stream boats--the Ed Roberts, the Sam Clark and the Eagle collided and spilled 40,000 bushels of coal into the river.  The wreck and the ensuing clean-up disrupted river traffic until June 12 of that year.
       Head engineer of that operation, William martin reported finding 21 coal boats and barges stranded and scattered from the head to the foot of the island.
      The steamboat disaster was certainly not the last.  On March 22, 1932, an airmail passenger plane crashed into the Ohio River along the upper east bank of the island, killing pilot Hal George and passenger Doctor Carol S. Cole.  December, forty years later, a Weirton Steel coke oven explosion killed 19 workers and injured another 20, ironically one fatality named Brown.
    
  

Monday, September 7, 2009

THE FIRST DAMS OF THE UPPER OHIO RIVER


     During the 19th Century, Ohio Valley residents had a common saying about the waterway that was so vital to their welfare and economy: "The Ohio River was dry half of the time; the other half it was frozen."
     The French called it La Belle Rievere and La Riviere Grande, the Native Americans, Kis-ke-ba-la-se-be and O-hee-yo.  The 981-mile southwestwardly flowing river was beautiful and majestic--in any language--to all who viewed it in its pristine state, but the Ohio was equally as shallow, providing a natural channel of only four feet at best and an average depth of only two feet, levels limiting the westward expansion of settlers to only bateaux and flatboats.
     Oared or hand-powered, the flatboat usually floated with the current while transporting settlers and their possessions to new territory.  The owners of these crude watercraft did not intend to return upstream and generally dismantled them at the end of river voyages, the lumber used in construction of new homesteads.
     A new era suddenly dawned in 1811 with the launching of the first steamboat, the New Orleans, on western waters near Pittsburgh.  By 1835, more than 650 steamboats existed in the west, their presence accelerating the westward and industrial expansion along Ohio River territory and beyond.
   Shifting sand and gravel bars, snags and rocks, and sunken trees called sawyers combined with low water levels during summer and ice during winter to make navigation along the big river difficult and often hazardous.  Boating companies pressured he federal government to improve navigation conditions, and, thus, in 1824, Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove snags and other obstructions from the Ohio while constructing dikes and wing dams to concentrate flow into the main channel.
     The Corps constructed the first series of dams at Louisville, Kentucky, the second parallel to present-day Wellsmar, spanning from the Ohio shore to Brown's Island in 1836.   Its purpose was to back water up to another dam that stretched from the northern tip of Brown's Island diagonally to the Ohio shore approximately to the site where the old Follansbee Steel pump house stands today.  Later called the "dike" by local residents, its primary function was deflecting the higher water onto the then Virginia side where the channel bisected the river.
     Prior to the construction of these dams, the channel weaved along the right bank, or Ohio side.  The construction of the Brown's Island dams raised consternation amongst Jefferson County citizens about loss of shipping revenue, so much, in fact, they petitioned state congress during 1836 but to no avail.
     The Corps added a crescent-shaped wing dam less than a half-mile downstream on the Virginia shore to deflect flow back into the channel.  The Corps and local labor constructed the dams from sandstone quarried from Island Creek.
      "The dams at Brown's Island," wrote Reuben Gold Thwaites in Early Western Travels, "the shoalest point on the Ohio have been so eminently successful as fully to establish the efficiency of the plan.  Several other works of a similar nature are proposed...When all improvements are completed, it is believed the navigation of the beautiful Ohio will answer every purpose of commerce and the traveller."
       The "dike" still existed intact by the turn of the 20th Century and was featured in a chapter of Walter M. Kestner's The Era of Elegance: "The most productive and popular angling site was at the dike, a wing dam as some called it, that extended from the bar below the mouth of Sloane's Run to the head of Brown's Island.  On propitious occasions this dike would be lined with devotees of sport from the Ohio shore to the break in the wall which we called the 'riffle' near the island end of the dam."
     Up to this period, navigational problems still continued.  During dry months, the river was so shallow in places it could be forded by people and horse-drawn wagons.  River companies and shippers relied upon two rises or tides to navigate their goods, the fall rise occurring in late October through November, the spring rise running from February through April.
     Sometimes, even rises failed navigation at Brown's Island.  On March 15, 1888, three steam tows--the Eagle, Ed Roberts and Sam Clarke--collided while trying to cross the dike and spilled 40,000 bushels of coal into the Ohio River.
     In 1910, Congress enacted the Rivers and Harbors Act to canalize the entire river with wooden wicket dams, including Dams Nine and Ten, spanning across from Freeman's Landing to New Cumberland and Steubenville to present-day Weirton.  The Corps of Engineers eventually replaced these dams during the early 60s with the present series of high-lift locks and dams, including New Cumberland and Pike Island.
     First picture:  Remnants of the "dike" including square sandstone blocks still remain today.
     Second picture: The Ed Roberts involved in the cleanup operation of 40,000 bushels of coal spilled at the head of Brown's Island.
     Third picture: An old navigation map showing the locations of the three Brown's Island dams.
    Fourth Picture.  The right bank of the Upper Ohio's first dam, just south of Wellsmar.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TORONTO'S WOODS





Like the city itself, the woods situated along the Gem City's southwest border has a history, deep, rich and mysterious.
Foremost amongst the deep green forest was Camp Crumb. It stood upon a plateau where Sloane's Run forks west to Wallace Heights and northeast to Rock's Farm. A dirt road once twisted along Sloane's Run, but has long been covered with the natural erosion of the steep gully through which it passes.
Walter M. Kestner, in his book, The Era of Elegance, mentions Toronto's early park: "The log cabin and the rustic pavilion for dining up Sloane's Run hollow called Camp Crumb where clambakes and corn roasts were regularly held. My first picnic in Toronto was held in the second grade when Miss Nora Yingst, our teacher, escorted us out the Pike to Camp Crumb, and I ate my lunch on the way but dined elegantly on the bounty of the others who were not as voracious as I was.
The Boy Scouts of America began operation in 1910, and the local troops found Camp Crumb and its environ of beeches and oaks, huge boulders, rock shelters and cascades an ideal place for scouting activities. If the initials carved in the rocks and towering beeches are any indication of its usage, then the 1940s was the peak period for Camp Crumb.
Local lore reports that this bucolic getaway fell into disuse after a distraught Toronto man hanged himself from a beech tree overlooking a cliff. Legend also hints that he carved his initials into the tree prior to committing the act. Some old-timers say the grounds are haunted.
Another long forgotten piece of the Gem City's woodland past is Slaughter Hollow, which today is just west of the state's access gate along Route Seven near the south end ramp.
"One of the favorite Sabbath afternoon walks," Kestner wrote, "was out the Knoxville Pike to Sloane's Run then up the left fork to slaughter house hollow where the crumbling remnants of the old abattoir still sheltered the grisly implements of its former operations. Along the way at the base of the hollow huge limestone rocks produced a prolific harvest of sea animals which offered mute testimony that the waters of the distant seas had once laved these shores."
The Gem City author was certainly correct regarding water once encircling the Toronto we know today. In Roadside Geology of Ohio, Mark J. Camp wrote about Mount Nebo. "On the south edge of town the highway swings around a large hill that is separated from the Pennsylvanian (an era 320 to 286 million years ago) escarpment by an abandoned channel of the Ohio River. During Wisconsinan (90,000 to 10,000 years ago) time this was a bedrock island in the Ohio River. At some point sandbars cut it off and the river assumed its present course."
Modern man has also left signs of his presence in the surrounding forests. A couple of anomalies are rock piles appearing to be funeral cairns, one each on both sides of the hill upon which Fairview Heights stands.
In Greater Toronto 1899, author G.H. Stoll noted that before the inception of Union Cemetery, people sometimes buried their deceased in the hills above present-day Toronto.
Another mystery is an abandoned well, or cistern, concave and still open, which sits approximately 50 yards west of Route Seven above Daniels Street. An 1878 map indicates that the property once belonged to an R. Lee, an 1871 map to an H. Gaston.
Lesser oddities include rock carvings of a snake, an eagle and an oak leaf upon different boulders scattered throughout the woods and Indian Rock, named such for the collection of arrow heads near it.
PICTURES top to bottom: Indian Rock.  Open Well.  Winter Scene of Rock Shelter.  Oak Leaf Carving by JMW.

Friday, August 28, 2009

THE FIRST BAND CAMP




Some of our favorite memories soon come to mind when certain songs play across the radio, but no experience is so sweet as making the music that makes the memories, such as the case with the participants of the inaugural Toronto Band Camp.
This Toronto high School tradition started in 1949 when the band fathers converted a Yellow Creek farm into a practice field for the marching band and the barn into a cafeteria. As the years progressed, succeeding band fathers added more modern amenities; the first year, however, they simply roughed it.
We slept in tents," then high school senior Dolores (Argentine Graceffa said, "five or six tents, as I recall, about eight to a tent. There were individual tent counselors, one for each tent."
"It got very cold in the mornings that summer, down into the forties," said Ruth Ann Campbell) Davis. "Two of the girls in our tent had to go home with ear aches. We had old iron double-decker beds. I was fortunate to have a big feather comforter that had been in our family for years. I slept on it and pulled the other half over me."
Reveille awakened the campers from their chilly slumbers every morning and then before breakfast, under the leadership of band director D.W. Hover, the 70 members of the THS band exercised and marched and then attended breakfast.
"When I think of band camp," Madonna (Smith) Baker, class of 50 said, "I think of reveille played at 6:00 every morning. So I left a nice, warm blanket and went to the lower part of the barn for a shower. Breakfast was held in the barn dinning hall, and we sat at picnic tables."
The band marched and practiced during afternoons and repeated their routines in the evenings, the early morning coolness soon forgotten.
"It was terribly hot," Mrs. Graceffa said. "It was a lot of fun. John Sabol, a graduate and band member of Ohio State University came out and taught us single line formation across the field, and we did it admirable. I think we were the first small school around here to perfrom this formation."
Band members did find some play and mischief time during the evenings.
"We had the lake back then and the kids swam," Mrs. Graceffa said. "In the evenings we had bonfires and sing-alongs."
There were the usual raids by the boys," Mrs. Devlin said, "but none of us got in big trouble. We really had a wonderful time and certainly needed the practice."
Before the inception of Toronto Band Camp, THS practice alongside the football field during summer while Director Hoover gave individual lessons at the Roosevelt Building. Attending the Yellow Creek camp broke up the monotony and created a tradition celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Graceffa summed up the sentiments of the thousands of band members from the various high schools who had the experience of marching upon this hallowed ground. "It was an experience for a city girl. I wasn't rich enough to go to a summer camp. I wouldn't have taken anything for that experience."
Band members from the classes of 50, 51, 52 and 53, if interested in forming a reunion, should call Doloroes (Argentine) Graceffa at 740-537-2106.
Picture of drum major is Dale Westlake.
Campers in front of tent are, left to right: Dolores Wagner, Ruth Ann Campbell, Joan Paisley, Letilia Arehart, Madonna Smith, Dolores Argentine, Marilyn Williams, and counselor unknown.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

THE COOL SPRING OF CROXTON'S RUN




Back before the practice of bottling water in plastic and associating it with Alps Mountain names was in vogue, people obtained the real thing from the real source and kept the promotion really simple.
From no source was the simplicity and ease of living better exemplified than the Cool Spring that once spurted from a hillside across Croxton's Run just outside Toronto.
"It gushes forth from the hillside and no water in existence is purer and sweeter than this," wrote G.H. Stoll in his book Greater Toronto 1899.  "It's waters are as clear as crystal and as sparkling.  Its source is so situated that there is no suspicion of its contamination.  It never fails to yield water and beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant never has this spring ceased to flow."
A spring results from groundwater that resides within large permeable sandstone and limestone called aquifers, from which some of the water is drawn through cracks of the rock and then through the surface of the earth by gravity.
No record exists to document who first called this aquifer "Cool Spring."  Indian scout and city patriarch Michael Myers could have well been the first pioneer to discover it.  Given his reputation for simplicity in speech and demeanor, he might have called it "Cool Spring" in passing reference to any of his acquaintances when he patrolled the Ohio River from Yellow Creek to Mingo during the Revolutionary War.
Before Myers, or Abraham Croxton, from whom the nearby creek is named, American Indians undoubtedly stopped to slake their thirst at the bubbling spring.  Shawnees ambushed and scalped several soldiers hunting buffalo near this site.  Four years later, the same tribe abducted Mary and Margaret Castleman while slaying their uncle John Martin.
In his book Fowler suggested that the use of Cool Spring predated the arrival of white man to the region.
"What tales it could talk, of the scenes enacted within the sound of its musical murmurings: tales of tragedy, love and pathos: tales of aboriginal orgies," he wrote.
During his scouting missions, Myers undoubtedly watched for Indian activity at Cool Spring and similar fresh water sources.  Although no reports exist that he encountered any Indians at Cool Spring, he did shoot and slay an Indian at Poplar Spring, which today would be somewhere in the heart of downtown Toronto, and another at the head of Brown's Island near a spring just north of Wellsmar.
After the settlement of the hamlets Newburg, Fosterville and Markle, their merger leading to the eventual incorporation of Toronto in 1881, the use of Cool Spring continued to increase.
"For many miles in all directions," Fowler wrote, "people came to drink of its beautiful waters.  On Sabbaths during summer, the spring is constantly surrounded by crowds.  Toronto people greatly appreciated this natural, eternal, ice cold drinking fountain."
The tradition continued for years, according to longtime Gem City resident Tom McKelvey.  "Before most people owned cars," he said, "people dressed up on Sundays and walked out Croxton's Run and stopped at Cool Spring, and many sat on the decks of Kilgus Country Club drinking the spring water."
Author Walter M. Kestner wrote briefly in The Era of Elegance about such an excursion.  "...the pleasant Sunday walk up Croxton's Run to the Cool Springs where the limpid water gushed forth into a watering trough for the animals and a hand dipper was suspended from the wide spreading willow tree from which the humans drank indiscriminately."
"It was just good cool water," McKelvey said.  The longtime Toronto resident, in fact, when he was nine years of age, toted water in five-gallon cans by a wagon form Cool Spring to the old two-room Lincoln School.  "The school didn't trust river water back then.  It was my first job.  I made five dollars a month."
Toronto had running water pumped by its own electrical power house as early as 1891, but the popularity of the Cool Spring continued for another half century until it finally fell into disuse.
"It hasn't been used since the clay works shut down," McKelvey said.  "It was west of the railroad bridge, down the hill at the bottom on the left."
Fowler believed Cool Spring would never go dry.  "It has doubtless flowed for centuries, slaking the thirst of man and beast alike, and will so continue."
This early Toronto author may well be right, for the Cool Spring still flows, although it is obscured by an elevated highway, invasive Japanese knotweed and discarded tires and bricks.  The once famous aquifer may no longer be used, but its memory will remain preserved with the Gem City's northernmost boundary, which, like its source of origin, is named, simply, Spring Street.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Kaul Clay Riot of 1935




The Toronto sky was dark gray and roiled, and a cold wind was stirring up north.  On the the morning of April 17, 1935, four days before Easter Sunday, inside the coal-heated north end schools of Lincoln and St. Joseph's, the children were fidgety, eagerly awaiting the hour of the final bell granting them a short spring vacation for the holy day.
Meanwhile, less than a quarter-mile west, pickets held their posts at the entrances of Kaul Clay Manufacturing where this local of United Clay and Brick Workers of America had been on strike since April 1, the union asking for a closed shop, a check-off system and a nickel raise an hour from an industry whose laborers averaged earning four dollars a day in the middle of the Great Depression.  The work stoppage at Kaul was one of 15 Eastern Ohio clay operations shut down from the strike, with nearly 4,000 workers idled.
The strikers had drastically slowed production of clay pipes and other vitreous clay products manufactured at Kaul.  Pant manager Jimmy Dyer, a certified public accountant recently relocated from Pittsburgh, brought in an estimated 18 to 50 replacement workers and as many as ten special deputized guards armed with .38 caliber pistols, three high-powered rifles, two sawed-off shotguns and one Colt machine gun, as well as canisters of tear gas.
"Scabs" organized labor called such replacement workers during that period, and on the day shift of April 17, the replacement workers were busy preparing orders to ship.
The 200 idled Kaul Clay workers had plenty of support in Jefferson County, especially with organized labor from Union Clay in Empire, Stratton Clay of the same village, and Peerless Clay in Port Homer and the East Ohio Sewer Pipe Company from Irondale.  In fact, an estimated 200 to 300 of these sympathizers marched south down the Cleveland nad Pittsburgh Railroad tracks while a dump truck filled with clay shoppers drove from Irondale to support picketing Kaul workers.  Amongst them was Tom McKelvey, a closed union shop member who worked for Stratton Clay.
"We marched down the tracks to Kaul Clay," McKelvey said.  "'Take them out; they're non-union!'  the clay shoppers shouted.  'We're going to stop the shop!'"
McKelvey said that the objective of the marchers was to breach security, overwhelm the pipe house and then take over the press.  "If you shut down the press, you shut down the operation."
The Herald-Star estimated the mob size at 200 to 300 men.  McKelvey said that the crowd of sympathizers was more like 35.  At the onset of the strike, Jefferson County Sheriff Ray Long had informed the Kaul Clay rank-and-file that Federal law limited it to post no more than six picketers at each entrance.
Whatever the number of organized labor and sympathizers present, superintendent Dyer, his management team and special security guards were prepared to repel them.
"About 1 p.m. a crowd of strikers, a hundred or more, came down the railroad from the direction of Port Homer," the Steubenville Herald-Star quoted Charles Merryman, a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy.  "They came to my gate and demanded admittance.  They said they wanted to talk to the men working in the plant to try to induce them to quit work.
"I would not allow them to enter and told them to go away before someone got shot.  They went to another gate and were told the same thing."
The clay shoppers split up, some of them rushing up an unguarded embankment parallel to the tracks, then into the pipe yard, only to be greeted by 150 gun shots.
"We could hear bullets hitting in the pipe piles," McKelvey said.  "There were at least three snipers up there.  It was mass confusion.
"Then I heard, 'Got two men down there!'"
Twelve feet from McKelvey on the ground lay Andy Lastivka, of Port Homer and Peerless Clay, mortally wounded by a .38 caliber bullet.  Not far from the fallen clay shopper was another stricken clay worker, Andy Straka, shot in the leg.  Straka would soon recover at East Liverpool Hospital, as did four other union partisans, but Straka would carry the bullet in his leg for the remainder of his life.  Jefferson County Coroner Charles Wells ruled Lastivka's death a homicide.
The day following the riot, Dyer issued his first statement, accusing the pickets of opening fire on employees and guards and that no shots were fired by any company official.
"Dyer also asserted that the strike which started April 1, does not have the sympathy of a majority of the workers and blames outsiders for the tradgedy..." the Herald-Star reported.
Jefferson County Prosecuter Arthur L. Hooper questioned the Kaul Clay deputies and another 25 witnesses and determined every shooting casuality occurred on company property while finding no evidence that any of the pickets who invaded the plant were armed.  Already warned by Sheriff Long not to arm themselves, many of the pickets rushed past the gates April 17 guarded by deputies Cyrus Cook and Charles Merryman threw back their coats and said, "I got no gun, look."
According to Joe Lastivka, who was three years of age at the time of his father's death, neither his father nor Straka breeched Kaul property.  "He was just standing on the railroad tracks and so was Straka.  He was struck in the chest with a bullet they think was from a security guard from a roof or window."
"It was the first time anyone used gun fire to stop a strike," McKelvey said.  "Spectators across the tracks thought they were using blanks.  Dyer was new to the area and big anti-union.  He wanted to show off."
No matter who fired first at whom, the death of Andy Lastivka became cause celebre within the clay region of Eastern Ohio.  His death was not only a result of the labor movement sweeping across the country, but also symbolized the solidarity of Eastern European immigrants, particularly Slovaks, many of whom served in World War I and now desired acceptance and respect as American citizens while manning some of the hardest and lowest paying jobs within the industry.
Andy Lastivka, a husband and father of two young children, was interred on Easter Sunday at Toronto Union Cemetary before a crowd of 3,000 people who had marched from St. Joseph's Greek Catholic Church.
The parade of solidarity from Port Homer and Stratton to Toronto was so large that highway officials had to shut down Ohio Route Seven and detour motorists through rural roads.
Even the local law agencies tended to side with the labor movement after Lastivkas death.  During the only incident at Kaul to occur since the troubles of April 17, a truck driver hauling finished products from Kaul sometime during May was halted by a barricade of 40 to 50 pickets--an illegal assembly.  Dyer telephoned Sheriff Long, who responded that he had no men available to help.  Dyer also called Toronto Police Chief Thomas Wilson, who arrived at the scene alone.
Wilson asked the truck driver whether he had a driver's license, and the trucker answered he did not.  Wilson then ordered the driver to back up and unload the pipe, but permitted him to depart with the empty truck.
Meanwhile, Dyer and other managers of the clay industry negotiated with the United Clay and Brick Workers through federal mediators at Uhrichsville.  On June 10, 54 days after they went on strike, the union settled for a two cents an hour raise, no check-off system and no closed shop.  Dyer fired some union officials upon their return to work.
No one was convicted for any of the April 17 shootings.  Lastivka's widow Anna did not receive any monetary compensation for her husband's wrongful death.  She and her young children went on to live with her mother in Stratton where son Joe helped at his grandmother's grocery store.
"I worked at Union Clay during my junior and senior years of high school," Joe Lastivka said.  "When I graduated I went to the Kaul office and asked if I could see Jimmy Dyer.  I wanted a job.  The secretary said he wasn't there, but I could see somebody move in his office.  I just walked in.  'You know who I am, don't you'" I  said.
"He said, 'I'm not hiring.'  Dyer said that I would destroy his building and cause trouble.  What did I know?  I was only 18."
In addition to his legacy as a tough negotiator, Jimmy Dyer and Kaul Clay had philanthropic reputations, donating the property for Dyer Country Club and the 900-acre Kaul Wildlife Area, as well as being one of the main financial contributors for the 1948 construction of the new St. Francis School.
In 1981, Kaul Clay ceased operations.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

HISTORIC CROXTON'S RUN




Every history has a starting point, and for Toronto, Ohio, it began at the mouth of Croxton's Run where the currents of time have eddied sometimes as violently as the jaded green currents flowing before it.
The stream defining Toronto's northernmost city limit was named after Abraham Croxton, a quaker and acquaintance of William Penn.  The colonial governor himself granted Croxton 400 acres on both sides of the Ohio River, part of which is present day new Cumberland where Croxton settled.  He and his wife Esther Dwyer had three children on the eastern shore of the Ohio, most notably son William, born in 1768.
The family remained in what was then Brooke County, Virgina, where young William grew up with ambition.  Across the river at the stream bearing the family name, William tapped into the abundance of virgin alluvial forest, dominated by silver maples several feet in diameter, their crowns towering more than 100 feet.  Although the red and sugar maples produce the best quality sap, the silver produces an acceptable one from which syrup (then called molasses) is made as well as sugar, candy and even alcoholic drink.
Croxton took his harvest across the river to his Black Horse Tavern, then a log cabin and one of the sites along which Indian agent and fur trader George Croghan stopped on his journeys down the Ohio River during the 1700s.
"We stopped at William Croxton's tavern, the sign of the Black Horse on the Virginia side," Croghan wrote in his journal,  "and got a bowl of excellent cider oil.  This is stronger than Madeira and is strained from the cider by suffering it to freeze in the cask during the winter, and then drawing off and barreling up the spiritous part which remains liquid."
The origin of the name Black Horse is uncertain.  One theory is that Black Horse is derived from Moses Morse, who was a painter of signs, all of which were known for having the image of a black horse on them, printed from a design cut in pasteboard.  The Morse story back then said that his road out from New England to the Ohio River could be traced all the way by the tavern signs he had painted, paying his traveling expenses.  Law back then required publicans and inn keepers to have emblems painted in fair letters suspended beside every business.
Croxton also had a sawmill and a gristmill on the Northwest Territory side of his property, these enterprises fraught with peril from indigenous tribes, who sometimes sought to slake their thirst from the cool spring bubbling from the hillside less than a quarter-mile from the Ohio River, the present day Spring Street eventually being named after the aquifer.
In his book, Greater Toronto 1899, G.H. Stoll wrote: "A further evidence that this section was a favorite hunting place as well as battle ground for numerous tribes of aborigines is the fact that thousands of flint arrow heads, battle axes and other weapons of warfare have been found here and can yet be found without difficulty."
As recently as 2008, excavation for a new home at the mouth of Croxton's Run produced Indian projectile points.
In 1787, a battle ocured there between 14 hunters from Fort Steuben seeking buffalo, and a band of Shawnees.  Ambushing at night, the Shawnees killed and scalped four hunters.  The surviving whites managed to reach their canoes at the mouth of Croxton's Run and escaped down the Ohio to the fort.
Three years later while a family and friends boiled sap at the sugar camp, two Wyandots and Mowhawk killed a Mr. Martin, abducting his nieces, Mary and Margaret Castleman, bartering and dispersing them to Indian villages bordering Lake Erie.
In 1792--the Indians escalating their bloody forays along the upper Ohio Valley--settlers organized to thwart the menace.  One of the outcomes of the Committee of Holliday's Cove (present day downtown Weirton) was the erecting of blockhouses at strategic points.
"Blockhouses are already erected, we mean, Sir, at Yellow Creek, Croxton's Run and the mouth of Herman's Creek," James Campbell of Holliday's Cove wrote Colonel Baird of the Virginia Militia.  "Men placed in these stations would, in our opinion, be the best mode of disposing them and most agreeable to the inhabitants."
The duration and fate of the Croxton's Run blockhouse is unrecorded, but most likely burned or disassembled for wood by the time Michael Myers assumed ownership of the property as a reward for his services as an Indian scout during the Revolutionary War.  In 1795, Croxton lost his property to Myers because he had failed to secure tenure and a land grant by notifying the government.
In addition to the natural resources on the Northwest Territory side, often referred to as the "right bank," the scenery itself was an attraction as written by Fowler.  "Croxton's Run has been treated kindly by nature and is a beautiful resort in summer, cooling breezes always floating down its valley, and this combined with its grassy bottoms, dense foliage and cozy corners, make it an ideal idling place."
Undoubtedly, Croxton and Myers knew each other.  During the war, Myers scouted the area from Mingo Bottoms to Yellow Creek.  Myers had to have known the local terrain well and his selection of the Croxton's run acreage was not a haphazard guess.
In 1774, Myers dispatched two Mingoes with his long rifle "Limber Jinney" at nearby Hollow Rock and a couple of days later fired upon a bateaux full of Indians crossing the Ohio River to investigate the massacre of Chief Logan's people at the mouth of Yellow Creek.  Myers also dropped an Indian sipping at Poplar Spring, located at the heart of downtown Toronto, and another at Deer Rock, at water's edge below the head of Brown's Island.  Obviously, Myers knew the local terrain well so that his selection of the Croxton's Run acreage was not a haphazard guess.
Scion's accounts of Michael Myers report that the patriarch and founding father of Toronto predecessor Newburg constructed grist and saw mills and a log cabin on the property opposite Gamble's Run, which, incidentally was the maiden name of William Croxton's wife Mary.  Myers also operated a ferry and a wharf opposite Croxton's Black Horse Landing.  Whether the two families competed, cooperated or became antagonistic to each other can only be a matter of speculation, although from the right bank the property was seldom called Croxton's Run, but rather "the Myers Mill down at the river, Sugar Camp and even "opposite Rambles Run," the last an obvious slur at the Croxton's in-laws.
The Croxton claims and competition eventually ended.  Mary Croxton left husband William and their six children for John Campbell, leading to an 1809 divorce.  Two years later, William Croxton resettled at Monroeville, Jefferson County, 15 miles northwest.
Two and one-half centuries after his father Abraham arrived, the Croxton name continues flowing through time as does its historic stream.  At the mouth is a large gravel bar called by the Army Corps of Engineers the Croxton Bar and just a pea gravel's throw downstream is the marker and light for Ohio River Mile 58.4, still referred today by riverboat pilots as Black Horse.