Category Archives: Old Times

Narrative stories that were written by old Lawrence county, Ohio residents and published in old newspapers.

General Muster, Hotel Incidents and more

(by John G. Wilson)
No. 5.
From: Folklore and Legends

Submitted by: Sharon M. Kouns

Ironton Register, Thursday, August 8, 1895

For the Register.

With what anticipation did we boys await the time of general muster day when the able-bodied citizens of Lawrence county were called together to go through with the military drill prescribed by the law.

General Fuller, of Rome, in chief command, resplendent in gold lace and shining epaulets , mounted, with drawn sword, giving command; then Colonel Andrew P. Kouns, also mounted; also Captain Carter with others I have forgotten. Then the drill with a medley of arms of all kinds, muskets, rifles, shotguns, &c., and the men out of step treading on the heels of those in front to be sworn at and then to swear at those behind. But then to hear the fife and drum pealing out Yankee Doodle and to think as Sam Slick says in his book – “The British whipped the world and we whipped the British,” was glory enough to balance all the worry and trouble they were going through. After the drill, then the dinner and such feasting as only our grandmothers knew how to provide.

John Carter, mentioned above, had a tame bear which he had raised and he would bring it to town for the boys to try their strength wrestling with it, the bear usually coming out victorious. The bear, however, grew so large and strong that he became dangerous, when Carter had him killed and sold the meat at quite a good price.

After the muster came the 4th of July celebration. I remember one in which the town did its best. They had a table about 50 feet long placed on the northwest side of the public square, under some beautiful maple trees, in front of Jas. H. Drury’s residence which had a double porch fronting the square, making a good place for the band and speakers. The Declaration of Independence was read and a speech from one of the lawyers; then the feast. The table fairly groaned with the good things of life. The colored folks were in their glory. An old man named Sam Bland, (whom the young men had made about half drunk and had filled a two bushel sack with the fragments of the feast for him) looked at the bag, then jumping as high as he could, said: “Burn my jacket eberlastin to a day, I wish 4th of July would come eber day.” The colored folks were in their glory on muster, 4th of July and “cote” week as they termed it. They were mostly employed at the different hotels and there was considerable rivalry as to which house was the best.

Aunt Tilda Johnson, mother of Gabe of your town, was head cook at Tom Clark’s Hotel and the autocrat of all the Russias was no more supreme then she was in her kitchen, and the way we used to flatter her in order to get a taste of the good things!

Phillip Linch, an old colored man who died in your town a few years ago, was employed at the same place, and was a great favorite with us boys. He was generous to a fault and would do anything to keep us from getting whipped. Our family boarded there until we had a house built, and I thought Uncle Phil was the best man living. Phil. was a shouting Methodist , at that time, and he wound up his prayer very uniquely, as follows: “Dog my cat by the land, Amen.” Poor old Phil, he is now in the land where trouble, sorrow, toil and fear are gone. For they, the colored folks, were in daily fear of the kidnappers and slave hunters who were constantly on the lookout for a chance to catch some poor runaway, or kidnap one if they thought they could but get him across the lines.

I remember when I was about 10 years old, that Bill Simmons and his gang came to my father’s store, in search of runaway slaves, and I thought as I looked at them (they were large fierce looking men armed to the teeth with pistols, knives &c., and had handcuffs tied to their saddles,) what a poor chance would the fleeing black man have, and my best wishes went out that the slave might reach Canada and be free. Their rude, boisterous, profane language, with breath redolent with bad whiskey and tobacco made them very offensive. The poor colored folks gave a long sigh of relief when they mounted their horses and went out in the country on their search. Simmons was the leader of a band of slave hunters and lived over in Virginia.

There was an underground railroad as it was termed which ran through or near by Burlington and many a poor slave was fed and piloted from one point to another by those who were posted having the North Star as their beacon of hope as they neared the promised land of freedom. They only traveled at night and the halting places were just far enough apart to consume the night, lying by in the day time.

I recollect of an incident related to several years ago by a prominent citizen in which he was an actor. He was out in the hills back of the town picking blackberries and was in quite a wild, lonely place, where rocks and undergrowth were very thick. There was no one near, when he heard close by the words, “Massa, Massa,” and looking around he saw at last a black face peering around a large rock. “I am hungry, Massa, most starved,” said the man. He motioned to the slave, for such he was, to go back into his hiding, and told him he would send him food, which he did. Also he had a guide sent by another citizen and was sent on his way rejoicing. At that time it was at the risk of one’s business and social standing to give any aid to a runaway, but thank God the days of slavery with all their dreadful horrors are banished forever.


Who Killed Andrew Boggs

(by John G. Wilson)
No. 45.
From: Folklore and Legends

Submitted by: Sharon M. Kouns

Ironton Register, Thursday, May 21, 1896

For the Register.

About sixty years ago there moved to what is now called Macedonia, a colored man named Andrew Boggs or Box, as the people called him. He came from North Carolina and had the blood of three races in his veins white, black and red. His wife was almost white. He was a man of enterprise, attended strictly to his own affairs and soon succeeded in accumulating some property, both land and chattel. He was noted for his good horses and cows, keeping them in the best of order. He was a very stern man, speaking but seldom, and then only when his business relations demanded, all of which tended to make him enemies. His credit was good and his word was his bond.

After he had lived here for several years and was well acquainted with the citizens of this township, he mysteriously disappeared. Nothing was thought of it for several days, until his folks were questioned and they could give no account of him. He was not wont to make anyone a confident and went and came without the knowledge of any. They only knew that he was gone but where they could not tell.

After a few weeks and just after a hard rain, his body was found lodged in the willows just below town. Burlington was the county seat then, so the Coroner was notified and the body was hauled up to the Courthouse, where it was recognized by one of our merchants who was well acquainted with him, and with whom he dealt. On examination, it was found that he had been murdered. His head bore the marks of a pick or mattock, and his skull had been broken by the same in many places. The verdict of the Coroner’s jury was that he had been murdered by parties unknown. Warrants were issued for several of the family, as suspicion was aroused on account of their not making inquiry about him. They were arrested and brought to town and the trial began. The prisoners were guarded by armed men, and much excitement prevailed. I was quite a lad but remember that one witness, an old hunter testifying to the kind of blood which was found on the bottom of his Bogg’s wagon, he the hunter, said, that he had killed many deer and had skinned them on his cabin floor, and that there was a very decided difference between animal and human blood; that the animal blood left a different stain from that of human blood and could be washed out, but that human blood could not be washed out; and that in his opinion the blood stains in the wagon were made by human blood. There were indications of the bottom of the wagon being washed to get rid of the stain but like the stain on Macbeth’s hand it would not out.

Examination, also, showed that the clothing of the dead man was covered with creek soil which indicated that he had been buried in the creek bank and had been washed out and into the Ohio river by the hard rain.

The prisoners on examination said that the stains in the wagon were made by hogs which they had killed and hauled in the wagon; and as to the killing of the old man, they knew nothing about it. As it was before the war when this trial took place, the evidence of a colored person had very little weight, and there were people who were ready to convict on the slightest evidence, but fortunately for them there were others who were more reasonable and they had a fair trial. It developed that there had been two strange white men in the neighborhood who were gamblers and very bad men, and they were trying to play a game on the man Boggs, in offering to sell him counterfeit money that would pass; and an old citizen who told me the circumstances said that Boggs informed him of their attempt to induce him to give them $150 for $300 and that he had met them by appointment and that he had his money ready, and that they had a small wooden box, the kind axes are shipped in, but he required them to open the box before he would part with his money. Upon their refusal, he pulled a pistol and made one of them open the box, which revealed as its contents, a lot of scrap iron packed in sawdust. He thereupon threatened them and charged them with acting falsely. Soon after they disappeared and it was not long until he too was missing, and nothing was heard of him until his body was found.

No evidence being offered of a convicting nature, the prisoners were released and who killed Andrew Boggs remains a mystery to this day. My informant said that Boggs had mentioned to him, about the men and their wanting to exchange the money, two dollars for one, and he was advised to draw them on to see what kind of money they had or whether it was a trick. There had been some counterfeit money passed and the authorities were wanting a clue, and when their trick was explored by Boggs nothing more was thought of it, until the body was found, when it was surmised that someone had killed him for his money as he carried it most all the time on his person; but time rolled on and the mystery has never been cleared up. Most all of those who were living here at the time have passed away. G.

How Some Runaway Slaves Weren’t Caught

(by John G. Wilson)
No. 31. From: Folklore and Legends

Submitted by: Sharon M. Kouns

Ironton Register, Thursday, February 06, 1896

For the Register.

About the year 1856, when Ironton was in her infancy, there came word to Burlington, that some half dozen slaves had escaped from Kentucky, and that they would cross, it was supposed at or near Ironton. We had at that time several citizens, both in and near our little town, who were willing to apprehend those who were escaping from bondage. They were soon equipped and as soon as night came on, were on their way to Ironton to stop the poor fugitives for the sake of a few paltry dollars. They were three in number and mounted on their horses rode swiftly down the river road towards the town.

They had received sure word that the slaves would cross that night, about where the East Ironton grade now is, then a woodyard kept to sell wood to steamboats, which burned wood for fuel. The wood was piled in long rows or ricks on the top of the bank and was sold to the brickyards as well as the boats. The three men hunters arrived about 10 o’clock, and after placing one of them (who was my informant) on the top of one of the long ricks of wood, near where a road was, which descended to the river told him, that they would go down into the town and find out all they could, as to whether those who were, also, of like feelings as themselves knew about the runaways. The one left made up his mind that stopping men who were escaping from bondage, was not the easiest thing and that he did not think, on the whole that it was exactly right; and sitting up there in the cool frosty night, his blood got cool and he resolved that if they came he would let them go by unchallenged, and so, with that conclusion, he stretched himself out on the woodpile to await results.

His comrades had told him to keep strict watch, and when he saw them come across the river, to await them at the road and take them into custody and hold them until they returned; that they would be back soon. He said he waited very impatiently for several hours, but neither his comrades nor the runaways made their appearance, and he was about to go and get his horse and ride home, when he thought he heard the faint echo of the oars, in the rowlock of a skiff, putting off from the Kentucky shore. His heart beat rapidly as he saw the boat coming near and when it pulled to the shores, he saw five stalwart blacks get out of the boat, while the 6th who was probably a white man, though he could not tell, rowed his boat back to the other shore. The slaves came up the bank slowly and were evidently looking for someone but they did not pause but came on and passed within a few yards of where he was concealed. He said they were powerful men, in the prime of life, and each one had a large club on his shoulder. They passed on as silent as ghosts and he drew a long breath when they disappeared in the darkness.

About an hour passed by when his comrades came back; the dawn was beginning to mark the approach of day. They wanted to know if he had seen anything; he told them what he had seen when they expressed great surprise that he did not stop them. He said he endured their talk and brag as they told what they would have done had they been there, when he said that he could stand it no longer, but told them that they were a parcel of fools or idiots to think that he was fool enough to try and stop five men armed with clubs, fleeing from bondage, and that they went to town on purpose to escape having trouble if the slaves should come; and as far as he himself was concerned he was glad that they had got away and he was done forever hunting runaways. He said they stormed awhile, but took good care to go home with him and to not follow those who were fleeing.

Afterward it was ascertained that the same band was stopped at the bridge near Getaway, and those who stopped them were badly used up, one having his jaw almost broken and another knocked senseless by the clubs of the runaways. However they escaped and made their way to Canada, the land of refuge for the slave. My informant said he came home with the determination that those who wanted to might hunt runaway slaves but as far as for him he was out of the business.