Monday, April 22, 2024

In the Right Vicinity

Some local histories just resonate with surnames from our family's history. That, according to the history of Richland Township in Fairfield County, is what I've been noticing as I search for signs of my mother-in-law's roots during the early years of Ohio's statehood.

Among the earliest settlers in that vicinity, according to one 1912 book, History of Fairfield County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens, were these: Wiseman, Turner, Stephenson, Ijams. All of these, I already know, fall handily into what some genealogists call the "F.A.N. Club" of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Howard and her husband, William Ijams. Or, to look at this report from the eyes of another genealogical phrase, "cluster genealogy," those surnames lead us to the right cluster.

To see that cluster a bit more clearly, though, we need to take a detour from our main research goal to explore what brought those families from their previous, distant residences to their new homes in the formative years of Ohio's Fairfield County. In a word, that gathering force was religion.

That same 1912 history book noted that the township—indeed, the whole of Fairfield County—saw "the early organization of religious societies and churches," but the first of such meetings were held before any church buildings could be erected. Those meetings were held "in the log cabins of the settlers."

In another book, Pioneer Period and Pioneer People of Fairfield County, Ohio, published in 1901, author C. M. L. Wiseman noted that the church in question—at least for my mother-in-law's family—was Methodist. Included in a list of those who attended services in that early church prior to 1805 were:

Daniel Stevenson and wife, Isaac and Thomas Ijams, John J. Jackson, John Sunderland, Edward Teal...William Turner.

Perhaps you, as I do, see that cluster of familiar surnames taking shape—the very surnames I've been following as we look for the matrilineal descendants of Elizabeth Howard and her husband, William Ijams.

When attendance overtook building capacity, church meetings were held out of doors in 1803, and then again in 1807, a year said to have drawn over one thousand people to such a "camp meeting." The site of the camp meetings, and the log cabin itself, was noted as "near the old graveyard" and "in sight of the home of Daniel Stevenson." Before we explore further how these surnames intertwine with the daughters of Elizabeth Howard and William Ijams, let's take a step back, tomorrow, to learn a bit more about what that author meant in 1901 when he talked about the old graveyard. 

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