Two hundred years ago tomorrow, Jasper and Elizabeth Bailey Miles arrived here in Townsend Township to settle on the farm property at the southwest corner of Rte. 20 and Medusa Road.
The Mileses were members of the Peace Baptist Church, which had organized in 1816 at Penfield in Ontario County, New York. Most of the church members moved to Ohio in 1816 and 1817 and settled around the corner mentioned above, and were known as the Barber Settlement. The majority of the group were members of the family of a Revolutionary War veteran named Amaziah Barber, who came along, too. He died here in Townsend in 1829 and is buried in a small neighborhood cemetery not far away.
Jasper Miles had hoped to buy a prairie farm but could not, so he purchased one of Kneeland Townsend, a land speculator who owned most of the township. Miles and his fellow Baptists asked Mr. Townsend to not sell farms close to them to “worldly” people so that they could control their religious environment. By 1830, first cousins were marrying first cousins (which then was legal in Ohio), and the editor of the Reflector headlined the marriage announcements as BARBER-OUS TIMES IN TOWNSEND.
When Jasper purchased his 105 acres, he had the cash to pay for it, but was told to buy on a land contract and use his cash to improve the farm. Then when the contract came due in eight years, Mr. Townsend would give him more time to pay. Instead, when the time was up, the full payment was demanded, and the Miles family was without a home. They moved to Milan for a few years and then to a farm near Berlin Heights. Jasper and Elizabeth are buried in the Baptist Cemetery at the “Heights”.
While in Townsend they experienced all of the trials and tribulations of early pioneers. They were better educated than some, and Jasper served as the first justice of the peace in Townsend and is believed to have taught the first school - south of his home on Medusa Road. He also was a deacon in the Baptist Church in Townsend.
One day Mrs. Miles went to the place where they obtained water (perhaps from nearby Rattlesnake Creek) and encountered a rattler. One of the Mrs. Barbers held the snake on a pole while Mrs. Miles chopped off its head. Just before she did so, the snake struck at the axe handle very close to her hand.
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Today also marks another anniversary. I’ve completed 45 years of writing Just Like Old Times. My first column appeared on April 7, 1972, and I’ve written more than 2,300 since then without ever literally repeating one.
If you like them as much as I do, go to Colonial Flowers & Gifts and purchase the eight volumes of columns (24 years total) we’ve published in permanent book form. The books are titled “Just Like Old Times.” If you do so, then I can publish even more volumes! Oh, and tell your friends about them, too.
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Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.