(The following was written by Bill Howison, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
In 1812, when the war with England started, it was rumored that local Indians would join with the British; and many families, panic-stricken, deserted their homes and fled south. At one time, a party of settlers fearlessly marched to the Indian villages far to the north,”to ascertain if they had concluded to put on the war paint and make the rumored attack.” They found the Indians sitting in council, but with no hostile intent.
The first settlers had been chiefly immigrants from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia; and in Madison County were found New Englanders mainly from Vermont. Shortly before 1840, a German element gained a foothold in the Darby Valley.
The prairie or open land was believed to be worthless for agricultural purposes, and was the last to be entered. It was low and wet, and the malaria it engendered caused it to be shunned. This land was valued at 0.50 to 2.00 per acre, while wild land commanded 3.00 an acre. The first settlers thought this land would always be available for pasture.
In the year 1822, the Fourth Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode his Pale Horse through the Darby Valley. To the north, a plague of squirrels ate a ten-mile wide path from the Darby to the Scioto. This same year, malaria hit for a distance either side of the Big and Little Darbys in Madison and Union County. This disease was caused by the decomposition of the prairie grasses. At first it had been the policy to set fire to the prairie each autumn, but as the area became more settled, this practice was discontinued for fear of setting fire to homes and crops. During the few years that then elapsed, the prairie became a wet, thick mass of decay, and bred the germs of disease.
Mosquitoes were such a pest, the deer would descend into the Darby after nightfall, and remain there for hours with only the ends of their noses above the water in order to escape them.
Further to the South, along Paint Creek, this was the year of Cholera, with which left many of our ancestors grieving for lost loved ones.
Many were the incidents were a father, himself sick with the fever, had to build the coffin, dig the grave, and deposit beneath the clods of the valley the loved form of his wife or child. Or in Fayette County, hide the body of a loved one from the men manning the death wagon, which came to haul the bodies to a common burning ground. Some were buried, with little or no ceremony, in the dark of night in remote family plots, with no stone to mark the spot.
In 1869, the railroad came to the Darby Valley, crossing the Darby just south of Old Georgesville. This was built by the C.S. & R.Y. Company. at this time, the area was still one vast forest of virgin timber, and the railroad began building spurs into the forest and constructed sawmills to cut the timber into railroad ties and cord wood to fuel the steam engines. The ring of the broad axe could be heard for miles as they cut the timber for the railroad and the lumber for the buildings of new Georgesville.
The railroad bridge was finished in 1871. With the completion of the bridge, Georgesville immediately began to move to the other side of the Darby.
The Shilling house was the last building left in Old Georgesville, and it was torn down several years ago. The old road no longer descends graveyard Hill. The grass now grows were once was heard the child’s shrill cry, the ring of the blacksmith’s anvil, and the pounding hooves of the stagecoach horses, as they descended the hill to stop at the stagecoach Tavern stop.
A top of the hill stand, like silent sentinels, the headstones of the Fergusons, the Biggerts, the Gardners, and the Kerrs, keeping watch over the little low land that was once a village in the wilderness.