The Migration of John Leas (1798-1875)
from Madison Township, Guernsey County, Ohio to Dekalb County, Indiana
in 1852

by David A. Leas
 

In 1852 John Leas (1798-1875) packed up his family and possessions and moved from Guernsey County, Ohio to Dekalb County, Indiana.  I have always wondered how he made the trip from Ohio to Indiana.  The following describes possible routes that John may have taken:

In 1805 President Thomas Jefferson approves Legislation for a National Pike from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois.  In 1811 construction began on this "The National Road".  Work continued on the National Road for many years until in 1834 when it was completed across the State of Indiana.

Plans were made to continue through St. Louis, Missouri, on the Mississippi River to Jefferson City, Missouri, but funding ran out and construction stopped at Vandalia, Illinois in 1839.

In Indiana, one of the towns that the National Road went through was Richmond.  In the early 1800's the population of Richmond consisted of many "Quakers".  Quakers are also referred to as "The Religious Society of Friends".  Many of these Quakers were merchants who were interested in trade, especially with the Native Americans of Indiana and Ohio.

At this same time in Fort Wayne, Indiana a great deal of trade was carried on with the Indians.  The trading post at Fort Wayne dealt in furs, whiskey, and other provisions and supplies.

Recognizing that a potential market existed in Fort Wayne, the Richmond Quakers decided to build a road from Richmond to Fort Wayne.  In 1817 construction began on the "Quaker Trace" , as it was called.  (Click HERE to view a pdf file that I created of the Quaker Trace.  I am fairly certain that I have the correct path that the Quaker Trace took from Richmond up to U.S. 33.  After that I am just guessing)
  The trace was surveyed by Enos Grave who helped open the road with help from many other Quakers.  The road was cut wide enough for one wagon to pass.

Since John's home was located very close to the National Road, it is conceivable to imagine that John may have traveled the National Road west to Richmond and then turned north on the Quaker Trace to travel to Fort Wayne.

Another possible route north could have been on what is today called, Indiana State Road 3.  On October 22, 1824 the Allen County "Board of Justices" who consisted of Alexander Ewing, William N Hood and William Rockhill gave notice of the location of a "State Road from Vernon in Jennings County, by way of Greensburg, Rushville, and New Castle to Fort Wayne."  In 1834 the Indiana State Legislature approved the creation of this road.

In the book, Jennings County, Indiana, 1816-1999, a passenger on this road traveling the stagecoach from Vernon to Greensburg in 1840 stated, "The vehicle was built more for hard usage than for comfort and the roads were frequently corduroy, and I was to soon learn the sensation, first of rapid travel along a comparatively smooth stretch of level land, a swift descent of a steep hillside, then the indescribable bump, bump, bump of the vehicle as the wheels leaped jarringly from one log to the next."
  This road would have been pretty much the same from Dunreith to Fort Wayne as this passenger described the route from Vernon to Greensburg.

If John took this route north he would have continued on the National Road from Richmond to Dunreith, Indiana.  This is where this new "State Road" would have crossed the National Road.

From Madison Township, Guernsey County, Ohio to Richmond, Indiana it is about 170 miles.  From Richmond to Dekalb County it is about 130 miles.  From Richmond to Dunreith to Dekalb County is about 175 miles.  If John chose the shortest route going north he would have chosen the Quaker Trace.

In 1850 a Richmond, Indiana newspaper reported that, "More than 700 families crossed the Whitewater bridge in Richmond in a six-day period in all types of conveyances pulled by horses, mules, oxen, or milk cows"  The newspaper also reported, "Because there was no way to preserve meat, western farmers delivered meat to market on hoof, herding thousands of hogs, cattle, sheep and even turkeys eastward stirring clouds of dust and slowing traffic".

The above are two possible routes that John Leas may have taken on his migration from Guernsey County to Dekalb County.  Whatever route he took, it is mind-boggling to imagine the difficulties he may have had on this 300 mile trip.


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- David A. Leas - all right reserved.  Written on October 19, 2008


 

- Source for information on the Quaker Trace

From - Union City Times-Gazette, Wednesday, September 8, 1943 with
additional input from Tucker's History of Randolph County, Indiana (1882).

The Quaker Trace

  The old "Quaker Trace," was a trail or road that led northward from
Wayne county to Fort Wayne in the early pioneer period.  When the
pioneers cut this road through the forest, all of present Randolph
county and a fractional part of Jay county were still incorporated in
original Wayne county, which had been set off by the territorial
legislature in 1810.
  Randolph county was organized in 1818.  Thomas W. Parker, his wife and
three children, a Quaker family from North Carolina, came to present
Randolph county in 1814 and entered land east of the boundary
established by the Greenville Treaty line.
  In 1815 Fort Wayne became a place of meeting for the payment of
annuities of the Indians, and a great deal of trade was carried on there
with the Indians.  Fort Wayne was evacuated as a military post in 1819
but it became a depot for trade in furs, provisions, whiskey, and other
supplies.
  The earliest regular track through the Randolph forest of any
considerable length was the "Quaker Trace."  Although most of the trade
from the upper reaches of the Whitewater in the early days went south to
Cincinnati, a number of settlers sought an outlet to Fort Wayne for
trade with the Indians.
  The "Trace" was surveyed by Enos Grave.  The road was opened by Paul
Swain, William Simmons, Thomas Roberts, Daniel Fisher, Nathan and Henry
Hunt of Frankin township; Abraham Ashley, Enos Grave of Wayne township,
and many others.
  The "Quaker Trace" extended through Arba, Spartanburg, Bartonia, South
Salem, west of Union City, through Mount Holly, Allenville, crossing the
Mississinewa river north of that place, through North Salem, and
crossing the Wabash river at Jay City, Jay county, near New Corydon. 
Some of these early hamlets have disappeared.  The road was cut wide
enough for one wagon to pass.  It wound around ponds and big logs and
trees and quagmires, forded the Mississinewa and the Wabash, and so on
to Fort Wayne.  Squire James C. Bowen, who came to Randolph County in
1814, said the "Quaker Trace" was made in 1817.
   Much of this route remains and is used today in Randolph County.

Contributed By: Billy J. Baker



- I made an assumption that once the Quaker Trace intersected with the Wayne Trace,
that the two joined on their path to the trading post at Fort Wayne. According to the book,
An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana by De Witt C. Goodrich, published by Peale,
1875:  "At this early period, the roads leading from the fort were mere traces ; one leading
to Fort Recovery, and known as the 'Wayne Trace,' passing through what is now Allen county,
thence into Adams, to the north of Monmouth; from thence passing not far from Willshire to
' Shane's Crossing,' and so on."

The famous "Wayne Trace," extended from the city of Fort Wayne to the city of Cincinnati,
marking the pathway of General Wayne from the fort which bore his name to the site of
Fort Washington.

The Wayne Trace would have intersected the National Road east of Richmond, but it is highly
unlikely that John Leas would have taken the Wayne Trace.

At the time of John Leas' journey, parts of the Wayne Trace had been improved as evidenced
by the following:

In 1824, the General Assembly of Ohio passed an act to locate and establish a series of roads, the eighth of which was designated in the act as, "a state road from Shanesville in Mercer County, to Defiance in Williams County". Joseph Green and Anthony Shane were appointed as commissioners and James Watson Riley as the surveyor to locate the road.

Accordingly, the commissioners located a road from Shanesville to the mouth of the Little Auglaize where it intercepted a road from St. Marys to Defiance that followed Harrison's trail of the War of 1812. The wisdom of Wayne's choice of a route was confirmed by the return of the proceedings of the commissioners certifying that the road had been laid out on the "nearest and best ground." Although the road was located in 1825 it was not improved until 1830.

While the above section of the Wayne Trace had been improved, other sections had not:

There is a manuscript in the Brumback County Library of Van Wert, written by the late Judge H. C.
Glenn, who in referring to Wayne's trail, says:

This trail was quite visible from Van Wert north when we came to the village in 1847. I have passed over it many times.  The then visible trail started at a point near the Second Methodist Church and followed closely Town Creek crossing the same on what is known as the Ketchem land north of town and following closely the creek, avoiding the abrupt bends of the same, passing very closely to the four corners of Ridge, Pleasant, Hoaglin and Union Townships. From the course of the trail at the point first named it must have crossed the Ridge, now Main Street, and the creek near the Old Cemetery.

The last time I have any recollection of passing over the trail was on Thanksgiving day, 1863. Instead of attending Thanksgiving services as I should have done, I spent the day squirrel-hunting, passing down the trail and returning by the Defiance Road. At that time there was no improved land north of the Strother land and the trail was followed with much ease.

Additionally, John R. Spears, author of a life of Wayne, and whose boyhood days were spent in Van Wert, was familiar with it, stated that, "It was like an old abandoned loggers' road into the wilderness and was pretty well filled up with second growth." He was assured by his father, who was a surveyor and the first Mayor of Van Wert, that this was Wayne's trace.

Since the Wayne Trace was established as a military trail for the purpose of quickly moving troops, without improvements
it would not have been able to accommodate the settlers possessions.  Accordingly I am pretty confident that John Leas
did not go north from the National Road on the Wayne Trace.


- Jennings County, Indiana, 1816-1999
By Jennings County Historical Society, Jennings County Historical Society (Ind.)
Published by Turner Publishing Company, 1999
ISBN 1563115212, 9781563115219