D. Howard Doster, September 28, 2019
The 280-acre Underwood Farms Historic District, including my birthplace, is on Virginia Military Land Grant land that Virginia retained the right to use as the Colony joined other Colonies to form The United States of America in 1784, as described in the Continental Congress’ July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence.
The Colony gave land ownership property rights-north of the Ohio River, between the Little Miami River on the west and the Scioto River on the east-to Virginia soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. A Private could receive 100 acres, but I’ve never found where Revolutionary Dan Collett-the JRBC founders’ father, father-in-law, grandfather, or uncle-and my g-g-g grandfather, received any land.
In 1787, this land was made part of the Northwest Territory, which included terms forbidding slavery, the right to a trial by a jury of peers, and a provision for support of public schools. Mom-Esther Underwood Doster, a Quaker schoolteacher, and still a Jonah’s Run Baptist Sunday School teacher on her 92nd birthday, also born here-taught me the terms in the 1787 Ordinance for the Northwest Territory were more significant than the terms in our later 1790 US Constitution.
This site was in Eaton Township of Warren County when it was formed in 1804, maybe two years after Jonah Eaton left his hollow sycamore tree house near the mouth of, now Jonah’s Run Stream. I once thought I was born in Eden Township, in the garden of Eden. Though I’ve worked on four continents, I’ve returned here, to “Our Place”, as you will learn if you go to the west Underwood Farm, after the Historic Marker Unveiling.
JRBC is located about as far away from anywhere as you can get around here. Church members built their parsonage in Harveysburg, two miles west in Warren County, but never found a location there to move their church, built here in 1839. Since Rural Free Delivery came, JRBC has had a Wilmington address in Clinton County.
I’ve counted 14 present and former Quaker Meeting sites within 10 miles of “Our Place”. In 1815, all the land on both sides of, now, SR 73, was owned by Quakers, from east of I-71 exit 45 to west of Caesar Creek State Park. They came here to raise their families on better soil in a slave-free land.
In 1798, Bush River, South Carolina Quaker, Abijah O’Neal, and his brother-in-law, moved to Virginia Military Land Grant acres they bought from a Revolutionary War surgeon. O’Neal’s house and 1804 school were located at the SW corner of Miami Cemetery in Corwin, just east of Waynesville. When O’Neal asked his large Bush River Quaker Meeting for permission to move here, the Meeting turned down his request-there were no Quakers here. Within eight years, there were no Quakers at Bush River. They had all moved to near Waynesville, and their 1811 Meetinghouse is the oldest continuous meeting for worship west of the Allegany Mountains. In 1815, O’Neal owned Military Survey 700, the 1000 acres adjacent on the north of JRBC, which includes the 280-acre Underwood land.
In 1801, northern VA Quaker, Ezekial Cleaver, helped start Miami Quaker Meeting in Waynesville. In 1805, northern VA Quaker, Moses McKay, my g-g-g grandfather, brought his just widowed mother to Waynesville Meeting where she was buried the next year. My grandkids are the ninth generation of McKay and eighth generation of Collett to live here. One of Moses McKay’s granddaughters was a founder of JRBC, four of his kids married Collett’s, and three are buried in JRBC cemetery. They are likely the reason the 1839 church has two Quaker-style front doors and a partition down the middle.
Shortly after Ezekial Cleaver came here, his daughter and son-in-law, Levi Lukens, came here from Hopewell Quaker Meeting, the same Meeting in VA as Mary Haines Collett (Revolutionary Dan’s wife), the McKay’s, and Founder Charity Hackney Collett’s family, and, also my Doster g-g-g-g grandmother. Seven of Levi Lukens descendants are among the 31 persons with Quaker roots in the 1938 JRBC Centennial Photo.
In 1808, Lukens moved into the log cabin he built at, now, Pioneer Village at Henpeck on the SW edge of Caesar Creek State Park. In 1812, Levi bought the 1,000-acre Military Survey 575, which goes in a narrow band along both sides of, now, SR 73 east from Caesar Creek, including Harveysburg, to beyond JRBC. In 1816, Levi was on the Board that bought the land for the first Grove Quaker Meeting site, now in the Park, a half mile east of Henpeck.
In the Quaker Schism of 1828, Grove Meeting split. Levi sold a lot at the east end of Harveysburg to the Hicksites in 1837, and they supported the nearby 1831 First Free School Built for Blacks in the former NW Territory. This school was built by Dr. Jesse Harvey, a Springfield Meeting Quaker. His wife, Elizabeth Burgess Harvey, was the first teacher. A. B. Wall, son of a Virginia planter and a slave mother, was perhaps the most famous graduate, serving in the Civil War as the first Black US Army Captain.
Frederick Douglass, perhaps the most important African American of the nineteenth century, a former slave who later influenced President Lincoln and thousands of others, visited this school and preached in Harveysburg when, in 1843, he also preached with Puritans in the huge Anti-slavery Society meetings in an Oakland barn four miles east of JRBC. He also walked by JRBC a month later after suffering a broken hand in a fight in Indiana. He recuperated here before returning to his wife and four kids in Massachusetts where he started writing, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. He was 25.
In 1839, Levi Lukens sold JRBC Founder Dan Collett 4+ acres. This included 3 acres on the south side of future SR 73 where the now Pioneer Village Dan Collett log cabin was located, and 1+ acres on the north side where JRBC was built in 1839. In 1907, Founder Dan Collett’s descendants sold their land under JRBC building and cemetery for $1.00, to the JRBC Trustees, who included Ellen and Steve Pidgeon’s grandparents. In maybe 1980, Charles Denny, their cousin, found the 1866 first History of JRBC in their g-grandfather’s attic.
In1806, Preserved Dakin moved from NY to near the new Springfield Meeting, started four miles SE of JRBC by North Carolina Quakers, including a daughter of Zachariah Dicks, a Quaker minister who preached through the Carolina’s and Georgia that, within the lifetime of some who heard him, there would be blood shed over slavery. Ellen Pidgeon Gilbert, the nearby Chester Meeting Quaker and long-time leader of the JRBC women’s missionary society, and her brother, Steve Pidgeon, the present owner of Dan Collett farm-adjacent on the south across SR 73 to JRBC- are direct descendants of Dicks, the Quaker who influenced so many to move here, likely including Abijah O’Neal.
Dakin soon moved onto land at the north side of the east half of the 4,000 acres of Virginia Land Grant Survey 1994, that Dan and Mary Collett and son, Jonathan bought in 1814. In about 1840, Dakin’s son, James, built what is now called the middle Underwood house. Until it was renovated, it had a second stairs to an unconnected upstairs room over the kitchen. It was likely one of the 86 Underground Railroad Stationhouses near the Bull-skin Trail between Old Chillicothe, just north of Xenia, and Clarksville, seven miles south of JRBC, that Collett-McKay cousin, Harley Smith, wrote about in his 1950 book. He likely included the Collett Ashby house a mile south of JRBC, and the Martin House, ¼ mile west on SR 73, and the Hatton Lukens house one mile west on SR 73. He may have counted, now, our, Moses McKay house-which has a secret room under the kitchen-and his own Francis McKay house-which has a secret room near the front stairs- and the George Denny house-Ellen Pidgeon Gilbert’s mother said she used to play with the colored kids who lived upstairs over their kitchen.
In 1815, eight-year-old Jane Wales moved from NC onto land on the north side of Caesar Creek with her parents and her mother’s Welch parents, along both sides of, now, SR 73. Jane wrote in her memoirs that her father showed her bark and tent pole holes made by Indians brought there by Springfield Meeting Quakers in 1812 from Piqua to get them away from British agents during the War of 1812.
Jane remembered a poor slave-owning NC neighbor coming to their home to get breakfast bacon for a guest, and she remembered the financial sacrifice her parents made when they sold a nice farm there for almost nothing so as to come here where she grew up in a slave-free neighborhood.
Well, not exactly, Jane said she counted 86 run-away slaves staying at their house in one year, and she was sure there were many more other years. Her family was related to Levi Coffin, the so-called President of the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati and Richmond, Indiana. And, her sister married a Quaker Butterworth from Maineville, south on the Little Miami River. When we visited their 1816 stone house, an old lady, in simple Quaker dress, told our grandkids, one morning her grandmother came down to the plain room where we were standing, only to count 26 Black persons asleep on the floor. Conductors secretly took these persons up the river; including to, then Jane’s house; and now, our McKay House.
Also, in 1815, South Carolina Quakers, Isaac and Charity Cook, moved to a 55-acre farm, just east of Caesar Creek Quaker Meeting, on the Bull-skin Trail, three miles north of the future Underwood Farms. Since Isaac’s mother was a Pennsylvania Quaker cousin of “my” Underwood’s, he got here 40 years before them. Charity had an exciting life as a recorded Quaker minister. While Isaac took care of their many kids and their farm, Charity visited all the Quaker Meetings in North America, England, Scotland, and Germany. Oh, she got in trouble in London for smoking a pipe on the street. Isaac got in trouble during their SC Meeting. When he heard his wife’s voice for the first time in three years, he broke up the women’s meeting by rushing in and kissing her.
Now, I’m ready to describe the Dan/Mary Haines Collett family, some of whom founded JRBC.
Richard Haines, Mary Haines Collett’s g-grandfather, was baptized in the Church of England in maybe 1665, but his parents were Quakers in 1682, when they boarded the ship, Amity, for Burlington, West Jersey-owned by William Penn before he started Pennsylvania, on the west side of the Delaware River, the next year.
VA Quaker Joshua Haines, my g-g-g-g grandfather, his brother, and G. Washington, an 18-year-old surveyor, bought 1120 acres on both sides of Bull-skin Run in northern VA in 1750. Although he inherited much land, this may be Washington’s first purchase. On Memorial Day, 2019, I took a photo of my g-g-g grandmother, Mary Haines Collett’s 1753 birthplace in an old log cabin, now inside an old frame house on the south side of Bullskin Run. It was a few feet SW of the rebuilt Haines Mill, twice burned by Union solders because it was a main source of Confederate flour.
In 1774, Moses Collett, my g-g-g-g grandfather and Revolutionary Dan’s father, walked west from north of Baltimore up the Bull-skin Run, maybe two miles west of Mary Haines, to near Summit Point, VA, now W VA. He rented the 200-acre Headspring Farm from George Washington, for life.
In 1781, when Revolutionary Private Dan Collett married Hopewell Quaker Mary Haines, she was kicked out of the Meeting for “marrying out of unity”. In 1797, after most of the Collett kids were born, Mary was reinstated in Hopewell Meeting. Likely, her kids and McKay kids and Hackney kids and Lukens kids played together during Hopewell Quarterly Meetings.
When her kids started leaving home, Mary Haines Collett asked them to not stay in Ky with their Collett Ashby cousins, but to move north across the Ohio River into slave-free land. Joshua Collett, their oldest son, did that, staying in Cincinnati and studying law. He got to Lebanon in 1802, in time to be one of four persons to start Lebanon. He was soon a circuit judge.
Moses Collett, the next son, moved to Waynesville and then to land he and his Quaker wife, Rebecca Haines Collett-a niece of her mother-in-law, on the east side of the Little Miami River in both Greene and Warren County. Both Rebecca and Mary moved their Quaker membership from Hopewell to Caesar Creek Quaker Meeting by 1812, when Mary and Jonathan, Mary’s third son, stayed with Moses and Rebecca while Revolutionary Dan started his service as sheriff of Jefferson County, VA, now W VA.
I’m still searching for where/how they got the land, but, in 1814, Mary/Dan sold 236 acres near Bull-skin Run in northern VA, on a three-year mortgage; and Dan, Mary, and son, Jonathan, bought 2356 acres in Chester Township, Clinton County, Ohio, on a three-year mortgage. It looks like they just traded one acre in VA for ten acres here, adjacent to the site of the future JRBC, on the south side of, now, SR 73. I now own the southern-most 80 acres of that purchase.
In 1815, Dan bought 1300 acres in Chester Township, adjacent on the east to Moses McKay’s 1805 1000-acre purchase from Nathanial Massie, the first surveyor in the NW Territory.
In 1816, Revolutionary Dan built the still standing Dan Collett house, a mile south of future JRBC on the headwaters of the central branch of Jonah’s Run. In his 1814 Collett Centennial speech, Howard Collett wrote they first built a log cabin, west of the 1816 house.
In 1823, future JRBC founder, Jonathan Collett married Sarah McKay, the first of four Collett-McKay marriages in seven years. They moved to the Hole-in-the woods house Jonathan built on his south share of the 2356 acres. Ann Collett McCune, their first child, a future JRBC founder, and my g-grandmother was born in 1824, in the east room of their house.
After Mary Haines Collett died in 1824, Revolutionary Dan lived in his 1816 with his son, Founder Dan Collett and his 1827 wife, Caesar Creek Quaker, Virginia McKay, who died a year later while giving birth to their only child, Picnic Dan Collett. In 1832, Founder Dan Collett then married Founder Charity Hackney, and they had three kids. None of whom had any issue.
When Revolutionary Dan, never a Quaker, died in 1835, his five Quaker daughters-in-law placed his bones in nearby Caesar Creek Quaker cemetery, Founder Dan was living here when JRBC was started. Later, his son, Picnic Dan Collett, was the last Collett to live here.
In 1837, Joshua Collett got a Lebanon Baptist preacher to go to Collett Farm to minister to Mercy Collett, his sick sister, and later the first person buried in JRBC cemetery in 1839. After several visits, he baptized Founder Dan in Jonah’s Run in December 1837. By February 1838, he had baptized Jonathan, and Charity, and David Ashby, Revolutionary Dan’s nephew-whose Ashby father had served with George Rogers Clark in the Vincennes victory that was later important when John Jay, James Madison, and Ben Franklin successfully argued that the post Revolution boundary between the US and Canada should not be the Ohio River, but about where it now is- and Ann Collett, and Hannah Gaddis, a sister or cousin of Ashby’s wife.
In February 1838, the Lebanon Baptist pastor helped the six newly baptized persons organize JRBC.
In early 1839, Founder Dan Collett bought four+ acres from Quaker Levi Lukens. Three acres were on the south side of, now, SR 73; and one+ acres were on the north side, where the JRBC building and cemetery are now located. Like Quaker churches in the area, their new building had two Quaker-style front doors and a partition down the middle.
In 1842, Joshua Collett, the Lebanon circuit judge, was baptized in Jonah’s Run.
Charles Weaver gave our Invocation. His g-g grandparents were VA slaves. His g-grandparents were tenants on Dan Collett Farm, and his mother was born in that house. His aunt was born in a Collett log cabin, one of six cabins on Collett Farm, built by/for former slaves. She now owns the farm, adjacent on the north, to the middle Underwood farm, and she is a retired college teacher.
After my grandpapa, Dan Underwood, got cancer, Charles’s father was the last person to run the West Underwood orchard, where I was born. When I asked Charles if he helped, he said, when he was four, his dad taught him how to stand on the little Ford tractor and drive it while his dad sprayed apple trees. I also helped his dad.
Because Roger Hilbert, our pastor, couldn’t be here today to welcome you, I’ll quote something then Moderator, McKay Collett, said earlier when our cemetery was being renovated. McKay wrote, “Maybe twenty-five persons come to hear Pastor Roger Hilbert’s learned and inspirational sermons. “I make the journey from Cincinnati because it feeds my own soul so well,” explained Reverend Hilbert. “This church has an influence far beyond the people who hear my voice every Sunday. Jonah’s Run Church disciples are scattered around the country and the world. And, they learned their morality right here in this little church.”
I’ll testify to that personally. In September 1991, with seven other Purdue University professors, I was in Russia a week after the coup, when Gorbechov went out and Yeltsin went in.
Our job was to get acquainted with Russian ag researchers. We were in St Petersburg on the date of the 50th anniversary of the end of the 900-day German siege of the city. The next day, we visited our first of 15 Russian farm research stations. The offices of each of the Research Directors were the same. A picture of Lenin was still on the wall. A table extending from the Director’s desk had seats for our eight professors, plus their Director and his interpreter. Each table had plates of little fat sausages and fat-fat sausages and tomato slices. Also, each person had a glass filled with Pepsi, and an empty glass to be filled with Vodka.
After I didn’t drink any Vodka the second time, my party leader-sitting on my left-punched me. After I didn’t drink any Vodka the third time, the Research Director-sitting on my right-complained. That’s when I responded.
I said, “I’m now thinking of my 87-year-old mother. She used to come to our school and teach us the Loyal Temperance Legion Pledge, ‘Not too much of anything, and, somethings, none at all’”. No one spoke, either that day, or at any of the next research stations.
Now, Mom got her temperance lessons from her grandmother, Matilda Downing Underwood, a Harveysburg Quaker Grove Meeting recorded minister, an early temperance and women’s suffrage leader who lived in the middle Underwood farmhouse. JP Thornbury-the JRBC minister who baptized me before he baptized Mom-was a strong temperance preacher. And, when I cleaned out their bank safe deposit box, I found Dad’s Loyal Temperance Legion membership card.