Thursday, July 29, 2021

Beams in My Home Town and Other Personal Stuff (Part 4)


The War of 1812 is often called the Second War for American Independence. It was fought on several fronts, including the Ohio frontier and the Great Lakes.

When the War of 1812 began, the U. S. Army joined local militia protecting settlers in and around the tiny frontier community of Mansfield, Ohio. A diary kept by an American soldier on a march through northern Ohio tells about a visit to Beam’s Mill while his company was camped at Mansfield. 

The entry for November 20, 1812, reads: “We got orders to march and got ridy (sic) and orders was countermanded we went to Beam's mill to press corn and got it by paying 62 1/2 cents per bushel then returned to camp.”

This may have been war profiteering, or perhaps Nissenson got a detail wrong in his novel, The Tree of Life. Nissenson has his protagonist pay Beam about 30 cents to mill 300 pounds, which is around 5 1/3 bushels of shelled corn. If both accounts are accurate, then Beam was charging the U.S. Army more than 10 times the going rate.

Assuming "press" means the same as "mill" or "grind," that is. If it meant something more like "get," then perhaps 62 1/2 cents per bushel was a fair price.

Whichever it was, the Army in those situations typically 'paid' with promissory notes, not gold, and the U.S. government’s promises weren’t as good then as they might be considered today, so perhaps both sides were indifferent to the price being charged as neither expected any actual money would ever change hands.

Arriving as he did in November, the diarist missed the most significant war-related events involving the Beam settlement.

A few miles southeast of Beam’s Mill was a small Indian village known as Greentown. It was close to where Perrysville is today. The inhabitants were mostly Delaware but a few were Mohawk and Mingo. Although the Greentown Indians were considered peaceful, there were concerns about rising tensions, exacerbated by British agents.

American policy in the region was to concentrate the Indian population as much as possible. Late in August of 1812, the people of Greentown were ordered to relocate about 140 miles to the southwest, to Piqua (near present day Dayton) “for their own good.”

The people of Greentown had been assured that the relocation was temporary but immediately after they left, U. S. troops torched the village. The inhabitants were still close enough to see the rising smoke and realized they had been deceived. 

No one can say for sure if what happened next was retaliation for that betrayal, but it always has been assumed that it was.

A few weeks after the torching of Greentown, troops bivouacked at Beam’s Mill were patrolling the area and discovered the bodies of four dead settlers at the nearby farm of George Zimmer. Although it was known that Zimmer had some personal conflicts with local Indians, it was assumed that the Zimmers, their daughter, and a neighbor were killed because of the destruction of Greentown. Maybe not, but their deaths caused many settlers to flee to Beam’s Mill for the security of its blockhouse and bivouacked troops.

Four days later a small detachment of soldiers was dispatched from Beam’s Mill to the nearby farm of James Copus as a precaution. Captain Martin, who was in command of the troops at Beam’s Mill, promised to send more the next day, but his scouts failed to detect any Indian presence so he concluded the danger had passed.

He was wrong.

That night, Indians attacked the farm killing three soldiers and one settler, and wounding several others. The event, known as the Copus Massacre, is commemorated with a small stone monument at the site. Most kids who grow up in Mansfield go there on a field trip at some point. 'Massacre' is probably an overstatement, as the settlers were well-armed and fought back. 'Skirmish' may be closer to the truth.  

There is nothing to mark the graves of approximately twelve soldiers who died of disease while stationed at Beam's Mill. The exact location of their remains is unknown.

After the war, things settled down at Beam's Mill. The blockhouse was taken down and grain milling became the principal activity there. The Beams sold it and after several owners it became known as Campbell's Mill. In the 1840s, a new mill building was constructed on the original foundations. It continued until the 1930s. Today the property is Hattery & Chatlain Nursery. Nothing marks the site today, but that is really where Mansfield began.

Descendants of Jacob Beam still live in the Mansfield area.

Next time, in Part 5, we will meet one of Mansfield's favorite and most famous native sons.


t ball said...

Keep it coming, this is great reading.

Timothy Clark said...

Recently found your blog while researching the Copus and Zimmer massacres and was pleased to find extremely helpful information. Great work, thanks for sharing!