Monday, July 26, 2021

Beams in My Home Town and Other Personal Stuff (Part 3)


The blockhouse, a basic log cabin with a distinctive overhanging roof, was a common type of fortification on the early 19th century American frontier. (This one is at Fort Ouiatenon in Indiana.)

Near the time Rev. Bowman preached his sermon at Beam’s Mill, Beam and his neighbors erected a blockhouse at the site. Blockhouses were an indispensable part of frontier defense during the run-up to the War of 1812 and throughout the war itself.

Blockhouses are fairly simple; a square, two-story cabin made of hewn logs. Their one unique feature is that the second story overhangs the first on all four sides. There are firing positions on all four sides and both levels, and through openings in the overhanging floor.

Beam’s Mill needed a blockhouse because despite the 1783 treaty that officially ended the Revolutionary War, the British--working from Canada--had continued to harass American settlers in Ohio and other parts of the vast frontier territory. Usually they acted through their Indian allies. The Indians, of course, had their own issues with the Americans. Conflicts increased as the settler population steadily grew and was one cause of the 1812 conflict.

Most of the defense for people living on the frontier was self-provided through local militia organizations. Because people were so spread out, on farms often miles apart, designated places were needed for mustering the militia. Strengthening the defenses of those places also seemed prudent.

Whenever folks sensed trouble, they rushed to the nearest blockhouse.

In the countryside around Mansfield there was a blockhouse every few miles. The next nearest one to Beam’s was in the center of Mansfield, about three miles away.

The downtown blockhouse stood for many years and, after the war, it became the town's first courthouse. In a desire to preserve it, the building was moved a couple times until arriving where it stands today in Mansfield's South Park. The first floor consists of wood from the original building, the second floor was augmented with lumber from another period cabin. The building, an important part of Mansfield's identity, got a facelift in 2007.

No trace of the Beam's Mill blockhouse remains.

Once the War of 1812 began in earnest, U. S. troops in the area made use of the blockhouse network because in addition to being defensible, blockhouses usually were part of a larger settlement where soldiers could re-provision, gather intelligence, and take care of other needs.

Soldiers back then considered whiskey an essential provision. At the siege of Fort Meigs, about 100 miles from Mansfield, the Americans were short of shot for their twelve pound guns. Their commander, future president William Henry Harrison, offered a gill of whiskey (about 4 ounces) to any man who retrieved one of the enemy’s twelve-pounders and delivered it to the magazine keeper.

Harrison got the ammunition he needed and it only cost him 30 gallons of whiskey.

Next time, in Part 4, the Ohio Beams play a major role in two early tragedies of the War of 1812.


Andy said...

Love this series of essays on Mansfield's early days. Thanks, Chuck.

t ball said...

Seconded, this is a fun read. I'd quibble, lol, though with saying "back then" soldiers considered whisky an essential provision. What soldier, in any era, has not considered quality beverages an essential provision?

Sam Komlenic said...

I am also enjoying this 'non-bourbon' content!