Transcript:Migration Story: Covered Wagons New Jersey to Ohio

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Excerpt transcribed from History of the Jackson Family of Hempstead, Long Island, N.Y., Ohio and Indiana, by Oscar Burton Robbins, pgs 49-52.

Job Allen the Third, was born July 2, 1780, on the old Allen Farm near Danville, Morris County, New Jersey, and Elizabeth Jackson was born Feb.12, 1782, at or near Rockaway in the same county and state. They were married in 1800 and lived, it is believed, for the ensuing fourteen years in the Allen Home where five children were born to them.

Then the spirit of Westward Ho! came upon them and they yielded to its appeal.

They evidently considered the problem, for some time, in fact Job Allen made an advance trip to Ohio, before the question was settled. Isaac J. Allen, a son of Job has left this record regarding that trip, "My father and two or three others had gone there (Knox County, Ohio) previous to the removal to view the county and secure farms; had traveled together on horseback across the mountains and returned, a full thousand miles in all."

This spying out of their lands in advance of actual migration, was not uncommon and was a most practical proceeding, for obviously it would have been a journey without definite objective. So let us accept Uncle Isaac's statement, and credit Job Allen with the round trip between New Jersey and Ohio, say in the year 1813, or possibly earlier.

I have never heard the reasons for their leaving New Jersey; probably there were several reasons, but we may be sure the chief one was the lure of the cheap but highly fertile lands to be found in Ohio. Had the reasons for the migration, and the discussions held relative thereto in the family circles been preserved, what an interesting chapter would be added to the family history.

The period of preparation for their departure must have been one of deep emotional experience, both for those who were going West and for those who were to remain in the East. There was sorrow over the separation of friends and kindred, which for many, as they well knew, was for the rest of their earthly lives; there was dread of the manifold dangers and hardships of the long journey and hope of home, comfort, and success to be won in the primeval forest of Ohio. These, and more, formed the warp and woof of their mental lives.

This pioneering was a tremendous undertaking and called for a high degree of courage, self reliance, and resourcefulness in those who were to make good, and the men and women who transformed Ohio from a virgin forest to farms had these qualities in a degree that may have been equaled but not excelled by any others of whom we have knowledge.

It was a large caravan that started West, a fact which added much to the safety, speed and ease of the trip. My grandfather James M. Allen, a son of Job and a member of that party, said there were six families; while Uncle Isaac said there were other families besides the related Allen-Jackson families but he did not tell us how many.

Perhaps grandfather counted all the Allens as one family and all the Jacksons as another, which would leave room for four other families to make his total of six. I wish I could give the complete personnel of that band of travelers; I give all I can.

The Allens consisted of Job Allen, age 34, and Elizabeth Jackson Allen, his wife, age 32, and their five children namely; Job Allen age 13, William age 9, Emily age 7, James M. age 4, and Isaac J. a baby, John Allen a brother of Job III age 32, and Charity (Kitchell) Allen his wife age 31, and probably three of their children.

To introduce the Jacksons, I quote what grandfather has written regarding them. He says: "In 1814 the aged Benjamin and Abigail gathered up their goods and all the children which they had got in Novo Cesarea and when September winds shook the fruit from the trees, in wagons drawn by oxen and by horses, over mountains, through swamps, and streams of water, cutting their way, the tribe after more than 40 days and nights settled and slept on the banks of the beautiful Ko-Ko-Sing in Knox County.

"Now I present them by name: Benjamin Jackson Sr., a veteran of the Revolution, the father of Elizabeth (Jackson) Allen, age 62; Abigail (Mitchell) Jackson, his wife age 59; David Jackson, son of Benjamin, age 28 and his wife Prudence (Hathaway) Jackson and possibly three children.  Daniel Jackson, son of Benjamin age 26, and his wife Lydia (her surname was probably Imlay, also spelled Emlay); Benjamin Jackson Jr. and his wife Nancy Robinson, age 15. They were married in February of that year so they may have considered this trip as a part of their honeymoon.

"Phoebe (Jackson) Lewis, the younger daughter of Benjamin and Abigail, who is elsewhere called Aunt Phoebe deserves our attention. She was then 30 years of age and a widow. She brought her two sons, James Lewis age 11, and Benjamin Lewis age 9, with her. About three years later she married secondly, John Vennum, and still later was a pioneer in Illinois. She is the Aunt Phoebe Vennum who lived to be 105 years old lacking 4 days."

I find that grandfather is slightly in error when he says that Benjamin brought all his chi1dren with him in 1814.  Ziba Jackson the oldest son, settled in Knox County, Ohio in 1807, and I fancy was very instrumental in getting his parents and the other members of the family to come West and join him.  (I have found evidence, good authority for saying that Isaac Jackson came West in 1807 with Ziba.  V. D .Allen) A count shows that there were fully 25 persons in the Allen-Jackson contingent of the company.

Now let us imagine ourselves at the place of assembly in New Jersey just as they are ready to start. Let us look into their covered wagons and take note of what these people, who were about to leave their old home forever, deemed as necessary equipment for the long journey before them and for establishing themselves in their new homes. We find a few dishes, some of earthen ware, but mostly pewter, a few simple cooking utensils of iron, brass and copper; there were candle sticks, candle moulds, warming pans and some personal belongings. Then a good supply of bedding with feather beds a conspicuous feature, clothing and perhaps some bolts of cloth, skeins of yarn, and leather to be later made into clothing and shoes.

Some simple household remedies and herbs for use in case of sickness. A few books, among which, Bibles and singing books predominate, a little furniture, such as chairs, bedsteads, cradles, chests, spinning wheels, and perhaps parts of looms.

They were going to land where timber is abundant and they have skill in the making of wooden house and farm implements and equipment, so such articles are necessary cargo. There is a good supply of iron implements as hoes, shovels, forks, plowshares, chains, scythes, sickles, and wood-working tools, such as axes, saws, augurs and many more.

Job and John Allen have their blacksmithing tools, and some iron bars, for in the years to come, in the new home, iron will be an extremely scarce article. Spare parts of their wagons, harness, ox bows, and extra shoes for their horses and oxen were carried of course. We find a lot of guns, bullet moulds and ammunition. Then a supply of seeds for fruit trees and vegetables, grains and tubers, yes, and flower seeds, too.

There is not much in the way of food for man or beast; they could find plenty of camping places where there was pasture for their live stock, and provisions could be purchased at the settlements along the way; while the forests which hemmed in their road for the major part of their trip would supply them with game. There were cows and some live stock to be driven along and some other articles in the wagons but even a complete inventory would not show much more than I have here enumerated: life was simple then.

Thus equipped, we find them assembled at the starting point, which may have been the Allen home, as it was located on the road to Dover.

The final good-bys have been spoken and amid the barking of their dogs, the excited shouts of the youngsters; the crackling of their long whips, and calling of "gee and haw" to the oxen, the caravan moves slowly away.

Quoting again from Uncle Isaac's writings--he says when migration was entered upon, they embarked with their families in their well covered 'Jersey Wagons' that were to serve as house and home during all the long toilsome journey. They were over six weeks-- 45 days making the transit.

Grandfather has left the following statement of his recollection of the migration. "When my father moved to Ohio in 1814, he carried money with him, and I remember it well, as a four year old might, or rather, I remember the beautiful painted tin box with the handle on top and a bright rose on each side and a brass pad-lock on its clasp. Oh! what a pretty thing it was; it was just the kind of a trunk for a good boy to have, and Aunt Phoebe who carried it said I was a good boy many a time."

"Yes, I remember we were moving; there were horses and wagons, and oxen and wagons. Oh! what a long row of them, the wagons all covered; Mama and baby Isaac were in one wagon; Aunt Phoebe and I walked and she carried that sacred and beautiful trunk which nobody touched. Whether that trunk was full of silver I can't say, but I have it in mind that father took $1700.00 to Ohio, a large sum in those days."

The routes used by my various ancestors in their migration to Ohio has been a problem of much interest to me, and I will next describe the one which I believe Job Allen and his companions used: The first town through which they passed was Dover, thence to Hacketstown, and next to Phillipsburg. These were then old roads as they are shown on the map of New Jersey made prior to the Revolution. At the latter town they crossed the Delaware river by ferry to Easton, Pennsylvania. From here they traveled to Bethlehem, on a road that lay to the north of the Lehigh river.

I fancy as they drove slowly away from Easton, there was many a backward look, through tear dimmed eyes, to the hills of New Jersey, as they faded from their view forever. At Bethlehem they crossed to the south side of the Lehigh river over a toll bridge, and continued on their way to Reading, Pa., where they came to the Schoolkill river, which I believe they crossed by ferry. They came next to Lebanon, then Harrisburgh where they ferried over the Susquehanna river, then came to Carlisle, Shippensburgh and Chambersburgh.

Thus far, they had traveled old roads, then considered good, through a pleasant rolling country, without difficult hills or many streams to cross, and well populated. But soon after leaving Chambersburgh the mountains rose grim and forbidding across their path, and their passage to Bedford must have been slow and difficult.

Perhaps it was this mountain climbing that made our great uncle Daniel Jackson mad, and caused the scene which grandfather has recorded. The incident also throws an interesting side light on our ancestor,Benjamin Jackson: I quote: "it is said that on many occasions on that journey, grandfather Jackson would have the whole company get together and sing a hymn or psalm." On one occasion [[Person:Daniel Jackson (31)|Uncle Daniel] was mad and wouldn't sing. "On the next occasion, grandfather gave out the tune named 'Concord'; and read the lines, "Let those refuse to sing, who never knew our God, but favorites of the heavenly King, may speak their joys abroad."

This was plain preaching to Uncle Daniel and he caved in. At Bedford they had the choice of continuing westward on the Pittsburgh road, or of turning nearly south and traveling a very old and much used road which skirted the eastern side of Will's mountain; this was probably a good road with few heavy grades. It must have looked quite inviting to our travelers after the strenuous mountain roads that lay behind them.

It was but 30 miles by this road, which I believe they took to Cumberland, Md., where they came to the Cumberland or National road. The National road was authorized by congress in 1806. Construction was begun in 1811 and in 1814 it had been cleared four rods wide all the way to the Ohio River at Wheeling, and the road-bed had been finished for a considerable distance. The story of this road is one of the great chapters of the westward expansion or this nation, and I like to think of my ancestors as among the early travelers on this historic highway.

Leaving Cumberland they came next to Frostburgh, Md., then Smithfield, Pa., where the road crosses the Youghiogheny river. Here, I believe, they had the adventure which grandfather has thus recorded, "Crossing the Youghiogheny river one of our horses called 'Old Yorker' got frightened and tumbled himself over the side of the flatboat and was drowned".

From here the road led to Brownsville, Pa., where they crossed the Monongahela river by ferry, and here, I believe, the improved road ended. Next came Washington, Pa., and somewhere in this part of their journey I feel sure they saw familiar faces again, as they had old neighbors and kinsman who had been for some years living in Washington County.

From Washington they traveled to Wheeling, West Va., and here the hills of eastern Ohio, the promised land, resplendent with autumn coloring stood before them. After ferrying over the Ohio river they followed Zanes Trace, then little more than a blazed Indian trail to Zanesville, Ohio, where they crossed the Muskingum river by ferry. From here I believe, they proceeded to Newark, but how, I cannot say and from there they turned north over the road, in name at least, to Mt. Vernon and Fredricktown.

Now that they had been piloted safely to their destination, let us make some calculations as to the distance they had traveled and the speed they had attained. Using the distance shown by modern roads, which are essentially the same though slightly shorter than those they traveled, we find the total distance to be 568 miles. They were 45 days on the road, but of course they did not travel every day; let us allow six Sundays and six more days when they stopped for repairs, cooking, washing, and foraging for supplies. They crossed six, perhaps seven, large rivers by ferries, which was a slow process, and could easily consume three more days, or a total of 15 days when they gained no distance. This leaves 30 days of actual traveling time to cover 560 miles, or an average of 18-2/3 miles per day, which is about two miles per hour.

How slow that seems when contrasted with the airplane of today, which could easily fly over the same route in four hours, yet every thing considered, they made the trip in good time. If as stated, they did not start until September, then it was near the first of November before they reached their destination, which left them little time in which to raise cabins for themselves, and shelter for their live stock.

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