A Story of Reason Whitacre
By Sally Knepper Jechura
written 1995

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a children's non-fiction story I wrote for the 1995 Whitacre/Grames reunion, held in Bowling Green (Wood County, OH). A copy of this booklet is at the Wood County Ohio Historical Society.


Table of Contents

Introduction

As a newcomer to the hobby of genealogy (I got interested in March 1995), I am very excited to share with you what I have learned so far. We are very fortunate in that the Whitacres have left a wonderful legacy of information about their lives, starting with our immigrant ancestor, John Whitacre I. John was born in England, served time in prison (probably because of his Quaker activities), and immigrated to Pennsylvania on the ship 'Britannia' in 1699. He and his wife, Jane Parker Scott, had only two sons, John II and Robert. John II had 10 children (from whom we all have descended); Robert had nine. From that generation forward, the country was well populated with Whitacres! John I lived an extraordinarily long life for one born in the 17th century. He was 90 years old when he passed away in 1742. Longevity seems to be a blessing bestowed on many of the Whitacre descendants, especially the males.

I had the idea of writing a children's story when I received from the Wood County Historical Society some information, based on my query, about Reason Whitacre. Since genealogical information can get quite complicated (just ask my mom about THE PHONE CALLS), the approach of aiming the story towards children, hence simplifying the information, appealed to me.[EDITOR'S NOTE: my mother passed away in April of 1996. She enjoyed the story, and my research really brought us together, for that I am truly grateful] I am not an expert by any means, and I'm sure there are some unintentional inaccuracies, but I'm giving it my best shot. Who knows, maybe this will inspire the next generation of family historians.

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Reason's Story

As a person attending this reunion, you are probably related to Bessie Whitacre Grames. She was my Grandmother, and perhaps she was your Great-Grandmother. This a true story about HER Grandfather, a man named Reason Isaac Whitacre.

Reason gave an interview for a book when he was a very old man. Much of the material for this story is from that interview. I have studied the history for the time and place, so we can get a feel for the way things may have been.


Part I Columbiana County, Ohio

Let's take a trip back to the time when Reason was born. James Madison was the fourth President of the United States. He was in office when Reason Isaac Whitacre was born on October 20, 1814. Reason was born in Columbiana County, Ohio. If you look at the map (at the end of this story) you will see that Columbiana is on the far eastern part of Ohio, near Pennsylvania. When Reason was born, Ohio had only been a state for 10 years, so you can guess that most of the land was wilderness.

RSlog.gif (126740 bytes) (Click on image to see full sized). Reason's home may have looked like this typical frontier log house.  Imagine living in a log cabin with your parents and many brothers and sisters. A place that is maybe a mile or two away from a town or settlement. A place that is almost on the edge of civilization, unseen by many people. A place where wild animals roam just outside your door! A place where you don't always feel welcome by the neighboring Native American Indian tribes! Some times your parents are so afraid the Natives will attack, that they gather you and the rest of the family together and seek shelter in the nearest settlement. If you can imagine this, you have a good idea about Reason's childhood. Does this sound exciting to you? Does this sound scary to you? To Reason, this was just the way of life on the frontier in the early 1800s.

Pioneer life was very hard work for everyone in the family. Reason's father was named Mahlon. Mahlon was a very large man, weighing 225 pounds. He was a respected man in the settlement community, both for his farming skills and fine character. Papa Mahlon would spend his days tending the crops, hunting or trapping wild game for meals, and fixing or making tools. Papa would also lend a helping hand to new a neighbor, when it came time to clear the land or build the house. Reason's mother was named Phoebe. Mother Phoebe would work as hard as Papa. She helped with the farm work. She took care of her many children. She cared for the family members if they were ill. Clothing was never store bought (there were no stores!), so Mother Phoebe had to spin wool, weave the yarn and sew clothing for the family!

 

RSwheel.gif (69635 bytes)(Click to see full size image) Mother would also be in charge of meals. Mealtime was interesting when Reason was a boy. A typical meal might have been some kind of wild meat (what ever Papa caught that day), beans, potatoes, and lots of corn bread. There were a lot of fresh peaches and raspberries to enjoy in Columbiana. To drink, there would be fresh milk from the family cow. Reason may have drunk his milk out of a hollowed gourd or animal horn. The wooden spoons, bowls and plates were carved by Papa and the other men in the family.

Raising the children was another time consuming job. Families were much larger in those days. After all, mothers and fathers needed LOTS of helpers for all the chores! Mahlon and Phoebe were blessed with 12 other children besides Reason. Just for fun, I would like to share their names with you. Reason's brothers were: Preston, Edward, Joel, Hiram, Isaac, John and Milton. His sister's names were: Julia, Lydia, Sarah, Keziah, and Patience.

As you can see, life was very different 175 years ago. There was no electricity, indoor plumbing, radio, cars, trains, bicycles, or telephones. But, one thing they DID have was school! Not like the one you go to, but Reason did attend a one room schoolhouse, along with his brothers and sisters. A settlement school had few, if any books. They had no black board, maps or charts. Reason would have learned his lessons by "rote," which means repeating something over and over again until you know it. (This is the way you and I learned our ABCs.) Reason may have had a slate and chalk to write with, or he may have had a board with a piece of charcoal or a goose quill and berry ink to write with .

Young children would learn their first lessons in the home, with parents as their teachers. Many children learned their ABCs from the only book the family owned, the Bible. Parents didn't spend a lot of time on "readin', ritin', and 'ritmetic" because other skills were very important to survive on the frontier. Reason and his brothers learned how to use a rifle and ax, care for the animals, and farm. The sisters learned to sew, cook, make candles, spin yarn, and weave. We know Reason was a good student, because he later became a school supervisor.

Once the houses in a settlement were built, the pioneers would get together and build the church. The church was more than a place to worship on Sundays. It was used as the gathering place for the pioneers. Phoebe and Mahlon would have taken their children to the church to meet the new neighbors or perhaps to talk about the weather and the crops. They would probably have gone to church to hear a traveling preacher, called a "circuit rider." He would travel by horseback around the area to different settlements and perform church services, funerals, weddings, marriages and baptisms.

The Whitacre family might have attended a "camp meeting." These meetings were organized by the preacher. Families would come from all around the area to sing and pray, camp out for a few days, eat good food and visit. A good time was had by all, especially by the unmarried boys and girls. This gave them a chance to meet, "court," and maybe later get married. We know that Reason probably enjoyed these activities as his father was very active in the Disciples Church.

You might be wondering if Reason ever had any real fun. Certainly pioneer life was filled with hard work. But, whenever possible, they liked to mix work with fun and sports. In the fall, Reason may have gone to corn husking parties. At a corn husking party, the corn would be put into 2 equal piles. Neighbors would form teams to see who could finish their pile first. In the spring, Reason probably joined a large group at a local maple grove. There they would make sugar and syrup, with lots of visiting and story telling going on. Sometimes, the Whitacres may have gone to a barn or cabin raising, or maybe a quilting bee. After the work was finished, someone would break out a fiddle. The music and dancing would provide a fine evening of merriment.

Reason lived at the Columbiana home until he was 19 years old. That was when his father and mother decided to move even farther west to a place called Wood County, Ohio. We know that Columbiana was growing as more people started moving there. Maybe they wanted to start over in a new wilderness. Mahlon may have heard stories of the fine timber and rich soil of Wood County. Maybe the chance to buy a larger amount of land made him decide to move. Whatever the reason, the Whitacre family was soon on their way to the start of another pioneer adventure.

There is no doubt that the Pioneer Spirit possessed the Whitacre men. As you will see below, almost every generation of Whitacres moved on, always looking for adventure. This gets confusing for a moment, but try to follow along. [There is a chart in this booklet you can look at later that explains this better.]

The first John Whitacre was born in England and came to Pennsylvania in 1699. (He would be your 8th great grandfather)

His son, John Whitacre 2, moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia.

The grandson, John Whitacre 3, stayed in Virginia.

John 3 had a son named Edward Whitacre.  Edward moved from Virginia to West Virginia.

Edward had a son named Mahlon (yes, Reason's father -- you're doing well!). Mahlon married Miss Phoebe Beck. Soon after the wedding, they moved to Columbiana, Ohio.

That brings us back to where we started our story.


Part II Wood County, Ohio

RSwagon.gif (81477 bytes)(click to see full size image) In the spring of 1833, Papa Mahlon came on foot to Wood County and selected about 600 acres of land to purchase. He was one of the first pioneers to buy land in the county. He decided to build his new home near what is now Cygnet. Mahlon returned to Columbiana to pack his family and belongings for their new home. On April 18, 1834, Reason, along with his parents and his brothers and sisters, left Columbiana for good. They traveled to their new home in the Wood County Wilderness. A wagon driven by oxen was their transportation across the almost 200 miles of rugged terrain. The family brought one cow along with them, the younger children taking turns walking with her. The trip took 17 days to complete. The family would stop for the night and camp on the ground. In his later recollections, Reason remembered stopping at a few hotels along the way [there were several larger towns along the way that would have had hotels, stores and restaurants]. The farther west the family traveled, the worse the roads became. Sometimes, because of the mud and rocks, Reason's family could only cover 7 miles in a whole day (7 miles would take 10 minutes today in a car).

On May 14, 1834, Reason and his family arrived on their new land in Wood County. The family continued to camp out until the log house was built. The nearest neighbor was 2 miles away!

The first crop that Papa Mahlon planted was corn. Because of all the stumps and roots growing in the solid ground, Mahlon was unable to plow. He planted his corn in small holes he made in the ground. Because he was a skillful farmer, his corn crop was successful. Between the corn meal and plentiful wild game, the family did very well.

Reason, along with his father and brothers, made quite a bit of extra money by selling raccoon skins at $1.00 apiece. A dollar was a lot of money back then.

Papa Mahlon helped build one of the first school houses in the county (it may even have been the first). The school was on his property, as was a Disciples meeting house. A Whitacre school was still being used 50 years later!

Papa Mahlon died in 1847 at age 63. Mother Phoebe passed on in 1849 at age 64. Reason inherited some of the land after his father's death and continued the farm.

A few years after arriving in Wood County, Reason married Mary McCory. They had 8 children. Mary passed away in 1861.

In 1866 Reason married his second wife, Mary Matilda Bullis. They had 4 children together. One of these children was Arthur Isaac Whitacre. Arthur became the father of our beloved Bessie Whitacre Grames.

Reason lived a long and fulfilled life. He owned a 300 acre farm. Reason also had several oil wells on his land, which provided a good income for the family. He became a respected farmer and community leader.

Reason served his community well through many actives. Like Papa Mahlon, Reason was a leading member of the Disciples Church. He was involved in politics as a Republican candidate for various offices. Reason served as a Trustee, Justice of the Peace, School Supervisor and School Director.

Reason's long life came to an end on September 25, 1900, a few weeks before his 86th birthday. He is buried in Sugar Grove Cemetery, near Cygnet. This is also called the Whitacre Cemetery, as it is located on the old Reason Whitacre farm.

I hope you have enjoyed the story of Reason. I think we can all be proud of the part our forefathers played in the development of Wood County, Ohio.

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Map of Whitacre Trail

From Columbiana County to Cygnet in Wood County, Ohio — 1834

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Bibliography

Cemeteries in Bloom Township Wood County, Ohio compiled by The Wood County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society

History of Wood County by Beers, printed 1897. Photos of Reason and Mary; printed text.

World Book Encyclopedia Book P and O. illustrations and text.

Mostly about the Whitacre /Warner Families by Helen Burke 1981

The Old Northwest Pioneer Period 1815-1840 Buley 1951

Ohio Genealogy Guide by Carol Flavell 1978

The information on the pedigree charts is a result of my personal research from many, many sources.

Many thanks to the Wood County Historical Society . The information they shared with me is what motivated me to share with you.

Many thanks to my husband, John who was my "technical editor." Many thanks to my son, John, who served as my "critical editor," sharing his solicited and unsolicited comments. I sure HOPE my story doesn't sound like a history lecture!

Thanks Dad, your initial information got me going on the Whitacres.

Please contact me if you want to correspond and exchange Whitacre and or Grames information.

Sally Knepper Jechura

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