Here the family lived throughout the Revolution, and as the ford of Bush River at the mills was on the direct road from Charleston and Columbia on to Saluda and Ninety-Six it was often the halting place of the scouts and frequently the armies of both Tory and Patriot camped and foraged here.
Judge John B. O'Neall says "To give a true picture of the bloody partisan war from 1780 to 1783 would be a most herculean task". Blood and plunder were the watchwords of many of the different parties who swept over old Ninety-Six, each party oppressing the other as much as they possibly could which raised the inveteracy to so great a height that they carried on the war with a savage cruelty, unworthy the name of manhood.
General Moultree in his memoirs says, "The conduct of these two parties (Whig & Tory) was a disgrace to human nature and it may with safety be said that they destroyed more property and shed more blood than the whole British Army".
The marauding scouts entered every dwelling and carried off everything which suited their fancy, bedding, clothing and provisions. Often whole families were turned out with no protection save the forest, and no covering but the heavens.
With such scenes as these constantly passing before the eyes of the youthful Quaker Abijah O'Neall it was no wonder that his brave ancestral blood rushed with hot indignation through his veins and required all the restraint of religious teaching and parental authority to keep him a passive noncombatant.
Although not actively allied with the Patriot Army he was yet thoroughly posted as to all its movements and his knowledge of the country and the riper advice of his father was frequently sought and made use of in some of the most important movements of the Army under Gen. Green.
In January of 1781 when the British forces under Col. Tarleton were moving to strike Gen. Morgan (as he supposed in the neighborhood of Ninety-Six and which resulted in the Battle of Cowpens Jan 17th, 1781) Col. Tarleton camped on the farm of William O'Neall which they laid waste in wanton destruction. Crops, stock and fencing was all destroyed, the officers were billeted on the family, and of Abijah they demanded information of the numbers and position of Morgan's Army, which information he refused to give.
When the officers found they could not extort from him the information they desired by persuasion of threats they assaulted him in a most inhuman manner cutting his head with their swords until the scalp hung in tatters from his skull and he was left for little better than dead.
In an insensible condition he was carried to the home of John Kelly whose daughter Anna, proved the good Angel who nursed him back into life and eventually into health and whom he rewarded by a lifetime of devotion and love, their marriage being solemnized according to the rites of Friends in Bush River Meeting Dec 9th, 1784. After the marriage of Mr. & Mrs. O'Neall they settled on a farm near Newberry where he carried on a mixed business farming, hauling to and from Charleston and manufacturing. He appears to have owned an establishment for the making of farm implements and tools, into which he introduced the manufacture of screw augers under the superintendance of Mr. Benj. Evans, the inventor of that now well known tool. Judge O'Neall in his Memoirs of Newberry says, "Many a box of augers have I hauled to Charleston, some of which were shipped to England".
At the close of the Revolution the finances of the country were in a very demoralized condition and prices were very high with but little purchasing value to the money. I will give a couple of receipts for goods bought by William O'Neall during that period of inflation.
William O'Neall, Charlestown Aug 2nd, 1777
Bot of Tho Burke
|One paper of pins 3S.(p||L3.S.9p|
|2 pair of Womens hose 17S6p||17.6|
|2 lbs Alspice 10.S||10.0|
|14 Yds Green Calimaneo||7.00.0|
|4 Yds Red Durant||3.|
|20 lbs Salt 17S a p||17.10.0|
|4 Wool hats, 2 yds Calico||4.10|
|1 pc Tape 7S,6p||.4.6|
|3 Pounds Coffee 15S||15.0|
|8 pounds Coperas, 1/2 lb Ginger||1.5.0|
|1 India silk handkerchief||1.12.6|
|187 lbs Barr Iron 7L||13.00.9|
|55 lbs Axe Barr 2S,6p||7.|
|30 lbs Brown Sugar||5.12.1|
|39 Wire Sieve 35S||1.15|
|5 Gallons Molasses 62.6||3.2.6|
|2 Quires of paper 7S.6p||15|
|2 pounds Allspice||15|
At the death of his father (William) in 1789 [actually in 1786, AEO'N], Abijah O'Neall and his brother Hugh were made executors of his will and upon them devolved the responsibility of settling up his large estate and the management of his extensive business relations. Being the elder of the two brothers much of the responsibility rested upon Abijah, and for the next four years he devoted himself with untiring assiduity to the successful accomplishment of this undertaking. During these years of active business life he was chafing under what he considered the injustice and criminality of the institution of human slavery and the unavoidable evils attending the rearing of a family under its blighting influences.
Kentucky and Tennessee were at that time the West and both of them recognized Negro slavery. The adoption of the Ordinance of 87 and the opening of the territory North of the Ohio River for occupancy opened a field of promise to those who wished to escape from the evils which they could not control. And in May 1798, Mr. O'Neall left home for the purpose of selecting a future abode for his family in a land consecrated to freedom forever.
His tour of observation carried him through Tennessee, Central Kentucky & South Western Ohio. Crossing the river at Cincinnatti he passed up the Little Miami to where Millford now is, and there turning to the east he went up the East Fork of the Miami via of Williamsburgh and Hillsborough to the neighborhood of Chillicothee. After spending some days examining the Scioto bottoms and adjoining highlands he again turned southward, recrossing the Ohio River at Maysville, passed south through Northern Kentucky to Louisville where he spent some time with Col Richard C. Anderson, after which he returned to South Carolina, arriving at home July 27th, 1798.
Very soon after arriving home, he and his brother-in-law Samuel Kelly negotiated with Dr. Jacob Roberts Brown for the option on his Military land claim in Ohio. Brown's claim was for 3110 2/3 acres, said to be situated near the village of Waynesville and on the east side of the Little Miami River.
In September of the same year Messrs Kelly and O'Neall started west to look up their contemplated purchase and on October the 4th, 1798 they arrived at Waynesville. Here they spent some time in looking up their land which lay in the vicinity and acquiring information which would enable them to locate some other tracts which were not located in the immediate neighborhood. While here they had one of their pack horses stolen, but being pressed for time they made no attempt to regain their stolen property.
The tracts of land which they saw, meeting their joint approval they returned to South Carolina and closed the bargain with Dr. Brown paying him $2100 dollars in gold for his military claim to 3100 2/3 Acres.
In the opinion of Mr. & Mrs. O'Neall one of the first steps to be taken in preparing for their contemplated removal from their southern home was the manumission of their slaves of which by inheritance Mrs. O'Neall was a large holder. Under the laws of South Carolina the manumission of slaves was both complicated and attended by many legal difficulties. The Master being required to give bond and security that the manumitted slave should not become a public charge and also that he should not become amenable to the laws of the State through the commission of a crime.
There were few persons who were willing to give such bond and still fewer who were willing to go on a bond of such character, and in the end, the freed slaves caused Mr. O'Neall much trouble, he having to make three separate journeys from Ohio to South Carolina on account of their misdeeds and general shiftlessness.
Among their slaves was one very valuable man known as George. He was much distressed at the idea of the heavy pecuniary loss which his manumission would entail upon the family of his mistress and with tears in his eyes he went to Mr. O'Neall and begged that he be sold, in urging his pleas he said that Ned Threat (an adjoining planter) would give $800 dollars and that the Master's family could not afford to lose so much money. He received the reply that his Master did not propose to abandon the homes of his fathers, sunder family ties, turn his back upon kindred and friends to make a home in the wilderness, that he might escape the stain of slavery, and carry with him the price of blood. George was freed with his fellows.
In the late summer (1799) all arrangements being completed Mr. O'Neall went before the Bush River Monthly Meeting (of which he was a member) and asked for an official letter of withdrawal from that church. After due deliberation the official Board declined to grant the request and gave as a reason for doing so "the expressed desire was not that of a sane man, the desire to take his family from their home and friends into the wilderness was so unreasonable as to show, of itself, an unbalanced mind, and the request could not be granted".
Mr. O'Neall denounced them in no measured terms as being hypocritical, that the stain of human blood was upon their souls, and that the Almighty would visit them with swift and severe punishment for their hypacrasy, that their church would be scattered to the four winds, that their members would seek an asylum elsewhere and the land left desolate and sterile as the plains of Arabia. A prediction which was fulfilled to the letter as far as the church was concerned, for in less than ten years out of a membership of near one hundred families all had gone but eleven of the original members, over two hundred of which had joined the established church at Waynesville and in a few years more the doors of the parent church were closed forever.
Near the close of September 1799 the family train started westward. Mr. O'Neall's own outfit consisted of five wagons each loaded with articles deemed necessary for the establishment of a home in a new country, besides the wagon which was especially devoted to the occupancy of the wife and children, and which was entrusted to the care of an extra careful driver. Mr. O'Neall traveled on horseback for the purpose of selecting the road, hunting up the fords on the streams, locating camps and securing any provisions for the families or feed for the animals which might be secured on the way.
The entire train consisted of 14 wagons and five pack horses with the saddle horse ridden by Mr. O'Neall. The party consisted of the families of Mr. O'Neall, David and Ellis Pugh, William Mills, Robert Kelly, Isaac Perkins and two other families whose names are not now known.
The route pursued from Newberry was by way of Greenville through Saluda Gap to Asheville, N.C., along the French Broad River, crossing Bald Mountain to Greenville, Tennessee via Cumberland Gap, Barberville, Crab Orchard and Lexington, Ky., to Cincinnatti, and by way of Lebanon to Waynesville. Practically the same road which remained the great thoroughfare of travel from the southeast to the northwest to the present day. The time consumed by this trip was 42 days from the point of departure to the final terminus.
The wagon in which Mrs. O'Neall and her children rode was driven by a colored man who had formerly been her slave and who was known as Bill. On the afternoon of October 31st as the wagon reached the top of a hill Mr. O'Neall rode up alongside of the family conveyance and addressing his wife, he said, "Anna there is Waynesville." "Where, where", was her eager inquiry. "There, just below us in the valley, see", pointing to a little group of round log cabins, 14 roofs in all, including stables, pig pens and all out buildings. And that was Waynesville that was the future home that was the goal of all those weary weeks of travel, the reality of all the fond dreams of fancy. All was so different from what imagination had pictured it and the contrast with her childhood home amid the palmtrees that Mrs. O'Neall involuntarily burst into tears. Bill, full of sympathy for his mistress, sought to console her, and the honest fellow blurted out one "never mind misses never mind, mighty rich dirt, put one gallon of dirt in pot and bile him, he make two gallons of grease".
The family moved into and occupied for the winter a cabin which stood immediately in front of what is now the Hammell house and the spot was then (as we believe it has been ever since) occupied by a tavern, and which was kept by a man named Coary. Waynesville was not then a prohibition town and the scenes of Bachanalian revelry, and ribald conduct which was hourly enacted there was very distasteful to Mrs. O'Neall so she had one of the wagons drawn up and left immediately in front of her door. On being questioned as to why she did so her reply was that she did not wish her children to see such scenes of degradation as were continually occurring there.
While buildings suitable for occupancy were being erected on the farm east of town the family remained in the village and I remember to have heard my father say that they stabled a cow and two calves all winter in a sycamore tree which stood on what was then the river bank, and just above what is now the foot of Miami Street. I have also heard him say that the hollow of the tree was large enough for a man to take a ten foot rail and turn it around in the hollow without striking at any point.
Early in the spring of 1800 they moved to the survey east of town, which was known as Brown's Survey No 791, and contained six hundred and sixty acres. The patent bore as date of survey, Nov. 16th 1794, and was issued to Abijah O'Neall as assignee of Jacob Brown "done at Washington Jan 17th in the year 1800, and in the 24 year of American independence", signed by John Adams & Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State. The buildings were located on what is now known as Diamond Hill, the present brick house being built by him at a subsequent period (1808).
The Family now being permanently situated in their new home, Mr. O'Neall seriously addressed himself to the business of improving the country and the people with whom he had cast his lot. After providing for the immediate physical wants of his family he turned his attention to their moral and intellectual wants. In the year 1802 he caused a school to be taught at his own house in which his own, and some of the children from the village were taught, the teacher being Joel Wright. He also taught at the same place in 1804, 5 & 7, and in 1808 the school at Mr. O'Neall's was taught by Elizabeth Wright, a sister of Joel's.
Very soon after the family was settled at Waynesville the influx of Quaker families from the south began to steadily flow North and West. This was the point around which they centered. In 1801 there came the Kellys, Falkner, Compton, Holloway & Richards. In 1802 & 3 there was the Hollingsworths, Steddoms, Spray, Furnas, Cleaver, Pearson, Cook, and many other well known families which made the organization of a church not only feasible but desirable, and in 1803 the first Friends Church north of the Ohio River was organized at Waynesville, the organization being effected and the first meetings held at the house of Mr. O'Neall. In 1805 they built a substantial log house for the purpose of holding their meetings in; the building occupied the ground on which the Orthodox Church now stands.
During the years from 1800 to1810, the home of Mr. O'Neall was the objective point at which the travel worn emigrant found rest. His house was open to the women and children and his barns and granaries furnished feed for their jaded teams. His knowledge of the country was always freely imparted to those who sought advice, and his time given to those who required assistance.
One of Waynesville's oldest and best known citizens tells how, when in 1818 his father came to Waynesville with a large family of small children dependant on his daily toil for support Mr. O'Neall went to him and asked him if his family was well supplied with food, and received the reply "Not very well, but with God's mercy we hope to live". "Go into my barn, there hang the flails, thresh what wheat you want and go in welcome."
During the war of 1812 & 14 his home was a asylum open to the families of the friendly Indians from the northern frontier for many of whom it would have been unsafe to remain near their former homes. Among others was the wife and child of the interpreter, attached to Gen Harrison staff, who were members of the family for two years. And many pleasant reminiscences we have heard told in our childhood days of Mrs. Kishway Ash, and her little daughter Katie, and one white haired lady is still able to repeat the lullaby which the old Indian woman used to crone to her in her infancy.
In 1802 Mr. O'Neall became the financial agent of Col Richard C Anderson for the sale and transfer of his Virginia Military Lands of which he held large bodies. In collecting the payments for said lands there were frequently large sums of money to be transferred from Waynesville to Lexington, Ky. In those days when there was neither Banks nor Express Co's the transfer was a matter of both difficulty and danger. We remember one instance when it was necessary to remit $13,600 dollars in silver. An ordinary two horse wagon with a good strong bed was used, the money placed in small canvas bags, was put in the bottom of the bed and around them was a packing of fine hay, over this was secured a false bottom and then the wagon was loaded with some light produce for Cincinnatti, after making which point and discharging its apparent load it continued on to Lexington where its more valuable freight was turned over to Col Anderson.
The distance to market and the condition of the roads were such as to give rise to enterprises which to us of the present day seem chimerical. In 1817 the Legislature of Ohio incorporated the Little Miami Canal and Banking Co, with a capital of $300,000. The object was to construct locks and make slack water navigation on the Little Miami River, also to do a general banking business. Mr. O'Neall and ten other gentlemen, among whom were Gov Morrow, Richard Mather and John Satterthwait of Waynesville were the incorporators. The river was to be made navigable from the Ohio to Waynesville and the company was authorized to collect ten cents per ton for lockage at each lock. It is not necessary to say that the project was never carried out, but when we recollect that it took a four horse team five days to transport twelve barrels of flour, or 2500 pounds of pork to Cincinnatti and return then the projectors of the scheme are to be commended for their enterprise, and desire to lift themselves out of the mud.
The very defective surveys of the Virginia Military Lands in which Mr. O'Neall was a large dealer was the cause of much litigation. Many weary and expensive law suits were continually arising. In 1819 he purchased of Dunean McArthur (afterwards Gov of Ohio) a large tract of land in Ross Co. As was usually the case in transfers the title called for certain meets and bounds, the whole containing fifteen hundred acres "be the same more or less". On having the land surveyed the tract was found to contain a little over two thousand acres. McArthur refused to give possession of a part of the survey claiming that his contract was filled when 1500 acres had been turned over to the purchaser. Mr. O'Neall claimed that he had bought to certain lines and corners and that his title should cover all the land embraced in those lines.
Suit was brought to dispossess McArthur, tried in the local courts and decided in Mr. O'Neall's favor. McArthur appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio then sitting in Chilicothee where the case was again decided in O'Neall's favor, when McArthur gave notice of an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. The property, the title of which was involved in this suit has since become historic as Fruit Hill Farm, the home of Gov & United States Senator Wm. Allen.
At the close of the trial before the Supreme Court of Ohio at Chilicothee in May 1823 as Mr. O'Neall was returning home he was attacked with cramp colic and died at the village of Port William in Clinton County, May 11th 1823.
It is now necessary for me to go back and bring up another point in the family history to explain why this suit was allowed to go by default. At the death of Mr. O'Neall his personal affairs fell into much confusion. A few weeks prior to his death he had met Col Anderson at Cincinnatti for the purpose of having a final settlement with him, at which time he had paid Anderson $7,480 and took his receipt for that amount. Anderson returned to Louisville and Mr. O'Neall to his home. The death of both of the parties very soon following and occurring very near the same time. When Mr. Anderson's administrators went to settle his estate he found large obligations from Mr. O'Neall to Mr. Anderson, obligations of such a character as could not be offset in any other way than by the production of a receipt in full. Such receipt could not be found among Mr. O'Neall's papers. His executors were satisfied that the obligation had been canceled but were unable to find any record of the transaction. There was no alternative left but to raise the money and repay the Anderson estate.
Everything which could be turned into money was so converted. Real estate was sold, stock was sacrificed, grain forced upon the market, and by great exertions and heavy pecuniary loss the money was raised and a second time the Anderson claim was liquidated. At a period two or three years subsequent one of the sons was one day listlessly turning the leaves of an old book (The Life of George Fox) when an old paper dropped from between the leaves, to the floor. On examination it proved to be the lost receipt from Col Anderson for $7,480. One of the Executors took the receipt and went to Lewisville where he showed it to Anderson's executor, who said there was no doubt but that it was genuine and in Col Anderson's own handwriting, but that the business of the estate had once been settled a settlement made with the Court, and that under the laws of Kentucky the case could not be re-opened. In those dark days of the family an expensive lawsuit could not be thought of and McArthur remained in undisputed possession of Fruit Hill Farm.
The personal appearance of Mr. O'Neall was that of a strong willed, self reliant man, one born to be master of himself and others, a leader among men, and a controller of events. In an old book in the possession of the writer he is described as being five feet eight inches high stout well knit frame, round shouldered light brown hair, eyes grey, rather long upper lip and a square strong jaw, his head was massive requiring a No 8 hat, with a broad well developed forehead and a face that displayed great firmness. Such was indeed his character. He filled the Italian description Vir bonus tenax propositi. With him to propose was to do, he might break but he did not bend.
He had some peculiarities. He chose not to sleep upon feathers, but preferred a bed of good clean straw. He drank neither tea nor coffee. He wore his hair clipped close to his head and always had four holes cut in the crown of his hat. Those who did not know him well called him eccentric, but the explanation was that ever after being so cut on the head by the British officers during the Revolution he suffered much with nervous headache and wore his hair short and kept his head as cool as possible, by way of palliative.
With all his firmness and determination, he was as gentle and conciliatory in his intercourse with men as a woman. His heart always went out to every worthy object and his charity always responded to every call made upon it. His home was always open to the homeless and the stranger was always welcome at his table and in him the unfortunate always found a friend.
A lifelong church member, he hated everything like hypocrisy and cant, but went through the world dispensing sunshine and gladness on all with whom he came in contact. He was in the habit of looking into the motives of men, rather than their superficial acts. "He was liberal, and prone to kindly views of men and things, and quick to see the feeblest springs of good, where most saw vice alone, none saw truth with clearer sight obeyed her teachings more than he".
The preceding 8-page account of the Life and Times of Abijah O'Neall was copied directly from the original, longhand version, written in ink by George T. O'Neall in a book kept by him, the grandson of the subject of the piece.
There is another copy of this piece floating around, carrying the by-line of Chauncey H. Tillman, who was the husband of Eva O'Neall Tillman, a great grand daughter of the subject. The Tillman copy was copied from a paper held by Seth Furnas (resident of Social Row, near Waynesville) which in turn had been copied from a paper loaned to him by Martha O'Neall Henderson, who was also a great grand-daughter of the subject. The Tillman copy contains some errors and omissions.
In making this copy of the original I have not followed completely the spelling and the paragraphing of the original manuscript since the original, in many instances, starts a new paragraph with each sentence. However, this copy is substantially the same as the original and is a more exact copy than the Tillman version.
Albert E. O'Neall
(Great, great grandson of the subject)
10 February 1988
P.S. George T. O'Neall, the author of this piece, was born 15 February 1830 and died 27 August 1906, so this account was written before 1906. Also, in connection with this account, read the copy of the actual diary kept by Abijah O'Neall on his exploration trip to the Waynesville area in 1798 (on following pages). [Click here to return to beginning of document.]