Miami County, Ohio Genealogical Researchers -- Sponsored by the Computerized Heritage Association


    Back to England Mr. Furnas traces his ancestry. The first of the name of whom he has authentic record are John and Mary Furnas, who were born in Cumberlandshire, in the town of Standing Stone, which town derived it's name from a large rock, fifty feet in height, which is just outside the corporation limits. According to the English custom the eldest son of the family falls heir to the estate. The father of John Furnas was the owner of extensive real estate holdings and because of his wealth he was known as a lord or peer. Among his children was John Furnas, but as he was not the eldest son he did not come into possession of his father's property. In the same village lived Mary Wilkinson, who was born September 19, 1742. She attracted the attention of John Furnas, who gave her his love, and on the 24th of March, 1762, they were united in the holy bonds of wedlock, in the Friends meeting-house in Standing Stone. In the following October they embarked for Charleston, South Carolina, and on the 18th of February, 1763, they reached their destination. John Furnas died at Bush River, South Carolina, on the 5th of August, 1777, and his wife, surviving him about five years, passed away at the same place on the 6th of October, 1782. He was a man of fine physique, strong and well built, and was famed for his athletic powers when a young man. The story is told of how he managed to escape piratical slavery by a marvelous feat of swimming. When the waters that washed the English shores were sailed by many a private ship, John Furnas and a companion were captured by a pirate crew. The former made a vow that he would not be a slave to such men nor remain on board their vessel very long. Accordingly one dark night he and his companion tied their clothing on their backs, jumped overboard and were soon swimming toward what they supposed to be an island. They were shot at, but miraculously escaped being hit. They swam for a long time and at last John's mate said he could go no farther and sank to a watery grave, while John swam on for a short distance and landed in safety on an island. Later he was picked up by a friendly ship and returned to his home.

    In England the family name was spelled Furness, but has been changed to its present orthography in this country.

    William Furnas, the grandfather of our subject was born May 29, 1775, in South Carolina, married in 1797 to Rachel Wesley, and died December 21, 1833. Soon after his marriage he came with his young wife to Miami county and entered land in Newton township, securing one hundred and sixty acres, all of which was still in its primitive condition. He was a blacksmith by trade, and as there were no rolling mills at the time, iron was in the rough and was hammered out into shoes, nails and other such articles as were used in a blacksmith shop. A gristmill was erected not far from William Furnas' shop and he made all of the iron used in its construction. He was a poor man and had a hard task in providing for his family through the pioneer days, when many hardships were borne by all who lived upon the frontier. The family lived in a log cabin covered with a roof made from boards split from black walnut, and lasting many years. The house had but two rooms and was heated by a large old-fashioned fireplace. William Furnas died upon the farm which he there developed. He was a member of the Society of Friends, and in his political affiliations was a Whig.

    He had ten children, of whom the following brief record is given: John, who was born January 11, 1798, in South Carolina, was married August 30, 1827, to Hepsebeth Mills. Removing to Iowa, he made his home on the north bank of the Iowa river, in Iowa county, and there died March 16, 1855. Wilkinson, born in South Carolina, February 6, 1799, died August 16, 1808. Martin, born in South Carolina, February 11 1801, was married, September 3, 1823, to Morsena Patty, and took up his abode southeast of Pleasant Hill, Ohio, dying of cholera on his farm in 1849. Cary, born in South Carolina, June 14, 1803, was married, November 14, 1825, to Matilda Lovell, and located on Painter creek, Miami county, where he died October 6, 1872. Sarah was born in Ohio May 24, 1806, and died in Miami county May 24, 1826. Jacob, the next of the family, became the father of our subject. Joseph, born in Miami county, August 8, 1809, was married, September 15, 1834, to Margaret Spencer, and located on the old home farm, where he died May 24, 1884. Mary, born in this county October 6, 1811, became the wife of Robert Greenlee on the 19th of May, 1831, and located three miles west of Covington, where she died March 31, 1849. Robert, born May 22, 1813, was married, January 8, 1837, to Mary Jane Fowler, and removed to Iowa county, Iowa, his home being in Belle Plains. Rebecca, born September 29, 1815, became the wife of Isaac Tisor February 14, 1843, and died in Miami county on the 20th of June, 1849. Esther, born September, 21, 1817, married William Greenlee, and removed to Iowa county, Iowa, her death occurring in Belle Plains, that state, in 1899.

    Jacob Furnas, the father of our subject was born in Miami county March 28, 1807, and on the 22nd of June, 1834, married Abigail Large. After her death he was again married, his second marriage being celebrated March 16, 1868, when Margaret McDonald became his wife. He died June 14, 1881. His children were seven in number. Henry, the eldest, was born March 6, 1835, and died September 18, 1854. Joshua is the second in order of birth. Rachel, born February 24, 1842, is the wife of Samuel Brumbaugh, and lives near Madison, Greenwood county, Kansas. Mary, born October 21, 1844, died May 8, 1854. Martin, born March 3, 1847, died June 17, 1854. Sarah Ann, born July 23, 1849, died May 17, 1854. Joseph, born April 16, 1851, died on the 21st of the same month.

    Joshua Furnas, whose name introduces this review, was born August 18, 1839, on the farm which is still his home. When he had arrived at the usual school age he began his education in the district schools of the neighborhood, which he attended for about three months in the year until fifteen years of age. In the winter of 1859 he was a student in a Quaker school in Newton township, and after his return from the army he further continued his education. At the age of twenty he began teaching and followed that profession for several terms. On the 11th of December, 1863, at Pleasant Hill, he responded to his country's call for troops, enlisting in Company G, One Hundred and Tenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, under Captain J. C. Ullery and Colonel J. Warren Keifer. At the time of the inauguration of the civil war he had gone to Iowa and enlisted in the Twenty-eighth Iowa Infantry, with which he went to camp, but was discharged on account of disability. He then returned home and remained in this county until his second enlistment. He was then ordered to Columbus and placed on detached duty in the provost marshal's office. In May, 1864, he joined his regiment at Culpeper, Virginia, and on the 5th of May he participated in the battle of the Wilderness, where he received a musket ball wound through the left wrist. He went to the field hospital and was finally sent to Chestnut Hill hospital, in Pennsylvania. When he had sufficiently recovered he was sent home on a twenty-day furlough, and on the expiration of that time reported in the office of the provost marshal. He was again on detached service until September, when he rejoined his regiment in the vicinity of Winchester, Virginia, on the night of the 18th of September. The following day he participated in the second battle of Winchester, and on the 22nd was in the battle of Fisher's Hill. He then lay in camp at Cedar Creek until October 19th, when an engagement occurred there, after which the Union forces fell back to Middletown, Virginia, and built winter quarters. After two weeks there passed Mr. Furnas went with his regiment to the city of Washington and thence to Petersburg, where he remained in camp through the winter of 1864-65. It is claimed by many that the One Hundred and Tenth Regiment was the first to pass over the breast works at that point. For some time Mr. Furnas did clerical work for his company and on different occasions for his colonel. During the winter of 1864-65 he re-wrote the history of the regiment for the adjutant, William H. Harry. After the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg the Union forces followed the retreating Confederates, fought the battle of Sailors Run, April 7, 1865, and followed Lee to Appomattox, the One Hundred and Tenth Ohio being present at the surrender. They then spent two weeks in camp across the river from Richmond and afterward marched all the way to Washington, where Mr. Furnas received an honorable discharge on the 12th of June, 1865. At the battle of the Wilderness Major McIlvaine, of the One Hundred and Tenth, was on the firing line and his horse was shot from under him. He was thrown to the ground, but arose and walked toward Mr. Furnas, asking him if he was wounded. The latter replied that he was, and just at that moment Major McIlvaine was shot in the breast and killed almost instantly. Our subject's term did not expire with that of his regiment, but he applied for his discharge at that time and it was granted him on account of physical disabilities.

    When the war was over and Mr. Furnas was at liberty to return, he made his way to the old home farm, and the following winter he attended school at Pleasant Hill. Later he engaged in teaching. For a time after the war he made his home with his uncle, Joe Furnas, at Pleasant Hill. His mother was dead and he roamed about to a considerable extent, spending some time in southern Illinois. He was married, in Newberry township, at the home of the bride, October 6, 1869, the lady of his choice being Miss Eliza Dowler, who was born on the Joseph Dowler farm, in Newberry township, March 5, 1845, a daughter of William and Hannah Maria (Smith) Dowler. She at-tended school in Clayton until twenty-one years of age and subsequently engaged in teaching for about two terms.

    William Dowler, the father of Mrs. Furnas, was born February 9, 1792, and was married, on the 26th of August, 1818, to Eleanor Reynolds, who died in Newberry township July 19, 1840. On the 28th of April, 1842 he was joined in wedlock to Hannah Maria Smith. His death occurred April 6, 1849. The children by his first wife were as follows: Joseph was born October 1, 1819, and died in 1892; Hulda Jane, who was born October 7, 1822, died in Newberry township; Margaret, who was born January 15, 1823, was four times married, her husbands being Samuel Mitchell, Mark McDonald, Jacob Furnas and George Snow, and she is now a widow living in Webster, Darke county; Rebecca, who was born March 1, 1825, became the wife of Henry Rike, of Newberry township, and died July 2, 1895; Sarah Ann, born September 2, 1827, is deceased; James Harvey, born July 8, 1830, has also passed away; and Mary Ellen, who was born August 28, 1832, has departed this life.

    After his marriage Mr. Furnas rented the old home farm of his father, and after the latter's death he purchased the property, now comprising fifty-two acres. It was formerly one hundred and forty- four acres in extent, but he has sold a portion of this, reducing it to its present size. He carries on general farming and has engaged in bee culture for twenty-five years, having a very extensive apiary, from which he has taken as high as two thousand pounds of honey in a single season. He also cultivates small fruit, including various varieties of berries, and in 1899 he sold one hundred bushels of strawberries. He is an enterprising, industrious and practical agriculturist and horticulturist, and excellent success is attending his efforts.

    Unto Mr. and Mrs. Furnas was born a daughter, Emma Belle, whose birth occurred June 17, 1871. She was married, October 11, 1888, to Warren A. Hill, who was born at Laura, Miami county, on the 14th of April, 1867. He was reared to manhood in his native town and in Mooresville, Indiana. When he was about sixteen years of age, his parents removed to Versailles, Darke county, Ohio, and thence to Bloomer, Miami county. He learned the blacksmith's trade with his father, but since his marriage has engaged in farming. In politics he is a stanch Republican, and religiously has been connected with the Cumberland Presbyterian church of Covington since his marriage, previous to which time he was a member of the Christian church. He is a grandson of James Hill and a son of John M. Hill, who was born near Laura December 11, 1839, and was reared in this county. He enlisted October 7, 1861, being mustered into the United States service at Paducah, Kentucky, as a private of Company B, Seventy- first Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant November 21, 1861, and first saw service in southern Kentucky and Tennessee. In the summer of 1862 part of his regiment was surrendered by Colonel Mason to Kentucky militia. . He was discharged July 14 1862, owing to ill health, and was brought home sick with consumption. After somewhat re-covering his health he began work at his trade and later he married Elizabeth J. Tucker, the wedding taking place at Milton. She was born in Mercer county, Ohio, June 13, 1840. Mr. Hill died at Bloomer in August, 1887. He was a member of the Christian church and a Republican in his political affiliations. His wife still survives him and resides at Laura.

    About 1870 Mr. Furnas united with the Cumberland Presbyterian church of Covington, and socially he is connected with Langston Post, G. A. R., of Covington. In his political views he is an ardent Republican and also believes in prohibition principles. His memory covers the pioneer epoch in the history of this section of Ohio. His father settled here with the family when everything was in a primitive condition, when there were no roads through the woods, the forest standing ill its primeval strength. All kinds of wild game were to be had in abundance, and when Joshua Furnas wished to replenish the larder he would go about one hundred yards away from his home and shoot turkeys. Cooking was done over the old fashioned fireplace, Mr. Furnas being quite a boy when he first saw a cook stove. He has also seen great changes in methods of farming, the old sickle having long since been replaced by the most complete modern machinery. He has cut wheat many a day with a reap hook, and has heard old men scoff at the idea of reapers and binders. There was no postoffice near his pioneer home, and envelopes and postage stamps were not in use, the letter being simply folded and sealed with wax. It was then taken to the postmaster, to whom the sender would pay five cents to have it forwarded. The school house of the neighborhood was built of logs and was about two miles distant from the Furnas home, the path thereto leading through an almost impassable woods. School was held about three months each year. All the clothing worn by the family was made by the mother and daughters. The father kept sheep and the mother would spin the wool into yarn, which was woven into the cloth for their garments. The members of the family would also pull the flax, tie it up in bunches, set it up in small shocks, and when dry it was taken in, the seed threshed out and the straw was then spread on the clean, green lawn until the straw rotted and the fibre was left. This fibre was then cleaned on a frame and "scutched," which was the third process in cleansing it. It was then spun into yarn and woven in a hand loom, after which it was manufactured into clothing, table cloths and other useful articles. Such were some of the labors performed by the early settlers in pioneer days. Mr. Furnas remembers many interesting incidents of those times, but takes just pride in the progress the county has made and has accorded a willing support to many measures which he believed to be of public benefit. He has led a busy, useful and honorable life, thus gaining the respect and confidence of all who know him, and in the history of Miami county he well deserves representation.

    Return to the Biography Index

    Return to Main Page

    Copyright © 1999 by Computerized Heritage Association.
    All Rights Reserved.