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

    Pre-Miami County
    McMaken Family
    by Glenn C Miller of Piqua Ohio (1998)

    This is an article which could be classified as historical fiction. It is based on a few cemetery tombstones, some genealogy facts on the McMaken Family and a rough knowledge of conditions that existed in the Ohio country in the early 1800's.

    Joseph McMaken Family of Union Township, Butler County, Ohio,
    some of who's descendants came to Miami County Ohio

    Joseph McMaken was born in 1799 in Cumberland County Pennsylvania the first child of a John McMaken and a wife unknown at this time. The father John had been born in the same area in about 1759. In the late 1780's John Sr. uprooted his family, which by now included another boy and girl born in the 1780's, from their land there and started the long trek to Kentucky, either by barges on the Ohio River or by horse or oxen and wagons over the mountains by the Cumberland Gap, paying taxes in Nelson and Fayette counties in 1790 and 1792. In 1796 he bought a parcel of land, 160 acres, in Butler county from a Thomas Wright who had come by the land from an earlier default of a claimant who had gotten the right to the land from Judge Symes, the Ohio valley entrepreneur.

    Symes had promised the US government to pay some penny an acre for all the land between the Great Miami and the Little Miami Rivers from the Ohio River to the source of the Miami's just north of what has become Dayton, Ohio. It was hundreds of thousands of acres. The Judge thought the way to sell the land was to get people there and to get them he gave the land to them in the beginning and they had to clear and live there and farm or "improve the land", and after 7 years the land was theirs. Later the Judge would sell the remaining land. He defaulted on the payments to the government and settled for less land but still a substantial amount.

    John McMaken stayed on his piece of land until his death in 1829. Joseph was his oldest son and named after John's brother Joseph who had preceded John in to the Kentucky and Ohio country, receiving a grant from Judge Symes for 160 acres in 1788. Joseph was a Veteran of the War of the Revolution and his family stayed in Butler County to be well respected citizens, written up in the County Histories as pioneer settlers. Little if anything was written of John or his family primarily because his children either left the area for Miami County after his death or died in Butler County at an early age. But John's son Joseph who did stay in Butler County is a story of the times in it's self. His uncle Joseph sold him some land in Union Township in 1813 and he settled there. He had two sons, Norman and Jessie. Norman was born in 1806 and Jessie in 1812. Joseph had married a Lydia but I do not know her maiden name.

    The son Jessie married a Catherine in about 1833 and their first child was born in 1834 and they proudly named him Joseph after his grandfather. But within 9 months the child died and was buried in the Union Township Cemetery. In 1835 Catherine became pregnant again and in that year a daughter was born whom they named, again proudly, Lydia after her grandmother. Within 12 months the child died and was buried in 1836 beside her brother Joseph.

    I can imagine the agony in the family of those first two children dying one after the other. The national average age of the people at death in that time era was 47 years. Infant mortality was partially responsible for that low average age. The medical knowledge of the times was primitive to us now. When George Washington was sick of Quinsy, an inflammation of the throat sometimes called Tonsillitis, in the early 1800's he was bled by the doctors using leeches. Washington died at that time. When an infant lost the child's natural immunity they became susceptive to all the illnesses of the adults as well as the childhood diseases like mumps, measles, whooping cough, chicken pox etc. And there were no effective remedies at that time. If a child lived past two years of age they usually lasted until their late teens when another wave of deaths seemed to occur. These ages at death are evident by looking through the cemeteries for the tombstones of that time period.

    Jessie and Catherine did not produce another pregnancy, but in late December of 1838 Catherine became ill. By the first of 1839 she was in her last throes of life and died on 4 January 1839 and was buried beside her children. While her sickness progressed, the father Joseph became ill also. He suffered through the death of his son's wife and finally he died on 10 January 1839 and was buried some 6 feet from Catherine and the two children. One assumes that Lydia and Joseph were helping with Catherine in her sickness or just visited them at the holiday period when Catherine was coming down with her illness. With Joseph's death the family had lost the grandfather and his daughter-in-law in the month of January. However, it was not over, Jessie became sick in mid January and lasted until the 31st, when he died. He was buried beside Catherine. The family had suffered three adult losses in one month.

    The infant Joseph was 9 months and 24 days old, the daughter Lydia was 12 months and 15 days, the mother Catherine was 23 years, 8 months and 23 days and the father Jessie was 26 years, 8 months and 9 days and Joseph the grandfather was 59 years 11 month s and 14 days at their death. Lydia, the wife of Joseph, lived on surviving the Cholera or Diphtheria or what ever plague had hit the family in 1839. Lydia died 4 March 1860, age 75 years 2 months and 12 days and is buried beside Joseph. Their other son Norman lived in the area and along with his wife Eliza are buried not far from Joseph, Lydia and Jessie's family. Norman died 9 June 1869 age 59 years, 10 months and 26 days and his wife died 15 January 1872, age 50 years, 6 months and 19 days. As far as I know Joseph only had the two boys and in his will he states that Norman is the eldest. As a footnote to this, not far from this family group, a Nancy McMaken is buried who died in 1820 age 27 years. She was the first wife of John McMaken, one of Joseph 's brothers.

    So there is the story of the family of Joseph McMaken who averaged out at 37 years of age at death. You have the infant mortality shown and the plague like illnesses which could sweep a group up and place them in the ground under a tombstone. You also see the age of the ones who outlived these two things to be 75, 60, 59 and 59 which averages 63 years which is young now a days.

    In addition to the sicknesses, poor diet and poor medical knowledge you have the Indians of the area who were not at all happy to have the white man come into their homeland and take their land, like the sale of the land to Judge Symes. In the 1780's and early 1790's the Indians defeated Harmar and St. Clair in battles along the present Indiana/Ohio Border. In that same time period John McMaken was clearing his land in Butler County, Ohio. In mid 1790's Anthony Wayne defeated the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in northern Ohio near the Maumee River not far south of Toledo. After that the country was reasonably safe from Indian depravation except for a few young bucks who may steal your horses and occasionally kill a settler. However in 1810 the land became dangerous again as the British general in Detroit was giving the Indiana help in trying to drive the Americans out of the Ohio country. This troubled time continued until the end of the War of 1812 in 1814/1815. Many a lone rider going from here to there never got there. In the Piqua, Ohio area there are three deaths at the hand of the Indians in that early time period. Col Hardin was killed by what he thought were friendly Indians and the there are the Dibbles and the young Moffet boy who were killed. These killings by the Indians were called massacres by the settlers but they, the settlers, "killed" Indians. So to add to the infant mortality, the diseases, and the poor medicine the settlers had the Indians to contend with.

    The only danger that the Joseph McMaken family did not demonstrate was child bearing. Many women died at child birth and it is attested by the many second wife's the men had. Nancy McMaken, first wife of John McMaken, died after delivering one child. But I have noticed that the women were also widowed by trees which did not fall the right way or the horses which panicked from snakes, bees and other wild animals spooking them and throwing their riders to their death or broken bones which were not set and thereby lamed the father who had to be able to work the fields or starve. Many male children were the salvation of a widowed mother or a lame father.

    The cemetery tombstones tell a story if you have time to set and let your imagination run.

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