The “Other” Guernsey – Guernsey County : Guernsey Pioneers in The New World
Most people will be familiar with our sister island’s namesake in the US – New Jersey, but less well known is that there’s also a Guernsey in the US , or to be precise a Guernsey County in Ohio.
Guernsey County is almost as old as the United States itself. It was formed on the 10th March 1810 when the US was only 24 years old. The County is located in the State of Ohio and rests in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
The county has such a specific formation date because it’s creation was authorised by the Ohio government on the 31st January 1810.
There must have already been a sizeable population of immigrants from the island because it was the residents who named the county “Guernsey”.
A Brief History of Guernsey County
The earliest known inhabitants of Guernsey County were recorded in 1763 as being Delaware Indians: 20 warriors and about 30 women and children at a place called Will’s Creek.
The American Revolution
With the conclusion of the war for American Independence at the end of 1783 soldiers were discharged from the Continental Army. With the fledging nation’s finances in a parlous state many former soldiers were paid off with grants of land in the wildernesses. Two such grants were made to Jacob Gomber and Zaccheus Beatty with land in the Ohio Territory exactly were Guernsey County would eventually be.
Developing the Land
The next time anything of note is recorded about the future Guernsey County is in 1796. The Indians were gone , replaced by a group of white men led by Ebenezer Zane. They were laying out a post road, later called Zane’s Trace across Will’s Creek at the same ford where the Indian town had been.
By 1798, a ferry and a tavern had been established where the road crossed the creek. By 1806 Zaccheus and Jacob making even bigger plans for their land – they were planning a town, later to be called Cambridge, just east of the crossing. Cambridge would become the capital of the county.
A Chance Meeting
In 1806 26 intrepid pioneering Guernseymen, women and children were traveling west on the old Zane’s Trace into the Ohio country when they stopped for Sunday rest and religious services. Upon consideration of resuming their journey, they saw Beatty and Gomber posting notices to the surrounding trees offering land for sale. The story goes that the tired travellers all agreed they had come far enough and this looked like as good a place as any to settle! They settled in the area of Wills Creek, near the present day town of Cambridge, Ohio. (see the section below “Guernsey Pioneers : 1st & 2nd Settlers” for a detailed account of their journey from ‘Guernsey CI’ to ‘Guernsey County’).
More Guernsey Settlers
In 1807 a second group of Guernseymen & women and their families arrived – all good Guernsey names : Ogier; Bichard; Naftel; Marquand; Langlois; Corbet; Torode; Poidevin; De la Rue and many more.
Further waves of settlers are also said to have come from Guernsey in 1810, 1818, the 1820s and the 1830s.
In all more than 50 families from Guernsey settled in Guernsey County, Ohio between 1806 and 1835.
A County is Born : 10th March 1810
With so many ‘Guerns’ in the area, when the county was officially formed in 1810, it was only natural that the county would be called Guernsey.
From then on Guernsey County began to develop both culturally and industrially. In 1828 the National Road was constructed through the County, several of the stone bridges of which are still in use today. Then, in 1854 the first railway line came to Guernsey County and a second line in 1873 – effectively establishing rail services in all directions.
- Guernsey County averages 78 people per square mile, whereas it’s namesake our small rock in the English Channel has 2,400 per square mile.
- One of Guernsey Counties most famous residents was the astronaut John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth, circling it three times in 1962.
At the same time as the railroad was arriving coal was beginning to be mined in the southern part of the county. Mining and farming soon became the principle industries of the county attracting many hundreds of immigrants from central Europe to work in the mines.
In July of 1863 the American Civil War arrived in Guernsey County. About 600 Confederate cavalrymen under the command of General John H. Morgan entered the county at Cumberland and then spent the next 30 hours, passing through until at a place called ‘Old Washington’, there was a skirmish with pursuing Union cavalrymen, and 3 Confederates were killed. Today there is monument at their grave site in the Old Washington cemetery.
20th Century & Beyond
After this brief excitement the County seems to have settled down again with a more peaceful history. In the early and middle 1900s, pottery and glass-making flourished in the county and later on the plastics and electronics industries came to the area.
ORIGINAL SETTLERS : 1806
In the original party of 1806 that settled in Guernsey County included :
- Thomas, John, Nicholas and Peter Sarchet and their wives & children
- Daniel Ferbrache & his wife Judith(sister to the above Sarchets) plus their children
- William Ogier*
- James Bichard*
- Thomas Naftel*
- Thomas Lenfestey*
* all with their wives & children
In all a total of 26 persons.
VOYAGING IN TO THE UNKNOWN
In Marion Turks “The Quiet Adventureres of North America” she records in detail, from various sources, the exhausting and perilous journey that the first Guernsey settlers took from their beloved native island to their new home in the New World :
A fishing smack took the party [the Sarchets, Ogiers, Bichards et al] from St. Peter Port, Guernsey to the Island of Jersey, where a convoy was being assembled to cross the Atlantic under the protection of a man-of-war from England. Thomas Sarchet, Jr. was forcibly taken from the ship by a press gang, but was released when his father protested energetically.
Two more Guernseymen, John Marquand and Daniel de Francis, with their families, joined the emigrants in Jersey, and the party went aboard an English ship commanded by a Capt. McCrandall, toward the middle of May. The English man-of-war left the convoy as soon as it got out of the Channel, and the next day a French cruiser gave chase. The sailors thereupon hoisted up an American flag, hung a canvas over the side with the words ELIZABETH OF BOSTON on it in large letters, and succeeded in fooling the French.
A 6 week voyage, (they were becalmed for 8 days) brought them into Norfolk, VA on June 3rd, 1806. They journeyed on to Baltimore, where they bought three large wagons and twelve horses.
The next three hundred miles were through fairly well settled country, with ferry services across the rivers. Further on the going was tough. It was a rainy summer. There was deep mud on the lowlands. In many places brush and trees had to be cut out and spread over mud holes before the wagons could pass. Elsewhere the road was too narrow, and trees had to be chopped to clear the way. Extra horses had to be hired on the steep hills and the wagons had to be unloaded frequently.
David Sarchet was nine years old at the time of the trip from Guernsey to Ohio. He wrote…
“started from Norfolk to Ohio, which we reached after passing through Baltimore, crossing the Monongahela at Old Redstone and the Ohio River at Wheeling. Somewhere in the mountains we stopped one day to bury a child of Uncle Peter Sarchet. At Wheeling we came to Zane’s Trace over which we continued our journey. This was a very bad wagon road … At St. Clairsville we were told of the Wills Creek Settlement furtiier west (Cambridge) where a new town had been laid out and lots were for sale very cheap. We had intended to go much further west, Cincinnati being the place we had in mind.”
The party stopped at Wills Creek to rest, spent Sunday in Methodist services, and Monday in washing clothing and linen. The women of the party put their foot down, and convinced the men this was the place to settle. They erected a rough camp with brushwood huts while log cabins were built for the winter.
SECOND SETTLERS : 1807
The second party of 1807 included :
- James Bichard*
- 2 x William Ogiers*
- James Ogier*
- Thomas Naftel*
- Mary Hubert, a widow and her family
- John Marquand*
* all with their wives & children
There were also single men : Peter Langlois, John Robins, Peter Corbet, Peter Bichard, Nicholas Bichard, John Torode, Peter Torode, Paul Robert, Nicholas Plodvin (POIDEVIN), John Carlow and John De La Rue.
You’ll notice many of the names are the same as the first group of settlers; no doubt son, brothers, cousins and other relations encouraged by the first group to join them.