Barn’s history runs deep


Leesburg area structure was built in 1800s

By Robert Kroeger



This Leesburg area barn owned by Raymond Friend was built in the 1800s.


Editor’s Note: This is another in a continuing series of stories authored by Robert Kroeger, who has painted 23 barns in Highland County, most of them framed with wood from the actual barn. Kroeger called this painting “Quakers.”

This was one of the barns Leesburg area resident Raymond Friend and I visited on a chilly April Saturday morning this year. It belongs to his mom and dad and is the place where Raymond and his brother and sister used hay bales to build hay forts and make tunnels and rooms. I’m sure they had fun waging battles the way kids do, playing games, and sleeping there overnight. Thanks to his dad erecting a basketball hoop inside the barn, Raymond and his siblings also honed their skills there. It paid off: Raymond went on to play basketball in college at Rio Grande.

When the family moved there in 1983, Raymond was 5, his brother Rusty was 9, and his sister Kerry Jean was 8 months old. Besides being a basketball court, the barn served other purposes. Ron Friend, Raymond’s dad, raised pigs – 300 to 400 of them – housing them in the lower level of this old bank barn and in a pole barn that he built. But the barns were too far from the street to run electric, so Ron cleverly used a generator and a sump pump in the original well house, fed by a natural spring, to fill barrels. On hot summer days, after doing chores to get water to the hogs, the kids would jump in those barrels to cool off.

But the barn has another story, some of which Rusty unearthed while doing a history project in fifth grade. This barn and another one deeper in these woods – both full of hand-hewn timber beams – were built in the 1800s, one of them probably well before the Civil War. In fact, they probably were built by a family named Huff, Quakers who moved there in the early 1800s. A tiny cemetery sits in the middle of their corn field with grave stones – four Huff names and three Wilkin names. Rusty’s research, taken from census records on microfilm in the Washington C.H. library, determined that the Huff family moved there from North Carolina in 1806 and settled near this barn and its spring. Having a water source handy was important.

I was fortunate to stumble upon a piece written on ancestry.com that describes the lineage of Daniel Huff, who traces back to John Huff, a Quaker born in 1673 in England. He died in the colony of New Jersey. John had a son Daniel, who also died in New Jersey. That Daniel had a son, yet another Daniel, born in 1747, also in New Jersey. That Daniel begins this story.

Daniel was a sick child and went to Virginia to be cared for there by a Dr. Nave. Quakers take care of each other. He ended up staying there and married a Virginia woman, Elisabeth Christy, who also lived in the Nave household. Daniel and Elisabeth moved to Deep River, Surry County, N.C. – just below Virginia and not far what is West Virginia today. This was hilly land, not ideal for farming as was Ohio’s, but it was cheap. In 1800, Daniel was 53 and may have served in the Revolutionary War, earning a land grant for his service. Many soldiers used their grants to establish farms in southern and eastern Ohio.

Daniel and Elisabeth were raising 11 children when Elisabeth died in 1803. Daniel remarried, choosing Margaret, a widow, whose husband, James Horton, had been captured by the Shawnees, taken to Ohio, and executed. In 1774, one of their children was born – Daniel, fourth in the Huff line and the third Daniel. This is the Daniel who possibly moved to the Friend’s farm. Or it may have been his father. They both left for Ohio in 1806.

A gentleman from Hawaii, a Quaker presumably, found the elder Daniel’s journal – describing this journey from North Carolina – in the Iowa State Library in Des Moines. It’s available at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~quakers/huff.htm.

The younger Daniel and his wife Sarah had eight children when they left North Carolina. Their ninth arrived in Ohio in 1810, possibly on the Friend’s farm. What a journey it was. Crossing mountains and flooded rivers. Muddy roads. Little sleep some nights. Their hope for a better future spurred them on.

They began their trek on April 28 and traveled in covered wagons. They made 11 miles on the first day. Today we can get that far on the highway in 10 minutes. The next day’s distance was 18 miles and 15 more came on the fifth day, despite heavy rains and poor roads, which were not as much of a burden, Mr. Huff wrote, when compared to the loss of Daniel’s younger sibling, Jesse.

Here are some entries from the journal, in his words. “We got 18 miles got along very well that Day but that night it rained and the wind blew and me nor Sarah got but very little sleep very tiresome night to us but we bore it all patiently.” And on day 28, “We got 17 miles passing through a town called Limestone and crossed the great river Ohio they say it is a half mile and 20 rods across and we let 3 dollars go that day.” Limestone has been renamed – Maysville, Kentucky.

When they arrived in late May, 1806, after traveling 498 miles, they planted corn and probably began building a barn and a house, though often the barn served both purposes in the beginning. I’m not sure how long the Huff family lived on the farm, which eventually passed to the Hudsons. Helen Hudson married Jim Hixon, who farmed the land and hoped that his youngest son would take over the farm. But, no such luck. So they sold the 165 acres to Ronald and Nellda Friend in 1983.

I named this painting, “Quakers,” since these people not only founded this farm, but many others in southern and eastern Ohio and contributed to early Ohio history in their quest to abolish slavery. However, the original Quakers weren’t lily white.

The Religious Society of Friends, the formal title for Quakers, began about 1650 in England – as an offshoot of Protestantism – and, because of their pacifist beliefs, they were persecuted. But that stopped in England in the late 1600s. Still, Quakers began to emigrate to British colonies in America, going initially to the northeastern section of the county. And the Quakers often took their slaves with them. To avoid persecutions from the Puritans in Massachusetts, William Penn, a favorite of King Charles II, established the colony of Pennsylvania, a safe place for Quakers to live. And they came.

Once in America, the migration continued from the northeastern parts down to Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, then onto Maryland and Virginia, and eventually into the Carolinas and Georgia, where land was the cheapest.

In the British Isles slavery existed in the 16th century – petty criminals, debtors and poor folks worked as indentured servants, who “owed” and were “owned by” those with means. This practice continued for hundreds of years, eventually spilling into Ohio when many poor Irish signed on to build the canal systems stretching from Lake Erie to the Ohio River – in exchange for their eventual freedom, if they survived the brutal working conditions.

Quaker views gradually changed towards slavery. Believing in the equality of not only blacks, but women, Quaker leaders in Philadelphia prohibited their members from owning slaves in 1776. Other Quakers followed. And, despite their pacifist views, many supported the militia in the Revolutionary War, earning valuable land grants. Perhaps Daniel Huff was one of them.

In 1775, the governor of the colony of Virginia, fearing rebellion, announced that all slaves in his colony would receive freedom if they would fight with British troops. Once the revolution began, George Washington responded to this by enacting a law with the same promise to slaves. About 5,000 African-American slaves decided to fight for the colonies, earning their freedom when the war ended. By this time slavery was mostly abolished in New England, the Northwest territory, and in the mid-Atlantic states. But slavery continued to flourish in the South, which takes us back to the journey of the Daniel Huff families.

The Ohio Quakers played an important part in the Underground Railroad. Did the Huff family travel from North Carolina on some of these routes? The journal mentions staying with friends and relatives. But Southern politicians did not like this exodus and lobbied until Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1793, which compelled officials in northern states to assist slave hunters. Many ignored this law.

So, the question is: Did the Huffs participate in this effort to help slaves? Other pioneers in Highland County were part of this network, notably the Edwards family, whose barn I painted and wrote about in “No Strangers Here Today.” Since there were several, if not many, Quaker families in Highland County in the early 1800s, they were likely aware of abolition efforts. And so, for the thousands of lives the early Ohio Quakers saved, let’s remember them in this essay and painting.

Robert Kroeger is a former Cincinnati area dentist who has since ran in and organized marathons, took up the painting skills he first picked up from his commercial artist father, become a published author, and is a certified personal trainer that started the LifeNuts vitality program. Visit his website at http://barnart.weebly.com/paintings.html.

This Leesburg area barn owned by Raymond Friend was built in the 1800s.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2016/11/web1_Quakers-barn-pic.jpgThis Leesburg area barn owned by Raymond Friend was built in the 1800s.
Leesburg area structure was built in 1800s

By Robert Kroeger

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