As published in the Xenia Gazette on August 23, 1873:
Early Reminiscences of the Yellow-Springs
JUDGE W. MILLS.
EDITORS GAZETTE: In recalling the scenes and incidents connected with my early experience at the Yellow Springs nearly 50 years ago, the state of society and customs of the people naturally come up for a prominent mention. There being no houses of worship there, Sunday became a sort of a gala day, and the skilled riflemen for miles around made the Springs a general rendesvous, (sic) where amid other athletic sports, the chief amusement was that of target-shooting. The open wood lawn furnished a most delightful play-ground, while the large trunks of the noble old oaks were scared with bullet-holes, producing a marked and roughened surface discernable (sic) at this late day. Each participant in the manly games of wrestling, running, or as was often the case a personal combat, was provided with a flask or jug filled with the celebrated Crofts whiskey-a distillery on Mad River-which infused a belligerent spirit in proportion to the frequency of their potations. Many a blackened eye and pools of crimson fluid, were the result of these Sabbath-day encounters in that grand old park where now the modern visitor, in rapt admiration with the scenic beauty all around him, would be filled with joy and praises for such a delightful grove, then as now so charming and inviting for recreation and health. But as society is hardly ever stationary from one decade to another, and especially in a new country, so a change gradually came over this section and a new era began to dawn.
At that date there were two Presbyterian churches, some 3 or 4 miles distant, the one at Muddy Run and the other at Clifton.
Here, then, at the Springs, the Methodists, true to their early instincts and the teachings of their noble prototype, John Wesley, saw an opening to plant one of their churches, and reverse the old order of things by a better dispensation on the Holy Sabbath. So it occurred one day that some half a dozen of the itinerant clergy of the persuasion, each with his saddle-bags and linsey-woolsey leggins on, rode up to the door of the writer and at once negotiations were made to donate a half acre for a church lot at the forks of the Xenia and Dayton roads.
At this time it was one dense thicket of underbrush and forest trees of large growth. Now, it was at this junction of two leading thorough fares that one could see during the early hours of Sunday a numerous throng of backwoodsmen, in their hunting shirts, with guns upon their shoulders and a whiskey jug suspended therefrom, wending their way to their usual resort for the day’s pastime, in the wood-lawn embracing the Yellow Springs fountain. The reader will at once perceive that a house of worship and songs of praise at this peculiar point would be a reproof and constant reminder of their desecration of the Sabbath. Thus, in time the old practice of the 1st day’s violation became obsolete, and the way opened for new developments and further moral and educational advantages. Perhaps this will be good a point as any to give a passing tribute to the memory of some worthy and true men whose lot was cast in this, then border and comparatively uncultivated region. It was more formerly than now, perhaps a reproach and by-word to be religiously inclined and one of the most intelligent and correct men of that day, a Mr. Nevins, member of the Presbyterian church was honored by having the road that led through the woods to his house called and known generally as Nevin’s prayer path. Within from 2 to 4 miles of the Springs there were many families from New Jersey who were connected with the two churches above named, and were men whose character and general information would make them desirable citizens anywhere. Among the number were the Van Meters, Garrisons, Nevins and Knotts; and from other states belonging to the same body, worthy of special note, were the Coreys, Drakes, Jacobys, Stevensons, Shellabargers, Lyles, McCroskys, Moodies, Wilsons, and many others, still familiar to me, whose descendents are filling honorable posts throughout the country, both in church and state. I could enlarge the list almost indefinitely were I to embrace the circle of membership extending beyond Clifton and Cedarville, and in the number name the Whitemans and Townsleys, the Galloways and Millers, and others, whose names and excellence are now household words in Greene county. But I should do injustice to all these worthies, and myself too, were I not to mention especially the pastor of the flock, Rev. Andrew Pogue, who, as a ministering angel of peace and good will, devoted his life to faithfully visiting and instructing these early pioneers, till called to a higher reward. Those who still remember him will bear testimony corroborative of my estimate of character when I say that no more conscientious, pure minded and christian man ever filled the sacred desk. The Rev. Mr. Lynn, of Muddy Run church, was a noble self-sacrificing and earnest preacher, but was removed by death in the early stages of his ministry.
Continued next week…..