Tag Archives: Holmes County

Harriette Anderson Kaser Remembers Scary Places

Last year I shared my mother’s story of the Dead Body, which is certainly one of the strangestHere’s another of mother’s scary memories.

The Haunted Shack and Scary Anderson House on Mile Hill

Old Anderson Farm

Old Anderson Farm, Photo courtesy of Herb Anderson

The family of my grandfather, Leonard Guy Anderson (aka Daddy Guy) owned a house just outside of Killbuck, Ohio on Mile Hill.

Guy’s uncle had planted extensive orchards on the property.  Mary Brink Anderson, Guy’s Mother, lived there when Guy married Vera Stout (my grandmother). She gave the farm to Guy and Vera and that is where they lived when my mother and her two brothers were pre-schoolers.

That house must have seemed like a mansion to the toddlers, Harriette Anderson (my mother) and her brother Bill. Baby Herb was too young to run around getting into mischief with his slightly older siblings.  But the big old house provided plenty of opportunity for scary adventures. And to add to the fun, there was a smaller house that the children were ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN to enter. So of course they did. And there was a shack with a mysterious and scary history. The buildings gave plenty of opportunity for imagination to run wild.  In her 90s, my mother remembered her childhood.

Harriette Anderson Kaser:  An artist lived at the end of the lot by the big Anderson orchard. [She was not sure of the name but thinks it might have been “Bus Close who married Wanda Orr.” See Note at end]

HAK: We weren’t allowed to go there and play. I think mother and dad really believed the scary ghost stories about that house. Mary Leckrone lived in a farm house nearby. We (Harriette and her brother Bill) went down and played with her. 

HAK: The fruit farm (the Anderson house on the hill) had a beautiful house. There were two farms up above Welcome—Anderson and Allison. They got deeds from the government. Maybe after the Whiskey Rebellion. [I have yet to check this out.]

This is the house where the Anderson and Stout family gathered for a family picture in 1909 when Harriette and Bill were about 3 and 4 years old.

Caroline Anderson Bird

Family portrait at Anderson Farm. Photo from 1909. Harriette and Bill sitting on their grandfather’s lap in right front. “Daddy Guy in white shirt and necktie in back row center and Vera in front of him holding baby Herbert.

HAK: Down the road ½ mile a little shack was supposed to have been a stop on the confederate soldier’s route. [She first said underground railroad and then changed to confederate soldiers.] We kids would stand outside and yell because we wanted the ghosts to come out. Then hearing noises.

[Note: There are persistent rumors that Southern soldiers marched through Holmes County, but no evidence that rebs ever made it that far north in Ohio.]

HAK: We were not allowed to go in the basement. An outside stairway went down. I remember a side door that went down to basement. Water in the basement made it more scary. (Note: Apparently the children didn’t follow orders about not going into the basement of the shack!)

The three children about seven years before this story.

Who would think these angelic children could be so ornery?

HAK: Mom and Dad (Vera and Guy Anderson) would tell us ghost stories about the place.

Guy Anderson had acquired a parrot somewhere, and its presence added to the unusual and scary atmosphere of the old house.

HAK: The parrot would follow us when we went there to play. (The parrot followed them into the forbidden territory.)  It  would say “Mama’s calling.”  She (Vera) was always scolding the parrot for following us.

Poor Vera. Nobody seemed to pay attention to her commands! Neither the children nor the parrot! But a horse had more sense than the kids and the parrot.

HAK: An old horse, “Old Jim” wouldn’t go near the old house (because of ghosts.)

[Note: she switches back and forth between shack and artist’s house, so it is not clear which is which.]

Mary Brink Anderson and others

Guy Anderson and Vera (holding Herbert). Guy’s mother Mary Brink Anderson. Back Jennie McDowell King. 1909

No wonder their mother was afraid to let them play in the haunted house’s basement. Daddy Guy, who was always a jokester, had Vera scared with his tricks, and besides he had the Celtic talent for story telling.

HAK: Daddy Guy was a great story teller—making up stories about these houses.

HAK: Dad (Guy Anderson, aka Daddy Guy) used to hide in the house and make noises to scare Bill and me away. Your Grandma Vera was very susceptible to ghost stories and Guy would scare her.The big farmhouse on the top of the hill had two stairways. A back stairway led from the kitchen to a back door. Dad would go up and pound on the floor to scare mother. The kids knew what he was doing and they would go with him.

I always thought of my mother as fearless, and it is clear she got her training early as she and her brother defied the ghosts in the scary old farm houses.

Mother’s family did not stay in the house very long. By the time her brother Bill was old enough to start school, they had moved back into town.  I always thought my grandmother just was not cut out to be a farm wife. But thinking about her superstitious nature and the ghost stories and Daddy Guy’s tricks, the farm may have been just too scary.

Read another of Harriette’s Scary Memories here.

Note:  I have asked the helpful people on The Killbuck Gang Facebook page to help me figure out who the artist  was that mother refers to in this story. Turns out Bus Close and Wanda Orr were a more recent generation–the time just doesn’t match up.  But someone has suggested that Bus Close’s FATHER was an artist, and I’m trying to determine if that’s who mother was thinking of.

Jesse Morgan, Canal and Lake Travel- 1846

Erie Canal, Ohio

Mule Train on the Erie Canal at Clyde, Ohio

When Jesse Morgan went “on the road” in 1846, the road was a watery one.  He chose canal and lake travel through Ohio and New York and perhaps even up to “Canadi”. These two letters are packed with interesting hints at his life–how he traveled, what it meant to be a horse trader, and even his state of mind.

What or who is my Great-Great Grandfather hiding from? Is there cause for his paranoia? Does his penchant for secrecy explain his later disappearance from home and family?

In his letter to Mary Bassett Morgan in 1843, Jesse Morgan gave details of his travels, but did not specifically say why he was traveling. Although his 1843 letter was sent in November,the timing of the surviving letters, at least in 1846, seems to indicate this was a spring and summer enterprise, perhaps after his school teaching duties were done.

These 1846 letters lack some of the enthusiasm for travel seen in the 1843  letter. Instead, these letters that he wrote to Mary in 1846, in June and July, focus on his business–horse trading. Perhaps the novelty of constant travel has gotten old?


Wooster June 17th 1846

Dear Wife

Agreeable to promise, I drop you a few lines hoping that you will not be surprised in finding a letter mailed at Wooster—when I had started for Illinois, such has been my conclusion hoping for the better I am now on my way to York State with horses.

I feel well satisfied in the way that I have lain out my money, taking in to consideration that I had to make some disposition of the mare and could not short of going whear (sic) horses would fetch money I have come to this conclusion, and really believe that I can make a goodly profit in the horses that I bought and turn the mare in to money also. I have a finer pair of horses than I ever seen raised in Killbuck and in this place considered worth eighty dollars I gave $105 for them.

Don’t let any body know where I am. You need not let Mrs. Woods know everything. Keep everything right at home if you can. I will wright or send a paper as soon as I get throw (sic) if I do not sell immediately. Don’t borrow any troubles(?) on my account. I can take care of myself.

Your affectionate husband

                                                                                                                 Jesse Morgan

Mary Morgan

Mary Reads Her Husband’s Letter

So, to clarify what Mary is reading here–she said goodbye to Jesse as he set out to travel south to the Ohio River to go on to Illinois. But in mid June, she gets a letter from Wooster, Ohio–a town that is 25 miles north of Killbuck, where they live. Although that is very close in today’s thinking, it could have been a two day journey for Jesse by horseback.

It seems to me that Jesse is being a little defensive about how well he is handling his money, and his confidence that he can make more profit on his horses by traveling east to New York rather than west to Illinois. I picture him sitting at an Inn or Tavern and shooting the breeze with other traveling salesmen about where business is good.

But why is it necessary for Mary to keep Jesse’s whereabouts secret?  The Woods family appears more than once in the letters, so they must have been friends, so why does he have to warn Mary not to tell her friend everything.  All that, and then he tells her not to worry, he can take care of himself?  Poor Mary is getting mixed messages at best.


Albany [New York] July 31st 1846

Dear Wife

As usual I have been delaying writing with the expectation of soon being ready to start for home. Mr. Scott and my self have had good offers and had ought to have taken them, but the market is always a little better further ahead. We have now come to a stand aside determined to sell out but horses are no higher here than at Syracuse and our expenses have been considerable. We have 2 or 3 chances of selling our Match Span [Two horses harnessed together, matching in size and perhaps color for pulling together as a team] but I cannot think we will get more than $225 for them. They will probably be sold by Monday next. Then I shall go back to Canadi [sic] again to sell the Mare. I left her in good pasture and if she improves as I think she will in so long a time and I can make her drive well, I can get a good price for her, if so I shall be able to get home with $75 or $100 clear of all expense besides turning the mare into money. I feel anxious to get home. I want to see you all. When I see a little girl about like Harriet, I think about home more especially. My health is very good and hope these lines will find you enjoying the same blessing.

Your affectionate husband

Mary Morgan                                                                                                          Jesse Morgan

Mary Reads The July Letter

His Route–By Water

By July, Jesse is in New York State. Apparently he went from Wooster to Massilon, Ohio, where he got a canal boat on the Ohio & Erie Canal to Lake Erie. Then probably a quick trip across the border to Canada and then back to New York, and to Syracuse before going to Albany. it is tempting to assume that he may have stopped in Chautauqua County to see his father and some other members of his family–perhaps even his sons who had been farmed out to live with family.  However, that is pure speculation, and according to my admittedly sketchy map, would have been too far out of his way.

The Ohio & Erie canal would have taken him to Lake Erie, for further transport by boat. At the peak, Ohio had 1000 miles of canals throughout the state. In 1836 there were 3000 canal boats –one leaving every hour from ports. Ten years later the business was still thriving.

In the map below, you can see how handy the canals were, reaching across the state from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. From Jesse’s home in Killbuck, Ohio, he could reach the Erie canal by a short journey to the South at Coshocton, or to the east.

Ohio Canals.

Map of Ohio Canals prior to 1919. Jesse’s home is in Holmes County, and his first letter is from Wooster in Wayne County, directly north of Holmes County.

By the 1840’s steam boats had replaced most of the schooners that previously sailed the Great Lakes.  Mary might have been concerned about his safety, because shipwrecks were common, although more numerous in the fall before the traffic closed entirely for the winter months.

The canal and lake boats were economical. For instance, early fares from Albany to Buffalo was $14.52 including meals and $1 per hundred pounds of goods. After 1840 passage from Buffalo to Chicago on the lake cost $12 for a cabin and $2.50 to $10 for a horse.  As one writer says, “In 1835 as the spirit of land speculation had commenced west the number of passengers crossing the lake was increased….the cost of travel by land was immeasurably higher.”

New York State, likewise had a fully developed canal system that he could have taken advantage of when he arrived back on shore in New York and traveled on to Syracuse and Albany (where he wrote the letter) before his planned trip back to “Canadi”. Presumably he was buying and selling horses along the way.

His Motivation

This letter deepens our understanding of Jesse.  “We ought to have taken them, but the market is always a little better further ahead.” He is the consummate optimist, convinced that the end of the rainbow is just over the hill. This desire to not settle for the bird in the hand draws him farther and farther on his travels.

Note:  I have no idea who Mr. Scott is and have not spotted him in any of the places where Jesse lived, although Jesse himself seemed to evade the census takers in 1840 and 1850.

Fatherly Concerns

As in the 1843 letter, when he sent kisses to his baby girl, he mentions the now four-year old  Harriet (Hattie Morgan Stout, my great-grandmother) but oddly does not mention the two daughters from his earlier marriage in any letters. They both would have been living with Mary in Killbuck, Ohio, according to the stories my mother told me, and the 1850 census shows one of the girls still living with Mary.  One married in 1851 and the other not until 1861.

See the post immediately beneath this one for more information about horse trading.

 Coming Attractions

In the next letters (1847) we will learn more about Jesse’s occupation of horse trader plus more about the mysterious desire to be secretive.


The site of the old Erie & Ohio canal that Jesse must have traveled regularly, is now a National Heritage Area.  See the website for more about all the activities available, and detailed maps of the area. We visited Ken’s mother (Agnes Badertscher, now deceased) twenty-some years ago, and took her from her nursing home to visit Roscoe Village, a reconstruction of a pioneer town just outside Coshocton Ohio.  There you can ride a short distance on a canal boat pulled by mules.

Jesse Morgan: Land Speculation and Teaching 1845

Horse trading, land speculation, investments, and teaching. My great-great grandfather was not only a horse trader and some time teacher, he also dealt in financial and land deals. And here we are, reading his mail again.

During the years of 1844 and 1845, if Jesse Morgan was traveling as a horse trader, we have no record of it.  He may have been at home in Killbuck, Ohio teaching and attempting to help settle the will of Mary Bassett Platt Morgan’s first husband, Asahel Platt.

At some point, perhaps a trip for which no letter survives, Jesse acquired land near Crystal Lake in Illinois.  It is also possible that land belonged to his wife, as the widow of Asahel Platt, who had some investments in Illinois according to my mother’s family stories. Asahel may have been doing some land speculation, too.

Land Speculation

At any rate, Jesse received a letter from a prominent citizen of the community regarding his property in Crystal Lake.  From the letter, I get the impression that Benjamin Douglas thought that Jesse was going to settle on his land in Crystal Lake rather than engaging in land speculation.

The mention of the Academy may have been because Jesse was interested in education, or it may have been simply to emphasize the prosperity of the growing community.

[Letter addressed to Jesse Morgan, Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio, postmarked from Chicago, January 11.]

Crystal Lake McKenny Co

Illinois Jany 4th 1845

Dear Sir

Yours of the 26th is Recd in due season & I should have ans sooner if I could. I waited until the Register [registrar?] Returned home & until the Road was Located along the north line of your farm which is now done

I sent my son in Chic [Chicago?] with your letter to the Land office and find that your Paiment(sic) is duly Recd so you can Rest assured of your having a Clear title to that(?) Section. The line runs some further west so as to include some of those Beautiful shade Trees so you will have a fine building spot. The last time for breaking pr______ is the month of June so it will be very Rotten in time to sow Wheat the last days of Augt. I find a friend of mine has forty or eighty acres of good timber he will sell you at a fair price near by.

Yours truly

B Douglas

J Morgan

NB. We are going build a large accademy this spring of brick that will cost Several Thousand dollars.

The Crystal Lake Academy

The Crystal Lake Academy Building

The original academy building, now owned by St. Mary Episcopal Church.

Benjamin Douglas was apparently an important man in Crystal Lake.  In February 1845, a law was enacted by the Illinois legislature to authorize the Crystal Lake Academy and naming Benjamin Douglas, J. T. Pierson and a list of others as Trustees.

The academy ceased operation in the mid 1850s when a public school act passed.( Academies were founded as high schools before public high schools were available.) The house was occupied as a home by the Tarpley family and then passed to ownership of St. Mary Episcopal Church. It is still known as the Tarpley House–one of the oldest buildings in Crystal Lake.


Meanwhile, back in Holmes County, Jesse had applied for a teaching certificate. I can almost hear the family conversations about his long absences and lack of steady salary. What did Mary think about the horse trading and land speculation? Toward the end of the year, Jesse, perhaps vowing to turn over a new leaf, got serious about teaching. However, as we will see in the letters from 1846 and 1847, the urge to wander was not squelched by this piece of paper.

Teaching Certificate 1845

Jesse Morgan’s teacher’s certificate Nov 1845. This is a scan of a photo copy. The original is missing.

Jesse would have gone before the board in Millersburg, the County Seat, who tested his knowledge and paid his 50 cent fee. The testing was done close to home because the people of Ohio long resisted central government, and kept such matters as this at the county level until the late 1840s.

The requirement that the would-be teacher have a knowledge of “Reading, Writing, and Arithmatic” had only surfaced in 1834. Prior to that, according to “A Brief History of Teacher Training in Ohio Beginning in 1910”, an unattributed paper found on the Internet, the primary qualification to teach was the inability to do manual labor.

Early 19th century teachers were certified by a local or county board of examiners. They were required to pass a test proving their competence to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. Geography, grammar, and orthography (spelling) were later added to required subjects. Examiners also judged the “moral character” of teachers.


We the undersigned school examiners do hereby certify that we have examined Mr. Jesse Morgan as a school teacher and find him qualified to teach in a common school the following branches: Reading, Writing and Arithmatic and that he is of a good and moral character ____________This certificate to be valid for one year from the date hereof.

Millersburg Nov. 27, 1845.

John M. Shrock (Clerk)

A. S. Custis

Recorded–fee 50 cts. paid.

Jesse, A Man of Good and Moral Character?

As I read this certificate, the part about certifying Jesse as a man of good and moral character strikes me.  This characterization becomes important as we read more about Jesse’s life through reading his mail.

Any readers who can help with the transcription of that one long word starting with a ‘p’ in the letter from Mr. Douglas?