Note: This transcription has added punctuation, paragraph formatting, and occasional spelling changes to aid in reading Mr. Nye's first hand memories of Marietta and Washington County in the 1790s. He recounts details about his family's adventures in a letter to a family member.

See Orginal Source: Marietta College Legacy Library Digital Collections
Melzar Nye Memior, 1872
Manuscript; 24 pages; 8.25 x 13 in.

[Page 1]

Middleport Ohio
Mr A. T. Nye

Dear Sir:

You ask for some information conserning our branch of the Nye Family. I was but five years old in the spring that we emigrated to Marietta. I will in the first place five you a short history of my father.

[Ox and Wagon]

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He was born in Tolland town and Tolland County in Oct. 1750 and lived with his father until he was twenty three of twenty four year of age. Then he went to Sitchfield County, Warren town ¾ of mile from Warren Meeting house. He lived there about fourtie years. In the year 1780, he received a letter from his brother at Marietta saying that he had better sell his property there and move to Marietta.

In the spring of 1790 he had his farm sold or traded for a share of land in the “Ohio Company’s Purchase,” a waggin, two yoke of oxen, and a horse ready for a sta[rt]. I heard one of his neighbors ask him when he would start; he made answer “as soon as the grass grows for his team”

Father kept no diary so I can not give the exact time but I recollected that when we started several of our neighbors came and went with us some ways. Toward night – father discovered that the hind axletree of his waggin was broken so we were compelled to lay …[Page 2]… over the next day to repair the waggin.

At that time we were on the Indian Reservation called Scanticook. The following day we started on. I wanted father to go home. He told me “we had no home but the waggin.”

I thought that was bad enough – we went on a few miles when we came to the Housatonic river which we forded. Then we went on until we came to the Hudson river which we ferried at Newburg. The boats that the ferryman used were a Sail-boat and Scow – the family in the Sail-boat and the waggin and team in the Scow. As we got out from shore the wind began to blow and blew so hard that the ferryman got frightened and got his ax to cut the Scow loose from the Sail boat. Father pled with him to hold on a little longer so he held on and we got to shore in safety.

I don’t remember of any other circumstances happening to us. In going down the steep hills, father would take his forward oxen off and hitch them to the hind axletree of the waggin. In this way we got down without any difficulty. I remember of seeing whole trees that father said the emigrants had hitched to their waggins to help them from going too fast down hill. Locks were not yet invented.

[Page 3]

We reached the Youghiogheny river about harvest time. And then moved into a log cabbin about fifteen feet square about ½ mile from Robstown. I recollect the time by a circumstance that happened at the time. Mother and Sister had put their dishes on a board supported by pins driven in the logs of the cabin. I wanted a knife which was upon the board. I asked my sister to give it to me. She paid no attention to me. So I concluded that I could get it myself. So I climbed up the logs until I could reach the board. I took hold of it and down we all came together and every dish was broken. My mother told me “she would not whip me for it because she had not strength to whip me hard enough. She would let me go until father came home.” Father did not get home until dark. I was in bed fast asleep but I heard all that was said.

Father told Mother that “he wanted his breakfast in the Morning very Early as he wished to go two miles to help a man in the harvest field.” Father was up and ate his breakfast before I was up before I was up. But I was up soon after he was gone and this circumstance proves to me that we were at Robstown in harvest.

[Down the Ohio]

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After harvest father hired Mr. Rob. To help …[Page 4]… him build a boat to come down the river in they had to saw the plank by hand. Mr. Rob. was the top sawyer and father was the pit sawyer.

They had just got the boat finished as Mr. Shipman came with his family and team along the road. Mother and family ran to see them and seemed as glad to see them as if they had been acquainted all their lives. Mother gave them an invitation to stop at “our hotell.” They accepted the invitation and turned out their team and stopped with us about a week.

Then a rain came and raised the river. Mr Shipman bought half of the boat – he took one side and father the other. They put the waggins in the hind end of the boat with a kittle between to cook in. Their oxen in front and tied to the side of the boat.

On the way down, one of father’s oxen jumped overboard hanging in the yoke. Father took his ax and knocked the bow down through and let the ox fall into the water. The ox swam to shore. They landed and took the ox in, then shoved out.

The landed again above Marietta and were going to stay all night for they might run by Marietta in the dark…[Page 5]… but they heard some thing in the leaves so they shoved out again. And in the night some one hailed them from the shore and asked what boat that was. The made answer that “they were bound for Marietta.” The answer was “row in quick or you will go by” so they began to row as hard as they could and landed in the mouth of the Muskingum – it being backed up by the Ohio – and they layed there all night.

The next morning, they rowed the boat to the “Garrison Landing.” There the boat was unloaded, the waggins put together and what little trumpery we had put into them and then moved out on Third street into log cabin which father could hardly stand straight in.

Here we were in Marietta after a journey of five or six months. The same distance can be traveled now in 36 hours and have a good cushin [cushion] to sit on a bed to lie on – if you please. How wonderful times have changed! How comfortable people come here now days!

[Big Bottom Massacre]

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Well now here father was with his large family without scarcely any means for support and winter coming on. Father sold his half of the boat to his…[Page 6]… brother, Ichobod Nye, who I think bought Mr. Shipman’s half also.

The first work I think that father did was to break up the boat and haul the planks in a North cource from the Garrison where they were made into the first tan vats [tanning vats] in Ohio. After which he helped the people gather their crops. He got corn, potatoes, and pumpkins for his labor.

He still kept in good spirits thinking that it would not be long before they would know where their lands lay and they moved onto them. The Emigrants that expected to move onto lands were badly disappointed for in the year of 1790 the Indians were peaceable and came into the settlements and seemed friendly but those that were making settlements were making preparations for defense if they should declare war.

There was a small colony that went up the Muskingum about forty miles to a place called “Big Bottom.” [Near Stockport, Ohio] They had a block house built for defence but between daylight and dark before the door was closed the Indians slipted in and tomahawked them and set the house of fire. There were two brothers…[Page 7]… living in one shanty which they captured and carried off. There were two other brothers living in another Shanty that made their escape and fled to “Wolf Creek Mills” [Near Beverly, Ohio] when they gave the alarm and then went on to “Waterford Landing” and notified the settlement there. Then to Marietta with the awfull news.

Those expecting to move on lands were more conserned for their safety than anything else fearing that if they should leave the Garrison that they would all be murdered.

Father and family lived the same cabin that we first moved into, and not long after the Massacre at “Big Bottom” block-house there were two young Men went coon hunting and treed a coon not more than two or three squares from our cabin, and to kill the coon they shot at it. Mother heard the report of the gun and it gave her such a fright that she caught her babe in her arms and ran to the Garrison. Father and sister pulled us small children out of bed and put our clothes on as quick as possible and started for the Garrison. Father with his gun behind, us children before. We marched into the Garrison and went into Gen. Tupper’s house. There we found Mother and Matthew, her babe, and Uncle Nye and his family. We stayed then about an hour when the news came about the young men being out coon hunting and having shot…[Page 8]… at it. Then the scare was over. We returned to our homes in safety.

[Death of Captain Rogers]

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The next day father went to the Garrison and got the South-east room of the South-east block-house upstairs. And we lived in it until the war was over. The guard passed and repassed through our room to the Sentry-box every two hours of the night.

In the spring of 1791 the Indians waylaid the scouts as they were coming in at night. They shot Rogers and killed him, but Henderson they missed. He turned back and ran toward the hills. Night coming on, he got away from them and got in safe.

The next morning a company of men started out and found Cap. Rogers not far from the upper end of the bottom that Wm R. Putnam lived on – not far from where his house stood. They brought his remains home and layed it out before Uncle Nye’s house. And in the afternoon, they buried it on Third street just as it begins to descend to the low land on the North East Side of the street. They buried him for fear of the Indians. Hamilton Kerr was appointed and he and Henderson acted as Spies through the war with the Indians. And when peace was declared the people started out into the woods in all directions.

The Indians did no more damage that season about Marietta except some cows came home …[Page 9]… with arrows shot in them – done as the people imagined by the Indians. Mr. Kelly was killed and his son, Joseph, taken prisoner. This was done in Bellville in Va [Virginia]. Mrs. Kelly then moved to Marietta and lived in the southeast block-house upstairs over the guard room. She lived there until peace was declared. It was said that her son, St. Clair, was the first male child born in Ohio and named for the first Governor of Ohio.

[Squirrels, Turkeys, & Cornmeal]

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In the year 1791 Harmar [Gen. Josiah Harmar] was defeated by the Indians. I remember hearing father and Mother talking that they were afraid there would be a scarcity of provisions for the people. Father said that the Indians would be so bold that there would not be anyone venture to come down the river with provisions. But they were provided for by the squirrels. Early in the in the fall [they] began to swim the Muskingum river and the men and boys would go and stand on the bank of the river with a stick and kill them. And it be but a little while until they could have a dozen or so for a meal, and turkeys were very plentiful.

I have seen large flocks [of turkeys] between the stockade and the point. [Picketed Point] And good gunners used to kill them frequently and I do not think there was much suffering for provisions….[Page 10]… I do not recollect of ever going to bed without my supper. Always had enough to eat such as it was and we had no better. We ate and felt as well satisfied as if we had feasted on the good things of now days. We Emigrants cleared the way and our descendants are enjoying the benefits of it.

I will tell you how we got our meal the first winter. The people had to grind it on a hand mill, taking turns the same as at a Custom Mill. But in the spring of 1791 a company was formed to build a mill. They built two boats, one larger than the other. They fastened them together by putting timbers across from one to the other and a water wheel between the two boats. The gearing and stones were on the large boat. They ground some corn on it that summer but it did not do very well and the last I remember of it, it was sunk at the foot of Washington street.

I think it was the next year that Commodore Whipple assisted by the people built a house mill on the commons below the Garrison. It was called a horse mill but the power was furnished by oxen as there were no horses in the Ohio owned by white people as the Indians would steal them. All travel was done on foot and in canoe. The mill would grind five or six bushels per day …[Page 11]… by grinding very steady. The fine meal Mother sifted out and made into Johnnycake and the coarse was washed or fanned to get the hulls from it – and then boiled half a day and then eaten with Milk. It was very good food for boys in those days but would not be thought good in these enlightened days.

[Early Entertainment]

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At the same time a still house was built on the bank of the Muskingum on the commons below the Garrison this being the first still house built in Ohio.

In the year 1790-91, the French came to Marietta and cleared these commons forward. It was quite a novelty to see them chop the trees down. They would begin and chop all around the tree until it fell – not minding which way it would fall – came very near bight caught under them several times. After it was cleared, the young men and boys made a ball ally on it. Then they played ball Saturday afternoons and Holidays when the weather was fine for eggnog. And Thomas Hutchenson who lived on one of the lots between the commons furnished it. Dr. Story was tallyman.

[Attack on Govenor Meigs]

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One Saturday while we were playing ball on the Commons, the Indians surprised Governor Meigs, Joseph Simans and a colored boy who were clearing land opposite the still house – and shot Simans in the shoulder…[Page 12]… but he managed to swim across the river and made good his escape. The colored boy waded out in to the river but being unable to swim was taken and killed. Gov. Meigs ran towards Fort Harmar – the Indians in full pursuit – but he jumped a run [creek] which the Indians were unable to do and had to run into it. So Meigs made his escape.

We boys ran down on the bank by the still house and from there saw the whole affair as it happened. Brother Lewis ran for his gun but arrived too late to get a shot. Several women had gathered in the room we lived in inside to step out in the sentry box to see what was going on. I had run home to inform Mother what had been done when an old man called Dr. Evans came running and called out the Indians were crossing the river at the lime kiln – which was ½ mile or more above the Garrison. The women were frightened. Some cried, “Lord have Mercy. What shall we do.”

Mother said “go home, bolt up your doors and windows and prepare for them.” And two or three fainted and Mother threw water in their faces – which scared me for I did not know what it meant.

Mr. Gilbert Devol and several others took a canoe and went across the river and got the colored boy out of the water and brought him home. …Page 13… About the same time, the Indians crept up and shot Mr Warff who lived a short distance below Ft. Harmar as he was cutting wood for the fire in front of near his cabin. Some of his brothers caught their guns and shot at them – but missed them and they made their escape.

[Big Foot & Little Foot]

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I have heard father relate the following circumstance. “The cows were allowed to run out in the woods. As they did not come up at night it was necessary for someone to go after them. The men were all afraid to go after them, and they were offering half a dollar to anyone who would go and bring them in."

Father concluded that he would run the risk. So he fixed his gun and, though it was at night, he started out not knowing whether he would even get back or not. But he thought he might as well be killed as starve to death.

He went out near were the fairgrounds are now and stopped to listen for the cows. Down below him were weeds tall enough to hide a man and he heard a noise in them as if someone was walking through them towards the river as they went. They scared up a turkey which came and alighted on a tree over where father stood. His first thought was to shoot it, but did …[Page 14]… not for fear of Indians. He then thought as the turkey was so handy he would shoot it anyway, so [he] put up his gun to shoot it but the gun flashed and the turkey flew away. He then went on after his cows and found them on the side hill where the road now goes.

As he came back, he heard the report of a gun on the bank of the river, near the mouth of the river. When he got home he made enquire if anyone had been out there, but could not find any one that had been out in that direction.

The next Morning father went out to the place where he had heard the report and there he found Moccasin tracks and a place where a small shote [shoat/piglet] had been killed and some flesh had been taken and roasted on a small fire. One of the tracks was very small, the other was fifteen of sixteen inches long. Father measured it with a stick which he kept for many years to show.

The Spring I was twenty years old, I went up into Columbiana County with Benjamin Tupper to survey. He hired a man called Capt. Brady for a hunter. Brady had been a spy in the Indian War. I heard him tell that a man by the name of Adam Por had a fight with two Indians called Big foot …[Page 15]… and Little foot and killed them both above Wheeling.

[Maple Sugar Danger]

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In the spring of 1792 father, David Blake, and Elizur Olney agreed to go together into the woods to make some maple sugar. They put their kettle and other things into a canoe and went up the river near Mill Creek. [Just north of Colegate Drive on the Muskingum River.] Blake and Oney built their fire on the bank of the river above where father and Lewis, his oldest son, had their fire built.

They had got the kittles hung and the trees tapped when they discovered that thy were getting more water than they could boil down in the day time so they concluded that they would stay all night. Father had a small dog which always went with him or Lewis and was the same dog that father brought out from Connecticut with him.

The second or third day near sundown the dog went up onto a raise of ground and then scratched and acted as it there was something he did not like. He then came back and laid down by the fire. When it began to get dark the dog got up again and went to the same place and barked, stuck up his bristles, and scratched as though there was something he did not like but he came back and laid down by the fire a second time. Some time after dark…[Page 16]… father was standing over the kettle stirring off a small lot of sugar, when the dog started up the third time and ran to a tree close by and began to fight for life. Father caught his gun and jumped behind a tree but whatever it was ran away. The dog followed it up onto the raise of ground and stayed there until they were ready to go home.

Blake and Oney heard the dog making a fuss and came creeping along the bank to see what was the matter. Father heard them and told them “to come up as no was hurt yet.”

They held a council and concluded the safest plan was to go home – which they did that night after fixing up their fires. Mr Oney had a big coat which he hung up on a bush saying “I hang this up for the Shawnee tonight.”

When they were ready to go the dog took the path before them. Father felt safe for he knew if there were any Indians laying in wait for them that the dog would give notice of it. They got home safely.

The next morning, they returned and found the coat missing and Moccasin tracks about the camp. It was father’s supposition that the Indians intended to slip up and tomahawk him and Lewis without much noise and then kill the others and, had…[Page 17]… it not been for the dog, they would have succeeded in their purpose.

[Settlers Revenge]

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In year 1792 the men of the Garrison formed themselves into a company to clear the bottom above the run on which the fairs are now - and as far up as Mr. Wm R Putnam’s. It was laid off into Eight acre lots and they cast lots for their lots.

Father’s lot fell where the fairgrounds now are. The first year they cut the trees down and piled the brush and planted the corn with their hoes among the timber. They worked all together first on one lot then on another. Two watched while the rest worked. They were sure to have their guns near them all the time in order to be ready for defense should the Sentry cry “Indians.” But I think the Indians did not molest them while they were working their corn.

In the Summer of 1793, Henderson and Kerr discovered a rendezvous of the Indians in a log mill house on Duck Creek three or four miles from Marietta. They slipped home and informed the officer in command of the troops at the Garrison. The next morning, they with the offices and his command, and some of the citizens started out to attack them. The Scouts wanted to surround them…[Page 18]… but the officer thought best to march up in a body.

While they were parleying about it, the Indians discovered them and all ran away but one. He wishing to see what was going on climbed up the logs and was looking out when one of the Scouts shot and killed him. They cut his head off and stuck it on a pole.

They then started for the Garrison running, hooping, hollering, and shooting off their guns which so alarmed the people in the Garrison that they fired off the canon to give the alarm to those out of the Garrison – who, when they heard the report of the canon – came running in for life. Father and Lewis were out. Father put Lewis in front of him in which way they ran making the best spread they could until they reached the Garrison. This was the second Scare.

When they all got in, the cross-leg tables were brought out, spread with clean tablecloths, and loaded with venison, turkey and a sprinkling of pork, johnnycake for bread, potatoes, turnips and such for sauce – and the whole topped off with pumpkin pie. All the time they were doing this the pole with the Indian’s head on it was sticking in the ground. These were the kind of people that lived in those days.

After Wane [Gen “Mad” Anthony Wayne] had conquered the Indians and peace was declared, the people began to move out of the Garrison.

[How to Homestead in the Ohio Country]

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They went up …[Page 19]…the Muskingum River in canoes as there were no roads that they could travel with teams. Father had his canoe ready and had a hundred acers of land in the Rainbow Settlement. In the spring he went up and cleared a small piece and planted some corn, potatoes etc. so that he would not have to bring everything up the river. In the fall he built a log house eighteen by twenty feet, two storys high and laid a puncheon floor, and partly chinked it. Mother and family – all but the two oldest children who stayed at the Garrison – moved up to the Mansion and felt quite happy that we had a house of our own and was not afraid of the Indians. We all enjoyed ourselves through the winter.

Father used to go to Marietta to see how Lewis was getting along with the cattle, to break flax, and to grind corn on the horse mill for our summer bread. He had the flax all broke, thirty of forty bushels of meal ground, and the fodder for the cattle all spread out. This was about the first of March.

Friday morning father and George took the canoe and went to Marietta and stayed all night. Saturday morning, Geroge started with the cattle (by land) for home. Father, Lewis, and sister - with what they could put into the canoe, by water. They got up in the afternoon and swam…[Page 20]… the cattle across the river. That night the family was all together and we all enjoyed ourselves together over Monday.

[Scarce Times]

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The next day was Sunday and one of the windiest days I ever saw. Our corn house stood on the commons below the Garrison. Mr. Blake had built a cabin about two rods [33 feet] from the corn house and Mr. Marvin was living it at the time. He had covered up his fire and gone over the river to visit his father-in-law, Mr. Warff. The wind blew and kindled the fire and set the house on fire from which father’s Corn house caught fire and burned about one hundred bushels of corn and thirty or forty bushels of meal and broken flax. Enough to make two hundred pounds of swingled flax. There was nothing saved.

Mr. Asa Oney and his brother were down after a load of corn to take up the river thirty five miles and saw the corn house burn down. They came up the next morning and told that the corn house was burned and father had intended to go down to Marietta that day for a load of corn. When he heard the news, he said “I have nothing to go for.”

They got some breakfast and made father a present of a bushel of corn. We had a bushel and a half which in all made two bushels and a half which was all we had until we could raise more. We had five of six bushels of potatoes which father said we must save…[Page 21]… for seed.

My sister while she stayed in Marietta promised to marry Mr. Pratt that Spring. She had got a web spun about forty yards long to make sheets etc. with. When the news came that the corn house was burnt, she shed tears for she said her web would have to be made into shirts for the family - and so it was. And she put off her wedding until the next spring.

Father got a bushel of spring wheat to sow. He sowed it and the flax and when he got that done, he went to clearing for corn. Father, Lewis, and George felled the trees, Nial and myself did the grubbing. We got over ten or twelve acres. Then we went in with our hoes and planted the corn among the logs and brush. When we came to plant the potatoes, Father found that he had only about a bushel and a half instead of the five of six bushels because we boys had hooked some and roasted them. He told three of us to take the rest and plant them and do the best we could with them. We did so and began to use them as soon as they got ripe. And when we dug them in the fall, father said there was one hundred bushels left. We raised from four to five hundred bushels of corn among the brush and logs, and no end of pumpkins.

Everything done well but the spring wheat…[Page 22] … and it yielded enough. But we got some ground and Mother made some into biscuits. And we boys thought we were going to have something good to eat - so there was. But in about an hour we became very sick and lost our supper. It had sick wheat in it. We washed it and skimmed the light grains from it. Then we could eat it but hard times were before the wheat grew.

Father got the two and a half bushels of corn ground into meal and we had a board made and just so much meal wet up and put on the board and baked. Then each one had his part laid off to him. We did not have much meat to eat with our johnnycake. We thought it was a very small allowance to work on as hard as we had to.

Sometime in May our meat and bread were gone and there was not that could be bought. Mr. Williams who lived opposite Marietta [Williamstown] had some that he sold at $1.25 per bushel. But it was all gone before father heard of it. But vegetation began to spring up so that we gathered nettles etc. for greens but they, without meat or bread, was slim food. But it was not long before we had peas and string beans and some time in June, Lewis went out into the woods after the cows. He came back in two or three hours and so reported that he had killed a deer. Father and he…[Page 23] … went out and got the deer and dressed it. And when it was in quarters, Mother put a quarter into a pillowcase and I had to take it about two miles to Mrs. Oney’s and give it to them.

When we used one up, Lewis would go out and kill another. I would be sent off as before. I think it was the third time I went crawling over the logs to get to the cabin, I head Mrs. Oney say, “ There, Sabra, I told you that the Lord would provide something for us.” When I went in, Mrs. Oney told me that they had ate everything they had to eat that morning.

[Clothing: Sowed, Growed, Spun, Woven]

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I must mention here what we did for clothes. As we had no sheep we had to wear overhauls made of linen and it took two pairs apiece to last a year. When spring came, our clothes were worn out. It took sister weeks to make shirts and we boys had to go with our old overhauls until we could grow flax. The seed was sowed, growed, pulled, rotted, broke, swingled, hackeled, spun, wove, cut, and made into pants. [Flax to Linen]

And three of us boys, one older and one younger than myself, wore them on the fourth of July to visit three boys that had been in the Garrison with us. They lived at Cat’s Creek five miles above [north]. We walked there and back without shoes or hats. My youngest brother and myself had nothing on but our shirts and pants and we felt… [Page 24] … as happy as the boys do nowadays with their fine clothes and horse to ride.

[Frontier Wedding]

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Father had a first-rate crop of flax that year and got it rotted early. Then father and us boys went to work getting it out. Mother and sister spinning and weaving and when spring came the articles were ready for sister to go to keeping house with.

Then the bridegroom came whether he was ready or not. And with him Mr. Shipman and lady, Uncle Mr. Icabod Nye and lady, Mr. Howe and squire Manson in a canoe or canoes. They got there before twelve o’clock and between one and two, Sister Sarah Nye changed her name to Sarah Pratt. Then the old folks showed their steady habits by kicking all the splinters off the puncheon floor until it became smooth. The next day sister’s things were put into the canoe and all started for Marietta.

Elijah Baccus [Backus] bought the house that Thomas Hutchenson formerly lived in and then I think the first newspaper published in Marietta. Mr. Silaman was the editor and Farlern [Fairlamb] and Natael [Nathaniel] Gates were the printers. It was published in 1800. I think it commenced in the Spring

This is all I can think of now.

I remain Yours Truly,

Melzar Nye (of Meigs Co., Ohio)

P.S. I am now in my 88th year.

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