Every genealogist encounters past jurisdictions that no longer exist.  Empires rise, empires fall, boundaries shift, names change.  Only 150 odd years ago, Germany was a patchwork of 39 kingdoms, duchies, and principalities.  As a result, the 1870 U.S. census indicated that my 3GG Charles C. Miller (1822-1885) was born in Braunschweig (Brunswick), not Germany as he would have been shown today.

The American Revolution was another such change as 13 British colonies became states in a new federation.  Jurisdictional changes are especially evident in the eastern half of America because of its deeper history and more complicated land development.  On his excellent mapping website, Randy Majors points out:

County boundaries have changed over 17,600 times since America was settled in colonial times![1]https://randymajors.org/maps

One example relates to my father’s Kennelly ancestors John and Maria.  They lived in the 1820s and 1830s in what was then called Desmond Township in St. Clair County, Michigan, but the township name was changed in 1837 to Port Huron, so there is no Desmond Township today.[2]See blog post on this family here.  However, because Desmond Township was much larger initially, the Kennelly farm was actually located in what today is Fort Gratiot Township, not Port Huron!

Genealogy can be confusing like that sometimes.  Recently, I’ve encountered another geographically challenging situation.

There is a township crucial to the history of my mother’s King ancestors that no longer exists – Northampton Township in Summit County, Ohio.  The Kings lived in Northampton Township for over 30 years, beginning in 1809.  King descendants continued to live in neighboring jurisdictions, especially Portage Township and the city of Akron, for many additional decades – and likely still live there today.

Background:   During his lifetime, 4GG Henry King (1791?-1848) lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, including three separate counties in Ohio.  He was quite the avid migrationist!  From 1809 to about 1826 – from his teenage years to his early 30s – Henry resided in Northampton.  In 1816, he married Jane Dunlap (1798?-1842?), probably in Northampton, or close by.[3]“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 12 March 2018), Henry King and Jane Dunlap, 10 September 1816, Portage County, … Continue reading  Together they produced one son (3GG Stephen King) and five daughters.  I believe their first four children, including Stephen, were born in Northampton Township.

Henry’s probable father Joshua King (1775?-1853) and grandfather Samuel King (1755?-18??) were Northampton pioneers.  (Alternatively, Samuel could be Henry’s father and Joshua his older brother.)  Local histories consistently report that Samuel and Joshua King arrived in Northampton in the year 1809 with families in tow.  One historian specifically identifies Joshua as Samuel’s son.[4]Ione H. Hoffman, The Story of Northampton Township. Sesquicentennial, 1820-1970 (Northampton, Ohio: Northampton Historical Society, 1970), p. 10.  Actually, I found a record that shows Samuel King in Portage County on 29 December 1808, so possibly the family migrated to Portage County from Pennsylvania in late 1808, but didn’t purchase land until 1809.[5]Portage County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, “Probate record, vol. 1, 1808-1815,” image 19, p. 15, Samuel King, appraiser in probate of John Ross; consulted as “Probate Court Records, … Continue reading  Samuel is not listed among the 87 eligible voters for Portage County on 8 June 1808.[6]J.E. Norris, Robert C. Brown, ed., History of Portage County: Containing a History of the County, Its Townships … (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1885), p. 322.

Samuel “settled at Old Portage” in Northampton where he “purchased a farm and built a tavern and store, and embarked in many useful enterprises.”[7]William Henry Perrin, ed., History of Summit County (Chicago: Baskin & Battey, 1881), p. 500; digital book, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 6 June 2021).  He was prominent in local civic affairs during his first decade of residence.  Reportedly, he was the first township clerk for Northampton and the first justice of the peace.[8]Perrin, History of Summit County, 504.  He was elected a Portage County commissioner for three years, 1810-1813.[9]Norris, Brown, ed., History of Portage County, 311.

Portage County receipt for Samuel King oath of office as county commissioner, 26 November 1810 (Source: Original receipt, Portage County Historical Society, scanned by author)

The Locale:   The territory that became Northampton Township originally was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, or New Connecticut, as it was styled in those days.  The State of Connecticut claimed all of northeastern Ohio even after the Revolution.  When Moses Cleveland completed his survey of the Western Reserve in 1797, the township was first designated Township 3 North, Range 11 West.

One of the historical oddities of the early development of Ohio is that the Western Reserve was settled later than many areas to the south and west, even though the area was geographically closer to the seaboard.  Prospective settlers were concerned about hostile Indians and hesitant about land titles until Connecticut’s claims were resolved.  Connecticut ceded the Western Reserve to the federal government in 1800, but it wasn’t until the Treaty of Fort Industry was signed with local Indian tribes in 1805 that settlement began in earnest.

After Connecticut gave up its claims in 1800, the area became part of Trumbull County, Ohio.  When Portage County was carved out of Trumbull County in 1808, Northampton was one of its original townships.  It was named by its first settler, Simeon Prior, for his home village in Massachusetts.

The map below shows Ohio in 1818.  Portage County is southeast of Cleveland and two towns are indicated: Hudson and Ravenna.  Northampton is on the west side of Portage County where Township 3 intersects Range 11.

Ohio State Map, 1818 (Source: Thornydalemapco @Flickr)

For over 30 years, Northampton belonged to Portage County.  Then in 1840, Summit County was created and Northampton shifted ownership, where it remained for 146 years.  In 1986, the local populace voted to merge Northampton with the city of Cuyahoga Falls, so the name disappeared.

This is a map of Summit County in 1874, when Akron was a town of about 12,000.

Summit County, 1874 (Source: mapsofthepast.com)

Even though Northampton Township ceased to exist 35 years ago, there remains a small society dedicated to its memory. I was fortunate to meet the Northampton Historical Society president, David Brown, on my drive from Virginia to Minnesota in May 2021.  Their newsletter recently described my visit:

Steven was in town researching his King family ancestors.  Our society was able to provide some family information from our surname files.  He was also given a driving tour to parts of the former township.  The Kings were among the earliest township pioneers.[10]“The Prior News,” Northampton Historical Society, vol. 1, issue 2, Fall/Winter 2021, p. 1

David showed me where an old stone obelisk marks the boundary of Northampton and Stow townships.  It’s hidden in a fringe area of a church parking lot in Cuyahoga Falls.

Boundary marker for Northampton and Stow townships, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, 25 May 2021 (Photo by author)

Northampton has a fascinating history, most notably because of its Native American roots and because of Old Portage, the head of navigation on the Cuyahoga River.  For generations, Indian tribes were able to journey from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River by canoe, a route that involved the Cuyahoga, Tuscarawas, and Muskingum rivers.  However, there was an 8-mile stretch where they had to carry their canoes and belongings.  Tribesmen would canoe south from Lake Erie up the Cuyahoga River until they reached Old Portage, disembark, and then portage eight miles south to the Tuscawaras River.  This 8-mile trail is called Portage Path.

Photo by author, 26 May 2021 (Marker at Old Portage)

Photo by author, 26 May 2021 (Marker at Old Portage)

 

As the northern terminus of this ancient portage, Old Portage was an important landmark.  It served as the crossroads of several Indian trails; the Delaware tribe maintained a village there called Cuyahoga Town.  Many ancient burial mounds were evident in the surrounding area.  Old Portage later became a trading post for both whites and Indians.  After 1785, it was a key indicator of the western boundary of the United States.  It was a staging ground for troops defending the Western Reserve during the War of 1812.  A historical marker commemorating the Portage Path stands today at the intersection of North Portage Path and Merriman roads in north Akron.

Portage Path Historical Marker, 26 May 2021 (Photo by author)

Although traders, missionaries, and squatters likely resided at Old Portage prior to 1809, our ancestors Samuel and Joshua King were the first to settle there under legal U.S. title.  Samuel King was assessed property taxes for 134 acres in Lot 69 in Northampton in June 1809.[11]Portage County, Ohio, “Duplicate of land tax, vol. 18, 1809 (A-N various counties),” image 308, Samuel King; consulted as “Ohio Tax Records, 1800-1850,” images database, FamilySearch … Continue reading  By looking at old township maps that show lot numbers, I was able to confirm that Lot 69 indeed encompassed Old Portage.  I can’t say where Samuel’s house was situated precisely, but I think it could have been where Mud Brook feeds into the Cuyahoga River.

Cuyahoga River at junction with Mud Brook (beyond the tree in upper right), Old Portage, 25 May 2021 (Photo by author)

The photograph below shows possibly where the Samuel King farm and tavern was located, at least initially.[12]The History of Northampton Township states that Samuel “later built a house and tavern across Portage Trail.”  I take this to mean on the south side of the river.  I am standing in the same spot as the above photograph, just looking in the opposite direction.  You can see how flat the land is here down by the river compared to the Hampton Hills to the north.  The line of trees to the left indicate Mud Brook.

Lot 69 in Old Portage: A view facing away from the Cuyahoga River looking north, 25 May 2021 (Photo by author)

Joshua King also paid land taxes in 1809 – 160 acres in Lot 79.[13]Portage County, Ohio, “Duplicate of land tax, vol. 18, 1809 (A-N various counties),” image 308, Joshua King; consulted as “Ohio Tax Records, 1800-1850,” images database, FamilySearch … Continue reading  This was west of and adjacent to Lot 69.  Both lots 69 and 79 were on the southern boundary of Northampton.  I will talk in more detail about King family properties in a future blog article.

Northampton Township, 1874, cropped (Source: mapsofthepast.com)

Northampton was slow to develop compared to neighboring townships.  It was the last township in the county to lose its Native Americans inhabitants and maintained a rather rough-and-tumble reputation for many decades even after the Indians were gone.  The topography contributed to this.  Although Old Portage lies in a small valley down by the river where land is fertile, much of Northampton is surprisingly rugged and hilly.  Indeed, the northwestern quadrant of the former township lies today inside the domains of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

An 1881 history described Northampton as follows:

Northampton had for many years, and has not yet entirely outgrown its reputation, of having a grade of morals scarcely up to that of the more fortunate surrounding townships.  This was due principally to the influence of its distilleries, and the fact that, at and after the building of the canal, the river region was populated by rough characters.[14]Perrin, History of Summit County, 505.

Potato whiskey and other concoctions were plentiful in those days and the King family was clearly involved in the industry.  By digging through original “tavern receipts” at the Portage County Historical Society, I found three King brothers who paid annual fees for county licenses to “keep a tavern.”[15]Original tavern receipts, 1810-1820, Portage County Historical Society, Ravenna, Ohio; scanned by author.  Taverns in those days usually operated as inns and public meeting places as well as liquor establishments.

  • Joshua King = 1810, 1817, 1819
  • Hezekiah King = 1817, 1819
  • Samuel King, Jr. = 1820

This complements our understanding from local histories that Samuel King had a tavern at Old Portage, and that, starting around 1817, Joshua King maintained a tavern four miles south of Old Portage.  (The latter was a log structure in Portage Township near the corner of today’s Copley and Diagonal roads.)  It is surprising that Samuel King himself is not listed, but Joshua reportedly managed his father’s tavern, which the 1810 receipt could reflect.[16]Hoffman, History of Northampton, 10.  Also, my search through the tavern receipts was hurried and incomplete, so I need to return for a more thorough examination.

Samuel King, Jr., Esq., $6 tavern receipt, 23 March 1820, Ravenna, Ohio (Source: Original tavern receipt, Portage County Historical Society)

Joshua King appears to have been quite a character.  While operating a tavern was a legal activity, he was engaged in more than that.  Joshua ran afoul of the law several times.  In 1809, he was convicted of selling less liquor than “allowed by his license,” meaning that he was serving less liquor than customers paid for.[17]Norris, Brown, ed., History of Portage County, 331.  In 1821, Joshua bailed out his brother, Hezekiah King, who was convicted of possessing 15 still tubs and other distillery apparatus owned by one William Fogle and charged with either returning the equipment or paying the sum of $177.18.[18]Portage County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, judgment against Hezekiah King, 17 February 1821; digital image of original emailed to author by Brian Rhinehart, Portage County Historical Society … Continue reading.  In addition, Joshua was convicted at least twice of abusing his position as a justice of the peace, once in 1820,[19]Portage County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, Commandment to Sheriff, levying $22.55 fine against Joshua King for permitting a justice of the peace to hold court in his tavern, 19 December 1820; … Continue reading and again in 1828 for “oppression in office.”[20]“Horse Thieves,” The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), 26 April 2021), p. 2B, Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com : 26 October 2021), Newspaper Archives.  He was sentenced to five days in jail and a $50 fine in the latter instance.

Most interestingly, Joshua is mentioned by 19th century chroniclers as one of the principal confederates in a mammoth counterfeiting enterprise led by two brothers, Jim and Dan Brown.[21]Samuel A. Lane, Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County… (Akron, Ohio: Beacon Job Department, 1892) , p. 878.

Just when, and by whom, the two brothers were initiated into the mystic art of illicit financiering, can only now be conjectured.  But certain it is that, coincident with the opening of the Ohio Canal in 1827, there was in existence an extensive organization for the manufacture of, and dealing in, counterfeit money along the entire length, with its headquarters in the Cuyahoga Valley, with the two Browns, as its leaders.  Their principal coadjutors, in this vicinity, were … Joshua King and Joel Keeler of Portage; with quite a large army of subordinate officers and privates …”[22]Ibid.

If Joshua King was a counterfeiter (and if he proves to be in my direct line of ancestors), then he is the first genuine criminal in the family tree.  It has always struck me as worthy of respect, but also rather amusing, that my ancestors were such honest, law-abiding folk – bankers, doctors, city clerks, ministers, tradesmen, cordwainers, and farmers – solid citizens all.  For several years now, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for any sign of lawlessness or immorality.  Please, can’t I find just one axe-murderer?![23]Just joking, of course.  The reason axe-murderer came to me is that I have a colonial ancestor who was murdered by her brother Benjamin with an axe.  This is the infamous Connecticut case of 8GG … Continue reading

I’ll settle for a counterfeiter though!  A bit more intellectual-sounding than axe-murderer.  It seems appropriate somehow that when I finally find a criminal ancestor, he’s located in a township that no longer exists.  It just goes to show that genealogy is often as much about places as it is about people.

References

References
1 https://randymajors.org/maps
2 See blog post on this family here.
3 “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 12 March 2018), Henry King and Jane Dunlap, 10 September 1816, Portage County, Ohio, reference ID 65; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 891357.
4 Ione H. Hoffman, The Story of Northampton Township. Sesquicentennial, 1820-1970 (Northampton, Ohio: Northampton Historical Society, 1970), p. 10.
5 Portage County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, “Probate record, vol. 1, 1808-1815,” image 19, p. 15, Samuel King, appraiser in probate of John Ross; consulted as “Probate Court Records, 1808-1867,” images database, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : 20 October 2021); FHL microfilm 378316.
6 J.E. Norris, Robert C. Brown, ed., History of Portage County: Containing a History of the County, Its Townships … (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1885), p. 322.
7 William Henry Perrin, ed., History of Summit County (Chicago: Baskin & Battey, 1881), p. 500; digital book, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 6 June 2021).
8 Perrin, History of Summit County, 504.
9 Norris, Brown, ed., History of Portage County, 311.
10 “The Prior News,” Northampton Historical Society, vol. 1, issue 2, Fall/Winter 2021, p. 1
11 Portage County, Ohio, “Duplicate of land tax, vol. 18, 1809 (A-N various counties),” image 308, Samuel King; consulted as “Ohio Tax Records, 1800-1850,” images database, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : 20 August 2021); FHL microfilm 4849187.
12 The History of Northampton Township states that Samuel “later built a house and tavern across Portage Trail.”  I take this to mean on the south side of the river.
13 Portage County, Ohio, “Duplicate of land tax, vol. 18, 1809 (A-N various counties),” image 308, Joshua King; consulted as “Ohio Tax Records, 1800-1850,” images database, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : 20 August 2021); FHL microfilm 4849187.
14 Perrin, History of Summit County, 505.
15 Original tavern receipts, 1810-1820, Portage County Historical Society, Ravenna, Ohio; scanned by author.
16 Hoffman, History of Northampton, 10.
17 Norris, Brown, ed., History of Portage County, 331.
18 Portage County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, judgment against Hezekiah King, 17 February 1821; digital image of original emailed to author by Brian Rhinehart, Portage County Historical Society researcher, 19 August 2020.
19 Portage County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, Commandment to Sheriff, levying $22.55 fine against Joshua King for permitting a justice of the peace to hold court in his tavern, 19 December 1820; digital image of original emailed to author by Brian Rhinehart, Portage County Historical Society researcher, 19 August 2020.
20 “Horse Thieves,” The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), 26 April 2021), p. 2B, Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com : 26 October 2021), Newspaper Archives.
21 Samuel A. Lane, Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County… (Akron, Ohio: Beacon Job Department, 1892) , p. 878.
22 Ibid.
23 Just joking, of course.  The reason axe-murderer came to me is that I have a colonial ancestor who was murdered by her brother Benjamin with an axe.  This is the infamous Connecticut case of 8GG Sarah Tuttle (1642-1676).