Early pioneers rest in Watertown cemetery

Some of Washington County’s earliest pioneers, including a common pleas judge, are buried in the Radacker Cemetery, along Hendershot Road in Watertown Township.

“Radacker” is apparently a variation of the name Radecker whose family members, including at least three infants, are buried in the graveyard.

Phillip Crane, researcher for the Lower Muskingum Historical Society, quotes Williams History of Washington County in a description of the cemetery’s origin:

“At the death of Simon Starlin a burying lot was fenced off on his farm,” Williams wrote. “Here are interred representatives of the Starlin, Ezekiel Deming, Parke, and Beebe families.”

But the Radacker Cemetery could actually be a bit older, Crane said.

“Williams history says the cemetery was laid out and fenced off at the death of Simon Starlin, Sr., which occurred in 1820,” he said. “But more likely the cemetery dates back even further as his son, David Starlin, is also buried in the cemetery and he died in 1802.”

Crane said Simon Starlin, Sr., who was born in 1749 in New London County, Conn. brought his family to Washington County by 1795 where Simon, Sr. and his two sons, David and Simon, Jr., each received a 100-acre parcel of land from the Donation Tract, a land grant program that had been authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1792.

“The Donation Tract was 100,000 acres, and lots of 100 acres each would be donated to any settler who met certain requirements, including building a house, clearing land, planting fruit trees and providing an able bodied man with a gun,” Crane explained. “The purpose of the Donation Tract was mainly two-fold, to attract new settlers and provide a buffer between the Marietta settlers and the Native Americans.”

He said the Donation Tract was divided into allotments that were often named after streams crossing the lands, including Duck Creek, Bear Creek, Cat’s Creek, Rainbow Creek, Wolf Creek and others. Starlin Sr. and his two sons received land in the Rainbow Allotment, while another son, Marvil Starlin, was granted his acreage in the allotment between Rainbow and Waterford.

The idea of the Donation Tract, donated by the Ohio Company of Associates, was to help protect the newly-established settlement of Marietta by creating a zone of hardy pioneer homesteaders between the territory still inhabited by Indians and those living in Marietta.

Creating such a buffer zone wasn’t a novel idea at the time, according to Bill Reynolds, historian with the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums.

“Rufus Putnam, envisioning this settlement, wrote a lengthy letter to George Washington in 1783, five years before his Ohio Company established Marietta, urging Washington to allow pioneers to settle on this side of the Ohio River to create a buffer area between the Indians and more settled northern areas like Fort Pitt,” Reynolds said.

He noted the Native Americans did not establish villages in the Washington County area, but they used the land for hunting grounds which were teeming with deer and buffalo at that time.

By the time the Starlins and other pioneers arrived on the Donation Tract most Indian hostilities had ended.

“Technically the Northwest Indian War ended with the Battle of Fallen Timbers (near the British Fort Miami, Ohio, 1794),” Reynolds said.

General Anthony Wayne’s forces defeat of the Indians at Fallen Timbers led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 that ended Native American claims to Ohio and surrounding lands.

For some years afterward there were still a few Indian raiding parties that continued their harassment of the settlers who had moved into their Ohio hunting grounds.

Crane said by the time the local settlers moved onto their Donation Tracts, the Indian War period had already passed but occasionally they still had to defend their property from the displaced Native American tribes.

In addition to the Radacker Cemetery, one of the Starlins, Marvil, Sr., provided another historic element that still exists in the Beverly and Waterford areas.

“In 1798 Marvil, Sr. settled on the farm now owned by the family of the late Roy and Dorothy Skinner along County Road 4,” Crane said. “Marvil, Sr. constructed a large log house there with a double, center fireplace. This log house was donated by the Skinner family and moved to the Oliver Tucker Museum in Beverly in 1974.”

Crane also noted that Marvil, Sr., had a family of 24 children.

He said the two-story, 33-foot-long log home was restored between 1974 and 1976 by local residents, including junior high and high school students from Beverly, Marietta and Waterford.

“It is believed to be the oldest completely hand-hewn log house residence that is now a museum in Ohio,” Crane said.

Another historic figure whose final resting place was the Radacker Cemetery is Ezekiel Deming, appointed an associate judge of the Washington County Common Pleas Court in 1804 during the third session of the Ohio General Assembly.

Deming and others from Sandisfield, Mass., including his brother, Simeon Deming, Horace Wolcott, and a Mr. Hart, drew lots for their acreages that were located in the Rainbow Donation Tract. The group arrived to take possession of their lands in early 1797.

According to the Williams history, Deming spent most of 1797 clearing his land and planting an orchard, then returned to Massachusetts where he married Hannah Parke. The couple came back to his Washington County property in 1799.

Williams noted Ezekiel Deming served as associate judge for 21 years, in addition to being a farmer who raised sheep for wool on his 100 acres of Donation Tract land.