Ohio Biographies

Usual Osborn

As already mentioned, Usual Osborn was a native of Pennsylvania, and son-in-law of Benjamin Springer, with whom he came from Kentucky to Madison County in 1796. Alder gives the following sketch of this pioneer, which we quote verbatim. He says: "Osborn was a kind-hearted man, although he was what was then called 'a regular old bruiser.' Yet he would discommode himself to accomodate his neighbors any time. He was remarkably strong and muscular, but not quarrelsome; yet it was by no means safe to cross his track. He would fight at the drop of a hat, and I never knew him to get whipped. Fist-fighting was a very common thing among the early settlers; especially so was it amongst those who used whisky to excess. If they had any difficulty, they would fight it out fist and skull, and then make friends over a cup of whisky. 'Might was right' in those old-fashioned days. Osborn was a hard-working man, but a poor planning one, and of all poor families, whites or Indians, I have ever seen, I think his was the poorest. The first winter they came they had not a sign of a bed to lie on. He had a large box, sufficiently large for him and his wife to lie in, and in the fall they gathered leaves and filled the box. They had two blankets; one of these they spread over the leaves for a sheet, and the other they used to cover with. This constituted their bed for a year or two after they came to this country. The children had to shift for themselves. In the evening, the two oldest boys would gather a large quantity of prairie hay or grass, take it into the house and pile it in a corner, and then the three little fellows would crawl under it and sleep until morning; then gther it all up and take it out and give it to the cows. This was the only bed the boys had for many, many months. Osborn's wife was one of those worthless kind of women who never do anything when it should be done, and consequently was always behind-hand. There was plenty of everything required to make soap, yet Osborn's wife seldom ever made any, and consequently was nearly all the time out of soap. I have frequently known her to take honey to wash her clothes with. Osborn was a great bee-hunter and always had plenty of that article on hand. Honey makes a very good lather, but not equal to soap. On very cold days, Mrs. Osborn was in the habit of driving her cow into the house to milk her. The whole family was very scant of clothing. Osborn himself was one of those hearty pioneer men who would go all winter with nothing on his person but a linen pair of trousers, a linen shirt, a linen hunting shirt, a pair of moccasins or shoes, and a wool hat or coon-skin cap. In fact, I never knew him to be any better dressed fo ryears, and not until sheep got plenty did he wear a woolen garment, and yet I never heard him complain of being cold. I spoke of his being a hard-working man, but I do not mean that he was a steady worker, for he was not, but he could do more work in a given time than any two men I ever knew. He turned most of his attention to trade and traffic in a small way, and of course not very remunerative. though not quarrelsome, no man need spoil for a fight when Osborn was around. There was a man by the name of Chard who had some grudge at Osborn. One day in the winter, when Osborn was mending his shirt, chard came to his house. He told Osborn that there was a little difficulty between them and that he had come to settle it. 'Very good,' said Osborn, throwing down his shirt and springing to his feet. They made a few passes at each other, when Osborn clinched Chard and threw him on the fire. A neighbor who happened to be present resuced him from his perilous situation before he was much burned. No sooner was he out of hte fire and on his feet than he took to his heels and ran off as fast as possible, much to the amusement of Osborn and his neighbor. That ended the fight for that day. Not many days after, Chard made it convenient to pass osborn's house. He met Osborn on the road with a yoke of oxen going for a load of hay. Chard was on horseback, and held in his hand a stout cudgel. Said he to Osborn, 'Now, we are by ourselves; we can settle that little matter of ours.' 'Oh,' said Osborn, 'that is what you are at, are you?' Chard got off his horse, and while he was hitching him, osborn stepped to one side and bent down a bush and cut it off. When Chard turned toward Osborn, he saw him trimming the bush with his butcher-knife, and, conscious of the power of the man, he trembled. The butcher-knife and cudgel were in Chard's eyes as powerful as the fire, and having no desire, as he afterward expressed it, 'to be butchered, roasted and eaten,' he sprang to his horse, mounted and put spurs to him to make his escape before Osborn could catch him. However, Osborn pursued Chard as fast as he could, and as the latter had to pass Osborn's house, Osborn ran in and got his gun and fired it off in the air. Osborn said he did not want to hurt the 'varmint' but only to scare him to death."

Osborn finally bought a small farm on the east bank of Little Darby, now in Monroe Township, and the property of Jonah Wood. He farmed some and wagoned considerably, supplying the community with salt. He kept two or three yoke of oxen. In the fall, he would load with cheese, butter, honey and other commodities, take it to Zanesville, sell his load, and bring back salt, glass ware and other necessaires. In this way he was a useful man, and a benefit to the community. Prior to the erection of Madison County, and when its territory formed one township of Franklin County, we find that Osborn was Collector of Taxes for Darby Township. At a session of the Associate Judges of Franklin County held January 7, 1804, the following record appears: "Usual Osborn having given bond with approved security for the collection of the county tax in Darby Township, it is ordered that he be appointed Collector of hte same." After his settlement in Monroe Township, his neighbors soon discovered that he was not a man to be trifled with. One winter, hay and feed for stock was very scarce, there having been a short crop the previous summer, and considerable stock was really in a suffering condition. George Fullington had a better supply than most of the neighbors, and sold to them till he could spare no more, when he gave out word throughout the neighborhood that no one could be supplied with hay from his stacks. Osborn owned a pair of old oxen and a cow at this time, using the former to haul loads and travel around with. His animals becoming very poor and in an almost starving condition, he saw he must have hay or they would die. Mr. Fullington would sell no more, so Osborn hitched his oxen to his sled, drove to Fullington's hay-stack, and, with the assistnace of his son, loaded on all he thought his animals could haul, and ordered the boy to drive home. He immediately walked to Fullington's house, called him out and directed his attention toward the stack, whence the owner saw Osborn's son driving with a load of hay. He told fullington that he could not let his cattle starve while hay could be found. It is said that Osborn was not very particular when out of meat whose hog he shot, and was therefore mixed up in a great many law-suits, out of which he usually came victorious. He was knwon as "Gov. Osborn," on account of his aggressiveness and determination to always have his own way. If he made a promise, he would always keep it. He was married twice. His first wife came with him to the county and here died, leaving the following children: Silas, Daniel, Thomas, Samuel and David. His second wife was the mother of Isaac, Charles and Maria. As the country began to get thickly settled and neighbors in every direction, the progress of civilization was disagreeable to his frontier education, so he sold out in 1835 and moved West, where he expected to find things more in harmony with his feelings.


From HISTORY OF MADISON COUNTY - W. H. Beers [Chicago, 1883]