Last Friday morning, six inches of copies richer for having spent Thursday in the library of the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, Lois and I headed south to Highland County, Ohio.
The 1832-35 Highland County Court House, Hillsboro, Ohio
Thanks to a pre-trip tip from the Highland County Historical Society, we knew the records we hoped to consult were not there, but in the care of the Southern Ohio Genealogical Society (SOGS), housed in the Library of Southern State Community College in Hillsboro.
Lois trolling for Jane Smith Williamson commentary at SOGS.
The SOGS collection runs the gamut from old books to hand-written family genealogies. Although no one has submitted anything on the Huggins family, locally published resources like cemetery transcriptions, county atlases and township histories supplied the data I needed to interpret the land-ownership clues I’d picked up earlier.
Lois and I navigated from Hillsboro to Buford, Clay Township, a beautiful drive on back country roads. While the village of Sicily existed, south of Buford, it served at the Huggins brothers’ post office address. Before and after Sicily, their letters were addressed to Buford, Highland County, Ohio.
An old abandoned house in Buford caught our attention, its front porch smothered in mimosa. Mimosa and Crepe Myrtle were in bloom, exotic plants to us northerners. I’m sure we looked every inch like tourists snapping photos of local weeds.
In Buford we put away the Triple-A map and got out a photocopy of a township map from the 1880’s that showed the location of the Huggins family cemetery. Although I have yet to find the Huggins name on a plat map, I know from period narrative sources that the cemetery was originally located on the land owned by William Alexander Huggins (Alexander Huggins’ father) land later parceled out to his sons.
Although the roads have different names now, each one led exactly where the old map said it would: down a dirt road (that is still a dirt road) to this:
You can’t see the “No Trespassing” sign on the gate in this picture. White Oak Creek meanders through the woods a stones’ throw west of this place.
These horses, if they wished, could nibble grass on the Huggins graves on the hill beyond the “No Trespassing” sign –if the old map is right. A sweet woman who lives across the street told us all the property on the street has changed hands relatively recently and the property owners, in the cases key to my project, do not live on the land. So I will need to do some modern property research to find them.
The neighbor had not heard of a small cemetery in the neighborhood which adds to the mystery: is it really where the old map places it? A 2010 photo on Find A Grave shows similar topography.
But this quest was not really about the cemetery. Finding the private Huggins family cemetery would simply confirm what land-sale records suggest: Alexander and Lydia Huggins walked this road when they were home from Minnesota on furlough. Alexander lived in this place during the months his family waited for permission to admit him to the Lunatic Asylum.
Two of the Dakota young men who went to Ohio in 1842, Lorenzo Towanetiton Lawrence and Henok Mahpiyahdnape, crossed the White Oak on their way to the Presbyterian Church in Sardinia with the Huggins brothers.
The Huggins brothers knew the local Underground Railroad scene so well that one of them would be called as a witness in the defense of John B. Mahan, tried in Kentucky courts for abetting the flight of a human being from slavery.