Where’s J.J. Zeigler’s Farm? | The Ruslin Hills Then & Now
Last spring, following a trip home to Ohio, I made pretty big electronic hay over being able to still see the outline in today’s satellite images of my great-great-great grandfather Gideon Foutz’s 1800s farm south of Bowerston.
Whether his cabin still stands on that same ground is something I’ll investigate during a future trip.
Locating the family’s 80-acre homestead relied on a combination of source documents from the early 1800s that traced the acquisition of farmland by our earliest Foutz ancestors in Harrison County, deciphering the Township, Range and Section numbers, and then employing an ingenious (though not free) add-on to Google Earth that places the township and range lines on today’s images from space.
The 1875 maps are still useful today because, well, not all that much has changed, geographically-speaking, from the Harrison County of today and 135 years ago. Many of the old roads laid down then are the main roads through the rolling hills and farmland today. And we’re fortunate that our ancestors lived on “the outskirts” — which are still the outskirts today.
The same is true for some of my farming ancestors in neighboring Tuscarawas County.
I’ve covered, in earlier posts, the corrected spelling of a transposed “i” and “e” that helped me saw off a branch of in-town, Catholic Zeiglers from the family tree and re-graft my true Zeigler ancestors, who emigrated from Baden-Wuerttemberg in the early- to mid-1800s and settled in the Ruslin Hills, northeast of downtown Dover.
This time around, I didn’t rely upon — and still have avoided paying for — the fancy GIS overlay data. I just eyeballed today’s imagery and the 1875 map, and have drawn some pretty confident conclusions about where J.J. Zeigler did his farming back then, and the homestead where my great-grandmother, Christina Laurina Katherina Zeigler, was born.
Locating Zeigler’s Farm | Eyes on Blacksnake Hill Road
Blacksnake Hill Road isn’t the type of stretch most 16-year-old kids would want to learn to drive on. But my dad took me there anyway.
We started on the straight, lowland stretches, learning the stick-shift in our 1980s VW Rabbit. But we pretty quickly headed for elevation, impossible to avoid in part of Ohio, with its steep, wooded hills and rivers running through valleys.
Blacksnake Hill Road, on the rises, can be gravelly, sandy, enclosed in trees and thorny brush, with runoff ditches on either side. The same goes for the belly-dropping downhills. Fun, right?
This just happens to be the road I focused on to locate my great-great grandfather’s farm today. Albeit, safely seated in my desk chair.
The first image below is of Dover and its northeastern outskirts in 1875. J.J. Zeigler’s farm is located by following the road straight up along the right side until it hooks around to the east. I’ve outlined his farm, as well as put a red dot by the image for Ruslin Hills Church.
The next three images are of Dover today. In the first, you can follow Front Street east from downtown and continue on Dover Zoar Road before hooking north on Blacksnake Hill Road. You take Blacksnake north, past Schneiders Crossing Road, head north a bit more and by the time you hit the stretch that turns you up and around to the right, J.J.’s place should be on your left.
Doesn’t look like there’s much there today. And the rutted blues and greens and tans make me wonder if it’s been strip-mined. Not very picturesque, maybe, but there it is.