Guernsey County Ohio GenWeb Project
OHGenWeb Project
USGenWeb Project

Submitted by: Andy Miller

Source: Daily Jeffersonian or Guernsey Times between January 1913 and Feb. 1914.

The Reminiscences of a Cambridge Nonogenarian: Alexander McCracken Gives Recollection of Almost a Century of Cambridge History
Born November 22, 1814, Alexander McCracken has the dinstinction of being the oldest citizen of Cambridge and Guernsey County. Although nearing the century mark he enjoys good health, a keen intellect and a memory which in a flash travels back to the days of long ago to recall things which he alone can remember. When the writer called upon him for an interview, he found him holding a safety razor in one hand and a mirror in the other. It was time for his customary twice-a-week shave. I always shave myself, he said, laying the razor aside. That was a wonderful invention. Had he taken time to recount, he might have added: I have lived in an age of wonders. As he watched Cambridge grow from a community of log cabins to a city of 13,000, with great buildings, towering stacks, and steeples, he has witnessed a revolution -social and industrial. The tallow dip has given place to the luminous incandescent gas and electric lamps; the horse and stage have been overhtrown by steam, electricity, the automobile and the airship; the messenger has been superceded by the telegraph, telephone, and wireless; the country store with its stock of staples, dried fruit, and homespun, has evolved great merchandising institutions, carrying vast stocks of provisions, wares and fabrics; the Indian has gone and strangers from alien lands have come; venison and bear meat, no longer delight the palate of the townsfolk, and oranges and lemons have come to take their place; the wilds have been swallowed up by the city and farm - almost all things have changed.

1814 Born in a Log Cabin-
I was born in a one-room log cabin, which stood on the present site of the Hoge Block, he answered in reply to a query. My boyhood days were spent in and about Cambridge. I can remember well when all the lower part of the town was covered with a growth of heavy timber and dense underbrush. Big game was plentiful about here, and it was a common thing for the men to bring in bear and venison.

1820 Attended First School in Cambridge-
Did you have a school in those days, he was asked. Yes - there were a good many of us - between 20 and 30 attending, of all ages. I lived in the country, just North of town, on my father's farm at that time. Our teacher didn't know much. He was fairly good at arithmetic, but knew nothing of grammar. After school the teacher and myself would go out into the country and take lessons in grammar from a preacher.

1824 Tomatoes Arrive in Cambridge
Much like the boys of today, the boys in the early days of the town found plenty of time for fun, and one of the loafing places was in a harness maker's shop owned by a German named Entz, who came from the east. Entz, Mr. McCracken stated, brought the first word to Cambridge that tomatoes were valuable for food. Up until that time they had been grown only as ornamental plants in the door yards. Entz was an interesting fellow. He had a trough full of water in his shop, and in it he kept live otters. These animals were native in this section and very plentiful. Every evening Entz would let the otters out and would walk down to the creek, the animals following him like dogs. After they had their fill of fish, he would call them out of the creek and return to the shop where the animals would again take their places in the trough.

1826 Fun with the Indians and Wedding Ceremony
We boys had a lot of fun with the Indians. They would come to town, sometimes as many as a hundred. They carried bows and arrows, tomahawks and knives; never any guns. We would take a stick, drive it into the ground, >split the end so as to hold a penny, and insert the coin for a target. The Indian who hit the penny received it as a reward for marksmanship. Most of them were good shots" It was not an uncommon thing for eight or nine Indians to come into town >for a spree, as they would call it nowdays. They would elect one of their number who would stay sober in order that he might look after the others who would get so drunk that they would lie in the gutters. Through the courtesy of a squaw man -(a white man who had married a squaw), we were permitted to attend an Indian wedding, which took place on the town common, which comprised that part of town east of, what is now Seventh Street and North of Main Street. Our friend interpreted the ceremony, or rather prentended to do so. I remember the latter part of it, as given by him. It ran: By power and by >the law, I marry this Indian to this sly devil. The wedding was followed by the customary dance and wedding feast, in which five tribes which then inhabited Guernsey County participated. A few years after this wedding took place, about 1832, Mr. McCracken stated, the Indians were rounded up by David Robb, commissioned by President Jackson, and taken to Wyandotte County, Ohio. Later, they were removed to the west.

1828 Cambridge's Covered Bridge
Watched contractors cut timbers from his father's farm for use in construction of historic covered bridge now standing in Cambridge.

1830 Jackson's Hickory Pole
Mr. McCracken tells me of many amusing incidents of early political campaigns during the Andrew Jackson Campaign. He relates how the boys about town cut down the Hickory flag pole erected by the Jackson supporters. I was nearby at the time., he concluded.

1830s Early Day Politics
The campaign of early days offered occassions for lively times in Cambridge. Mr. McCracken recalled the visits of President Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, William Henry Harrison, and many of the prominent men of that time, who passed through the town while enroute to and from the national capitol. It was customary, he stated, for one town to send out a delegation of citizens to meet these tatesmen, half-way from the town previously visited and act as an escort in accompanying them half way to the next. I remember well, one of General Harrison's visits. Stage coaches and vehicles of all kinds joined in the cavalcade which was to meet the candidate at Norwich, the Zanesville escort having agreed to accompany him to that point. The old stage coaches were so constructed that when upset, the coach was free from the running gears. One coach was so over-loaded that it became top-heavy, and when the driver tried to pass a heavy road team on the turnpike, it upset. All hands at once set to work extricating the passengers who were in the cab. One man took hold of Judge Metcalf's leg and was pulling him out when the Judge, annoyed by the vigorous rescue work exclaimed, Oh, Don't mind me; save the other fellows; I am dead! Fortunately, no one was seriosuly injured.

1836-1840 His First Vote/Political Rememberances
Harrison was the first presidential candidate for whom I cast my first vote. He was defeated by Van Buren. I lacked four days of being 21 years of age, but as they were not so particular then, everybody agreed that I should vote anyway. Four years later, Harrison was again a candidate. During this campaign, a log cabin, drawn by sixteen yoke of oxen was brought across country, from Senecaville to Cambridge. It was accompanied by a company of men, who holding ropes, steadied the cabin in shaky places along the road. In the cabin were raccoons, deer, and other wild animals. Through the campaign, the cabin was used as Harrison headquarters. Two great barrels of cider, one at either door, were always on tap, and the ginger bread supply was replenished daily. Some Democratic newspaper in the east, at the close of the previous campaign, had published the statement that if Harrison were given a pension of $2,000.00 a year, he would be content to sit in his log cabin and drink hard cider until the end of his days. The Whigs in the campaign of 1840, remembering this attack, adopted the log cabin and the cider as political thunder.

1854 Great Problems
Beginning life at a time when human beings were held as chattels, and whiskey was almost as free as water, Cambridge's oldest citizen has watched with interest - from the standpoint of the abolitionist and the prohibitionist - the movements to abolish slavery and supress the liquor traffic. In 1854 he was one of a number of townspeople, who upon the arrival of a slave trader, in Cambridge, caused the release of two slaves, which he was taking from one slave state to another. A law had been passed by Congress, >and was in effect at that time, declaring all slaves free when taken into new territory. These slaves, who were boys, settled in the neighborhood of Senecaville, and in all probability, were the grandparents of some of the colored people residing in the county today.

1850s Underground Railroad
In the days before the War, he was a member of the Underground Railroad Organization, assisting many slaves in escaping to Canada. Great secrecy had to be maintained in passing the fugitives from one state to another. From Cambridge, they were taken to a point on the Newcomerstown road, and thence to Newcomerstown. Mr. McCracken realtes that at the time, there were persons living along this road who were friendly to the cause of slavery. He made trips from Cambridge to the next station with negroes lying flat on the wagon bed, covered with grain sacks.

circa 1913 Proposed Prohibition
In contrast with prohibition and local option by county unit, Mr. McCracken recalls the time when whiskey could be purchased without restriction at a price of 15 to 20 cents a gallon, distilleries being operated in the town. Today, Mr. McCracken spends his time reading the daily newspapers and letter writing. He takes an interest in politics, and since he cast his first ballot for Harrison, seventy-seven years ago, he has never missed an opportunity to vote. Theodore Roosevelt is the one man in public life, who meets with his displeasure. He is watching the Wilson administration closely, and regards the President as a sincere man, and like a good many Republicans, is willing to see the proposed new tarrif scheme out.

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