July 10, 2024

During our last meeting, my writers’ club decided to have a homework assignment. We were to write 1,500 words (or less) short story about two people from different situations in life, and it should be set at least 100 years ago.

I decided to compare my primary antagonist and protagonist of my fourth novel. Here’s the historical short story I composed and shared during our meeting last night:


My name is John McIntire. I was born in Virginia in 1759 and received little education as a child. One of my legs was shorter than the other, so I limped as I travelled as an itinerant cobbler. One night while I was drinking whiskey at Zane’s inn in Wheeling, I overheard Ebenezer telling his brothers about a contract awarded to him by our Confederated Congress. This was to layout a trail from Wheeling through Ohio to reach Kentucky. He would receive one-square-mile land tracts at the three river crossings, where he was required to set up a ferry service.

I thought these men were already quite rich with their large land holdings here, and I was looking for the means to improve my situation. Ebenezer’s daughter Sarah was a sweet, innocent 14-year-old girl. Though I was almost age 30, I coaxed her into marrying me. People today would call me a gold digger. As you can imagine, her parents were against our marrying. Ebenezer went hunting, and Mrs. Zane threw her shoe at Sarah during our wedding ceremony.

Her father had only given his permission when I agreed to help layout this trace through the frontier. Mrs. Zane insisted her daughter remain there, so I left her behind. Sarah’s cousin Lyddy accompanied our group to cook our meals. She tenderly cared for me when I accidentally shot my wrist while hunting. Disgusted by my ineptness with firearms, the party left me along with George Mercer to build a ferry when we reached the Muskingum River. Lyddy remained here to continue nursing me. I must admit I took advantage of her.

George helped me build a double log cabin. The two buildings were connected by a breezeway, and one would be used as an inn. When Sarah finally arrived in 1800, she found I had fathered a daughter with Lyddy. Lucky for me, she forgave me and adopted Amelia as her own child. But Sarah demanded a servant. When a bounty hunter came through with an escaped slave, I purchased Mess Johnson to serve our needs. Sarah and I never had children.

When Zane’s Trace was completed, Ebenezer wanted to remain in Wheeling, so he sold these three tracts. His brother Jonathan Zane and I purchased the Muskingum acreage for only $100. Jonathan’s son Isaac came to oversee his share. Ebenezer wanted our settlement to be named Westbourne, but people referred to it as Zane’s Town. When a post office was established, it officially became Zanesville.

When skilled workmen came to the area, I offered them land to settle here. Many repaid me by voting for me as their Washington County representative to the Ohio constitutional convention in 1802. Being from the south, I voted against removing the word “white” from our voting qualifications and against the enfranchisement of blacks and mulattoes.

When I had attempted to purchase land to the south of our settlement, I was thwarted by General Putnam and his two nephews, who drove the auction price to over $4 per acre.

Through the Zane family’s political clout, I was able to sway our Ohio legislators to make Zanesville the county seat when Muskingum County was apportioned from Washington County.

When I heard that the northerners from across the river were erecting a large stone building in an attempt to get our state legislature to move there, I started a subscription to build a commodious brick statehouse in Zanesville. Much to my pleasure, we succeeded in becoming the state capital, but this only lasted two years.

Believing any land east of the river should belong to us, I begged my father-in-law to petition Congress to rule in our favor. I also tried to obtain a deed from the Marietta land office. When this failed, I filed a lawsuit against the Land Office Receiver named Woods. The writ of mandamus trying to force Woods to issue it finally ended up in the United States Supreme Court, where the judges refused to overturn the state.

After my attempt at erecting a sawmill failed, I formed the Zanesville Canal and Manufacturing Company. In my will, I bequeathed a portion of my estate to my wife and Amelia with the remainder to my company. Upon their demise, the money would fund a school for poor children.


My name is Increase Mathews. I was born into a large Massachusetts farm family in 1772. We were devout members of the Congregational Church. As a child, my mother taught me to play the violoncello. This was something I enjoyed playing throughout the rest of my life.

My father owned a sawmill and was a town trustee. He and my older brothers were Revolutionary War veterans. My mother’s youngest brother was Brigadier-General Rufus Putnam, who organized the Ohio Company of Associates to begin a settlement in the Northwest Territory in 1788.

As a young man, I received one year of education at Harvard then was medically trained by Dr. Stephen Field, but always preferred making medicinal treatments. In 1798, I visited my older sister, brother, and uncle in Ohio, but couldn’t afford to purchase land. Returning to Massachusetts, I married Nabby Willis. Our daughter Melissa was born there.

When Congress changed the frontier land purchase requirements, I transplanted my wife and infant daughter to Ohio. We arrived in Marietta in October 1800. By early spring, we moved to Zanesville where my older brother John and I rented a cabin from John McIntire for our joint trading post. As the only physician, I travelled up to 30 miles to care for patients.

I had an almost instantaneous dislike for McIntire who boasted that he had hosted royalty at his inn when the exiled Louis Phillipe of France visited this area.

When I attended the first public land auction, McIntire bid on the same acreage driving the price up from the original $2. I had to bid $4.05 per acre to secure this land for Uncle Rufus Putnam, his nephew Levi Whipple and myself. We acquired almost 1100 acres with a small part lying on the east side of the Muskingum River. Our purchase price was in excess of $4,400. It would be years before we turned a profit.

Considering McIntire a drunken lout, I hurriedly built a two-story log cabin and moved my family and trading post onto our partnership lands. Our joint venture built the first permanent sawmill and gristmill structures. When I later dissolved my partnership with brother John, I changed the trading post into a drug store.

Nabby died shortly after giving birth to another daughter. Worrying that my skills were insufficient, I decided to give up practicing medicine as soon as another doctor arrived. Alone in this wilderness with two small children, I soon remarried. Betsey Leavens was a perfect helpmate, and I had another eight children with her. Our daughter Lucy died before she turned nine.

I was elected trustee when Springfield Township was created. Many of the residents of our settlement came from New England and were also religious. We soon formed a church and built the first schoolhouse on land we had set aside for government buildings and as a park. When we combined our church services with Zanesville residents, Mrs. McIntire regularly attended, yet her husband seldom did.

Hoping to persuade our legislature to move the capital from Chillicothe to Springfield, I formed a schoolhouse venture with Levi and Ebenezer Buckingham Jr. We built a large two-story stone structure that still stands today. Unfortunately, Zanesville was chosen. But church services took place there immediately after the building was completed. I have used this Stone Academy to hide fugitive slaves.
After giving up the practice of medicine, I devoted my time to my apothecary business and agriculture. I imported the first Merino sheep into Muskingum County and won the best award at our first county fair.

Betsey, my oldest son Henry and his wife Margaret, plus my daughter Melissa died before me. In my will, I provided for my seven surviving children plus my grandchildren.

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