William Sauer interview

from Napoleon (OH) Northwest News, 24 Jul 1930

William Sauer (1838-1935) was the son of Johann Heinrich and Wilhelmina (Hofrichter) Sauer. His grandparents were George Adam and Juliana (Horn) Hofrichter. George Hofrichter purchased 160 acres of land in section 17 of current Pleasant township, Henry county, Ohio from the U. S. government in March 1837.

Yes, I’m 92 years old. We settled here on this farm in 1835, began clearing up the land and father and grandfather worked at digging the canal to make a living. I’ve heard wolves howl on this farm many a night. It makes me laugh to hear them tell that they had to take a machine gun along to be safe in the woods. Animals won’t hurt you unless injured or starving; and you scarcely ever see a wolf in the forest for they are most skillful at concealment. Bears are more often seen. We bought our first pig and put him in a pen about three-and-a-half feet high to keep him from getting lost. One night we heard the pig squeal. My grandfather seized the stove poker, ran out, and scared away a black bear that was trying to get the pig. Then we covered the pen with heavy logs and the pig was safe. Once my father heard a pig squeal in the woods; seized an axe, he ran there and found a bear had one of the pigs down and was trying to bite it; he pounded on a tree and the bear ran away. The pig ran home but died of its injuries.

In the fall of 1840 they tell me, though of course I don’t remember it, that my grandmother and I went to gather hickory nuts about 80 rods from the house. I got tired and she helped me home and went on to pick more nuts. Grandfather came home in about an hour and on learning where she was, set out immediately to meet her, saying we should not have left her thus alone. They searched for hours, for days and weeks, with all the neighbors helping and though that was nearly ninety years ago, we never found a trace of her.

Yes, there were many Indians here then but we treated them well and they were very good neighbors, much better than some of the whites even now. No police were needed to keep them from stealing; they helped us a lot.

Our first schoolhouse cost $33.00. Three men built it of logs. They got $11.00 each. The benches and tables were wooden slabs with holes bored thru and legs attached. No nails were used in the building. The teacher received $15.00 a month for three months each year. The building stood on the ridge road near where the brick church is about a mile-and-a-half from here.

You see I like to chew tobacco, it tastes just as good as it ever did. I have only chewed it for seventy years, and I must stop it pretty soon or it will get to be a habit with me.

At last we got a few acres cleared and our first crop was sowed. After digging up the land with hoes, we harrowed it with a wooden harrow; my mother and her sister pulled the harrow themselves. The wheat was taken to Texas (Ohio) to be ground; later we had a hand mill of stone, one stone turning against another by means of wooden cogs three feet long through on the stones, but when the edges became dull from grinding they did not know how to sharpen them and it was a sorry affair.

I was the third white child born in the township and the nearest neighbor was seven miles away. If all were as healthy as I have been, the doctors would have to go to work for a living, though my family have needed some attention. My wife and I were married 63 years, had nine children, five of them still living. Mother died here at 88, father at 73.

Now whited-shirted undertakers don’t even stutter when they say $500; or even more for a funeral, and it’s mostly in the charging too. When one of us died a neighbor would make a nice white coffin. They wrapped the body in about three yards of muslin for a shroud, and the undertaker took them to the cemetery – often without charge. Generally some neighbor acted as minister.

I well remember when East Defiance was only a cornfield with one house, a ferry boat and no bridge.

Jacob Hornung at New Bavaria was my brother-in-law. He, like all the merchants at the time, kept a barrel of whisky in the back room. Customers and friends were welcome to go in and take a drink at any time. Jake got a nice new barrel painted blue and set it beside the whisky, but the blue one was filled with coal oil, then a new and scarce article, costing more than the whisky, hence the fine barrel. A fellow went in and seeing the shining barrel, supposed it to be a finer grade of whisky so he hurried and filled the tin cup so that no one would catch him, but one drink was enough. He knew coal oil after that!

Well, I would like to see the new bridge but cannot ride that far. Thanks for your kind offer just the same. Give my regards to my old friends, Judge Cahill, D D Donovan, Mat Reiser and all the old friends. Come again.

Sauer family pictures

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