The natural resources in early Scioto County, especially sandstone rock, supplied many of the pioneers; with the material to build many hardy structures that would endure Great quantities and the richness of this remarkable durable rock, was used for building and other worthwhile endeavors.
Of the most remarkable constructions of early pioneer stone houses – The Phillip Moore, Jr., Stone House – stands out as a gemstone, of early craftsmanship. The house which stands to this very day is a vision of unsullied design. It is a place to visit for its historical significance and impressiveness. Located right here in beautiful Scioto County.
The Philip Moore, Jr. Stone House is one of the few remaining primitive stone homes in Southern Ohio. The structure was built by Revolutionary War veteran Philip Moore, Jr. and his family in about 1796. Moore was born around 1761 in Allentown, Pennsylvania and built the home with weathered sandstone rock from this area. The home survived fire due to the architectural design and the durability of the weathered sandstone rock, and while some of the wood and mortar in the home has been replaced or is weathered, the structure of the house has remained strong. The home was known to some as “The Cradle of Methodism,” as early itinerant Methodist ministers stayed in the home or had meetings at this location. In fact, this house became a Methodist Church. It was there that Methodists gathered around 1800 to form the “Society of Methodism.” I suspect, if the walls could talk they would echo a poignant, spiritual attribute to the house and thus adding mysticism to that grand old marvel of human ability.
The book, “Scioto County Photo History,” compiled by Elmer Swords, states that, The Stone House on Hill Road in West Portsmouth is probably the oldest house in Scioto County. It is here that the nearby village of Alexandria was settled in 1799, in the bottom land west of the old mouth of the Scioto River, near Carey’s Run. Periodic floods covered the village forcing them to eventually move to higher ground where Portsmouth had been laid out in lots by Henry Massie in 1803.
There is an interesting story from the Swords book, pertaining to two men of pioneer stock engaged in a gruesome contest. That contest was to see who was the toughest and being from two different states – lent a pride factor into the fray. I thought about that day, plus where it took place, something didn’t click. Why did this event take place at a location which was or had been a meeting site for religious purposes? None-the-less the test of manhood took place according to history and legend, at the Stone House. The two men who would be participants met at a set time and the donnybrook began. So on April 8, 1853, George Beedle Mershon, age 28, fought with Larkin Hammond, who was from Kentucky, for $100 at the old stone house. Hammond weighed 177 pounds and Mershon weighed 188. They stripped to the waist, greased their bodies with butter, and fought for 15 minutes. Mershon won, but Hammond gouged his left eye until it fell out on his cheek. Captain Smith put it back, but Mershon was never able to see out of it again. Mershon chewed all of Hammond’s fingers off and also tore his eye out. The scene was witnessed by 300 people. So, was there really a winner as both combatants came out of that no holds barred, bare knuckle and anything goes fight, both maimed for life. The 300 who attended got their money’s worth and then some. In all probability there surely was some side betting going on. In summarizing –it could not have been a pleasant sight to observe.
In 1975, The Philip Moore, Jr. Stone House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to local preservationists, and a small non-profit organization that maintains and operates the historic home, the structure has been restored and has been used for a number of local events.
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Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: email@example.com