George Overturf and Jane McLain Life in Ohio

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George Overturf (1798-1862) & Jane McLain (1797-1883)

Born in Pennsylvania...but moves to Ohio at age 11

George Overturf, the son of Simon Overturf and Mary DeBolt, was born on 22 Dec 1798 in Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh, possibly in Fayette or Green County. In about 1809, when George was a young boy of about 11, he moved to Licking County, Ohio, with his parents, two older siblings (Solomon and Elizabeth), four younger siblings (Eli, Simon, Minerva, and Orpha), as well as at least two paternal uncles.

The History of the Ohio Valley

First explored for France by la Salle in 1669, the Ohio region became British property after the French and Indian Wars, even before George and Jane were born. Ohio territory was acquired by the United States after the Revolutionary War in 1783, but the first permanent settlement was not established for another five years. 2

The 1790s saw severe fighting with the Indians in Ohio, but in less than forty years, all of the native populations of Ohio would be sent away. The Shawnee had lived in the area as early as the late 1600s. They battled with the Iroquois over control of the rich hunting grounds. Like all other native groups, however, they were out-numbered and fell ill with many of white man’s diseases. With the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1794, the Shawnee gave up most of their lands and moved into Indiana Territory. Some, however, hoped to reclaim their Ohio lands, chief among them being Tecumseh, so conflict continued. Between 1831 and 1833, just ten years after George and Jane married, the United States forced the Shawnees to give up their land claims in Ohio; most were sent to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas.

George marries Jane in 1821

When he was 23, George married Jane McLain on 19 October 1821 in Liberty, Licking County, Ohio. Jane (whose last name is spelled McLelean on the marriage records) was just a year younger than George, having been born on 4 Nov 1797 in Virginia. She was the daughter of a tailor, James McLain, who was known for his great skill and had been born in Dublin, Ireland; her sister had married George's brother Solomon. Below is the written record from the Licking County register.

Descriptions of George indicate that he was “not tall but heavy set, of a stout build with dark hair and a faint tinge of sandy, with dark gray eyes. He was jovially brusque and blunt, sincerely and carefully honest, generous and liberal, self-confident and tenacious in his convictions, punctually industrious, aptly and skillfully ingenious to do any home or farm demand." [From the Overturf Family History.]

Jane, it is said, was "tall, regular-featured, sedate and cautious, exact in all she said and did, a bounteous provider; her table was not to her liking without its well-assorted preserves and sauces. She had a nervous feature, frequent sniffs with a slight backward movement of her head, which inclined some to decide she was keenly disdainful and sarcastic. But it was either unrestrained habit or a nervous defect; no charge of unfriendly interest could be truthfully charged to her, but she was firm and not easily bluffed." [From the Overturf Family History.]

In a letter written in 1909, George and Jane's son, Simon Fuller Overturf, said the following about his mother's family:

"My mother’s [Jane McLain’s] father, James McLane, was born within nine miles of Dublin, Ireland, but was a Scotchman. He was an old Scotch, Covenanter. He came to Virginia during the Revolution and hired to an American soldier, whose health had failed... "

"[James McLain] was married three times. His first wife, my grandmother, died before he came to Ohio. He was a tailor by trade, an ardent Democrat, and a great admirer of Jefferson. He was very strict on Sunday, read the Scripture all day and made the children listen. Mother [Jane McLain] said her brother Dan used to watch to get one of the other children to look at him so he could crook his finger. Then the other would say, “Daddy, look at Dan.” The first thing Monday morning Dan got flogged. This happened every Sunday.

"I do not remember either Dan or John, mother’s [Jane McLain’s] full brothers. John was working near Columbus in the woods with another fellow and on a banter played a game of cards to see who should shoot an Indian. It fell to John and he shot a squaw. They were peaceable Delaware Indians and John was sent to the Penitentiary for three years. He lived only about a month when he grieved himself to death. Was probably under the influence of liquor when he did it."

"George, mother’s [Jane McLain’s] half brother, was apprenticed to Ball & Ward of Newark Ohio to learn carriage making. Then he taught Jim his brother. They were fine workmen. Uncle Jim could hammer out a Mexican dollar into silver plate as big as a dinner plate. He used to put a silver plate on the hind axle of every carriage and engrave Ball & Ward on it, and plate a band around each hub. The carriages sell for $500.00. Later they went to Wisconsin and started a shop of their own. They had retired and were living on their income when the Rebellion began. They were both hot abolitionists and both enlisted — George at 54 and Jim at 52 — in a Wisconsin regiment. They both died with dysentery and soon after they went into camp. Grandfather [James McLain] drank heavily and this made George and Jim strong temperance men. It always made them mad to see a man with a jug of whisky."

"Grandfather McLane used to visit father [George Overturf]. Jim was about three years older than I and went to school one winter and stayed at our house. Mother’s sister Sally married Davy Payne, a brother to Old Jess Payne, the father of Little Joe Payne."

N.W. Quarter Section U.S.M.L. Range 14, Tp. 6, Liberty Township

After George and Jane married, they settled on the east half of the N.W. quarter section U.S.M.L. Range 14, Tp. 6, Liberty Township, Licking County, Ohio, when it was virgin forest. [The county was named for the salt licks in the area.] At the Land office at Chillicothe, George first applied for the purchase of the land which contained 81.50 acres at $1.25 per acre. On the same day — 30 Dec 1828 — George paid the full amount owing of $101.87. George resided on the land until his death 34 years later. George, Jane, and their growing family can be found in the 1830, 1840, and 1850 censuses.

George cleared his farm, built his log house and barn, and supplemented his income by building frame buildings. The house in which he died was the first frame building erected in that vicinity. The main building was two-story with two big rooms below and a vast chamber above, with an open porch the full length and fronted to the east (to catch the morning sun). There was a huge fireplace in the north end. There was an ell (or wing) of two rooms, one story high, extending to the west.

A family story says that George told of a time their horses escaped and he was compelled to go on foot to bring them back. He trailed them all day and found them with a fellow who demanded compensation for their keep. George had no money. They finally squared by George taking off his suspenders and trading them for the horses.

Jane’s Garden

They say that Jane's garden had no equal in the area. "She loved flowers, knew and named them quickly on sight; few plants did not have a worth to her as food or healing balm. She treasured yarrow, bitter-sweet, spikenard, and tansey. She compounded and concocted a salve, an ointment, a douche, bitters or a tea, to heal, soothe, and cure any ordinary ill, internal or external."

The garden was planted by George, surrounded by split posts and rails. Each rail lapped and extended through the posts, the enclosure completed with driver, pointed pickets, all wrought without costs in money, but for the axe, auger, and nails.

Family stories indicate that "George and Jane were convinced as to the right time to sow and plant by keeping tabs on the Zodiac and the changes of the moon. Good Friday was the day to plant early potatoes and to sow flax, and by faith on that day they planted them regardless of sunshine, rain or snow. Once they sowed flax in a snowstorm. He built fences when the moon was new, spread manure and laid shingles when she was in the wane."

In a letter written in 1909, Simon Fuller Overturf described some of the things he knew about his parents:

"My father, George Overturf, was born in Pennsylvania Dec 22, 1800. My mother, Jane McLane was born in Virginia in 1797. She was a full blood[ed] Scotch woman. They traded at a little town named Hardscrabble, so-called because people had to pull up a very steep hill to get into town. She and father were married in Ohio."

"Neither my father nor my mother were members of any church, but both held to the Hardshell Baptist doctrine and both died awaiting that irresistible call. They believed there should be no baptism until after the call. Father and I had many an argument on Scripture. He attended church regularly and helped pay the preacher but never took any part."

"In politics he [George Overturf] was at first a Whig. He cast his first vote for president for Jackson in his second term, but went back to the Whigs. Later he belonged to the Bucktail Party and then to the Know Nothing Party. In war times and just preceding he went to the wing of the Democratic party headed by Stephen A. Douglas."

"When [my father] died, Mother wanted George to keep the old place, so he bought the rest of us out and was to keep Mother while she lived and give her a decent burial. He paid me [Simon Fuller Overturf] $300.00 and it cost me $331.50 to avoid the draft during the Rebellion.

"She [Jane McLain] died at the age of 86. She was kind to her family and as good a mother as any boy ever had. One Sunday, when several of us children were visiting them, Father said at the dinner table, 'Jane, I’ve got $300.00 loaned out for a sore shin and from now on I just want to live and give the rest to the children.' So every year afterward he killed two beeves [sic] and had all the children come to help. One beef was cut up and divided into equal piles. Then someone turned his back and father would say, 'Whose pile is this?' and so on, until each had his share by lot."

Family, Work, and Church

"George loved company and friendly associations. He was a ready talker, delighted in discussion with men and jokes with women. His brain was as resourceful as his hands. He built his two-story log barn out of timber and split the rails, built high strong fences, repaired his wagons and carriage, and cleared his farm up until a year before he died." [From the Overturf Family History.]

George and Jane attended church often and seemed soundly affiliated with the Baptist Church, but never joined it. George had a ready willingness to assume public responsibility. He was elected and served many terms in succession as Trustee of Liberty Township, Licking County, Ohio.

George and Jane had eight children (comments about their lives come from a letter written by Simon Fuller Overturf, one of the sons, who tells us that "all the boys were farmers."):

End of Life comes to George first

George died on the farm on 5 June 1862, during the middle of the Civil War, at the age of 63.

Jane was destined to be a widow for nearly 17 years. She remained on the farm for a while (but it is not known how long). By the 1880 Census, she is living with her son, George. She died 17 September 1883, in Liberty, Licking County, Ohio. This is her monument.

Much of this information comes from Dorothy Cunningham after researching the German ancestry of the Overturf family. She wrote about it in The Overturf Family, published in 1988 and revised in 1995.

[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of George and Jane. Page last updated on July 7, 2019.]

Return to Table of Contents for Exploring Ancestral Roots: Overturfs, Hansens, McDonalds and Mahoneys

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  2. Map courtesy of Wikipedia with Licking County highlighted. 

  3. Click on Simon Fuller's name to read about his life.