William Smalley was an early Ohio pioneer who lived an adventurous life as the Ohio territory was tamed.
Smalley was born about 1759 in New Jersey. His family moved to Pennsylvania near Fort Pitt when he was a toddler. At about the age of 16, he was taken captive by Delaware Indians. He saw his father killed during the skirmish. Smalley was taken to an Indian village on the Maumee River and made to run the gauntlet. After his survival of the ordeal, the Indians named him White Warrior. During this captivity, his ears were cut until they hung in strips, a feature he carried for the rest of his life.
While a captive, Smalley learned the Indian language and habits. After five years, because he also knew the French language, he earned his release by helping the Indians negotiate peace with the French. Smalley then returned to Pennsylvania, where he married Prudence Hoel.
Soon after his marriage, Smalley and some family members moved to Columbia, near Fort Washington, now the Cincinnati area.
Smalley worked as a hunter and guide with Gen. William Lytle and his survey party.
In 1792, Smalley went with two men on a peace mission for the government to the Indians. He was once more the guide and interpreter. On the way they met three Indians. Over night his companions were killed and Smalley again became a captive. About 20 months later, he escaped and made his way back home to Columbia. A little later he joined Gen. Anthony Wayne.
After the Treaty of Greenville was signed in 1795, Smalley was discharged and returned home. About 1797, Smalley and his brother, Benjamin Smalley, built a double cabin on the southeast bank of Todd’s Fork about one mile west of Clarksville in Warren County. Their property was rich bottom lands. To reach their farm the brothers cut a road from Columbia.
The Smalleys’ closest neighbor was James Miranda, who was nine miles away at the mouth of Todd’s Fork near where Morrow is now located.
Smalley built a saw mill and a grist mill on his property. Later he erected a small distillery.
Hazel Spencer Phillips wrote the book, “The Cat That Dyed Her Kitten,” which contains folklore stories about the area. In it she says Smalley constructed a swinging foot bridge over his mill race. He discovered animals used it at night. One evening, a wildcat and a large bear fought for right of way and both fell over the side rail into the water.
Smalley had 10 children, six sons and four daughters. His wife died in 1824, and was buried at Clarksville. He later remarried.
After farming for 30 years, Smalley sold his Ohio farm and moved to Illinois, where he died in 1840.
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