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John H. Wagoner of Madison

The story of a Jefferson County Pioneer

John H. Wagoner (Wagner) and family, consisting of three sons, Samuel, Lewis and George, and four daughters, Jane, Betsy, Katy and Phoebe, disembarked from a flatboat on the first day of May, 1808, at a point on the Ohio River where the town of Madison was afterwards located. At this date not a cabin of any kind was built in the bottoms at this place, excepting one which was built and occupied by a man by the name of Booth. This was in the upper portion of the bottom, where Isom Ross afterward located and operated his tan-yard.

J. H. Wagner came from Pennsylvania and was of the old German stock of that state. He was a blacksmith by trade and brought a portion of his tools with him. After transferring his tools and what few household effects there were to the second bottom, the camp was located at a point on the bluff near where John T. Schofield’s residence now stands – the northwest corner of Jefferson and High streets.

The smoke from the camp-fire attracted the attention of Jesse Vawter, who had landed at this place some two years before, but had located on top of the hill near where the Michigan Road now runs. When Mr. Vawter saw the smoke curling up through the tree tops from the camp in the bottom below, he at once set out to visit the camp and learn who the new settlers were. In those days neighbors were so few and far between that it was a genuine pleasure to look into the face of a stranger, if a white man, whether he was traveling through the country or seeking a home.

Mr. Vawter gave Mr. Wagner and his family a hearty welcome, and when he saw the blacksmith tools he was rejoiced to know that they were to have a blacksmith among them, for in those days the settlers were in greater need of the handiwork of this trade than that of any other one occupation. After assisting in raising their tent and in making things as comfortable as was possible under the surrounding conditions, Mr. Vawter departed for his home on the hill top, but not before giving Mr. Wagner to understand that he would be glad to assist him in any way he could in starting his new home.

In a short time, Mr. Wagner had a log house built on the site of his camp and a blacksmith shop nearby. After a time his house served as a tavern or stopping place for the travelers to and from Kentucky and the settlements back from the river. These two buildings were the first erected in what was afterwards the old town of Madison.”