PREBLE COUNTY — The year was 1805. Struggling though undergrowth and brambles, following faint paths, while either walking or riding a horse, that had been made by animals and Native Americans a small party of settlers were making their way north from Virginia to Tennessee. Over a period of many weeks, they had made their way up and down mountains, through swamps, crossed rivers and streams while maintaining awareness of the ever present danger of being attacked by animals or other humans who did not welcome their presence.
The small party was probably led by Tobias Tillman, who had grew up near the frontier and served his country during the American Revolution. The small group of settlers was composed of “eight able-bodied men” who were probably Tobias’ sons and sons-in-law, women and children as well as Tobias’ father, John Tillman, and possibly his mother, Eva Dryden Tillman, and Henry Sharp, Tobias’ father-in-law. Catherine Sharp Tillman, Tobias’ wife, was the daughter of Henry Sharp.
The final destination of the party of settlers was Swamp Creek in what would soon become Harrison Township in Preble County. The settlers were anxious and excited. For the first time in many weeks, they would soon see familiar faces. Ann Elizabeth Sharp (Henry’s daughter) and her husband Jacob Frederick Miller (Frederick Miller from Virginia was also a Revolution War veteran) were already living in what would become New Lexington in Twin Township of Preble County.
The second source of excitement was the possibility of actually sleeping in a shelter with a roof. A year earlier, Henry Sharp Jr. had been in what was to become Preble County and had filed a claim for 1,000 acres on and around Swamp Creek with the Cincinnati Land Office. Henry Jr. and his party had rather hurriedly constructed crude, temporary shelters to be used by the settlers upon their arrival.
Tobias Tillman proved to be a wise and dependable leader, and was ready for anything. The only personal possessions that he brought north to Ohio was his horse and keg of powder. Tobias was born around 1751 in what became Orange County, North Carolina to John and Elizabeth/Eva Dryden. Having grown up close to the frontier, wilderness travel was nothing new. He had an abundance of military training which vegan in 1776 – he had probably been a part of the Orange County Regulators prior to entering in the organized army.
In February of that year, he entered the service of the Orange County in North Carolina where he served in the militia and in Captain William O’Neal’s company of mounted men in Colonel John Butler’s regiment. It appears as though Tobias’ service may have ended in or around September 1776. Even so, he remained connected to the military, possibly as a volunteer, marching through the county protecting citizens from the flying or scouting parties of Tories and the British.
He was a Minute Man, a member of the local militia, furnished his own horse and equipment and may have been drafted twice later in the Revolution for an additional six months. He was “on call” to help out wherever needed with very little notice.
The oral description of Tobias’ military service that he gave when making an application for the Revolutionary War pension is similar to the testimony given by many veterans who fought in Orange County and other rural areas of North Carolina. Those good men were devoted to their family, their community and the cause they whole heartedly believed in. Tobias probably learned those values at the knees of a very fine example, his father.
Following the war, Tobias moved to Botetourt County, Virignia. He lived there with his wife and children until he moved to Harrison Township.
Tobias was drafted during the War of 1812 and was at least 63 years of age. He declined, but did make arrangements to send someone in his place. Even so, his son-in-law Alexander McNutt did serve in that war. It it very possible that other sins-in-law, as well as sons, were also directly involved in some capacity.
Tobias died in Harrison Township on Feb. 2, 1845. His wife, Catherine, died in 1837, also in Harrison Township, as did her father, Henry, in 1814 and his sister Rebecca in 1816. All four are buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Lewisburg. They share a family plot and a common gravestone.
Never can we thank Tobias Tillman and his family, both immediate and extended, enough for their service to their country and to the residents of Preble County. Not many would have fought in a war, and a few years later left their homes and moved to an unsettled place, likely facing another war with the British. They did exactly that and were an intricate part of the development of a new country. We will not forget what you did.