One of the first settlers in the township of Orange was Vachel Metcalf, originally from Washington County, Pennsylvania. When quite a young man, Mr. Metcalf joined the expedition of General Anthony Wayne, which organized at Pittsburgh, and drilled for some time at Legionville, about thirty miles below that city, on the banks of the Ohio river. When Wayne's legion descended the Ohio to Fort Washington, now Cincinnati, Mr. Metcalf accompanied it, as a private in a Pennsylvania company. He went with the army to the northwest, and participated in all the skirmishes, until the final contest at Fallen Timbers in 1794. After the treaty he returned with the Pennsylvania troops.
During the great battle of Fallen Timbers, Mr. Metcalf and four comrades, in a charge, became separated from their company in the forest, and were immediately pursued by the savages. They were unable to rejoin their company without a terrible conflict, in which all might lose their lives. In this crisis they struck out boldly through the forest, making a circuit of some four miles to reach the rear-guard of the army. They made the best time possible, and being strong and active, kept at a safe distance in advance of their pursuers. Although shots were frequently exchanged, none of the party were wounded; but all were much fatigued by the race for life.
In the spring of 1810 a number of families from western Pennsylvania and Virginia located in Mohican, then Killbuck Township, Wayne County. Mr. Alexander Finley had settled at a point now known as Tylertown, in the spring of 1809, being the first pioneer in the township. Mr. Metcalf entered a farm in what is now known as the "Bunn settlement." He selected a fine quarter section in the forest, put up a cabin, and commenced to clear a field. He was a man of strong will, full of courage, of much physical power, and of unshrinking determination when he had formed a resolution. He looked forward to a time when he would have an excellent farm and valuable improvements, to reward his toil and privations. He was a man of peace, and loved good neighbors. He was astonished, however, to find that tricky neighbors envied his choice of land, and were laying schemes to dispossess him.
The fact was, Mr. Metcalf had failed to secure his certificate of entry before commencing improvements on his new farm. This became known to a few, and a meddlesome neighbor resolved on securing the title. The sly neighbor, in order not to excite suspicion, employed a young man to visit the land office at Canton, and enter the land. In doing so, he rode past the cabin of Mr. Metcalf in the daytime, and, on enquiry, Mrs. Metcalf strongly suspected from his evasive answers, the object of his trip. She hastened to her husband, who was chopping some distance from the cabin, in the forest, and related the circumstance. Mr. Metcalf was convinced that all was not right. He requested his wife to return to the cabin, make two small linen bags into which he might put his hard money; and also to put up for lunch some cold corn-bread and pork. By the time this had been done, he reached the cabin, lunched, and taking the two "money-bags" containing each one hundred dollars in silver, he started down a path leading by the present site of Wooster, and thence, in the direction of Canton, the location of the land office. Sometime in the early part of the night he reached a point where, for several miles, at certain seasons, the trail was very swampy and difficult to pass on horseback. He found a cabin, and learned that his adversary had not yet passed that point. He was much fatigued by the weight of his dangling moneybags, and his thighs were considerably bruised and his arms wearied. By permission of the occupants, he took a supper of mush and milk with them, and slept on the floor. Early in the morning, the footsteps of a horse were heard approaching the cabin, in the direction of the swamp. Mr. Metcalf hastily arose, took some refreshments, and learned that at the swamp, a new road had been cut around it, increasing the distance one or two miles. He again took his moneybags, and hastened down the path; and on reaching the swamp, found that the man on horseback had gone around. He kept straight ahead, and trusted to luck.
On arriving at the opposite side of the swamp, where the new road intersected the old trail, he found, to his joy, that he was again in advance. With renewed energy, he pressed rapidly on, while his adversary, apprehending no danger, rode leisurely and securely. On approaching the Tuscarawas, he discovered an old friend, by the name of Brady, who often ferried emigrants across the stream. He aided Mr. Metcalf, and informed him that he was the first traveler who had passed in that direction that day. He hastened onward, and arrived at Canton, after a journey of some thirty hours on foot, with limbs stiffened, and arms bruised by his dangling money-bags, and piled his coin on the table, in the presence of the register, and requested a certificate of entry to be issued as soon as convenient, for the reason that he had traveled a long distance, and desired to return without delay. The money was counted, and the certificate filed with a description of the quarter of land desired. Mr. Metcalf received, and carefully placed it among his papers, and retired from the office. It was, to him, a great victory, and he felt exultant. He was now safe. About two hours after this scene, the young agent rode leisurely up to the register's office, to learn that the coveted farm was in legal possession of its rightful owner. Upon his return home, his officious neighbor was greatly chagrined.
After the surrender of General Hull, at Detroit, in 1812, the Indians of the northwest assumed a hostile attitude toward the border settlements in Ohio. The Indians at Jerometown and Greentown were ordered, by the State authorities, to be removed from their villages to Urbana, as a means of safety, until peace should be restored. A few weeks after the removal of these Indians, a number of then returned, when the Ruffner-Zimmer tragedy took place near the Black fork. This affair was speedily followed by an attack on the cabin of James Copus, by some forty savages. The settlements were greatly alarmed, and means of defence adopted as rapidly as possible. There were some six or eight families in the vicinity of Mr. Metcalf, among who were those of William Bryan, James Conley, Elisha Chilcote, Benjamin Bunn, James Slater and James Bryan. These met in council at the cabin of Mr. Metcalf, when it was determined that a fort should be built. The building was to be two stories high, the walls of the second story to project two feet beyond the first, on all sides; the floor and sides of the second story to be pierced with portholes. The pioneers gathered with their ox-teams, and axes, and the logs were cut and rapidly gathered; and the building soon completed. The lower story, with strong doors, securely fastened, was to be occupied by the women and children, while the men, with their trusty rifles, were to occupy the second story, in hours of danger and alarm. About one acre of ground was cleared around the fort, and enclosed with a palisade twelve or fourteen feet high, with a strong gate; and all the families of the neighborhood were gathered into the fort, and the horses and cattle inside the palisade. Mr. Metcalf and his neighbors remained, most of the year, in the fort, occasionally visiting their cabins to see that they were safe, and to cultivate their corn and vegetables, with pickets to guard against surprise by the Indians. This fort was about two miles below the present site of Jeromeville, and stood on an elevated spot, on the lands of Mr. Metcalf.
In the spring of 1814, Vachel Metcalf and Amos Norris moved into what is now Orange Township, and purchased lands adjoining the present village of Orange. They are believed to have been the first settlers in the township, although several other families arrived within that year, among who were those of Jacob Young, Martin Mason, Jacob Mason, Martin Hester, Joseph Bishop, Soloman Urie, and John Bishop, single. The cabin of Mr. Metcalf stood not a great way from the present site of the tannery of Mr. Smurr, on a knoll. Mr. Metcalf had an excellent piece of land, though it was heavily timbered, and required much labor to fit it for cultivation. Being a man of fine physical powers, and of determined purpose, he soon cut away the forest and prepared a desirable homestead. At that day, the pioneers traveled many miles to aid each other in the erection of cabins, in rolling logs and clearing. Mr. Metcalf willingly attended all gatherings of this kind. In fact, the unselfish character of the pioneers was one of the most striking features of the times. Each settler volunteered his aid and good wishes to forward the enterprises and interests of all new comers. They aided each other in the distribution of seed, and in harvesting their crops. In other words, the "latch-string was always out."
Mr. Metcalf was a very active member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and the organization of the first class was probably the result of his zeal. The first church was built about the year 1830, and he was one of the first class-leaders and official members, and is understood to have been one of the speakers. In the erection of the present church, in 1853, he was prominent as a member and class-leader. He was a lover of peace and good neighborhood, and his influence went far toward attaining such a condition of society.
When Orange Township was organized, in 1818, Mr. Metcalf was chosen as justice of the peace, and John Bishop as constable. Mr. Metcalf was, we believe, elected justice of the peace three times. In politics he was a Whig, and, during the heated campaigns of 1828 and 1832, his party fell into the minority, and remained so during most of the balance of his life.
Mr. Metcalf died in 1858, aged about seventy-nine years. He is remembered as a good neighbor, frank and straightforward in his business transactions, and a lover of truth and integrity.
His sons, William and Vachel , removed to Illinois, and John to Michigan. None of his family remain in Orange Township.