John Greenlee was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, near French creek, in 1804. William Greenlee, his father, visited Ohio in the spring of 1811, and located a farm near James L Priest, in that part of Lake Township subsequently annexed to Washington Township, Holmes County. In making that trip on horseback, he passed down the banks of the Ohio river to Wellsburgh, Virginia, crossed at the ferry, and traveled west to Cadiz, thence to Cambridge, thence to Zanesville, thence up the banks of the Muskingum river to the village of Coshocton, thence up the bank of the White-woman to the Lake fork, and thence through an unbroken forest, by Indian paths, to the cabin of James L. Priest. Mr. Priest had been a neighbor in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and had located near what is now "Priest's Prairie," in the summer of 1809. After a stay of ten or fifteen days, Mr. Greenlee became so pleased with the country that he resolved to select and locate upon a tract of land near Mr. Priest. He returned to Pennsylvania, and arranged for removing his family to Ohio. By the first of October, 1811, he had completed his arrangements, and commenced his journey through the forests with one two-horse and one four-horse covered wagon, loaded with household goods, provisions, grain, and his family, consisting of his wife and seven children--six girls and one boy, John. He also brought a few head of cows. He crossed the Ohio river, and came by the trail through Canton, Massillon, and Wooster, all mere villages, the trail being narrow and but little traveled. There were but few cabins along the route, and he was compelled to camp by the wayside, pretty nearly the entire distance. When he arrived at the village of Wooster, he found no opened path to the Priest cabin, and hence preceded his teams with an ax, cutting the undergrowth and prepared a wagon road. In this way his progress was slow, and it took the major part of one month to perform the entire journey. He finally arrived safely, and was assisted by his old friend, and eight or ten friendly Indians, among whom were Thomas Jelloway, Tom Lyon, Billy Dowdee, Thick-necked John, Monos, and Billy Montour, and a few white men, in putting up a cabin.
The pioneer families within a circuit of six miles are believed to have been, at that time, Mr. Finley, Mr. Eagle, Samuel Marvin, William and John Hendrickson, Elijah Bolling, William Greenlee, and James L. Priest. The cabins of Messrs. Priest and Greenlee were near the old Huron trail, and great numbers of Delawares, from Sandusky, Green and Jerometown, passed on their way to and from the old Indian settlement on the Tuscarawas during the fall of 1811 and the spring of 1812, but all remained quiet and friendly until after Hull's surrender at Detroit, in August, 1812. This was followed by the removal of the Green and Jerometown Delawares, and the assassination of Ruffner, the Zimmers, and James Copus, by the hostile Indians from Sandusky. The pioneers, in the Priest neighborhood, converted Mr. Priest's double cabin into a block-house, and enclosed by pickets about one-fourth of an acre of ground around it. The fort was a few hundred yards west of the Lake fork, and near where the railroad crosses that stream. The settlers near Odells's lake joined those of the Priest settlement, in the erection of the stockade, and came there for safety. The families who entered the fort were those of James L. Priest, William Greenlee, William and John Hendrickson, Elijah Bolling, Samuel Marvin, Nathan Odell, Joshua and Thomas Oram, and Elijah Chilcoat. The settlers remained in the fort but a short time, and returned to their cabins. The fort, however, remained a sort of headquarters for the little colony during the continuance of the war, although the red men of the northwest failed to put in an appearance. While the war progressed, in 1813, Mr. John Greenlee relates that on the tenth of September he distinctly heard the roar of artillery in the naval engagement between Perry and the British commodore on Lake Erie; but, although the day was clear, supposed at first it was a heavy storm or hurricane in the northwest. In a few days the news of Perry's triumph was heralded over the country.
In a short time, the settlement was increased by the arrival of John, Henry, and Reuben Newkirk, James Gray, Thomas Baker, Mr. Ellsworth, John, Jacob, Alexander, and George Emrich, Peter Wycoff, John Smith, George Marks, Jabez Smith, and Robert Chandler. In 1824 William Greenlee sold his farm to Calvin Hibbard, and purchased the homestead on section fourteen, southwest quarter. Here, William Greenlee died in 1854, aged eighty-two years and three and a half months, and at his decease John Greenlee came into possession of the homestead. John Greenlee married Miss Susannah Warner, of Lake Township, August 10, 1836, and resided on the homestead about sixty-three years. He was a successful and thrifty farmer, a good citizen, and an upright and honest man. He did his full share in improving highways, building schoolhouses, erecting churches, and in supporting public charities. His family was numerous, consisting of thirteen children, a part of whom, with his beloved wife, survive him. Mr. Greenlee, after a brief illness, deceased on the eighteenth of June 1877, and was followed to the grave, his final resting place, by a large number of his old neighbors and friends.
When he entered Lake Township, that part of the county was covered with its native forest, and abounded in wolves, bear, deer, and in other wild animals. The shrill yells of the red man often echoed amid the wilds, as he passed up and down the ancient trails. These have long since disappeared, for new men and new ideas. Civilization, with schoolhouses, villages, churches, railroads, and other improvements, has taken possession of the land. How great the change, even in a lifetime of sixty-four years! The Indian has gone toward the setting sun to find his last retreat; the forest and the hunter's sport have gone, in exchange for the delightful pursuits of agriculture, and the independence of a farmer's home.