Nathaniel Young's grave

Knox County's second settler, Nathaniel Mitchell Young, was the founder of the settlement that became Lucerne. He passed away in 1828, and is buried in the Wayne Baptist Cemetery.

MOUNT VERNON -- It's common enough to hear about the first White settler in Knox County, Andrew Craig, who settled on the banks of the Kokosing just east of where downtown Mount Vernon is today in the early 1800s.

But Craig was almost instantly followed by other adventurers committed to the idea of carving out a life on the Ohio frontier.

In 1803, Nathaniel Mitchell Young left his home in New Jersey and headed west. He was the son of a Revolutionary War veteran, John, who was himself the son of a Scottish immigrant, Morgan Young.

Nathaniel Young's nephew

These four gentlemen are Nathaniel's nephews. The one with the extraordinary hair was named after Nathaniel. One wonders if his impressive locks were modeled after his uncle's.

Nathaniel found a desirable spot upriver from Andy Craig and began homesteading. Unlike Craig, though, Young desired company. He sent word back to all his relatives in New Jersey, including his father, that they should come join him, and they gradually began heading out to the frontier.

Young, known early on as “The Lone Jerseyman” until his friends and relatives arrived, was taking a considerable risk in settling very close to the Greenville Treaty Line.

That line had been established to define Ohio's Indian Territory, and Young settled just a few miles south of it in western Wayne Township. But perhaps he realized that he had something to offer the natives in exchange for peaceful coexistence, for he was a master blacksmith, as was his father, who soon joined him.

Before there were many Whites for them to sell to, the Youngs sold metal works to the Indians. These included knives, tomahawks, and axes.

It was daring to make tools that could potentially be used as weapons for customers who were not happy seeing the ever-increasing numbers of White settlers. But both Youngs did their work well, and offered high-quality goods to the natives, and they were highly respected for it.

In fact, Nathaniel became known to the Indians as the “Axe Maker,” and tribesmen came from far away to buy his and his father's wares.

Andrew Young

Nathaniel died before the age of photography. This is a picture of his younger brother, Andrew, who survived into the mid 1800s.

There was concern during the War of 1812 that the settlement, by then known as Young's Mills because of the sawmills and flour mill that Young and his followers had built, would be attacked by the natives, who across the frontier were being urged to violence by the British.

An incident took place just north in Richland County, where settlers at the Copus cabin were surrounded and attacked, leading to several deaths.

The Youngs and their friends, the Lyons, built a blockhouse on the banks of the Kokosing, and spent most of the winter of 1812-1813 inside it.

But perhaps the natives' respect for the Axe Maker led them to spare his settlement from any attacks, for none was ever made, and eventually peace returned to the area. One source claims that when the local Indians were forcibly moved to Indiana, they supposedly said that they would go peacefully if one of the Young blacksmiths would go with them.

According to this account, John Young headed west with them and helped them establish a community.

He remained with them two years, making tools, until they were comfortable enough to let him return to Ohio. In 1826, he suffered a massive stroke while visiting one of his sons' homes for dinner, and died quickly.

Unexpectedly, Nathaniel only outlived his father by a couple of years. Both are buried in the Wayne Baptist Cemetery, just east of Lucerne.

Lucerne, in Wayne Township, is the focal point, because it was an elaboration of the original Young settlement.

A later generation of settlers used the sawmills to create the boards that built new buildings, turning the settlement officially into a village newly named Lucerne or Lucerneville in the 1830s. It thrived for a few decades, but declined in the late 1800s.

Its post office was discontinued in 1901, and little remains today except the intersections of the two parts of Lucerne Road and Ohio State Route 95.

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