By France Griggs Sloat
As Xavier University approaches the 175th anniversary of its founding in 2006,
Xavier magazine is examining key moments in the University's history. This is part of a series of stories about the people, places and events that have made Xavier what it is today. You can read previous stories by clicking on the links below.
The westbound road into the Northwest Territory was no more than a trail worn smooth by the Indians when Col. Ebenezer Zane began slashing trees in 1796. He cleared a path from Wheeling, W.Va., southwest to Kentucky, creating the only road in the region when Ohio became a state in 1803. Just wide enough for hunters on horseback, Zane’s Trace, as it was known, was the path followed when the farmers and land breakers from Germany and Ireland began streaming in with their wagons and wives and children, looking for a fresh start.
One was Jacob Dittoe, a German Catholic who settled in 1802 at Somerset in southeast Ohio, about two miles off the road. On a fall day in 1808, he took an axe into the forest and began chopping at the oak and hickory trees dotting his fertile land. The sound of the blade biting into the trunks echoed through the woods until it caught the ear of a lone man on horseback plodding on the road to Baltimore. His white robe draped over the back of his saddle, and a crucifix hung on his chest.
The man was Edward Dominic Fenwick, a Dominican priest recently sent from Maryland to Bardstown, Ky., the only Catholic parish serving the settlers of Kentucky and the Northwest Territories of the Great Lakes. This was Fenwick’s first trip into Ohio, and at the request of the U.S. bishop, John Carroll of Baltimore, he was looking for Dittoe.
To read the full length article, click here
Other stories in the 175th anniversary series:
Forming the Foundation
War & Remembrance
Legends of the Fall