The Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Hour . . .

Veterans’ Day – originally called Armistice Day to mark the end of hostilities during World War I. Today is the one-hundredth anniversary of that day, so full of joy – for the Allies – but only the beginning of a twenty year interlude before the final settling of scores in the Second World War. 

Today, I remember an ancestor of mine who served in both conflicts – my great uncle Bill Wickham. In World War I, he served in France with the Engineer Corps. In the second, he stayed stateside and perhaps stayed on after the war. He died at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1947. [1]

 

William Wickham - WWI

William Wickham was brother to my grandmother, from whom I received the photo shown above. [2] In her diaries, Grandma mentions “Billy” often – during their school days in Norwalk, Ohio, and later when they both homesteaded clams in Wyoming during the 1920s. He died long before her, in 1947, and she was executor of his estate. In her papers I found her correspondence relating to that sad event – papers I will soon send off to his grandson. Although Grandma often told me stories of her long life, she never mentioned her brother to me. I wish she had.

So here is to you, Uncle Bill. Thank you for your service. I am sorry I never got to know you.  

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Hold Services for Maj Wickham,” Sandusky Register Star News, Sandusky, Ohio, 20 Feb 1947.

[2[ Papers Harriott Wickham Barton, in possession of the author.

 

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Warrior Son

Last Post: Devout Christian Woman,

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I am a Shawnee.

My forefathers were warriors.

Their son is a warrior.

Tecumseh

 

Warrior Son

May of 1810 was momentous for David Gibbs of Norwalk, Connecticut: he passed the Connecticut bar and married Elizabeth Lockwood a lifelong resident of that town and daughter of Stephen Lockwood, a Sufferer, who had lost his possessions in the Battle of Norwalk over thirty years before. [1]

Although Stephen had been granted land in the Fire Lands, it had been only two years before that the Fire Lands of northern Ohio, set aside for the Sufferers had been surveyed and he was finally assigned his portion. [2]

Charles Robert Sherman

Charles Robert Sherman

The Ohio frontier was still a dangerous place for settlers, with frequent warfare with Native American tribes. But despite the danger, David decided to scout out his father-in-law’s land. The question was, whom should he ask to accompany him. His good friend, Charles Robert Sherman was an obvious choice. [3]

Charles Sherman was born and raised in Norwalk. Like David, in the spring of 1810 he had also passed the bar and married a Norwalk woman: Mary Hoyt. The two men had other similarities in their life histories: they were born within a few months of each other, had studied law together – and both had a personal interest in the Firelands of northwestern Ohio.

David’s father-in-law, Robert Lockwood’s home and business had been burned by the British during the Battle of Norwalk in the American Revolution. This made him one of the “Sufferers,” eligible for a portion of land in the Firelands. That land had been surveyed in 1808, and Robert had been assigned his portion in what are now Sherman and Norwalk Townships of Huron County. [2]

Charles was born in Norwalk, in on September 26, 1788 to Taylor and Elizabeth Stoddard Sherman. His father was a lawyer, and Charles studied law under his tutelage and that of a Judge Newman of Newtown, Connecticut.  Taylor was not a Sufferer, but while a trustee of the Connecticut Land Company, had purchased land in Sherman Township, which was named after him. [4]

The two friends departed Norwalk, Connecticut that summer and headed for the Firelands of Ohio. [3] However, in route, they had a change of plans. The Native American chief, Tecumseh, was threatening the frontier, a lead in to Tecumseh’s War, [4] so they diverted to Lancaster, near Columbus. Charles decided to settle there, and after acquiring land and building a cabin, returned for his bride. [5]

David did not settle in Lancaster with his friend. He returned to Connecticut and took advantage of an opportunity in Bridgeport, where he practiced law for two years. Then came the War of 1812.  He enlisted in David Captain Tilden’s Company, 37th U.S. Infantry at Fort Griswold, New Jersey on April 30, 1813, and was discharged on May 17, 1815. Apparently, he saw no action. [6]

At the conclusion of the war, danger from Native American’s had been removed and the frontier was open for settlement. David decided to visit the Firelands again, this time with his father-in-law and brother-in-law. That trip will be the subject of my next series of posts.

 

Footnotes

[1] The evening of July 10, 1779, British troops under the command of Brigadier General William Tyron landed at the mouth of the Norwalk River. The following morning, the troops moved up the river toward Norwalk, burning everything in their path. By the end of the “battle” eighty houses, two churches, eighty-seven barns, seventeen shops, and four mills had been destroyed worth an estimated 26 thousand British pounds (See the Wikipedia article Battle of Norwalk and W.W. Williams, History of the Fire-Lands, Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers; Leader Printing Company, Cleveland, Ohio; 1879, p 14. and Erie Mesnard, “Surveys of the Fire Lands, so called being a part of the Western Reserve, sometimes called New Connecticut,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p 94.).

In 1792, the Connecticut General Assembly authorized compensation of over one-hundred sixty-one thousand pounds (New England currency) to about eighteen hundred seventy “Sufferers.” David Gibbs father-in-law Stephen Lockwood’s share was set at 18 pounds, 12 shillings (WW Williams, pp. 15-16).

[2] The Firelands was first surveyed in 1806, however, the results were challenged and deemed flawed. Another survey was required and was completed in 1808. A final apportionment to the “Sufferers” took place by lottery in November of that year. (WW Williams, pp. 23-25.) Stephen Lockwood was allotted land in Sherman and Norwalk townships. (WW Williams pp. 112, 284.)

[3] “David Gibbs,” Obituaries: The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume IX; The Firelands Historical Society; 1896; page 542 and “Incidents in the Life of Elizabeth Lockwood Gibbs,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Vol XI, October 1874, page 83.

[4] See Wikipedia articles for Taylor Sherman and Charles Robert Sherman, Also, “Charles Robert Sherman on the website: “Former Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court.” An account of the naming of Sherman Township is in Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; p. 284

[5] The Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was a thorn in the side of Americans for many years as leader of a large multi-tribe confederacy based out of “Prophetsville” in Indiana. In August of 1810, he appeared with a group of warriors at General Henry Harrison’s headquarters in  Vincennes with a list of demands, which the General immediately rejected. The situation quickly deteriorated and open warfare was narrowly averted by another Native American Chief. Tecumseh departed, threatening war. See the Wikipedia article Tecumseh.

News of this encounter terrified settlers on the frontier and caused many who were about to push into newly opened territories such as the Firelands to revise their plans, to include David Gibbs and his friend Charles Sherman.

 

 

 

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and William Tecumseh Sherman

 

Although Tecumseh foiled Charles Sherman’s plans to settle on his father’s land in the Firelands, he was impressed by the man’s skill as a warrior. Charles remembered him through the years, and when Charles and Mary christened their sixth child in 1820,  they named him after the Chief. That child also became a renowned warrior. His name was William Tecumseh Sherman.

[6] “David Gibbs,” Obituaries: The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume IX; The Firelands Historical Society; 1896; page 542; William A. Gordon, A compilation of registers of the Army of the United States, from 1815 to 1837, inclusive. To which is appended a list of officers on whom brevets were conferred by the President of the United States, for gallant conduct or meritorious services during the war with Great Britain, James C. Dunn, Printer, 1837, page 38; and War of 1812 Pension Applications. Washington D.C.: National Archives. NARA Microfilm Publication M313, 102 rolls.

 

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This is the second of a series of posts about the Lockwood and Gibbs families trek to the Firelands in 1816.

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A Devout Christian Woman

On Sunday, the twentieth day of May 1810, in Norwalk, Connecticut, David Gibbs, a lawyer recently admitted to the Connecticut bar, joined in holy matrimony with Elizabeth Lockwood, a devout Christian woman. [1] He was less than a month shy of his twenty-second birthday.

David Gibbs portraitDavid was born in Windsor, Connecticut to Samuel and Nancy Gibbs. Of Scottish descent, his father had served in the Revolutionary War, and after the war was captain and part owner of a ship sailing out of New York in the European trade. David’s mother, born Nancy Hansen, came from a New York family of Dutch heritage.

The Gibbs family moved to Norwalk, Connecticut when David was about fourteen, and he grew into manhood there. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1810, not long before he married Elizabeth. [2]

David’s bride was three years his junior, born in Norwalk, Connecticut on March 24, 1791 to Stephen and Sarah Lockwood. Elizabeth’s father was a successful merchant in the millinery trade, owning a shop in Norwalk that manufactured and sold hats. Like David’s father, he was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth’s mother, born Sarah Betts, also came from well-off family; her father was a physician. From an early age, she was an active member of the Norwalk Congregational Church, and “was a firm belief in the Christian religion, having breathed no other atmosphere – a sweet and hallowed influence, pervading the whole of her childhood and youth.” [3]

One might expect that David, newly married, would begin practicing law to support his bride and the family they were sure to raise. But when he married Elizabeth, he became part of a family of Sufferers, who had been burned out of their homes during the American Revolution. Two years previously, land in the Firelands had been divided among these Sufferers to compensate them for their loss. [4]

For David, that changed everything. Opportunity on the frontier beckoned.

 

Footnotes

[1] “Descendants of David Gibbs and Elizabeth Lockwood of Norwalk, Ohio, 1816,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume IX; The Firelands Historical Society; 1896; page 546.

[2] “David Gibbs,” Obituaries: The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XII; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1899; page 542. I have been able to find little about David’s ancestry. I do not know if his parents were alive when he married, or anything else about them beyond the short description in this article.

[3] “Incidents in the Life of Elizabeth Lockwood Gibbs,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Vol XI, October 1874, pp. 83-85 and Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls; number 23558.

[4] Baughman, Abraham J. (1909). History of Huron County, Ohio: Its Progress and Development, with Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens of the County, Volume 1; S. J. Clarke Publishing Company; p. 268.

The portrait of David Gibbs is from “David Gibbs,” Obituaries: The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XII; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1899; page 543.

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This is the first of a series of posts about the Lockwood and Gibbs families trek to the Firelands in 1816.

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And Now We Hunt the Doe

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And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe
Emily Dickinson

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tail Deer [1]

In my last post, Forest Primeval, I wrote that Native Americans would set fires in the forests of the Firelands. Today, we’ll find out why they did this.

Indians in canoes

Indians in Canoes [2]

Native Americans did not live permanently in the Firelands at the time the first pioneers arrived. Instead, Canadian tribes would cross the lake in autumn to hunt. To make it easier for them to spot game from a distance, they would start fires and burn off the underbrush that had grown up over the summer.

Why did they want to see prey from a distance? Can’t the animals see the hunter too, and run away? They can, but although we humans are not as fast as our prey, we can travel farther. In a technique that goes back to a form of hunting first practiced by our earliest ancestors on the plains of Africa, we can use our stamina to advantage, running or walking long distances to exhaust prey. Called “persistence hunting,” this strategy involves hunters keeping an animal, or herd of animals, in sight, pushing them along until they can go no farther. The hunters then can approach and kill their prey at close range. [3]

Settlers picked up this technique from Native Americans. According to pioneer John Niles “It was a maxim among deer hunters, that if a man could follow a deer at the rate of forty miles per day, the deer would tire out before night and lay down.” [4]

Forty miles a day seems a fast rate to maintain all day, but “a day” most likely meant from dawn to dusk. While hiking here in Colorado, I have on occasion kept up that rate for nine hours in fairly rugged terrain, so I can imagine maintaining that pace even longer on the flat-lands of northern Ohio.

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As settlers arrived and pushed the Native Americans out of their traditional winter hunting grounds, these annual fires did not occur, and the forest soon became choked with underbrush, much as we see it today. [5]

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Whitetail doe,” Wikimedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 29 June 2008. Web. 2 May, 2018, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whitetail_doe.jpg

[2] Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 12.

[3] “Persitence hunting,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 March, 2018. Web. 3 May, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting

[4] John H. Niles, “Memoirs of Richmond,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; pp. 68-69.

[5] Marcus E. Mead, “Memoirs of Greenwich,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p. 75.

 

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Forest Primeval

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie [1]

 

Unbroken Forest

The Forest Primeval [2]

When I was a lad, every spring, I would hunt for arrowheads at my grandparents’ farm in Fairfield Township of the Firelands. As I walked up and down the rows that Grandpa had recently plowed, I would imagine what the open fields had looked like back when Indians had hunted there.

Or, rather, I tried to imagine. I had never seen a Forest Primeval, and I would not until I was a college senior when, as a student teacher, I accompanied a high school class on a field trip to Goll Woods [3], an old growth forest west of Toledo. The only forests I had seen as a young boy consisted of younger, smaller trees, and were choked with underbrush.

The Forest Primeval “is a forest that has attained great age without significant disturbance and thereby exhibits unique ecological features and might be classified as a climax community.” [4] It has a lot of very old, very big trees.

When the earliest settlers arrived in the Firelands, most of the land was covered in old-growth forests, with enormous trees and a forest floor generally clear of underbrush. But it was not only the shade of the forest canopy that kept the forest clear of brush. It was the frequent occurrence of fires. Not naturally occurring fires, but fires set by man. Every autumn, Native Americans crossed Lake Erie from their homes in Canada and set fire to the forests. [5]

Why did they do this? I’ll explain in my next post.

 

Footnotes

[1] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, David Bogue, 1850; p. 2.

[2] Rusler, William, “Illustration: An Unbroken Allen County Forest,” A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 227.

[3] “Goll Woods State Natural Preserve,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 December, 2017. Web. 29 April, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Citing_Wikipedia#MLA_style

[4] “Old-growth Forests,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 April, 2018. Web. 29 April, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Citing_Wikipedia#MLA_style

[3] Marcus E. Mead, “Memoirs of Greenwich,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p. 75.

 

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More Emily Dickinson – Much More!

My last post, Who is that Narrow Fellow, garnered more interest than I had imagined it would, so I thought I’d follow it with more about Emily Dickinson and her poetry, which I love.

Too say Emily Dickinson was prolific would be an understatement. Although few of her poems were published in her lifetime, she wrote 1,789 – that we know of. A herculean effort if there ever was one.

 

The Prowling Bee

Another herculean effort is underway by Susan Kornfeld in her blog the prowling Bee. Susan has taken on the task of writing and posting commentary for each of Dickinson’s 1,789 poems. Her latest post is number 637, a third of the way to her goal. The name “the prowling Bee,” comes from this poem:

 

to pack the Bud –oppose the Worm
Obtain its right of Dew —
Adjust the Heat — elude the Wind —
Escape the prowling Bee

Great Nature not to disappoint
Awaiting Her that Day —
To be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility —

Susan has not posted a blog about that poem – yet – but she has a post for this one, a favorite of mine:

 

I'm Nobody!

What do you think of this poem? I find the humor delightful. Susan is not as impressed as I. Check out her post here and find out why?

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That’s it for this poetic interlude. In my next post, we’ll return to the history of the Firelands.

 

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Who is that Narrow Fellow?

My last post about Emily Dickinson was so well received (thanks for all the kind comments) that I decided to run another one of her nature poems past you. I love this poem, and recite it to every “narrow fellow” I encounter when hiking.

 

Grass

 

A narrow Fellow in the Grass

Occasionally rides –

You may have met him? Did you not

His notice instant is –

The Grass divides as with a Comb –

A spotted Shaft is seen,

And then it closes at your Feet

And opens further on –

He likes a Boggy Acre –

A Floor too cool for Corn –

But when a Boy and Barefoot

I more than once at Noon

Have passed I thought a Whip Lash

Unbraiding in the Sun

When stooping to secure it

It wrinkled And was gone –

Several of Nature’s People

I know and they know me

I feel for them a transport

Of Cordiality

But never met this Fellow

Attended or alone

Without a tighter Breathing

And Zero at the Bone.

 

Just who is that narrow fellow, anyway? Have you guessed his identity?

 

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