These evocative and descriptive phrases refer to a region in Northern Ohio set aside by the state of Connecticut for “Sufferers” who were burned out of their homes by the British in the Revolution. Part of the Western Reserve, it covers present-day Huron and Erie counties.
After the War of 1812, a flood of emigration erupted out of crowded New England, the result of a pent up desire for new land that had been held in check by the threat of Native Americans defending their homes and the spur of economic hardship engendered by the catastrophic “Year without Summer” of 1816. Most of these pioneers were bound for the Firelands.
Thus began one of the great migrations of American history; a flood of humanity that poured out of New England and settled lands stretching along the southern shores of the Great Lakes from upstate New York to Illinois and across the Mississippi River into Iowa.
These settlers greatly impacted the history of the United States. In the 1850’s, some of them entered Kansas and clashed with the leading edge of another great migration that had settled the South — a tragic foreshadowing of the Civil War. The grandchildren of the settlers of the Old Northwest formed the backbone of the Union Army of the West during that war and made possible the Republican majority that ruled the nation the remainder of the century.
I intend to tell the stories those who settled in the Firelands; people like Platt and Sally Benedict, who founded Norwalk, Ohio; Samuel Preston, who founded the Reflector, Norwalk’s present-day newspaper; his daughter Lucy, who persuaded a ship captain named Frederick Wickham to marry her, leave the sea and become a newspaperman with her father; Henry Buckingham, a failed businessman who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad; and many more.
These men and women left their comfortable New England homes and traveled to the wilds of the Ohio frontier. They were ordinary people who persevered in an extraordinary endeavor. The fruits of their labor are on display throughout the Firelands today.
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoy the story.
Posts are indexed by subject under the categories section in the left column. Read the posts in order from post # 1 Land of Opportunity or select from the Index of Posts.
The story of the “Sufferers’ Land may also be read in 16 chapters. Click on the links in the left column of this site, or go to the Prologue and Table of Contents.
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© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved