“Sufferers’ Land” Post #52 – Pioneer Heritage –

By the mid 1850s, the ranks of the early settlers of the Firelands were becoming thin. Many of the survivors, chief among them Platt Benedict, considered organizing a society to preserve the heritage of those early settlers before there was no one left to remember those days.

The pioneers of the Firelands were a literate and well-educated group, probably the best educated of any class of settlers before or after. They knew that the first settlers in the Western Reserve east of the Cuyahoga had left no record, and were determined not to repeat that mistake.

In New England, townships and towns were just now compiling and publishing their early histories. However, those events had occurred years before, and eyewitness accounts were rare. The settlers of the Firelands saw the opportunity to capture their own history while some of the players still survived to tell their stories. [1] Prominent people of the Firelands heeded the call to organize a society dedicated to the preservation of their history, and first among those was Platt Benedict.

In the spring of 1857, Platt and other leaders of the community sent out a notice calling for a meeting of the Pioneers of the Firelands to take place at the Court House in Norwalk on May 20. The meeting convened as scheduled, and, as usual, Platt Benedict took the chair.

Platt was now eighty-two years old, but possessed the vitality of a much younger man. He was still active in many societies, in business and in politics. The year before, he had remarried, taking as his wife Mrs. Lavinia Benton, a widow from Republic, Ohio. Also in the previous year, he had been elected Mayor of Norwalk, an office he had held many times in the 1830s and 1840s. He had seen so much of the history of the Firelands — he had made much of that history. It was inconceivable that anyone else could take the lead in preserving the heritage of the pioneers.

The attendees at the meeting formed a committee to draft a constitution for a historical society and present it at the next meeting. They also appointed two prominent citizens from each township in the Firelands to collect and record the histories of the early settlement of the townships, and present them to the society for inclusion in its journal.

Finally, a proposal was made to hold a general reunion of the Pioneers of the Firelands — a final chance for the survivors of those early days and their descendants to gather in Norwalk and share in the heritage of the early pioneers, those still living and those departed. They decided to hold it on the Fourth of July. [2]

 

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Footnotes:

[1] These sentiments were expressed in the speeches of Eleutherous Cooke in a speech recorded in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1858, p. 25; and by Elisha Whittlesey in a speech recorded in the same issue, p. 9

[2] Description of the formation of the Firelands Historical Society is from The Firelands Pioneer, June, 1858, pp. 29-30.

© 2009 by David Barton. All rights reserved

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2 Responses

  1. This site has a large number of Benedict people listed. Just wonder if you have any info on Mary Ann Benedict, b. 1813 in PA, Married 3 times. m1. Joseph Mack, m2. John M. Jewell, m3. Reuben Brooks, my ancestor. Her last two marriages were in Erie County, OH. Have no parents for either Mary Ann nor Reuben. He came to the area in 1817, and died in Berlin in 1859. Thanks Dave

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  2. Hi Dave,

    I checked the Index for The Firelands Pioneer and found an entry for “Brooks, Reuben and family 1862 p. 20.” Unfortunately, I don’t have that volume in my collection, but will look it up the next time I go to the Denver Library (I live in Colorado). If you are interested in obtaining a copy, contact the Firelands Historical Society to request the volume. The website is http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohhuron/firelandspioneer.htm. Good luck with your research.

    Regards,
    Dave Barton

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