Posted on March 5, 2017 by Dave Barton
Platt Benedict in Masonic Garb
My last blog post featured a recent article in the Norwalk Reflector by Norwalk author and historian Henry Timman about Platt Benedict and the founding of Norwalk in 1817. Platt and his wife Sally and their descendants were prominent in the community and the region for the next hundred years. Their story is told in the Sufferers’ Land series of posts on this site.
The current series of posts on this site are about Platt and Sally’s great-great granddaughter, Harriott Wickham, and her schoolmates in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. We know all about Harriott’s heritage, but what about her great-grandfather’s?
Platt Benedict came from a long line of Benedicts in America. His forefather, Thomas Benedict (1617-1689) arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637. Today, his descendants in this country number in the tens of thousands.
As is common with most families of Colonial settlers, descendants of Thomas Benedict have published various genealogies over the years. The most recent addition to this collection is on-line as the Benedict Generations Wiki. If your heritage includes Benedicts, I encourage you to check it out. I am confident you will find it well worth your time.
Filed under: Benedict, Harriott Wickham, Norwalk HS Class of 1907, Norwalk OH High School, Uncategorized | Tagged: Benedict Genealogy, Henry Timman, Norwalk Ohio History, Norwalk Reflector, Platt Benedict, Sally DeForest Benedict, Wickham Genealogy | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 5, 2017 by Dave Barton
On this date, one hundred and ten year ago, Caleb Gallup, grandson of Norwalk founder Platt and Sally Benedict, ran an article in the Norwalk Daily Reflector, requesting donations for the new museum of the Firelands Historical Society. The society was the second oldest in Ohio, founded in 1857. Since then, the organization had held annual meetings and published the Firelands Pioneer to record stories of the settlement of the Firelands. Now they had established the first historical museum in the state to preserve the relics of those times.
The museum had been established in “fireproof rooms” in the Norwalk Public Library, and its display cases were waiting to be filled. Mr. Gallup, in his role as Custodian of Relics for the society, requested that descendants of the early pioneers comb their attics, basements and store rooms for portraits, papers, old furniture and anything else that harked back to those early days.
The Firelands Historical Society Museum
The Firelands Historical Society Museum is still going strong. It is now quartered in the old Wickham home at 4 Case Avenue, directly behind library. The museum’s collection has grown in the last one hundred ten years, and contains many relics of the pioneer days, to include one of the most extensive collections of old firearms you will ever see.
Just down the street, at 9 Case Avenue, it the Laning-Young Research Center. With over 4,000 historical volumes, this is the go-to place to research about the history of the Firelands.
The next time you are in Norwalk, Ohio, be sure to visit this great museum and research center. You’ll be glad you did.
Source: “Historical Museum,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector,” February 5, 1907, page 2, column 3.
Filed under: Benedict, Frontier Life, Norwalk, Ohio, Uncategorized, Wickham | Tagged: Benedict Genealogy, Firelands Historical Society, Firelands History, Laning Genealogy, Laning-Young Research Center, Norwalk Ohio History, Norwalk Reflector, Platt Benedict, Sally DeForest Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, Young Genealogy | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 16, 2017 by Dave Barton
Over the weekend, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that they will close after 146 years in business due to declining attendance and higher costs, coupled with protests by animal rights groups. Circuses have been around since Roman days, and these traveling shows were popular in America long before 1875, when P.T. Barnum began his “greatest show on earth.”
Unbelievable as it may seem, circuses were even popular on the frontier in the early 1800s. One such show stopped by Norwalk in late 1826 or early 1827, and when they left, they took with them Daniel Benedict, son of Platt and Sarah Benedict. In April, he wrote home.
Paris, Kentucky, April 24th, 1827
I have not heard from you since I left “Cincinnati.” I have written to you several times since then. I wrote to you from Harrodsburg and from Lexington. My health is better than it was when I wrote last and I am in hopes that I shall get well again. You need not give yourself any uneasiness about me for I shall be well taken care of by the company if I am confined. I am able to travel now and it does not hurt me at all to travel.
The camel is dead that was at Norwalk and it made a great hole in the Exhibition. It was worth two thousand dollars to the company, and some of the monkeys are dead. In all we are doing good business. At every place we stop at, the question is are you for Adams or for Jackson. As for myself, I say Adams and the rest of our company say the same. Adams will get as many friends in Kentucky as Jackson in my opinion.
The first thing we meet when we stop at a public house in this state is a negro with a boot jack and a pair of slips and wants to brush our boots and we are brushed from head to foot, and you insult a Kentuckian, he will draw his knife the first thing. There has been three men hanged and four more sentenced to the gallows since I’ve been in this state. They hang more in this state than any in the Union.
Pleased write to me and direct the letter to Maysville, Kentucky or to Lexington, for I shall be in Maysville in four or five weeks from this time, and in Lexington a few days.
From your son, D. B. Benedict
When I shall be in Norwalk, I cannot tell. 
I find this letter fascinating–and poignant. Fascinating to imagine the menagerie of a circus, in those days before railroads in the west, traversing the rough roads of the time. Poignant because I know Daniel never made it home to Norwalk. He died of malaria in New Orleans on September 9 that same year.
 The original of this letter is in the collection of the Firelands Historical Society, Norwalk, Ohio.
Filed under: Benedict, Frontier Life, Norwalk, Ohio, Uncategorized | Tagged: Firelands Historical Society, Firelands History, Ringling Brothers Circus, Sufferers' Land History | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 13, 2017 by Dave Barton
Today is Friday the 13th.
One hundred and ten years ago, this date fell on a Sunday. No newspapers were published in Norwalk, Ohio on Sunday, January 13, 1907. It wasn’t a bad luck day. It was a holy day. So, what did the citizens of Norwalk do?
Why, they went to church.
The Norwalk Daily Reflector on the previous day, Saturday, January 12, 1907, ran an article announcing fifteen Sunday church services around town. In today’s post, we’ll look at a few of these announcements, with comments from you faithful reporter (blogger).
First on the list of announcements in the Daily Reflector were “Evangelistic Services” on Cline Street for the American Methodist Episcopalian Church.
Now I must say, I was surprised to see this announcement. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina for many years, so I am familiar with the A.M.E., and I passed many times the Emanuael A.M.E. church where that horrific mass shooting occurred last year. What surprises me, is that there were enough African-American’s in Norwalk, Ohio in 1907 to support a church. I’m also a bit proud that the Daily Reflector reported their services, especially since my great-grandfather, Frank Wickham, was city editor for the paper.
Next up: the Presbyterians.
I am not a Presbyterian, nor have I ever been one. But my great-great grandmother, Lucy Wickham was. I mentioned her often in the Sufferers’ Land series of posts on this site. Lucy was a staunch churchgoer, and insistent that her twelve children (my great-grandfather Frank Wickham, mentioned above, was her youngest) attend Sunday School “and that they went properly attired. They each carried two handkerchiefs, one a “shower” and the other a “blower.” 
Also notice the address by Reverend Doctor Sanford of the Anti-Saloon league. Lucy Wickham was definitely “anti-saloon.” According to family lore, one day, Lucy was passing a saloon when a drunkard stumbled out the door and collapsed at her feet. She marched into the establishment, and informed the proprietor, “your sign just fell down.”
Two other another announcements for church services evoke my ancestry: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Universalist Church.
I was baptized in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. My god-mother was Eleanor Wickham, daughter of Frank and Agnes Wickham. It also was the first church established in Norwalk, in 1818, when Platt and Sarah Benedict (also my ancestors), held the first services in their cabin.
I also have connections to the “Universalist” church. Lucy Wickham’s husband Fredrick, was brought up an Episcopalian, but fell away from that church at an early age. He never could bring himself to join his wife as a Presbyterian, instead becoming a Universalist. As he later explained it to his granddaughter, Harriott Wickham (member of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907), he “could not condemn one of his children to Hell, and he didn’t believe the Lord could either.”
 See Sufferers’ Land Post #47 – The Wickhams in the 1850s
Filed under: Benedict, Episcopal Church, Harriott Wickham, Norwalk HS Class of 1907, Uncategorized, Wickham | Tagged: AME Church, Benedict Genealogy, Episcopal Church, Frederick Wickham, Lucy Wickham, Norwalk Ohio History, Norwalk Reflector, Platt Benedict, Presbyterian Church, Sally DeForest Benedict, Universalist Church, Wickham Genealogy | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 3, 2017 by Dave Barton
In last year’s October 29 post, we celebrated three Norwalk High School Class of 1907 October Birthdays. One of the students who celebrated a birthday that month was Myrtle Woodruff. Today we begin a series of posts about Myrtle’s heritage. Her family was among that wave of pioneers that settled in the Firelands in 1817, following the disastrous “Year without Summer” of 1816. We begin with the story of Myrtle’s great-great-great grandfather Chauncey Woodruff, and his son George, who together settled in Norwich Township, in the southwest corner of the Firelands, in February of 1817, almost a year earlier than Platt and Sarah Benedict founded Norwalk, Ohio. 
The Village House
It was late afternoon, Monday, February 10, 1817 when George Woodruff spotted the “Village Cabin” ahead through the trees. His family and the rest of his party had made surprisingly good time that day on the twelve mile trek over the Beall trail  from New Haven township. A foot of snow covering the ground had made travel easy for the oxen pulling the sleds with their belongings.
The party consisted of him and his new wife Hannah, his father Chauncey and his sister Elizabeth, and Wilder and Roxanna Laurence and their nine children. A few friends rounded out the group. 
The Woodruff and Laurence families had arrived in Ohio from Saratoga, New York in the fall of the previous year, and had stayed in Trumbull County, while George and his father Chauncey had come ahead to scout the land and select lots for settlement. George had remained in the township of New Haven, while his father returned to Trumbull County for the rest of the party. Chauncey had returned with the others two days previously, and today they had finally completed the last leg of the journey to their new home.
While on their scouting trip to the region, unlike many pioneers, George and his father did not need to build the cabin they were about to occupy. It had been raised in the spring of 1916 by a man named John Williamson. Mr. Williamson had not occupied the cabin, nor had he stayed in the Firelands, so now it was open for use by the Woodruff and Lawrence families.
The cabin had a roof and walls with openings cut for a door and fireplace. A crib had been constructed as a frame for a hearth. George and his father remembered seeing split oak puncheons for a floor stacked next to the cabin on their previous visit, but the pile was now completely covered by snow.
George and the other men set to work digging out the puncheons and shoveling dirt into the crib for a hearth. They laid an improvised floor and hung blankets over the opening for the door, while Roxanna and Hannah built a fire on the hearth and made supper. Then the whole party crowded into the small space, and tried to make themselves comfortable.
They made merry as best they could that evening, helped along by a jug of whisky they had taken care to pack on the sleds before leaving New Haven, then lay crowded on the puncheon floor, trying to ignore the howling of wolves in the surrounding forest.
So passed their first night in their new home on the frontier.
Next up: Do you find all these place names confusing? Would you like to have a map when reading accounts like these? Help is on the way tomorrow with my next post: Where was Village House?
 This story is based mostly on the accounts by John Niles in “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 32-46, and by W.W. Williams in his book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.
 Beall’s Trail was cut through the wilderness from Wooster to Fremont, Ohio by General Reasin Beall and his army in 1812. It passed through what would become New Haven and Norwich Townships.
 George’s mother Eunice Woodruff, nee Hosford, was missing from the party. She had died in 1797, two years after George’s birth. Roxanna Lawrence’s maiden name was Woodruff, so she was no doubt related to Chauncey, probably his sister. I have found other examples of this; for instance, siblings Henry and Elizabeth Lockwood and their spouses settled just outside of what would become Norwalk, Ohio in 1816, and hosted Platt and Sarah Benedict when they arrived in the fall of 1817, as described in the Sufferers Land Post #6: A Home in the Wilderness on this site.
Filed under: Benedict, Frontier Life, Gibbs, Lockwood, Myrtle Woodruff, New York, Norwalk, Ohio, Ohio, Uncategorized, Year without Summer | Tagged: Beall's Trail, Firelands History, Gibbs genealogy, Laurence Genealogy, Lockwood genealogy, New Haven Township Ohio, Norwich Township Ohio, The Firelands Pioneer, Woodruff Genealogy, Year without Summer | 2 Comments »
Posted on September 1, 2016 by Dave Barton
As we approach Labor Day, we look back on a summer of outdoor activities and vacation trips. But how did people in the Firelands spend that period between June and September? In those days before the advent of air conditioning, whole families (less fathers who stayed in town to work) would decamp from hot towns and cities to cottages on lakes, at the seashore, or in the mountains. In some parts of the country, this tradition continues, albeit, now only for weekends.
Growing up, I spent part of my summers at “the cottage” in the Firelands, on the shores of Lake Erie, about an hour and a half west of our home in Cleveland. I remember “the cottage” as a musty old building with wide porches set between a cemetery and the lake. I loved the air of family history that permeated the place.
The Cottage at Oak Bluff in 1972 – as I remember it.
At the time, I was aware that it had been in our family for generations, but had scant knowledge of how it came into the family. Decades later, I found at my mother’s house a story written by my grandmother. Titled, “The Squirrel House,” it filled in the gaps in my knowledge and gave me a glimpse of a time when many families in the Firelands, and across America, would spend their summers at the beach.
The Squirrel House
by Harriott Barton 
About 1892, Judge Charles Wickham , Judge Samuel Wildman , brother’s-in-law, and Dr. David DeForest Benedict  bought from Mr. Douglas, father of Will Douglas, the property which they named Oak Bluff, because of the huge old oaks that grew along the hilltop. Each of the three owned a front lot upon which he planned to erect a summer cottage. The remainder of the land to the west of the cemetery and south and west of the cottages was held in common. Later they sold the west lot to Captain John Adams , brother-in-law of Wickham and Wildman. He built a fourth cottage.
As this was in the “Horse and Buggy” age, it was necessary to have a stable. So a long, narrow shed was erected facing west, just beyond the south-west corner of the cemetery, close to the entrance from Lake Road. A partition separated the Benedict part from the larger Wickham-Wildman part. There was a wide door on the west side of each room. Between the road and the lake was Common Property — an old peach orchard, neglected, and no longer very productive. Later it was fenced for a pasture. Then it was used for a tennis court.
The Wickham and Wildman cottages were built, I believe, in 1893. On the Benedict lot, overlooking Cranberry Creek, was the old cabin, its floor mostly rotted away; the door sill a good three feet above the badly eroded ground. On my first visit someone lifted me up to look inside. What floor still remained in place was covered with heaps of chewed hickory nuts and acorns. Back in town I chattered about the squirrel’s house, and that became its name.
Harriott at age 3 in 1893, about the time when she named the cottage “Squirrel House”
That winter Grandpa and old Bill Mears (uncle of Mrs. George Harkness) cleaned and repaired the old cabin. They put in a new roof and floor . . . Grandpa loved to work with wood. In Norwalk he had a workshop above the chicken house on the slope of the hill behind the garden on Bank Street. They built two partitions in the cabin for a dining room on the west, with the east part cut into two small rooms, the kitchen to the south and a bedroom on the north.
In the front yard they made a large wooden platform about a foot above the ground for a floor for the big four room tent which housed the rest of the family in the summer. Each room held a bed and a wash stand with bowl and pitcher. Wash water was carried up from the lake; drinking water from the Ruggles or the old stone trough south of Ceylon.
The cabin bedroom was reserved for Grandpa and Grandma  when she was there. They usually took their vacation in early fall, when there were usually fishing boats on the shore. I now suspect they found more peace and quiet at that time.
Through the summer the place was always full of family! Although Aunt Fannie  was till in Colorado, there were still Aunt Lil , Mame  and my mother , also Cousin May , our grandmother’s orphaned niece from Canada who married Fred Christian , my father’s nephew. May had been a part of the Benedict family for several years.
As the years passed and Grandpa’s tribe increased, he saw the need for larger quarters, so by 1896 he was involved in a new project; bedrooms to complete his house. He personally chose the boards he wanted to use – many for their knots, which he found interesting for their varied designs.
The actual building, I believe, started in the fall of 1896 and finished in the spring of 1897. Again Bill Mears assisted. They erected the frame and fitted the perpendicular siding boards, using sawhorses made during the winter in Grandpa’s workshop. The only clear memory I have of the actual building is it standing back of the house about 30 feet (there was no fence at that time). Grandpa was sitting astride the ridgepole with his snowy hair and beard — he looked just like the Santa Claus on a Christmas card!
Finally, the house was finished! A living room and two bedrooms on the ground floor; upstairs four bedrooms opening onto a narrow hall. The bedrooms’ inner walls were really just partitions, seven feet high. No ceilings up there — to allow for better ventilation. A porch (roofed) ran across the front of the living room along its east side to join a porch in front of the dining-kitchen part, and around the east side, where the steps led down to the back yard and the privy. No doorway was cut between the new part and the kitchen-dining area, in order to keep flies out of the front part of the house.
The Squirrel House, 1911
There was no fireplace, as in other cottages. Grandpa had grown up in a family haunted by the memory of his older brother who, at the age of three, got up too early one morning, caught his night clothes afire, and was burned to death. Some years later my mother had one built in the living room.
Having finished the house and furnished it — largely from the attic at 80 E. — a number of surplus things from the dismantled Deaver home in New Haven  were stored there. The little ash stands were the property of Uncle Will Benham , who had had a rooming house in Chicago during The Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892-3.
Having finished the house and furnished it, Grandpa decided that, to protect it from dripping bathers, there should be a bathhouse; so he proceeded to build one! — on the slope of the bluff just west of the steps down to the beach. The south side of the shed-like building rested on a shelf-like cut in the slope up from the beach (the south part of which was higher and much drier than now). The north part of the shed-like building rested on tall posts resting on stones set into the beach. A north-south partition divided it into rooms — ladies to the east, with a door onto the stairway; the men’s room (to the west) going onto a plank walk between the building and the hillside. Each room had a window, a table and hooks on the wall. It saved many a wet trail in the house!
At the beach – 1908
It was at about this time that Aunt Fannie, her husband  having died very suddenly, returned to Norwalk with her three children, Benedict , Mary  and Agnes  and became part of the summer household in the cottage. I’ve often wondered how our three mothers put up with us!
Harriott (bottom left) her cousin Ben and sister Eleanor
By this time Grandpa’s angina had become much more severe. The last year he came to the lake he began having very sudden and severe attacks of pain in his chest. As he insisted upon being quite active, I was assigned the task of keeping an eye on him.
I was nine years old by then and had been very devoted to Grandpa. The problem was that he did not want to be considered an invalid and kept telling me not to follow him. One day he collapsed in the drive back of the Wildman cottage. I came running up and he was a bit cross about it, saying he was just tired and was resting! and he wished I would stop following him.
I was, of course, old enough to understand that he as in great pain, but determined to keep going. And he did until the next January when, overnight, he died suddenly at the age of 68.
If he could look in on Oak Bluff now, more than seventy years later, I’m sure that he would be happy that some of his family are still enjoying, as he did, The Place on the Lake.
When reading old stories like “The Squirrel House,” do you often wonder who all these people the author mentions are? Who are “Aunt Lil,” and “Grandma,” and “Judge Charles Wickham” and all the rest of these people Harriott Barton mentions in passing?
Well, I have the answers to those questions for you. Below are the full names of everyone mentioned in “The Squirrel House,” along with their relationship to Harriott. Click on the links for a WeRelate Wiki article that describes their lives. Let me know if you have additional information about any of these people, and I’ll update their article. Or you can join WeRelate Wiki and update it yourself! That’s the beauty of Wikis–collaboration!
 Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton (1890-1981). Author of “The Squirrel House.” Daughter of Agnes and Frank Wickham.
 Charles Preston Wickham (1836-1925). Eldest brother of Frank Wickham. Civil War veteran, judge, and U.S. Congressman.
 Samuel A Wildman (1846-1934). Brother of Charles Wickham’s wife Emma. Civil War veteran and judge.
 David DeForrest Benedict (1833-1901). Harriott Wickham Barton’s grandfather. Surgeon in the Civil War where he was captured at the Battle of Chickamauga.
 John Adams (1843-1927). Civil War veteran. Husband of Mary Wildman, Samuel Wildman’s sister.
 Harriott Deaver Benedict (1835-1909). Harriott Wickham Barton’s grandmother. David Benedict’s wife.
 Fannie Buckingham Benedict Hottel (1863-1940). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.
 Ellen Eliza Benedict Wickham (1868-1942). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.
 Mary Deaver Benedict (1857-1931). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.
 Agnes Caroline Benedict Wickham (1861-1934). Daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s mother.
 Mabel (May) Curtis Christian (1868-1911). Ward of David and Harriott Benedict. Married Fred Christian.
 Fred Christian (1866-1935). Son of Katherine Wickham Christian, sister of Charles Preston Wickham. Married May Curtis.
 Homestead of James Deaver and Harriott Shaon Deaver in North Fairfield, Ohio. Parents of Harriott Deaver Benedict and Harriot Wickham Barton’s grandparents.
 William Benham (1858-1923). Second husband of Harriott Benedict Benham, eldest daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. Harriott Wickham Barton’s aunt.
 Andrew Hottel (1852-1899). Husband of Fanny Benedict Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s uncle.
 David Benjamin Hottel (1890-1955). Son of Andrew and Fanny Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s cousin.
 Mary Hottel (1895-1981). Daughter of Andrew and Fanny Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s cousin.
 Agnes Hottel (1897-1983). Daughter of Andrew and Fanny Hottel. Harriott Wickham Barton’s cousin.
For additional information about Oak Bluff and the Benedict and Wickham families, check out Family, by Ian Frazier.
Filed under: Benedict, Christian, Deaver, Uncategorized, Wickham, Wildman | Tagged: Benedict Genealogy, Christian Genealogy, Civil War, David DeForest Benedict, Firelands History, Norwalk Ohio History, Wickham Genealogy, Wildman Genealogy | 1 Comment »
Posted on September 7, 2015 by Dave Barton
Labor Day in 1908, was on September 7, as it is this year. The holiday in those days was nothing like the family barbecue event it is today. Back then, unions were just gaining strength and Labor Day was a collective holiday that appealed to the general public.
For Harriott Benedict Wickham, great-great-great granddaughter of Norwalk, Ohio founders Platt and Sally Benedict, the holiday was the most exciting day of the year. Here’s what she had to say about the day in her diary:
Labor Day, the most exciting day of the year in Norwalk. The Labor Unions always have lots of doin’s on Labor Day, the town is full of people, and it is just like a carnival.
1908 Labor Day Parade in Cincinnati, Ohio
I didn’t go downtown till about 2:30, just too late to see them climb the greased pole. Eddie and Irene and I were together most of the afternoon, taking in the different races, and watermelon & pie eating contests. The streets were jammed, but everybody was good natured, and so nobody minded the crowding & shouting and showers of confetti. About five o’clock we met Lucy, Ellen, and Gladys, and went with them down to the water fight which the fire department men had in front of the High School. That was lots of fun. We stood on the fence where we had a good view, and just yelled ourselves hoarse.
After supper, Lucy, Edna, Ellen and myself took in the band concert, and then went down and watched the fireworks from the roof of Fulstone’s barn. They set off the fireworks from the middle of the high bridge and they were very good, and what a mob there was on the streets. You could scarcely get through. After the fireworks, we went up to the Electric Theatre. My hair is so full of dust and confetti I don’t know as I shall ever make it presentable. Walter Hoffman was in town this afternoon, but I didn’t see him. I’m sorry for I would like to see him again.
Happy Labor Day!
Filed under: Benedict, Wickham | Tagged: Benedict Genealogy, Firelands History, Harriott Wickham, Labor Day 1908, Norwalk Ohio History, Wickham Genealogy | Leave a comment »