Sufferers’ Land – Post 32 – The Entrepreneurs

Sufferers’ Land

The Entrepreneurs

by Dave Barton

The pioneers came to Norwalk to make their fortunes. They were entrepreneurs, willing to work hard and take risks to succeed. Platt Benedict was the most energetic businessman of all, engaging in the occupations of tavern keeper, postmaster, real estate investor, and farmer. As a farmer, he introduced new practices and stock to the village. He was the first to plant an orchard, first to introduce merino sheep, and the first to use advanced farming implements, such as an improved plow, wheat cultivator, corn planter and hay rake. In addition to farming, he invested in businesses that exploited the natural resources of the region. Along with Obadiah Jenney, he built the first sawmill in the township. [1]

Henry Buckingham was an active entrepreneur also. In 1827, he entered into a partnership with John P. McArdle, who had previous publishing experience, to establish the Norwalk Reporter. Henry’s son George also came into the business. [2]

Meux BreweryTwo years after establishing the Norwalk Reporter, the same year his daughter married Jonas Benedict, Henry, along with Platt Benedict and several other investors, founded The Norwalk Manufacturing Company to produce flour, paper and other commodities. The company built a factory on Medina Road. It was the first enterprise of its kind west of the Alleghenies. The company had problems from the beginning and was never a financial success. Soon after incorporation, all investors except Henry, Platt and one other man pulled out of the venture. [3]

The factory was three stories high and about one hundred and fifty feet long. The papermaking section took most of the space in the building because the paper had to be air-dried, there being no steam heat available. In addition to the paper making operation, a small machine shop made nails and a grist mill ground wheat and corn. [4]

Lucy Preston was aware of all these business dealings, even though she was busy with school, keeping house and taking care of her father Samuel and brother Charles. Through much of the 1820s, her father was in the construction trade, building houses and public buildings, no doubt working with William and Hallet Gallup. Soon he would start an enterprise that would engage his family for the next half century.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The history of early commercial enterprises in Norwalk are from “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer,  Old Series, Volume I, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, May 1859, pp. 20-21.

[2] The story of the founding of the Norwalk Recorder is from “History of the Fire Lands Press,” by C.P. Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, Sept. 1861. pp. 8-9.

[3] The story of the establishment of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Biography of Henry Buckingham,” by Levina Lindsley Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume I, The Firelands Historical Society, June 1882, p. 160.

[4] The physical description of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer,  New Series, Volume I, The Firelands Historical Society, December 1918, pp. 2106-2107

Image is of the Meux Brewery, London, 1830, from Edward Walford, Old and New London: Its History, Its People, and Its Places; Volume IV; Caswell & Co.; 1891; page 486.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 31 – A Terrible Tragedy

Sufferers’ Land

A Terrible Tragedy

by Dave Barton

On Wednesday, August 28, 1833, less than a month after the birth of David Benedict, Lucy Preston learned that there had been a horrible accident at the Benedict home on Seminary Street. Little Platt Benedict had been badly burned. Lucy hurried to the house to see if she could help. Now nineteen years old, she had the reputation of being a capable nurse.

Pioneer FireplaceWhen she arrived at her friend Fanny Benedict’s house, she learned that young Platt had come downstairs early in the morning and stood by the fireplace to get warm. An ember landed on the boy’s nightgown, catching it on fire and burning him badly. Fanny and Jonas were in terrible shock from the sight of their son running through the house engulfed in flames.

Lucy went in the bedroom where the boy lay to see if she could help. He was delirious and begged for water. The doctor refused to allow him any, a practice of that time. The boy’s plight moved Lucy, and later, when she was alone with him, she gave him all the water he wanted. Throughout the night, she and other women of the village kept watch over the boy, but they were not able to save him. He died the next day.

The loss of a young child is a terrible thing. Even in those days of high infant mortality, it caused immense grief in the family and the village. Jonas and Fanny would have two more children, both girls. However, their lives, scarred by the death of their firstborn son, were doomed to pass from tragedy to tragedy — disappointment to disappointment. [1]

 

 

Footnote:

[1] The story of the death of young Platt Benedict is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver (Unpublished), by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 17.

The image of the frontier fireplace is from Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 240.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 28 – Death, Education, Responsibility

Sufferers’ Land

Death, Education, Responsibility

by Dave Barton

In the fall of 1826, Lucy’s mother, Esther contracted inflammatory fever. For fifteen days, Lucy, then age twelve, nursed her mother, hoping she would recover. However, it was to no avail. On Sunday, the third of September, Esther Taylor Preston died.

Samuel, grief-stricken, buried her in the Episcopal Cemetery near the grave of Susan Gibbs, and placed a notice in the Sandusky Clarion.

Died. – At Norwalk, on Sunday, September 3, 1826, in the 46th year of her age, after a severe illness of fifteen days, Esther Taylor, the wife of Samuel Preston, Esq.; leaving a husband and two children, Lucy B. and Chas. A., to lament her loss. [1]

Lucy was now responsible for running her home and caring for her father and brother. For one-and-a-half years, she had help from her mother’s sister, Fannie Taylor Knight, whose husband had recently died. Then Aunt Fannie remarried and left Lucy alone in charge of the household at the age of fourteen.

* * *

It took three years to build the Academy. The building was three stories and made of brick. The Masons, who had contributed eight-hundred dollars for construction, occupied the third floor. Norwalk Academy opened its doors in December 1826 with ninety students. By the end of the year, there were one-hundred. The first Principal was the Reverend S.A. Bronson, who had served St. Paul’s parish as a deacon for several years. [2]

Even though she had a family to care for, Lucy’s father allowed her to attend the Academy. She became reacquainted with Mary Ann Morse, whom she had met at the first school she attended in the Firelands. Mary left the academy in 1828 at the age of eighteen and married George Kennan, an instructor at the school.

Lucy left Norwalk Academy in 1829 when she was fifteen years old and went to a private school taught by Miss Ware, where among other things she learned painting and studied music and French. This was rare for a girl in those days, an indication of Lucy’s talents and the desire of her father to give her a good education.

Those days were difficult for Lucy, full of hard work and heavy responsibility. However, they were also happy times. Her friends remembered her as a vivacious and witty girl, unselfish and popular with all. In addition to her father and her brother Charles, her cousins Jane and Julia Knight and Catharine Taylor lived with her for many years while they went to school in Norwalk. Lucy early on learned it was her job to care for others. For the rest of her life, she would be the responsible one. [3]

Even when she had lived outside Norwalk, Lucy had heard news of goings on in the village from her father, who lived and worked there during the week. From him, she learned of the arrival of new settlers who erected homes and businesses along the sand ridge. When her family moved into town in 1821, she was able to find out first hand when new settlers arrived. New arrivals meant new children to play with.

Soon after Lucy moved into town, a family arrived that would have a big impact on Lucy’s future — and the future of Norwalk.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] From Obituaries – The Fireland Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2473.
[2] Description of founding of Norwalk Academy is from “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, No. 4; The Firelands Historical Society; May 1859; p. 21 and James Gibbs, “Academy, Seminary and Institute,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January, 1920, page 2295-2300.
[3] Lucy Preston’s experiences at the Norwalk Academy are from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2399.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 27 – School and Tragedy

Sufferers’ Land

School and Tragedy

by Dave Barton

The year Samuel Preston moved his family to Norwalk, the men of the town, with Platt Benedict in the lead, established the Royal Arch Chapter of the Masons. Platt had been a Mason for over ten years, joining the fraternity when he lived in Danbury, Connecticut. On St. John’s Day the following year, the chapter planned to install officers, and looked for a place large enough to accommodate the audience. They decided that the Court House was too small, so they built a large bower of branches on Prospect Avenue. The next year, Lucy went to school in this bower. She thought it was a pleasant place, except when a shower came up, which later she said made the pursuit of knowledge very difficult. [1]

Starting in 1816, when the first school had opened on the border of Norwalk and Ridgefield Townships, private schools were the only educational facilities in the area. They were small affairs, funded by subscriptions of farmers in the townships or the tuition of tradesmen and professionals in the villages. [2] Teachers were generally young women, most working away from home. They often boarded with families of their pupils. Many met the men they would marry while living in their homes. [3]

After several years, the leading citizens of Norwalk decided to establish a more advanced center of learning in the village. They determined to build an academy, and formed a committee to oversee construction. On Wednesday, May 14, 1823, a notice appeared in the Sandusky Clarion, the only newspaper in the Firelands at that time.

Notice

The subscribers having been appointed a committee for the purpose of building an Academy at Norwalk, do hereby give notice that they will receive proposals until the second Monday of June next, for erecting and completing said building. Application may be made to any one of the subscribers.

“F. Forsyth, H.G. Morse, H. Gallup, Moses Kimball, David Gibbs, committee. Norwalk, May 6, 1823.” [4]

Work began that same year on a site between Main and Seminary Streets. By the fall of the following year, a man passing through town noted that the roof was almost completed. The unfinished building was three stories, with the third floor set aside for the Masons, who were a major contributor to the academy. The children of the village loved to play amid the construction, and Lucy Preston was no exception.

One day in early February 1825, she and other children met at the unfinished school to play. Among her friends was Esther Ann Gibbs, a girl of ten who was the daughter of Samuel and Debby Gibbs, relatives of the Gibbs who had sheltered the Benedicts when they first came to Norwalk Township.

Esther Ann had brought her four-year-old sister Susan Gibbs, with the admonishment to look after her by her mother. The children climbed to the third floor to play. They were in the middle of a game of “Ring around the Rosy,” when they heard someone cry out that a child had fallen. Crowding to the edge of the building they gazed in horror at little Susan Gibbs, lying on the ground. Passers-by rushed Susan home, where she lingered through the night. She died the following morning from her injuries and her family buried her in the cemetery behind where St. Paul’s Episcopal Church now stands.

How the loss of her sister affected Esther Ann Gibbs, we can hardly guess. It certainly must have been a blow to Lucy. She had lost a sister earlier in life, and sympathized with the grief of her friend now. However, she was soon to know grief herself, as death struck her own family. [5]

 

Footnotes:

[1] History of the establishment of a Masonic Chapter in Norwalk is from “Centennial of Norwalk Masonry,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXXIII; The Firelands Historical Society; April 1925; p. 448. Story of the construction of a bower for the installation of Masonic officers and subsequent use as a school is from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920; p. 2399.
[2] Quoted from The History of Norwalk Schools, prepared by the late Theodore Williams by request of the Board of Education in 1876.
[3] An example of a young female teacher marrying a man she met while teaching away from home was Harriett Underhill of Ridgefield Township daughter of David and Mary Underhill, who married Col. Nathan Strong in Lyme Township where she was teaching at the home of Col. Strong’s son. “Memoirs of Townships” by Charles Smith M.D., The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, Number 1; The Firelands Historical Society; November 1859; p. 12.
[4] Story of building the Norwalk Academy is from “Some Historic Facts About Ancient Norwalk’s Famous Academy, Seminary, and Institute,” by James Gibbs, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, pp. 2295-7.
[5] From “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2399.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 25 – The Firelands at Last

Sufferers’ Land

The Firelands at Last

by Dave Barton

While they arranged to continue west by land, the stranded families stayed in a rented house in Erie. Lucy found a large stray dog near the home and adopted it to be company for little Nero. By this time, the passengers of the schooner had become close, but now they would part, each family going its separate way.

By the end of the week, the Prestons were ready and they headed west along the lakeshore, traveling in another rented wagon. They struggled over muddy roads and corduroy bridges. From time to time, they changed horses at an inn. On one occasion, Lucy watched men hitch to the wagon a team of white horses that were exceptionally hard to handle. A popular saying of the time was that someone who was particularly difficult to deal with was “Full of White Horse” and from the way these particular white horses behaved, Lucy thought she understood where this saying came from.

In December, they reached Cleveland, a small town of less than a hundred and fifty people, not much bigger than it had been when the Benedicts passed through two years earlier. There was no bridge across the Cuyahoga River, so they arranged to cross by ferry. The ferrymen drove the wagon with all its occupants onto the boat. However, they would not allow the Prestons to bring their two dogs with them. Lucy and Charles were fond of these canines — Nero had been their companion back in New Hampshire, the other dog had been with them since Erie. As the ferry pushed off from the bank, the children cried to see their pets running up and down the eastern bank of the river.

After unloading the wagon on the western bank, Samuel paid the fare to take the ferry back to the eastern side of the river. An hour or so later, Lucy and Charles spotted a canoe push off from the opposite bank. As it drew near, they saw their father in the bow, the two dogs sitting in his lap. Soon the children and their beloved pets were reunited.

The family pushed on westward through the wilderness. On Saturday, December 17, they stopped in the town of Eldridge, now Berlin, where they stayed at a tavern owned by David Walker. Lucy’s mother noticed that the Walker’s infant boy’s feet were “reeled”. She told Mrs. Walker, “Why, you ought to have them straightened.” Apparently, the woman did not take her advice. Years later, Lucy saw the boy at school in Norwalk, and his feet were still “reeled.”

The next morning, Sunday, December 18, the family traveled the short distance to Norwalk and stopped in the tavern owned by the Abbott family. Mrs. Abbott gave Lucy and her brother each a biscuit spread with butter and honey, a treat they had not enjoyed for many weeks.

Samuel learned that his brother-in-law Benjamin Taylor was living on a farm in the “Dutch Settlement” in Bronson Township. He led his family on, eager to end their long journey. A mile and a half from Benjamin’s farmhouse, they saw Lucy’s Aunt Juliet Taylor, riding on a horse with her three-month-old daughter in her arms. “Grandsire” Taylor walked beside his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, leading them to services at the Baptist Church near Baker’s Mill Pond.

Lucy and her family were overjoyed to see their relatives after a long separation, and soon they came to Uncle Benjamin’s farm. The trip had been long and arduous, but they had finally arrived. Time would tell how they would adapt to life on the frontier. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The Story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands are from the “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI, The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, pp. 2394-2399.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 21 – Trial and Punishment

Sufferers’ Land

Trial and Punishment

by Dave Barton

The Huron County Court of Common Pleas convened on Tuesday, May 18 at the Court House in Norwalk. A Grand Jury met the same day. Two days later, they indicted the three Indians for first-degree murder.

The trial began the day after the indictment. A crowd assembled, so many that a large number had to stand outside in the yard. Being a prominent member of the community, Platt secured a seat inside, and later gave Sally a first hand account.

He seemed to have witnessed a fair trial. After hearing only a portion of the evidence, the prosecutor dropped the charge against the boy Negossum and released him, to the applause of the audience.

The evidence against the other two Indians was compelling, however, and after a short deliberation, the jury found them guilty. The judge asked if they had anything to say before he passed sentence, but they refused to speak. He sentenced them to be hanged on Friday, July first, and had them led back to jail to await execution.

Sally and the other settlers were curious how the Indians were taking their impending deaths. They learned that the two men were particularly concerned about hanging, which they considered an ignominious death. To discover what it felt like, they practiced choking each other until they almost passed out. The results disturbed them and they became so depressed that the sheriff, in sympathy, gave them whisky to dull their anguish.

The day of execution dawned warm and sultry. Early that morning, settlers from all over the county assembled around the gallows, erected on a knoll behind where St. Paul’s Episcopal Church now stands. Seven or eight Indians from the condemned men’s tribe arrived to witness the execution, including several who had assisted in recapturing the prisoners after their escape.

At the appointed time, the condemned men approached the knoll, escorted by a rifle company commanded by Captain Burt. They were dressed in shrouds and were intoxicated, having begged for whisky earlier that morning. After mounting the gallows and having nooses placed around their necks, the men were asked if they wished to say anything. Negosheek mumbled a few words. The men dropped to their deaths and several women turned away and began to cry.

After they were dead, the authorities took down their bodies, placed them in coffins, and buried them on the knoll. The Rifle Company and civil officials marched to Captain Boalt’s house. He treated them to a big dinner, and they listened to a funeral discourse, a rather macabre scene to us, but probably considered appropriate at the time.

For months afterwards, the settlers of the Firelands worried that friends of the executed Indians would exact revenge. Platt, not having a gun, kept a sharpened hoe hanging near his front door against such an eventuality. However, perhaps because the court had found the boy Negossum innocent, the Indians felt that justice had been done. They never attacked.

As time went on, settlers cleared the forests and farms replaced the Native American’s traditional hunting grounds. In 1843, the remaining tribes departed Ohio for reservations further west. Their time had passed. [1]

Goodbye to Old Hunting Grounds

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 137.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume VI, The Firelands Historical Society, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145. Platt Benedict’s reaction to this incident is described by him in “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, May 1859, p. 21.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 20 – Recapture

Sufferers’ Land

Recapture

by Dave Barton

A day or two after the return of Negonaba, Sally and the other townspeople were relieved when Captain Burt, accompanied by Constable Charles Tupper of Danbury Township and several other men, walked into town, leading Negosheek by a rope tied around him.

Before putting him back into custody, the men searched the Indian and found a small knife secreted in his clothes. Captain Burt told them he had searched the Indian at the time of his capture, but that Negosheek’s squaw must have slipped him the knife before they departed the Indian’s village.

Pioneers and Indians

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 139.

After returning Negosheek to the makeshift jail with the wounded Negonaba, Captain Burt told his story to the assembled populace of the village. Arriving on the Miami River, the three men went to the Indian camp where Negosheek and Negossum lived. John Flemmond introduced Captain Burt, who had dressed in an impressive military uniform, as Governor of Ohio, and demanded that the chief turn over Negosheek and Negossum to him.

This ruse worked, and the chief brought Negosheek to them. The chief promised that he would have the boy Negossum brought to Norwalk in a few days, but also told them that Negossum was not guilty. Through the interpreter, the two captains assured the chief that the boy would receive a fair trial, and if the court found him innocent, they would release him.

Leaving Captain Boalt and John Flemmond behind to wait for the boy Negossum, Captain Burt led Negosheek north toward Lake Erie accompanied by a party of Indians. The weather had turned rainy, and the men slogged through the wilderness, cold, wet and miserable. After a day’s travel, the party stopped for the night and Captain Burt tried unsuccessfully to start a fire. He used sign language to ask the Indians accompanying him to do it, promising them a quart of whisky if they did. An Indian poured gunpowder on the wood, and used flint and steel to try to start a fire. The powder ignited suddenly in the Indian’s face causing him to jump several feet into the air.

When they reached the shore of Lake Erie, the Indians accompanying him turned back, and Captain Burt continued alone through the forest with his captive. Once, Negosheek tried to break away, but Captain Burt, who was a large man, grabbed him and shook him harshly. After that, he had no more trouble with him.

After going nine or ten miles along the lakeshore, Captain Burt arrived at Constable Charles Tupper’s cabin at the mouth of the Portage River. Charles was relieved to see him and his prisoner, and after hearing Captain Burt’s story, agreed to accompany him the rest of the way to Norwalk.

A day or two after Captain Burt returned to Norwalk with Negosheek, Captain John Boalt and John Flemmond arrived with Negossum, whom the chief of the tribe had turned over to them as promised. They put the boy into jail with his companions to await trial. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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