And Now We Hunt the Doe

.
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.

#

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.

 

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Advertisements

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.

 

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: A Terrible Tragedy

Next Post: The Huron Reflector

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Jonas Benedict

Next Post: The Entrepreneurs

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: School and Tragedy

Next Post: Henry Buckingham

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: To Canada and Back Again

Next Post: Death, Education, Responsibility

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Lucy Preston’s Long Journey West

Next Post: To Canada and Back Again

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

%d bloggers like this: