Sufferers’ Land – Post 7 – The First Winter

Sufferers’ Land

The First Winter

by Dave Barton

For a few days, provisions were low. Then Platt bought a deer from an Indian for a dollar. Until then, the family subsisted on green corn and turnips from the garden Lewis Keeler had planted for Platt during the summer and milk from two cows they had purchased in Canfield.

Winter SceneWinter would arrive soon, and they needed to obtain enough food to last until spring. However, that took money, which after the expenses of land and travel was in short supply. To make up the shortfall, Platt took a job with a crew cutting a road between Norwalk and Milan. He earned sixty dollars which he used to buy enough pork for the family to make it through the winter. [1]

So far, no one else had settled in what was to become the village of Norwalk. In early November, a man passed the sand ridge on his way to his new home in Peru Township and wrote that the Benedict cabin was the only building there. [2]

Over the previous year, almost all the townships in Huron County had at least a few New Englanders settle in them, and many of the new settlers were acquaintances of Platt and Sally. On Christmas Day, the Benedicts and other Connecticut settlers gathered at John and Ruth Boalt’s house for a “Yankee” Christmas dinner. Although the feast was spare, the settlers had to be thankful. They had survived a long arduous trip, and had established themselves in their new homes. Over the next few years, they would build on this beginning to establish a life similar to what they had in New England.

After Christmas, five to six inches of snow fell and the weather stayed cold for the next six weeks, making for good sleighing. Platt and Sally took advantage of these conditions to visit friends who had also moved from Connecticut to the Firelands. One day they visited nine different families.

During the winter, Platt took many logs to Major David Underhill’s sawmill in Ridgefield Township, dragging them one at a time behind a team of oxen. Occasionally, Sally accompanied him, riding on a log, in order to visit Mary Underhill. [3]

The first winter in their little cabin was hard, but also had its good times. Years later, Sally wrote, many pleasant evenings we spent beside that fireplace, cracking nuts, and eating — not apples — but turnips. You need not laugh, these raw turnips tasted good, when there was nothing else to eat, and as the flames grew brighter, our merry party would forget they were not in their eastern homes, but far away in the wilds of Ohio. [4]

Even with these good times, winter must have seemed long and depressing to Sally. Finally, spring arrived, bringing the promise of better times. Flowers carpeted the ground beneath the bare branches of the surrounding forest. [5]

So far, the results of their move had not been encouraging. No one else had settled on the sand ridge. Without a town, the venture Sally and Platt dreamed of would come to nothing. But with spring, news came that changed their prospects for the better, giving them hope that the future would be as bright as those spring flowers on the floor of the deep woods.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[2] Mr. Pearley Sanders account of passing through what is now Norwalk in November 1817 is in The Firelands Pioneer, June, 1858, p. 42.
[3] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[4] Sarah Benedict’s description of early life in Norwalk is from Family, by Ian Frazier, pp.57-58
[5] “Historical Sketches – Townsend,” by Benjamin Benson, The Firelands Pioneer, March, 1860, p. 4.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 5 – The Trek West

Sufferers’ Land

The Trek West

by Dave Barton

The Benedicts traveled first to Norwalk, Connecticut, where they were joined by Platt’s cousin Jemima Keeler, her husband Luke, and their nine children. In addition to the Keeler and Benedict families, three single men, Seth Jennings, Burwell Whitlock, and Henry Hurlbut, were in the party, making a total of twenty-two. [1]

They continued on to New York City. On Sunday, July 20, they crossed the Hudson River to Jersey City and started west. Until now, Sally had been in familiar surroundings, having lived in New York City previously. Now, she would venture into unknown territory.

Passing through New Jersey, they crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania at Easton and continued through Harrisburg, Carlisle and Chambersburg. [2]

Emigrating to New ConnecticutHeavy traffic choked the road in both directions. Immigrants crowded westward, many of them destitute from the disastrous summer of 1816. Some persons went in covered wagons — frequently a family consisting of father, mother and eight or nine small children, with perhaps one a babe at the breast — some on foot and some crowded together under the cover with kettles, gridirons, feather beds, crockery and the family Bible, Watts’ Psalms and Hymn Book and Webster’s spelling book. Others started in ox carts and trudged on foot at the rate of ten miles a day. Many of them were in a state of poverty and begged their way as they went. Some of them died before they reached their destination. Broken wagons and discarded belongings littered the sides of the road. [3]

Produce of Ohio came from the west, pork and whiskey bound for eastern markets. Pork traveled on the hoof, herds of hogs fattened on corn. Whiskey was another product of corn — the staple crop of the day in the Old Northwest. In that time before canals and railroads, settlers could not transport commodities such as corn economically. However, corn fed to hogs or distilled into whiskey could. [4]

Long before they reached Chambersburg, Sally and the others were worn out. All day they trudged on, usually making only ten miles. At night, they competed with throngs of other immigrants for space at the miserable sheds called taverns with scenes of mother frying, children crying, fathers swearing. [5]  Sally and Jemima would cook supper while the men took care of the animals. In the morning, they would rise, stiff from the previous day’s travel, and start again.

The trip took a toll on the animals, also, especially the oxen. They were so footsore it took the men a half-hour to get them on their feet in the morning. The hardest part of the journey laid ahead, the trip over the Allegheny Mountains, a road rude, steep and dangerous. They pushed on — ever-climbing — suffering mishaps common for travelers of that time, broken wheels and axles and balky animals.

After what must have seemed an eternity, they crested the Allegany’s and started down the western slope. Near the end of their descent, Seth Jennings, one of the single men, upset the wagon he drove. His personal chest broke open and he lost all his possessions, to include the last of his money. For the rest of the trip, he had to rely on the Benedicts for everything.

The day after this mishap, they finally reached Pittsburgh, where they took a flatboat a short distance downriver to Beaver, and then continued on to enter the Western Reserve at Poland, Ohio, the first settlement by Connecticut pioneers and a long-time entry point into the Western Reserve.

They did not stop in Poland, but continued on to Canfield, where Platt and Sally had relatives and friends, among them Platt’s partner in this venture, Elisha Whittlesey. They rested in Canfield for several days, and then traveled to Hudson, Ohio, where they stayed in the home of Deacon and Mrs. Hudson, who had founded the town in 1799. [6]

Hudson was one of the most prosperous towns in Ohio, and probably the wealthiest in the Western Reserve, with a number of flour and lumber mills. Platt and Sally dreamed of creating a town like this in the Firelands.

Cattle formed the basis of Hudson’s prosperity, supporting the industries of hide tanning, dairy farming and cheese production. [7]  Mrs. Hudson took Sally and the other travelers to her cheese room, where she had over sixty large rounds curing. The Hudson family sold their cheese in Pittsburgh to distributors who sent it on to markets further east. [8]

By this time, the oxen were so footsore they could not continue. Platt traded them for new teams and purchased two cows, so the family would have milk when they arrived at their new home. The party made necessary repairs and prepared for the final push to the Firelands. [9]

They traveled north to Cleveland, at that time a settlement consisting of only a few houses, and then turned west, following a road that paralleled the lakeshore. Now there were no houses, only unbroken wilderness. It began to rain and the party slogged on through the mud. Sally looked forward to the end of their journey and the relative comfort of the cabin Platt had built in the spring.

Bad news would soon dash her hopes. [10]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18, & The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, by Henry Marvin Benedict, pp. 380-382.
[2] Story of the trip west is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[3] Description of the emigration from New England the summer of 1817 is from “Year without Summer”, by Dr. F.E. Weeks in The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419.
[4] From The Ohio Frontier, by R. Douglas Hunt, pp. 213-214.
[5] Description of the emigration from New England the summer of 1817 is from “Year without Summer”, by Dr. F.E. Weeks in The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419.
[6] The description of the trip west is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[7] The story of Hudson, Ohio is from The Ohio Frontier, by R. Douglas Hunt, pp. 203-204.
[8] Description of the Hudson’s cheese room is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[9] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[10] The description of the trip west is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 4 – Sally DeForest Benedict

Sufferers’ Land

Return to the Firelands

by Dave Barton

During the five months of Platt’s absence, his wife Sally Benedict saw New England plunge into turmoil because of the previous summer’s cold weather. Many farmers could not even plant a crop that summer. They were desperate for a way out. Stories circulated throughout New England of the “rich soil and mild climate of Ohio.” By the time Platt returned home, many families were preparing to move to the wilderness. Some had already started. The Benedicts would have plenty of company on their journey. [1]

1023264171478om802_001Sally Benedict was thirty-nine years old; she would turn forty on the road to Ohio. Born in Wilton, Connecticut in 1777, Sally was the youngest child of David and Sarah De Forest. Her father was a soldier in the Revolution with the Ninth Regiment of the Connecticut Militia. He took part in the disastrous battles for New York in 1776, the year before Sally was born.

The De Forest family had been in America longer than the Benedicts. Isaac de Forest arrived in New Amsterdam, now New York City, from Holland in 1636, two years before Thomas Benedict arrived in New England. His son, Sally Benedict’s great-grandfather David De Forest, left New Amsterdam in 1694 and settled in Stratford, Connecticut, establishing the Connecticut branch of the family. [2]

Sally could not have remembered much about the Revolution, she was five when it ended. She must have been well educated, better than her husband judging from their writing. A photograph taken of her and Platt later in life shows a face with even, attractive features and a benign expression.

She and Platt were affectionate. In the photograph, Platt sits close, with his arm around her shoulder. They were partners. When describing the settlement of Norwalk, Platt often wrote that “my wife and I decided”, rather than just himself.

Sally and Platt had lived much of their married life in Danbury, but also moved to other towns. Their eldest child Clarissa was born in New Salem, New York in 1796, their third son Jonas was born in Harlem, New York in 1806. [3]

While Platt was in Ohio preparing their new home, Sally got ready for the journey and said goodbye to friends and family. Many people she knew had already departed for the Firelands, or were about to go. In Norwalk, Connecticut, fifty miles to the south of Danbury, Luke and Jemima Keeler were preparing to go to Ohio and join Luke’s brother Lewis Keeler. The Keeler’s planned to travel with the Benedicts.

In early May, Platt returned, weak from bouts with dysentery on the road. However, he and Sally could not afford the luxury of waiting for him to recover. Together they finalized their preparations, loading three wagons with household goods and everything else they would need in their new home.

Others left before them. In mid-June, John and Ruth Boalt departed, but the Benedicts were not ready until several weeks later. Finally they started. Sally and her two daughters, Clarissa, age twenty and Eliza Ann, age six, rode in the horse-drawn wagon Platt had brought back from Norwalk. Platt and a hired man named Miller drove ox-drawn wagons and the boys, David, seventeen, Daniel, fourteen and Jonas, age eleven walked alongside.

It must have been hard for Sally to leave her comfortable home and her family and friends. She felt she needed something to remind her of the life she was leaving forever. A short distance down the road, she stopped the wagon, ran back and cut slips of ivy growing on the wall of the house. She planted this ivy when they arrived at their new home. Today, descendants of that ivy grow on buildings in Norwalk, Ohio. [4]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The “Year without Summer” is described by Dr. F.E. Weeks in The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419.
[2] The DeForest family history is from Family History; Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 25-26.
[3] Location of Jonas Benedicts birthplace is from The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, by Henry Marvin, p. 382. Location of Clarissa Benedict’s birthplace is from her obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, July 1878, pp. 103-4.
[4] The story of Sarah taking the ivy from Danbury to Norwalk is from Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 57.

Sally DeForest Benedict is the namesake of the Sally De Forest Chapter of the Daughters’ of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) in Norwalk, Ohio. Her great-granddaughters were charter members.

Please see portraits of Platt and Sally Benedict in the book Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 40.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 3 – Return to the Firelands

Sufferers’ Land

Return to the Firelands

by David Barton

 

In January of 1817, Platt again started for The Firelands, traveling in a one-horse wagon. He stopped in New York, where his sister lived with her husband Samuel Darling. Samuel accompanied his brother-in-law west, driving a second wagon.

The two men traveled through driving snow to the Great Bend of the Susquehanna River, where they found a sleigh that belonged to a man by the name of Holley, who had left it there on his move to Florence Township in the Firelands. Leaving one wagon, they loaded the other on the sleigh and set out in extremely cold weather, traveling north and then west, bound for Erie, Pennsylvania.

A foot of snow covered the ground, excellent conditions for sleighing. In Erie, they left the wagon and headed south in the sleigh to Meadville, Pennsylvania. Here their luck changed for the worse. It began to rain heavily, melting most of the snow. They continued on to Canfield, Ohio in the sleigh, but upon arriving there decided to exchange it for another wagon.

They reached Norwalk Township in early March and boarded with the Gibbs and Lockwood families, who had arrived in the township in April of the previous year after a horrific journey, during which each family lost a son. Other settlers had arrived in the neighborhood the past couple years, and Platt set about recruiting them to help erect a cabin on the sand ridge. [1]

log-cabin-imageHe had no trouble finding willing helpers; most settlers looked forward to assisting new neighbors. In later days, one of them would recall — When the pioneer had been swinging his axe for weeks, and maybe for months, together, it is often cheering to hear that there is to be a log raising in the neighborhood. He anticipates at once the pleasure that is to be derived from meeting his neighbors, and having with them a little social chat, or the exchange of a few sprightly jokes. [2]

On the appointed day, the settlers assembled on the ridge. Snow began to fall and Platt suggested postponing the work to another day. However, Levi Cole, who lived in nearby Ridgefield Township, said that the snow would not hurt them, and the men pitched into their work. [3]

The meadow along the ridge had few trees, so the men went to a nearby lowland area to cut logs for the cabin. They stood in ankle-deep water while they worked — a miserable experience that begged for the relief of a libation. Usually the owner of a cabin being raised treated his helpers with whiskey, but Platt gave Jamaican Rum instead, which his new neighbors greatly appreciated.

They worked until mid-day when they broke for dinner, pork and potatoes prepared by Major David Underhill’s wife Mary that morning and brought to the site from their homestead on the border of Norwalk and Ridgefield Townships. It is easy to imagine the men clustered around the unfinished cabin in the snow, steam rising from their plates. [4]

After dinner, the men continued to erect the cabin, following a familiar pattern. Logs were cut, rolled up, and their corners notched together in a square form to a suitable height. For a roof, the gable ends were carried up to a peak, with logs or poles, from one end to the other, at suitable distances apart. — Their staves were then made, and layed (sic) upon the poles, each layer being well secured with heavy poles upon them. [5]

They finished building the cabin that evening. Although it was a rude structure, it would provide shelter for Platt’s family when they arrived. Satisfied with his progress so far, he made final preparations prior to returning to Connecticut to fetch them.

He hired a Mr. Stewart to stay in the cabin during his absence and clear and fence four acres of land on the flats south of the ridge for ten dollars per acre. Because Mr. Stewart had no provisions, Platt purchased a barrel of pork and a barrel of flour for him.

Platt also arranged for Lewis Keeler to fence an acre of land around the cabin and plant potatoes, corn, and other vegetables so they would be ready to harvest when he returned with his family. [6] Lewis had traveled to the Firelands in 1816 as teamster for David Gibbs and Henry Lockwood in order to prepare a homestead in advance of the arrival of others of the Keeler clan. [7]

Before he departed for Connecticut, Platt met a friend named Captain John Boalt, who also wanted to settle in Norwalk Township, and sold to him one hundred acres of his land on Old State Road, about a mile southeast of the center of the proposed village of Norwalk.

Saturday, the fourth of April, Platt started for Connecticut in the same wagon he had brought to Norwalk. En-route he contracted dysentery, which made travel difficult. It took him a month to make the trip. As soon as he arrived in Danbury, he began preparations to move his family to their new home. [8]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk”, by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 17.
[2] This description of how a cabin raising was a diversion to the early settlers is from “Memoirs of Townships – Clarksfield”, by Benjamin Benson, The Firelands Pioneer, November 1858, p. 21.
[3] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk”, by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 17.
[4] The story of the raising of Platt Benedict’s cabin is from “Scattered Sheaves – No. 4, By Ruth, Maj. Underhill”, The Firelands Pioneer, Sept. 1860, p. 42
[5] “Memoirs of Townships – Fitchville” by J.C. Curtis, Esq., The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp.31-32.
[6] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 17-18
[7] “Obituary of Lewis Keeler,” The Firelands Pioneer, 1882, p. 158.
[8] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18

 

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“Sufferers’ Land” Post #33 – The Norwalk Reflector –

At the end of the 1820s, Samuel Preston and George Buckingham, son of Henry Buckingham, decided to start a newspaper in Norwalk. Samuel worked in the printing business for many years before coming to the Firelands, and George had learned the newspaper business at the Norwalk Reporter from his father’s partner John McArdle. That paper was failing and soon would cease publication.

Samuel and George incorporated as Preston & Buckingham, and invested in a new press, which they brought to Norwalk from Cincinnati in a two-horse wagon. They decided on the name Reflector for the publication. Lucy’s father came up with the name when he noticed bright rays of light from a reflector behind an oil lamp at the village tavern.

They published the first issue of the Reflector on Tuesday, February 2, 1830. From the beginning, the paper was a strong promoter of the town. In the first issue, an article argued that a railroad be brought to Norwalk, in spite of the fact that no railroads yet existed west of the Appalachians. [1]

In addition to the Reflector, Preston & Buckingham also published commercial forms, bills, fliers and anything else needed by businesses and government offices in Huron County. In 1830, they printed a handbill for Hallet Gallup announcing that he had completed construction of a public building in the village.

The bill listed the public officers at different levels of government. Henry Buckingham was treasurer and Luke Keeler was Coroner of Huron County. Platt Benedict was a Justice of the Peace for Norwalk Township as was Lucy’s father Samuel Preston, who was also Township Clerk and the Recorder of Norwalk Village. Hallet Gallup was a Trustee of Norwalk Township. [2]

In 1831, George Buckingham retired from the newspaper business. Samuel continued to publish the paper by himself until 1834, when Lucy’s brother Charles joined their father in the business. [3]

* * *

Early in the 1830s, land speculators dropped the price of land around Norwalk, attracting a second flood of immigrants. Within a few years, the last of the forests were cleared and turned into productive farms. [4]

Because of this renewed growth in Huron County, a few villages, especially Sandusky and Milan, grew into good-sized towns. The inhabitants of the county welcomed the economic opportunities this growth brought to the area. However, this growth also spawned overcrowding in the larger towns. Aggravated by poor sanitation, this created conditions ripe for the spread of a horrible disease — Cholera.

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Footnotes:

[1] The story of the establishment of the Reflector is from “The History of the Fire Lands Press,” by C.P. Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, Sept. 1861, pp. 9-11; “Norwalk, Its Men, Women, and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, p. 2135; “The Reflector-Herald Centenary,” The Firelands Pioneer, June 1937, p. 203.

[2] “An Old Handbill,” The Firelands Pioneer, June 1937, p. 15.

[3] “The History of the Fire Lands Press,” by C.P. Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, Sept. 1861, pp. 9-11.

[4] “Memoirs of Townships – Fitchville,” by J.C. Curtis, Esq., The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 33.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

“Sufferers’ Land Post #15 – The Episcopal Church in Norwalk

As with everything else in the early days of the village of Norwalk, Platt and Sally Benedict were involved in the religious life of the community. Although they were not baptized when they arrived, they saw the need for a church in Norwalk, and decided to establish one.
In 1818, they hosted the first Episcopal service in their cabin, consisting of the reading of the Episcopal Church service, and a sermon by a layman. These lay meetings continued for years, first in private homes, and later in the Court House.

In 1820, Platt and Sally organized the first Sabbath School in the Court House. Most of the children of the town attended this non-denominational school. It would be years before a minister arrived in the village, but in the meantime, thanks to Platt and Sally’s initiative, a vibrant religious community developed.

Sunday, January 20, 1821, a minister named Reverend Searle visited the village for the first time and called a meeting to organize a new parish. Seventeen men attended, with Platt, of course, taking the lead. They decided to call the new parish, Saint Paul’s, and elected wardens and vestrymen. They elected Platt vestryman, and selected him to be a representative of the new parish to the fourth annual Diocesan Convention.

Reverend Searle could not stay in the parish, so he selected lay readers to carry out services in his absence. Platt, as usual, was one of those selected. Services continued every Sunday, with Reverend Searle occasionally attending to give Holy Communion and perform baptisms. The Bishop also visited the parish from time to time, so often that Sally’s son David ran away from home once because he was tired of polishing the bishop’s boots. [1]

During one visit, Sunday, February 17, 1822, Reverend Searle baptized Platt Benedict into the church. The next day, he held a meeting of the vestry in the Benedict home. He selected Rufus Murray to perform divine service in the parish once he became qualified. Reverend Searle continued to visit St. Paul’s parish occasionally, his last visit coming in 1826. [2]

During this time, a deacon by the name of S.A. Bronson also served the parish. He later recalled the religious life in Norwalk at the time. My first visit to this place was in 1825, to supply as far as a layman could, the place of a clergyman. No settled minister of any name had ever resided here, and only the Episcopal Church had attempted to keep up regular services. When, subsequently, a clergyman did become resident here, the regularity of the services depended upon the established forms of religion, as conducted by laymen. Many of you, no doubt, remember the old white court house, and cousin Ami Keeler with his tin horn, with which he used to call the people to worship — a horn more truly spiritual than some of more recent date. [3]

By this time, the parish conducted weekly services and had a strong Sunday school program for the religious education of all the children of the village, not just those of families in the parish. If not for Sally and Platt Benedict, none of this would have happened.

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Footnotes:
[1] Story of David Benedict running away from home is from the undated text of an address given by Eleanor Wickham to the Sally DeForest chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
[2] First religious services in Norwalk and the early history of St. Paul’s Parish are described in detail by C.E. Newman in The Firelands Pioneer, Sept. 1876, pp. 45-47. The establishment of the Sabbath School is described in the above article and in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1867, p. 84.
[3] “Address of Rev. S.A. Bronson, D.D.” The Firelands Pioneer, November 1859, p. 7.

Note: Mary L. Stewart of Norwalk, a parishioner at St.Paul’s Episcopal Church, kindly assisted with this post.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

“Sufferers’ Land” Post #7 – The First Winter

For a few days, provisions were low. Then Platt bought a deer from an Indian for a dollar. Until then, the family subsisted on green corn and turnips from the garden Lewis Keeler had planted for Platt during the summer and milk from two cows they had purchased in Canfield.

Winter would arrive soon, and they needed to obtain enough food to last until spring. However, that took money, which after the expenses of land and travel was in short supply. To make up the shortfall, Platt took a job with a crew cutting a road between Norwalk and Milan. He earned sixty dollars which he used to buy enough pork for the family to make it through the winter. [1]

So far, no one else had settled in what was to become the village of Norwalk. In early November, a man passed the sand ridge on his way to his new home in Peru Township and wrote that the Benedict cabin was the only building there. [2]

Over the previous year, almost all the townships in Huron County had at least a few New Englanders settle in them, and many of the new settlers were acquaintances of Platt and Sally. On Christmas Day, the Benedicts and other Connecticut settlers gathered at John and Ruth Boalt’s house for a “Yankee” Christmas dinner. Although the feast was spare, the settlers had to be thankful. They had survived a long arduous trip, and had established themselves in their new homes. Over the next few years, they would build on this beginning to establish a life similar to what they had in New England.

After Christmas, five to six inches of snow fell and the weather stayed cold for the next six weeks, making for good sleighing. Platt and Sally took advantage of these conditions to visit friends who had also moved from Connecticut to the Firelands. One day they visited nine different families.

During the winter, Platt took many logs to Major David Underhill’s sawmill in Ridgefield Township, dragging them one at a time behind a team of oxen. Occasionally, Sally accompanied him, riding on a log, in order to visit Mary Underhill. [3]

The first winter in their little cabin was hard, but also had its good times. Years later, Sally wrote, many pleasant evenings we spent beside that fireplace, cracking nuts, and eating — not apples — but turnips. You need not laugh, these raw turnips tasted good, when there was nothing else to eat, and as the flames grew brighter, our merry party would forget they were not in their eastern homes, but far away in the wilds of Ohio. [4]

Even with these good times, winter must have seemed long and depressing to Sally. Finally, spring arrived, bringing the promise of better times. Flowers carpeted the ground beneath the bare branches of the surrounding forest. [5]

So far, the results of their move had not been encouraging. No one else had settled on the sand ridge. Without a town, the venture Sally and Platt dreamed of would come to nothing. But with spring, news came that changed their prospects for the better, giving them hope that the future would be as bright as those spring flowers on the floor of the deep woods.

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Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[2] Mr. Pearley Sanders account of passing through what is now Norwalk in November 1817 is in The Firelands Pioneer, June, 1858, p. 42.
[3] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[4] Sarah Benedict’s description of early life in Norwalk is from Family, by Ian Frazier, pp.57-58
[5] “Historical Sketches – Townsend,” by Benjamin Benson, The Firelands Pioneer, March, 1860, p. 4.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

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