“Sufferers’ Land” Post #29 – Henry Buckingham

In the spring of 1822, the Buckingham family arrived in Norwalk and built a house on a lot where the Roman Catholic Church now stands. One of the children of this family was Fanny Buckingham, who had just turned thirteen, near enough to the age of eight-year-old Lucy to be her friend.

Fanny’s parents, Henry and Harriet, were of old New England stock — their ancestry going back to the early days of the colonies, even to the beginning at Plymouth.

Harriet Talcott Buckingham, Fanny’s mother, traced her ancestry to the beginning of the New England colonies. Her father was George Talcott, whose family came to New England in 1632, and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. Harriet’s mother was Vienna Bradford, a descendant of William Bradford, who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620 and was the colony’s second governor.

Henry Buckingham’s family settled in New England in 1637, when Thomas Buckingham arrived in Boston with his wife Hannah. He later moved to Milford, Massachusetts. His son, also named Thomas, moved to Saybrook, Massachusetts, where the family lived for many generations.

Henry’s father, another Thomas, was born in Columbia, Massachusetts. He later moved to Lebanon, Connecticut, his mother’s hometown. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and a leading member of the community. He married Triphena Hibbard and together they had ten children, with Henry being the eldest. Thomas Buckingham, was a strict disciplinarian, whose puritanical training made for an unhappy childhood for Henry and his nine siblings.

Born in Coventry, Connecticut on January 13, 1779, Henry did not have the opportunity for a good education as a child. At eighteen, he moved to New London, Connecticut and worked as a salesman for the mercantile house of George W. Jones, a leading businessman of the town. George Jones had a good library, which he allowed Henry to use. Henry took advantage of this opportunity to read and study history and general literature.

At the age of twenty-four, Henry married Harriet Talcott. Two years later, they left New London and moved to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where Henry became a successful businessman, owning a large store and several mills. Henry was a tough businessman in those days, and did not always treat his business acquaintances well. Later in life, he remarked that at that time he was a “man of the world,” suing and being sued. By the War of 1812, he was probably the most successful businessman in the Susquehanna River Valley. Then the war came and ruined his prosperity. He was a patriotic man, and helped raise and outfit companies of soldiers at his own expense. One of these companies participated in the Battle of Put-in-Bay. Because of a drop in commerce after the war, he lost his businesses and almost all his wealth.

In 1820, he packed up what remained of his possessions and took his family to Ohio, settling in Putman, near the home of a distant relative. Henry was not happy in Putman. In 1822, he moved again, this time to Norwalk.

Henry Buckingham was forty-three years old when he arrived in Norwalk. He was of medium height, well built, with mild blue eyes and a pleasant expression. People liked him — the way he was always courteous and affable. Shortly after he arrived, the position of Huron County Treasurer came open and he received an appointment to the job. He did so well that the citizens of the county reelected him three times.

Henry’s fortunes had taken a turn for the better. But he wanted more. He saved his money and prepared to go into business, intent on rebuilding his lost fortune. By this time, he had changed his outlook on life and the way he approached his dealings and relations with others. The collapse of his fortunes after the War of 1812 had humbled him and made him more understanding of the needs of others. He also found religion, something that was lacking in his life previously.

This conversion appears to have taken place sometime after the war, but before he moved to Ohio. Not being religious, he was in the habit of taking his son George fishing on Sundays. One day, he was fishing under a bridge when an elderly Catholic woman passed by on her way to Mass with a missal in hand. The woman saw him fishing and said, “Mr. Buckingham, you ought to know better than to break the Holy Sabbath; see what you are teaching your little boy.” The woman’s remonstration embarrassed Henry. He hauled in his line so hastily that he broke the pole. He took young George home, and from then on never went fishing, or did anything else on Sunday.

By the time he moved to Norwalk, Henry was a devout Presbyterian. He joined a church in Milan, and was active in the American Bible Society. For three years, starting in 1826, he was depository of the Huron County branch of that society. Religion shaped how he saw his role in the world. He opposed war and promoted universal brotherhood and the rights of man. Later he would put these beliefs in practice in the anti-slavery and temperance movements. [1]

As an officer of the court and man of business, Henry soon became acquainted with Platt Benedict, and engaged in various enterprises with him. Like Platt, he was active in the Royal Arch Chapter of Masons in Norwalk. The two men often met in each other’s homes. A few years later, a marriage of their children made the two men’s relationship even closer.

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[1] The story of Henry Buckingham and the Buckingham family is from the “Obituary of Henry Buckingham,” by Levina Lindsley Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, 1888, pp. 159-161; “Henry Buckingham,” by Henry Buckingham (his grandson), The Firelands Pioneer, July 1888, pp. 120-125; and Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 15-18.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved


“Sufferers’ Land” Post #24 – Lucy Preston’s Long Journey West –

Lucy — with her father, mother, brother, Grandma Taylor, and her little dog Nero — departed Pepperell, Massachusetts for the Ohio frontier mid-October 1819, just as the weather turned cold. They had a seven or eight-hundred mile journey ahead of them, and hoped to arrive at their destination before winter set in. They traveled in a hired wagon packed with household goods they would need on the trip and later in their new home: beds, bedding, cooking utensils and the like.

Instead of following the route through Pennsylvania taken by the Benedict family two years previously, the Prestons took a northern route to Ohio, across the Green Mountains into upstate New York, then along the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Buffalo, where they would find a ship to take them up Lake Erie to the Firelands. They traveled slowly, plodding along rough trails, stopping at night in taverns where they slept on the floor. As they crossed the Green Mountains they encountered snow, but by the time they reached Burlington, Vermont, it had disappeared. A month after they left Pepperell, Massachusetts, they reached Black Rock, New York, near Buffalo, where they waited for a boat to take them the rest of the way to the Firelands.

While in Black Rock, Lucy heard stories that stuck in her head the rest of her life. The tavern where they were staying buzzed with news of a terrible tragedy that occurred a few days before the Prestons arrived. A servant girl employed at the tavern had sewn black threads in her nightcap before retiring. When her friends asked her why she had done this, she told them she was mourning her sins. During the night, the girl took an overdose of laudanum, and in the morning, her companions found her dead.

The story of another tragedy was making the rounds of the village. A little girl went out to play with her friends in the fields and woods. When she did not come home for supper, her parents sent her little brother to look for her. Hours stretched on, and when neither child returned the villagers turned out to search for them. They discovered them lying dead at the bottom of a cistern, clasped in each other’s arms. The boy had found his sister and they had started for home. However, in the dark, they had fallen into the cistern and died.

After waiting a few days in Black Rock, Lucy’s father sold their wagon and the family boarded a schooner bound for Sandusky. Among the other passengers on the boat was the Burns family, Irish Catholics who were very religious. Every morning and evening, the father took his daughters, who called him Dada, to the stern of the boat to pray.

However, pray as they might, bad luck dogged this family and all the travelers on the ship. It was already late in the season, and adverse winds caused the captain of their vessel to turn into Erie, Pennsylvania and refuse to go further. The Preston and the other families on the ship were stranded far from their goal. [1]

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GO TO NEXT POST – The Firelands at Last

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[1] The Story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands are from the “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, January 1920, pp. 2394-2399.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

“Sufferers’ Land” Post #23 – The Preston and Taylor Families

Like the Benedicts, Lucy’s family traced its ancestry to the early days of the colonies. Her father’s family first came to America in 1672. In 1728, Captain Samuel Preston, the fourth generation of Prestons in America, settled in Littleton Massachusetts. He was an influential man in the community, serving as Town Treasurer and in other offices. In 1755, he participated in the Crown Point Expedition during the French and Indian War.

Captain Preston’s son was Doctor John Preston, who also fought in the French and Indian War. He was in his father’s company in 1756, then, in 1759, served as surgeon’s mate in another unit. In 1760, he settled in New Ipswich, New Hampshire where he practiced medicine. On November 29, 1764, he married Rebecca Farrar, and together they raised eleven children.

Like his father, Doctor Preston had an active public life. He served on the first board of selectmen of New Ipswich, and often represented the town in the General Court, or state legislature. In 1782, he was a member of the Convention that drew up the State Constitution. He had a good sense of humor and a quick wit. Lucy never knew her Grandfather Preston. He died in 1803, eleven years before she was born. [1]

Lucy’s father, Samuel Preston, the seventh child of Doctor John and Rebecca, was born on June 24, 1778 in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. He was not a soldier like his father and grandfather — or a physician, either. Instead, he entered the printing trade early in life, starting as a boy working for the Palladium in Boston, then continuing in the business back in New Hampshire.

In 1796, when he was not yet eighteen, he began his own newspaper, the Village Messenger, in Amherst, New Hampshire. In 1801, he sold the business and moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, where, in 1804, he married Esther Taylor, daughter of Timothy and Esther. The remainder of his life, his affairs were intertwined with that of his wife’s family. [2]

The Taylor family came to New England before 1700 and resided in New Hampshire. Lucy’s Grandsire, Timothy Taylor, was born in 1754 in Merrimac, New Hampshire and was a soldier in the American Revolution. In 1776, he married a widow, Mrs. Esther Toothaker, who had lost her husband the year before. Esther was the daughter of Benjamin and Molly French. The French family was also a distinguished old New England family. [3]

Timothy and Esther had four children, Gilpin, Benjamin, Fannie and Esther. After the children were born, they moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, where they lived for many years. Now they were moving again, off to the wilds of the Ohio frontier.

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GO TO NEXT POST – Lucy Preston’s Long Journey West

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[1] History of the Preston family is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006 pp. 36-38.

[2] Early life of Samuel Preston is from his obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, pp. 2187-8.

[3] History of the Taylor family is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006 p. 40.

NOTE; Please see the Preston, Taylor, French, Farrer, Hassell, Lovewell, Converse, Blanchard, Prescott, and Sawyer genealogy pages on this site for more information about those families.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

“Sufferers’ Land” Post #22 – Lucy Preston

In 1819, five-year-old Lucy Preston lived in Nassau, New Hampshire with her parents Samuel and Esther Preston, her brother Charles, her grandparents Grandsire Timothy Taylor and Grandma Esther Taylor, and her little dog Nero. Lucy had lived in Nassau all her life and never thought about leaving. However, leave she would.

Lucy was precious to Esther and Samuel. She was their fourth child, but the eldest still living. Several years previously, her parents had lost two children to disease within four days, George Preston on January 14, 1815 at age ten and Charles Preston [1] four days later at the age of two. Lucy did not remember these brothers, but she did remember her older sister Catherine, who had died the year before at the age of eight. [2]

Early in 1819, Lucy’s parents began talking about opportunities in Ohio. They were disappointed with their situation in the east, and hearing stories about the richness of the soil and the moderate climate in Ohio, they decided to move there.

When Lucy told her friends where she was going, they were horrified, and feared for her life. They told her fanciful stories about the wilderness and described the Indians living there as four-legged creatures, like bears and wolves, which would devour her. Lucy believed these stories and begged her parents not to take her. However, she had no choice. The entire extended family — her parents, grandparents, and her Uncle Benjamin and Aunt Juliet Taylor — were all going. In the summer of 1816, they sold their homes and household goods and left Nassau.

They did not go west together. Lucy and her parents, her grandmother and her brother Charles moved just down the road to Pepperell, Massachusetts to stay with friends. Grandsire Taylor, Uncle Benjamin and Aunt Juliet, who was pregnant, went west to prepare a home for them. [3]

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[1] Lucy’s younger brother was also named Charles. In those days of high infant mortality, the name of a child who died young was often given to another child born later.
[2] Information about the deaths of Lucy Preston’s elder siblings is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 37-38.
[3] The story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands are from the “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, January 1920, pp. 2394-2399.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

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