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 30 – Jonas Benedict

Sufferers’ Land

Jonas Benedict

by Dave Barton

After moving to Norwalk, Lucy Preston became involved in the social life of the town. With her friend Mary Ann Morse and other young people, she traveled around the Firelands to parties and other events.

One Fourth of July, Lucy, Mary Ann and other young people of Norwalk traveled to Milan to attend a party and spend the night at a house belonging to a Mr. Minuse. They started in beautiful weather, but on the way encountered rain. By the time they arrived at the farm where the party was to take place, the girls’ white dresses were wet and they presented a forlorn appearance. However, being young, the girls did not let this interfere with their fun.

Sometimes, Lucy, Mary Ann and their friends would go to Milan or Huron and stay in a hotel, coming back to Norwalk the next day. Once they went to Sandusky and took a sail across the bay to the islands, enjoying a moonlit night on the way back.

Jonas Benedict often drove a four-horse wagon on these outings. According to Mary Ann, he was a skillful driver, and although the roads were rough and dangerous he never had a mishap. [1]

jonas-benedict-firelands-pioneer-001

“Obituaries,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIV, The Firelands Historical Society, December 1, 1902, page 920.

Jonas was attractive and popular. An early portrait shows a handsome, clean-shaven young man with even features and large expressive eyes. As the son of the most prominent man in the village, Jonas had a bright future. His position in the Benedict family and in the community improved greatly when his two older brothers left Norwalk. In 1822, David Mead Benedict, his eldest brother, moved back to Danbury and wed Mary Booth Starr on September 24, 1832. They had one daughter, Mary Boughton Benedict the next year. David’s wife died on June 27, 1834 and their daughter followed six days later

Jonas’s second oldest brother, Daniel Benedict, ran away with the circus and went down the Mississippi. He died in New Orleans in 1827 at the age of twenty-four.

That left Jonas as the only son of Platt and Sally Benedict still living in Norwalk. With an eye to the future, his father took steps to involve him in the public life of the village and prepare him to be a leader of the community. [2]

Platt held many offices in the town, including Postmaster. First appointed on July 25, 1819, he held the office until 1828, when he lost it during a purge of government officials after the election of Andrew Jackson as president. Platt later said that the election of General Jackson “was when the nation was to date its downfall.” [3]

At first, Platt ran the Post Office out of his home, but later moved it to a building on West Main Street. Being busy with other affairs, Platt put Jonas in charge of the day-to-day operations.

Being responsible for the mail gave Jonas an excellent position to further his career. He met the inhabitants of the village regularly and stayed current on events in the outside world, not to mention every detail of life in the village. [4] However, these advantages never bore fruit. Unlike his father, he never gained prominence in the community. Unlike the children of other early settlers, he did not participate in the political and business life of the village and county. The offspring of the first settlers were now coming into their own. Charles Preston, George Buckingham, Gilpen and Benjamin Taylor and others were all engaged in the business and political life of the community. But not Jonas.

Perhaps the curse of alcoholism lay upon him. Many people of that day drank to excess to ease the pain of hard living on the frontier. According to later stories, Jonas’ lack of ambition was the result of alcohol. Mary Ann alluded to that in her description of Jonas squiring the young folk around in his four-horse wagon. “In those days,” she wrote, “he was a good companion.” [5]

On Thursday, October 8, 1829, Jonas married Fanny Buckingham, daughter of Henry and Harriet Buckingham. This union strengthened the ties of the two families and improved their standing in the community. In May of the following year, Jonas and Fanny had a son, whom they named Platt. A new baby is always a happy event, and Jonas’ father was especially pleased. This grandson would carry on the Benedict name in Norwalk, benefit from his work and justify the risks he and Sally took coming to the frontier.

Jonas and Fanny set up housekeeping in a one-and-a-half story house on Seminary Street, across the street from the Norwalk Academy. On Thursday, August 1, 1833, they had another son, and named him David DeForest Benedict. It was another joyous occasion for the Benedict clan, but one soon overshadowed by a terrible tragedy. [6]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Description of entertainments young people enjoyed at this time are described in “Recollections of Northern Ohio”, by Lucy Preston’s childhood friend, Mrs. John Kennan, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume IX, The Firelands Historical Society, 1896, pp. 87-88

[2] The history of David M. and Daniel B. Benedict is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham (Unpublished), edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 6; and The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, p. 382.

[3] “Address of Rev. S.A. Bronson, D.D.” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, No. 1, The Firelands Historical Society, November 1859, p. 1.

[4] Information about Platt Benedict’s career as Postmaster and the delegation of this office to Jonas Benedict are from “Local History,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXV, June 1937, p. 38.

[5] “Recollections of Northern Ohio”, by Mrs. John Kennan, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume IX, The Firelands Historical Society, 1896, p. 87

[6] The stories of the marriage of Jonas & Fanny Benedict, and their early married life is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham (Unpublished), edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 6-7 & 17-18.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 29 – Henry Buckingham

Sufferers’ Land

Henry Buckingham

by Dave Barton

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 Preston 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 scolding 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.

 

 

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

 

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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 26 – To Canada and Back Again

Sufferers’ Land

To Canada and Back Again

by Dave Barton

Lucy and her family were overjoyed to see their relatives after a long separation. The trip from New Hampshire had been long and arduous, but they had finally arrived in the Firelands. Time would tell how they would adapt to life on the frontier.

They did not adapt well at all.

Walk in the Water

The Walk-in-the-Water Steamship. Illustration by Samuel Ward Stanton, American Steam Vessels, (1895), 24.

Samuel Preston became homesick for the east, and by spring of 1820, he had had enough. Once again, Lucy had to leave familiar people, in this case her grandparents, aunt and uncle. She and her brother followed their parents north to Sandusky where they boarded the Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamboat on Lake Erie, bound for Buffalo. The trip to Buffalo was uneventful. Upon arriving, they crossed into Canada and went to Waterloo, Ontario.

Lucy’s parents enrolled her in the local school. The other children made fun of her, calling her a Yankee. She became so upset that she refused to go to school. Instead, she and Charles spent the summer playing in an old fort, where they found cannon balls and other military things, and picking raspberries.

Lucy’s father found work as a carpenter, but he was no happier to be in Canada than she was. In the fall, he and Esther packed the family’s belongings and returned with Lucy and Charles to Black Rock, where they again boarded the Walk-in-the-Water and sailed to Sandusky.

After staying in Sandusky a few weeks, they returned to Uncle Benjamin’s farm and stayed through the winter. The quarters were tight, with three families crammed together in a little cabin. Lucy and the other children slept in a loft accessible by a ladder. One night, a big storm came up and tore the shingles off the roof and the rain poured in. The children were soaked, not to mention being scared half to death by the violence of the storm.

That winter, to give their families more room, Lucy’s father and her Uncle Benjamin built a new cabin. Come spring, Uncle Benjamin’s family moved into this new house, leaving the old one to the Prestons and Grandma and Grandsire Taylor.

The summer of 1821, Lucy’s father secured work as a carpenter in Norwalk. He lived in a boarding house in the village during the week, coming home on Saturday night to spend the remainder of the weekend with his family.

Lucy was seven now, and started school in an old log house near the Norwalk and Ridgefield township line, the same school Jonas and Eliza Ann Benedict had attended when they first arrived in Norwalk. Her teachers at this school were Tamia Palmer and Ann Boalt, daughter of John and Ruth Boalt. Mary Ann Morse was still a student there, and she and Lucy became friends. Lucy often rode home with her, riding behind her on her horse.

In the fall of 1821, Lucy’s father moved the family into Norwalk. They lived in a house at 11 West Main Street, and later moved a short distance down Main Street to Number 50. Finally, life appeared to have returned to normal. However, this would not last. In a few short years, Lucy would be shocked into adulthood by a series of terrible tragedies. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The Story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands and first years living there 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 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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