Sufferers’ Land – Post 38 – A Newlywed’s Life

Sufferers’ Land

A Newlywed’s Life

by Dave Barton

Lucy Wickham returned to Norwalk in October 1835, and she and Frederick set up housekeeping at 61 West Main Street, owned by the firm Wickham, Ailing and Christian. Her father and brother moved in with them. The following year, her father, Samuel Preston, built a house at 38 West Main Street, and presented it to Frederick and Lucy as a wedding present. This house is now located on Case Street, and is occupied by the Firelands Museum. [1]

Jerome Buckinngham

Firelands Museum – Built in 1836 by Samuel Preston as a wedding present for his daughter and son-in-law.

Frederick wanted to continue his life as a sailor, but Lucy, perhaps emboldened by her mother-in-law’s story of how she had convinced Frederick’s father to give up the sea, disagreed strongly. Frederick agreed to leave the maritime trade, but the question then became what he should do instead. His family had a store in Norwalk, and his brother John had a thriving business as a shipbuilder and merchant in Huron. However, neither of these careers appealed to Frederick. Instead, he decided to go into the newspaper business with his father-in-law and brother-in-law Charles Preston at the Huron Reflector.

Frederick was an unlikely candidate to be a newspaperman. Raised in the wilderness of upstate New York, from an early age he spent much of his time on the Great Lakes, as a fisherman and later as a merchant seaman. His experience was in the rough and tumble world of seamen and ships, not in a newspaper office.

Frederick Wickham, Publisher

Frederick Wickham setting type in the offices of the Huron Reflector in the 1880s.

However, he was diligent, and threw himself into the task of learning the skills needed to get out a newspaper in a rural Ohio town. He often worked late into the night to meet deadlines, and developed the ability to compose articles and editorials at the case, composing in his head as he set the type. He rarely wrote out his copy. [2] About this time, the Reflector started to have competition. Samuel Hatch and Joseph Farr began publication of the Norwalk Experiment in August of 1835. Their paper was the exact opposite in philosophy and political leanings of the conservative Reflector. [3]

Lucy’s family, and her responsibilities running the Wickham household, increased quickly. Already her father and brother lived with her and Frederick. On Thursday, September 15, 1836, she had her first child, Charles Preston Wickham, named for her brother. A girl, Catherine Wickham, followed two years later.

In addition to the children, more relatives arrived in her home. In July 1839, her brother Charles married and brought his bride to live in Lucy’s house. In the summer of 1841, Lucy’s grandparents moved in with her as well. With cousins and other relatives, there were always a dozen or so people living under Lucy’s roof. [4] Space was scarce, especially since the offices of the Huron Reflector were on the second floor of the house. [5]

Lucy and Frederick had successfully established themselves in Norwalk. In addition to the paper, Lucy’s husband and her brother started a general store. The Wickham family became prominent in the community, working in close partnership with the Buckingham, Gallup and Benedict families.

The future in Norwalk looked bright for these families. But that would soon change. The last years of the 1830’s and the beginning of the following decade would bring tragedy and disappointment to all.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The story of Lucy’s return to Norwalk and housekeeping arrangements is from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2400.

[2] The story of how Frederick Wickham came to work at the Norwalk Reflector is from his obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; p. 2202.

[3] The story of the Norwalk Experiment is from “Experiment’s 100th Anniversary,” The Firelands Pioneer, 1937 New Series, Volume XXIV; The Firelands Historical Society; pp. 205-6.

[4] Account of Lucy Wickham’s household is from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2400.

[5] From “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society;  December 1918, p. 2135.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 36 – Lucy Visits Her In-laws

Sufferers’ Land

Lucy Visits Her In-laws

by Dave Barton

Frederick Wickham and Lucy Preston married in January 1835. That summer, Frederick went back to the lake and the schooner DeWitt Clinton. With her husband away, Lucy decided to visit his family in Sodus Point, New York.

The voyage was long and arduous, although not anything like her journeys to the Firelands as a child. She went by boat from Huron to Cleveland, where she met her husband and his ship. They traveled together from there on the DeWitt Clinton to Buffalo, New York. Being in that town brought back memories for Lucy of her voyages as a child to the Ohio wilderness. No doubt, she noted many changes, both in the town and in the means of transportation.

From Buffalo, she continued alone by canal boat along the Erie Canal to Lyons, New York, where she met the wife of her husband’s cousin Mrs. Rachel Christian, and her son Thomas. Together, they traveled overland north to Lucy’s in-law’s house on Sodus Bay.

Canal Boat

William Wickham, then 57 years old, and his wife Catherine Christian Wickham greeted their daughter-in-law and welcomed her into their home. Lucy stayed with them until October, and during this time learned much about her husband’s family and their heritage. [1]

 

 

Footnote:

[1] The story of Lucy’s trip to Sodus, New York is from “Memoir of Lucy Preston Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society, January 1920; pp. 2399-2400, and the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, pp. 32-33.

Image of Canal Boat is from Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 332.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 35 – Lily of the Garden

Sufferers’ Land

Lily of the Garden

by Dave Barton

Lucy Preston loved flowers and often worked in the garden in front of her home. One day in the mid-eighteen-thirties, her love of gardening changed her life.

LiliesShe was cutting flowers when two men walked by, one of whom she knew. Her acquaintance introduced her to his companion, Captain Frederick Wickham, the skipper of a lake schooner. The rugged young man impressed her so much that she impulsively gave him a lily.

So began a romance that would span fifty years. Frederick and Lucy were in their early twenties, and both were responsible for their age. Lucy had been in charge of her family’s household ever since the death of her mother almost ten years before. Frederick had been a sailor since he was a boy, and commanded a ship while still in his teens. He was a strong-willed man, and soon won Lucy’s heart.

At the time he and Lucy met, Frederick was skipper of the schooner DeWitt Clinton, owned by him and his brother John, who had warehouses and a shipyard in Huron, Ohio. After he met her, Frederick spent winters in Norwalk, working in the family store, Wickham, Ailing & Christian.

The couple’s romance blossomed, and in January 1835, they married at her home on 50 West Main Street. That summer, Frederick went back to the lake and the schooner DeWitt Clinton. With her husband away, Lucy decided to visit his family in Sodus Point, New York. [1]

 

 

Footnote:

[1] The story of Frederick’s courtship of Lucy and their marriage are from “Memoir of Lucy Preston Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society, January 1920; pp. 2399-2400, and the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, pp. 32-33.

Image of flowers is from Jane Louden, The Ladies’ Flower-garden of Ornamental Perennials, Volume 1, W Smith, 1843.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 33 – The Huron Reflector

Sufferers’ Land

The Huron Reflector

by Dave Barton

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 Huron 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.

Huron Reflector 1st Issue

First Issue of the Huron Reflector, which is today the Norwalk Reflector.

They published the first issue of the Huron 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 ReflectorPreston & 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.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The story of the establishment of the Huron Reflector which is still published today as the Norwalk Reflector, is from “The 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. 9-11; “Norwalk, Its Men, Women, and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer,  New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918, p. 2135; “The Reflector-Herald Centenary,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXV; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1937, p. 203.

[2] “An Old Handbill,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXV; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1937; p. 15.

[3] “The 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. 9-11.

[4] “Memoirs of Townships – Fitchville,” by J.C. Curtis, Esq., The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 4; The Firelands Historical Society; May 1859; p. 33.

 

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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 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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