The Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Hour . . .

Veterans’ Day – originally called Armistice Day to mark the end of hostilities during World War I. Today is the one-hundredth anniversary of that day, so full of joy – for the Allies – but only the beginning of a twenty year interlude before the final settling of scores in the Second World War. 

Today, I remember an ancestor of mine who served in both conflicts – my great uncle Bill Wickham. In World War I, he served in France with the Engineer Corps. In the second, he stayed stateside and perhaps stayed on after the war. He died at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1947. [1]

 

William Wickham - WWI

William Wickham was brother to my grandmother, from whom I received the photo shown above. [2] In her diaries, Grandma mentions “Billy” often – during their school days in Norwalk, Ohio, and later when they both homesteaded clams in Wyoming during the 1920s. He died long before her, in 1947, and she was executor of his estate. In her papers I found her correspondence relating to that sad event – papers I will soon send off to his grandson. Although Grandma often told me stories of her long life, she never mentioned her brother to me. I wish she had.

So here is to you, Uncle Bill. Thank you for your service. I am sorry I never got to know you.  

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Hold Services for Maj Wickham,” Sandusky Register Star News, Sandusky, Ohio, 20 Feb 1947.

[2[ Papers Harriott Wickham Barton, in possession of the author.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 52 – Future Warriors of Norwalk

Sufferers’ Land

Future Warriors of Norwalk

by Dave Barton

Dave Benedict was at Kenyon College during the Cholera epidemic of 1854. Some of the grandchildren of the pioneers were able to attend college, and Dave was one of the first to go.

David DeForest Benedict

David Deforest Benedict as a young man

Dave was popular and very active on campus. He helped start a fraternity, founded and was the first editor of The Collegian, the college’s first monthly magazine, and also started Kenyon’s annual, which was the third such publication in the country. [1]

Fanny Benedict still lived at home. Dave visited her and his relatives often, and it was probably during one of these visits that he met a young woman from New Haven Township, Harriott Melvina Deaver.

Harriott Deaver was born in Watertown, New York on May 4, 1835. Later in life, she told of seeing rafts of logs from the North Woods floating down the river and going end-over-end over the falls. She moved to New Haven Township in Huron County with her parents when she was five years old. At that time, New Haven was a busy town, a way station for wagons carrying grain to Milan. In later years, she remembered the wagons going past her house, drawn by horses with tinkling bells.

Harriott was educated in Cuyahoga Falls, where she learned French. She was a dignified woman, who stood erect and solidly on her heels, feet pointed straight ahead. That trait and her features made some wonder if she was descended from Native Americans. [2]

Harriott’s father James Deaver was a cabinetmaker. He was a man of modest means with a net worth of $1,200. In 1850, the Deaver household consisted of ten people — James Deaver, age sixty-five, his wife Harriott, fifty-five, one son and six daughters, of whom Harriott was the youngest. As was customary for a family of their means, a German woman named Margret Singer lived with them and helped Harriott’s mother with the chores. [3]

The Deaver’s son Oscar was crippled. He had lost both hands while attempting to push a friend from in front of a cannon on the Fourth of July several years earlier.

James Deaver was originally from Maryland, where he was born in 1782 as James Devier, his family having come to America from France. His parents died when he was young. Relatives raised him and changed his name to Deaver. In 1808, he married Harriott Shaon, the daughter of David and Eleanor Shaon, who were slaveholders in Maryland.

James and Harriott had their first child Ellen in 1808. Harriott’s mother presented the child with an African American girl for a body servant. James, who did not believe in slavery, was disgusted and moved his family to New York to get away from the institution. He took the girl with him and freed her when they arrived. [4]

Dave Benedict graduated from Kenyon in 1856 and in October he and Harriott married. They moved to Cleveland, where he attended Case Medical College. He was a sociable man. While at Case, he met a young man who would play a large role in his life and the life of his descendants, Louis Severance.

Louis was born in Cleveland on August 1, 1838 to Solomon and Mary Long Severance. Louis never knew his father, who died before he was born. After Solomon died, Louis’ mother moved in with her father, David Long, Jr., who was the first medical doctor in town, and founded the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland.

Louis attended Cleveland Public schools, and when he graduated in 1856, he went to work at the Commercial Bank of Cleveland. Louis may have met Dave Benedict at his grandfather’s house, or perhaps at church, both men being Episcopalians. Dave was twenty-three and Louis was eighteen when they met, but in spite of the difference in age and background, they became good friends.

Dave took Louis to Norwalk to visit his family, and introduced him to his sister Fanny. Fanny was seventeen at the time, and liked the looks of this young bank employee from Cleveland. The feeling was mutual, and Louis started to court her. [5]

The oldest Wickham son also left Norwalk to go to college.

Charles Preston Wickham as a Young Man

Charles Wickham as a young man. Clipped from family photo.

Charlie Wickham began studying law at Cincinnati Law School in 1854. Before leaving for college, he worked in the family business. He started at the Norwalk Reflector as a delivery boy when he was very young. He later remembered delivering the newspaper on New Year’s Day 1852 announcing the beginning of railroad service to Norwalk. [6]

Charlie remembered those days working at the newspaper fondly. In later years he remarked, I look upon the Reflector Office as my alma mater, from whence I have drawn, in great part, my sustenance, both physical and intellectual. At its reading table I received my first idea and knowledge of this world – its lights and shades – its follies and crimes – its men and women: indeed, of everything that I know; for at the editor’s table you may learn of everything and everybody – love and law – religion and reason – politics and politeness – statesmen and scholars – poets and professors – merchants and mechanics. There is hardly a limit to the knowledge which you may there obtain; it is a “Pierean Spring,” whose waters never fail. Author and statesman, philosopher and president, have breathed with the air of a printing office, an inspiration, and have gone forth to electrify and govern the world. [7]

Charlie’s high school sweetheart Emma Wildman also went off to college, a rarity for women in those days. After graduating from high school, she attended Oberlin College. [8] Oberlin was one of the first co-educational schools in the United States, accepting women in 1837.

The world was changing for this new generation, the grandsons and granddaughters of the pioneers. The struggles and hardships of the early settlers had created for these young people an opportunity unparalleled in the nation’s history. The pioneers’ grandchildren were proud of what those hardy people had accomplished, and would be active in preserving their heritage. Like their grandparents, they also would be tested, not by struggles and hardships of the frontier, but on the battlefield.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Story of David Benedict’s life and accomplishments at Kenyon College are from Family, by Ian Frazier, Farrar, Straus Giroux; 1994; p. 82.

[2] The early life of Harriott Benedict is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, (unpublished) by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton; p. 10.

[3] Information about the Deaver family in New Haven Township is from The 1850 Huron County Census, pp. 192b & 193a.

[4] Information about the Deaver family history is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, (unpublished) by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton; pp. 9-10.

[5] Information about Louis Severance is from the American National Biography, Volume 19, p 662. Information about his grandfather, Dr. David Long is from The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

[6] “When the ‘Iron Colt’ First Dashed into Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December, 1918; p. 2065.

[7] “History of the Firelands Press,” by C.P. Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, Number 4; The Firelands Historical Society; September 1861, p. 12.

[8] From Obituaries – The Fireland Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2486.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 51 – Railroads and Cholera

Sufferers’ Land

Railroads and Cholera

by Dave Barton

For years, Norwalk’s prosperity depended on its position as Huron County Seat. The town of Milan dominated the commerce of the region with its canal connecting it to Lake Erie via the Huron River. Every summer and fall, huge wagons filled with grain converged on Milan, making it the largest wheat port of its time.

In the early 1850s, however, a new technology threatened Milan’s economic hegemony — the railroad. The citizens of Milan could have used their money and political influence to bring the railroad to their town, but they were so sure of the advantages of water transport that they spurned it. As a result, the “iron horse” passed north and south of them. The Conestoga Wagons no longer had to travel all the way to Milan, and the town went into a dramatic and irreversible decline. By the end of the decade, the once bustling port town was a sleepy backwater.

Railroad Locomotive

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 333.

Norwalk was one of the towns that profited from the railroads at Milan’s expense. The first train line in the village was the Toledo Norwalk and Cleveland Railroad, which started service in January 1853. [1]

The advent of the railroad was a great boon to the economy of the village, but it also brought danger to the unwary. In the early years, many people and livestock met an untimely end because of this new means of conveyance.

In November of 1853, less than a year after train service commenced, a number of boys found a handcar sitting unattended on a sidetrack and decided to take it for a joyride. They crowded aboard and were soon speeding down the track. One boy, Hezekiah Smith, accidentally caught his scarf in the crank of the car and was thrown to the ground with a broken neck. [2]

Accidental death was not the only tragedy brought to Norwalk by the railroad. Trains transporting passengers from place to place also caused the rapid spread of diseases like Cholera. In 1854, a year after the railroad came to Norwalk, the disease made its final and most deadly appearance in the village.

Deaths Dispensary

“Death’s Dispensary,” a cartoon by George Pinwell in FUN Magazine, August 18, 1866

William Wickham later described a deserted town, the inhabitants either gone to the country or hiding in their homes. Once again, the only sound in the village was the rumble of wagons carrying the dead to cemeteries. William recalled thirty-one names of those who perished from the disease, among this number were seven from one family. [3]

Another witness to those terrible days later remembered the valiant women who cared for the sick at great risk to themselves.     Cholera broke out virulently in Norwalk in 1854. The town was nearly deserted. But some there were who stayed; and some of these women made it their business to nurse the stricken ones. Some have been named to me: “Grandma Mason, mother of Sarah Mason the teacher; Mrs. John Green, mother of Miss Rilla Green; Lizzie Higgins and Mary Higgins Farr. They literally took their lives in their hands. Lizzie Higgins was very ill with it; Mrs. C.L. Boalt had her brought to her home and nursed her back to health. Mary Higgins Farr worked until worn out. The doctor said she must quit and go away. She replied that she was needed. I think she was dead the night of the next day. She was, even before the cholera, much beloved for her womanliness and her works. She was a daughter of Judge Higgins and the wife of Joseph M. Farr; Lizzie Higgins was afterwards his wife. [4]

With the coming of cold weather that autumn, the disease abated and disappeared. Never again would this contagion visit the Firelands. However, an even more terrible tragedy loomed on the horizon. The nation was less than ten years from a Civil War that would bring hardship and sorrow to the village of Norwalk.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] “When the ‘Iron Colt’ First Dashed into Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December, 1918; p. 2065.

[2] From “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; p. 2077.

[3] William Wickham’s recollection of the 1854 Cholera outbreak in Norwalk is from “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; pp. 2099-2100.

[4] “Ancient Dames of Norwalk,” by Charlotte Wooster Boalt, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December, 1918; p. 1998.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 50 – Norwalk, Ohio Life in the 1850’s

Sufferers’ Land

Norwalk, Ohio Life in the 1850’s

by Dave Barton

A new generation was growing up in Norwalk in the early 1850s, the offspring of the young people who had come to Norwalk with their parents in the 1820s. The Gallup, Wickham and Benedict children played together and with the other youngsters of the town. Boys and girls gathered at each other’s homes for parties where they played “kissing” and other games and enjoyed treats such as homemade ice cream.

The whole town was a playground for these children. They played “hide and seek” and other games around the distillery on the south side of Norwalk Creek, with its long rows of whiskey barrels and herds of cattle fattened on “slop” left over from the distilling process. In warm weather, they burrowed in the sand banks along the creek, sometimes digging so far that a “cave-in” would bury them. Winters, they sledded down the banks and skated on the frozen creek. [1]

In 1850, when the population of Norwalk reached about two-thousand, public schools opened in the village. Previously, a welter of private schools and the Norwalk Academy had met the educational needs of the community, but now public schools would provide a common experience for children. [2]

One public school teacher was Mary Janes, who boarded in the home of Mrs. John Vredenburg. Her roommate was Matilda Barrett, who afterwards married Charles A. Preston, Lucy Wickham’s brother, after the death of his first wife. In later years, Mary remembered the students she taught in those carefree days.

At twenty years of age, I was an assistant to the popular principal of the Norwalk Grammar School, Col. D. F. DeWolf. Hon. and Mrs. S. T. Worcester were really godfather and mother to this charming department in whose genial atmosphere the youth of the Village blossomed, shedding fragrance in all homes. There were Martha Worcester and Kate Wickham, Fanny Safford, Spencer Leslie, Vick McArdle and Augusta Carter, delightful Tina and Delilah Yale, Emma Wildman, Fanny Clark, Emma Husted, Mary J. Graves, Milo Cline, Lutheria Eichert, Caleb and Lizzie Gallup, Will Perkins, whom I recall as a specially lovely boy, and the Wickham brothers, with a host besides. I feel the thrill yet, experienced while the “Merchant of Venice” was acted by our amateurs, Charlie Wickham as “Shylock” and Emma Husted as “Portia”.

Can I cease to remember any of the carefree, laughing youth who trooped in the schoolrooms, all so bright, ambitious and diligent? Don’t I know how Delilah Yale came to my desk asking if she might go home, as it rained so that morning she forgot her slate pencil? Didn’t “Caley” Gallup take a very few of us out one evening to witness a séance when spirit rapping was a curiosity? Lizzie Gallup entertained me often over at her house, the hospitable board being presided over by her grandfather, Platt Benedict. [3]

One of Mary Janes’s students was Emily Wildman, known as Emma. She came to Norwalk from Clarksfield Township in 1852 when her father Frederick Wildman was elected to the office of Clerk of Courts for Huron County and moved his family into town. [4] She was a serious girl, with a piercing gaze.

Emma’s best friend was Kate Wickham who was the same age as Emma. Emma’s sister Mary Wildman, who was seven years old, became good friends with Kate’s sister Mary Wickham. The four girls spent much of their time visiting each other’s homes, often eating dinner together. Emma caught the attention of Kate’s brother Charlie, and they became sweethearts. [5]

Another of Emma’s friends was Lizzie Gallup, the youngest daughter of Hallet and Clarissa Gallup and granddaughter of Platt Benedict. She was born in her grandfather’s house on April 1, 1837, and spent much of her time there. [6]

Fanny Benedict Severance (Susan Orsini)

Fanny Benedict

A “Queen Bee” among the handsome girls was Lucy Preston, daughter of Lucy Wickham’s brother Charles Preston and his first wife. She was very intelligent and had an attractive personality. [7]

The most beautiful of the girls in Norwalk at that time was Fanny Benedict, Dave Benedict’s sister. She was a pure blonde in complexion; her features were a classic, her movement’s grace, her character an inspiration. She was considered the undisputed belle of the town. [8]

These girls had a carefree life in the early 1850s. They attended school together, gathered at each other’s homes and went to parties and balls with the boys of the village. Little did they know that in a few short years, this charmed life would end, and the boys they knew and loved would march off to war, leaving them to cope with the deprivations and uncertainties of life on the home-front.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Description of life in Norwalk from 1840-1850 is from “Norwalk, Its Men and Women, and Some of the Girls I have Met,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918, pp. 2073-2077.

[2] “The Maple City,” by P.J. Mahon, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume XIII; The Firelands Historical Society; July, 1878, p. 90.

[3] Reminiscences of a school teacher in 1851 Norwalk from “Pioneer Girlhood on the Firelands,” by Mrs. Mary B. Ingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIII; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1900, p. 621.

[4] From Obituaries – The Fireland Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2486.

[5] The friendships of the Wickham and Wildman girls is described in “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, p. 2097 & p. 2143.

[6] From Obituaries – The Fireland Pioneer, January 1920, pp. 2451-2.

[7] From “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918, p. 2085.

[8] From “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918, p. 2105.

The image of Fanny Benedict is from the collection of my cousin Susan Orsini.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 49 – End of an Era

Sufferers’ Land

End of an Era

by Dave Barton

From the time he established The Huron Reflector in 1830, Lucy Wickham’s father Samuel Preston had been senior proprietor and publisher of the paper. Possessing a vigorous constitution, he continued to work at the printing trade daily.

firelands-historical-society-museum

The Preston-Wickham home is now the Firelands Historical Museum. On a visit to the museum several years ago, I noted that the staircase where Samuel Preston had his fatal fall is steep and narrow, with a tight turn at the landing. My late father, in his youth, was pallbearer for the last Wickham resident of the home. He once told me that they almost dropped the casket while navigating it down those stairs.

On Wednesday, March 3, 1852, he was setting type in the pressroom on the second floor of the Wickham home. Finished with his work, he headed downstairs and suddenly fainted and fell, striking his head violently on the floor. He fractured his skull and died soon afterwards. It is probable that his fainting spell was the result of alcohol. Samuel was a heavy drinker, and it is likely he had a bottle for company that day. [1]

The death of another early pioneer came several months later. Sally DeForest Benedict died on Thursday, June 24, 1852 in her home. She had come to Norwalk in 1817 with her husband Platt Benedict, and with him had been a leader in the community. Platt grieved at her passing, and so did the rest of the village. Everyone remembered her as a good, religious woman.

Mrs. Gardiner, a friend of Sally, said of her, she was one of the first settlers in Norwalk and one of the sound women who came here at that early day. She was a very domestic woman; attended well to her household; a good wife and mother; a true friend; a help to all in time of need, a lover of her home and her church. When her strength would not permit her to walk to the two services (Episcopal), one in the forenoon, and the other, after a short intermission, she would take her lunch and remain in the church. She said to me, ‘I love to be here; there is no place that suits me as well.’ [2]

Sally joined a long line of original settlers of the Firelands who had passed on. The mantle of responsibility had already passed to their children. Now their grandchildren were growing up in the village.

The lives of these grandchildren were much different from the rough frontier lives of their parents and grandparents. Some of the old settlers considered them soft. However, they were growing into men and women who would soon face a terrible challenge, a challenge they would meet with the same courage their parents and grandparents had shown in conquering the frontier.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] From the obituary of Samuel Preston, The Firelands Pioneer,  New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; pp. 2187-8.

[2] “Ancient Dames of Norwalk,” by Charlotte Wooster Boalt, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918, p. 1998.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 48 – The Wickham Family in the 1850’s

Sufferers’ Land

The Wickham Family in the 1850’s

by Dave Barton

In 1850, the Wickham household on East Main was bulging at the seams with fourteen people living under its roof. Fredrick and Lucy now had seven children: Charles, age thirteen; Catharine, eleven; William, nine; Fredrick, seven; Mary, five; Sarah, three; and the baby, one-year-old Lucy. Also living in the house were Lucy’s brother Charles Preston, their father Samuel Preston, age seventy-two, and their grandfather Timothy Taylor who was ninety-five.

Jerome Buckinngham

The Wickham home today. Now located on Case Avenue, it is the museum of the Firelands Historical Society

Lucy was a devoted Presbyterian. She insisted that her children attend Sunday school and that they went properly attired. They each carried two handkerchiefs, one a “shower” and the other a “blower.”

Frederick, who had grown up an Episcopalian, never attended church with the rest of his family, but went to the Universalist Church across the street. He could not accept the Presbyterian doctrine of predestination and damnation. As he explained, he “could not condemn one of his children to Hell, and he didn’t believe the Lord could either.” [1]

Henry Buckingham, son of George Buckingham, also lived with the Wickhams and worked at the newspaper. Like Caroline Benedict, Lucy had help taking care of her family, two German women, Julia Berbach, age twenty-two, and Teresa Beecher, age eighteen. [2]

Running such a large household was undoubtedly a great burden for Lucy. In addition to rearing seven children, she had to care for her brother, father, and grandfather. By 1850, her grandfather, “Grandsire” Timothy Taylor, had lived a long eventful life, serving as a soldier in the Revolution, raising a family and moving west at an advanced age to start a new life on the frontier.

In spite of his age, Grandsire Taylor still possessed clear and sound judgment, and his mental faculties were unimpaired. He was universally esteemed by his neighbors and acquaintances for the integrity of his character, for the kindness of his heart, and for the sociability and cheerfulness which enlivened his intercourse with all, during his long and useful life of almost a century.

However, Grandsire Taylor could not live forever. He died in his bed at Lucy’s home on Wednesday, February 26, 1851, at the age of ninety-seven. [3]

The following year there were two more deaths, one each in the Wickham and the Benedict households. Although the death at the Benedict home was expected, the one at the Wickham home was an unforeseen tragedy.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] These stories about Frederick & Lucy’s religious beliefs are from undated notes by Harriott Wickham Barton in the possession of the author.
[2] Information about Frederick & Lucy’s household is from The 1850 Huron County Census, page number 1b
[3] From the obituary of Timothy Taylor in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; pp. 2196-7.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 45 – Life in Norwalk, Ohio in the 1840’s

Sufferers’ Land

Life in Norwalk, Ohio in the 1840’s

by Dave Barton

In the mid-1840s, Norwalk was a vibrant village with over a thousand inhabitants. A sandy road, now called Main Street, ran along the ridge. Clouds of dust often filled the air, kicked up by long trains of Conestoga wagons carrying grain from the wheat fields south of town to the canal port at Milan. The other streets of the village were only alleys bisecting the main road between houses and businesses. Much of the town was still farmland, and many of the inhabitants were farmers.

A favorite gathering place of the time was on the “stoop” of Jenney’s tavern, owned by Colonel Obadiah Jenney, a long time business partner of Platt Benedict. Here residents would meet to gossip and do business. People also watched the fire company drilling with their waterpumper, or witnessed a game of “long ball” or an early form of baseball played on the square across the street. If so inclined, they could purchase liquid refreshment inside the tavern, or have cool water free from the town pump.

Town pumps were plentiful in Norwalk, and were popular gathering places, and opportunities for a bit of fun. Lucy Wickham’s second son William recalled years later how a gang of boys captured one of the town drunks, and threw him into a trough. William was upset to see this man humiliated, but he noted that the experience had a good effect on the man, as he remained sober the rest of his life. [1]

In 1845, Dave and Fanny Benedict were living in their father’s house on Seminary Street. They had lost their mother five years before and their sister Mary recently and had to cope with their stepmother Caroline, whom Jonas Benedict married in 1843. Caroline did not like Dave and Fanny, and made their lives miserable.

David & Fanny Benedict

David and Fanny Benedict

A portrait from mid-1840 shows two attractive young people. Dave had the soft features and gentle expression of his father. Fanny had a pleasing almond shaped face and large expressive eyes. They sit close together. Fanny’s head rests on her brother’s shoulder

Among Dave Benedict’s friends in the 1840’s was his cousin Caleb Gallup, known to his friends as “Caley.” They attended Norwalk Academy together, which at the time attracted boys and girls from around the Firelands.

Some of the boys attending the academy played pranks on unsuspecting teachers and passers-by. One evening, they caught an old horse and brought it to the school. They lowered the bell rope down from the cupola on the roof and attached it to the horse’s neck, fastening it so the bell rang when the horse dropped its head to eat from a bag of oats. Every time the bell rang, a teacher who slept in the building went to the cupola, but could not find what was causing it. On another occasion, a wood seller left his cart overnight near the academy. When he returned the following morning, he found it and its load of wood on the academy roof. [2]

Dave may or may not have been involved in those pranks, but he did have a wild streak, perhaps provoked by his stepmother’s treatment of him and his sister Fanny, or because of the lack of accomplishment of his father, or maybe just because he was a teenager. In any event, in 1846, he was a leader of a prank that caused a lot of trouble.

On the Fourth of July, he and his friends fired a cannon shot down Main Street. The blast damaged a barbershop belonging to Robert Shipley, whose bad temper had made him an enemy of many village boys

Dave left town immediately. When his father learned that he was behind the prank, he quietly paid Mr. Shipley for the damage, then sent word through a friend to Dave that the problem was taken care of, although he didn’t want Dave to know he was involved. [3]

Life in Norwalk was pleasant in those days. The early settlers had cleared the land and started businesses. Now they were reaping the harvest of their labors from the fertile farms and villages they had carved out of the wilderness. However, at the end of the decade, Cholera returned, bringing terror and death.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Description of life in Norwalk from 1840-1850 is from “Norwalk, Men, Women & Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; pp. 2073-2077.

[2] Stories of pranks by students of the Norwalk Academy are from “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918;December 1918, p. 2129.

[3] The story of this prank gone awry is from The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIV; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1902, p. 923-924, & an undated note by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton in the possession of the author.

 

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