Sufferers’ Land – Post 17 – Murder on the Portage River

Sufferers’ Land

Murder on the Portage River

by Dave Barton

In late April 1819, disturbing news reached the village of Norwalk. Indians on the Portage River northwest of town had murdered two men. Sally Benedict, along with all the settlers, was alarmed and anxious to know more. As the days went by, more news came in. The victims were two trappers, John Wood and George Bishop. John was a married man, a tavern-keeper in Venice, Ohio, and George was single, a sailor on the Great Lakes who lived in Danbury Township.

One room school houseAt that time, much of the Firelands was still wilderness and game was plentiful enough to make trapping and hunting a profitable enterprise. In early April, a company of men, including John Wood and George Bishop, had gone on a trapping expedition up the Portage River on the peninsula, in what is now Ottawa County. The others in the party soon went home, but John and George stayed on. They were relatively successful, and by late April had settled into a cabin on the Portage River where they continued to work their trap lines. It was in that cabin that their bodies were discovered.

For a few more days the suspense continued, then came the welcome news that authorities had captured the murderers. Three Indians had confessed to the crime and were on the way to Norwalk to stand trial.

When the Indians arrived in the village, authorities confined them in a log cabin belonging to Daniel Raitt, located just north of Main Street on what is now Hester Street. Mr. Raitt and another man named Charles Soules guarded them twenty-four hours a day.

With the Indians safely confined to the jail, Sally and the other inhabitants gathered around the men who brought them in anxious to learn the full story of the murder. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 16 – Native Americans

Sufferers’ Land

Native Americans

by Dave Barton

When the Benedict family arrived in Norwalk, open warfare with Native Americans had ceased, but tension remained. Hunting parties of Indians visited the area frequently. Often they supplied the settlers, who for the most part did not hunt, with deer and other game. Sometimes these natives would wander into homes, scaring settlers half to death. In later years, Sally Benedict described a late night intrusion of her home.

Techumseh

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 91

One night the loud barking of our dog attracted our attention, followed by a knock at the door; on opening which, in stalked a large Indian, dressed in furs and blanket, and fully armed. The children huddled close to me, as he came near and asked for “Daddy.” He was evidently intoxicated, and I did not dare let him know that “Daddy” was not at home. I asked him to sit down, but he preferred to stretch himself before the fire, where he soon fell asleep.

When he awoke, he was nearly sober, and quite inclined to be talkative. He told me of the many wrongs the Indians had suffered; that the white man had planted corn over his father’s bones, and the poor old Indian wept. Finally, he started up, exclaiming, “Daddy no come. You go sleep. I go to my brother’s,” and he went away. Sleep was a stranger to our eyes that night. We kept ourselves in readiness for flight, for we expected the “red-face” would return with his brothers, and murder us all. The riches of a Kingdom would not repay me for another such night of anxiety. [1]

Sally’s concern about her late night visitor may seem humorous now. But only a few years previously, Indian raids during the War of 1812 had resulted in many deaths and the flight of settlers out of the Firelands. In 1819, Sally and the other residents of Norwalk were witness to an event that made them wonder if those days of war were about to return.

 

Footnotes:
[1] Quote of Sarah Benedict’s description of a visit to her home by a Native American is from Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 58, & History of the Firelands, by W.W. Williams, 1879, p. 175.

 

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

Sufferers’ Land

The Episcopal Church in Norwalk

by Dave Barton

As with everything else in the early days of the village of Norwalk, Platt and Sally Benedict were involved in the religious life of the community. Although they were not baptized when they arrived, they saw the need for a church in Norwalk, and decided to establish one.

In 1818, they hosted the first Episcopal service in their cabin, consisting of the reading of the Episcopal Church service, and a sermon by a layman. These lay meetings continued for years, first in private homes, and later in the Court House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 14 – The Gallup Family in Norwalk

Sufferers’ Land

The Gallup Family in Norwalk

by Dave Barton

In 1818, the Gallup brothers, William and Hallet, came from Avery to Norwalk when the County Seat moved there. They were cabinetmakers, originally from Pennsylvania. The brothers lost their father in 1807 when Hallet was only ten years old. He lived with an uncle in Philadelphia for six years and then joined the army during the War of 1812,

Battle of Put in Bay

Perry transferring from the Lawrence to the Niagara. In the Public Domain. From Wikipedia Commons

serving under Harrison in the artillery on an expedition through Northern Ohio. From shore, he heard the sound of guns during Perry’s victory over the British in the Battle of Put-in-Bay and afterwards saw wrecks of British vessels along the shore.

Hallet liked what he saw in Northern Ohio. After the war, he moved with his brother to Avery, determined to make his fortune.
After moving to Norwalk from Avery in 1818, Hallet quickly became involved in the life of the village and the county. In 1819, he became County Collector of Taxes, a thankless and dangerous job, especially in the northwest part of the county.

Because of his involvement in the political and social life of the village of Norwalk, he became acquainted with the Benedict family. He took a fancy to Clarissa, and in the end won her heart. In 1820, they married and built a house on the corner of Foster and East Main where they raised eight children. [1]

Hallet used his experience as a carpenter to go into the construction business, erecting many of the public buildings in Norwalk. He was an inventive man, constructing many useful machines and becoming involved in various manufacturing ventures, to include one producing chairs in a barn on Foster Avenue. [2]

Clarissa remained devoted to her parents. She spent much of her time in their home, and her children were born there. Clarissa became a pillar of the community, especially in her support of the Episcopal Church, which her parents founded soon after arriving in Norwalk.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] Descriptions of the birth, early life and marriage of Hallet & Clarissa Gallup are from their obituaries in The Firelands Pioneer, July 1878, pp. 103-4. Other details are from “Norwalk, Its Men and Women, and Some of the Girls I have Met,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, pp. 2110-11.
[2] From “Did You Know,” by James H. Williams, The Firelands Pioneer, June 1937, p. 172.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 13 – Clarissa Benedict

Sufferers’ Land

Clarissa Benedict

by Dave Barton

Clarissa Benedict came to Norwalk at the age of twenty. She was born in North Salem, New York in 1796, and although she spent much of her childhood and youth in Danbury,

clarissa-benedict-firelands-pioneer

Clarissa Bendict

Connecticut, she and her family also lived for a time in New York City.

A photograph taken later in life shows a woman with regular features and a kindly expression. [1] Contemporary accounts described her as comely and compassionate.

Mary Ann Morse, who attended school with Jonas and Eliza Ann Benedict, recalled that Clarissa Benedict came down to watch with and take care of my mother, who was very sick. I looked upon her as some superior being, for I had never seen young ladies much, and she was so gentle and lovely that she won my heart at once. [2]

After moving so much as a child, the trek into the wilderness probably was not as wrenching for Clarissa as we might expect; certainly better than it was for young women like Laura Denton, who left lifelong friends, as well as family. Still, the adventure must have been trying for someone Clarissa’s age.

Life on the frontier differed greatly from that in settled communities of Connecticut. The first winter must have been especially hard, alone with her family on the sand ridge more than a mile from the nearest neighbor. However, starting in the spring of 1818, a community began to take shape on the sand ridge and opportunities for entertainment became available. Young men indulged in skating and swimming-races, foot races, huskings and shooting matches; gallantly accompanying the pretty girls in spring to the sugar camp, or in autumn along the river banks and hills to gather in the yearly supply of nuts and wild fruits. The more advanced and dignified indulged in hunting, fishing, cabin raisings, chopping matches, and rolling bees.

Women, young and old, found diversion and companionship while participating in the more elevated pastime of quilting, sewing bees, pumpkin pearings, singing schools and sleigh riding. [3]

Young men and women found these meetings a good place to get acquainted, and many of these liaisons blossomed into romance. Perhaps it was at one of these events that Clarissa Benedict met her beau.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] Photograph of Clarissa Benedict is in The Firelands Pioneer, December 1899, p. 541.
[2] Description of Clarissa Benedict as a young woman are from “Recollections of Northern Ohio,” by Mrs. John Kennan, The Firelands Pioneer, October 1896, p. 85.
[3] Diversions for men and women on the frontier are described in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1858, p. 6

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 12 – Social Life on the Frontier

Sufferers’ Land

Social Life on the Frontier

by Dave Barton

Communal projects were often social occasions, as a settler described in later years. In the early settlement of the country, there were cabin and barn raisings, log-rollings, wood-choppings, corn-huskings, and sewing and quilting parties, and at such gatherings, utility and amusements were usually blended. Rich and poor then met upon lines of social equality, and the old and young mingled together in those old-time gatherings.

The Pioneers were helpful to each other, not only in “raisings” and “rollings,” requiring a force of men, but also in other ways. If a settler was incapacitated from work by sickness or other cause, his neighbors set a day and gathered in force and plowed his corn, harvested his grain, or cut his wood for the winter, as the season or occasion required. And when a pig or a calf or a sheep was killed, a piece of the same was sent to the several families in the neighborhood, each of whom reciprocated in kind, and in this neighborly way all had fresh meats the greater part of the summer.

Corn Husking

Corn Husking – Finding the Red Ear. New England 1820

Corn-huskings were great occasions. Sometimes the corn ears were stripped from the stalks and hauled to a favorable place and put in parallel or semi-circular windrows, convenient for the huskers. Moonlight nights were usually chosen for husking-bees, and sometimes bonfire lights were improvised. After the company gathered, captains were selected who chose the men off into two squads or platoons which competed in the work, each trying to finish its row first. The captain of the winning squad would then be carried around on the shoulders of his men, amid their triumphal cheer, and then the bottle would be passed.

Women also attended these Pioneer gatherings and sometimes assisted at the husking, but more frequently were engaged in the early evening in quilting or sewing, or in helping to prepare the great supper-feast that was served after the work was done.
There was a rule that a young man could kiss a girl for each red ear of corn found at a husking, and it goes without the saying that all the girls were kissed, some of them several times for it was surprising how many red ears were found – so many that the number was prima facie evidence that some of the boys went to the huskings with their pockets full of red corn ears.

Nearly all the Pioneer gatherings wound up after supper with a dance. When a fiddler could not be obtained, music for the occasion was furnished by some one blowing on a leaf, or by whistling “dancing tunes.” The dancing was more robust in those days than artistic, perhaps, for the people were robust in those days, effeminacy not becoming fashionable until later years. [1]

Clothing was precious in the early years of settlement. The clothing brought from the East soon wore out, especially for the men, who worked clearing the land and planting the fields. It would be several years before replacement clothing would be readily available. Raccoon and muskrat caps, and deerskin jackets and pantaloons, were for several years . . . the leading articles of dress. This style of clothing was not as practical as it may seem, and resulted in many ludicrous incidents . . . from the dryings, or freezing, of this very changeable and unaccommodating species of apparel. [2]

As the settlers tamed the frontier, they introduced sheep and began to use wool to make clothing. But before it could be used the wool had to be carded into rolls by hand, and after the rolls had been spun into yarn and the yarn woven into flannel, the product of the loom had to be “fulled” into thicker cloth for men’s wear. As this was a hand or rather a foot process, it necessitated “fulling” or “kicking” parties. Upon such occasions the web was stretched out loosely on the puncheon floor and held at each end, while men with bared feet sat in rows at the sides and kicked the cloth, while the women poured on warm soapsuds, and the white foam of the suds would often be thrown over both the kickers and attendants. [3]

Pioneer gatherings in those days had two purposes, to accomplish work that families couldn’t do on their own and as an opportunity to socialize and meet new friends. Young people found romance at these gatherings, and no doubt, Clarissa Benedict had her fair share of suitors.

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Pioneer Gatherings” by A.J. Baughman, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1900, pp. 629-630.
[2] Description of wardrobes of men in the early days of settlement is from “Oration of Eleutherous Cooke,” The Firelands Pioneer, June, 1858, p. 6
[3] “Pioneer Gatherings” by A.J. Baughman, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1900, pp. 629-630.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 11 – Women’s Life on the Frontier

Sufferers’ Land

Women’s Life on the Frontier

by Dave Barton

Life on the frontier was not easy, but Sally and the rest of the Benedicts, like most settler families, adapted well. Later many of them would look back on those early days as an adventure. However, as good as those times may have seemed in memory, at the time,

1023264171478om802_001

Sally Benedict

most settlers found life to be sheer drudgery. Backbreaking labor and long hours of loneliness were the norm. Platt, his hired hand and the older boys worked outside the home, cutting trees and brush, planting, and working together with men of other families to raise houses, barns and other structures.

Travel was also difficult. What passed for roads were actually trails that meandered through the great woods, detouring around enormous stumps and fallen trees. They were rutted and dusty in dry weather and seas of mud in wet. A man on horseback was not unlikely to meet a foot traveler stalled, and was compelled to dismount and pry him out, one leg at a time. [1]

Travelers often became lost in the woods and had to spend the night on the ground — or in a tree while wolves and bears growled and howled beneath. Many settlers kept a horn handy to signal to family members who failed to return home from short treks into the forest. Becoming lost could be fatal. Several early settlers who wandered off into the forests were discovered dead months later or never found at all.

Wolves, bears, and panthers caused terror, and were a constant danger to livestock. Wolves and panthers went after sheep, bears after hogs. In 1823, a bear was shot in Wakeman Township, just east of Norwalk, while eating a hog alive. [2]

Fatal attacks on humans by these predators were rare. Falling trees were another story. Many men were crushed to death while clearing the land, or just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others died after being thrown or kicked by horses.

Another cause of premature death was illness. The early settlers were plagued with various illnesses, especially ague, now known as malaria. The settlers were native to New England and were not accustomed to this disease. Soon after arrival in the Firelands, many acquired a pallor and sickliness.

Women generally stayed at home, venturing out occasionally to visit other families or attend religious meetings on the Sabbath. Loneliness was a constant problem, especially on farms in the townships. That first winter, Sally had Clarissa, already a young woman of twenty, to keep her company. However, we can only imagine what she and her daughter thought of being so far from friends and family in Connecticut.

Many frontier women were extremely homesick. In the stark wilderness of Northern Ohio, the comforts of Connecticut and close relationships with relatives and friends seemed far away. Letters and journals passed between the two places as new settlers arrived and others returned to visit their former homes, but they were rare.

The isolation of women in the townships could sometimes bring disaster. In one often-told story, a hunter passing a cabin became concerned when he saw no signs of life. He knocked on the door and a weak voice asked him to come in.

Opening the door, he was startled by the appearance of a woman sitting by the fireplace, pale, emaciated, and holding in her arms a puny, sickly babe.

When he asked her what had happened, she told him that her husband had died, leaving her alone. She had become so feeble from hunger and sickness that she could barely sit in the chair. [3]

These frontier women endured a life of constant work, with no respite from dawn to dusk — and usually continuing after dark. Making, mending, washing and ironing clothes occupied an enormous amount of time. In this day of discount stores and washers and driers, it is hard to comprehend the sheer drudgery involved in keeping a family in clean and serviceable clothes.

Laura Clark, a young woman living in 1818 in Wakeman Township, just east of Norwalk, described a typical day in her journal. First did my housework, baked some bread by the fire, washed up all my dishes & scoured off my shelf, cleaned out my chamber, stewed some pumpkin, mended Doctor’s (her husband’s) striped linen trousers washed them & washed out the Crampton frock, got on pot for supper & boiled shell beans (first we had) made pyecrust, strained pumpkin, in the evening made bread. [4]

Food was scarce the first winter, but after that, the cleared land produced melons, pumpkins, corn and other grains and vegetables. The surrounding forests were a source of berries, nuts, honey and occasionally meat, mostly deer purchased from Native Americans. Sally’s husband, like most settlers in the Firelands, did not hunt.

Often, men would come from the surrounding farms to help with larger projects, such as raising buildings and husking corn. On those occasions, Sally and Clarissa would cook and deliver meals to the work site. Communal projects like these were also social occasions, and the pioneers sometimes took advantage of them to have a little fun.

 

Footnotes:
[1] This quote is from “Oration of Hon. Eleutherous Cooke” in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1858, p. 6.
[2] “Memoirs of Townships – Wakeman”, by Justin Sherman and Chester Manvil, The Firelands Pioneer, November 1859, pp. 39-40.
[3] This story is from “Oration of Hon. Eleutherous Cooke” in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1858, pp. 4-5.
[4] Description of the life of women settlers in the Firelands “The Original Diary of Mrs. Laura (Downs) Clark, of Wakeman, Ohio,” The Firelands Pioneer, January 1920, pp. 2308-2326.

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