Sufferers’ Land – Post 37 – The Wickham Family

Sufferers’ Land

The Wickham Family

by Dave Barton

While staying with her husband’s parents at their home in Sodus Point, New York, Lucy heard many stories about the Wickham family.

The first of Frederick’s family to come to America was Thomas Wickham, who arrived in Wethersfield, Connecticut around 1648. His son Samuel was a prominent citizen of Warwick, Rhode Island. Samuel was a military leader and a representative to the General Assembly for many years, serving as clerk of that body for three years. He was a relatively wealthy man, and a slave owner. An inventory of his goods taken about 1712 included a Negro woman as his property.

Samuel’s son Thomas followed his father’s example as a soldier, prominent member of the community and a slave owner. In his will, he left to his wife Hannah a Negro woman named Bess.

Samuel’s grandson was born in 1736 and named Thomas, like his father. In 1762, he married Elizabeth Wanton, whose father was the Royal Governor of Rhode Island.

Like his father-in-law, Thomas Wickham was a loyalist during the Revolution and in 1781 went to prison because of his sympathies for England. He gained his release from prison by paying 5,000 silver dollars. He didn’t leave America as many Loyalists did, but spent the remainder of his life petitioning for the return of his and his wife’s lands and fortunes. [1]

Thomas and Elizabeth named their sixth child William. He was born on July 7, 1778 in Newport, Rhode Island. In his youth, William lived with the stigma of being a member of a loyalist family.

George Washington

George Washington in 1774. Wikimedia Commons

When he was a small boy, William was playing one day with a friend on the edge of an enclosed field. Two men were talking on the other side of the fence. One of them pointed to William and said to his companion, “That little boy is the son of a notorious Tory!” The other man laughed, patted William’s head and said, “Poor little Tory. We’ll have to teach him better.” Then he shook William’s hand and departed. William later learned that that man was George Washington. [2]

William left home early, going to sea at the age thirteen. In 1798, he was in the U.S. Navy during the War with the French. He also served with Decatur on the Tripoli expedition. He sailed all over the world, rising quickly in rank and becoming Captain of a ship at the age of twenty-one.

Shortly after he became Captain, William sailed to Philadelphia with a cargo. While there, he visited the home of Frederick and Elizabeth Christian, a prominent family in the city, in company with Frederick and Elizabeth’s son. As the two men entered the house, they encountered the Christian’s daughter, Catherine. Catherine later remembered the scene to her granddaughter.

There was a young man in Philadelphia who was attentive to me, and while I could not say I loved him, I thought more of him than of any other young man I knew. One day he invited me to go horseback riding and I felt that day he was going to ask me to marry him, and I had made up my mind to accept him. Just as I was coming downstairs in my riding habit, my brother came in the house with a young man whom he introduced to me as Captain Wickham. I knew right then I was going to refuse the other young man that afternoon, and I did. Later your grandfather asked me and we have been lovers ever since.

When she heard this story, Lucy must have remembered first meeting Frederick in her garden in Norwalk.

William and Catherine were married on Thursday, March 24, 1803 in Christ Church in Philadelphia. William wanted to go back to sea, which was the only life he knew, but Catherine adamantly disagreed. He had an opportunity to go on an expedition to the Pacific Northwest on the Astor, but Catherine was so much against it that he turned down the offer. The ship sailed without him and never returned. It reached Oregon, but Native Americans killed the entire crew.

After this, William abandoned the sea and moved to New York City, where he went into the shipping business in partnership with his brother Thomas. However, this was not a good time for the shipping industry. The brothers had a string of bad luck that ended in financial disaster.

Their ships often sailed to the West Indies, and one was lost on a return voyage, weakening the business. In 1807, President Jefferson placed an embargo on American shipping out of U.S. ports. The Wickham brothers had a ship loaded and ready to sail. Because of their earlier loss, they were in a bad financial situation. Taking a chance, they decided to send the ship out anyway. Authorities caught the ship and confiscated it and its cargo, which ruined the brothers’ business.

William and Catherine moved to Sodus Point in upstate New York, then at the edge of the frontier. They built a cabin and went into the fishing business on Lake Ontario. The future looked promising, but unfortunately, William and Catherine had gone from the frying pan into the fire. The War of 1812 had just begun, and in 1813, a party of British soldiers raided Sodus Point and burned the town, leaving only one house standing. Ironically, William, whose father went to prison as a British loyalist, had his house, boats and nets burned by the British Army.

Before the British arrived, William and Catherine buried their silver in the woods. This included a tea set given to William’s ancestors John and William Wanton by Queen Anne for service to the crown during Queen Anne’s War – another irony. [3]

Lucy spent several months with her in-laws, and learned much about her husband’s family. Finally, with summer ending, she bid them farewell, and departed for home.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The history of the Wickham family in America is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, (unpublished) by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, pp. 28-32 and a letter dated July 18, 1943 from Mr. Brunell E. Stanfin to Miss Elanor Wickahm.

[2] This story is from undated notes about the Wickham family written by Harriott Wickham Barton

[3] The history of the Wickham family in America is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, pp. 28-32

NOTE: For genealogies of Frederick Wickham’s family see the following pages on this site: Genealogy WickhamGenealogy WantonGenealogy WinthropGenealogy Sutton, Dudley and Winthrop.

 

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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 34 – Cholera Comes to the Firelands

Sufferers’ Land

Cholera Comes to the Firelands

by Dave Barton

Today, Cholera is largely unknown in this country and around the world. However, during the nineteenth century, it was an enormous health problem, the first modern pandemic.

Deaths Dispensary

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

Cholera is a serious diarrheal disease caused by bacteria. The method of transmission is water or food contaminated with fecal material. Without treatment, it is fatal in as much as fifty percent of cases. Victims die quickly, sometimes within two to three hours, but usually within two days. Prevention and treatment is simple, sanitation for prevention, and re-hydration for treatment. However, in the early nineteenth century, proper sanitation was not common practice, and most doctors did not understand the importance of hydration for those who were sick with the disease.

The first cholera pandemic occurred from 1816 to 1826, but it did not spread beyond South and East Asia. The second pandemic started in Asia in 1829 and this time expanded around the world, first to Europe and then North America. Residents of the Firelands no doubt had heard of this dangerous plague for years, and were on the lookout for it. In 1832, it arrived in Sandusky aboard a schooner named the Ligure. [1]

The evening after the Ligure arrived from Buffalo, an old lady became violently ill. She died the next morning. The schooner’s captain also fell ill and died, and the disease spread through the town. A Board of Health was organized and it ordered the schooner to anchor out in the bay. The board intended to burn the ship, but the owner persuaded them not to.

Although in Sandusky this outbreak was serious, with entire families wiped out, there is no record of it reaching Norwalk. At that time, Norwalk had only about one hundred and thirty inhabitants living in houses scattered along the ridge, lessening the effects of poor sanitation prevalent in larger towns like Sandusky. [2]

However, after the epidemic passed, Norwalk continued to grow. By 1836, the population of the village was about one thousand. When the disease next visited the Firelands, the village would not escape.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Information about the disease of cholera and the history of the first two pandemics are from the Wikipedia article: Cholera, accessed November 22, 2017.

[2] History of the 1832 Cholera outbreak in Sandusky is from “Early Settlers on the Pennisula,” the transcript of a December 21, 1877 address to the Firelands Historical Society by Charles Waterbury published in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIII; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1878, pp. 33-34.

 

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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 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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