Sufferers’ Land – Post 25 – The Firelands at Last

Sufferers’ Land

The Firelands at Last

by Dave Barton

While they arranged to continue west by land, the stranded families stayed in a rented house in Erie. Lucy found a large stray dog near the home and adopted it to be company for little Nero. By this time, the passengers of the schooner had become close, but now they would part, each family going its separate way.

By the end of the week, the Prestons were ready and they headed west along the lakeshore, traveling in another rented wagon. They struggled over muddy roads and corduroy bridges. From time to time, they changed horses at an inn. On one occasion, Lucy watched men hitch to the wagon a team of white horses that were exceptionally hard to handle. A popular saying of the time was that someone who was particularly difficult to deal with was “Full of White Horse” and from the way these particular white horses behaved, Lucy thought she understood where this saying came from.

In December, they reached Cleveland, a small town of less than a hundred and fifty people, not much bigger than it had been when the Benedicts passed through two years earlier. There was no bridge across the Cuyahoga River, so they arranged to cross by ferry. The ferrymen drove the wagon with all its occupants onto the boat. However, they would not allow the Prestons to bring their two dogs with them. Lucy and Charles were fond of these canines — Nero had been their companion back in New Hampshire, the other dog had been with them since Erie. As the ferry pushed off from the bank, the children cried to see their pets running up and down the eastern bank of the river.

After unloading the wagon on the western bank, Samuel paid the fare to take the ferry back to the eastern side of the river. An hour or so later, Lucy and Charles spotted a canoe push off from the opposite bank. As it drew near, they saw their father in the bow, the two dogs sitting in his lap. Soon the children and their beloved pets were reunited.

The family pushed on westward through the wilderness. On Saturday, December 17, they stopped in the town of Eldridge, now Berlin, where they stayed at a tavern owned by David Walker. Lucy’s mother noticed that the Walker’s infant boy’s feet were “reeled”. She told Mrs. Walker, “Why, you ought to have them straightened.” Apparently, the woman did not take her advice. Years later, Lucy saw the boy at school in Norwalk, and his feet were still “reeled.”

The next morning, Sunday, December 18, the family traveled the short distance to Norwalk and stopped in the tavern owned by the Abbott family. Mrs. Abbott gave Lucy and her brother each a biscuit spread with butter and honey, a treat they had not enjoyed for many weeks.

Samuel learned that his brother-in-law Benjamin Taylor was living on a farm in the “Dutch Settlement” in Bronson Township. He led his family on, eager to end their long journey. A mile and a half from Benjamin’s farmhouse, they saw Lucy’s Aunt Juliet Taylor, riding on a horse with her three-month-old daughter in her arms. “Grandsire” Taylor walked beside his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, leading them to services at the Baptist Church near Baker’s Mill Pond.

Lucy and her family were overjoyed to see their relatives after a long separation, and soon they came to Uncle Benjamin’s farm. The trip had been long and arduous, but they had finally arrived. Time would tell how they would adapt to life on the frontier. [1]



[1] The Story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands are from the “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI, The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, pp. 2394-2399.



This post was first published on this blog in 2009.


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