Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

2017 was the best year yet for the Firelands History Website. I expect 2018 to be even better.

What will I be posting this year?

Pioneer FireplaceFirst up, I’ll finish re-posting the Sufferers’ Land series, which will take me to the end of February. In March, I’ll begin posting new stories based on research from The Firelands Pioneer, the journal of the Firelands Historical Society, and from W.W. William’s book History of the Firelands. For the past couple months, I’ve been reading the nineteen journals that make up the  Old Series of The Firelands Pioneer, looking for stories that I think will interest you.

Here are some of the topics I’ll be posting:

  • The trek to the Firelands by Henry and Amelia Lockwood and David and Elizabeth Gibbs. These two couples played a huge role in the early posts of the Sufferers’ Land series. But I have not yet told the harrowing story of their trek to the Firelands. It’s a heartrending tale of suffering and tragedy,  but ultimately an uplifting story of perseverance.
  • The life of the pioneers on the frontier: how they lived, cleared the land, and the hardships they endured, focusing on stories of the first settlers of the Firelands, from 1808 to 1812.
  • The War of 1812 in the Firelands, how those early pioneers fared in what became a no-man’s land between British and American forces.
  • The history of the Civil War, especially the story of the  55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Norwalk’s own regiment.

I appreciate everyone who has stopped by this site over the past year, and look forward to sharing more tales of the Firelands with you in 2018.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Dave Barton

 

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Advertisements

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Jonas Benedict

Next Post: The Entrepreneurs

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Henry Buckingham

Next Post: A Terrible Tragedy

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Women’s Life on the Frontier

Next Post: Native Americans

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Women’s Life on the Frontier

Next Post: Clarissa Benedict

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Litany of Death in the Sufferers Land

In my last post, It was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run, I wrote about two baby boys, who in 1817 were buried in the forest on the banks of Mud Run north of Village House where the Woodruff and Lawrence families had taken up residence. The remains of these two infants were soon joined by the Dickinson twins: two boys who were the first children born to settlers in Norwich Township. They came into the world on October 24, 1817. One boy was stillborn, the other lived but a few hours. Both were buried on the banks of Mud Run.

gravestone-in-forestThe final burial in that place, according to the records, was in the fall of 1819, Richard Moon, a widower, left his children in New York and came to Norwich Township. He was taken ill with “the lung fever” and died soon after he arrived. His was the first funeral in the township. Richard Moon and the four little boys are not recorded as being interred in Boughton Cemetery, so it is likely that their remains are still buried along the banks of Mud Run. [1]

#

Clearing the land in the Firelands was a generational task. Often, the first generation did not live to see the fruits of their labor. Such was the case with Chauncey Woodruff.

In order to make ends meet until they cleared enough acres on their land to be profitable, the first pioneers had to find work elsewhere. As I described in Sufferers’ Land Post #7 on this site, Platt Benedict, in his first winter on the frontier, earned sixty  dollars working on a crew that cut a road from Norwalk to Milan to buy enough pork to feed his family until spring.

snowy-woodsChauncey Woodruff faced the same dilemma. In 1818, he took a job grinding grain at a grist mill located between Sandusky and Venice and owned by a Doctor Carpenter. While there, he fell ill and was taken home to Norwich Township. His condition worsened, and he was moved to the more established community of New Haven Township, [2] where presumably, he could receive better care. But he was too far gone, and died a few days later. Were his remains brought home and buried along the banks of Mud Run, or was he buried in New Haven? I have found not found the answer to this question. [3]

Now George Woodruff had to shoulder the entire burden of supporting his family. We’ll continue his story, and of his descendants down to his great granddaughter Myrtle Woodruff, of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in my next post.

Notes

[1]  The three sources I consulted for information about these deaths were: John Niles, “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-39; Huron County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions, by the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, 1997, page 714;  W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

[2] New Haven Township was one of the oldest in the Firelands. Although the township was not established until 1815, it was first settled in 1811 by Caleb Palmer and was a place of refuge during the War of 1812 for settlers along the shores of Lake Erie. Reference: A.G. Stewart, Esq., “Memoirs of Townships – New Haven,” The Firelands Pioneer, Volume I, Number 3, March 1859, The Firelands Historical Society; page 8-16; and W.W. Williams, History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 295-308.

[3] Story of the death of Chauney Woodruff is from “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, page 38.

facebook

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

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.

Please like this post and let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you.

GO TO NEXT POST – Clarissa Benedict

Index of Posts

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.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: