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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: End of an Era

Next Post: Railroads and Cholera

#

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 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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Runaway Slaves in Norwalk

Next Post: Cholera Strikes Again

#

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 44 – Runaway Slaves in Norwalk

Sufferers’ Land

Runaway Slaves in Norwalk

by Dave Barton

In early November 1842, bounty hunters captured twelve runaway slaves in nearby Fitchville Township and brought them to Norwalk. The sheriff wouldn’t allow the slaves’ captors to keep them in the county jail, so they took them to the Gauff House and held them there for a week before transporting them back to Kentucky.

The Gauff House was a hostelry across the street from the Norwalk Academy, and had wide verandas on the ground and second floor. The slaves stayed on the upper floor, and Henry occasionally saw them on the veranda as he passed by.

Hallet and Clarissa Gallup lived just west of where the slaves were held. Caleb Gallup, their son, threw apples up to the slaves when they came out onto the front veranda of the house for exercise.

Just before the slaves left, Caleb was throwing apples to them when one of them tossed something into the grass near where he stood. Because guards and other people were nearby, Caleb didn’t react, but took note of where it landed. Later, he told his father, who that night went to the house and found a bowie knife in the grass.

After the slaves went back to their owners, some citizens formed a committee to raise money to buy their freedom. Henry Buckingham and Hallet Gallup were leading members. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interest, and the idea was dropped.

Henry Buckingham was outraged by what he had seen. Afterwards he said, “Such a thing can never be done again in Norwalk.” He was finally convinced that gradual emancipation was too slow and that something more decisive was necessary to solve the problem. But his ability to be a part of that solution was about to end. [1]

Not long after the runaway slaves left Norwalk for the south, Henry was the victim of an accident that finally took him out of public life, something the financial and emotional blows he had received couldn’t do. A horse kicked him in the head, knocking him unconscious. He never fully recovered. The man who had been such an important part of the town’s life was helpless. [2]

A short time long after the Henry’s accident, the Benedict family received bad news. On Friday, June 16, 1843, Platt and Sally’s oldest son David died in Danbury. Now Jonas and Clarissa were the only surviving Benedict children, and young Dave Benedict was the only grandson left to carry on the family name. Then there was another death. Dave and Fanny Benedict’s sister Mary died at the age of eight, bringing more grief to the family. [3]

Henry Buckingham lingered for two years after his accident with the horse. On Wednesday morning, April 2, 1845, his grandson Henry noticed something was wrong with him. He told his father, who went to the old man’s bed and found his mind wandering. Soon Henry was unconscious, and at eight o’clock the next morning he passed away peacefully. The man who had been the conscience of the village was gone. [4]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] From “The Ohio Fugitive Slave Law,” by G.T. Stewart, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, pp. 75-77.

[2] From “Obituary of Henry Buckingham,” by Levina Lindsley Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888; p. 161

[3] Story of the tragedies that befell the Benedict family in the late 1830s and early 1840s are from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 6-7 & 17-18 & “Obituaries – Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIV; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1902, pp. 920-921.

[4] “Biographies and Memoirs – Henry Buckingham,” by his grandson, Henry Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, p. 125.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: An Abolitionist Comes to Norwalk

Next Post: Life in Norwalk, Ohio in the 1840,s

#

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 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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: A Terrible Tragedy

Next Post: The Huron Reflector

#

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 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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Clarissa Benedict

Next Post: The Episcopal Church in Norwalk

#

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!

Benedict Family Genealogy

ON THIS WEBSITE

FIRELANDS CONNECTION: Read the genealogy of Platt Benedict, founder of Norwalk, Ohio. This is an excerpt from the transcription of a handwritten notebook I discovered in my grandmother’s papers. The family history in this notebook was the work of two women, Agnes Caroline Wickham and her daughter, Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton, who separately researched and made entries in it over a period of seventy years.  Agnes Wickham wrote roughly half of the entries in the notebook from 1909 to 1915.  In 1915, she gave handwritten copies of her work to each of her five children: Eleanor, William, Lucy, David and Harriott.  Harriott continued her mother’s work off and on for the next sixty years, adding entries as late as 1977.

BENEDICT PORTRAITS: View portraits of Platt and Sally Benedict and their children Jonas and Clarissa.

BENEDICT LINKS

Rootsweb Benedict Surname Message Board

Genforum Benedict Surname Forum

Benedict Genealogy and Family History on DistantCousin.com

* * * * * * * * * ****************************************************

Benedict Generations, a Geneolowiki website of the descendants of Thomas Benedict, who immigrated to America in 1637. The Geneolowiki website includes biographical pages for Platt Benedict and his descendants, to include:

Clarissa Benedict:1796-1878, eldest daughter of Platt and Sally Benedict; born 4 Sept 1796 in North Salem, NY; married Hallet Gallup 9 April 1820 in Norwalk, OH; died 11 Jan 1878, in Norwalk, OH.

David Mead Benedict: 1801-1843, eldest son of Platt and Sally Benedict; born 17 Aug 1801 in Danbury, CT; married Mary Booth Starr 24 Sept 1832 in Danbury CT; died 16 Jun 1843 in Danbury, CT.

Daniel Benedict: 1803-1827, son of Platt and Sally Benedict; born 1 June 1803 in Danbury, CT. Joined the circus and traveled with it to New Orleans where he died on 9 September 1827.

Jonas Benedict: 1806-1851, youngest son of Platt and Sally Benedict; born 23 Mar 1806 in Harlem, NY; married (1) on 8 Oct 1829 in Norwalk, OH Fanny Buckingham, a descendant of William Bradford who came to America on the Mayflower,  (2) Caroline Chapman, 26 May 1842 in Norwalk, OH; died 29 Jul 1851 in Norwalk, OH.

Dr. David DeForest Benedict:1833-1901, Son of Jonas and Fanny Benedict, married Harriott Deaver in 1856. Union Surgeon with the 17th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War, captured at Chickamauga, exchanged and rejoined his regiment in time for the Battle of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Children of David and Harriott Benedict:

Mary Deaver Benedict: born 26 Jul 1857 in Norwalk, OH; died 12 Dec 1931 in Norwalk, OH.

Harriott Melvina Benedict: born 6 Jan 1859; married (1) Henry W. Owen, 14 Oct 1881 in Norwalk, OH, (2) William B. Benhaue, 28 Sept 1897 in Norwalk, OH; died 6 June 1952 in Norwalk, OH.

Agnes Caroline Benedict: born 11 Feb 1861 in Norwalk, OH; married Frank E. Wickham, 14 October 1886 in Norwalk, OH; died 8 Mar 1934 in Norwalk, OH.

Fanny Buckingham Benedict: born 14 Jan 1863 in Norwalk, OH; married Andrew J. Hottel, 14 Oct 1889; died 4 Oct 1940 in Norwalk, OH.

Frederick Platt Benedict: born 7 Apr 1866 in Norwalk, OH; died 11 March 1885 at Kenyon College, OH.

Ellen Eliza Benedict: born 21 Jun 1868 in Norwalk, OH; married Louis Wildman Wickham, nephew of Frank Wickham, 9 Aug 1892 in Norwalk, OH; died 1 Jun 1942 in Mitiwanga, OH.

Suzan Rose Benedict, PhD: born 29 Nov 1873 in Norwalk, OH; died 8 Mar 1942 at Smith College, MA.

Fanny B Benedict; born 14 Aug 1840; daughter of Jonas and Fanny Benedict. Married Louis H. Severance, 13 Aug 1862 in Norwalk, OH; died 1 Aug 1874 in Cleveland, OH.

Eliza Ann Benedict: youngest daughter of Platt and Sally Benedict; born 27 Oct 1812 in Danbury, CT: married William Brewster, 1 May 1832; died 17 Aug 1840 in Norwalk, OH

“Sufferers’ Land” Post #49 – Norwalk Life in the 1850’s –

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]

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.

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!

GO TO NEXT POST: Railroads and Cholera

Index of Posts

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, December 1918, pp. 2073-2077.

[2] “The Maple City,” by P.J. Mahon, The Firelands Pioneer, 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, December 1900, p. 621.

[4] From Obituaries – The Fireland Pioneer, 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, December 1918, p. 2085.

[8] From “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, p. 2105.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: