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 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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Sufferers’ Land – Post 28 – Death, Education, Responsibility

Sufferers’ Land

Death, Education, Responsibility

by Dave Barton

In the fall of 1826, Lucy’s mother, Esther contracted inflammatory fever. For fifteen days, Lucy, then age twelve, nursed her mother, hoping she would recover. However, it was to no avail. On Sunday, the third of September, Esther Taylor Preston died.

Samuel, grief-stricken, buried her in the Episcopal Cemetery near the grave of Susan Gibbs, and placed a notice in the Sandusky Clarion.

Died. – At Norwalk, on Sunday, September 3, 1826, in the 46th year of her age, after a severe illness of fifteen days, Esther Taylor, the wife of Samuel Preston, Esq.; leaving a husband and two children, Lucy B. and Chas. A., to lament her loss. [1]

Lucy was now responsible for running her home and caring for her father and brother. For one-and-a-half years, she had help from her mother’s sister, Fannie Taylor Knight, whose husband had recently died. Then Aunt Fannie remarried and left Lucy alone in charge of the household at the age of fourteen.

* * *

It took three years to build the Academy. The building was three stories and made of brick. The Masons, who had contributed eight-hundred dollars for construction, occupied the third floor. Norwalk Academy opened its doors in December 1826 with ninety students. By the end of the year, there were one-hundred. The first Principal was the Reverend S.A. Bronson, who had served St. Paul’s parish as a deacon for several years. [2]

Even though she had a family to care for, Lucy’s father allowed her to attend the Academy. She became reacquainted with Mary Ann Morse, whom she had met at the first school she attended in the Firelands. Mary left the academy in 1828 at the age of eighteen and married George Kennan, an instructor at the school.

Lucy left Norwalk Academy in 1829 when she was fifteen years old and went to a private school taught by Miss Ware, where among other things she learned painting and studied music and French. This was rare for a girl in those days, an indication of Lucy’s talents and the desire of her father to give her a good education.

Those days were difficult for Lucy, full of hard work and heavy responsibility. However, they were also happy times. Her friends remembered her as a vivacious and witty girl, unselfish and popular with all. In addition to her father and her brother Charles, her cousins Jane and Julia Knight and Catharine Taylor lived with her for many years while they went to school in Norwalk. Lucy early on learned it was her job to care for others. For the rest of her life, she would be the responsible one. [3]

Even when she had lived outside Norwalk, Lucy had heard news of goings on in the village from her father, who lived and worked there during the week. From him, she learned of the arrival of new settlers who erected homes and businesses along the sand ridge. When her family moved into town in 1821, she was able to find out first hand when new settlers arrived. New arrivals meant new children to play with.

Soon after Lucy moved into town, a family arrived that would have a big impact on Lucy’s future — and the future of Norwalk.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] From Obituaries – The Fireland Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2473.
[2] Description of founding of Norwalk Academy is from “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, No. 4; The Firelands Historical Society; May 1859; p. 21 and James Gibbs, “Academy, Seminary and Institute,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January, 1920, page 2295-2300.
[3] Lucy Preston’s experiences at the Norwalk Academy are from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2399.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 26 – To Canada and Back Again

Sufferers’ Land

To Canada and Back Again

by Dave Barton

Lucy and her family were overjoyed to see their relatives after a long separation. The trip from New Hampshire had been long and arduous, but they had finally arrived in the Firelands. Time would tell how they would adapt to life on the frontier.

They did not adapt well at all.

Walk in the Water

The Walk-in-the-Water Steamship. Illustration by Samuel Ward Stanton, American Steam Vessels, (1895), 24.

Samuel Preston became homesick for the east, and by spring of 1820, he had had enough. Once again, Lucy had to leave familiar people, in this case her grandparents, aunt and uncle. She and her brother followed their parents north to Sandusky where they boarded the Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamboat on Lake Erie, bound for Buffalo. The trip to Buffalo was uneventful. Upon arriving, they crossed into Canada and went to Waterloo, Ontario.

Lucy’s parents enrolled her in the local school. The other children made fun of her, calling her a Yankee. She became so upset that she refused to go to school. Instead, she and Charles spent the summer playing in an old fort, where they found cannon balls and other military things, and picking raspberries.

Lucy’s father found work as a carpenter, but he was no happier to be in Canada than she was. In the fall, he and Esther packed the family’s belongings and returned with Lucy and Charles to Black Rock, where they again boarded the Walk-in-the-Water and sailed to Sandusky.

After staying in Sandusky a few weeks, they returned to Uncle Benjamin’s farm and stayed through the winter. The quarters were tight, with three families crammed together in a little cabin. Lucy and the other children slept in a loft accessible by a ladder. One night, a big storm came up and tore the shingles off the roof and the rain poured in. The children were soaked, not to mention being scared half to death by the violence of the storm.

That winter, to give their families more room, Lucy’s father and her Uncle Benjamin built a new cabin. Come spring, Uncle Benjamin’s family moved into this new house, leaving the old one to the Prestons and Grandma and Grandsire Taylor.

The summer of 1821, Lucy’s father secured work as a carpenter in Norwalk. He lived in a boarding house in the village during the week, coming home on Saturday night to spend the remainder of the weekend with his family.

Lucy was seven now, and started school in an old log house near the Norwalk and Ridgefield township line, the same school Jonas and Eliza Ann Benedict had attended when they first arrived in Norwalk. Her teachers at this school were Tamia Palmer and Ann Boalt, daughter of John and Ruth Boalt. Mary Ann Morse was still a student there, and she and Lucy became friends. Lucy often rode home with her, riding behind her on her horse.

In the fall of 1821, Lucy’s father moved the family into Norwalk. They lived in a house at 11 West Main Street, and later moved a short distance down Main Street to Number 50. Finally, life appeared to have returned to normal. However, this would not last. In a few short years, Lucy would be shocked into adulthood by a series of terrible tragedies. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The Story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands and first years living there 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.

 

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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]

 

 

Footnotes:
[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.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 24 – Lucy Preston’s Long Journey West

Sufferers’ Land

Lucy Preston’s Long Journey West

by Dave Barton

Lucy Preston — with her father, mother, brother, Grandma Taylor, and her little dog Nero — departed Pepperell, Massachusetts for the Ohio frontier mid-October 1819, just as the weather turned cold. They had a seven or eight-hundred mile journey ahead of

Wagon on Trail

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 327.

them, and hoped to arrive at their destination before winter set in. They traveled in a hired wagon packed with household goods they would need on the trip and later in their new home: beds, bedding, cooking utensils and the like.

Instead of following the route through Pennsylvania taken by the Benedict family two years previously, the Prestons took a northern route to Ohio, across the Green Mountains into upstate New York, then along the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Buffalo, where they would find a ship to take them up Lake Erie to the Firelands. They traveled slowly, plodding along rough trails, stopping at night in taverns where they slept on the floor. As they crossed the Green Mountains they encountered snow, but by the time they reached Burlington, Vermont, it had disappeared. A month after they left Pepperell, Massachusetts, they reached Black Rock, New York, near Buffalo, where they waited for a boat to take them the rest of the way to the Firelands.

While in Black Rock, Lucy heard stories that stuck in her head the rest of her life. The tavern where they were staying buzzed with news of a terrible tragedy that occurred a few days before the Prestons arrived. A servant girl employed at the tavern had sewn black threads in her nightcap before retiring. When her friends asked her why she had done this, she told them she was mourning her sins. During the night, the girl took an overdose of laudanum, and in the morning, her companions found her dead.

The story of another tragedy was making the rounds of the village. A little girl went out to play with her friends in the fields and woods. When she did not come home for supper, her parents sent her little brother to look for her. Hours stretched on, and when neither child returned the villagers turned out to search for them. They discovered them lying dead at the bottom of a cistern, clasped in each other’s arms. The boy had found his sister and they had started for home. However, in the dark, they had fallen into the cistern and died.

After waiting a few days in Black Rock, Lucy’s father sold their wagon and the family boarded a schooner bound for Sandusky. Among the other passengers on the boat was the Burns family, Irish Catholics who were very religious. Every morning and evening, the father took his daughters, who called him Dada, to the stern of the boat to pray.

However, pray as they might, bad luck dogged this family and all the travelers on the ship. It was already late in the season, and adverse winds caused the captain of their vessel to turn into Erie, Pennsylvania and refuse to go further. The Preston and the other families on the ship were stranded far from their goal. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[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.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 23 – The Preston and Taylor Families

Sufferers’ Land

The Preston and Taylor Families

by Dave Barton

Like the Benedicts, Lucy’s family traced its ancestry to the early days of the colonies. Her father’s family first came to America in 1672. In 1728, Captain Samuel Preston, the fourth generation of Prestons in America, settled in Littleton Massachusetts. He was an influential man in the community, serving as Town Treasurer and in other offices. In 1755, he participated in the Crown Point Expedition during the French and Indian War.

Captain Preston’s son was Doctor John Preston, who also fought in the French and Indian War. He was in his father’s company in 1756, then, in 1759, served as surgeon’s mate in another unit. In 1760, he settled in New Ipswich, New Hampshire where he practiced medicine. On November 29, 1764, he married Rebecca Farrar, and together they raised eleven children.

Like his father, Doctor Preston had an active public life. He served on the first board of selectmen of New Ipswich, and often represented the town in the General Court, or state legislature. In 1782, he was a member of the Convention that drew up the State Constitution. He had a good sense of humor and a quick wit. Lucy never knew her Grandfather Preston. He died in 1803, eleven years before she was born. [1]

Lucy’s father, Samuel Preston, the seventh child of Doctor John and Rebecca, was born on June 24, 1778 in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. He was not a soldier like his father and grandfather — or a physician, either. Instead, he entered the printing trade early in life, starting as a boy working for the Palladium in Boston, then continuing in the business back in New Hampshire.

In 1796, when he was not yet eighteen, he began his own newspaper, the Village Messenger, in Amherst, New Hampshire. In 1801, he sold the business and moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, where, in 1804, he married Esther Taylor, daughter of Timothy and Esther. The remainder of his life, his affairs were intertwined with that of his wife’s family. [2]

The Taylor family came to New England before 1700 and resided in New Hampshire. Lucy’s Grandsire, Timothy Taylor, was born in 1754 in Merrimac, New Hampshire and was a soldier in the American Revolution. In 1776, he married a widow, Mrs. Esther Toothaker, who had lost her husband the year before. Esther was the daughter of Benjamin and Molly French. The French family was also a distinguished old New England family. [3]

Timothy and Esther had four children, Gilpin, Benjamin, Fannie and Esther. After the children were born, they moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, where they lived for many years. Now they were moving again, off to the wilds of the Ohio frontier.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] History of the Preston family is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006 pp. 36-38.

[2] Early life of Samuel Preston is from his obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, December 1918, pp. 2187-8.

[3] History of the Taylor family is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006 p. 40.

NOTE; Please see the Preston, Taylor, French, Farrer, Hassell, Lovewell, Converse, Blanchard, Prescott, and Sawyer genealogy pages on this site for more information about those families.

 

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