Sufferers’ Land – Post 29 – Henry Buckingham

Sufferers’ Land

Henry Buckingham

by Dave Barton

In the spring of 1822, the Buckingham family arrived in Norwalk and built a house on a lot where the Roman Catholic Church now stands. One of the children of this family was Fanny Buckingham, who had just turned thirteen, near enough to the age of eight-year-old Lucy Preston to be her friend.

Fanny’s parents, Henry and Harriet, were of old New England stock — their ancestry going back to the early days of the colonies, even to the beginning at Plymouth.

Harriet Talcott Buckingham, Fanny’s mother, traced her ancestry to the beginning of the New England colonies. Her father was George Talcott, whose family came to New England in 1632, and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. Harriet’s mother was Vienna Bradford, a descendant of William Bradford, who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620 and was the colony’s second governor.

Henry Buckingham’s family settled in New England in 1637, when Thomas Buckingham arrived in Boston with his wife Hannah. He later moved to Milford, Massachusetts. His son, also named Thomas, moved to Saybrook, Massachusetts, where the family lived for many generations.

Henry’s father, another Thomas, was born in Columbia, Massachusetts. He later moved to Lebanon, Connecticut, his mother’s hometown. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and a leading member of the community. He married Triphena Hibbard and together they had ten children, with Henry being the eldest. Thomas Buckingham, was a strict disciplinarian, whose puritanical training made for an unhappy childhood for Henry and his nine siblings.

Born in Coventry, Connecticut on January 13, 1779, Henry did not have the opportunity for a good education as a child. At eighteen, he moved to New London, Connecticut and worked as a salesman for the mercantile house of George W. Jones, a leading businessman of the town. George Jones had a good library, which he allowed Henry to use. Henry took advantage of this opportunity to read and study history and general literature.

At the age of twenty-four, Henry married Harriet Talcott. Two years later, they left New London and moved to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where Henry became a successful businessman, owning a large store and several mills. Henry was a tough businessman in those days, and did not always treat his business acquaintances well. Later in life, he remarked that at that time he was a “man of the world,” suing and being sued. By the War of 1812, he was probably the most successful businessman in the Susquehanna River Valley. Then the war came and ruined his prosperity. He was a patriotic man, and helped raise and outfit companies of soldiers at his own expense. One of these companies participated in the Battle of Put-in-Bay. Because of a drop in commerce after the war, he lost his businesses and almost all his wealth.

In 1820, he packed up what remained of his possessions and took his family to Ohio, settling in Putman, near the home of a distant relative. Henry was not happy in Putman. In 1822, he moved again, this time to Norwalk.

Henry Buckingham was forty-three years old when he arrived in Norwalk. He was of medium height, well built, with mild blue eyes and a pleasant expression. People liked him — the way he was always courteous and affable. Shortly after he arrived, the position of Huron County Treasurer came open and he received an appointment to the job. He did so well that the citizens of the county reelected him three times.

Henry’s fortunes had taken a turn for the better. But he wanted more. He saved his money and prepared to go into business, intent on rebuilding his lost fortune. By this time, he had changed his outlook on life and the way he approached his dealings and relations with others. The collapse of his fortunes after the War of 1812 had humbled him and made him more understanding of the needs of others. He also found religion, something that was lacking in his life previously.

This conversion appears to have taken place sometime after the war, but before he moved to Ohio. Not being religious, he was in the habit of taking his son George fishing on Sundays. One day, he was fishing under a bridge when an elderly Catholic woman passed by on her way to Mass with a missal in hand. The woman saw him fishing and said, “Mr. Buckingham, you ought to know better than to break the Holy Sabbath; see what you are teaching your little boy.” The woman’s scolding embarrassed Henry. He hauled in his line so hastily that he broke the pole. He took young George home, and from then on never went fishing, or did anything else on Sunday.

By the time he moved to Norwalk, Henry was a devout Presbyterian. He joined a church in Milan, and was active in the American Bible Society. For three years, starting in 1826, he was depository of the Huron County branch of that society. Religion shaped how he saw his role in the world. He opposed war and promoted universal brotherhood and the rights of man. Later he would put these beliefs in practice in the anti-slavery and temperance movements. [1]

As an officer of the court and man of business, Henry soon became acquainted with Platt Benedict, and engaged in various enterprises with him. Like Platt, he was active in the Royal Arch Chapter of Masons in Norwalk. The two men often met in each other’s homes. A few years later, a marriage of their children made the two men’s relationship even closer.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The story of Henry Buckingham and the Buckingham family is from the “Obituary of Henry Buckingham,” by Levina Lindsley Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V, The Firelands Historical Society, July 1888, pp. 159-161; “Henry Buckingham,” by Henry Buckingham (his grandson), The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V, The Firelands Historical Society, July 1888, pp. 120-125; and Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes & Harriott Wickham, (unpublished), edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 15-18.

 

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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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Sufferers’ Land – Post 22 – Lucy Preston

Sufferers’ Land

Lucy Preston

by Dave Barton

In 1819, five-year-old Lucy Preston lived in Nashua, New Hampshire with her parents Samuel and Esther Preston, her brother Charles, her grandparents Grandsire Timothy Taylor and Grandma Esther Taylor, and her little dog Nero. Lucy had lived in Nassau all her life and had probably never thought about leaving. However, leave she would.

Lucy was precious to Esther and Samuel. She was the fourth of five children born to Esther, but the eldest still living. Several years previously, her parents had lost two children to disease within four days, George Preston on January 14, 1815 at age ten and Charles Preston [1] four days later at the age of two. Lucy did not remember these brothers, but she did remember her older sister Catherine, who had died the year before at the age of eight. [2]

Early in 1819, Lucy’s parents began talking about opportunities in Ohio. They were disappointed with their situation in the east, and hearing stories about the richness of the soil and the moderate climate in Ohio, they decided to move there.

Unbroken Forest

The Ohio Wilderness

When Lucy told her friends where she was going, they were horrified, and feared for her life. They told her fanciful stories about the wilderness and described the Indians living there as four-legged creatures, like bears and wolves, which would devour her. Lucy believed these stories and begged her parents not to take her. However, she had no choice. The entire extended family — her parents, grandparents, and her Uncle Benjamin and Aunt Juliet Taylor — were all going. In the summer of 1816, they sold their homes and household goods and left Nashua.

They did not go west together. Lucy and her parents, her grandmother and her brother Charles moved just down the road to Pepperell, Massachusetts to stay with friends. Grandsire Taylor, Uncle Benjamin and Aunt Juliet, who was pregnant, continued on west to prepare a home for them in the wilds of Ohio. [3]

 

Footnotes:
[1] Lucy’s younger brother was also named Charles. In those days of high infant mortality, the name of a child who died young was often given to another child born later.
[2] Information about the deaths of Lucy Preston’s elder siblings is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 37-38.
[3] The story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands are from the “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, January 1920, pp. 2394-2399.

The image of the Ohio Wilderness is from from Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 227.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 7 – The First Winter

Sufferers’ Land

The First Winter

by Dave Barton

For a few days, provisions were low. Then Platt bought a deer from an Indian for a dollar. Until then, the family subsisted on green corn and turnips from the garden Lewis Keeler had planted for Platt during the summer and milk from two cows they had purchased in Canfield.

Winter SceneWinter would arrive soon, and they needed to obtain enough food to last until spring. However, that took money, which after the expenses of land and travel was in short supply. To make up the shortfall, Platt took a job with a crew cutting a road between Norwalk and Milan. He earned sixty dollars which he used to buy enough pork for the family to make it through the winter. [1]

So far, no one else had settled in what was to become the village of Norwalk. In early November, a man passed the sand ridge on his way to his new home in Peru Township and wrote that the Benedict cabin was the only building there. [2]

Over the previous year, almost all the townships in Huron County had at least a few New Englanders settle in them, and many of the new settlers were acquaintances of Platt and Sally. On Christmas Day, the Benedicts and other Connecticut settlers gathered at John and Ruth Boalt’s house for a “Yankee” Christmas dinner. Although the feast was spare, the settlers had to be thankful. They had survived a long arduous trip, and had established themselves in their new homes. Over the next few years, they would build on this beginning to establish a life similar to what they had in New England.

After Christmas, five to six inches of snow fell and the weather stayed cold for the next six weeks, making for good sleighing. Platt and Sally took advantage of these conditions to visit friends who had also moved from Connecticut to the Firelands. One day they visited nine different families.

During the winter, Platt took many logs to Major David Underhill’s sawmill in Ridgefield Township, dragging them one at a time behind a team of oxen. Occasionally, Sally accompanied him, riding on a log, in order to visit Mary Underhill. [3]

The first winter in their little cabin was hard, but also had its good times. Years later, Sally wrote, many pleasant evenings we spent beside that fireplace, cracking nuts, and eating — not apples — but turnips. You need not laugh, these raw turnips tasted good, when there was nothing else to eat, and as the flames grew brighter, our merry party would forget they were not in their eastern homes, but far away in the wilds of Ohio. [4]

Even with these good times, winter must have seemed long and depressing to Sally. Finally, spring arrived, bringing the promise of better times. Flowers carpeted the ground beneath the bare branches of the surrounding forest. [5]

So far, the results of their move had not been encouraging. No one else had settled on the sand ridge. Without a town, the venture Sally and Platt dreamed of would come to nothing. But with spring, news came that changed their prospects for the better, giving them hope that the future would be as bright as those spring flowers on the floor of the deep woods.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[2] Mr. Pearley Sanders account of passing through what is now Norwalk in November 1817 is in The Firelands Pioneer, June, 1858, p. 42.
[3] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[4] Sarah Benedict’s description of early life in Norwalk is from Family, by Ian Frazier, pp.57-58
[5] “Historical Sketches – Townsend,” by Benjamin Benson, The Firelands Pioneer, March, 1860, p. 4.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 5 – The Trek West

Sufferers’ Land

The Trek West

by Dave Barton

The Benedicts traveled first to Norwalk, Connecticut, where they were joined by Platt’s cousin Jemima Keeler, her husband Luke, and their nine children. In addition to the Keeler and Benedict families, three single men, Seth Jennings, Burwell Whitlock, and Henry Hurlbut, were in the party, making a total of twenty-two. [1]

They continued on to New York City. On Sunday, July 20, they crossed the Hudson River to Jersey City and started west. Until now, Sally had been in familiar surroundings, having lived in New York City previously. Now, she would venture into unknown territory.

Passing through New Jersey, they crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania at Easton and continued through Harrisburg, Carlisle and Chambersburg. [2]

Emigrating to New ConnecticutHeavy traffic choked the road in both directions. Immigrants crowded westward, many of them destitute from the disastrous summer of 1816. Some persons went in covered wagons — frequently a family consisting of father, mother and eight or nine small children, with perhaps one a babe at the breast — some on foot and some crowded together under the cover with kettles, gridirons, feather beds, crockery and the family Bible, Watts’ Psalms and Hymn Book and Webster’s spelling book. Others started in ox carts and trudged on foot at the rate of ten miles a day. Many of them were in a state of poverty and begged their way as they went. Some of them died before they reached their destination. Broken wagons and discarded belongings littered the sides of the road. [3]

Produce of Ohio came from the west, pork and whiskey bound for eastern markets. Pork traveled on the hoof, herds of hogs fattened on corn. Whiskey was another product of corn — the staple crop of the day in the Old Northwest. In that time before canals and railroads, settlers could not transport commodities such as corn economically. However, corn fed to hogs or distilled into whiskey could. [4]

Long before they reached Chambersburg, Sally and the others were worn out. All day they trudged on, usually making only ten miles. At night, they competed with throngs of other immigrants for space at the miserable sheds called taverns with scenes of mother frying, children crying, fathers swearing. [5]  Sally and Jemima would cook supper while the men took care of the animals. In the morning, they would rise, stiff from the previous day’s travel, and start again.

The trip took a toll on the animals, also, especially the oxen. They were so footsore it took the men a half-hour to get them on their feet in the morning. The hardest part of the journey laid ahead, the trip over the Allegheny Mountains, a road rude, steep and dangerous. They pushed on — ever-climbing — suffering mishaps common for travelers of that time, broken wheels and axles and balky animals.

After what must have seemed an eternity, they crested the Allegany’s and started down the western slope. Near the end of their descent, Seth Jennings, one of the single men, upset the wagon he drove. His personal chest broke open and he lost all his possessions, to include the last of his money. For the rest of the trip, he had to rely on the Benedicts for everything.

The day after this mishap, they finally reached Pittsburgh, where they took a flatboat a short distance downriver to Beaver, and then continued on to enter the Western Reserve at Poland, Ohio, the first settlement by Connecticut pioneers and a long-time entry point into the Western Reserve.

They did not stop in Poland, but continued on to Canfield, where Platt and Sally had relatives and friends, among them Platt’s partner in this venture, Elisha Whittlesey. They rested in Canfield for several days, and then traveled to Hudson, Ohio, where they stayed in the home of Deacon and Mrs. Hudson, who had founded the town in 1799. [6]

Hudson was one of the most prosperous towns in Ohio, and probably the wealthiest in the Western Reserve, with a number of flour and lumber mills. Platt and Sally dreamed of creating a town like this in the Firelands.

Cattle formed the basis of Hudson’s prosperity, supporting the industries of hide tanning, dairy farming and cheese production. [7]  Mrs. Hudson took Sally and the other travelers to her cheese room, where she had over sixty large rounds curing. The Hudson family sold their cheese in Pittsburgh to distributors who sent it on to markets further east. [8]

By this time, the oxen were so footsore they could not continue. Platt traded them for new teams and purchased two cows, so the family would have milk when they arrived at their new home. The party made necessary repairs and prepared for the final push to the Firelands. [9]

They traveled north to Cleveland, at that time a settlement consisting of only a few houses, and then turned west, following a road that paralleled the lakeshore. Now there were no houses, only unbroken wilderness. It began to rain and the party slogged on through the mud. Sally looked forward to the end of their journey and the relative comfort of the cabin Platt had built in the spring.

Bad news would soon dash her hopes. [10]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18, & The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America, by Henry Marvin Benedict, pp. 380-382.
[2] Story of the trip west is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[3] Description of the emigration from New England the summer of 1817 is from “Year without Summer”, by Dr. F.E. Weeks in The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419.
[4] From The Ohio Frontier, by R. Douglas Hunt, pp. 213-214.
[5] Description of the emigration from New England the summer of 1817 is from “Year without Summer”, by Dr. F.E. Weeks in The Firelands Pioneer, April 1925, pp. 416-419.
[6] The description of the trip west is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[7] The story of Hudson, Ohio is from The Ohio Frontier, by R. Douglas Hunt, pp. 203-204.
[8] Description of the Hudson’s cheese room is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[9] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[10] The description of the trip west is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 3 – Return to the Firelands

Sufferers’ Land

Return to the Firelands

by David Barton

 

In January of 1817, Platt again started for The Firelands, traveling in a one-horse wagon. He stopped in New York, where his sister lived with her husband Samuel Darling. Samuel accompanied his brother-in-law west, driving a second wagon.

The two men traveled through driving snow to the Great Bend of the Susquehanna River, where they found a sleigh that belonged to a man by the name of Holley, who had left it there on his move to Florence Township in the Firelands. Leaving one wagon, they loaded the other on the sleigh and set out in extremely cold weather, traveling north and then west, bound for Erie, Pennsylvania.

A foot of snow covered the ground, excellent conditions for sleighing. In Erie, they left the wagon and headed south in the sleigh to Meadville, Pennsylvania. Here their luck changed for the worse. It began to rain heavily, melting most of the snow. They continued on to Canfield, Ohio in the sleigh, but upon arriving there decided to exchange it for another wagon.

They reached Norwalk Township in early March and boarded with the Gibbs and Lockwood families, who had arrived in the township in April of the previous year after a horrific journey, during which each family lost a son. Other settlers had arrived in the neighborhood the past couple years, and Platt set about recruiting them to help erect a cabin on the sand ridge. [1]

log-cabin-imageHe had no trouble finding willing helpers; most settlers looked forward to assisting new neighbors. In later days, one of them would recall — When the pioneer had been swinging his axe for weeks, and maybe for months, together, it is often cheering to hear that there is to be a log raising in the neighborhood. He anticipates at once the pleasure that is to be derived from meeting his neighbors, and having with them a little social chat, or the exchange of a few sprightly jokes. [2]

On the appointed day, the settlers assembled on the ridge. Snow began to fall and Platt suggested postponing the work to another day. However, Levi Cole, who lived in nearby Ridgefield Township, said that the snow would not hurt them, and the men pitched into their work. [3]

The meadow along the ridge had few trees, so the men went to a nearby lowland area to cut logs for the cabin. They stood in ankle-deep water while they worked — a miserable experience that begged for the relief of a libation. Usually the owner of a cabin being raised treated his helpers with whiskey, but Platt gave Jamaican Rum instead, which his new neighbors greatly appreciated.

They worked until mid-day when they broke for dinner, pork and potatoes prepared by Major David Underhill’s wife Mary that morning and brought to the site from their homestead on the border of Norwalk and Ridgefield Townships. It is easy to imagine the men clustered around the unfinished cabin in the snow, steam rising from their plates. [4]

After dinner, the men continued to erect the cabin, following a familiar pattern. Logs were cut, rolled up, and their corners notched together in a square form to a suitable height. For a roof, the gable ends were carried up to a peak, with logs or poles, from one end to the other, at suitable distances apart. — Their staves were then made, and layed (sic) upon the poles, each layer being well secured with heavy poles upon them. [5]

They finished building the cabin that evening. Although it was a rude structure, it would provide shelter for Platt’s family when they arrived. Satisfied with his progress so far, he made final preparations prior to returning to Connecticut to fetch them.

He hired a Mr. Stewart to stay in the cabin during his absence and clear and fence four acres of land on the flats south of the ridge for ten dollars per acre. Because Mr. Stewart had no provisions, Platt purchased a barrel of pork and a barrel of flour for him.

Platt also arranged for Lewis Keeler to fence an acre of land around the cabin and plant potatoes, corn, and other vegetables so they would be ready to harvest when he returned with his family. [6] Lewis had traveled to the Firelands in 1816 as teamster for David Gibbs and Henry Lockwood in order to prepare a homestead in advance of the arrival of others of the Keeler clan. [7]

Before he departed for Connecticut, Platt met a friend named Captain John Boalt, who also wanted to settle in Norwalk Township, and sold to him one hundred acres of his land on Old State Road, about a mile southeast of the center of the proposed village of Norwalk.

Saturday, the fourth of April, Platt started for Connecticut in the same wagon he had brought to Norwalk. En-route he contracted dysentery, which made travel difficult. It took him a month to make the trip. As soon as he arrived in Danbury, he began preparations to move his family to their new home. [8]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk”, by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 17.
[2] This description of how a cabin raising was a diversion to the early settlers is from “Memoirs of Townships – Clarksfield”, by Benjamin Benson, The Firelands Pioneer, November 1858, p. 21.
[3] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk”, by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 17.
[4] The story of the raising of Platt Benedict’s cabin is from “Scattered Sheaves – No. 4, By Ruth, Maj. Underhill”, The Firelands Pioneer, Sept. 1860, p. 42
[5] “Memoirs of Townships – Fitchville” by J.C. Curtis, Esq., The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp.31-32.
[6] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 17-18
[7] “Obituary of Lewis Keeler,” The Firelands Pioneer, 1882, p. 158.
[8] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18

 

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