And Now We Hunt the Doe

.
And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe
Emily Dickinson

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tail Deer [1]

In my last post, Forest Primeval, I wrote that Native Americans would set fires in the forests of the Firelands. Today, we’ll find out why they did this.

Indians in canoes

Indians in Canoes [2]

Native Americans did not live permanently in the Firelands at the time the first pioneers arrived. Instead, Canadian tribes would cross the lake in autumn to hunt. To make it easier for them to spot game from a distance, they would start fires and burn off the underbrush that had grown up over the summer.

Why did they want to see prey from a distance? Can’t the animals see the hunter too, and run away? They can, but although we humans are not as fast as our prey, we can travel farther. In a technique that goes back to a form of hunting first practiced by our earliest ancestors on the plains of Africa, we can use our stamina to advantage, running or walking long distances to exhaust prey. Called “persistence hunting,” this strategy involves hunters keeping an animal, or herd of animals, in sight, pushing them along until they can go no farther. The hunters then can approach and kill their prey at close range. [3]

Settlers picked up this technique from Native Americans. According to pioneer John Niles “It was a maxim among deer hunters, that if a man could follow a deer at the rate of forty miles per day, the deer would tire out before night and lay down.” [4]

Forty miles a day seems a fast rate to maintain all day, but “a day” most likely meant from dawn to dusk. While hiking here in Colorado, I have on occasion kept up that rate for nine hours in fairly rugged terrain, so I can imagine maintaining that pace even longer on the flat-lands of northern Ohio.

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As settlers arrived and pushed the Native Americans out of their traditional winter hunting grounds, these annual fires did not occur, and the forest soon became choked with underbrush, much as we see it today. [5]

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Whitetail doe,” Wikimedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 29 June 2008. Web. 2 May, 2018, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whitetail_doe.jpg

[2] Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 12.

[3] “Persitence hunting,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 March, 2018. Web. 3 May, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting

[4] John H. Niles, “Memoirs of Richmond,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; pp. 68-69.

[5] Marcus E. Mead, “Memoirs of Greenwich,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p. 75.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 54 – Last Reunion of the Pioneers

Sufferers’ Land

Last Reunion of the Pioneers

by Dave Barton

The Fourth of July 1857 was a Saturday. From all over Erie and Huron counties, people gathered for the reunion, an assembly of the early settlers and their descendants. The residents of Norwalk had prepared a celebration for the day, to include a sumptuous feast. [1]

Eleutherous Cooke

Portrait of Eleutherous Cooke from Wikimedia Commons

The speaker for the occasion was former U.S. Congressman Eleutherous Cooke of Sandusky, a sixty-nine year old lawyer who had come to the Firelands in 1819. A painting of him shows a handsome, strong willed man. Clean-shaven, as was the custom of that time before the Civil War, he had a resolute set to his mouth, and a determined gaze. From his speech and his letters, it is easy to see that he was a gracious and well-mannered gentleman.

In addition to serving in Congress, he was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives for many years and obtained the first charter for a railroad in the United States.

People of that day expected eloquence and inspiration from their speakers — and Eleutherous Cooke was a master orator. He once made a speech to over forty-thousand people to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Fort Meigs. A contemporary account said that he had a wonderful command of the language, (and) was an orator very flowery and imaginative. Today we would say he was long-winded. However, in 1857, his audience appreciated his comments, especially because he took pains to praise their accomplishments.

His speech was grandiose in parts, but it also demonstrated a connection with the men and women he addressed. Eleutherous counted himself among the pioneers, a point he made several times during his speech. He knew personally of the trials his audience had endured and the successes they enjoyed. He understood them. [2]

On the platform with Eleutherous was another man who understood the people assembled in Norwalk that day — Platt Benedict. He knew Eleutherous Cooke from the days when Mr. Cooke came to Norwalk to argue cases before the County Court. [3]

This celebration would never have taken place if not for Platt Benedict. He must have smiled with pride when he heard Eleutherous say, I am most happy to know — thanks to the excellent gentleman who first suggested the design — that a Historical Society has been formed, and I am now before you, in part, the selected organ of that society, to urge upon it, and upon all who approve its object, a searching and faithful fulfillment of its purpose.” [4]

Platt, and everyone else present, knew Eleutherous was referring to him. As in everything he was involved with, Platt had taken the lead. He was a leader in the settlement of the Firelands and had been involved in the political, social and economic development of the region.

As Eleutherous put it so eloquently, Platt had come “to build the cabin — to fence the crops — to open the roads — to lay out the towns and cities — to establish the schools for the education for the young, and to found the churches for worship of God.”

Platt had not only done all these things, he had been the leader in all these things. It only made sense that he should lead in preserving the heritage of the pioneers assembled here today — and the heritage of those who had already died.

Much of Eleutherous’ speech struck a chord in Platt’s memory. He told anecdotes of the early settlers’ trials and fears, successes and joys — some humorous to make his audience laugh, some tragic to make them weep.

Platt no doubt was moved when Eleutherous referred to “the little remnant of the old pioneers not yet fallen from around us but (whose) summer is past (whose) autumn has gone by.” Platt looked at the crowd and saw the faces of those he knew in younger days and recalled those who were no longer there — who could not participate in this celebration of their accomplishments.

“The images of the cherished dead,” Eleutherous said, present themselves before me. In such a presence, how can I conceal the feelings of utter desolation that overwhelm me, when I remember that I am the sole survivor, save one, of a family circle of fourteen who sought with me this land for their home, and whose ashes now repose in the soil of the Firelands.”

This was Platt’s experience as well. He came to this village forty years before with a wife and five children. Now only his eldest daughter Clarissa survived. The rest of his family was gone, most having died young.

How long ago that time over forty years before must have seemed to Platt, and yet so near. He came to this land seeking opportunity, for himself and his family. He achieved much — all his dreams came true.

At the close of his speech, The Honorable Eleutherous Cooke addressed the children and grandchildren of the pioneers. “You are now in the full possession of this priceless heritage,” he told them. “You need not be reminded of its cost. Its title was written by the point of the sword in the blood of our fathers — it was enriched and perfected by their toils and labors.”

Then Eleutherous challenged the younger members of the audience. “The great trust is in your hands. Let the solemn obligation it imposes sink deep into your hearts; and, as the old friend and associate of your fathers, seizing this last occasion to impart my counsel, let me charge you, as the heaven-allotted sentinels of your country — as the champions of her honor and the defenders of her liberties, to guard with eternal vigilance, this sacred deposit — to shield it alike from the assaults of the foreign foe and the mal-administration of the domestic enemy; and to hand it down unfettered, unencumbered, inviolate and unstained to your children, bright in all that beauty and splendor which ushered in the Glory of its first Morning upon the World!”  [5]

Little did Eleutherous Cooke, or Platt Benedict or any of the people assembled there that day know how great a challenge the children and grandchildren of the pioneers would face. A storm was gathering. Soon it would consume the entire nation in a great and terrible war — a war that would reach into the villages and farms of the Firelands and change the lives of all.

The children and grandchildren of the settlers of the Firelands would face a challenge that no one could imagine on that Independence Day, 1857. They would create a new heritage that would match — and eclipse — the heritage of the pioneers.

The End

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Description of the Reunion of the Pioneers is from The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume I, Number 1; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1858; p. 30.

[2] Information about Eleutheros Cooke is from multiple internet sources: COOKE, Eleutheros – Biographical Information, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-PresentCooke House, Ohio Historical Society Website; and Eleutheros Cooke Collection at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. A portrait of Representative Cooke is at the Ohio Memory website.

[3] From The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume I, Number 1; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1858; p. 25.

[4] This quote from Mr. Cooke’s speech is from The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume I, Number 1; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1858; p. 9.

[5] Excerpts from the conclusion of Mr. Cooke’s speech are from The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume I, Number 1; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1858; p. 12.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 53 – Pioneer Heritage

Sufferers’ Land

Pioneer Heritage

by Dave Barton

By the mid 1850s, the ranks of the early settlers of the Firelands were becoming thin. Many of the survivors, chief among them Platt Benedict, considered organizing a society to preserve the heritage of those pioneers before there was no one left to remember those days.

The pioneers of the Firelands were a literate and well-educated group, probably the best educated of any class of settlers before or after. They knew that the first settlers in the Western Reserve east of the Cuyahoga had left no record, and were determined not to repeat that mistake.

Firelands Pioneer June 1858 Cover

First Issue of The Firelands Pioneer

In New England, townships and towns were just now compiling and publishing their early histories. However, those events had occurred years before, and eyewitness accounts were rare. The settlers of the Firelands saw the opportunity to capture their own history while some of the players still survived to tell their stories. [1] Prominent people of the Firelands heeded the call to organize a society dedicated to the preservation of their history, and first among those was Platt Benedict.

In the spring of 1857, Platt and other leaders of the community sent out a notice calling for a meeting of the Pioneers of the Firelands to take place at the Court House in Norwalk on May 20. The meeting convened as scheduled, and, as usual, Platt Benedict took the chair.

Platt was now eighty-two years old, but possessed the vitality of a much younger man. He was still active in many societies, in business and in politics. The year before, he had remarried, taking as his wife Mrs. Lavinia Benton, a widow from Republic, Ohio. Also in the previous year, he had been elected Mayor of Norwalk, an office he had held many times in the 1830s and 1840s. He had seen so much of the history of the Firelands — he had made much of that history. It was inconceivable that anyone else could take the lead in preserving the heritage of the pioneers.

The attendees at the meeting formed a committee to draft a constitution for a historical society and present it at the next meeting. They also appointed two prominent citizens from each township in the Firelands to collect and record the histories of the early settlement of the townships, and present them to the society for inclusion in its journal, which would be called The Firelands Pioneer.

Finally, a proposal was made to hold a general reunion of the Pioneers of the Firelands — a final chance for the survivors of those early days and their descendants to gather in Norwalk and share in the heritage of the early pioneers, those still living and those departed. They decided to hold it on the Fourth of July, 1857. [2]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] These sentiments were expressed in the speeches of Eleutherous Cooke in a speech recorded in The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 1; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1858, p. 25; and by Elisha Whittlesey in a speech recorded in the same issue, p. 9

[2] Description of the formation of the Firelands Historical Society is from The Firelands Pioneer,  Old Series, Volume I, Number 1; The Firelands Historical Society; June 1858; pp. 29-30.

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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.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 49 – End of an Era

Sufferers’ Land

End of an Era

by Dave Barton

From the time he established The Huron Reflector in 1830, Lucy Wickham’s father Samuel Preston had been senior proprietor and publisher of the paper. Possessing a vigorous constitution, he continued to work at the printing trade daily.

firelands-historical-society-museum

The Preston-Wickham home is now the Firelands Historical Museum. On a visit to the museum several years ago, I noted that the staircase where Samuel Preston had his fatal fall is steep and narrow, with a tight turn at the landing. My late father, in his youth, was pallbearer for the last Wickham resident of the home. He once told me that they almost dropped the casket while navigating it down those stairs.

On Wednesday, March 3, 1852, he was setting type in the pressroom on the second floor of the Wickham home. Finished with his work, he headed downstairs and suddenly fainted and fell, striking his head violently on the floor. He fractured his skull and died soon afterwards. It is probable that his fainting spell was the result of alcohol. Samuel was a heavy drinker, and it is likely he had a bottle for company that day. [1]

The death of another early pioneer came several months later. Sally DeForest Benedict died on Thursday, June 24, 1852 in her home. She had come to Norwalk in 1817 with her husband Platt Benedict, and with him had been a leader in the community. Platt grieved at her passing, and so did the rest of the village. Everyone remembered her as a good, religious woman.

Mrs. Gardiner, a friend of Sally, said of her, she was one of the first settlers in Norwalk and one of the sound women who came here at that early day. She was a very domestic woman; attended well to her household; a good wife and mother; a true friend; a help to all in time of need, a lover of her home and her church. When her strength would not permit her to walk to the two services (Episcopal), one in the forenoon, and the other, after a short intermission, she would take her lunch and remain in the church. She said to me, ‘I love to be here; there is no place that suits me as well.’ [2]

Sally joined a long line of original settlers of the Firelands who had passed on. The mantle of responsibility had already passed to their children. Now their grandchildren were growing up in the village.

The lives of these grandchildren were much different from the rough frontier lives of their parents and grandparents. Some of the old settlers considered them soft. However, they were growing into men and women who would soon face a terrible challenge, a challenge they would meet with the same courage their parents and grandparents had shown in conquering the frontier.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] From the obituary of Samuel Preston, The Firelands Pioneer,  New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; pp. 2187-8.

[2] “Ancient Dames of Norwalk,” by Charlotte Wooster Boalt, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918, p. 1998.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 48 – The Wickham Family in the 1850’s

Sufferers’ Land

The Wickham Family in the 1850’s

by Dave Barton

In 1850, the Wickham household on East Main was bulging at the seams with fourteen people living under its roof. Fredrick and Lucy now had seven children: Charles, age thirteen; Catharine, eleven; William, nine; Fredrick, seven; Mary, five; Sarah, three; and the baby, one-year-old Lucy. Also living in the house were Lucy’s brother Charles Preston, their father Samuel Preston, age seventy-two, and their grandfather Timothy Taylor who was ninety-five.

Jerome Buckinngham

The Wickham home today. Now located on Case Avenue, it is the museum of the Firelands Historical Society

Lucy was a devoted Presbyterian. She insisted that her children attend Sunday school and that they went properly attired. They each carried two handkerchiefs, one a “shower” and the other a “blower.”

Frederick, who had grown up an Episcopalian, never attended church with the rest of his family, but went to the Universalist Church across the street. He could not accept the Presbyterian doctrine of predestination and damnation. As he explained, he “could not condemn one of his children to Hell, and he didn’t believe the Lord could either.” [1]

Henry Buckingham, son of George Buckingham, also lived with the Wickhams and worked at the newspaper. Like Caroline Benedict, Lucy had help taking care of her family, two German women, Julia Berbach, age twenty-two, and Teresa Beecher, age eighteen. [2]

Running such a large household was undoubtedly a great burden for Lucy. In addition to rearing seven children, she had to care for her brother, father, and grandfather. By 1850, her grandfather, “Grandsire” Timothy Taylor, had lived a long eventful life, serving as a soldier in the Revolution, raising a family and moving west at an advanced age to start a new life on the frontier.

In spite of his age, Grandsire Taylor still possessed clear and sound judgment, and his mental faculties were unimpaired. He was universally esteemed by his neighbors and acquaintances for the integrity of his character, for the kindness of his heart, and for the sociability and cheerfulness which enlivened his intercourse with all, during his long and useful life of almost a century.

However, Grandsire Taylor could not live forever. He died in his bed at Lucy’s home on Wednesday, February 26, 1851, at the age of ninety-seven. [3]

The following year there were two more deaths, one each in the Wickham and the Benedict households. Although the death at the Benedict home was expected, the one at the Wickham home was an unforeseen tragedy.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] These stories about Frederick & Lucy’s religious beliefs are from undated notes by Harriott Wickham Barton in the possession of the author.
[2] Information about Frederick & Lucy’s household is from The 1850 Huron County Census, page number 1b
[3] From the obituary of Timothy Taylor in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; pp. 2196-7.

 

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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.

 

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