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 47 – The Benedict Family in the 1850’s

Sufferers’ Land

The Benedict Family in the 1850’s

by Dave Barton

The Benedict, Wickham, Preston, Buckingham and Gallup families had not lost anyone to the cholera in 1849. Samuel Preston had contracted it, but survived. They counted their blessings and returned to living their lives.

Business and marriage connected these families. They lived close together along the sandy road on the ridge and often visited each other’s homes.

The Benedicts lived in two households. Platt, seventy-eight years old and Sally, seventy-five, still lived in the brick house they built two years after they arrived in Norwalk. Platt’s occupation is recorded in the Census of 1850 as farmer, although he was involved in much more than farming. [1]

Platt and Sally Benedict

Down the street was the Gallup home, where Hallet lived with three of the Gallup children. He and Clarissa, who now lived with her parents and the other two children, had had a stormy marriage and lived apart off and on for years. In 1836, she moved to her parents’ home with her younger children. In 1843, she received land in her own name from her brother David Mead Benedict at his death, making her financially independent. In 1846, Hallet persuaded Clarissa to return home, but two years later she moved back to Platt and Sally’s house. Although they did not divorce, Hallet and Clarissa would never again live together.

On Seminary Street was the home of Jonas and Caroline Benedict. The census identified Jonas as a farmer with a net worth of $7,000. Fanny, now ten years old, was living at home and attending school, as was a five-year-old girl, Caroline Chapman, probably a niece of Fanny’s stepmother, Caroline Chapman Benedict.

Two other young women were members of the household. Jane Brown was a twenty-three year old schoolteacher boarding with the Benedicts. She probably taught Fanny and Caroline in one of the private schools for females in Norwalk. A young woman from Germany named Catharine Simmons also lived in the Benedict home and helped Caroline with the household chores. [3]

Dave Benedict was not living at home in 1850. Although only seventeen, he had left Norwalk and was living in Sandusky. In April of 1851, he wrote a letter to his friend and cousin, Caley Gallup.

Sandusky City Apr/51

Friend C.

I received your letter and now take the opportunity to answer it. You spoke about selling the lead for a set of Lathe irons. You may do as you please about it, anything that you do will suite (sic) me.

I have not much time to write.

Tell Joe & Hank & Fred that I should like to hear from them.

Write as often as possible.

Give my best respects to all the Boys & Girls, especially the Girls.

Excuse my poor writing, and I will remain your sincere

Friend,

D.D. Benedict

Sandusky [4]

Four months later, Dave received bad news about his father. Jonas died on Tuesday, July 29, 1851 and left his estate to Dave. Now the young man had a chance to further himself.

The following year, Dave used his inheritance to go to Kenyon College. Located near Mount Vernon, Ohio, northeast of Columbus, Kenyon was less than thirty years old when he matriculated. Founded in 1824 by an Episcopal bishop with the help of American and British benefactors, it was the first college established in Ohio. [5]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Information about Platt & Sally’s household is from The 1850 Huron County Census, page number 6b

[2] Information about the Gallup household is from The 1850 Huron County Census, page numbers 6b & 10a. Difficulties with their marital relationship are described in a petition to the Huron County Court of Common Pleas: “Clarissa Gallup vs Hallett Gallup, Divorce,” dated September 1, 1847.

[3] Information about Jonas & Caroline’s household is from Huron, Ohio, 1850 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Norwalk, Ohio; Roll M432, 697; Page 14A; Image: 234.

[4] The original of this letter is in possession of the writer, along with a note of explanation by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton.

[5] Information about Kenyon College is from the Kenyon College Website, accessed on November 28, 2017.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 41 – The Benedict Family

Sufferers’ Land

The Benedict Family

by Dave Barton

Platt Benedict was not in as bad a situation as Henry Buckingham although the failure of The Norwalk Manufacturing Company must have disappointed him. Platt’s financial position was secure. As a farmer, tavern keeper, manufacturer, and land speculator, he was doing well. In his political life, he was also successful.

In 1840, the citizens of Norwalk again elected him mayor of the village, a position he had held in 1835. He was a leading member of the Episcopal Church and an active Mason. At the age of sixty-five, he was still robust and energetic, involving himself in every aspect of life in the community.

Platt and Sally Benedict

Platt and Sally Benedict

However, in spite of his personal success, he and Sally must have been disappointed in most of their children. His eldest daughter Clarissa had married Hallet Gallup, a prominent citizen of the community who was involved in the construction of various public and private buildings in Norwalk, and they had many children. But their marriage was a rocky one.

Platt and Sally’s eldest son David had married in Danbury Connecticut in 1832, but his only child, a daughter named Mary Boughton Benedict had died in 1834, less than a week after her mother. Platt’s second son Daniel had died over ten years before in New Orleans.

Besides Clarissa, this left only Jonas and Eliza Ann in Norwalk. Eliza Ann had married in 1832 to William Brewster. She had two children, but they died young. In August 1840, less than six months after the death of her sister-in-law Fanny Benedict, Eliza Ann died at the age of twenty-seven. [1]

jonas-benedict-firelands-pioneer-001

Jonas Benedict

Of Platt Benedict’s sons, only Jonas remained in the village. He was the only male descendant of Platt to have a son — the only hope for the continuation of the Benedict name in Norwalk.

Jonas had every advantage in life, but while other men of his generation were active in the village, he was not. George Buckingham, Charles Preston, Gilpin Taylor, Frederick Wickham and Hallet Gallup were involved in the political and business activities of the town, but not Jonas. The records of the times rarely mention his name. By this time, it is possible he had succumbed to alcoholism. In any event, he never lived up to his potential.

Jonas grieved when his wife Fanny died. However, he had children to care for and a house to keep up. He started looking for another wife and soon found one. On Thursday, May 26, 1842, he married Caroline Chapman.

At the time of Jonas and Caroline’s marriage, Dave Benedict was eight years old, his sister Mary was six and Fanny was only three. Dave disliked his stepmother. In later years, he said that she was good to his sister Mary, who was crippled, but disagreeable to Fanny and himself. [2]

 

Footnotes:

[1] History of the Benedict children is from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 6, and “Obituaries – Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIV; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1902; pp. 920-921.

[2] Story of the marriage of Jonas Benedict and Caroline Chapman 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.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 21 – Trial and Punishment

Sufferers’ Land

Trial and Punishment

by Dave Barton

The Huron County Court of Common Pleas convened on Tuesday, May 18 at the Court House in Norwalk. A Grand Jury met the same day. Two days later, they indicted the three Indians for first-degree murder.

The trial began the day after the indictment. A crowd assembled, so many that a large number had to stand outside in the yard. Being a prominent member of the community, Platt secured a seat inside, and later gave Sally a first hand account.

He seemed to have witnessed a fair trial. After hearing only a portion of the evidence, the prosecutor dropped the charge against the boy Negossum and released him, to the applause of the audience.

The evidence against the other two Indians was compelling, however, and after a short deliberation, the jury found them guilty. The judge asked if they had anything to say before he passed sentence, but they refused to speak. He sentenced them to be hanged on Friday, July first, and had them led back to jail to await execution.

Sally and the other settlers were curious how the Indians were taking their impending deaths. They learned that the two men were particularly concerned about hanging, which they considered an ignominious death. To discover what it felt like, they practiced choking each other until they almost passed out. The results disturbed them and they became so depressed that the sheriff, in sympathy, gave them whisky to dull their anguish.

The day of execution dawned warm and sultry. Early that morning, settlers from all over the county assembled around the gallows, erected on a knoll behind where St. Paul’s Episcopal Church now stands. Seven or eight Indians from the condemned men’s tribe arrived to witness the execution, including several who had assisted in recapturing the prisoners after their escape.

At the appointed time, the condemned men approached the knoll, escorted by a rifle company commanded by Captain Burt. They were dressed in shrouds and were intoxicated, having begged for whisky earlier that morning. After mounting the gallows and having nooses placed around their necks, the men were asked if they wished to say anything. Negosheek mumbled a few words. The men dropped to their deaths and several women turned away and began to cry.

After they were dead, the authorities took down their bodies, placed them in coffins, and buried them on the knoll. The Rifle Company and civil officials marched to Captain Boalt’s house. He treated them to a big dinner, and they listened to a funeral discourse, a rather macabre scene to us, but probably considered appropriate at the time.

For months afterwards, the settlers of the Firelands worried that friends of the executed Indians would exact revenge. Platt, not having a gun, kept a sharpened hoe hanging near his front door against such an eventuality. However, perhaps because the court had found the boy Negossum innocent, the Indians felt that justice had been done. They never attacked.

As time went on, settlers cleared the forests and farms replaced the Native American’s traditional hunting grounds. In 1843, the remaining tribes departed Ohio for reservations further west. Their time had passed. [1]

Goodbye to Old Hunting Grounds

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 137.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume VI, The Firelands Historical Society, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145. Platt Benedict’s reaction to this incident is described by him in “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, May 1859, p. 21.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 20 – Recapture

Sufferers’ Land

Recapture

by Dave Barton

A day or two after the return of Negonaba, Sally and the other townspeople were relieved when Captain Burt, accompanied by Constable Charles Tupper of Danbury Township and several other men, walked into town, leading Negosheek by a rope tied around him.

Before putting him back into custody, the men searched the Indian and found a small knife secreted in his clothes. Captain Burt told them he had searched the Indian at the time of his capture, but that Negosheek’s squaw must have slipped him the knife before they departed the Indian’s village.

Pioneers and Indians

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 139.

After returning Negosheek to the makeshift jail with the wounded Negonaba, Captain Burt told his story to the assembled populace of the village. Arriving on the Miami River, the three men went to the Indian camp where Negosheek and Negossum lived. John Flemmond introduced Captain Burt, who had dressed in an impressive military uniform, as Governor of Ohio, and demanded that the chief turn over Negosheek and Negossum to him.

This ruse worked, and the chief brought Negosheek to them. The chief promised that he would have the boy Negossum brought to Norwalk in a few days, but also told them that Negossum was not guilty. Through the interpreter, the two captains assured the chief that the boy would receive a fair trial, and if the court found him innocent, they would release him.

Leaving Captain Boalt and John Flemmond behind to wait for the boy Negossum, Captain Burt led Negosheek north toward Lake Erie accompanied by a party of Indians. The weather had turned rainy, and the men slogged through the wilderness, cold, wet and miserable. After a day’s travel, the party stopped for the night and Captain Burt tried unsuccessfully to start a fire. He used sign language to ask the Indians accompanying him to do it, promising them a quart of whisky if they did. An Indian poured gunpowder on the wood, and used flint and steel to try to start a fire. The powder ignited suddenly in the Indian’s face causing him to jump several feet into the air.

When they reached the shore of Lake Erie, the Indians accompanying him turned back, and Captain Burt continued alone through the forest with his captive. Once, Negosheek tried to break away, but Captain Burt, who was a large man, grabbed him and shook him harshly. After that, he had no more trouble with him.

After going nine or ten miles along the lakeshore, Captain Burt arrived at Constable Charles Tupper’s cabin at the mouth of the Portage River. Charles was relieved to see him and his prisoner, and after hearing Captain Burt’s story, agreed to accompany him the rest of the way to Norwalk.

A day or two after Captain Burt returned to Norwalk with Negosheek, Captain John Boalt and John Flemmond arrived with Negossum, whom the chief of the tribe had turned over to them as promised. They put the boy into jail with his companions to await trial. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 19 – A Grim Comedy of Errors

Sufferers’ Land

A Grim Comedy of Errors

by Dave Barton

One night, a week after the prisoners came to Norwalk, gunshots and cries of alarm awakened the village. Platt Benedict rushed from his home, leaving Sally and the children to huddle in the cabin, wondering what was going on. When he returned, he had frightening news — the Indians had escaped.

It had been a comedy of errors. After midnight, Negonaba asked Charles Soules, who was on guard at the time, to remove his shackles and allow him to go outside to relieve himself. Charles did so, not realizing that somehow Negosheek and Negossum had managed to slip out of their shackles earlier in the evening. When Soules and Negonaba left the cabin, the other two Indians made their escape. Soules saw them and raised the alarm. Negonaba ran away and Soules shot at him, which woke the town. Although he could not be sure, he told the townspeople that he thought he had hit his target.

Platt and the other men of the village searched for the escaped prisoners, but they were gone. For the next several days, the inhabitants of the county were terrified, wondering where the suspected murderers might turn up. Then, several days later, an old hunter named Pumphrey came into town leading Negonaba, who had wounds to his hip and shoulder. Charles Soules had hit his mark.

Unbroken Forest

“Unbroken Allen County Forest,” Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 227

Pumphrey told the assembled villagers that a young man named John Hawk, who was hunting on the western boundary of the county, saw a wounded Indian drinking from a pool of water. He captured him and turned him over to Pumphrey who brought him to Norwalk.

The townspeople placed Negonaba back in shackles in Daniel Raitt’s cabin, and sent for a Doctor Tilden to treat his wounds. When the doctor finished treating Negonaba, Daniel Raitt took charge of nursing him back to health, a task he performed so well that his neighbors from then on referred to him as “Doctor Raitt.”

Sally and the rest of the town were relieved that one of the murderers was back in custody, but were concerned that the other two were still at large. Immediately after the escape, Captain John Boalt, who had settled in Norwalk Township just before the Benedicts, started for the Miami River in company with Captain Henry Burt of Monroeville and the interpreter John Flemmond. However, so far, they had not returned.

Sally and Platt worried for their friend off on such a hazardous mission. Sally was also concerned about how Ruth Boalt was handling this. They were together often, and Sally and the other women of the village helped Ruth the best they could.

She and the rest of the villagers prayed that he would return safely. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 18 – Crime and Capture

Sufferers’ Land

Crime and Capture

by Dave Barton

The Portage River was a traditional passage for Indians traveling from the Maumee River to Lake Erie. Around the middle of April, three Indians, Negosheek (Ne-go-sheek), Negonaba (Ne-gon-a-ba) and Negossum (Ne-gos-sum), passed by John Wood and George Bishop’s cabin on their way down the river.

Negosheek was the eldest and the leader of the group. He had the reputation of not being able to handle liquor. Negonaba, also an adult, was easily influenced by his friend when drunk. Negossum, being only sixteen or eighteen, was afraid of his older companions, and inclined to do whatever they told him.

The three Indians continued to the mouth of the Portage River where they stayed for several days. They bought whiskey and started back up the river toward their homes. On the way, Negosheek decided they should attack and kill John Wood and George Bishop and steal their furs and other belongings.

log-cabin-imageJust before dawn on Wednesday, April twenty-first, while the boy Negossum waited outside, the two elder Indians crept into the trappers’ cabin and murdered them in their sleep with tomahawks. When the men were dead, Negosheek called Negossum into the cabin and had him strike one of the bodies on the leg with a hatchet so the boy would feel he had participated in the murders.

The Indians looted the cabin, and after hiding some of the murdered trappers’ possessions along a nearby creek and selling their furs, they started for home. On the way, they encountered a half-breed Indian named Chazee traveling down the river, and told him what they had done. Chazee stopped at Bishop and Wood’s cabin and found their bodies. He continued to the mouth of the river and told Charles Tupper, a constable who lived there, about the murders.

Judge Truman Pettibone, the Justice of the Peace in Danbury Township, issued a warrant of arrest for the Indians, and Charles raised a posse to pursue them. The posse tracked them to a village on the Miami River and the Indians living there turned the three suspects over to them.

The posse returned to Danbury Township, where Judge Pettibone questioned the Indians with the assistance of an interpreter named John Flemmond. Convinced of their guilt, he sent them on to the County Seat in Norwalk to stand trial.

The arrival of the Indians created quite a stir among the inhabitants of Norwalk and the surrounding vicinity. One can imagine Platt and other men of the village visiting the jail to see the prisoners. Seeing face to face these men who had committed murder raised fears of further raids, and enhanced the terror that Sally Benedict had felt when visited by an Indian late at night.

It is a testimony to the sense of fairness and the importance of the rule of law to the Connecticut pioneers that they did not attempt to lynch the three Indians. Many conflicts between Native Americans and settlers ended when mobs of angry men took the law into their own hands. In this case, however, the record is clear that the settlers were determined to give the prisoners a fair trial. There was no rush to judgment, and guilt and innocence was determined after careful consideration of the facts. However, before that could happen, the Benedicts, along with the rest of their neighbors, were in for a scare. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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