The Heritage of Myrtle Woodruff – Final Chapter

After his father Chauncey died in 1818, George Woodruff continued to clear the land they had settled, and in the following years, established a prosperous farm. He and his wife Hannah started a family.

Hannah died in 1830, and over the years, his children left home, starting their own families around the Firelands. His eldest son Chauncey, named for his father, settled in Peru Township, and served in the Mexican and Civil Wars. Chauncey’s son Lewis was the father of Myrtle Woodruff, alumnus of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. Here is her family tree, tracing her ancestry back to those first pioneers of Norwich Township in the Firelands.

myrtle-woodruff-family-tree

We now end the story of Myrtle’s heritage. Here are the posts that made up this series:

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll return to 1907 Norwalk, and see how the Class of 1907 fared in the new year, starting with the events of Wednesday, January 9, 1907.

Sources for this post were John Niles article “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-46, and W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

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Litany of Death in the Sufferers Land

In my last post, It was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run, I wrote about two baby boys, who in 1817 were buried in the forest on the banks of Mud Run north of Village House where the Woodruff and Lawrence families had taken up residence. The remains of these two infants were soon joined by the Dickinson twins: two boys who were the first children born to settlers in Norwich Township. They came into the world on October 24, 1817. One boy was stillborn, the other lived but a few hours. Both were buried on the banks of Mud Run.

gravestone-in-forestThe final burial in that place, according to the records, was in the fall of 1819, Richard Moon, a widower, left his children in New York and came to Norwich Township. He was taken ill with “the lung fever” and died soon after he arrived. His was the first funeral in the township. Richard Moon and the four little boys are not recorded as being interred in Boughton Cemetery, so it is likely that their remains are still buried along the banks of Mud Run. [1]

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Clearing the land in the Firelands was a generational task. Often, the first generation did not live to see the fruits of their labor. Such was the case with Chauncey Woodruff.

In order to make ends meet until they cleared enough acres on their land to be profitable, the first pioneers had to find work elsewhere. As I described in Sufferers’ Land Post #7 on this site, Platt Benedict, in his first winter on the frontier, earned sixty  dollars working on a crew that cut a road from Norwalk to Milan to buy enough pork to feed his family until spring.

snowy-woodsChauncey Woodruff faced the same dilemma. In 1818, he took a job grinding grain at a grist mill located between Sandusky and Venice and owned by a Doctor Carpenter. While there, he fell ill and was taken home to Norwich Township. His condition worsened, and he was moved to the more established community of New Haven Township, [2] where presumably, he could receive better care. But he was too far gone, and died a few days later. Were his remains brought home and buried along the banks of Mud Run, or was he buried in New Haven? I have found not found the answer to this question. [3]

Now George Woodruff had to shoulder the entire burden of supporting his family. We’ll continue his story, and of his descendants down to his great granddaughter Myrtle Woodruff, of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in my next post.

Notes

[1]  The three sources I consulted for information about these deaths were: John Niles, “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-39; Huron County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions, by the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, 1997, page 714;  W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

[2] New Haven Township was one of the oldest in the Firelands. Although the township was not established until 1815, it was first settled in 1811 by Caleb Palmer and was a place of refuge during the War of 1812 for settlers along the shores of Lake Erie. Reference: A.G. Stewart, Esq., “Memoirs of Townships – New Haven,” The Firelands Pioneer, Volume I, Number 3, March 1859, The Firelands Historical Society; page 8-16; and W.W. Williams, History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 295-308.

[3] Story of the death of Chauney Woodruff is from “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, page 38.

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It was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run

The first death in the township was that of ——, son of Wilder Lawrence, Feb. 19th, 1817, only 9 days after their arrival. It was buried on the bank of Mud Run, some twenty rods northeast of the present burying ground. Soon after, Chauncey Woodruff buried a son at the same place. These two children were both born in Trumbull County, while the parents were on their way from the State of New York. [1]

How chilling! Not only that these boys died so young-that is heartbreaking enough-but that the writer did not know the names of these children, and even more, the phrase “It was buried on the banks of Mud Run.”

As I wondered about the location of “Village House” in a previous post, I  wonder now about where these children were buried. The passage above provided my first clue: it says that “It” was buried “some twenty rods northeast of the present burying ground.” I jumped on Google Earth and searched the wooded area north of Village House. Lo and behold, here is what I found.

cemetary-along-mud-run

A cemetery! This could be the “present burying ground” described in the passage above. An internet search turned up a 1997 publication of the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, where I found this: “Boughton Cemetery, also called North Norwich Cemetery, is located on the east side of Section Line Road 30, just north of Boughton Road and about six miles north of US224 in Norwich Twp.” [2]

boughton-cemetery-photo

Boughton Cemetery in summer (from Find a Grave)

boughton-cemetery-photo-winter

Boughton Cemetery in winter (from Find a Grave)

I wondered if perhaps the remains of the Lawrence and Woodruff boys had been moved to the “present burying ground” when it was established. The Huron County Genealogical Society publication has gravestone inscriptions for the cemetery, and no newborns who died in 1817 are listed. So are the infants graves in the woods northeast of the present cemetery? On the last page of the Huron County Genealogical Society publication we find this:

Rev. Norman Bowen searched the area [northeast of Boughton Cemetery] in 1992 and 1993 for this book and believes he found a spot on a bluff well above Mud Run that juts out quite a bit, and is a likely site for this cemetery, although no stone remains were found, if these ever were there.

It is most likely, then, that the remains of those two infants still lie in unmarked graves on the banks of Mud Run.  A rod is five-and-a-half yards, so according to John Niles article in The Firelands Pioneer, those graves would be a little over the length of a football field from Boughton Cemetery. Look at the map of Boughton Cemetery above and imagine where those boys were laid to rest two hundred years ago, and remain, unremarked today.

But if they are at that place, they are not alone. Others were buried beside them at a later date. Who might they be? We’ll learn that in the next post.

Notes:

[1] John Niles, “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-39.

[2] Huron County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions, by the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, 1997, page 714

[3] Further narrative about this story is in W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

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Hardship and Tragedy

George Woodruff and the other men started work the day after they arrived at Village House, clearing enough land to plant corn that spring. The soil in the area was a clay loam “well suited for agriculture, but before they could take advantage of its fertility, they needed to clear away the trees.

snowy-woodsThis was no easy matter. The forests were heavily timbered with enormous white oaks, whitewood and black walnut, generally eighty to one-hundred feet in height and three feet in diameter. Some were as much as six foot in diameter, and as they began to cut them down, George and the others found by their rings that those giants were upwards of three-hundred years old.

Game was abundant; deer and wild turkey, especially, and provided them with much needed food to supplement what they had brought with them. Wolves were also numerous, and their howling kept George and the rest of the party awake many nights.

Hardships on the trek west, and the privations of their new home took a toll on the settlers, especially the children. During the families’ sojourn in Trumbull, Roxanna Lawrence had had a baby boy, and she carried the infant at her breast all the way to “Village House.” But the harsh conditions of travel and the primitive conditions in their new home took a toll on this delicate creature. Nine days after they arrived, the infant died.

gravestone-in-forestThey buried him on the banks of Mud Run, just north of Village House. People in those days were accustomed to death, it visited often, even in the relatively civilized east. But accustomed as they might be, they could never become immune to the grief of the loss of a loved one–especially the loss of a child so young.

More deaths were to follow; which is the subject of my next post.

This story is based on accounts by John Niles in “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 32-46, and by W.W. Williams in his book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

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Location of the “Village House” in Norwich Township, 1817

myrtle-woodruffWe continue with the heritage of Myrtle Woodruff, alumnus of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907.

In my last post, I described the arrival on February 10, 1817 of the Woodruff and Laurence families at the “Village House,” a small cabin in the wilderness of Norwich Township. When I read stories like these, I usually have a hard time picturing where events took place. The old records often describe places in relation to landmarks that those living then would relate to, but are a complete mystery to me. [1]

So I decided to investigate

log-cabin-imageAccording to the March 1860 issue of The Firelands Pioneer and WW Williams’ book, the village house was located “on the village plat, where Durwin Boughton’s house now stands.” This didn’t tell me much. I have not found any record (so far) to tell me where Durwin Boughton lived in 1860. Also, the “village plat” refers to a town laid out by surveyors in the spring of 1816, but never developed.

I do, however, have this tidbit, also from the March 1860 issue of The Firelands Pioneer: “They also surveyed and laid out the village plat of Barbadoes, on the west end of lot 38, second section, and the adjoining east end of lot 6, third section, where Durwin Boughton and George H. Woodruff now live.” [2]

norwich-township-1845-plat-map-section-3norwich-township-1845-plat-map-section-2Now I had something to work with. A Google search turned up the 1845 plat maps for Huron County. [3] Above are the plat maps for the second and third sections of Norwich Township.

Lot 6 of Section 3 is third lot down on the far right of the “Sec. 3” plat, and Lot 38, of Section 2 is also third down, but on the far left of the “Sec. 2” plat. Note that G.W. Woodruff is the owner of Lot 6 in Section 3.

Below is a view of approximately where these two lots are in Norwich Township today.

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norwich-township-map

By comparing this satellite image with the 1845 Plat map, and the facts I gleaned from the historical accounts,  I feel I can make an educated guess of where the “Village House” was located

Let’s assume that Road 195 in the satellite image follows the route of Buell’s Road [4] (zooming in on the satellite image, I found that this road is is labeled “Old Military Road”), and that Section Line Road 30 S is the division between Sections 2 and 3. If we accept those assumptions, we may conclude that the proposed village of Barbadoes was laid out just south of Mud Run (which will be discussed in a later post) on both sides of the section line and bisected by the “Old Military Road.” This leads me to believe that the Village House, which the Woodruff and Laurence families occupied on February 10, 1817, was located somewhere near the farm buildings located southeast of the intersection of Section Line Road 30S and Road 195.

Does this make sense? Post a comment and let me know what you think.

Next up: what transpired with the Woodruff and Laurence families in the days following their arrival at Village House.

Notes:

[1] My father was a land surveyor in Lorain County, Ohio, which is next to Huron County. He once told me he found a description in the old records that began “in the middle of the snowbank.” As he explained it to me, in those days, it must have been common knowledge that every winter a large snowdrift would form at the same location. Great for the people living at that time, not so good for my dad.

[2] John Niles, “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 32-46, and W.W. Williams, “Norwich Township,” History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

[3] Online Index to the Plat Book of ca 1845, Huron County, Ohio, The US Gen Web Project for Huron County, Ohio.

[4] Beall Trail was cut through the wilderness by General Reasin Beall and his army in 1812 from Wooster to Fremont, Ohio. It passed through what would become New Haven and Norwich Townships. The Woodruff and Laurence party followed this trail from New Haven to their new home in 1817.

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Village House: A Cabin at the End of Beall’s Trail

myrtle-woodruff

Myrtle Woodruff

In last year’s October 29 post, we celebrated three Norwalk High School Class of 1907 October Birthdays. One of the students who celebrated a birthday that month was Myrtle Woodruff. Today we begin a series of posts about Myrtle’s heritage. Her family was among that wave of pioneers that settled in the Firelands in 1817, following the disastrous “Year without Summer” of 1816. We begin with the story of Myrtle’s great-great-great grandfather Chauncey Woodruff, and his son George, who together settled in Norwich Township, in the southwest corner of the Firelands, in February of 1817, almost a year earlier than Platt and Sarah Benedict founded Norwalk, Ohio. [1]

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The Village House

It was late afternoon, Monday, February 10, 1817 when George Woodruff spotted the “Village Cabin” ahead through the trees. His family and the rest of his party had made surprisingly good time that day on the twelve mile trek over the Beall trail [2] from New Haven township. A foot of snow covering the ground had made travel easy for the oxen pulling the sleds with their belongings.

snowy-woodsThe party consisted of him and his new wife Hannah, his father Chauncey and his sister Elizabeth, and Wilder and Roxanna Laurence and their nine children. A few friends rounded out the group. [3]

The Woodruff and Laurence families had arrived in Ohio from Saratoga, New York in the fall of the previous year, and had stayed in Trumbull County, while George and his father Chauncey had come ahead to scout the land and select lots for settlement. George had remained in the township of New Haven, while his father returned to Trumbull County for the rest of the party. Chauncey had returned with the others two days previously, and today they had finally completed the last leg of the journey to their new home.

log-cabin-image

While on their scouting trip to the region, unlike many pioneers, George and his father did not need to build the cabin they were about to occupy. It had been raised in the spring of 1916 by a man named John Williamson. Mr. Williamson had not occupied the cabin, nor had he stayed in the Firelands, so now it was open for use by the Woodruff and Lawrence families.

The cabin had a roof and walls with openings cut for a door and fireplace. A crib had been constructed as a frame for a hearth. George and his father remembered seeing split oak puncheons for a floor stacked next to the cabin on their previous visit, but the pile was now completely covered by snow.

George and the other men set to work digging out the puncheons and shoveling dirt into the crib for a hearth. They laid an improvised floor and hung blankets over the opening for the door, while Roxanna and Hannah built a fire on the hearth and made supper. Then the whole party crowded into the small space, and tried to make themselves comfortable.

They made merry as best they could that evening, helped along by a  jug of whisky they had taken care to pack on the sleds before leaving New Haven, then lay crowded on the puncheon floor, trying to ignore the howling of wolves in the surrounding forest.

So passed their first night in their new home on the frontier.

Next up: Do you find all these place names confusing? Would you like to have a map when reading accounts like these? Help is on the way tomorrow with my next post: Where was Village House?

 Notes:

[1] This story is based mostly on the accounts by John Niles in “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 32-46, and by W.W. Williams in his book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

[2] Beall’s Trail was cut through the wilderness from Wooster to Fremont, Ohio by General Reasin Beall and his army in 1812. It passed through what would become New Haven and Norwich Townships.

[3] George’s mother Eunice Woodruff, nee Hosford, was missing from the party. She had died in 1797, two years after George’s birth. Roxanna Lawrence’s maiden name was Woodruff, so she was no doubt related to Chauncey, probably his sister. I have found other examples of this; for instance, siblings Henry and Elizabeth Lockwood and their spouses settled just outside of what would become Norwalk, Ohio in 1816, and hosted Platt and Sarah Benedict when they arrived in the fall of 1817, as described in the Sufferers Land Post #6: A Home in the Wilderness on this site.

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 October Birthdays

During October of 1906 three members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 celebrated their birthdays. On October 9, which fell on a Friday, Eugene Bloxham and Sheldon Laning turned seventeen, followed by Myrtle Woodruff, who had her fifteenth birthday on Thursday of the following week: October 18.

The families of two of these classmates all lived in the better part of Norwalk, and the other lived on a prosperous farm south of town, but only two were descended from the early pioneers of the Firelands. Stephen’s and Myrtle’s great-grandparents had settled in the area at the same time as Platt Benedict, founder of Norwalk–or before. But Eugene’s parents had not moved to the area until the 1880s.

In posts over the next two months, we’ll explore in detail the lives of these three young people and their families, along with their heritage. For now, here is a snapshot of who they were, where they came from, and what they were up to their senior year at Norwalk High School.

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eugene-bloxhamEugene Bloxham lived at 256 East Main Street about a mile east of the high school, with his parents, Edwin and Lovinia, sisters Maria and Edna, and his Grandmother Seamans (on his mother’s side). His father owned a shoe store, Bloxham and Meyers, with a man named Aloysius Meyers. Eugene’s elder sister, Maria, age eighteen, was a clerk in her father’s store. His mother was a homemaker (as we say these days) and his younger sister Edna, twelve years old, was a student.

Although his parents were not wealthy or leaders in the community, they were not poor. This was not Edwin’s first marriage. His first wife had died soon after marrying him, apparently before they had children. Eugene’s grandparents had come to Norwalk around the time of the Civil War, so they were not among the early pioneers. From what I’ve been able to glean from the newspaper articles and my grandmother’s papers, Eugene was a popular student. He was a member of the basketball team (more about Norwalk High School basketball in later posts), and was involved in other school and civic activities.

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sheldon-laningSheldon Laning lived at 120 East Main Street, only a few blocks from the high school and the center of downtown. His father, Jay Laning, was a leading member of the Norwalk community. In addition to his father, the Laning household included his mother Caroline, and elder sister Joanna, age 26 and younger sister Elizabeth, age 10. As in the Bloxham household, a grandmother also lived with the Laning family: Caroline’s mother Mary Sheldon, age 90. Like Eugene Bloxham, Sheldon was active in sports and many other activities at school. He also was a member of the Laning Glee Club, with his brother, John Laning, a cousin and two other men. The group performed at civic and political events.

Jay and Caroline had moved to Norwalk in 1882 from New London, where he had been a successful attorney in 1882. He established a printing company and was involved in many civic activities. The Laning family had been in America since 1698, but did not arrive in the Firelands until Stephen’s grandfather, John Laning moved to New London in 1843. However, his wife Caroline, whom John married in 1849, was the daughter of Gilbert Wood, one of the first pioneers of the Firelands.

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myrtle-woodruffMyrtle Woodruff’s family did not live in Norwalk, but on a farm in Fairfield township, ten miles south of town. Although a streetcar line ran out to Fairfield Township from Norwalk, it is likely that Myrtle stayed in town during school weeks. I have no confirmation of this, however. I also do not know how many of her family were at home in 1906. According to the 1900 Census, in addition to Myrtle, her father Lewis and mother Addie, three of Myrtle’s brothers, a sister, and two female “boarders” lived on the farm. But by the 1910 Census, only Myrtle remained home with her parents. I do not know when Myrtle’s siblings left the farm. That is something we’ll explore in future posts. Myrtle must have been at the farm often during her school days. According to a Norwalk Reflector article, she was elected secretary of the  North Fairfield Congregational Society in April of 1907.

The Woodruff family were among the earliest pioneers to the  Firelands. Myrtle’s great, great grandfather, Chauncey Woodruff, settled in Huron County in 1815, two years before Platt Benedict founded Norwalk. He and his sons, grandsons, and great grandsons all had farmed the area down to Myrtle’s day.

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That’s what I have so far. There were no birthdays for the Class of 1907 in November or December of 1906, so during the next two months, I’ll post more information about the Bloxham, Laning and Woodruff families. Stay tuned!

Sources: I gleaned most of this information from census, birth and death records, newspaper  articles and from The Firelands Pioneer, the journal of the Firelands Historical Society. For specific sources, click on the links for Eugene Bloxham, Sheldon Laning, and Myrtle Woodruff to visit their person pages on the WeRelate Wiki.

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