Old Times in Windham
by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout
Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 17 published on June 17, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library.
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
Samuel Ives came from Wallingford to what is now Jewett Heights, 1789. In the War of Revolution, four brothers of the Ives family were soldiers—two at a time—and each couple by turns relieving the other in military duty. One brother, Daniel, died at Danbury, Conn., in the service. Another, Levi, was taken prisoner, and kept on board a prison ship—but at length was removed to a jail on land, and died there, apparently starved, as he was found dead with pieces of brick in his mouth, as if trying to eat them.
Roma Ives, now venerable in age, was five years old when his father removed to old Windham—to the farm afterward owned by Captain Mann. Soon after going there, and having perhaps half an acre cleared and surrounded by a brush fence, and a slab cabin with bark roof, the family were startled at night by the sound of a violin, and listened to know whence it came. It moved towards the cabin, and never stopped its melody—the musicians marching right over brush fence and logs till they stood in the cabin of Mr. Ives.—three old Wallingford neighbors, settlers upon the ridge, Eb. Johnson, Thorpe, and Sam Peck—marching to musical strains into the cabin and into the arms of their old Connecticut friends, and so giving them a grave welcome to the new country.
Soon after a bear came and carried off a hog belonging to Titus Heaton, and all, men and boys, surrounded the woods where it was, and killed the bear, and a cub also, dividing the spoils, a piece to each man and boy. It was Sunday morning, and the lad, now an octogenarian, was scrupulous about appropriating his share, and taking it home on the holy day, but his family blamed him because he did not receive his proportion.
The father of the family, Samuel Ives, had the ability to pay for the clearing up of his farm at once, and when that was done, he was persuaded to go into the mercantile business, as their way of making a living, and accommodating the public. But it happened that some customers found it easier to run away than pay their debts. The sudden fluctuation in the market, reduced the price of potash and wheat 200 per cent, and Mr. Ives’ mercantile career ended, leaving him after the sale of his property, 200 dollars in debt. Wheat was at one time so high in price that 20 bushels paid for a good horse. This was probably about the time of the war of 1812.
But at length Mr. Ives recovered his prosperity, and had a competency—though his wife did not fail in a bantering war to moralize on the fortune of a "Broken merchant and no clothes."
Among the articles of Property belonging to Roma Ives, and his brother Daniel, were a black man and his wife and child. But they were liberated before the term of servitude set by the law of the State for emancipating them had expired.
Mr. Roma Ives who kindly furnishes these reminiscences, says that Mr. John Cargill, now eighty years of age, was born here, and is consequently the oldest individual—the one who has resided here longest, now living here: and that he himself who came here at five years of age is the next. He furnishes other facts and anecdotes of the old times.
Squire More, of Moresville, was often called on to marry people. He was cheerful, witty, and pious, and had as the pioneer generally has, a certain freedom of manner. On a certain occasion he assured some friends that at a wedding he had then lately celebrated he knew in his prayers (though a layman he very properly prayed at the celebration of holy matrimony), that he should have a good supper for he remembered that the couple were respectively named Cook and Mix.
On another occasion his conscience smote him, as well it might, for his immoral levity. On a rainy day he was sent for to go a long way over a bad road through the woods, and averse to the toils and discomforts of the trip sent word to the parties to consider themselves married, and he would come in good time and good weather. His honest heart rebuked him, and he went next morning, to marry the parties and found that they had changed their minds; but his earnest persuasion changed their purpose back again, and they were lawfully united; and atonement was partially made to his own accusing conscience.
The seal of Rev. Mr. Stimson’s father, in the time of the Revolution is mentioned. Hearing the fighting at Boston was begun, he left his team in the field, where he was ploughing, and seizing a pitchfork, rushed to Boston, 30 miles to the fight.
He was the bearer of public funds soon afterwards, and on horseback, when crossing Boston neck, three ruffians attempted to rob him and in pulling him off his horse he spurred the horse till he rushed from under him, and carried the saddlebags, money and all, swiftly to Boston, and so it reached its destination safely.
In a crisis he relived the wants of his family in the struggle to live in this new region, by taking a bundle of neat fir trees snugly bound up on his horse, behind him, to Claverack, and returned with a good supply of substantials and necessaries for his family, got in exchange.
He had many children and grandchildren. Seventy persons—his descendants—even in that early period, could assemble at a cornhusking.
The following sketch is furnished by Mrs. Strong. It will be seen that Mrs. Strong’s grandfather, the pioneer mentioned, was one of the earliest emigrants to this country.
Elisha Strong came to Windham (now Ashland) from Sharon, Conn., with his eldest son, James, in the summer of 1784, built a log house at the foot of the hill, near where E. S. White’s family now live, cut some grass and returned to Sharon marking the trees on their way. In the following winter, he came with his family of six children, leaving one in Conn. Mr. Strong found his home by the trees he had marked previous. This house had been occupied by people passing through, not only for their own comfort, buy also for their animals, part of the hay gone. They were under the necessity of cutting hemlock broughs to spread their beds on. Not many years since, one of the daughters being here on a visit, she said she well recollected sleeping on the hemlock boughs. The writer has often heard it said, that when Mr. Strong settled here, his nearest neighbors were six miles west and fourteen miles east. Not long after, their hearts were made glad by having neighbors five miles east of them. Mr. Strong took up a tract of land through the valley of the Batavia creek extending for a mile or more, through what is now the village of Ashland, and west of it. In a few years, he with the aid of his four sons cleared the land, built a frame house on the flats near the Hotel formerly owned by H. Kinsley. Mr. Strong died in 1805, aged 62 years. His death was caused by the kick of a horse. He left four sons and four daughters of the sons, but two died here, Jarius, who died in 1834, aged 64, and Elijah in 1826, aged 50. James died in Detroit, in 1865, aged 93. Elisha went to Friendship, Allegany county, and died there. Mr. Argulus White married the eldest daughter of Sharon, came soon after, and settled near his father-in-law, in the same place where he lived and died at the age of 93 years. Mrs. Strong, the wife of Elisha Strong, whose maiden name was Anna Penneo, was a grand-daughter of James Penneo, a Huguenot, who fled from France, on account if persecutions of religion, secreted himself aboard an American vessel, and came to Lebanon, Conn. Mrs. Strong endured with her husband and children all the trials of pioneer life. She out-lived her husband thirteen years, and died at the age of 92.