Solon, situated on the Erie R.R., eighteen miles from Cleveland was, in the year 1821, a wilderness, broken only by a narrow trail running through it from Ravenna to Cleveland. It was then called Milan, and the land had been held so high it could not find buyers until surrounding towns were settled.
In the year above mentioned three families from Weathersfile, Conn., settled here and for the next decade they were the only residents of “Milan.” They consisted of Capt. Jason ROBBINS, his wife, six daughters and two sons. Mr. and Mrs. Samuel BULL, several children, including two daughters, and Mrs. And Mrs. Oliver WELLS.
It requires but little imagination to picture the lives of the women for the first few years after their arrival. Their homes were the rude log houses of that day, but they were well swept and clean. If there were brass andirons they were brightly scoured and the dishes of light, or “flowing” blue, were carefully arranged on the shelves of the open cupboard. Immaculately white curtains hung at the windows, and their beds, covered with beautifully woven blankets, looked warm and comfortable. Perhaps in one corner was a table covered with a spread, also white, trimmed with knitted lace, or fringe, made by the deft fingers of wife or daughter. On this were a few trinkets and choice books, including the Bible, brought from the dear old home in the east.
There must have been many lovely hours when even a letter from far-away friends would have been a welcome messenger. But these were of rare occurrence, as postage on the same was twenty-five cents, and it is said that letters often remained in the post office at Bentlyville three months for want of money to pay the postage.
The first year a thousand pounds of maple sugar were made, the women doubtless doing their part of the work; “sugaring off” much of it in kettles over coals on the hearth.
The ROBBINS women were all well skilled in the arts of spinning and weaving, are readily converted the wool from their flocks and flax from their fields into clothing. Of a winter evening the elder daughters gathered with their parents about the blazing hearth, each busily knitting for father and brothers, while winter storms were raging without and wild beasts making night hideous with their howlings.
At such times the father might be relating stories of his old sea-faring life, for he had once been the captain of a vessel that was taken by the French. Becoming weary of his hard life on the ocean, he had sought a retreat, and a home, rude though it was, in the wilderness of northern Ohio.
It is recorded of this family that “they lived many years independent, contented, happy, each and all doing their part toward supplying the family needs.”
Mrs. ROBBINS (Eleanor WILLIAMS) was a true woman and dearly beloved.
Mrs. Samuel BULL (Fannie HUNTINGTON) was a woman of genuine worth, doing well whatever her hands found to do. She was once lost in the woods in the following manner: One afternoon, while the family were busy making sugar, she started to drive the sheep into the fold, as was their nightly custom to protect them from wolves. Not finding them, she followed in the direction of the sound of a bell, and soon realized that she was lost!
Wandering on for some time she came to a sugar camp where men were at work. She explained the situation and they, not knowing where Mr. BULL lived, took her to another camp where they did, and walked home with her. The sound of a horn was plainly heard, the signal that some one was lost; and on arriving home, she saw her husband sitting on the barn blowing a horn so loud and fast that no response could be heard. It was two o’clock in the morning and the rejoicing can better be imagined than described.
Both Mr. and Mrs. BULL were faithful attendants at church, going on horseback, each taking one of their children, also their lunch so they could remain for the afternoon service, the latter, being a characteristic feature of the pioneer churches.
Mrs. Oliver WELLS (Abigail WARREN) was an active, courageous woman, and few things could daunt her. Her husband took the contract for clearing the road of trees, from Lewisburg to Bedford, and found in her a valuable assistant. Her daughter, Delia, born 1822, was the first white child born in the township.
Mr. Wells built the first frame house which was used as a tavern, and his wife was the first landlady in town. She was left a widow, but kept her family together until they made homes for themselves. She died 1869, in the same house where she had toiled so long, at the age of eighty years.
These hardy pioneers were awake to the importance of an education, and organized a school the year following their arrival. The teacher was John HENRY, who was to receive ten dollars per month and board. There were four pupils from the ROBBINS family and three from the BULLS’. Tuition for the former was paid in maple sugar; for the latter in shoemaking.
During the thirties great accessions were made to the population of the town, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts being the states principally represented.
The first wedding took place early in these years. Hannah GENISH and Baxter CLOUGH being the contracting parties, and Capt. ROBBINS the officiating justice of the peace.
The Presbyterian church was organized with seventeen members, among them being the names of Mrs. Asa STEPHEN, Mrs. Joseph PATRICK, Mrs. Reuben HANAFORD, Mrs. Baxter CLOUGH, Mrs. Sally MORSE, Prudence MORSE, Mrs. John BARNARD, Mrs. Henry HILLMAN, and others.
A school was organized in the Pettibone neighborhood in a blacksmith shop. If oxen were to be shod during school hours the children had a recess; but, fortunately, this did not often happen, as such work was usually done before or after school hours.
Mr. Seymour TROWBRIDGE and wife (Sally JOHNSON) were from Arcadia, N.Y. One morning the former arose early and walked to Cleveland to pay his taxes, leaving his wife and infant son alone. They were in bed, and hearing a noise, Mrs. TROWBRIDGE thought a wolf was under the table. She was sure she could see its eye-balls glare and its frothing tongue hanging from its mouth.
Her imagination took wings and for about an hour she suffered all the agony of fear. When daylight came she discovered to her joy that it was only the movement of the table cloth.
Mrs. TROWBRIDGE now lives in Cleveland and is a lovely and much beloved lady.
Mrs. Stephen TROWBRIDGE (Mechitable B. GARFIELD), born in Independence, O., 1821, moved here after her marriage and still lives in the old home, kindly cared for by her daughter, Mrs. OLDS.
Her life has been one of toil and trial, but through all she has been a model of Christian fortitude and faith; beloved by all who have known her for her kindly ministrations to the sick and afflicted. One of her sons gave his life for his country, and one daughter died in her home in Wyoming.
Mrs. Morris BOSWORTH (Sally STRONG) was a descendant of Elder John STRONG of Northampton, Mass., and her husband a descendant of Cotton MATHER, the noted divine. They first lived in a log house, afterward in a frame one of their own building, and were prosperous and happy until Mr. BOSWORTH’s death. The widow survived her husband nearly half a century, dying in 1890.
Cornelia PHELPS was born in Granby, Conn., 1800. At the age of twelve her mother died, leaving her with the care of several younger brothers and sisters. When fifteen her father died, and she then came to Ohio, walking most of the way, to make her home with her grandfather, Judge Samuel FORWARD, of Aurora.
She married Enos BISSELL, the nuptial ceremonies being performed in the new log house built by the groom in the woods of Aurora. It was midwinter, but the occasion was made merry by music and dancing, the young people, generally from the surrounding towns, were in attendance. Later, they settled here. One daughter married Mr. DAY of Mantua; another is Mrs. Henry TROWBRIDGE of this place, and still another is Mrs. George ROBERTSON, wife of a Cleveland editor. Mrs. BISSELL was in the highest sense of the term a Christian. Her death occurred in her eighty-fourth year, at the home of a daughter in Bryan, O.
The wife and daughters of Capt. John SILL, from Adams, N.Y., furnished the musical talent of the neighborhood. A young man living in this family was a wonderful bugler, and put his accomplishment to good account when some one was lost. The notes of his instrument could be heard at a great distance.
Mrs. Benjamin SAWYER (Charlotte MILLS) was a charter member of the Presbyterian Church, and often walked three miles through the woods to attend its services. On one occasion a wild hog compelled her to climb a tree for safety.
She remained there until the animal was called away by the squealing of its mates, then descended and continued her way to church, whether in time for the service is not recorded.
The house of worship was built on piles to keep it out of the mud, and often the meeting were disturbed by cows, with bells, that sought shelter under it.
Mrs. SAWYER’s daughters were Betsy, Mrs. Alvin HARRIS; Nancy, Mrs. Chandler WALLACE; Elvira, Mrs. Giles WESTCOT; Ruth Ann, Mrs. HARVEY; and Eliza, Mrs. BASSETT. She died, aged ninety-four years, walking a number of miles a short time before her death.
The daughters of Mrs. Chandler WALLACE were Sarah, Lucy, Jane, Sylvia, Martha, Amelia and Mary. Lucy became Mrs. Royal TAYLOR, and Mary Mrs. Orrin MILLS.
Alvin HARRIS and wife (Betsy SAWYER), from Howardsvill, N.Y., crossed Tinker’s Creek on a floating bridge, and hastily constructed a shanty, in which two families lived until they could build their log house. The dedication of this was to be a happy event, Mrs. SAWYER promising her family a genuine wheat short cake in honor of it. Placing her oven - and, by the way, that was a prize - on newly made hearth, and putting her cake in to bake, she was horror-stricken to see cake, hearth, oven and all blown to atoms, while the family had to flee for their lives.
Mr. HARRIS, being very homesick, his wife did all she could to cheer him. She helped him in his work - making black salts - that being the only available means of making a living.
During the sugar season she assisted in the arduous labors connected with the work. Feeling the importance of religious instruction, her daughters, Elvira and Jane, were sent to the first Sunday school taught in the woods of Salon.
She was untiring in her efforts to relieve the sick, and at her death, 1892, left a goodly inheritance to her five children, who were all married and living here at that time. The daughters already mentioned are respectively, Mrs. E.C. RHOADES and Mrs. Augustus PETTIBONE, worthy and honored residents of this place.
Mrs. Walter STANDARD often went through the woods one horseback to Bedford for groceries, and attended the meetings held in the various school houses of that day.
Mrs. Madison HICKOX (Roxy GRANGER) was said to be “worth her weight in silver.” Her daughter Eva, Mrs. M. WITHERELL, still lives here.
Mr. and Mrs. MARSHALL were originally from Ireland, and had but fifty cents in money when they landed in Cleveland. They wished to go to their brother’s at Centerville Mills, some twenty miles distant, and started on foot through the woods, crossing streams by means of fallen logs.
Night overtook them and they stopped at a log house, where they obtained lodging and supper. Mr. MARSHALL, fearing his fifty cents would not pay for two, urged his wife to eat, but refused food for himself.
Their host provided them with a horse which, he said, was familiar with the country, and would take them directly to the door of their brother’s mill, but on no account were they to guide the rein! The way seemed long and dreary, and they feared they were placing too much confidence in a horse. However, they obeyed instructions, and soon had the pleasure of finding themselves at their place of destination.
Mrs. MARSHALL was the first woman who died in Salon, and her daughter, Mrs. Eliza WITHERELL, was considered the handsomest woman in town.
Mrs. Nathan MORSE (Lucy LATHROP), from Richmond, Maine, was left a widow and moved to Chester, Geauga Co., near the seminary. It was customary in those days for young men to rent rooms and do their own cooking. Mrs. MORSE’s motherly heart prompted her to help many of them, among the number being James A. GARFIELD, of honored memory.
Mr. and Mrs. Daniel MORSE (Lucretia SAWYER) from Oxford County, Maine, passed through Kirland when the Mormon temple was being built. Their daughter, Emeline, is the wife of Col J.C. SAXTON, of Cleveland.
On one occasion the eldest daughter of each MORSE family was invited to a pumpkin “paring bee.” They were accompanied by a young man as torchbearer. A hickory torch often served as lantern, and was a good one if rightly made.
This young man, wishing, no doubt, to be gallant, asked one lady to take his arm. She indignantly refused, and thereupon the swain in his wrath threw down the light and left the girls to get home they best the could. As it was a time of land clearing and brush burning, by these “beacon lights” they were enabled to do so in safety. These two girls became noble women, and left the impress of their characters upon their descendants.
Mrs. Elijah PETTIBONE (Catherine McKEE) was left a widow, but with the help of her children cultivated the farm and made a comfortable home. Her daughters are Mary, Mrs. H.L. SILL; Sarah, Mrs. C.T. REED; Roxy, Mrs. Dan COOK. Her sons wives are Elmira HARRIS, wife of Edward; Ermina KENT, wife of Frank; and Marian NORTON, wife of Dudley.
Other honored names of this period are Mrs. John HALE, Mrs. Ebenezer GOW, Mrs. Sanford BISHOP (Martha CONNOR), Mrs. Charles R. SMITH (Mary TOWNSEND).
During this and the following decade the children of the first settlers began to marry and seek homes of their own. Cornelia ROBBINS married Harvey HENRY; Marcia, Randolph SHIFF; Sophia, Anthony SINGLETARY; and Jane, Almond THAYER.
Jane died, leaving three daughters. Her sister Eliza became Mr. THAYER’s second wife. He died, leaving his widow with one daughter, now Mrs. G.S. FRAY, of Cleveland. Mrs. THAYER married Mr. I.N. BLACKMAN, of Aurora, and later moved to Solon, where she now lives in good health and happy in the Christian faith, at the advanced age of eighty-two years.
Walter ROBBINS married Sally REAVES, and remained on the old homestead. Their eldest daughter is Mr. E.C. BLACKMAN of this place.
Archibald ROBBINS, son of Jason, moved with his wife, Elizabeth, early in the forties. He, too, had followed a maritime career, and in his early manhood had been shipwrecked on the coast of Africa; had been taken captive by the Arabs and kept by them as a slave for eighteen months. Their daughters are Mrs. James SMITCH, of Ashland, Va., and Mrs. McNABB, of Washington, D.C.
Fannie BULL became Mrs. Alvin UPON, moved to Lansing and died 1879. Amelia married Dyer B. JUDD and moved to Iowa.
Delia WELLS became Mrs. James COX of Bedford. Her death occurred 1892. Louisa WELLS married Joel MAXAM and died 1874.
The daughter of Mrs. Pitkin BULL (Celia BERRINS) is Mrs. Andrew KENT, of Newburg.
Mrs. Norman BULL (Sarah HOPKINS) died, leaving a family of little children. Her husband married Fannie WARD, of Vergennes, Vt., who has been a loving, faithful mother to the children. One daughter, Melissa, married John SEATON and died, 1870. Emma, Mrs. E. VAN DE MARK, lives in Clingon, Mich.
Mrs. Lorenzo BULL (Harriet Taylor) rode on horseback behind her husband from Aurora to Warren on her wedding trip. They lived with Mr. BULL’s father until they built a home of their own, which was a happy one. Both were faithful attendants at church, and their house was a home for preachers, especially the aged ones. They lived to celebrate their golden wedding, and of her it was truly said: “She hath done what she could.”
Mrs. Maremus LARABEE (Mary H. GARFIELD, sister of the distinguished Jas. A. GARFIELD) lived many years in this town. Two of her daughters are Mrs. Ellen HOPPE and Mrs. Adelle HOAG, women much beloved for their Christian graces.
Everyone speaks in the highest praise of Mary GARFIELD. She was one of the kindest neighbors and her superior qualities as a nurse were often put into practice. “Her spirit was a power and her Christian faith sublime,” were the words of a friend written after her death.
This lady once had a remarkable dream, which is given in her own words, as follows: “I saw a train loaded with men of distinction in all parties. The train passed swiftly. I could not see James, but knew he was on this rushing train. There was a crash; the train was off the track, and there was great confusion.”
The “friend” already referred to, writes: “When last I saw this sister, save once, was when the throng massed about her brother on the Mentor platform, as he was about to depart for Washington, just before his inauguration. The train moved and he had gone, never more to return. There was no mention of her painful foreboding’s when I took her hand, but I remembered her remarkable dream.
“I saw her again in the home of Mrs. GARFIELD in Cleveland. She was weak and disease was settled upon her lungs. She talked of the future and of death. She said: ‘James is gone, and I am going! You wrote of him, and when I am gone write some word of me!’
“I have kept my promise, feeling that a noble spirit passed from earth to Heaven that day of November 1884.”
Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert HUDDLESTON were originally from Belfast, Ireland. They lived for several years in a log house in the woods, but purchased a farm on “The Ledge,” where they built a comfortable home, in which the widow still lives, at the advanced age of eighty-four years.
In addition to her own large family Mrs. HUDDLESTON reared an adopted son, who is a popular teacher, now traveling in Europe. Her daughter Mary, Mrs. Daniel McAFEE, was “home guard” during the war, while her husband was in the army, looking after the farm and caring for her children.
Mr. and Mrs. Amasa LITTLE settled on the farm where their eldest son now lives. Mr. LITTLE died, and his widow married Mr. KELLY. She died 1890.
Mrs. Simon NORTON (Sally PEASE) won a race in spinning upon a wager with a friend. Two ounces was a day’s work, and she spun six ounces. One summer she milked sixteen cows, and the following winter twenty-four. She also made cheese.
Mrs. Orson NORTON (Ursula KENT) was bedridden nearly thirty years. Shortly before her death she was helped by the “faith cure,” so she could go about among her friends.
Mrs. Leander CHAMBERLIN (Susan WILLEY) had a large family, but was equal to the task of taking care of them. She often did her washing by the side of a stream half a mile away. She was very hospitable and well skilled in the art of dressing wounds.
Mrs. Simeon SHEPERD relates many pleasing incidents of pioneer life.
Mrs. William OLDS spent many years in California, returning to care for her aged mother.
Mrs. Thomas POLLNER (Mary Ann JOHNSTON), Mrs. James LUCKNOR (Abigail HARPER), Mrs. Avry PHELPS (Betsy BARTLETT), and more, of which space forbids mention, were honorable and honored residents of Solon.
Mrs. M.N. BULL
Chairman and Historian
Solon Committee - Mrs. L.J. LITTLE, Miss Hetta BLACKMAN, Mrs. John COCHRAN, Mrs. Ella BLACKMAN, Mrs. Charles CONNOR