There are two theories for the origin of the name of Ramsdell. Some authorities believe it was derived from the ancient English name of Ramsdale that was adopted by a family living in a place by that name. The place name was taken from the word rhonia or ramps meaning wild onions and the word dale meaning a low valley. The second theory is that the name is a corruption of the English name Ramsden, sometimes Ramsgill, and came into use chiefly in its present form after the immigration of the family to America. The later theory is generally accepted as the more plausible.
Families of the name Ramsden were found at early dates in the English counties of York, Oxford, Lancaster, Essex, Nottingham and London as well as in various parts of Ireland. Horace Valentine Ramsdell (1842-1914) often mentioned that he was of Scotch-Irish descent, a tradition which was probably handed down from father to son many times. Among the records of England are Thomas de Ramesden of Essex County in 1273, Matthew de Ramsdeyn of Yorkshire in 1379, Humfrage Ramsdon of London before 1562, John Ramsden of Howarth about 1620 and William Ramsden of Hull about 1650.
The name of the family in early American records is found as both Ramsden and Ramsdell and sometimes seems to have been used interchangeably. Probably the first Ramsdell family to immigrate to America was John Ramsdell of Lynn, Massachusetts, in the year 1629-30. Other early immigrants of the family were John of Virginia in 1642, John of Newtown, Long Island before 1633 and Joseph of Plymouth, Massachusetts before 1643.
First Known Ancestor
Captain John Ramsdell, is the first known ancestor if this family branch. His title was not a military one, but came from his sailing activities. He built his own boats and used them to transport passengers and goods on Lake Erie.
[Ralph T. Wolfrom wrote that Joseph was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, 22 October 1767; died 1828, and married Sarah Furnace about 1782. However, there were many Ramsdell families in Lynn and extensive genealogical information is available about these families. So far no definite link has been made between the Ramsdells in Ohio and those in Lynn].
Blockhouses and Military Posts of The Firelands (Cherry,1934) reports that Joseph Ramsdell came to Ohio in 1811 with four sons; a daughter, Abigail Shirley; and her husband Abiather Shirley (p.67).
Joseph Ramsdell and his wife, Sarah, moved to Oswego, New York, in 1797. In 1811 the family, except for Lydia, moved to Danbury Township, Ottawa County, Ohio, in their boat The Swan which they built at Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario, New York. Joseph had been to Ohio earlier in 1806 with a surveying party which included Benajah Wolcott. They went to Danbury (also know as Marblehead Peninsula), a part of the "Firelands".
Benajah Wolcott's second daughter, Selina, was born at Danbury, CT, in 1789 and she was 21 when they moved to the Peninsula. She married John Ramsdell in 1816 and they moved to Bloomingville, Ohio, in 1825. When John died, she may have married his brother Jacob Ramsdell. Selina died 30 July 1880 and is buried in the Bloomingville cemetery.
[Selina's sister was Phoebe who married Truman Pettibone in Cleveland around 1814. They lived on the Peninsula.]
[Fireland's records (p.580 list a Captain Joseph Ramsdell as a Revolutionary soldier buried in the Bloomingville cemetery, Erie County. Also listed (p.74) is a William Furnace, Revolutionary hero, buried in Olena cemetery, Huron County. Abiather Shirley gave the land for the cemetery.
Captain Joseph Ramsdell built a blockhouse on the Peninsula. Blockhouses had the upper story projecting over the lower and loopholes were in the floor. If attacked by Indians, men could retreat into the blockhouse and fire down upon the heads of the enemy as they tried to batter in the doors.
In the fall, when the War of 1812 was breaking out, the Ramsdell family left the Peninsula and rowed across to Ogontz Place, taking refuge in an abandoned cabin. The Ramsdell men then returned to harvest their wheat and hemp on the Peninsula. A boatload of soldiers landed there to get apples from an orchard. As the Ramsdells were pulling away from the shore, one of the soldiers was shot. That night they saw the flames from their blockhouse being burned by the Indians.
Captain Joseph Ramsdell bought additional land in 1814 but after that there is no record of him. He was wounded in the Battle of the Peninsula and his son, Valentine, was killed.
During the War of 1812, Captain Ramsdell built a new, larger boat called The Eliza. Firelands records state that Sarah Furnace was a passenger on The Swan but nothing more can be found. She may have died en route. Children of Captain Joseph Ramsdell and Sarah Furnace were:
1. Lydia Ramsdell, born 30 Sept. 1783 died 23 Sept.1861 married John Hitchings 18 Apr. 1809.
2. Abigail Ramsdell, born 1785, died 1849, married Abiather Shirley 17 Nov. 1816.
3. Jacob Ramsdell, born 1786, died 1849, married Experience .
4. Horace Ramsdell, born 4 Sept. 1792 in Greenwich, MA, died 29 Jan. 872, married first Sarah Willert 1817, married second Sarah Bullard 23 Feb. 1825.
5. John Ramsdell, born 1793[?], died 16 Nov. 1832, married Selina Wollcott 7 Nov. 1816.
6. Valentine Ramsdell, born 1796[?], killed September 1812 by Indians in Ohio during the War of 1812.
Horace Ramsdell, the son of Joseph and Sarah, married his cousin, Sarah Bullard, the second time. The children of Horace Ramsdell and Sarah Bullard were:
1. John Ramsdell, born 24 Mar. 1826, died 1893.
2. Jacob Ramsdell, born 19 Feb. 1828, died 1828.
3. Sarah Ramsdell, born 6 Feb. 1830, died 1894.
4. Selina Ramsdell, born 26 April 1832, died 1908, married James Howell.
5. Mary Ramsdell, born 24 July 1834, died young.
6. Adelia Ramsdell, born 31 July 1835, died 1900.
7. Malissa Ramsdell, born 6 April 1837, died young.
8. James Howell Ramsdell, born 23 Feb. 1840, married Emogene Palmer, died 30 Oct. 1916.
9. Horace Valentine Ramsdell, born 23 June 1842, died 17 Jan. 1914, married Alma Louise Bardwell 24 Dec. 1876.
10. Lydia J. Ramsdell, born 24 Oct. 1844, married Stephen Paxton, died 1923.
11. Susan C. Ramsdell, born 7 Aug. 1846, died 1850.
12. Hellen C. Ramsdell, born 25 July 1848, died 1850.
John Ramsdell (1826-1893) was among those who participated in the California gold rush in 1849. A letter written by him from Independence, Missouri, on his way west is supposed to be still in existence.
Horace Valentine Ramsdell was chosen at a family meeting in 1861 to fulfill their military obligations for the Civil War. He enlisted in the Union Army at 19 years of age and served with the 101st Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The company was mustered into service on August 1, 1861 under Captain Messer and Lt. John Fleming. The following account was printed in the Sandusky Register on Jan 24, 1914 at the time of his death:
"His company was assigned to duty in the Army of the Cumberland and from Monroeville was sent to Covington Ky., where that division of the Union troops were severely pressing Gen. Bragg and slowly forcing his retreat southward across Kentucky and Tennessee. In this campaign Mr. Ramsdell participated in the battles of Perryville, Crab Orchard and the engagements around Nashville. He was shot twice in the battle of Stone River, Murfreesboro, Tenn., Dec. 31, 1861, during the first day of that bloody engagement. The remainder of that day, the night following, all during New Year's day and through the next night he lay upon the field with a hole entirely through his body big enough for a good sized handkerchief to be drawn through it with the bullet from the other shot lodged in his hip. The fight raged over the bodies of the dead and wounded, the artillery passing and repassing over these bodies just as they lay on the field of carnage.
"When the ambulance department gathered him up and turned him over to the army surgeons at the hospital at Nashville it was believed that his wounds were mortal and he was sent on to Louisville to be taken to Covington where his experience in the country of the enemy first began.
"When, presented to the steamboat officials for transportation up the Ohio, they refused to receive him unless a coffin also be provided and placed aboard, so near was he to death's door. En route another man died and the coffin intended for him was used as a receptacle for that man's body.
"To Covington his mother and his brother went to bring him home but it was only after two months of patient nursing by his mother that he was sufficiently restored to strength to stand the homeward trip. His discharge from the army bears the date of March 17, 1862.
"Returning home the deceased spent a year in partial recovery of his health and strength, at the end of which time he and his brother, James, were called upon to go to Portland, Oregon, to bring home their older brother, John, who had gone there 16 years before as a 'Forty Niner' and who was critically ill."
His family recalls that he couldn't lie down for a year and would spend day and night in a rocking chair. In The History of Erie County, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich in 1889, it was reported that Horace Ramsdell "receives a much merited pension of $24 per month" for his Civil War service.
Horace went to British Columbia, Canada in 1865 to get his brother, John, who was on his way home from the gold rush with $3000 but was robbed and stranded in Vancouver. Horace went to the Black Hills district with his brother, James, around 1876 for the mining excitement there but soon returned home.
Horace Valentine Ramsdell, and Alma Louise Bardwell were married in Bloomingville, Ohio, in the home of Benjamin Rodgers. Their children were:
1. Sara Louise Ramsdell, born 15 April 1878, married Horatio M. Linn 1 Jan. 1902.
2. George Bardwell Ramsdell, born 14 April 1880, believed died 14 Feb. 1964, married first Elsie Richmont Prout 12 Dec. 1902, married second Mildred Reynolds.
3. Wade Owen Ramsdell, born 30 Nov. 1882, died 5 Jan. 1886.
4. Alma Gertrude Ramsdell, born 4 July 1886, died 30 Jan. 1962, married Ralph T. Wolfrom 8 Sept. 1909.
Alma Gertrude Ramsdell was born in Bloomingville, Ohio, an graduated from the Sandusky High School. She attended the Centenary Seminary for Girls in Cleveland, Tennessee.
After Graduation she taught for several years in a one-room county school but was not fond of teaching. When she married Ralph T. Wolfrom, The Bellevue Gazette wrote:
"The bride is the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsdell and is a highly accomplished and cultured young lady, being a graduate of the Sandusky high school and for several years past has been a popular and efficient teacher. She is a young lady of many graces and will make an ideal wife.
"The groom is a popular and well known young man of this city where his whole life has been passed. He is a graduate of our local high school and at present holds the responsible position of secretary of the Local and Bellevue Home Telephone companies. His marriage is the culmination of a pretty romance commenced some three or four years ago and he is to be congratulated upon having won so charming a bride."
While living in Shippensburg, Pa., Gertrude Wolfrom was a member of the Memorial Lutheran Church, the Franklin County Daughters of the American Revolution, an Ohio Chapter of the Daughters of 1812, the Shippensburg Historical Society and the Shippensburg Civic Club.
She died in Jennersville Memorial Hospital near West Grove, Pa., and was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery near Shippensburg with her husband.
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Richard W. Taylor
Kennett Square, PA