Published monthly under the auspices of The Woman's Department
of the Cleveland Centennial Commission
Edited by: Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham / July 1896
When, in August, 1895, the women of Cleveland organized to assist the proposed celebration of the city's centennial year, local history was selected as one of he important features of the work which they were best qualified to do, and it was decided that in addition to resumes of the industrial and philanthropic work engaged in by women during the century of Cleveland's existence efforts should be made to enrich the history of the Western Reserve by securing and recording new facts in regard to it.
Accordingly the Woman's Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission created the office of "Historian" and appointed one of its members to fill the position, leaving the subject in her hands with which to devise or plan as she thought would best ensure the object desired.
Upon investigation, it was found that every county of the Reserve had its published history, and that in each was included that of the townships composing it, so that apparently everything worth mentioning already had been told.
One thing noticed, however, was the prominence given to biographies of men, living or dead, who had been identified with the settlement and growth of the Reserve, with little or no mention of their wives, who, doubtless, had performed an equal though different part in laying the foundations of future civilization and prosperity. The following anecdote, verbally related, served to stimulate the dawning thought that a fitting time had come in which to treat--not of the services, as usual of our forefathers--but, if the term be admissible, of our foremothers.
Twelve men, composing the jury in a criminal case on trial in a Northern Ohio town, found a verdict difficult to attain, and were weary from their long- continued effort to agree. It was night, and as the hours passed, one after another was overcome with a desire for sleep, which was thwarted by those best able to keep awake and most anxious for release.
Finally, someone suggested that every member of the jury who could tell the names of his grandmothers should be allowed to rest awhile. Every sleepy eye brightened at the prospect, but when the roll was called, only three men of the twelve could swear to adequate knowledge in both cases.
Some could give the maiden name of one grandmother--the one who lived the longest, or with whom they had been most associated--but, until the present moment, they had never possessed any laudable curiosity concerning the early life and environment of the other.
In view of this, a circular letter was prepared embodying the idea a history of the pioneer women could be written by women, and asking for co-operation in preparing it. This was mailed as fast as names and addresses could be secured, and the result was that with comparatively few exceptions, in town- ships all over the Western Reserve, women have been and are yet diligently working on this memorial to our mothers and grandmothers, the first chapters of which are given now, in order that they may be collectively submitted to the public at the opening of the Cleveland Centennial Celebration.
It can be seen readily why the work, as a whole, makes no pretense to literary merit, for the local historian often was the most accommodating, rather than the best qualified scribe, and the slowness of comprehension or indifference to the value of the work which led the capable to decline assistance, occasionally, when too late, became a matter of keen regret to themselves and to others.
The difficulty of finding in 216 townships, in which the editor was a stranger, women who could and then would, without remuneration, furnish the desired sketch, can be left to the intelligent appreciation of the reader.
And, therefore, whatever may be noted as crude in style, defective in composition or lacking in taste of selection, let it steadily be bourne in mind that not one in twenty who performed the task had written a line for publication, and that the nineteen others fully realized their limitations, and hesitate to undertake it.
This stated, not as an apology, but in explanation. All honor is, and in the years to come, will be given to every name following these historical sketches.
A postal card received by the editor will serve to indicate the difficulty under which many of the writers labored: "I hope to forward my article by the 15th, for I expect from now on to devote all the time to it that I can spare from absolutely necessary duties. But a family of six must eat, and I am cook; there is a big house to keep in order, and I am housemaid. But I shall leave every thing undone possible, devote myself to literary pursuits, and let the boys go ragged. For the sake of my soul's repose I want to finish it, for when I have worked all the evening, I go to bed so excited that I can scarcely sleep, and the ghosts of bygone generations hold high carnival all night long in my dreams, and the next morning my head aches.
Another chairman, in charge of the work at Fairfield, Huron County, had collected all necessary material, and partly prepared her sketch, when the serious illness of a relative imperatively called her out of town. Upon her return, she found her home and all its contents in ashes. Most women would have thought all responsibility in the matter ended with such a calamity. But this brave chairman, at the earliest possible moment, replaced her notes and forwarded them to Cleveland.
Death has claimed two of our historians since this work began. One, in which the pen dropped from the trembling fingers of old age; the other, with life all before her, and finished her task when the summons came.
The committee, who assisted the local chairman, should not be neglected in acknowledgement of service rendered. To them has been assigned an additional and most important feature of the work; one that requires much time and trouble--the vital statistics of women who lived on the Western Reserve previous to 1850. Comparatively few of them could be mentioned in the historical sketches, but this embraces each and all. The following is the order in which it is given. Married name: Mrs. John Ray; maiden name: Lois Hills; Year came to township: 1803; Where from: Groton, Conn.; last residence: Milan, O.
To the dissatisfied or disappointed, we would announce that it is not too late for additions and amendments. The second part, to be published by September 1st, will contain the "Errata" for this part, and in the fourth and last number space will be given such additional matter as the townships may desire to be included in the work
G. V. R. W.
Gertrude Van Rensselear Wickham, editor, A Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve: published under the auspices of the Woman's Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission 2 volumes (1896; reprint, Middleton, KY.: Whipporwill Press, 1981), v-vii.
Transcribed and submitted by Cathi Vannice 01 January 2002
Click on the link below to view the individual township entries. There are many names in each.
Fairfield Greenwich Lyme New Haven Wakeman
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