Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Benjamin Blish

From The Painesville Telegraph, Painesville, Ohio, August 1, 1861, "Sketches of the Pioneers No. 15," and reprinted in the January 1986 "LakeLines," the newsletter of the Lake County Genealogical Society.

Transcribed and submitted by Becky Falin, 1996.

A pioneer, whoever he be, is a subject of interest to the people of the present day. He is about the only link connectig the Past with the Present. The story of his trials, privations, hardships and toils, is the history in detail of our country. We turn to the account of all these with the liveliest concern. The following will be read with a relish:

"Benjamin Blish was born in Bolton, Tolland Co., Conn., February 22d, 1753. In 1774 he was married to Phebe Skinner, sister of the late Capt. Abraham Skinner, of Painesville. About the year 1780 he moved with his family to Middlefield, Hampshire Co., Mass., where they resided till they left for Ohio. In February, 1804, he started for the West, with his brother-in-law, Capt. Skinner. They traveled on the snow in sleighs till they came to Buffalo, and on the ice of the Lake the latter part of the way. He spent the Spring and Summer in Painesville and its vicinity, and bought a lot of land and made some preparation for removing his family. In the Fall he returned to Massachusetts. On the 20th day of June, 1805, he started with his family for Ohio. The family being the first who started from that part of the country, they received many greetings from their old friends and neighbors - some encouraging and some weeping, and hardly daring to indulge the hope that they would ever accomplish their anticipated long journey to Ohio; and thinking it probable if they should they would be destroyed by savages or beasts of prey.

Leaving his oldest daughter, then the wife of Orris Clapp, late of Mentor, his family consisted of himself and wife, six daughters, and two sons aged 21 and 12. The family proceeded on their journey prosperously for some time, but while passing through the State of New York the father was taken with the ague, having a shake every other day, and somewhat hindering their progress. A considerable distance before reaching Buffalo they found the country very new and roads bad. They arrived at Buffalo on the 6th or 7th of July, and stayed a day or two to prepare for the remaining part of the journey, anticipating a hard road to travel. From Buffalo to Erie they found it almost impossible to obtain anything for the sustenance of man or beast. Starting from Buffalo they came on about nine miles and put up for the night. The next day they laid by, the wind and waves preventing travel on the beach of the lake. They traveled by short stages, sometimes finding a shelter for the night in some friendly log-cabin near the lake, and sometimes going into the bush, felling a basswood tree and tying the horses at the head to eat leaves, having no grass, the family sleeping in and about the wagons. They arrived at Erie on the 16th of July, the horses being badly worn down and unfit for business, and hearing a bad report of the way before them, he sold one wagon to a man by the name of Ross (the owner of an open boat), for which he agreed to bring the family and stuff to Fairport in his boat.

"On the 18th of July, the boys started from Erie with the horses and two dogs, and came to Conneaut where they put up for the night. Next morning they started, expecting to get to Painesville that day, but finding hard traveling in the sand, and sometimes in the water, they progressed rather slow. A little before night a slight shower wet then considerably, and night coming on and no signs of any road or of the mouth of Grand River, they were obliged to stop for the night. They went out among the bushes near the bank of the lake, and camped without food or any loose covering - without means to kindle a fire or weapons of defence larger than a pocket-knife. They stripped the horses and let them shift for themselves, took the cloth from the side-saddle and spread it on the ground, took the saddles for pillows, and lay down and were soon shrouded by the dark curtains of the night. During the night they were frequently disturbed by the dogs, who seemed to be much annoyed by wild animals, and when set on furiously the dogs would be driven back affrighted to their somewhat excited masters, - neither boys or dogs seeming to understand what new society they were likely to be introduced into. After a rather long night for the time of the year, morning came, and going back about a mile they found the horses and wagons at the mouth of Grand River; finding no path they took to the woods, after straggling a while came out at the residence of General Edward Paine, and crossing Grand River arrived at Captain Skinner's some time before noon on the 20th of July. The family were detained a day or two before they could get out from Erie, and after coming on a considerable distance they were several times in jeopardy by high winds. One of the boatmen carried the family ashore in his arms, while the other two held the boat. The boat was driven back and its fate unknown for several days. Meanwhile the family were obliged to walk several miles on the beach and in the woods before they could find a place of shelter. Two or three days afterwards the boat came on and took them in; and through the guidance of the kind Providence of God they all landed safe in Painesville on the 30th of July, having been on the way forty-one days. They went into one room of a log-house with Esq. Merry, on the farm now owned by Isaac Sawyer, Esq., of Mentor. In December, 1805, he moved into his own log cabin on the land which is now the home farm of his youngest son, the Hon. Zenas Blish."

"His earlier life among the rugged hills of his New England home, surrounded by a comparatively large family, was necessarily one of severe labor and close economy, in order to make its ends meet. - After he had got his family located on his farm here, with the means to obtain an easier livelihood, he left the care of the farm to his boys, and taking care of the garden and the chores of the house more immediately, he spent his last days to quietness, submitting cheerfully to the privations incident to a new settlement, and rejoicing in the assurance that he had placed his children in a more desirable location than the Green Mountains of Massachusetts. He died on the 11th of March, 1825, at the ripe age of 72 years and 17 days. His relict, Phebe Blish, died October 5th, 1844, at the still riper age of 91 years and 10 days. Of their descendants a very considerable number have died, and their living offspring now amount to 120 or 130 souls."

We shall continue, as we have opportunity to do so in these war times, the publication of the Pioneer sketches. What would they say if brought back to witness the attempt now being made to destroy that Government which many of them aided in establishing?

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Last updated 28 Apr 2003

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