Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Capt. Abraham Skinner

From The Painesville Telegraph, Painesville, Ohio, February 23, 1860, "Sketches of the Pioneers No. 6," and reprinted in the July 1983 "LakeLines," the newsletter of the Lake County Genealogical Society.

CAPT. ABRAHAM SKINNER, the subject of the following remarks, was born in Glostenburg, Conn., in the year 1755. Family tradition declares that he was descended from an old English family, which emigrated to this country on the ascent of Charles the Second to the British throne. The family having been favorable to the rule of Cromwell, and having held office under him, counseling pudence, came to America. In the possession of the American branch of the Skinners, in the beginning of the present century, there was a sword which had been used by an ancestor as an officer under Cromwell.

Capt. Skinner was one of a family of nine children three of whom were sons and six were daughters. Of his earlier habits, his training or his traits, nothing has come to our knowledge. In 1787, Capt. Skinner was married to Mary Ayers, and resided for a time in Malberry, Conn., and then moved his family to East Hartford, in the same state. In 1796 he went to England, as we have been informed, as the agent of some company or association of individuals, to select some blooded horses and import them to this country. On his return he brought back four stallions, the names of three of which have come down to the present, to wit - "King William," "Creeper," and "All Fours." It is said these horses were the progenitors of some of the finest horses in both New England and Virginia.

In the year 1798, through the representations and persuasions of Gen. Edward Paine, (whose sketch has already been published) he was induced to make large purchases of land in Painesville, in Springfield and Twinsburg, now in Summit county, and in Brecksville, - then all embraced in Trumbull county. In Painesville, in conjunction with Col. Eleazer Pain, he bought the entire tract No. 4, embracing 3240 acres. Capt. S. returned from Ohio after making his selection of land, and remained in East Hartford, Ct., until 1803, when he again visited Ohio, subdividing his land in Painesville into lots suitable for farms, and conjointly with Col. Paine, laid out the village of New Market, and contracted for the clearing of some land and the building of a house and barn. These were erected near where Mr. H. H. Hine (a grand-son of Capt. Skinner) now lives, and on the farm which has still retained the name of its original purchaser. Returning again to Connecticut, he remained there until 1805, when in March of that year, he started with his family - consisting of his wife, two daughters, three sons, and two hired men - for Painesville, in sleighs. They journeyed on by the then accustomed route through the State of N.Y. to Buffalo. Here they took the ice on the Lake, and kept it until they reached Madison of this county. During the last day, between Ashtabula and Madison, one of the teams driven by one of the hired men, broke through the ice, but it was extricated with some difficulty, and on they went. Soon after, the horse ridden by Pauline, one of the daughters (and now wife of Nathan Perry, and mother of Mrs. M. B. Payne, of Cleveland) broke through, but was soon got out, and still on they journeyed. At Madison they remained over night, and in the morning the ice which from Buffalo up had made them so good a sleigh track, was all gone, and they were able to reach their new home that day by land.

Capt. Skinner became actively engaged in making improvements at once and exerted himself to induce settlers to come in. Several shortly followed him. Some of these may be named as follows: Capt. Joseph Pepoon, a Mr. Jones, and a Mr. Blish. The two last settled in Mentor. Deacon Blish, one of them, was father to Benjamin and Zenas Blish, now of the most respectable of the citizens of Mentor. Matthew (our Representative in the Legislature) and Thomas Clapp are grandsons of Deacon Blish. The Jones family finally moved to Michigan, and founded the flourishing village of Jonesville.

Capt. S. laid out the village of Fairport, and, of course, was one of the most active and efficient men in getting appropriations for the harbor. At New Market landing, about one mile and a quarter from the mouth of the river, near his residence, he built some two or three warehouses.

When Geauga county was carved out of Trumbull county, Capt. S. made strong efforts to have the Co. seat located at Painesville. The first Court was held by Judge Pease, in Skinner's barn; and in the frst trial, Skinner was Plaintiff and Lemuel Forbes Defendant. Skinner was beaten. The second trial was a case of theft: Robert Meeker was convicted and whipped on the bare back ten lashes. The property stolen was a bar of iron and it was taken from E. Williams,* father of Col. Henry Williams of this place. The thief was sentenced under the Connecticut Territorial law.

But very soon after the period of these trials, the County seat was removed, it is said, chiefly from a want of unanimity on the part of the citizens of Painesville, to Chardon, and there permanently located. A little jealousy, a little selfishness, often sacrifics the best interest of the community. If this were the only instance where such results, for such reasons, had happened, it would not be worthy of nention here. The location of the State Road from Lake Erie, making Painesville or Fairport one terminus, is attributed, in a large degree, to the influence of Capt. Skinner. This road, before the canal was built from Portsmouth to Cleveland, (and which might have been brought in at this place but for a want of enterprise on the part of the citizens of Painesville ) and the cross cut from Beaver, Pa., to Akron, made Fairport and Painesville prominent places on the Lake Shore. And it may be truthfully said of him that he was ever active in all enterprises tending to develope the resources of the country, and to speed on its improvement.

Of his personal characteristics much might be said. He had means so that he made large improvements at once, and thus to produce early large quantities (considering the circumstances) of grain. His farm was well stocked, also, and he was, therefore, able to be a source of help to the poorer settlers. It is said that no man went to him for help, or for something for food, and went away without it. If he had money he got it - if he had none, he got it - a note would cancel present demand; and we have been credibly informed that there are in the hands of his children now occupying the old farm, notes taken in such cases that were sixty years old. Polite to everybody and generous to the needy and suffering everywhere, Capt. Skinner occupied a prominent place among the people of his time. But, dining with some friends one day, in attempting to eat a chicken's heart, it slipped into his throat and lodged - defying the skill of the physicians of that day to get it out. It remained in his throat until mortification ensued and he died the 14th day of January, 1826.

*Another authority states that the iron was stolen from William Harper.

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