Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Ebenezer Smith

From The Painesville Telegraph, Painesville, Ohio, April 11, 1861, "Sketches of the Pioneers No. 13," and reprinted in the April 1985 "LakeLines," the newsletter of the Lake County Genealogical Society.

The subject of the present sketch, - Ebenezer Smith, or, as the people called him, "Eb. Smith," - was born in the State of New Jersey, at a place near N.Y. City, and one authority says it was probably at Symesbury Mines, in the year 1771. There are no records, nor any friends in this vicinity, from which or from whom the day or the month of his birth can be ascertained. We are able to gather but one incident in connection with the period of his life which he spent in New Jersey, and this we shall mention below. He left his native State for the purpose of settling at Chillicothe, in this State; but falling in company with Elisha Graham, who was coming to settle on the farm at the mouth of Chagrin River, he was persuaded to change his purpose, and to locate there also. Smith and Graham crossed the Allegheny mountains together with their teams. Smith's family then consisted of himself, wife and four children, and all were brought in one two-horse team. We have only some indefinite allusions to the journey over the montains, from which we understand that it was a tedious one, attended with but little else than trials and hardships.

He arrived at Willoughby, then Chagrin, one authority says, in 1799 - another says in the Spring of 1801, which is probably the correct one. From Burton they were obliged to cut their road through the forest. He purchased 105 acres of land of David Abbott, agent of Olmsted, on the Chagrin River, and adjoining (we think) on the South the farm of Elisah Graham. Smith's log house, we are told, was the first on the Lake Shore in that vicinity. He was a blacksmith by trade, and proved to be a very useful settler from that fact. He made the irons for the first vessel built on the river by a man whose name we have been unable to get. Later, when Abbott built his Mill (where the Willoughby Mills now stand) he made the irons for that also. Settlers in Mentor say he did what blacksmithing their necessities required. When the first Mills were built the millstones were made by the builders out of the boulders found scattered here and there over the country, and splitting them into halves preparatory to dressing them up for grinding purposes, was no small part in the task of making the stones. In making the irons to divide them, Smith was an indispensable resource.

In 1812 and during the war, Smith lived in Poland, Trumbull county. There were two reasons for this change. One was that it was deemed more safe for his family, and another that it promised him better employment at his trade.

Smith was not a hunter as the term was used in those times, but he was accustomed to shoot waterfowl along the river, at which he is said to have had rare sport. He was a trapper, however, making his own traps, and in his time caught large numbers of raccoon, mink, muskrat, and otter.

The incident to which we have alluded above is this: In New Jersey he sold a house and lot for four hundred dollars, and was paid for it in paper currency, which depreciated in his hand and became nearly or quite an entire loss to him. Afterwards he never would keep a bankbill over night at his responsibility; and so long as he lived in Willoughby, if obliged to take any paper money, he would hand it over to a particular friend in the mercantile trade, with the understanding that at a convenient day he was to have the specie for it.

From the foregoing, it may be inferred that his characteristics were very peculiar. With all his faults in some matters, he was a practical christian. He is said to have been a remarkable reader, reading everything that his hands could lay hold on. His mind delighted in controversy. In the early part of his life in Willoughby, he is said to have identified the pettifogger, and always before a Justice of the Peace when an opportunity offered would espouse the cause of the poor man, and plead it free of charge. It is said that he was commonly successful. Pursuing that course for some years he at length learned from some officer of the Court in Cleveland that very many of his cases were carried up, and then the men whom he had befriended were usually beaten because they had not the means to carry on their cases - he never afterwards would enlist in their behalf, but would advise a settlement.

His farm usually produced for him a surplus of grain. He always wanted $1.00 per bushel for his wheat, 50 cents for corn, and 25 cents for his potatoes, and would never take more than that. When there was a scarcity in farmers' products, and were high priced, he would not sell out his entire surplus to any man of property, but would parcel it out to poor men, giving them the advantage of his fixed prices. But with these excellent qualities his character was sullied with the most strong and bitter prejudices, and when aroused he evinced the most violent and unrelenting temper.

During his later years he lived quietly at his unpretending home, a log house on the bottoms of Chagrin river, only leaving it occasionally to visit town. He died, one account says, in August, 1849, and another, in 1850, in the 79th year of his age. The last date is probably correct. He was known to have had some money, and would loan it to certain ones for no more than lawful interest, and when he died it was supposed that he had treasure buried away where it would remain in safety to him, but whether the supposition was true or not the public never have learned. Thus lived and died another of our pioneers, who, although he moved in the most common walks of life, was a remarkably eccentric man.

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