Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Judge John Walworth

From The Painesville Telegraph, Painesville, Ohio, September 27, 1860, "Sketches of the Pioneers No. 9," and reprinted in the May 1984 "LakeLines," the newsletter of the Lake County Genealogical Society.

In the main the personal characteristics of the pioneers were the same. The same love of adventure, perseverance for the accomplishment of any enterprize undertaken, and power of endurance, belonged really to all; yet, in the detail of all those little matters constituting character, many of the Pioneers were peculiar; and there were none more in this particular than John Walworth. In the early part of his life, in which transpired his journeys westward, his mishaps and trials were numerous, and various in character; and yet discouragements never seemed to find confession in the lineaments of his face or expression from his tongue. A uniform cheerfulness under all misfortunes, a confident feeling to overcome all of them, never forsook him; and ever and under all his trials he redoubled his efforts for final triumph.

Our subject was born in Stonnington, Conn., on the 10th of June, 1765. His early training and preparation for the duties of life, he got in the Common School. He first, we believe, as a vocation learned the silversmith trade. He was married in Connecticut to Juliana Morgan, but at what time our authorities do not state; and before he left the State, one child was added to his family.

Finally, Mr. Walworth turned his course towards the West, and moved to Aurora, N.Y. here he engaged in merchandizing. His first home was a log house. But misfortune was on his track. One day while away at Schenectady, on business, his house caught fire and burned up. He learned of the untoward circumstance before starting for home, and with that forethought which will ever enable a man to overcome all ill fortunes, he purchased some of the most needed articles to commence housekeeping again, such as knives and forks, cups and saucers, packing all, however, in the old style of saddle-bags, placed them on his horse and mounted on himself to go home. (One of the cups and saucers, one of his daughters, Mrs. Dr. Long, living in Cleveland, has in keeping, as a relic of early times.) Report says he reached home undiscouraged, and meeting his wife whose heart had yielded to the calamity, and had about given up to despair, he addressed her with cheer, and drew her mind at once from the contemplation of the untoward event with conversation in reference to the articles he had brought home with him to commence housekeeping again.

But Walworth built him another house, a framed one, and it is said to have been the first one of the kind built in Aurora. He continued his business successfully for some seven or eight years, until exciting stories began to come from the farther West, the New Connecticut. He was appointed agent of the Connecticut Land Company; so starting in the Fall of 1799 with a man in his employ, Johm Miller, whose sketch we have given, with two horses, a yoke of cattle, and one cow, he made selection of what was afterwards Gov. Huntington's farm, and now occupied by his two sons, Julian C. and Colbert Huntington; and with Miller's aid cleared away the site, cut the logs, raised the house, and got everythig in readiness for shingling it, and leaving Miller to finish it, he started in January for Aurora, for Miller's family and his own.

To return with,he had two horse teams, one for his own family-consisting of his wife, four children, a colored girl and Miss Lucy Phelps (a relation of his wife's, who afterwards married Robert B. Parkman, of Parkman) - and one for Miller's family consisting of his wife and two children. A hired man drove one team, and they arrived in Buffalo in February. Here they hired a house, moved the two families in, unloaded their goods, and started back to Aurora to bring up the goods that had been left behind. In coming back to Buffalo, just before they reached that place, in crossing a creek, one sleigh broke through the ice, wetting a quantity of coffee and some dry goods, but these were dried at Buffalo without much damage. Here the families were stowed into the sleighs, and joining company with William and John Reed and their mother, who were going to Erie, they started off for that place. They made as good a drive as possible on the lake, and at night drove up on the bank of the lake, cut boughs and laid them on the snow, and camped for the night. The company made a common supper and breakfast, using a large chest for a table. Starting early in the morning they made Erie late in the evening. Here again Walworth unloaded and left the families and went back for the two loads of goods remaining at Buffalo. As they were returning the weather had been thawing the ice, and just before they reached Erie another accident occurred. The team behind broke the ice, and speedily the report reached Mrs. Walworth that her husband was in the lake. She started for the scene with feeling more easily imagined than described, but the matter came out better than was at first apprehended. The team was got out and the lighter articles of the load but a cask or two containing chains and farming tools sank to the bottom of the lake.

The first matter in order now again was drying of the goods, and as soon as this was done, Judge Walworth, leaving his family at Erie, went back to Schenectady to get his farming tools replaced, and returned to Erie in a wagon. Finally, all things being in readiness, the journey was resumed. They left Erie the 26th of April, in an open boat, for Grand River-the boat and two men being hired for the purpose. They landed on the beach at Grand River on the 28th of the month. Mr. W., previous to his departure, had blazed the trees from his house to the lake, and at once commenced the business of conveying the goods to the new house, which, contrary to expectation, was not yet finished. Miller in the meantime had built himself a house. For three weeks, whilst the house was being finished, Walworth's family lived under a tent.

An idea of the social condition of the country may be formed from a single fact. For nine months Mrs. Walworth never saw a female outside of her family. The first was Mrs. General Paine.

Their house was a large double log one, and at one time for two consectutive nights 101 Indians stayed with them.

Many incidents occurred during those days-most of them have passed from mind. However, some of them have come down to the present. Walworth's cattle were very troublesome. They strayed away frequently, and this used to cause frequent long tramps to find them. There was a tamarack swamp in Mentor to which they often strayed, and as often it would cost long searches for them. Many nights had Walworth been lost and obliged to be in the woods. The wolves used to make frequent levies upon the sheep-fold. Upon one occasion a noise was heard about the hog sty, and upon examination it was found that a large bear had attacked the contents, an old sow, and had the sow upon its back carrying her off. The bear was pursued and compelled to drop its prey. Walworth afterwards used the dead sow for bait, and arranged a gun so that whatever disturbed the sow would fire it off and get its contents. During the succeeding night the report of the gun was heard, and a dead bear was found near the bait.

In 1801 Walworth went East after some goods and provisions, and when he returned he brought back Mrs. David Abbott and son, and Abram Tappan-the latter became the first school teacher in Painesville.

While at Painesvile he was appointed Collector of Customs. At that time it was supposed that Fairport would be the important shipping point in this region. In April, 1806, he resolved to move to Cleveland, having disposed of his land to Charles Parker. His goods were loaded on a boat, and three men, Tappan, a Mr. Howard, and another whose name we have not been able to get, accompanied. They set sail and had got up opposite to what was called Ellenwood Still House, when a squall came up and they were driven back to Fairport, and on entering the river the boat was capsized and the goods scattered over the lake; but the men clung to the boat and were finally washed ashore. Walworth was so chilled that he was unable to walk. Tappan and the other man being better off, started for Skinner's, for help. During their absence Walworth made what progress he was able to, crawling on the ground, and was met and taken up to Capt. Skinner's by the returning party. Mrs. W. had gone on to Cleveland on horseback, accompanied by Gov. Huntington. She was overtaken and brought back. The gathering of the scattered goods was the next task, which was no small one, as some of them floated down as low as Ashtabula. The provisions on the boat were pretty much all lost.

At Cleveland Mr. Walworth was at one time Associate Judge. He was also for some years postmaster. He held the postition of Collector under the U. S. Government as long as he lived, and his son, we believe, was appointed after him. He lived in the enjoyment of the esteem of his fellow men. He died September 11th, 1812. Two of his daughters, Mrs. Dr. Long and Mrs. Dr. Strickland, still live at Cleveland, but all the rest of his family, we think, his wife and his son, have fallen in that "sleep that knows no waking."

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Last updated 22 Apr 2003

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© 2003 Cynthia Turk. All rights reserved.