Lake County Ohio GenWeb
Transcribed and submitted by Becky Falin, 1996.
I am requested to give some reminiscences of the early settlement of Kirtland and the neighboring townships. I am not very well prepared for the task, having no records to refer to, and considering the fact that I was but little over five years old when I came to Kirtland, and that over seventy-eight years have elapsed since that time, some allowance must be made for the frailty of human memory. My father had traded his farm in Massachusetts with Joshua Stow, of Middleton, Conn. for 680 acres of land in New Connecticut, or the Connecticut Western Reserve, and now know generally as the Reserve. I have often been asked why Northeastern Ohio is called the Reserve. The answer in brief is, that the charters of the original colonies from the English crown clashed and overlapped each other. Virginia's charter covered nearly half the North American continent; Connecticut's charted extended to the Pacific ocean, covering a large part of New York, Pennsylvania, and the northern part of Ohio. After the revolution the colonies, then states in the Union, ceded to the general government all their western lands, except that Virginia reserved a portion of land in southern Ohio, which she had promised to her soldiers as a bounty. These lands are known as the Virginia military lands, and Connecticut reserved a portion of her lands in Ohio - beginning at a point where latitude 42nd north crosses the west line of Pennsylvania toLake Erie, and west 120 miles, containing between three and four million acres. A half million acres of these lands from the west end of the Reserve were given to the city of New London, on account of the burning of that city by the British, lead by the traitor Arnold. These were called the "Fire Lands" in an early day, but the name has become obsolete and forgotten. The balance of the Reserve was sold to the Connecticut Land Company for one millions two hundred thousand dollars, which went into the common school fund of Connecticut.
But to return from this digression to pioneer times. My father arrived in Unionville late in May; left his family with Deacon Martin (an old neighbor of his in Massachusetts), while he selected his lands. He had his choice of the south tract in Madison, the south tract in Kirtland, and the township of Stow in Portage county. He selected lots 88, 89, 90 and parts of lots 82 and 87, in Kirtland. Some two hundred acres of these lands were for John Morse, father of the later Col. John F. Morse, who was to have joined us in the spring. He then moved his family to Mentor and put up with Judge Clapp while he built a cabin on his selection at what is now known as Peck's Corners, seven miles distant by the old Chillicothe road. This road was cut out by General Paine at government expense, the only road then from Northeastern Ohio to Chillicothe, the capital of Ohio at the time. It left the ridge road at Judge Clapp's, running into a southwesterly direction to the Martindale farm in Kirtland; thence in a southeast to a point east of the Holbrook farm, now owned by George Sleemin, thence southwest to intersect the present road a little south of the north line of Chester township. My father in after years got an alteration of this road, running it from Chester down by Peck's Corners to Kirtland Flats; thence in a northeasterly direction to intersect the ridge road at the Sawyer farm in Mentor, a little west of the site of the old Avenue House - thereby shortening the distance and getting better ground for a road. While in Mentor at Judge Clapp's, many Indians passed going west. They seemed to understand that war was impending with Great Britain long before we did, and did not mean to be caught in Eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania with an American force between them and other western tribes and British allies. After we moved into Kirtland there was a camp of Indians about two miles from us, just over the line in Chester, on land now owned by Hezekiah Bassett, but they very soon left.
In the future number I will give what I know about the early settlement and pioneer life in Kirtland and neighboring townships, which is probably about as much as Horace Greeley knew about farming, but I have not the faculty that he had of telling what I don't know or do know and making it interesting.
Probably the first settler in Mentor were Charles Parker and Ebenezer Merry. They began the ridge road and the lake. Merry's opening was known as the Merry lot for years afterwards. Parker was one fo the assistants in surveying the Reserve. They were not permanent residents, but left in 1811 or 1812, and went farther west. Truman Griswold came at an early day. He was quite a hunter and trapper, and did much to rid this section of wolves, which were very dangerous and troublesome at that time. A man by the name of Fobes lived on the farm now owned by John Warren. He had several grils which I thought were very handsome. Judge Clapp had a large farm. Charles Prentiss now owns the party lying north of the road. On the site of the old log house south of the road now stands a fine framed house. I do not know the present owner's name. I think Warren Corning was the next settler west. He was a man of much enterprise and public spirit. He had been there some years - kept tavern, and I suppose dispensed good liquors. He built and operated a distillery on his own premises, also one in Kirtland a few years later. He did not mean that the early settlers should suffer for the want of spirituous comforts, which were then considered a part of the necessaries of life. There was a distillery operated by a Mr. Fox between Corning's and Chagrin, now Willoughby, and a brewery a little west of Willoughby, and a peach brandy still in the village. As there was then no foreign demand for whiskey, these establishments gave our sparse settlers a good supply - perhaps four times as much per capita as consumed now. There were several other settlers in West Mentor. I recollect only a Mr. Bacon, Abel Russell and seveal boys, nearly young men, and Mr. Jonathan Russell. It is related of him that he took a bushel of what on his horse to pay his bill, mounted his horse, took his girl on behind and went to Painesville to a dance. There were three ways of attending dance and merry-making parties - go on horseback with the girl behind, or with a yoke of cattle and sled, summer or winter, or go on foot. The first was the most genteel, and a horse that would carry double was invaluable. My father had one that would not carry double, and it detracted very much from its value. In my next I will tell you what little I know about Chagrin.
In the southeast corner of Chester there was a settlement made as early as 1802 by Justus Minor, his brother John, his sons Philo and Origen, his sons-in-law Harvey and John Sheffield, a Mr. Nettleton and a Mr. Baird. Dr. Wm N Hudson settled at what is now known as Chester X Roads. These I believe are all that settled in Chester previous to the war of 1812. Dr. Hudson, some years before the war of the rebellion, moved to southern Ohio and was killed by Morgan's raiders as they passed through Ohio. Some years previous to 1811 a tornado passed over the south part of Chester, leveling everything in its course. A tree fell on the cabin of John Minor, killing him instantly. He had palced the children under sleepers, their being no floor, and they were uninjured. The summer of 1816 was very cold and but little corn ripened. I recollect Harvey Sheffield being at our house and saying that he had not hoed his corn, he "scrupled" its getting ripe. The word "scruple" was new to me, and caused considerable study and inquiry to ascertain its meaning. The next spring the Sheffields and others went to Tuscarawas county to buy corn, their families subsisting in their absence on roots; principally on leeks or wild onions, which were very nutritious but of a very disagreeable flavor, tainting the breath and giving it to the milk of cows that foraged on them a sickening smell and unpalatable flavor.
We often hear the remark that the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer, which is not true. It is true that the rich are much better off than forty, fifty or sixty years ago; but the condition of the poor has also greatly improved, and the poor of today have more of the necessaries, comforts and luxuries of life than the rich had in the first thirty or forty years of the settlement of the Western Reserve. My father, as I before stated, moved into Kirtland early in July, 1811. There was one family in the township. John Moore, living on the farm now owned and occupied by Reuben P Harmon. He soon left. Peter French came from Mentor and settled at Kirtland Flats. John Parris settled a half mile south, on the farm now owned by George Frank. Isaac Morley and Titus Billing built their cabin on the farm of the late Hercules Carrel. John Moore, Sr., his son Isaac, then a lad of 19, and his daugher Rebecca, built their cabin where the Baptist church now stands. I think the mother was not living. In the spring came William Griffith, his father Amasa Griffith, Barzilla Millard, Thomas Fuller and Jonathan Maynard. Mr. Fuller was a millwright, or worker of stone; he dressed out several mill-stones from granite boulders, which he found with grit suitable for that purpose. One of his makes lies by the roadside near the residence of the late Isaac Long. Mr. Fuller went to Fullertown, built mills and a carding machine, giving his name to the village.
Of all the names that I mentioned as being here before the war of 1812, so far as I know, but only two remain - Augustus Pepoon, of Painesville, and myself. All have gone to the unknown land; their graves scattered far and wide, and their descendants of the third and fourth generation only remain. How sad the reflection; the friends of my youth and most of the friends of my riper years are gone, and I am left waiting the summons to move.
Our next great scare was at the time of Perry's victory. We distinctly heard the cannonading. The sound seemed to be the right of Cleveland and a little farther off, and we thought it must be a naval battle. Should the British be victorious, there was nothing to prevent them from landing at Cleveland and ravaging the whole lake shore with impunity. It was several days before our fears were allayed by news of the result.
Another source of perhaps greater danger to us than the British were the rattlesnakes, which were very numerous and required great cautiousness and watchfulness to avoid them and kill them when found, which we considered our bounden duty. I never know of but one to escape. My brother (younger than myself) and I were playing out in the choppings. Two large trees had been felled and lay parallel. He mounted the top end of one and I the other, for a race to see which one could reach the butt end first. When fifteen or twenty feet from the end a large rattlesnake coiled up the log sunning himself. I was too near and under too much headway to stop, and I gave a jump and went over him. I never did better jumping, but think my last step before jumping and my first step after must have been within easy reach of his snakeship, as they will nearly spring their whole length. I think he must have been asleep, or I should have been bitten. When I stopped and looked around he was slipping off the log down among the brush and weeds. We let him go and put for the house. Some time afterwards we burned the bush, and among the brands found a hollow stick, with a rattlesnake in it burned at both ends. I hoped that it might be the one that gave me the scare. A few years later they were hunted in the spring of the year as they came out of their dens. On the Gildersleeve mountain twenty-three were killed in one day, and they soon became extinct. In 1831 one was killed in the east part of the township, which I believe was the last ever seen in this region.
Wolves were plentiful and made the nights hideous with their howling. On a still, cold night we could hear them in two or three different directions; one or two would make noise enough for a dozen. My father was at Kirtland Flats late one evening, and Mr. French advised him not to go home till morning, as there were wolves in the swamp. The fine bottom land just southwest of the brick house at the Flats was most of it a swamp, with a thick growth of young hemlock timber, where the wolves often congregated - but father came home. There was a light snow on the ground in the morning, and tracks showed that three wolves had followed him home and passed several times around the house. Some years later there was a great wolf hunt, participated in by citizens of several townships. Lines were formed around a large scope of country by stationing men at suitable distances apart, all to march in toward a common center, which was in the southeast part of Chester township. They were to make such noise by blowing horns and other means, so as to drive the wolves together. I was too young to participate in the hunt, but ten or a dozen of the hunters tarried at our house on their return from the hunt. Their report was that several wolves had been seen and shot at, but broke through the lines, and none had been secured. From their actions the hunters seemed to have taken with them large rations of whisky. One of them stepped to the door and shot one of our hens, which incensed me very much, as we had so few domesticated animals that each had an individual interested and seemed like one of the family. But my indignation was soon turned to laughter. We had an old cat, an excellent mouser, who to show her superior skill as a hunter to our two-legged visitors, brought in a live mouse and laid it down at the feet of Jesse Ames, a lad of some 18 or 20 years. The mouse, not badly hurt, seeing a chance to escape, darted up his trousers. By the way he yelled and jumped about was enough to provoke laughter at a funeral. The mouse, with his sharp claws, worked its way to the waistband, when his friends interfered, stripped off his clothes and released him from his unwelcome visitor. We heard afterwards that one or two dead wolves had been found, and they soon disappeared, and their nightly serenades were but seldom heard.
There were some bears in the woods then, and I suppose they were more dangerous than the wolves, and did us more damage. They killed a hog for us one evening near the house. We heard the squealing and the next morning found the remains. I think there must have been two bears to have devoured so much. My sister taught school in Painesville. One day she and the older scholars stayed after school to clean out the room, and it was nearly dark when they left, the girls going one way and she the other, alone. In a short piece of woods she heard steps behind her, and looking around she saw a large bear following her. She faced him, opening and shutting her umbrella several times. The bear hesitated, and finally turned into the brush, when she made good time to her boarding house. There were some wildcats in the woods then. Ariel Corning, son of Warren Corning, of Mentor, had a battle with one in their still-house. He succeeded in killing it, which made quite a hero of him.
I do not think that I have overdrawn the prevalence of liquor drinking in the early settlement of this country. Whisky was cheap, and could be obtained for labor or most any kind of produce; no temperance society had ever been heard of, or any effort to restrain or lessen its use, and many excuses could be made for the early settlers. They had left good homes, with the conveniences and comforts of civilization, and placed themselves here in the woods, with neighbors few and far between, with but few of the comforts of life; with the herculean task of hewing out a farm from the dence forests, and the long years it must take to obtain a comfortable home; it seemed to them to require something to stimulate and nerve them for the task, and give them courage to face the battle of life which was before them.
At the close of the war, in 1815, emigrants began to arrive. John Morse and his son, John F., came in the fall of 1815 and built a log house, and returned to Massachusetts for his family; John F remaining in Madison to attend school. In the spring of 1816 the family came out, and we had a neighbor but a half mile away. They came in company with David Wilson, who settled in Mentor, and with him came three or four young men by the name of Viall; smart, active young men, who settled in Willoughby. Jacob, I believe, afterwards served two or three terms as sheriff of Lake county. In 1815 Marshall Bronson came to Kirtland. He had purchased the east half of the Root tract, or tract No. 2, bounded on the west by the Chillicothe road as it now runs. He paid but little if anything down, and sold it all out in a year or two, mostly on credit. He failed to pay for it, and it fell back to Root or his heirs, and those who purchased the Bronson lost all they had paid him, and so had to buy it again of the rightful owner. Many of them left; Bronson got into difficulty with some of his purchasers, and was finally sent to the penitentiary for a short time. I have been told that on his release he went to Michigan, where he made a raise and became quite noted, giving his name to a place called Bronson.
There came from New Hampshire quite a colony and bought of Bronson - Stephen Ames and his three sons, Jeremiah, David and Ezra; two sons-in-law, Aaron and Joseph Metcalf; his brother-in-law, a Mr. Buel, and son or nephew, and Reuben Melcalf, twin brother to Aaron, who was never married, and lies buried in South Kirtland cemetery. Afterward came Samuel, Moses and Levi. They were all large, stout men; their descendants do not quite come up to the old stock in size, except Enos, who now resides in Kirtland village. Abel Ames, brother of Stephen, came a year or so later. Stephen Ames' house stood where Simeon Carter now lives. He was township treasurer for many years, and at his house elections were held and township business transacted. I believe that none of the Ames descendants remain in this section, except those of the daughter, who married Aaron Metcalf. There were the Gores, Godard, Craw, Robert Parks, Leman Bronson, brother of Marshall, and others, who left on Bronson's failure. About 1816-17 came Thomas Morley, Sr., and his son, Alfred; David Holbrook, Samuel Tomblinson, Amos Wheeler and his sons, David and Samuel; Alfred Witter, John Goodale, Aretas Marble, Henry Markell and his five sons - John, Peter, Benjamin, Nicholas and James (John was afterward one of the associate judges of Lake county.), Josiah Jones, Robert Blair, Samuel Wilson and others. In 1818 the township settled very rapidly. Card & Holmes built a grist mill at the Flats; James Boyden put up a cloth-dressing and wool-carding establishment; Warren Corning built a distillery and Isaac Chatfield started a blacksmith shop, all within a year or two of that time. Claudius Stanard bought all of the middle tract west of the Chillicothe road and gave farms to his three sons and son- in-law, Jos. Robison, and sold the balance to Reuben Beeman, Edward and Abram Gilleti, Gideon McNutt, Jacob Lafter, and others. But few of their descendants remain in Lake county - Elijah Smith, Newel K Whitney, Timothy D Martindale, Jason Randall, Jeduthan Ladd, Noah Durrin, Sylvester Russell, A.C. Russell, but I cannot remember them all.
In 1819 there were ninety-seven males that were old enough to vote. For many years nearly all of our clothing was manufactured at home; the women spun and wove our flax for our shirts, sheets and pantaloons for summer wear, and for winterwear they spun and wove the wool, and it was fulled, colored and dressed by Boyden for ladies' wear; it was generally half wood and half flax, called linsey woolsey. For very nice dresses, it was all wool, stripped or checked, and finsihed and pressed, by Boyden, the clothier. For footwear we used but little in summer; most of the men, all of the children and some of the women going barefoot. In the fall of the year we procured a side of sole leather, one of cowhide and sometimes a calfskin, had a shoemaker come to the hosue with his kit of tools and make up the shoes for the family. Boots were seldom worn; leggings of cloth, tied from the knees down and to the shoe, kept out the snow as well as bootlegs. The hides of all our creatures that were slaughtered were taken to the tannery and tanned upon shares, the tanner taking one-half. Our head-gear was mostly straw for children, both summer and winter; the men frequently aspiring to coonskin caps. The ladies' bonnets generally projected forward six inches or more, to protect from the rays of the sun and the wind. A few years later Naverino bonnets became quite fashionable, being made of pasteboard, colored and stamped to represent leghorn. They looked quite pretty when new, and had the merit of being cheap, but were not very safe when caught out in a shower, as they were cut to shape and pasted together. I once saw a lady caught in a shower on her way to a party at Painesville. The brim was down on her shoulders and the projecting front hung down on her breast like a child's bib. But at the time, in larger towns, like Willoughby or Painesville, the people dressed better, but few of the men going barefoot and many of them wore broadcloth and soft shirts.
In Willoughby there were the Cards, Christies, Woolseys, Carn the tailor, the Sharpes, Colsons, Miller, and others. I don't know when and by whom the Willoughby mills were built, but think they may have been built previous to 1811; but our first milling was done at Painesville, and the few boards used about our first log house for floors and shelves came from Painesville. The first goods sold in Willoughby were by Thomas Card, the large landholder in the township. Samuel Wilson went from Kirtland to Willoughby. He was a good business man and did much for the improvement of the village. In the years past, Willoughby has drawn from Kirtland many of its best citizens - Wilson, Dowen, Barber, Bunnell, Yaxley, Damon, Roberts, Rockafellow, S. Fowls and others. In fact, Kirtland seems to be a good township to emigrate from, for Kirtlanders are found all through the Western States, as far as California and Salt Lake.
I had but little acquaintance with the south and west parts of Willoughby, until 1846. At that time I visited all the landholders in the township, and may hereafter give some recollections as late as that date. There are a few more names that I call to mind - Brown, Carrel, Nash and brother, Luke Coverty, Levi and Solomon Marble, David Rudd, Tarbell and Jones. Chester township settled very rapidly. About 1817-18, four or five Gillmores, as many Scotts, several Nortons, and Silas Tanner - all related by blood or marriage; Reuben Hulbert and three sons, Stephen I, Bassett, Amos Saterlee, Charles Odell, Samuel Adams, Oliver Ranney and others. The early settlers of Chester were of a more permanent class than those of Kirtland, and there are but few families in Chester now that are not more or less related to the Gillmores and Scotts by birth or marriage.
Chardon, the county seat of Geauga, was settled at a later date than any of the adjoining townships. At the close of the war of 1813 some four or five families had settled near the square - Edward Paine, Samuel Phelps and the Canfields. The square was donated by Peter Chardon Brooks for the county seat of Geauga county, on condition that it be called after his second name - Chardon. After 1816, it settled up rapidly, but for a long time early settlers - three or four Kings, who settled on the road to Kirtland Flats and gave it the name of King street. Elder Collins, two or three Smith. One of the Smith sons, 15 years old, was lost in the woods, and although diligent search for him was made, he was never found. The next spring a lock of hair; buttons and a bit of clothing were found, showing that he had been devoured by some wild beast. There were three or four Bentons, Rider, David Bruce, Eleazar Paine, Levi Edson, Sylvester Hoyt, Thomas Metcalf and Ralph Cowles.
The names and the above reference to books and maps alone give a clue to its aims and aspirations. Perhaps your interesting correspondent, "C.G.C.," can tell us more of its rise and fall, while many of your readers will revive old memories at a glance at its three dozen signatures:
Thomas Carrel, Jr.
John M Henderson
Benjamin Blish, Jr.
Nathaniel E Matthews
Oliver A Crary
Painesville, Feburary 14
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