Lake County Ohio GenWeb
Transcribed and submitted by Becky Falin, 1996.
It is an old saying that one-half of the world does not know how the other half lives. It is equally true that the present generation does not know how the preceding generation lived. Let us take a peep at the home life and surroundings of the early settlers. Their log houses were made of ax architecture, that tool being the only one necessary in their construction. Their general size was sixteen or eighteen feet wide by twenty-two or twenty-four feet long, inside measure. The door was in the front side, about the middle of the building. Some had a back door on the opposite side. At one end seven or eight feet of the logs were cut out about six feet high, and the opening filled with a stone wall. On this wall at each end was laid a timber sufficiently large to support the chimney to the fire chamber floor beam, about four feet from the end of the house and some two feet highter than the wall. On these timbers and wall the chimney was built with flat sticks, some two or three inches wide, laid up in clay mortar and plastered outside and in with the same. The chimney narrowed as it went up out of the peak of the room, from six by four to three by two, giving a good light from above to the fireplace below, where it was very much needed. A wooden crane stool at one end of the fireplace, with an arm sufficiently long to reach to the other end of the fireplace. A trammel or other device was used to hang the pot or kettle, and to raise or lower it as occasion required. In the fireplace was a large back log, five or six feet long, and smaller wood could be piled on to warm the whole house and a considerable portion of the outdoors above the chimney. Our cooking utencils consisted of a five-pail brass kettle, an eight-quart brass kettle, a one-pail iron pot, an iron tea-kettle, and a frying pan with an iron handle three or four feet long. Our bread was baked in a Dutch oven out of doors. Probably we were well off for cooking utensils as most of our neighbors. For light we had greased paper windows by the side of the door and from the chimney above. For a buttery a few shelves in one corner of the room by the fireplace, and a chest brought from Massachusetts, had to answer. The opposite corner was occupied by a ladder for access to the chamber, until we could get lumber for stairs. For a cellar we had a trap door in the floor and a small hole dug in the ground for stowing a few vegetables out of the way of frost. Our supply of table furniture was very scant, especially of plates, from breakage on the road. We had five or six pewter plates of English manufacture; they would not do to cut on, as it scratched them; so it became the duty of the cook to cut the meat in small pieces and dish it out to us with a spoon. When Mr. Gillmore came to Chester, in 1811, he had a lathe for turning wooden bowls and plates, called trenchers. The spaces between the logs of our houses were chinked on the inside with pieces of wood and plastered on the outside with clay mortar. The building was carried up some four or five feet above the chamber floor, then each side log drawn in about three feet, each rounded as it went up to the peak. These side logs, lying horizontal, answered for rafters to lay the shingles upon, or shakes, as they were called. The shingles were about four feet long, and generally split out of white oak, the wider and thinner, the better. These, if laid about three thicknesses, and weighted down with heavy poles to keep them in place, make a very good roof. The chamber was all one room, and answered for storage of corn, spinning wheels, and all the traps, barrels and household goods that were not in daily use, besides lodging-room for the young folks. The hearth, some six by eight, was of clay, pounded down hard and made smooth, five or six inches lower than the floor. When we found flat quarry stones they were laid on the clay, bringing the hearth up even with the floor. This the women folks thought a great improvement, and much more cleanly, as the hearth could be swept without raising a cloud of clay-dust. Our brooms were all splint brooms, home manufacture. The back end of the room was partitioned off into two bedrooms, originally by blankets hung up around the beds - a rack overhead, with numberous poles for drying pumpkins, and numerous pegs driven in the logs all around the room for hanging up clothing, seed corn, red peppers, dried beef, and other articles too numerous to mention.
I am under obligations to your correspondent, "B," for the ancient document in regard to the Mentor Library Association. Think that I should have fogotten it, though it was a very important institution for us at that time. The people had brought with them but little reading matter - a few school books, the Bible and hymn book, were about the extent. There were no newspapers taken in Kirtland,and probably but few in Willoughby or Mentor. The late Eber D. Howe, editor of the Cleveland Herald, went through weekly on horseback as far as Painesville, and delivered his papers to the subscribers, probably having some subscribers at Willoughby and Mentor. Reading matter was at a premium, and the library gave us great joy, and helped us to while away many hours that would have been sad or monontonous. The collection of books was a valuable one for that day, largely composed of history, astronomy, biography, and perhaps some lighter reading. Of the thirty-six signatures to that document, one lived in Chester, ten in Kirtland, four or five in Willoughby, four or five in Concord, and the balance in Mentor. Probably not one of them is now living. Oliver A. Crary, twenty-one years old, I think was the youngest signer by several years, and he, if now living, would be ninety-two years old. When or how the library died, or what became of the books, I am not able to say. I went to Kentucky in 1825, returning in 1831. It was in good condition when I left. When I returned it had ceased to exist, and I have no recollection of hearing any mention made of it.
The great wonder to me is, how the people raised the money to buy books, for times were extremely hard - no money in circulation. There had been slight, if any, improvement since 1817 and 1818, when it was almost impossible to raise money to pay taxes, or take a letter from the postoffice. There would then have been a crash and breakdown of all business if there had been any business here to crash and break down. Such a crash as we had twenty years later, in 1837 and 1838, or twenty years later, in 1857 and 1858, and twenty years later, in 1877 and 1878, and probably shall have twenty years later, in 1897 and 1898. Twenty years seems to be the life of a business generation. Twenty years of increasing prosperity cause extravagance. The people buy more goods, run into debt, the money is drained out of the country and goes to Europe to pay for the goods, hard times follow, and a general crash and stagnation of business is the result.
When I am writing upon these early recollections, I want to ask your correspondent, Mr. C. G. Crary, whose letters I read with great pleasure, and, when completed, hope they will be printed in pamphlet form, if he remembers or can repeat any part of a song composed of about as many verses as there were settlers in Kirtland? Each man had his verse. Of course they were too personal, and hit too hard, to be printed in any paper; but there were written copies in existence as late as 1829. I once heard William Carroll and Colonel Ames sing a few of the verses, and asked my father if they had a verse about him. He said they had, and repeated it to me. It did not sound much like something that were sung. Cyrus Millard, of Chagrin Falls, upon enquiry, told me this fall that he remembered hearing parts of it, but could not repeat a line. All we could dig out of the couplet about the old Disciple church at Mentor - and while Sidney Rigdon was preparing them for the Book of Mormon - long since torn down. It ran thus:
"A one story meeting house without any steeple.
A roguish priest and foolish people."
Who wrote it no one knows, but he now merits the credit given a prophet. It is a pity for those who want the early history of Kirtland that they cannot call back to life, as they were in their palmiest days, Colonel Ames, William Carroll, Philo Ingersoll, and Ariel Corning. What they could not tell of early Kirtland would not be worth knowing. We hope some one may yet be able to furnish your paper with that song.
To illustrate the scarcity of money in 1817, 1818 and 1819, I will relate a boy's story, which may be considered very credible to us. A show was advertised at Willoughby, consisting of two lions only. There were five of us boys in the neighborhood - Amos and William Witter, Harvey Morse, myself, and a brother nearly three years younger. We all wanted to see the lions. On consultation and getting together our cash deposits, we found that twelve and one-quarter cents was the extent of our available funds - one six and a fourth cent piece and six copper cents, lacking one-fourth of a cent of the admission fee for chaps our age. We dared not call upon our parents for help, as we knew that if they had a few shillings on hand they were liable to have a letter in the postoffice at Painesville, and must have twenty-five cents to get it. We remembered the old saying, that where there is a will there is a way. We knew that we had the will, but cared but little whether the way should correspond with the injunction to render to Caesar the things that were Caesar's or not. We wanted to see the lions, and concluded to go, hoping by some hook or crook to get sight of them. My father had a horse, I think the only one then in the south part of Kirtland. He was a good, able-bodied horse, a little past his prime, good and kind in every place except that he would not carry two persons on his back at the same time. This detracted very much from his value. He was really worth only about half a horse - that is, a horse that would carry double would be worth two such horses, for our purposes. But we concluded to take him and hitch the horse and go on, so we all got our proper share of riding. When we arrived at Willoughby we gave Amos Witter all of the money, he being quick to see the chances, of genial disposition, and would soon be on familiar terms with the showman, ready to run errands, or give advice or suggestions how to manage the show. He paid his fare and went in. It was not long before he came out with a pail of water. When it was filled he took one side of the pail and I the other, and walked in unquestioned. Another of our party was smuggled in. When the lions were fed meat, one watched his opportunity and slipped in unobserved behind the doorkeeper's back; and my brother, being small of age, with a little help crawled under the tent. So we all got sight of the lions, and came home highly elated with our sucess. We did not wish to ride and tie, but let my short-legged brother ride all the way, and kept together to talk the matter over. We came to the conclusion that the showmen were greatly indebted to us. We had increased their receipts to the amount of twelve and a quarter cents, had assisted them in watering and feeding the lions, given them much good advice and many suggestions for their future guidance. To be sure, we had seen their lions, but had not damaged them or their lions to the value of a cent, and we resolved that they owed us at least a vote of thanks. But for fear that they might look upon it in a different light, and want to argue the question, we forebore saying anything to them about it.
The first lawyer that I have any recollection of was Noah D. Matoon. My father once paid him a small fee, which was the only fee that I ever heard of his paying to a lawyer. In my recollection of the bar of Painesville, it was composed of Hitchcock, Perkins, Bissel, Tinker, Axtell, Bosworth, Palmer, Burrows and others. All but the last mentioned have gone to that bourne from which no traveler returns. I understand a half dozen or more younger men are striving to fill their places; whether they will do so is a problem for the future to solve. The bar of Willoughby is not noted for its numbers or its brilliancy of oratory. But for legal advice and counsel, the wants of the peace-loving citizens of Willoughby have been fully supplied. Lapham, Sterling, Komar, Tuttle and Clark are all that I now recall.
I am under obligations to your Illinois correspondent for bringing to mind one great source of pleasure and enjoyment that we had in those early days from the singing of songs. We had quite a good supply of home poetic talent. Their poetry would hardly compare with that of Scott, Longfellow or Tennyson, but was very expressive, and fitted the occasion - and the individual for whom it was intended - with much precision and force. When Congress raised their wages from four to six dollars a day, there was much excitement, which ended in song. Each prominent member had a verse. I only remember the verse to Henry Clay, who was then speaker of the House. It ran thus:
I hope we shall hear more from your Clinton, Illinois correspondent. Living so near the center of gravity (Kirtland Flats), I think his mind must be stored with many incidents and anecdotes that would be intersting.
The Presbyterian Church (now Congregational) was organized about 1818 at the house of Thomas Morley, Sr., and consisted of twelve members, namely: Levi Smith, David Holbrook, Thomas Morley, Russell Hawkins, and their wives, Mrs. John Morse, Mrs. Christopher Crary, Mrs. A. C. Russell, and Mrs. I. N. Skinner. The Revs. Treat and Humphrey officiated. Meetings were held at private houses and in the school building until 1822, when a log church was built on the site of the present Congregational Church. This was burned and a commodious frame church was built on the east side of the road. In 1842 this stood in the path of a cyclone, which raised it from its foundation, turned it a quarter of the way around and dropped it. IT was raised up and underpinned, but could not be quite straightened to stand perpendicular. The same cyclone killed a child of Erastus Wightman, just across the road of the church. In 1859 the present church was built, the old one sold to the Universalists, taken down and removed to Willoughby. The first settled minister was the renowned and very devout missionary, the Rev. Joseph Badger. He was a blue-blooded Presbyterian - heldthat our birth, actions, and destiny were known and foredained by the Almighty from the beginning. He left at the end of the year, whether from the want of sufficient support or from preference of a traveling missionary life, I do not recollect. Up to 1831, except that one year, there was no settled minister. In 1831 Rev. Truman Coe was settled as pastor over the church, and remained with us up to the time of his death. He was a man of much learning and ability, beloved by his people and respected by all. He died about 1856. Since then Cobb, Fuller, Taylor, Palmer, Bronson, Redinger, Thompson and Dole have filled the pulpit. But the church for the last thirty or forty years has been decimated by death and removals till it is in a feeble condition, and requires help from the Homes Missionary Society.
The Baptists have never been numerous in Kirtland. In 1850 they built a commodius church and for a few years supported a minister, but death has called home most of their members, and those that are left join with a non-sectarian society who occupy their church, and have been supplied with preachers from Chester, Cleveland and Willoughby, for the last fourteen or fifteen years, without asking to what denomination they belonged. On my return from the South, in 1831, I found the Mormons located in Kirtland. Four or five of our prominent citizens had joined them - Isaac Morley, Titus Billings, N. K Whitney, John M. Burk, and Jotham Maynard. The last two I am not quite sure about. Burk had sold his farm some years before, and Maynard's went into the hands of the Mormons. I heard they had joined, but have no recollection of ever seeing them after my return. The minds of Morley and Billings had become somewhat unbalanced on religious subjects previous to the advent of Mormonism in Kirtland. I resolved to have no controversy or words with the Mormons on the subject of their belief - to deal with and treat them the same as I did the rest of the world. My dealings with them were quite large. I sold them some two hundred dollars worth of lumber, much of it for the Temple. I also sold them my farm, took $275.00 in notes, signed by President Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, payable in thirty days after demand, which they redeemed without delay of thirty days, much against the will and determination of Rigdon. After I have exhausted all arguments with Rigdon, and given up all hope of success, Smith spoke for the first time and said: "President Rigdon, I have known Mr. Crary for some time, and I believe him to be straight and honorable, and I think we had better redeem his paper." Rigdon then paid the money without another word. Joseph Smith was said to be ignorant and illiterate, but contact with mankind and native ability had given him polished manners, and his language, so far as I was qualified to judge, was correct, forcible, right to the point, and convincing. From my acquaintance and dealings with him, I considered him far superior to the educated Rigdon in intellectual ability. But it would take very strong evidence to convince me that Joseph Smith was not the originator of polygamy in this country. His institution of celestial marriage was the initial, the germ, the bud that blossomed into loathsome polygamy when his followers arrived at Salt Lake, beyond the reach of the law.
There was considerable excitement some thirty or forty years ago over the burning of Mr. Hoover's house, in the northeast part of Kirtland, in which he was burned to death. He was living with his second wife; had two daughters by his first wife; no children by his second wife. It was said that they did not live happily together. For some reason, the night of the fire she stayed at Mr. McCalls, a quarter mile distant. His two daughters slept upstairs. It seems that he awokein time to go upstairs, take his two girls and drop them out of the chamber window, and then, overcome by smoke and heat, fell back and was burned. There was some suspicion that his wife knew something of the origin of the fire, but this was discredited by Mr. McCall's people, and the fact that her things were burned in the house, and that ashes had been taken up the day before and placed in the wood-house.
Some years subsequent to Mr. Hoover's death there was a tragedy enacted at the old chair factory. A Mr. Worden and a man by the name of Harrington got into a quarrel, and Harrington struck Worden with a billet of wood, killing him instantly. How the quarrel began, or what the provocations, I do not know. Harrington was arrested and jailed, the neighbors clubbed together and bailed him out; he was subsequently tried and acquitted.
About the same time, in the neighborhood of the chair factory, a young married man (I have lost his name) in felling trees, by some means got his leg taken off at the knee. He tired a ligature around the stub, put on a stick for twister long enough to let one end stick down the length of the missing part of the leg, the other long enough to reach his shoulder, and walked home on one leg and the end of the stick. One of the neighbors, telling me about it not long since, said they were very poor, and, thinking they might need cooked provisions, went over early in the morning with some, and found the neighbors had preceded him with enough to last the family a week. They were supported during his confinement and doctor's bills paid by the neighbors. There have been four suicides in Kirtland - R. C. Jerome, a Mr. Jewell, Miss Sophia Speery and Chester Clapp.
I intended to say in a former communication that I remember hearing the song mentioned by your Clinton correspondent sung, but I cannot recall the words. I will add to his list of books in the Mentor library, "Rollins' Ancient History," and I think he must admit one more novel besides the "Vicar of Wakefield," "The Spy," one of Cooper's best. The scenes laid in the revolution correspond with my father's yarns of those times that it seems to me now I then believed every word of it to be true.
The old distillery may have been a success financially, but morally and physically it was a failure. The son of the owner, a promising young man, who bid fair to make his mark in the world, from constant use of whisky became a sot, almost mindless. Of the half dozen or more men that operated the still during its existence of thirteen or fourteen years, three of them died from effects of occupation and excessive use of whisky. They were all men in the prime of life, and bid fair, with prudence, to attain a good old age. A young man left the still one cold night, loaded a little too heavy. He lay down for a nap, and, when found, his feet and legs to his knees were frozen. By taking the frost out with cold water I believe his legs were saved, although in a crippled condition. An old gentleman from a neighboring town brought his jug to the still, had it filled, and started for home. He got up in the neighborhood of where Mr. Sleemin now lives, went into the bushes, lay down and died. He was not found for several days, and was too much decayed to remove. A hole was dug beside him and he was rolled in, and his jug afterhim, to cheer him in his lonely grave. If the spot could be found by digging, some pure whisky nearly fifty years old, might be obtained, which would be valuable in these days of adulterated and poisoned liquor. It would be both interesting and profitable could we know how many years of life had been cut off and shortened by that still-house - taking those who operated it and those who patronized it, numbering perhaps thousands during the fourteen years of its existence. But this can be known only by Him who numbers the hairs of our head. In 1833 the distillery and fixtures were to be sold, the owner William Carrel, having died. The concern because such a nuisance that the temperance people clubbed together - ten or twelve of them - Judge Allen, of Willoughby, bidding it off to them. When sold, Captain Morse told me that he lost only seven dollars, and thought it money well laid out. I should before this have stated that the old log still was burned and replaced by a frame building.
The other document referred to is the constitution, by-laws and signatures of the Kirtland Temperance Society. There are 239 signatures attached to the constitution. Among the names are a dozen or fifteen that were considered hard cases, and six whose names are on the still-house book with long columns of pints, quarts and gallons under them. The book has been badly mutilated and much of it is missing, but think the first annual meeting was held October 6, 1839 at which the following votes were taken:
Voted, that no member of this society dispose of grain of any kind to a distiller of whisky.
Voted, that the executive committee be and they are hereby directed to enquire into the situation and circumstances of the distillery in this place, and whether some equally profitable and more laudable use may not be made of it.
This vote culminated in the purchase of the still by members of the society, under agreement that it should never again be used as a distillery. The officers of the society were the president, vice president, secretary, and an executive committee of eight ladies and eight gentlemen. The members of the society were closely watched, and if one violated his pledge, a committee was appointed to labor with him and if possible bring him back and induce him to make another trial. It was painful to see what a struggle it was for some of them to break off. Two or three of us went one evening to see the man who went to the still nineteen times in one month for his daily pint of whisky. He was really sick. We carried him some plums, which he ate with a relish - said they mitigated the distress of his stomach, and thought it he had some chicken's liver a little bitter, it would give him relief.
The society met quite often and were addressed by able speakers. The names of those mentioned in the records were: Rev. Nathaniel Cole, George Perkins, Dr. Graham, Wm. L. Perkins and Rev. Truman Coe. When failing of a speaker, a sermon on temperance was read from the "National Preacher." The last meeting of the society recorded in the book was held October 6, 1834. John F. Morse, president; Alfred Morley, vice president; George Smith, secretary; S. W. Tinkham, C. G. Crary, Samuel Tomlinson, John Wells, S. R. Ladd, Emma Rockafellow, Julia Morse, Mahitable Loud, Julia Rudd, Harriet Cleveland, Melissa Pierson. Samuel Tomlinson, Truman Coe and Azariah Lyman were appointed delegates to the convention to be held at Cleveland on the 21st inst. Adjourned to two weeks from this evening 6 o'clock.
When or how the temperance society died I can only state from memory, but think that Ocotber, 1835, was our last regular meeting, and the society was overslaughed and smothered by the influx of Mormons - not that they were intemperate, for I believe they would compare favorably in that respect with a large number of our old citizens. It was reported, however, that they consumed a barrel of wine and other liquors at the dedication of the Temple, enabling some of them to see angels, have visions, prophesy and dream dreams. But many of the temperance workers were driven away, and those that remained let the society die by default. Three of the hard drinkers returned like "the dog to his vomit."
But I firmly believe that the Kirtland temperance society, short lived as it was, did more to reclaim the drunkard, save the moderate drinker and protect the rising generation than the whole Prohibition party of Ohio has ever done or ever will do. Intemperance is a question of morals and should not more be brought into politics than any of the crimes forbidden in the decalogue, for it is the mother and breeder of all the crimes that disgrace mankind. The Prohibition party, by bringing the moral question of temperance down into politics, have divided the temperance forces, antagonized, disgusted and paralyzed all temperance workers, and have united all liquor dealers in one solid body, who, by their great wealth, large profits and lavish use of money, hold the balance of power and can defeat any party that attempts to legislate against their interests. The elections in Iowa, Ohio, and other States last fall prove it.
"I do not believe that anybody can contemplate the subject without becoming prejudicial against the liquor crime. All we have to do is think of the wrecks on either bank of the stream of death, of the suicides, of the insanity, of the poverty, of the ignorance, of the destitution, of the little children tugging at the faded and weary breasts of mothers, of weeping and despairing wives asking for bread, of the talented men of genius that it has wrecked of those struggling with imaginary serpents produced by the devilish thing. When you think of the jails, of the alms-houses, of the asylums, of the prisons, of the scaffolds on either bank, I do not wonder that every thoughtful man is prejudiced against this damned stuff that is called alcohol. Intemperance cuts down youth in its vigor, manhood in its strength and age in its weakness. It breaks the father's heart, bereaves the doting mother, extinguishes natural affection, erases conjugal loves, blots out filial attachments, blights parental hope, and brings down mourning age in sorrow to the grave. It produces weakness, not strength; sickness, not health; death, not life. It makes wives widows, children orphans, fathers fiends, and all of them paupers and beggars. It feeds rheumatism, nurses goat, welcomes epidemics, invites cholera, imports pestilence and embraces consumption. It covers the land with idleness, misery and crime. It fills your jails, supplies your almshouses and demands your asylums. It engenders controversies, fosters quarrels and cherishes riots. It crowds your penitentiaries and furnishes victims for your scaffolds. It is the life blood of the gambler, the element of the burglar, the prop of the highwayman and the support of the midnight incendiary. It countenances the liar, respects the thief, esteems the blasphemer and honors infamy. It defames benevolence, hates love, scorns virtue, and slanders innocence. It incites the father to butcher his helpless offspring, helps the husband massacre his wife and the child to grind the parricidal axe. It burns up men, consumes women, detests life, curses God and despises heaven. It suborns witnesses, nurses perjury, defiles the jury box and stains the judicial ermine. It degrades the citizen, debases the legislator, dishonors the statesman, and disarms the patriot. It brings shame, not honor; terror, not safety; despair, not hope; misery, not happiness, and with the malevolence of a fiend it calmly surveys its frighful desolution; and unsatisfied with its havoc, it poisons felicity, kills peace, ruins morals, blights confidence, slays reputation and wipes out national honor - then curses the world and laughs at its ruin. It does all that and more. It murders the soul. It is the son of all villainies and father of all crimes, the mother of abonmination, the devil's best friend and God's worst enemy."
Fifty years ago whisky was pure, and so cheap that there was no temptation to adulterate it. The cost of drugs and materials would be more than the increased quantity would be worth. Men could then use it daily, spree it weekly, and live to be fifty, sixty or seventy years old. It is not so now. The same quantity drank now will kill half our drinking population in a short time. A pint or a half pint would make short work with many now in the prime of life, and there would be great mourning over the "afflictive dispensations of Providence in taking our esteemed friend from his bereaved family," when, in fact, Providence had nothing to do with it. It was the poisoned whisky that killed him. Man is apt to shirk off upon Providence the results of his own sin and folly.
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