Lake County Ohio GenWeb
Transcribed and submitted by Becky Falin, 1996.
About 1821 or 1822 we had at Kirtland Flats a Fourth of July celebration. It was a very elaborate affair. John F Morse was orator of the day; Josiah Jones read the Declaration of Independence; Isaac Chatfield had charge of the cannon (an old musket); James Bradley and Nathan P Goodale gave the fife and drum music. I do not recollect who was president or marshal of the day, or whether we had any. The speaking took place in Peter French's new barn, which stood where R. B. Green now has a furniture establishment. The tables were set just back of the Damon store buildings. We had some song singing, and I am promised by Mr. Pitcher some of the verses that were used on that occasion, said to have been composed by the orator of the day. I took but little interest in the proceedings, and remember nothing of the speaking or toasts that were drank. My chief interest was after a good time with my mates, and the center of attraction the dinner tables. In those days children always had to wait and sit down at the second table. This detracted very much from our enjoyment on such occasions - to see our elders sit and chat, sip their tea, and tell stories to prolong their meal, entirely oblivious of the terrible, gnawing pagns of hunger that we were suffering. But the fashion has changed and is vastly improved - the children are served first and the older ones wait. It gives me not one-tenth part of the pain now to wait an hour for dinner that it did when I was fifteen, and had the stomach of a hyena and the digestion of an ostrich. In every department of knowledge man has greatly improved. The present generation knows a vastly more than the preceding ones. The young men of to-day can safely ignore the old-fogy notion that history repeats itself, or that like causes produces like effects - that past experience is of any use whatever in forecasting the future. They can now get up fine-spun theories on tariff, finance, and other matters, an figure them out so clearly and with such certainty that there is no need whatever in looking at or taking into account past experiences. Old fogies and their notions are now relegated to oblivion, and of no more use than a last year's almanac.
I have received from Mrs. Pitcher one verse of the song composed by the late Colonel Morse, and sung with the other
pieces at the Fourth of July celebration above mentioned:
The song and the oration were highly complimented and considered very fine, considering his age, eighteen or twenty. In those days song singing was much practiced, and brought to a high state of perfection. Church music was taught at singing schools. No one ever thought of taking his song book to church. After the reading of the hymn the leader pitched the tune and started off. The congregation - all that could sing - would join in, some a note or two too high, others as much too low, and most of them a little behind the leader. Uncultivated people did not mind the discord, and the congregations dispersed feeling spiritually refreshed. They had heard a good sermon, taken part in the worship, and were ready for the week's labors, anticipating a good time next Sabbath in airing their musical talents. Now the singing is mostly done by the choir, and is very artistic - no discord - all on time, and is very pleasing to cultivated ears. But whether it touches the heart, and leads to devotional feelings, like the old way, is somewhat doubtful.
I will close this chapter by telling a story. The orator at the above celebration had no ear for music. I believe he could not tell one tune from another, but at eighteen or twenty wished to learn to sing, and attended the singing school. One night, on returning home alone through the woods, he thought it would be a good chance to train his voice, and struck up a high key. His father stepped to the door and heard what he supposed to be wolves, and called the family out to hear them. (In those days, when the wolves howled, we all went to listen to their weird music.) After listening awhile the youngest daughter said, "That is not the sound of wolves; it is John trying to raise and fall the eight notes." Some years later Colonel Morse was in company, when it was proposed that each one should sing a song. When it came to his turn to sing; he told them that he would like to tell a story, and then, if they insisted upon it, he would sing. He then related the above story, and they concluded to dispense with a song from him.
About 1818 there came a man to father who wanted him to perform a marriage ceremony - said that he had no money, but would like to come and work to pay him for the job, and said he understood dressing flax. He came and dressed flax two days, and father walked with him over into the edge of Chardon and tied the knot. He was probably about forty, and she, a widow, about the same age.
About 1817 or 1818, Stockwell S. Hilbert, a physician had hung out his shingle at Levi Marble's three miles west of us, in Willoughby. He had become involved in debt, and an execution was against him. He had some business at my father's, who was then justice of the peace. He learned in the evening that the constable was there, and fearing that his horse would be taken, he offered me a half dollar to take his horse down to Marble's and hitch it in the lane. The temptation was great - it was more money than I had ever owned, but I was too green to ask pay in advance. I went down well enough, having the company of the horse, but on coming back through the woods, with the hooting of the owls and other strange noises, my hair stood on end, and my coat would have stuck out straight behind if I had had one. When I reached home Hilbert was gone, and I never saw him again. So my dreams of wealth vanished in thin air, and I keenly felt the loss of my bright prospects of anticipated wealth.
I will give one more story, and not a boy's story, either, as all the parties were men with families. I will only give intials - D., J., N. and G. I had this story from D., and he was a capital hand at story-telling. He said that N. and J. ran a sugar bush together, and he ran one just across the lot line. Their camps were but a very few rods apart, the sap was crowding, and they had to boil all night. D. went over to N. and J.'s camp, and J. said: "Do you think it safe for us to be out all night without something to ward off the ill effects of the damp night air?" "I think not," said D. "Well," said J., "we have decided that you and I shall go down to Kirtland" (five and a half miles) "and get a jug of whisky, and N, will tend both camps while we are gone." "All right," said D, and off they started. At the still-house they found a congenial company, and had a good time till near midnight, then filled their jug and started home. About half way back they passed a barn. J. said: "Do you suppose C. has any straw in his barn?" "We'll go and see," said D. They found straw bound up, and took as many bundles as they could carry as far as the next house, and placed them against the door so that the straw would fall in on whoever opened the door in the morning. When they got to G.'s house, J. said: "Do you think Brother G.'s doorway is large enough?" "I think it is not," said D. "Well," said J, "he is too indolent and lazy to do it himself, and I think we had better do it for him." So they put down their jug and took his dooryard rail fence and built twice across the road. This done, they then took up their jug and went on, getting to the camp at daylight, where N. had been running from one camp to the other all night. In the morning G. came over to the camp and said, "Brother J., what do you think! some rascally fellows have taken my dooryard fence and run it twice across the road." "They have?" said J. "They ought to be punished. Now, look here; you go and put your fence back - say nothing about it, keep dark, and it will leak out who did it. They ought to be prosecuted. It is too bad that a person can't sleep nights without his property destroyed in that way." Whether he ever found out who did it, D. did not tell me.
Weaver's reeds were rather scarce here in an early day, and were kept in constant use either by the owner or those wishing to borrow. Mrs. Stephen Ames had loaned one of hers to a lady living in the northwest part of Chester. When she wanted it she sent Lucinda Foster after it, who went on horseback, and, for company, stopped at Erastus Crary's and took Almeda Crary on behind her, who was eleven years old, Miss Foster three or four years older. Their road lay from Peck's Corners west a little over a mile, thence south two miles (a new road, only underbrushed out, and but little traveled) thence west a mile or so. They went all right, got the reed, and started back. Their horse was slow, and they were belated. Near the south line of Kirtland is a deep gully and a small brook; the brook had been crossed a number of places up and down the stream. When they got to the brook it had become quite dark and rainy, and they got bewildered at the many crossings. They said they crossed the brook three times. Finally, it became pitch dark, and they gave up in despair. They took the blanket from the horse, laid it by the side of a log, took off their shoes and laid them on the log, so that their friends, when they found the shoes, would know that they had been eaten up by wild beasts, and, as they expressed it, delivered themselves over to the Lord and lay down, but not to sleep, as they heard strange noises during the night, and believed that wild beasts were tramping about through the woods. The next morning they found the road and got to Captain Morse's about ten o'clock, both wet and hungry.
The above is but a faint outline of the arguments used, but they were successful, and South and North Dakota will enter the Union with constitutional prohibition - the latter, it is true, by a small majority, but all that could be expected from the large proportion of foreigners, who never heard of temperance, much less of prohibition. Mr. Joseph Edwards says it is an American institution, and not known in Europe.
Now, here in Ohio, the Prohibition party is intensely partisan, and seem to think that the only way to succeed and to build up their party is to break down the two old parties. I have the reading of the "Beacon," which some kind friend sends us - a rabid partisan sheet - about two-thirds of it filled with denunciation of the two old parties. The Republican party is represented as calling brewers, distillers, wholesale liquor dealers and saloonists to high seats in conventions, and given lucrative offices to secure the liquor vote. And the Democratic party but little better. A considerable portion of the paper was filled with letters from their speakers, giving glowing accounts of the interesting meetings they were holding and the many converts they were making. But thier converts do not materialize at the polls, and the party hardly keeps pace with the increase in population.
A few years ago constitutional prohibition was nearly carried in Ohio; now it would probably be snowed under as badly as in Pennsylvania and other partisan ridden states. The partisan prohibitionists seem to think that if the old parties could be wiped out of existence, prohibition, as a matter of course, would follow. They forget, or ignore, the fact that the liquor interest is unscrupulous - that it has hundreds of millions invested in the business - that it will require united strength of all lovers of temperance of every party, sect or creed to effect the extinction of the liquor traffic as a beverage. I believe there are enough temperance people to do it, if not divided and antagonized by partisan rancor. There is one redeeming feature in the many third parties that have arisen and flourished for a few years and died out; they furnish a congenial home for cranks and soreheads who feel that their talents have not been duly appreciated by the party to which they belonged.
After the building was finished they (the Mormons) started a school, principally, I believe, if not exclusively, for teaching the Herbrew language. They procured several mummies from Egypt and Smith by revelation or interpretation, found some of them to be very distinguished characters and contemporaries of either Aaron, Joseph or Moses. They were not very pleasing objects to look up - dried skeletons and as black as coal tar. Whether this was from age, the materials for embalming, or were real negroes, I could not tell. They employed a Hebrew teacher, a Jew by the name of Saixas. He was a man of much ability and I presume an excellent teacher of Hebrew. The Rev. Mr. Coe, wishing to visit Connecticut for several weeks, engaged Mr. Saixas to lecture at the Congregational church every Sabbath during his absence. He stipulated that he should not be asked to pray to take any part in the meeting, except to read his lectures. I think I never heard more eloquent and touching language used than in his lectures on Joseph and Moses in Egypt. What the mummies cost I do not know, but have been told that Mr. Andrews paid $800 towards them. What became of them I do not know, but suppose they were taken to Salt Lake.
In any allusion that I have made, or may hereafter make to the Mormons or Mormonism, I intend no reference whatever to the Church or the Latter Day Saints who now occupy the Temple. I have no acquaintance with any of them, but am told that they are good, honest citizens. I should have mentioned that I have received from the Secretary of the Pioneer Association of Lake County his manuscript and records of the pioneer meetings, which he intends to publish in book form. As my remembrances are evanescent, to be read today, destroyed and forgotten tomorrow, I will not detract from the interest in his more permanent and valuable work by quoting from it.
The years 1834, 1835 and 1836 was a general season of speculation all over the country, and especially so in Kirtland. The city was laid out and platted two miles square, and much of it surveyed into half-acre lots. Lots that first sold for ten, twenty and fifty dollars, soon sold for many hundreds. Men who were not worth a dollar became immensely rich - on paper. A Mr. Granger - a relative of Postmaster General Granger, of New York - also a distant relative of my first wife, boasted that he was the richest Granger that ever trod shoe leather, when at the same time his family was actually suffering for the necessaries of life.
There were probably nearly 2,000 Mormons in the place in 1837, composed of all classes, good, bad and indifferent. There was a large class of ignorant and fanatical people who placed full confidence in Joseph Smith's revelations and stood ready to execute his bidding, even to the taking of life. Smith was once arrested, taken to Chardon, and tried for inciting his followers to murder Grandison Newell. Marvel C. Davis and a Mr. Lake swore that they were ordered by Smith to assasinate him, and waylaid him for that purpose, but by some mishap failed to fulfill the will of the Lord as revealed by Smith. Mormon testimony not being first class, or by some technical flaw, Smith was acquitted. Then there was a large class of good, honest, quiet, credulous people, some of them quite well off, but they were soon relieved their surplus wealth and reduced to the level of the common herd. There were many who joined to become teachers, priests and missionaries, to make a living without hard labor; and still another small class of sharpers, lawyers, petifoggers and doctors, who joined hoping to make money out of the concern. The speculation in the city lots had made many of them so rich that they bought farms, paying but little down, and found everybody willing to sell. With means they could have bought every farm in the township. The people all supposed they had got to leave. It was a time of terror. Property was not safe from theft, and many believed that life was not safe with such a crowd, who boasted that they should not hesitate to take life, if the Lord commanded them to do so through the prophet; that they should live off and suck the milk of the Gentiles; that the promise that the saints should inherit the earth was about to be fulfilled, and that they were the saints. And this crowd, controlled by one man, whom many believed capable of almost any crime which Satan should prompt, is there any wonder that everybody wanted to sell and get away? When their bank failed all their imaginery wealth vanished; their money was gone; their teams were gone; their provisions were gone; their credit was gone; their stores of goods disappeared. No community could be left in more destitute circumstances, and the only alternative was for them to leave - leave their Temple, their homes, all that they had held dear, and go to, they knew now where. And how to go was a serious question. They had no teams; but fortune for once favored them. A few months after the failure of the bank, all the banks in the country suspended specie payment, which raised their bills about on par with Michigan wildcat money - much of it like Mormon money - worth no more than white paper. Runners were sent out with pockets full of Mormon money to buy teams where they could find people not posted on the value of Mormon promises to pay. In 1838 the camp was ready to start, and left in a body, making a string of teams more than a mile long. Many prosecutions for violations of the law were pending, and a judgment against Smith, on which the Temple was sold at public sale some time after they left.
The early students of the W.R.T. Seminary, for intellectual ability, would compare favorably with an equal number of students in any of our colleges and instiutions of learning. I will mention a few of them that placed their names high on the roll of fame as educators: Dr. Lord, at the head of the institution for the education of the blind at Columbus for many years, and held a similar position at Batavia, N.Y., until the time of his death; Dr. Nichols, for many years principal of the girls' industrial home at Delaware, O; Prof. T. W. Harvey, commissioner of schools for Ohio; Geo. E. Howe, principal of the reform farm at Lancaster, O, and now holding a similar position at Meriden, Conn.; M. F. Cowdery, superintendent of schools for Sandusky City. In the military line I mention General Leggett, afterward Commissioner of Patents, now practicing law in Cleveland, and two by the name of Wilcox, given names not remembered, one of them made prisoner by the rebels. Then there is a long list of ministers, lawyers, bankers, and doctors, too numerous to mention, all, so far as I know, strong supporters of the Union during the rebellion, with two or three exceptions. One of the exceptions was Harrison Dodd, who went to Indiana, became the leader of the Golden Circle, a treasonable organization, which was broken up, and if he had been caught at the time he would have been hung.
The lady students were perhaps equally as talented as the gentlemen. I will mention but two or three of them. Mr. Elizabeth Russell Lord assisted her husband in his labors for the blind, and is said to have taught more blind persons to read than any other person in the United States, and was invited by the Queen to visit England to engage in the same philanthropic work. She now holds an important position at Oberlin College. Miss Maria Whiting is lady principal of Knox Seminary, Ill; and I believe that much of the popularity of Geo. E. Howe is due to his wife (sister of Mrs. George Frank, of Kirtland) who by her kindness and motherly care has a restraining influence on the wayward youths, and the most incorrigible dislike to give her pain or cause her trouble.
I remember, at that time and shortly after, there were a great many banks in Ohio, Indiana and other States that issued paper money, not very safe to keep over night. It was called wildcat money. Nearly all of the States issued more or less of it. We used to regard eastern money far better than western generally, yet we had two banks in Ohio that we called good and safe. One was the Bank of Geauga, at Painesville, the other the Western Reserve Bank, at Warren. Afterward we had the State Bank of Ohio, good near home, within the State, known as the "Red Bank," long before the "greenback," that has filled a large a place in the currency of the United States, was known. Now, we hardly look at a bill to see whether it is good or not, only to see the amount; but in wildcat times we dare not take money, unless we had "Thompson's Bank Note Reporter," issued every week, to see if the bills offered were worth more than the paper in blank. Besides the wildcat banks, there was a large per cent of bills in circulations that were counterfeit. There was very little specie then in circulation, and what there was was very likely to be bogus. This generation cannot realize the vast benefit to the people of the United States - yes, and to the world, - of our present currency. It is as good as gold the world over, and far more convenient to carry about, doing business. Our greenbacks and National bills are as safe as Uncle Sam's mountain of gold or vault full of specie. Nobody wants to carry around a load of specie when Uncle Sam's promise on paper is just as safe and far more convenient. No one thinks to see what bank it is on, whether issued in Maine or Texas. As soon as he sees the amount he is ready to stuff it into his pockets, not thinking it may be a counterfeit, so few are now in circulation. Old Baron Rothchild of England, said, not long ago, that the United States had the best currency of any nation in the world, and he was probably as good a judge as the world afforded then. Forty years ago, and now, what a change in money matters! The young business man of to day cannot realize it.
Another strange drunken affair, but not quite so tragical, happened a short time after. A Mr. R. went to Painesville after a hogshead of sugar for one of Kirtland's merchants. In coming home he imbibed quite heavily, but came down the hill all right. The road at that time crossed the river below the dam and then crossed the race between the dam and the mill. The race was some fifteen feet deep, with five or six feet of water. The bridge over it was fifteen or twenty feet long, without any railings on the sides. It was very dark, but the horses had not been drinking and were perfectly sober, and would have crossed over all right if they could have had their own way; but the driver must get out and lead them across. Not starting in the right direction, and walking backwards, he went off the upper side of the bridge, pulling the horses and wagon off after him. He and the horses must have swung partly under the bridge, or they would have been crushed by the wagon and sugar. They were got out that night, not badly injured. The next day the wagon was brought to land, but little damaged; but the sugar was a total loss, as the mill made no better flour with sweetened water than it did with clear.
After the Kirtland distillery was closed, as mentioned in a former communication, there were people determined that liquor should be manufactured in Kirtland, and a cider brandy distillery was started up the river from the flats. The poor man who operated it was blown up, injured and scalded by the explosion of the boiler, and was for a long time cared for and supported by the charity of neighbors.
The whisky people were still determined that the township should not go dry, and erected a building for a distillery at the cold spring near the Willoughby line, on the farm now owned by the heirs of the late Hon. H. G. Tryon. But death by delirium tremens of the man who was to operate it , and the strong oppostion of the temperance people, put a stop to its completion as a distillery, and the enterprise was abandoned.
Several tragedies have taken place in Kirtland which were not caused by liquor. Mrs. Quartus Clark, on the Temple hill, was by some means thrown from her buggy and killed. Some girls visited the grist mill, when the clothes of one of them caught by a rapidly revolving shaft, whirled her around it, killing her. Ervine Peck, in stooping to pick up a pail of water from the spring, some two feet deep, slipped, went in headforemost, and was drowned. If my memory is not at fault, two girls were drowned in the mill pond at the flats - drowned in a washtub, and two boys, sons of C. Sperry and W. Plaisted, were playing in a sand bank which caved in and crushed their tender lives. The friends of the victims of the above mentioned casualties should have one consolation - that their loved ones left this land of sin and sorrow for the other shore unpolluted by the sin and crime of intemperance.
Some years later I met an old Democratic friend, a former resident of Kirtland. He said that when I was appointed to that office he thought the Democrats would suffer, but he could not see that I had made any difference; if there was any difference, he thought I had favored the Democrats, as I had appraised his Whig neighbor's fifty acres at 50 cents an acre higher than his fifty by the side of it, which he thought equally as good. I told him that I was sorry if I had wronged my Whig friend the tax on $25 by appraising his land too high, or had wronged the county that much by putting his land too low. But possibly I was right, and he was over-valuing his own land.
In 1851 the land was to be re-valued. The office of assessor had become elective. The commissioners divided the county into four districts, putting Willoughby and Kirtland together. There were then three political parties. The Free Soil party, out-numbering both the others, nominated John Babcock; the Democrats nominated Samuel Metcalf, and the Whigs nominated C.G. Crary. I had no expectation of being elected, and fell a little behind Babcock in my own township; but the township of Willoughby gave me a large vote, electing me by majority. For this mark of confidence I have always felt grateful to the people of Willoughby, and of course commended them highly for their good judgement and discrimination. The foregoing may look like self-boasting, but I hope my readers will parden an old man in reviewing the events of long years ago in re-telling only the bright and sunny side, ignoring the dark clouds that have shaded much of his life.
In June, 1850, the steamer "Griffith" was burned on Lake Erie, near the shore of Willoughby, when all hope of saving the boat was abandoned. It was headed for the shore, but did not quite reach it. The passengers - between 300 and 400 in number - jumped into the water from the side of the boat nearest the land, and so rapidly that good swimmers stood no chance of escape. But few were saved. Several, having presenc of mind, jumped from the other side of the boat, and swimming around the surging mass in front of the boat, reached the shore. The bodies were raised and buried on the bank of the lake. Thirteen years later I visited the scene of the disaster, and found the lake had encroached upon the land and carried away nearly all of the burying ground. A few rough coffins were striking out of the bank, ready to fall in when old Lake Erie should again show her angry and mighty power.
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