Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Pioneer Women of Leroy
Lake County, 1805-1840

Taken from Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve, published under the auspices of The Women's Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission, edited by Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham, 1896

Transcribed and submitted by Becky Falin, 1996.

This sketch must necessarily be imperfect. The majority of those who possessed a knowledge of the early settlers have long since passed away, and on those who remain the hand of time has pressed heavily. The accounts handed down to their children are the source from which we must draw our knowledge of that early time.

The geographical position of Leroy did not favor an early settlement of the township. Grand river formed a natural boundary on the north, separating it from the territory through which ran the sand ridges with the ridge roads, which offered a natural thoroughfare for the pioneer.

The Connecticut Land Company opened the first public highway through this section. It was the first road laid out on the Reserve of which a record was made, being known as the Old Girdled Road. The committee to select a route for it was appointed February, 1797. They reported that a road be opened from the Pennsylvania line to Cleveland. Starting from Conneaut it came westerly to Harpersfield, then south to Thompson in Geauga County, then west through the township of Leroy, and on west to Cleveland.

Along this road many and many a pioneer woman came early in the century; riding in the heavy wagon drawn by oxen, or patiently trudging along behind, driving the cows, sheep, pigs, or perhaps, carrying a child, or leading another.

Their camping places at night dotted the roadside. There was no stop at noon for dinner, but the good woman had a warm supper for all at night; and, after sleeping in the wagon, under the wagon, or on blankets by the fire, a warm breakfast was prepared and all were ready for the next day's journey. The first settlers in Leroy reared their habitations along the road.

As in all other cases the first pioneers were men. In 1802 Col. Amasa Clapp, of Chesterfield, Mass., sent his two sons, Paul and Elah, and Jonathan B. Russell, to open up land owned by him here. They built a cabin, cleared six acres and sowed it in wheat, which the next year yielded about fifteen to twenty bushels an acre.

Mr. Russell only remained in the township temporarily, and it was not until 1805 that Paul Clapp brought his family from Massachusetts to Leroy. It numbered five children - Patty, Bulah, Leafa, Lyman and Orphia.

The first death in the township was Patty Clapp, who died in 1806, aged eleven years. Of Mrs. Clapp we only know that she was the first white woman living in the town. The same year the second family moved in, Abiathan French, from Massachusetts, with his wife and six children.

Among the vexations of that year may be mentioned the following: Mr. French had for safety built his hog-pen at one end of his house. One time during his absence, a bear entered the pen and, in spite of all Mrs. French's efforts to drive it away, succeeded in carrying off a fine shoat in broad daylight. When we consider the distance that the pig had been brought and that the pork supply for future years depended upon the few now possessed, we can realize the energy with which Mrs. French fought for the pig, and the great disappointment when it was carried off.

The first marriage in the township was held at their house in 1807, when their daughter, Rebecca, was married to Elah Clapp. This was a merry time, in which the whole settlement shared. An abundant supper was prepared out of the material at hand, and there was no lack of welcome and genuine friendliness.

We may well wonder what that supper was like! A garden had been made and there were vegetables and an abundance of wild meat, but think how far they were from any store where groceries could be bought!

Although young men and maidens were scarce in the town, the community enjoyed another festival in December of the same year when Spencer Phelps was married to Mary Keneep. Spencer Phelps came in 1803 from Massachusetts and Mary Keneep from the same state two years later with her brother Charles.

These two newly married couples became permanent residents of the township, the others mentioned removing to other parts of the Western Reserve. The first white child born in the township was a daughter of Elah and Rebecca Clapp. This daughter died in early life, but their second child, Amasa, lived to an old age and was usually considered the first child born in the township. Benjamin Bates brought his family in 1809; a family named Chappell, and the family of William Wright came soon after.

One of the greatest trials of these early pioneer women was something to make bread of. The men could raise the wheat, rye and corn - no trouble about that; but "how to get it ground into flour or meal?" was the question. The nearest mill was in Claridon, fifteen miles away, and as they could not always get grinding done even when they went there, they were sometimes entirely out of bread material. Once, after going without bread several days, Mrs. Bates sifted her bran to get enough coarse flour to bake with. At another time Mrs. Chappell was the only woman in the neighborhood who had anything to make bread of, and she had only one loaf rye and Indian bread. This was divided among the four families and was all they had for four days.

Those pioneer women were generous as well as brace. Thos who are only familiar with the diminutive loaves of today may think this a starvation amount; but those who remember the great brown loaves of "rye 'n Injun" bread know better. Baked in the bake kettle by the side of the fireplace they made one of the richest and sweetest breads ever made, and were as generous in size as they were in quality. Still, the fact remained, that they really needed more bread.

In 1810 Martin's mill was built in Concord, and in 1811 Mr. Bates built a sawmill, and put a run of stone for coarse grinding, and from that time on our pioneer women did not suffer for want of bread material.

Nearly all their meat at this time was wild meat, deer, bear, turkeys, etc. Many of the women tried to raise poultry, but after a great amount of care bestowed upon her flocks of chickens and goslings she succeeded only in furnishing a fine meal for a fox, wildcat or raccoon. A few years later Margaret and Jane Wright bought some geese and raised a find flock of goslings. In one night they were all taken. Their father set a trap near the paths where they disappeared and the next morning found a large wildcat in it.

In the spring of 1818 Col. Hendrick E. Paine brought his family into the northern part of town to the little valley still known as "Paine's Hollow." No woman could have been better fitted by nature to endure the trials of life in the wilderness than Mrs. Paine, formerly Miss Harriet Phelps, from Connecticut. Col. Paine employed many men in the sawmill and forge, and in burning charcoal. Their families lived in the little log cabins that sprang up here and there amid the forest.

All were poor and in need; there was sickness among them; there were little children to be cared for; there were dead to be laid away and the mourners to be comforted; and in all these things the needy went to Mrs. Paine for help, and she became a fostering mother to the whole community. Possessed of great energy and perseverence that matched every obstacle, she had within her a resource for every emergency. Having left a comfortable home in the east, it was but a few years until she made her home a social center in the west.

Her daughter, Elizabeth, ably assisted her in that direction. A keen wit and great vivacity made her the life of every social gathering, and hosts of company were entertained in the hospitable home of Col. Paine. Dancing was a favorite amusement and many a time the little fiddlers as the afterwards famous musicians, John and Peter Upson, of Upson's Band, was then called, were sent for unexpectedly. Indeed, there is a tradition in the family that so often were they called up that Col. Paine paid them by the year instead of by the night.

In February, 1831, Mrs. Paine made a birthday party for her son, Henry, then twenty-one years old. The dancing began at four o'clock in the afternoon and continued until daylight the next morning. A supper was served at six o'clock, another about midnight and a breakfast just before the last guest departed. Guests were present from Chardon, Claridon, Painesville, Madison, Austinburg, Unionville, and many near places.

The same season that Col. Paine came to Leroy, William Wright moved his family to the bank of Grand river near them. Mrs. Wright, who was formerly Isabel Martin, saw many of the hardships of life, yet her kindness was unfailing. They had but one cow, yet the larger part of the milk was divided among the sick and puny of her neighbor's children. She was the mother of a large family, noted for their longevity. All but two lived to be over seventy. Her son, James, died at the age of ninety-one. Benjamin still lives at the age of ninety-three, and her daughter Margaret, Mrs. Cyrus French, aged eighty-nine, has taken a great interest in and furnished many of the items for this paper.

The next year Joel Holcomb and his son-in-law, Elisha Patch, brought their families from Cattaraugus County, N.Y. They drove through with ox teams and the two unmarried daughters, Fanny and Nancy, walked nearly all the way, driving four cows and a hog. When the journey was about half done the hog died. Mrs. Holcomb was a very industrious woman and a good manager. By looking over an old set of account books of that year I find she was selling butter and eggs, weaving cloth and spinning to bring in the money that was needed for household expences.

Her daughter, Fanny, married James Wright, and during the remainder of a long life was a resident of the town. During the early part of their married life they lived near Grand river. They had two children, and one day Mrs. Wright went to the spring, and on returning she found that an old sheep had attacked Eliza Ann, the oldest child. The sheep had knocked her down and buttered her under a large kettle turned over upon a log. Mrs. Wright took her out insensible and supposed she was dead. What should she do, alone there with those little children? Putting her injured child over her shoulder she took her baby in her arms and started for Col. Paine's, more than a mile away through the woods. She ran nearly all the way. When Elizabeth Paine saw her coming she called:

"Mother! Here comes Mrs. Wright bringing the baby, and Eliza Ann is dead!"

It was twenty-four hours before the child was restored to consciousness, and a long time before either mother or child was able to go home. She could never after relate this incident without shedding tears.

No one ever loved flowers more than Mrs. Wright, and no matter how much work she had to do, nor how little strength to do it with, she always managed to have a garden full of bloom. The peonies, roses, lillies, hollyhocks, fleur-de-lis, china-asters, four-o'clocks, were a small part of her collection which transformed the old log house into a thing of beauty.

Once, in her old age, she was bewailing the fact that she could not take care of and so had no flowers of her own. "But there are plenty of flowers here," said a visitor. "Oh yes, we have plenty of flowers, but they are Eliza Ann's and I am not going to set my heart on other folk's things!" wisely remarked the old lady.

About this time another young couple turned their backs upon the comfortable homes in Berkshire County, Mass., and started for the west. They were S. Davis Williams and his wife, nee Freelove Brown. They were six or seven weeks on the road, traveling with ox teams with a horse leading, and on their arrival here, settled immediately in a little log cabin on the farm on which she lived for fifty-six years. She was a cheerful and willing sharer with her husband in the labors and trials incident to the clearing of land and making a home in a heavily timbered country.

In 1837 the new home was built, and with their thriving family of boys and girls they moved into it. This house, which is still standing, is now so suggestive of old time hospitality and good cheer that it deserves a brief mention.

The upper story was all in one room and was the ballroom of the pioneers. The balls and parties held here were almost without number, and the "William's ballroom" became an active factor in developing the social life of the community. A daughter writes:

"Though I was a little girl I can plainly see my father, Davis Williams, and Elizabeth Paine leading the first dance at the first party given after we moved into the new house. Upson's band, then so widely known in northern Ohio, furnished the music. Then the parties were largely made up of the Carters, the Paines, the Weeds, the Bakers, the Axtells, the Williams and others, that made up an enjoyable gathering."

A sister of Mrs. Williams, Sarah Brown, who married Francis Baker, came with her husband to Leroy in 1818. They industriously began building a home in the woods, but it was her sad fate to be early called away, leaving a family of motherless children. Mr. Baker soon after married Miss Lydia Rawdon, of Austinburg. No woman ever entered a family under similar circumstances who had better success. A bright, intelligent, and a thoroughly lovable woman, she made friends of everyone who came within her influence.

The care of the sick was early one of the duties of the pioneer woman, and many of them became skillful nurses; notably so was Mrs. Hoshua Bates (Miss Margaret Colwell), who came into the town in 1820. My information says:

"When any of us were sick the first thing was to send for Aunt Peggy Bates, and Aunt Peggy always came."

She had her simple remedies: camomile, rue, mother-thyme, boneset, hoarhound, slippery elm, with roots and barks from the woods, and many a poor sick child was restored to health through her good care.

In 1833 Harriet Tuttle, of Austinburg, became the wife of Henry Paine, and for nearly fifty years was a resident of the town. Of a bright, sunny temperment, and much above the average intellectually, she was a deeply religious woman, and her influence in the home and neighborhood was ever on the side of right. No one could win a more sincere regard from a large circle of friends.

But my space is nearly gone and not half the story of our pioneer women told.

Mrs. Newcombe Carter (Alche Eldred) came to Richfield in 1825 and to Leroy ten years later. They came from Connecticut over the Allegheny mountains and through Pittsburg. They drove through with ox teams and were forty days on the road.

Isaac Woodward brought his family from near Senapee Lake, N.H., in 1817. Their daughter, Roxana, who afterwards married Dudley Crofoot, taught the first district school, although there had been a private school a few years earlier.

Mary Wedge, who was afterwards Mrs. Samuel Taylor, came from Canada with her parents in 1817. She is remembered as a woman of fine personal appearance and dignified bearing, whose chief concern was to do the best she could for her family.

How well our older residents remember that noble woman, Mrs. Ring, nee House, dignified and stately, yet filled with the old-time courtesy, a true type of a refined, intelligent, New England woman! her daughter, Mrs. Adeline Andrews, a newer edition of herself; Mrs. Ezra Bates (Mary Hungerford), with her sweet, girlish face and her gentle womanly ways; Mrs. Edwin Cone, nee Huntover, quiet and reserved, who seldom went beyond the bounds of her own household; Mrs. William Potts (Cordelia Hutchinson) and her sisters, Ada and Laura (Mrs. H.N. Carter), all bright and intelligent women; Mrs. Jonathan Weed, lovingly called "Aunt Polly" by a large circle of friends, who remember her as one of the brightest of old ladies; Mrs. Silas Weed, Mrs. Prentiss, Mrs. Valentine, Mrs. Hovey, Mrs. Breakman, Mrs. McMillan, Mrs. Beebe, and many others who all deserve honorable mention as pioneer women.

Among the earliest members of the church at Northeast Leroy are the names of Charlotte Crawford, Eliza Mather, Leatetia Clague, Judith Scribner, Deborah Manly, Catherine Garrett, Eliza Moore.

The northeast part of the town was the latest settled, and in it were many people from the Isle of Man. These women were industrious and frugal to a remarkable degree, and helped to make that neighborhood one of the most properous in the town.

The first Methodist Episcopal class in Leroy was organized at Mrs. Henry Brakeman's about 1827, by Rev. John Crawford. The class numbered six: Mr. and Mrs. Henry Breakman, Miss Clarissa Race, Mr. and Mrs. John Valentine, Miss Polly Cady, Mrs. Lewis Breakman, Miss Eva Becker, and one other, whose name is unknown. Mrs. Eva Breakman was the mother of Henry and was at this time ninety years old. She lived ten years as a memberof this class, and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were active members of it until today. Their meetings were held in the Breakman residence for many years, then in the school house and finally in the church built upon land given by Mr. Breakman which still bears his name.

Mrs. Mary D. Kerwish, Chairman and Historian
Leroy Committee - Mrs. Eliza A Wright Baker, Mrs. Elizabeth Paine Dancaster, Mrs. Frances Williams Weed, Mrs. Hannah Nichols Bates, Mrs. Catherine Breakman Bedell, Mrs. Cloenda Blair Abbey

Back to the History Page

Back to Lake OHGenWeb

Please note:

If you have other Lake County resources or corrections please contact the webmaster at CynthiaGenWeb@juno.com

Last updated 5 Apr 2002

© 2002 Lake County, Ohio GenWeb