Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Pioneer Women of Madison
Lake County, 1800-1850

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.

Madison, the largest township of the Western Reserve, and of Ohio, is located in Lake, the smallest county. It lies on the line of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and the New York, Chicago and St. Louis railways. The pioneers here laid for posterity a good foundation. Within another area of forty or fifty miles on the Reserve it is doubtful if there were a greater number of attractive farm homes. Here is located the National Woman's Relief Corps Home.

In 1798 John Alexander Harper came from Harpersfield, NY; in 1802 was married to Laura Miner, who, in 1805, became the mother of the first white female child born in the township, Julia Ann Harper, who is still living at the age of ninety-one.

Mrs. Daniel Bartram was from Redding, Conn., in 1810. For a year the floor of her one-roomed house was a parlor carpet, brought from the East, spread on the ground. Neighbors were few. One afternoon, feeling lonely, knitting in hand, she sought her husband in the "slashing"; he was invisible, but rose at her call from beneath the fallen trees. "What are you doing down there, Daniel?" she asked. "Catching rattlesnakes, Ann." He had killed five within the hour.

Mrs. Levi Bartram (Betsy Nott Walker) came in 1811 from Ashford, Conn. Two years later her wedding tour was a four mile horseback ride through the woods to the home on the Middle Ridge, where the remainder of her life was spent. She and her husband were often awakened at night by the pigs squealing as wolves bit them through cracks in the pen; guard must be kept till morning, for the pig skins might be needed to pay the taxes.

Mrs. Bartram was a skillful weaver, and for a number of years paid the taxes with the product of her loom. She carded (no machine being in the State), spun, and wove flax and wool for the family clothing and bedding. Her daughters were women of notable energy and decision and at the age of fourteen spun and wove beautiful linen fabrics and double coverlets.

Laura lived unmarried seventy years on the farm where she was born, for nearly a decade had entire charge, being considered one of the thriftiest of farmers. She fed, clothed, and "mothered" half a dozen homeless children.

Ulilly (Mrs. Eli Olds) when very young, spun and wove linen and wool, often for weeks doing two days' work in one. Thread used was home spun and colored. Blessed with a vigorous constitution, she yet lives, at the age of seventy-eight, doing with her might what her hands find to do.

Judith Foss Holbart, a pioneer of 1812, by washing, sewing, etc., earned $10, rode an ox sled several miles to an adjoining town, and paid eight of the ten for a barrel of salt.

For several years the corn meal used in the family of Mrs. Chester Stocking (Clarissa Lee, 1814) was home ground. An oak tree was felled, fire kindled on the stump, in which a large stone slowly burning its way downward formed a cavity. In this, when stone and ashes were removed, corn was put and pounded with a pestle attached with bark to a sapling with the top cut away. A bushel of corn bought a pound of nails, six bushels a yard of calico. Seventy-two bushels would buy a gown for a modern woman.

Mrs. Julia Mixer (Belinda Simmons) riding on horseback through the woods, as her horse was about to leap a large log, saw a bear preparing to leap from the other side. Horse and rider were terribly frightened; the horse wheeled and ran home. Some time passed before Mrs. Mixer could tell what had happened.

The parents of Emaline Bidwell Meriam, not being pleased with the location in Meadville, Pa., she, with her brother, Walter (twenty years editor of the New York Evangelist) started on horseback prospecting; they selected a home in Madison. She was a successful teacher, an earnest church worker, and a temperance radical, refusing wine at weddings, which elicited sharp criticism. Her reputation reached Rev. Joseph Meriam, in Randolph, sixty miles away. He called at her schoolroom, made known his errand, and the third time they met was the day of their wedding. The pastorate at Randolph extended through sixty-five years. She lived to the age of ninety-four.

Mrs. Elizabeth Russ Burnham (1809) was the mother of Reuben Burnham, the first soldier from Madison killed in the civil war.

Mrs. Ruth Crocker Pease became a resident in 1833. Her husband, Peter Pindar Pease, was one of the founders of Oberlin College.

The four daughters of Silas Ladd (1812), Mrs. Grata T Merriman, Mrs. Flavia B. Cunningham, Mrs. Marcia Plympton, and Mrs. Ruby Bissel, were the seventh in line from Governor Bradford, of Massachusetts, and from Elder William Brewster, of the Mayflower.

Lucinda Campbell Pease was a direct descendant of the Scotch poet, Thomas Campbell.

Mrs. Emily Platts St. John remembers, when very young, leading her brother on a Sunday morning to see a bear that had just been shot. They had heard that if they were not good on Sunday, bears would get them. They mustered courage to take a peep at Bruin, but quickly backed away. For years after, if engaging in sport on Sunday, they kept an eye out for bears.

Mrs. Ellen Close, daughter of Mrs. Altheda Crain Graves, published a book of poems, of which many are incidents of pioneer life in Madison. Walter Wellman, arctic explorer and publisher, is Mrs. Graves' grandson.

Roxy Olds Ford, a settler in 1823, lived in a log house so open that owls hooted in the loft and rats nibbled her toes at night.

Rebecca Warren Talcott was en route from Massachusetts in a mover's wagon in 1814. One of the horses died; a cow was substituted and the journey to Madison resumed. Her husband carried a sack of shelled corn on his back forty miles to Cleveland, returning the third day at midnight. The children who went hungry to bed, were awakened to a supper of mush and milk. She often rode several miles on horseback to church with three children.

Levi and Rebekah Benjamin in 1822 started on their wedding journey of forty-one days from Massachusetts to Ohio, with a yoke of oxen, a horse hitched in front, behind a cow which had been shod. A falling tree killed the cow soon after they reached Madison.

Caroline Newcomb, at the age of eleven, was left motherless, with the care of housekeeping and of three younger children, until at sixteen she was married to Asa Talcott, aged nineteen. They were called the "Babes in the Woods." She raised six girls and seven boys. Four were in the civil war.

Mrs. Nahum Miller's (Esther McDonald) wedding tour in 1817 was a ride of sixteen miles in an ox wagan through the dense forest. Her dowry comprised a big and little wheel, six unpainted chairs, a cow, and six sheep. On the heavily timbered tract scarcely a tree was cut; in 1854, on the farm of 100 acres, not a stump could be seen. When the ministers had their Sunday dinner, from the top shelf of the cupboard were taken the decanter of whiskey and a bowl of loaf sugar. The children looked on with longing eyes - not for the whiskey, but for the forbidden sugar. Mrs. Miller's house was a noted "underground railroad station."

Lucretia Branch was a woman of strong character and acute intellect. Her husband, Deacon William Branch, wintered with Washington at Valley Forge, was present at the trial and execution of Major Andre, being one of the three guards who took him from the gallows. Miss Alma Branch, his granddaughter, now has two of the Continental bills he received when paid off at West Point.

Lucy J Bartram, widow of Judge W.W. Branch, is a descendant of Roger Williams. Her life, one of usefulness and absolute Christian service, has seen the development of Madison from a wilderness into one of the most beautiful and prosperous sections of the country. Women like her have helped to make the Western Reserve the pride and glory of Ohio.

Elizabeth White Brewer lived nearly sixty years on the farm to which she came in 1836. She had a strong constitution; her daughter, Mrs. Mary Edgerton, says she never saw her mother sick. Mrs. Brewer wove both linen and wool, and in an evening knit a man's sock. She died in 1894, aged ninety-seven.

The pioneer women, with few exceptions, were Christians, and when they came to the new country did not leave their religion behind. Mrs. Mary Boynton Balch, baby in arms, often rode five miles on horseback to meeting. She solicited wool, spun the larger part of the yard, and wove the first carpet for the Baptist Church.

Mrs. Elisha Wood (Polly Doty) arrived in 1814, when saleratus was made by burning cobs in an outdoor oven and women picked up the bones to make soap. Her house was always open and lunch provided for the old people who stayed Sunday during intermission.

In 1819 Mary Smith (Mrs. Lonson Brooks) taught school; for tuition, she received calves, corn, a bureau, etc. One man paid a load of corn, another took it to Painesville, exchanging it for cotton yard; from the yard a woman wove a bread-spread - thus three school bills were paid.

The bureau and counterpane are now in the possession of Mrs. Brooks' daughter, Mrs. Jane Hines.

Ora Evans, a resident in 1810, fought beside his father in the Revolutionary War. His mother, with a colored servant (both mounted), while taking a letter from Washington to one of his aids, was pursued by a squad of British soldiers. She distanced all but one; still riding at full speed she turned, shot and disabled his horse, and safely reached her destination.

Mrs. Polly Bester Burr reared ten children in the home where she lived seventy-four years, and where she died at the age of ninety.

Mrs. Richard S. Wilcox (Eliabeth Boynton, 1828), to pay postage on a letter (25 cents), sold 4 pounds of butter, at sixpence per pound, or 4 dozen eggs at sixpence a dozen.

Rhoda Cunningham, Theodocia Brewster, Ruby Ladd, and Mary Sanford were officers of the first woman's society organized in 1819. This entry is found in 1821:

"This society agrees to purchase some sheep * * * the avails to be appropriated for pious young men studying for the ministry. 1823, The society convened * * * for the purpose of picking wool. March, 1827, The Society presented Rev. Jonathan Winchester three yards of cloth for his labor of love in our society."

Sarah Gardner Brooks says that in 1838 there were no milliners; bonnets came from New York city, and were sold in the dry goods stores. Women did not take kindly to stoves - said they made rooms dark and gloomy, the air hot and impure. They prophesied better than they knew.

Mrs. David Bailey (Maria Latham) came in 1819. The first Fourth of July celebration was held in a large, and, for that day, elegant residence built the following year. Here, at the age of ninety-two, Mrs. Bailey died. The home is now occupied by her son, grandson, and great-grandson.

Through the influence of Mrs. Cynthia Richmond Williams (1830), their log house was the first building raised in North Madison without whiskey. The neighbors commenced work, but learning that liquor was not provided, refused further service.

Mrs. Williams promised money and ample refreshments; they still refused, and were then told they could go. Next day the house was raised by others who, for that time at least, were "cold water men."

Hannah Mills Bunn and her husband Rev. Jonathan Winchester, lived in Brighton, NY, till water was let into the Erie Canal. This tainted the wells, causing sickness, so they journeyed westward, she traveling on horseback, baby in arms, another child on the pillion, till Madison was reached. In 1824 the log cabin was built, and the "old oaken bucket" and sweep drew pure, sparkling water. For several years, Rev. Winchester's salary was annually $91 in cash, $273 in wheat and corn at the "going price." Mrs. Winchester died in Iowa, aged ninety-one.

Mrs. Paulina Barnes Crocker (1835), stayed for weeks with little children in a house without windows and having a blanket door, while wild beasts howled around the lonely cabin. She was the mother of nine children.

Mrs. Weltha Richmond Curtis, left a widow, as a tailoress supported and educated five children, one an artist of no mean ability, another a writer of poems and Sunday School books. Mrs. Curtis lived to be ninety.

Theodocia Lyman (1817), Mrs. Jasper Brewster, Sr., was startled on morning to find sleepign around the fireplace a half a dozen Indians who had taken possession during the night.

Mrs. Abner Allen (Serena Kemp) had an unparalleled reputation as nurse and midwife. In early days doctors were not at command, hired nurses unknown. Neither contagious disease nor epidemic interfered with her ministrations. She dressed more than 200 infants born in the township, nursed the sick, and smoothed the pillow of the dying.

In 1810 some drunken Indians came to the house of Levina Holbrook Miller, beggin whiskey; they were ordered out. In great terror, fearing her husband would shoot, she hid his gun. As he seized an old ramrod and drove them out, one said: "We kill you 'morrow," and was afterwards seen peering through the window. Save her terrible fright, no harm resulted.

The grandfather of Apphia Bartlett, Emery Bailey was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Until past ninety she knitted handsome bedspreads and tidies, also made beautiful rugs. Dying in her ninety-ninth years, she was still erect as a miss of sixteen.

The Hubbard and Curtis families came from Connecticut in 1813, and purchased 600 acres each (unbroken forest), bordering Lake Erie. Judge John and Mrs. Hubbard (Mary Ann Cowles) gave the land and largely built the "Bell Meeting House," in North Madison, so called from having the first church bell in the township - the gift of Mrs. Hubbard. Her sister, Fanny Cowles (Mrs. Charles Curtis), heard the firing on Lake Erie at Perry's victory; she reared thirteen children. Both were worthy of being numbered with that noble band of women who for posterity dared and endured.

Ebenezer Ford, father of Lucinda, and family, in 1823 were en route from Plainfield, Mass., in a prairie schooner for the far West. At the end of six weeks Madison was reached, a log house built, and pioneer life begun. Her mother died in 1827, leaving her at the age of ten, both housekeeper and caretaker of three younger children. She married Royal R. Latham. She often told her children about the struggles of her early life, and of the abiding pleasure arising from having endured and overcome.

James Cunningham, with two brothers, purchased 3,000 acres of land in northeast Madison. He returned to Plainfield, Mass., for his family, and died there suddenly. In 1814 his wife, Nabby Cunningham, son Cushing, and two daughters came to make a home in the new country, occpying first a log, then a frame house. The nails in the latter were made by hand by a blacksmith; in this house have lived four generations. It was nothing unusual for the girls to drive young bears from the pig pen. Miranda (afterward Mrs. Edwin Harmon) chased one up a tree; Mary (Mrs. Henry Richardson) caught one in her apron.

Extract from a letter without envelope and sealed with wax, written from Madison in 1812 to Mrs. Ruby Ladd by her husband, Jesse Ladd: "I think there is no more danger of Ohio being disturbed by Indians than there is of Connecticut. There is no fear of danger among the people. I * * * shall try to chop a spot large enough for a garden before I return for you."

In the ledger of J.C. Ford, who kept the first store in Madison, we find these entries:
1818 2 lbs. nails $ .50
1818 12 yds. shirting $6.00
1818 5 yds. calico $2.34
1818 1 yrd. cambric $1.25
1818 8 yds. gingham $4.50
1818 10 yds. sheeting $6.25
1819 2 balls candle wicking $ .88
1819 2-3/4 bushels apples $6.80
1820 41 cords wood $17.94
1824 1 barrel potatoes $2.25

Sarah E Wilcox, Chairman and Historian
Madison Committee - L. Helen Kimball, Kate Smead, Eunice L. Williams, Ardelia King, Eva L Hulett, Agnes Rose, Junia Benjamen, Nellie Chase.

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