From "Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve," Part IV, Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham, Editor [published under the auspices of the Women’s Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission, February, 1897], p.p. 917-920:
PIONEER WOMEN OF CONNEAUT, 1796-1896
Conneaut is the northeast township of Ashtabula County, formerly called SALEM*. That name, it is said, was given to the stream that surrounds the town, except on the north, by the Seneca Indians, and signifies "River of many fish." The banks of this river had long been the favorite resort of not only the red man of the forest, but of a pre-historic people, who, without doubt, dwelt here in the remote past. The ancient people disappeared leaving no written record which might enlighten us as to who they were, whence they came or whither they have gone. They have left abundant proof in their burial place, called "Fort Hill" that they did once exist and were a numerous and powerful people.
An individual by the name of Halstead was found residing here at the time the surveyors arrived in 1796, and had then lived here three or four years. The next event of importance was the arrival of the surveyors. They pitched their tents on the east side of the creek [a most lovely spot still]; and afterwards erected a good log building, shingled roof, good floors, doors, etc., made from boards sawed out by a whip-saw. This was the FIRST BUILDING ERECTED by the white man upon the soil of the Western Reserve.
James Kingsbury arrived shortly after the surveyors. This was in the winter of 1796-7, and it is thought that his was the first family that passed the winter in New Connecticut. The story of the sufferings of this family during that winter has often been told, but by those who are in the midst of plenty and to whom want has never been known, it is with difficulty appreciated.
James Kingsbury had to make a journey to New York, expecting to return soon, but was prostrated with severe illness until the setting in of winter. As soon as able he started for his family, securing a guide. At Presque Isle, he purchased twenty pounds of flour. In crossing Elk creek his horse became disabled. He placed the flour on his back and pursued his way, fearing the worst. On his arrival, late in the evening, his worse apprehensions were realized in the scene that met his eyes. Stretched upon a cot lay the partner of his cares, who had followed him through all the dangers and hardships of the wilderness without repining, pale and emaciated, reduced by FIERCE FAMINE to the last stages in which life can be sustained. Near the mother on a little pallet were the remains of his youngest child, born in his absence, who had just expired from the want of that nourishment which the mother, herself deprived of sustenance, could not supply. Shut in by a gloomy wilderness, far distant from the aid and sympathy of friends, filled with anxiety for an absent husband and suffering from want, she was compelled to behold two children expire near her.
Such is the picture presented, truthful in every respect, for the contemplation of the wives and daughters of today, who have NO ADEQUATE CONCEPTION of the hardships endured by the pioneers of this beautiful country of ours.
The Kingsburys went on to Cleveland the following spring, and became very prosperous. Mrs. Kingsbury was born Eunice Waldo.
The first marriage solemnized in the county, according to the rites of civilization, occurred in March 1880 [sic, 1800], between Aaron Wright and Ann Montgomery of Conneaut, who walked to Harpersfield and were married by Justice Wheeler of that township, there being no magistrate in Conneaut. Today they would have driven in a carriage lined with white satin.
Before this marriage Aaron Wright lived sixteen days without seeing a human face, except his own in a pail of water, which served as a mirror when shaving. At the end of this long seclusion a friend came and, being anxious to entertain him in good style, he said, "My larder was wanting in one important article, viz. meat, the bones of my last porcupine have been picked. Two other friends came along just then, bringing with them a fine turkey. I set one to stripping the feathers, while I prepared my kettle and some dough, wherewith to make a pot-pie, by simply putting flour and water together. I soon had supper in readiness and my friend informed me that it was the best meal of victuals to which he ever sat down, made up of my pot-pie, bread, pepper and salt. When it was time to retire I spread my straw bed upon the floor and, by laying crosswise, four of us enjoyed a comfortable night's rest."
No wonder he was willing to walk to Harpersfield to getting married and I feel that he rightfully belongs to the women's list. Ann Montgomery was lost and after a long search by all citizens was found by Aaron Wright. When, upon being asked what they could do to show their gratitude, he said he would take the girl to be his wife.
Mrs. Samuel Bemus was the first woman to mourn a child [with the exception of the new-born infant of Mrs. Kingsbury], losing a daughter in 1799. The coffin was made by Aaron Wright out of a white oak tree, from which he cut and split the boards, obtaining the nails from a boat that had been wrecked and drifted near the mouth of the creek, and it was painted by using the ashes from burnt straw.
Three women, at least, came to Conneaut in 1800. They were Mrs. Zadoc Thompson [Polly Harper], Mrs. James Harper [Hannah Laughlin], Mrs. Robert Harper [Aurelia Rathburn]. One came in 1798, Mrs. James Montgomery[Polly Baldwin].
The first birth of a white person after the little one which expired so soon, was the child of Mrs. Samuel Bemus, born on the twelfth of March, 1801, and called Amelia. She became the wife of Daniel Hewitt.
The first religious meetings were held in 1802 by Rev. Joseph Badger, whose grand-daughter, Mrs. Julia Hicks, is a lovely old lady still living with us, beloved by all who know her. These meetings were held in the cabin of Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Wright.
The first house was built by Nathan King on the north bank of Conneaut creek in 1799.
The first school was taught by Miss Mary Baker in a HOLLOW SYCAMORE TREE in the yard near Josiah Brown's residence. The tree was large enough for nine scholars and the teacher. Miss Baker is now living in Cleveland.
Lovina Baldwin [Mrs. Milton Woodworth] made the first flag raising in Conneaut.
Mrs. David Sawtelle [Miss Gould] was the mother of eleven children. Her husband was drafted into the army and was in the battle of Tippecanoe in 1813. His team was also pressed into service. He volunteered to drive them to Sandusky, with provisions for the army. He was taken sick and brought home to die, leaving the mother of forty-one years with eleven children, the youngest four weeks old and the eldest twenty-one years. One knows without the telling all this brought upon the wife.
Mrs. Captain James Harper [Sally Montgomery] came to Conneaut in 1800 from Buffalo in an open boat.
Solomon Spaulding came to Conneaut to live in 1809 and shortly afterward began writing the book claimed to be identical with the Golden Bible of the Mormons. Mrs. Spaulding states she knew he had a manuscript entitled "Manuscripts Found," and this was the one written right here in this town.
Mehitable Olds, widow of Thomas Olds, married Peter King in New Hampshire and came to Salem in 1807. Accompanying her were her daughter, Mehitable Olds, who married Thomas McNear, and her sons Ezekiel and Thomas. They had a span of horses and just what they could carry in a wagon and came the long way from New Hampshire over unbroken roads. Sarah M. Chapman [Mrs. C. Hayward] born in Conneaut in 1849, daughter of Cynthia Olds and William Chapman, is a descendant of Ezekiel and Elizabeth Olds.
Ezekiel Olds made the FIRST CRADLE IN SALEM in 1810 in a sap trough.
Mrs. Judge King [Sally Harper] came in 1806. Mary Jones in 1808, also Anna Maria Wilder [Mrs. Peebles], and Mrs. Selah Taylor [Sally Baldwin]. In 1809, one woman arrived, Mrs. Rollin Viets [Electa Brown], and later Mrs. Albion House [Grace Tubbs].
The first marriage in the town was David Hicks and Orange De Maranville in 1810.
In 1811 there was quite an acquisition to the settlement in the addition of six women whose posterity long lingered on or near the old homesteads. These women were Mrs. Nahum Howard [Elizabeth Sawtelle], Mrs. William Light, Mrs. Porter Brown, Mrs. Josiah Brown [Betsey Venan], Mrs. Ezekiel Bonney [Nancy Venan] and Mrs. Solomon Wright [Ruth Williams]. Sisters and sisters-in-law soon followed, named Lydia, Sophia, Polly King, Fanny Betset, Polly Ely and Maria. The latter were a goodly band who were thirty days making the journey.
Lydia Proctor Moulton [Mrs. Howard King] was born in London, New Hampshire, in 1794. Her parents removed to Stanstead, Canada, where her father died. Then they came to Conneaut where Aunt Lydia, as all called her, married in 1818. She was a most estimable woman and a good mother to many, though having no children of her own. Many a tale of HARDSHIP AND HAPPINESS has it been my good fortune to hear from her wise lips.
In 1813 arrived Mrs. Numan Benson [Mary Thompson]. In 1815 Mrs. Ezra Dibble [Deborah Dennison], Mary Waterman, Abigail Thompson, Mrs. Gilman Applebee [Julia Ball], Mrs. Chauncy Brown [Mary Hibbard] and Mrs. Timothy Clifford [Ruth Buffer].
Franklin H. Carter was born in Concord and came to Conneaut in 1816. He married Miss Clarissa Putney in 1825. Five daughters and one son were born to them, the girls' names being Clarissa Rozine, married Orange Huntley of Springfield, Pa.; Mary Rosette married Eli T. Coffin; Celestia M. married John T. Simmons; Rosinda married Ralph Kellogg; Lydia Louise married Dr. J. A. Pepoon. Mr. Carter once owned where the two academies now stand, running south to Conneaut creek and north across the Lake Shore railroad. He gave the land for the old brick academy as long as it is used for educational purposes.
Elizabeth Pitney [Mrs. Ezekial Olds] came to Salem in 1807 and was the first white woman to go south of Conneaut creek on the back of an ox. She went to a log cabin without floor or door. Her daughters were Phoebe [Mrs. James Press], born in 1815; Sarah Ann [Mrs. Isaac Judson], born in 1816; Louisa [Mrs. Charles De Maranville], born in 1821; Ruth [Mrs. Sylvester Rhodes], born in 1824; Cynthia [Mrs. William Chapman], born in 1829; Elizabeth [Mrs. Byron Petty], born in 1832. They all lived to be over sixty years old and Mrs. Press at the present writing is eighty-one.
Phoebe Gates Keyes came to Conneaut with her husband in 1815. He died in 1822. The venerable wife lived until 1853, when she died at the age of eighty-nine. Henry Keyes, their only child, inherited considerable property and we of fifty years know him as General Keyes. He married Mary Cole of Massachusetts, she dying in 1824. In 1829 he married again, this time choosing Vesta Bates, and by this union seven children came to them. Mrs. Mary Cole, a daughter by the first wife, and widow of Edward Grant, has had a very sad life, losing her husband by a serious accident on the lakes and later a lovely daughter, her only comfort in a lonely home, which was one of the most hospitable known in the town.
Charlotte Jenning, wife of Dr. Daniel Fenton, was a native of Norwalk, her husband coming from Ipswich, England. They were married when quite young. He was the first president of the Tailors' Association of New York. In 1826 he came to Conneaut. Grandma Fenton lived until 1860, having been the mother of eleven children. She was a most interesting lady. Only one child is now alive, Carnot Fenton of Cleveland.
Sallie Bean, wife of Colonel Edward Fifield, came from Vermont to Conneaut in 1813. Her husband bought a large quantity of land. He brought into the country quite an amount of gold and silver. Soon after settling they were in need of meat. Mrs. Fifield went on horseback across the creek to Mr. Sawtelle's and asked if they would let her have pork for gold. They had NO USE FOR THE GOLD, they said, but finally, when she offered to make two fine shirts in return for the pork, a bargain was struck and she went back with her pork. And actually with the rest of her work accomplished that also. The gold was kept in a clock, said clock being in the possession of Mrs. Edward Chapin of Toledo. She was an active member of the Christian church for years and the mother of eleven children, Mr. James Fifield being the only living child.
Hannah Abbott [Mrs. Benjamin Fifield] was a native of New Hampshire. She was a member of the Christian Church and obeyed the gospel in her girlhood days and her whole life was adorned with Christian graces. Her husband was a deacon in the Christian Church and an honorable and upright man, whose integrity was never questioned. Josiah Fifield is the only one now living of that family.
The following women came to Conneaut in 1817: Hittie McNear, Lydia Moulton and Maria Howard. And in 1818 Mrs. Philander Warren, Mrs. John Blodgett, Anna Abbott, Mrs. William Harper [Deborah Thompson], and Mrs. Calvin Harper [Mary Underwood]. In 1819, Mrs. Ann Keyarter and Mrs. Chauncy Roberts [Almion Howard] came.
Mrs. Azuban Judson, wife of Hiram Judson, settled in Conneaut in 1840 and died here in 1896. All our lives her small, quiet, sweet self has been a familiar sight coming into Church, with her dignified husband, both most useful members of society and beloved by all. Five years before her death this grand man was thrown from a train on his way to California and she so bravely and quietly lived those years alone, when she most needed the strong arm to lean upon. She was eighty-seven years of age when called to the rest she had earned.
The following story is told of the arrival of the Hulett and Allison families in Conneaut. The band of sixteen started from Weathersfield, Vermont, in 1837, with a one-horse wagon, crossed the Green Mountains to Whitehall, thence via canal to Buffalo, there taking a boat for Sandusky. It being late in the fall, after two days' settling of accounts with old Lake Erie, they were exceedingly glad to set foot on land once more, which they did at Dunkirk, there loading their goods and as many of the children as they could into the one-horse wagon and the others on foot, started for Ohio. Being weatherbound at Springfield, Pa., they set up housekeeping in the ballroom of Zach Thomas' tavern, while Messrs. Hulett and Allison continued to journey alone as far as Reuben Harmon's in Kingsville township, where they rented a part of the Holden tavern stand. They returned for their families and once more started housekeeping with the Holden family of seventeen persons, making quite a colony. In the spring following they bought farms in Conneaut.
Mrs. Aurelia Stone Judd was the daughter of Abbie Fenton Stone of New Milford, Connecticut, a lineal descendant of Nathaniel Fenton of Revolutionary Days and cousin of Governor Fenton of New York. She came to Conneaut in 1836. She was the mother of ten children.
DAPHNE LOOMIS SMITH, Chairman; Conneaut Committee -- Miss Edna Brown, Mrs. W. F. Stanley, Mrs. H. S. Schalk, Mrs. George Whitney, Mrs. Charles Hayward.
* On the 1830 census and in earlier records the township was officially Salem. It was renamed Conneaut Township about 1833
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