From "Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve," Part I, Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham, Editor [published under the auspices of the Women’s Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission, July, 1896], p. p. 78-82:
PIONEER WOMEN OF AUSTINBURG, 1800-1850
Austinburg is in Ashtabula county, sixty miles east of Cleveland, and is one of the oldest towns upon the Western Reserve. It was settled by Hon. Eliphalet Austin, from whom the town was named. He belonged to the Connecticut Land Company, and came here in 1799 with two hired men to select a location and prepare a home for his family. His cabin was on the site now occupied by the brick house of Mr. Irvine Knapp. He moved his family here the following summer, and eight more families followed very soon. So we date our settlement from 1800.
Rev. Joseph Badger located his family here in 1802. His time was spent in missionary work among the lonely settlements, being the first minister on the Reserve.
The church in Austinburg was organized October 24, 1801, with sixteen members, being the first, Mr. Badger states, upon the Western Reserve. Mrs. Eliphalet Austin [Sibyl Dudley] was a woman of character, great resolution, firmness, endurance, and foresight, all desirable requisites in a pioneer woman. Tears were in her eyes when she first saw her new home, but they soon CHANGED TO SMILES. The family all had the pioneer spirit, and there was little complaining because of hardships. Still tradition does tell us that once, when guests came from the East whom she wished to entertain after the manner of the best families of that day, she said she thought how long the flour chest had been empty, and as she went to the loft to get the corn meal, pride rose with every step.
Whatever her feelings may have been, there is no doubt but the guest was welcomed to a generous table, surrounded by their bright sons and daughters. Their cabin always had the latch string out, and well it might, for history tells us Mr. Austin had twenty thousand acres of land on the Reserve. However that may be, their house, both in early and later years, was always noted for hospitality.
Mrs. Austin's duties were many and varied. When new settlers came, she welcomed them until their cabins were ready; she attended to the sick, comforted the homesick, looked after the poor, and had the happy faculty of helping others without humiliating them. She was always interested in education, and lived to see Grand River Institute established. The five daughters all settled within two miles of their father's house. Betsy, the oldest, taught the first school without asking or receiving compensation, and continued to teach until she married Dr. O. K. Hawley.
Cloe married John Henderson. She was the last survivor of the original members of the church formed in 1801. She died aged ninety-two years, and had been a consistent church member seventy-five years. Florilla married Jacob Austin, Austinburg's enterprising merchant, who in 1810 had established a large business not only on the Reserve, but the country beyond. It is possible at that time Austinburg furnished Cleveland with dry goods as well as gospel privileges.
Sophia married Chancey Hawley, and Sibyl, the youngest, married Henry Webb. During the war of 1812, Mrs. Austin and her daughters, who were married, kept up business, and made improvements in their homes in the absence of their husbands.
Mrs. Austin got one son off to Yale College, and her youngest daughter, Sibyl, to a school in Hartford, Conn., where it was said the little girl from Ohio could excel them all.
THE FAMOUS HORSEBACK RIDE
In 1809, Rev. Joseph Badger, having decided to change his field of labor and go as a missionary among the Indians, Mrs. Austin decided she would go to Connecticut and find a minister for their church.
Horseback would be the easiest and quickest way, and that was the way she went. The journey took four weeks. Soon after her arrival at her father's house, she learned that Rev. Giles H. Cowles, D. D., had purchased land in Farmington, O., so she visited the family and laid the needs of their settlement before him. He came to Austinburg the following year, and in Deacon Mills' barn was installed the first pastor of the church of Austinburg and Morgan.
Sally White, wife of the first pastor, Rev. Giles H. Cowles, was a cheerful, sympathetic woman, with polished manners, and strongly marked intellectual tastes. Her love for study had kept her so closely in school that when she was married, she had not learned housekeeping arts, not even cooking.
To the young girls of that day this must have seemed strange indeed; but if the young bride's hands were untaught she brought to the problem of home making a disciplined mind which could and did soon master all details. She never could have been the help to her husband she was or filled the large place in church and society she did had her education been after the prescribed fashion of that day.
She was a sweet singer, and those of the children who were musical inherited their talent from her. Of their nine children, the youngest daughter, Betsy, resembled her most closely. The son, Edwin, looked like her. The late Edwin Cowles, of the Cleveland Leader, was her grandson.
About the time of her marriage in 1892 [1829?] there was a dainty tea set, made to order for her in China, each piece marked with the family monogram. Looking at it, one can but wonder how polite tea parties were managed in that day, for though it is all dainty and fine, there are no plates for people to eat from, or were not, until near the year 1830, when some were added.
In 1825 Betsey M. Cowles, the youngest daughter, taught her first term of school, and received 75 cents a week. When through the term she used about half her wages in buying six dark blue dinner plates, with the picture of the landing of Lafayette on them. One of these plates is preserved in the rooms of the Historical Society, Cleveland, O.
Soon after, she taught in different places -- infant schools, which were much in the line of present kindergarten work, and were very popular.
About 1836 she went to Oberlin to study, and was one of the third class that graduated from the ladies' course. In 1842 she took charge of the ladies' department of GRAND RIVER INSTITUTE. She assisted in organizing and carrying forward the State Normal school at Hopedale, and later did the same work for the State Normal school at Bloomington, Ill.
Teaching was her chosen vocation and she never turned from it until approaching blindness made it necessary.
The position of women before the law, especially married women, early arrested her attention. She presided over the second national convention held to agitate this subject, held at Salem, O. The women of to-day, protected in their rights by juster laws, hardly know how much they owe to these early earnest, self-sacrificing workers.
But the anti-slavery cause had not only her warmest sympathy, but also that of her sisters, Cornelia and Martha. In word, deed and song these three did all they could for those in bonds. There were not only in sympathy with, but helped to make the strong anti-slavery sentiment of Ashtabula county. The last year of her life here she wrote some reminiscences of pioneer life, which she vividly remembered, and keenly enjoyed, and right here we cannot do better than make some clippings.
After telling some amusing stories of the social gatherings of the young people being seriously interfered with by their elders, she says: "There was one amusement to which no barrier was ever interposed; that was 'singing meetings.' These were held at first at private houses; one week at Deacon Mill's at the South End; next week at Judge Austin's, at the North End; the next week at the parsonage at the Center. Neither floods nor flames, hail, rain, nor snow, light nor darkness could keep the young folks from these meetings. Benches on which to sit were improvised. Huge fires were built on the hearth, with plenty of tallow candles to hold in the hand, these constituted the preparations. To these they came on horseback, on sleds, or on foot, a distance of from one to five miles.
"The hour arrived for opening, the chorister would give the order. 'Take your places.' 'Strike your lights.' 'Open to Majesty.' A toot from the 'pitch pipe' with the order, 'Strike the pitch,' and off the tune goes -- the leader meantime pacing the floor with violent gesticulations, swinging both arms at full length, beating time, singing first one part as it falter, and then another. LIKE A SKILLFUL GENERAL skirmishing along the lines, strengthening the weak points, so he runs from one part of the room to another as help is needed; and as the result music fills the room."
Cornelia, the sister we before referred to, got her school training in her father's study, her musical education in these "singing meetings," and in 1837 she sang on a salary in Dr. Aiken's Church, Cleveland. The following year she went to New York and sang as a professional in St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Brooklyn. She remained there until 1840, and placed herself under the best instruction. Afterwards she sang in church and concert, always ready with her service of song, to help an anti-slavery meeting. As she was both witty and sympathetic, she won many friends.
Sally A. Cowles, the minister's oldest daughter, married Eliphalet Austin, Jr., and in 1835 was left a widow. Though her means was in a farm -- always hard property for a woman to manage -- she educated her four children liberally. The two older daughters, Sarah and Charlotte [Mrs. Seeley], took the ladies' course in Oberlin. Grand River was opened for ladies in 1840, so the youngest daughter, Eliza, took the course of study here, after which she went to Mt. Holyoke College, passed all the examinations, and graduated with honors in one year. This was creditable to Grand River, as well as the young lady.
When Charry, daughter of Constantine Mills, married Ira Tuttle, she wore a white linen gown that she made from the foundation, spun, wove, and bleached the cloth, and it was fine and nice.
The Tuttle family annals tell how they made the journey from Connecticut, in 1810 -- Deacon Clement Tuttle and wife and daughters, and his twin sons, Ara and Ira -- fourteen persons in all. Their big wagon, which they often had to camp around nights, was drawn by six yoke of oxen. The family cow was fastened behind, where the churn stood. They had fresh butter every night for supper. Could anything be more thrifty?
The first Sabbath here was spent at Austin's camp, and they united with the church by letters which they brought with them. Although they lived two and a half miles away, there was not a Sabbath for over thirty years that the house of Ira Tuttle was not represented at the meeting.
The enslaved had their sympathies. Their house had a secret underground room, where twenty-five or more fugitives could be made comfortable, and where the family delighted to know they were safe. As early as 1836 this station was receiving fugitives, and in "His name" they were cared for until they could be sent safely to the lake. They were always ASSISTED WITH CLOTHING, the question with Mrs. Tuttle being Did they need? not were her family through with garments.
One Sunday their family team was hitched to the good "ship of Zion," as the big buggy, which easily could carry sixteen, was called, and were standing by the fence waiting for the load, when the old bell on the center church began to ring, and the horses, Balaam and Syphax, started for the meeting. When the family came out, they were too far away to be caught. Those who went that day had to walk.
The horses made the journey safely, stopped at the landing, then went on to the shed, where they stood waiting to be tied.
One Sabbath when the family of Mr. Case were detained at home, his horse went alone to the meeting and stood by the accustomed hitching post through the service.
When Sarah, daughter of Sterling Mills, married Ara Tuttle, she also wore a white linen gown that was spun, woven and bleached by her own hands. The Geneva historian tells us that this gown again did service when her daughter Mary married Makepeace Fitch. These twin brothers occupied one cabin. Their parents, Deacon Clement Tuttle and his wife, lived in a double log house the other side of the road. This father liked to sit between the two parts of his house and read the Bible aloud. On favorite passages his tones would rise triumphant, so he could be easily heard a quarter of a mile away.
In 1830 Mrs. Ara Tuttle died, leaving a family of eight children. In 1831 he married Persus Bosworth, widow of William Wolcott, of Farmington, O., who brought three children with her to the new home. They had five more. The wife must have been a woman of ability and rare skill, for the domestic wheels were made to run so smooth that these sixteen children lived together in most perfect harmony.
No note of battle sound
Was heard that home around;
Or jarring tone of wild discord,
Peaceful was all, and bright
'Till one Thanksgiving night.
The pastor and his wife were there, and all were standing around the table waiting for the blessing to be asked, when lo, the minister was marrying the son of the first wife to the daughter of the second wife, to the utter astonishment of all the three kinds of children. This event was called by neighbors the "FIRST MISUNDERSTANDING."
It is to be regretted that fuller annals of the family of Constantine Mills have not reached us. He, with his wife, Philecta Way, and their eight children moved here from Connecticut in 1817. His son Eben married Arethusa, daughter of Sterling Mills, and lived at the parental homestead. Our childhood memories of that pleasant home are very sweet. We delight to watch the aged grandmother weaving cloth; fragrant are the memories of round, red apples; gorgeous the tints of the falling autumn leaves; splendid the fine swings, but the deepest impression carried away by the little child are memories of pleasant smiles, gentle words, kindly ways, and an evergreen wish that such people could be always here.
People were often lost in the woods, and being a common it not make it any less a tragic occurrence.
Mrs. Sabinus Smith got lost going for her cow and wandered all night in the woods. In the morning she was fortunately in sight of her home. Mrs. Beach [Amanda Herrick] went to milk her cow, taking her two little children along. They soon came running to her, asking her to come and see the pretty things they had found. She went with them and there were two little bears. It was well for the children the mother bear was away from home.
Emigrants to Ohio were always glad to leave the rough roads and travel on the smooth ice of the lakes. Not understanding the suddenness of thaws, many had narrow escapes. In 1816, when the family of Sparrow Snow and Clara Kneeland, his wife, were moving here, they traveled much on the lake. One day they noticed many people assembled near the shore who seemed beckoning to them. Though far out they started for the shore. The next morning the lake was clear; no ice to be seen. But for the timely warning they would have been on the ice. Most of this large family settled in or near Austinburg.
The mirth and witty pleasantry that seemed to be in the atmosphere of the simple firesides of both the Snow and French homes will long be remembered by people of Austinburg.
Mrs. Henry Cowles, wife of the second pastor, organized mothers' meetings, which were felt to be helpful. This was about 1830. Mary Williams, wife of Rev. Sereno Streetor, fourth pastor of the church, died here. Mary Willard, the second wife, was like her cousin, Frances Willard, of W. C. T. U. fame, able to fill a large place. She was a very useful woman here and well beloved. Late in life Mr. Streetor was again called to the care of this church. ALL ARE BURIED HERE.
In ancient Austinburg the Sabbath began with the setting of Saturday's sun, so Sunday evening was sacred to visiting, also courting and the like. Why, whole books could have been written, just as interesting as that justly famous classic of colonial times, Alonzo and Melissa. When Lucius M. Austin, nephew of Judge Eliphalet Austin, came here in 1823, he was a student in Williams College, where his maternal uncle, Dr. Edward Griffin, was president. He was a man of fine intellect and was pursuing his studies with marked success, when trouble with his eyes made rest and change necessary, so he came to Ohio for a season. But alas for ambitious hopes of mother and uncle. His health was restored. The year to be absent from school had expired, and still this intimate friend of Mark Hopkins tarried on in these woods; for had not Melissa, daughter of Benjamin and Rebecca Whitney, promised to share the joys and ills of life with him?
However, Austinburg gained thereby. It was a lovely home in our midst that this gracious lady presided over for more than fifty years. Later his cultured mother and sister came here to live, a welcome addition to the good society of Austinburg.
FORTITUDE IN THE TIME OF TRIAL.
About the year 1827 a young bride by the name of Hannah Donalson left her European home for the new world, leaning in a trusting, hopeful spirit on her companion. On the ship he was taken sick and died, and was buried in the ocean. Her ticket was for America. Desolate and alone, with the ship bearing her every hour farther from home and friends, she could do nothing but come on, though she knew not a person in the whole country. She came to Conneaut, O., and learned the tailors' trade, which took three years. Here she became acquainted with David Crum, who was learning the same business, and they entered into a life partnership, and soon after came to Austinburg, where they have since resided. These aged friends are still with us, and have numerous descendants, even to the fourth generation.
Mrs. Martin Lewis, who settled here in 1810, was a very industrious woman, and wove nicely. Her all-wool carpets were especially beautiful. One of these carpets can be seen in the parlor of the old parsonage at the Center. If it is used intelligently and cared for by some one who appreciates relics it may last ANOTHER SIXTY YEARS.
Rhoda Watson was the wife of Daniel Dudley. She was an ardent Methodist, and was depended upon, in the meetings in the west part, to start the tune, etc. She was an excellent woman. Her husband was not only a good, but a very original man. Miss Cowles, in her reminiscences, says: "Uncle Dudley was brother to Mrs. Elizabeth Austin, and so was truly uncle to one-half of the town, and uncle by adoption of the other half."
There were many families by the name of Ryder, conscientious and kind, who if their homes were not filled with children of their own, adopted other people's. Mrs. Ralzamon Calaway patiently born the burden of deafness, and cared faithfully for her family.
Hannah Warren was a very kindly woman. The cheerful spirit with which she would respond to any need for a helping hand, where cares were heavy, as in sickness, or any emergency, made her a comfort to her neighbors.
The exquisite neatness of everything about the house of Mrs. Samuel Mathews is worthy of remembrance.
The chest which Mrs. Joseph B. Cowles used for a table for more than three months, when they first came here in 1800, is still preserved. Of his second wife, Hannah Bunn, widow of Rev. J. Winchester, of Madison, O., it is easier to tell. She was well educated, a good musician, excelled in needlework, read much, and was greatly interested in public events. She enjoyed the society of young people, and many students of Grand River claimed her as a friend.
Of the children of these pioneers, those still with us are now aged people.
Mrs. Simon Reed [Marie Dudley] was the champion speller.
Mrs. Samuel Reed [Harriet Smith] was the champion cook, as many a student at Grand River learned years ago.
Mrs. Samuel Snow [Ann Strong] who left us so recently [our tears are hardly dry] will long be remembered for her brilliant social gifts.
Mary Coleman, Ann P. Ryder, Clara Snow [Mrs. Green], Rhoda Snow [Mrs. Dunbar] were excellent school teachers.
It was only last summer that the beautiful face of Mrs. Alanson Shepard was hidden from our sight forever.
It is pleasant to see Mrs. John Shepard [Betsy Snow] and Mrs. Uriel Henderson [Naomi Blackmore] enjoying each other's society even as they did in "auld lang syne" when both were young. May they tarry long with us and make our hearts glad with their friendly smiles and cheerful greetings.
Standing by the graves of the pioneers, come memories of the pio- [text missing] sweet voices of Samuel Snow, Cornelia, Betsey, and Lewis Cowles, singing around the open graves. Like notes falling from heavenly worlds we hear, "Why do we mourn departing friends?"
And we must turn from the beautiful past, with many an honored name unmentioned; but if Austinburg forgets, the "Lord remembers his own." Our town will long bear the impress of the character of its early settlers.
CORNELIA R. FULLER, Chairman and Historian. Austinburg committee -- Charlotte Tuttle Peck, Jeannette Calaway Lathrop, Isabelle Webb Whiting.
From "Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve," Part V, Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham, Editor and Historian; Mrs. Charles Heber Smith, Assistant Historian [published under the auspices of the Women’s Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission, ca 1924], p. p. 985-897:
PIONEER WOMEN OF AUSTINBURG [Additional]
Esther Hurd, eighteen years of age, became the second wife of Moses Wright in 1803, also stepmother to four children. To these, five years later had been added two of her own, when the family started west with a span of oxen, a wagon and the family horse upon which Mrs. Wright rode all the way with the youngest child in her lap. They were two months on the road. In coming through the State of New York they lost the horse, which was found and restored to them by the local Indians.
The older girls became very tired and discouraged before the journey was completed and argued that if they were going to live among Indians they might as well follow their comfortable fashions, so they let down their hair, braided it, letting it fall on their shoulders. One of these girls later, when lost in the woods, spent a night in the branches of a tree.
The family settled upon a farm of 200 acres, in a log house which at first was too small for their needs, and use was made of one belonging to the Rev. Badger, first missionary of the Reserve.
Mrs. Wright seems to have been an unusual woman in many ways. She was exceedingly generous hearted, and often gave shelter to a homeless man or woman at much inconvenience and sacrifice. She was the first woman in town to sign a temperance pledge, her example being immediately followed by others. Her life of privation never checked her enthusiasm or her visions for the prosperity and morality of her family and the community. She outlived Mr. Wright several years. She was RICH IN MEMORIES and incidents of pioneer life with which she entertained friends in her declining years. One of the latter was in regard to a couple who came eleven miles to have her husband marry them. They rode one horse, all they possessed. Two of Mrs. Wright's sons became well known lawyers and a daughter received the degree of M. D. from the Boston Medical College.
The Wolcott families were prominent in early days. John Wolcott came with Moses Wright and settled in the south part of town, now known as Eagleville. He had a large family of daughters and one son, Newton, who, as a small lad was sent one day to drive in the family cow. He did not find the cow, but a bear chased him and the child climbed a tree and remained there all night WATCHED BY THE BEAR. In the morning he was rescued by a party that had been searching hours for him.
Horace Wolcott settled here n 1832. He had married Fannie M. Warner four years previously. Mrs. Wolcott was the daughter of Noah Warner, a Revolutionary soldier, who when she was eleven years old moved his family from Chautauqua County, N. Y., to East Ashtabula. When they reached Buffalo the city had recently been burned and nothing but chimneys was standing.
Mrs. Wolcott had nine children who lived to reach manhood and womanhood.
In 1822 Sophia Spencer of Broome County, N. Y., married David Fairchild, and for eleven years her home was Binghamton that state. When the family came to Ohio it started with a wagon and at Ithaca took the canal boat to Buffalo and then a steamboat to Cleveland. This was early in October and when the boat reached a point between Ashtabula and Fairport, it encountered a heavy storm and had to put back to Erie. Here nearly all of the passengers, feeling they had had enough of Lake Erie, continued their journey by land. The Fairchilds reached Austinburg in 1834, where the father established a tannery, a useful adjunct to the town.
Mrs. Fairchild was very fond of flowers, cultivating many choice varieties. She died in 1868, her husband surviving her thirteen years.
Aralzaman Calaway came from Barkhamsted, Ct., in 1820 when but nineteen years old and two years later returned for his widowed mother. In the same year he married Hannah Haskins of Windsor, Ohio. He had to work very hard to support his family, but his wife with willing heart and helping hands stood steadfastly by his side, a loving wife and mother, ready to sacrifice her own comfort or pleasure. She died at the age of forty-nine and before the Civil War, thus escaping the anguish of knowing that her third son died of starvation in Libby prison. He was one of ten children she raised to maturity. Mr. Calaway lived to be ninety-two years old.
One of the earliest families in town was the Whitneys from Winsted, Conn. It consisted of parents and the children, Myron, Milo, Benjamin and one daughter, Melissa. They reached here in 1811 and settled on the farm now owned by Eugene Whitney. Mr. Whitney was an invalid and therefore much depended upon by the boys and their mother. By constant use of her spinning wheel and weaver's shuttle she was enabled to hire a man to do the hardest part of clearing the heavy timber from the farm. Although a frail appearing woman, she was full of nerve, grit and energy, and a veritable "Miss Ophelia" in her contempt for laziness and shiftlessness, yet full of sympathy for the unfortunate man or woman, encouraging and helping the disheartened often by sacrifice to herself.
When the meeting house was built at the Center, she paid the family subscription by boarding the workmen one whole summer. Afterward she was one of the women who decided that the church should have a steeple and started the list of contributors with a ten dollar bill.
A granddaughter, Mrs. Ellen M. Phelps, says of her, "Dear old grandmother! How we loved her, revere her memory, and yet quote her quaint sayings. We are thankful and very proud that we had such a noble pioneer grandmother."
Almira Mills Foote, daughter of Asa Foote and Sarah Mills Foote, married Edwin Weed Cowles, the eldest son of Rev. Giles Hooker Cowles, in 1815. She was a woman of fine character and ability, several years older than her husband. He had begun life working his father's farm and a home was provided for the young couple just at the bend of the river at the Center. Here they lived for a number of years while their children were young.
Mr. Cowles had a taste for study, however, and developed special aptitude in caring for the sick, so his wife encouraged his studying medicine with Dr. O. K. Hawley. He did so and when he received his diploma they moved to Mantua to live where he practiced medicine. There their youngest child, Alfred, was born. Later Dr. Cowles practiced in Cleveland.
Their children were: Samuel, who died in childhood; Giles Hooker Cowles, died in 1842; Helen Cowles, who married Dr. Franklin L. Markham and, 2nd, Buel G. Wheeler; Judge Samuel Wadsworth Cowles, who married Anna L. Wooster and went to San Francisco; Edwin Cowles of Cleveland; Alfred Cowles of Chicago. The two latter married respectively Elizabeth C. and Sarah F. Hutchinson, of Cayuga, N. Y.
William Elbert Cowles, second son of the Rev. Giles Hooker Cowles, married Lydia Russell Woolcott in 1827. Their children were: Giles Hooker Cowles, who gave his life to his country in the Civil War; Caroline Edna Cowles, who married Dr. Milburn Whitley and Cornelia Rachel Cowles, who married Dr. Allen O. Fuller. Lysander Mix Cowles, another son of Rev. Giles Hooker, married Rachel Cowles, a sister to the Rev. Henry Cowles. Lewis D. Cowles married first Clara Preston and later Selina Dole. Their children were Edward, Lysander and Julia [Mrs. Wm. Johnson].
One of the dear people of old Austinburg was Miss Elizabeth Austin. She never married but was always a joy and delight to the families whom she visited. Many of the old people now living remember how their childhood days were made happy by the wonderful stories related by Miss Austin. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and numbers of other fairy, pioneer and Bible stories were made most vivid by her charming and graphic narration. As time passed on she became very deaf, but her deafness was never permitted to interrupt the story hours of the children. When she died precious memories of her sweet life were added to those already clustering around the dear ones of early Austinburg.
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