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. 104-107:
PIONEER WOMEN OF DORSET, 1808-1850
"Dorset, Dorset," the brakeman cries as we pass along the Jamestown and Franklin branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, in Ashtabula county, midway between Andover and Jefferson, and the traveler, looking upon the scene for the first time, may well think we that we are pioneers yet, for the thick body of primeval forest lying towards Leon is only yielding of late to the fate of timber and is being placed by the track for shipment.
Farther north towards Jefferson, the county seat, we cross a beautiful trestle, which elicits praises from the most careless traveler, as he looks along the winding stream, known as Mill Creek, and named in honor of Judge Mills, Of North Haven, Conn.
Here, within a few hundred yards, on the right, was the last camping grounds of the Seneca Indians, who made this locality their happy hunting ground till late in the ‘20’s. The township was created in 1824, and bore the name of Millsford till 1849, when it was CHANGED TO DORSET. The first settlers were Mr. Joel Thorp and wife, whose name was Sarah, and three little children, who came from North Haven, Conn., in a pioneer wagon, drawn by two yoke of oxen. An uncle of Mrs. Thorp in Pittsburg gave her a horse, which she rode the rest of the way, and which the wolves soon destroyed. They located on a beaver dam, near the center, and built a log house in May, 1799.
Towards the first of June, Mr. Thorp started to the nearest mill in Pennsylvania, twenty miles away, with only a pocket compass for guide, and staying longer than expected, the family were famishing, when the mother’s watchful eye saw a wild turkey pass the door. Waiting for it to wallow in the dirt, she shot it with the last charge of powder in the house. Another time she shot a large bear in a huge, wild cherry tree near their house, and “the bear tree,” as it was called, is still kept in mementoes in the county, in cabinet specimens, furniture, and canes. Mrs. Thorp died in Orange, Cuyahoga county, November 1, 1846, then Mrs. Gardiner.
The next family, named Cowles, came in 1812, and built near the Thorp place, and their house afterwards, was used for school and church. Mrs. Asa Richardson and family came in 1818, and they lived there alone, for three years. Her husband’s brothers, Elijah and Cheever Richardson came from Vermont, in 1822. The first religious meetings were held in Mrs. Richardson’s house. The formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church is due to these families. Charlotte Cottrel, was married to John Smith, in Worthington, Mass., and came to Dorset, February 8, 1821, just three days after the first tree was cut down on their farm, and lived three months without seeing a woman. The wolves would chase their dog around the cabin nights, and kept a continual howling. In fifteen years she moved into their brick house, a few feet from the log one, which was occupied by John C. Smith, when married to Mary Ellen Smith, of Boardman, and Mrs. Alexander H. Smith [Mary A. Lafever], lived near. Here, July 16, 1821, Mary B. Smith, now Mrs. Chester Chapin, was born, and we think the first white child born in Dorset. She lives across the street, and recalls many scenes. One of picking berries on one side of some blackberry bushes, and a big bear eating on the other side, too friendly for HER PEACE OF MIND.
This year brought Abitha Sutliff and family. January 9, 1822, Mr. Sutliff was killed by a tree, and Mrs. Sutliff was left with four sons. She married Mr. Griffin in 1824, and was the first widow and first bride in Dorset.
March, 1822, Nathan Bassett, from Dalton, Berkshire county, Mass., came. Mrs. Bassett was Hannah Cole, and she spun, wove, braided hats. They raised flax and flocks, and supplied her family with clothing. She was the first Disciple in town to join that church.
Elizabeth Cole came at that time, and soon married Lyman Larabee, and like her sister, toiled in the forest to make a home. She was an accomplished teacher, and a woman of angelic temper. Her daughter, Mrs. M. E. Chamberlin, writes: “There was no branch of industry common to women that she could not accomplish.”
June, 1822, brought the Rev. Joseph Winch and family, and two brothers, and they soon organized a Disciple Church. Mrs. David Winch [Laura Shepherd] leaves one daughter, Lucinda, who was born here in 1824, now Mrs. John Waffle, of South New Lyme. Mrs. Abijah Winch was Minerva Bannister, and returned from a Disciple meeting, where husband had been leading, to find their home in ashes, and their little boy Philo, only two years and ten days old, burned with it. Two daughters, Miriam and Mariette, were born here, on the Pulsipher farm.
Mr. and Mrs. Walter Marsh came with their family and lived on the next farm.
In 1823, it was determined to have school, and Miss Sarah Houghton was hired at seventy-five cents a week, and came on horseback. She liked it so well, she married Austin Burr, Esq., and was ever afterward connected with every good work. She was gifted in prayer, and a sweet singer. She rocked eight baby faces in a log cradle made by her husband and is the only woman who ever killed a deer here. She helped their faithful dog, by taking an ax and striking the deer, when chased near the house. Her children inherited her love of teaching, and one daughter, Elmina D., taught sixteen terms of school; then married Joseph Miller, of New Lyme. Another one, Mary G., married the Rev. John Palmer. Lydia R. is Mrs. Norman Cone, and Cornelia S. is Mrs. Riley G. Allen, of Dorset.
The year 1823 brought Erastus Edgecomb and wife, nee Polly Brooks, and Nathaniel Hubbard and family. Mrs. Hubbard [Lucy Waful] came from New York to Conneaut in 1808, and lived there in the trying scenes of the war, then to Cherry Valley, and then finished their lives here, leaving a large family of useful citizens.
Mary Hubbard married Philo Amsden, Sr., Clarissa married Samuel Amsden, and leaves a large family. Susan married Abram Holcomb, and Lucy married Abel Ives, and their daughter Louisa E., is Mrs. Joseph Hadlock. She tells a story of mother and grandmother of those days when bears were plenty in the North woods, as it was called by the depot. The bear had the best of it, for Lucy’s courage failed her at sight of the bear’s eyes, and the bear CARRIED OFF THEIR PIG.
Mrs. Levi Hubbard and three daughters, Lucy, Sarah, and Lorinda, Mrs. Purcell, Mrs. Rowley, Mrs. Jack, and two daughters, Mrs. R. Thompson, Mrs. Newcomb and daughter were all residents here about that time.
Mrs. Calvin Steward, who was Delaney Whepley, lived on the Leon road. Mrs. Samuel Fox and daughter Lorainey, Mrs. Aaron Wilson and four daughters, Marietta, Betsey, Eunice, and Priscilla, took an active part in society when here; also Mrs. Narro, an English lady, and Mrs. Franklin, who went to Kirtland with the Mormons, many of whom lived here for a few years prior to settling in Kirtland.
John Greenwood came in May, 1830, with wife [Elizabeth Kelison of Erie, Pa.], and their daughter Betsey taught the South school and soon married Alonzo Garlick. Miss Nancy and sister Lovinia M., who married William Cole Bassett, a few years later, were on one wagon which got into a mud hole near their home. Of this ride Mrs. Bassett, now living in Washington, D. C., writes: “The brush on each side of the road came against the wagons about all the way from Barber’s Corners, and there were then only two families between Leon and Lenox.” She is eighty-two and a half years old, and writes nicely of those days.
Mrs. Hannah B. Sperry, of Washington, president of the Woman’s National Press Association, is her daughter, and is the first “organist” to play in Dorset. We take great pride in her success. Her sister, Mrs. Perry Platt; of Pella, Pa., [Elizabeth Bassett] has had a house full of girls [just nine], and one son.
The Greenwood girls were all teachers. Sophronia married Delanson Squires, and Maria was Mrs. John Henry, when she came in 1832 from Vernon, O.
In February, 1831, Lucy C. Edwards -- Mrs. Anson K. Garlick -- first came. Their home here on the Andover was a “way station” on the underground railroad, and A RUNAWAY SLAVE whom they adopted is all that is left to bear their name.
Mrs. Daniel Garlick, nee Kirby, deserves the praises bestowed upon her nursing, as she soon became
famous and transmitted some of her talent to her son Theodatus, who was one of the organizers of the Cleveland Medical College. Her daughter, Mary, married Ezra Record, and had been a Mrs. Russell previously. She loved flowers and everything beautiful.
Mrs. David Sage [Hannah McUmber] was the first woman to keep postoffice here, which she did in the tavern stand many years later, when her husband started West, money and all, and was never heard from, leaving her with nine children. Her daughters were Mrs. Samuel Hubbard, nee Julia Ann Sage, Mrs. George Quick was Mary, Mrs. Oliver Aldrich, Philadelphia, and Mrs. Abram Brower was Cynthia Sage.
The year 1832 brought the family of James Collins, who lived here about forty years. A daughter, Mrs. J. F. Johnson writes: “Our house was a little aristocratic, as it had a boughten doorlatch, and other houses a wooden latch and string.” One daughter, Minerva, taught fifteen terms of school. Mrs. Collins [Mary Patterson] and Mrs. Thomas Collins [Julia Fowler] went to Brookfield on horseback, and planted willow riding whips near their homes when returning, giving us a large willow tree.
Mrs. Nathan Phillips [Hannah Buckman], like many more, was so excited the night the stars fell, that she watched them all night. She lived to be over ninety, and saw old log houses give way to more modern homes.
Mrs. Richard B. Davis, nee Elvira Humphrey, was a cultured singer, Her rich, sweet voice with that of Mrs. Thomas Conant [Mary Evans], who is called the sweetest singer ever heard, made rich melody, when accompanied by their husbands.
Mrs. James Loveland was Lucy M, and Mrs. James Rathburn was Minerva Conrad; Mrs. Joseph R. Allen, of Hector, N. Y. [Mary A. Robbins]. A gracious woman, were all residents.
Mrs. Mark Sackett [Sally M. Heal], came about 1835, and two daughters, Jael and Miriam, were born here.
Sally Sackett came from Stockbridge, Mass., and married Joseph Smith, and was a kind woman, leaving six girls, one of whom, Lovisa, is Mrs. David N. Hubbard. Her twin sister, Louisa, died young.
Mrs. Charles Reed [Sophronia], Mrs. Lester J. Brown, of Jefferson [Mary], Mrs. Goodale [Cloe], and Mrs. W. C. Rood, of Hadley [S. Matilda], are all living.
Mehitable Sackett married Levi Brown, and their daughter, Lucretia, became Mrs. Joseph Smith, by that mother’s dying request, and leaves one daughter, Josephine [Mrs. Samuel Coy], a devoted NURSE FOR OLD PEOPLE.
Mrs. Thomas Bitgood [Fidelia Beals] came November, 1836, and Mrs. Horace Ransom, who was Hepsibeth Carley, from New York. Her daughters were Polly and Alma, who became Mrs. Ira C. Greenlee, and went to Sparta, Wis.
A kind and hospitable woman was Mrs. Eliphaz T. Crowell [Maria], and her daughter, Julia.
Oner Cole Larabee, born in 1826, often told of seeing a bear cross the road just before her. She was seven years old, and swift-footed, she ran across the foot-log, by the cemetery bridge now.
The year 1836 brought Mrs. Silas Palmer, who was Nancy Knight, of Oneida, N. Y. Of their fourteen children, there were four sons, who became preachers, and two daughters, Emily and Miranda, are remembered as raising silk worms and knitting silk stockings. The Rev. John Palmer writes: “My mother had good common sense, and was a natural orator, reciting poetry correctly in her old age, and living almost ninety-three years. The loom, the wheel, the dye pot, the shoemaker’s bench, were all in our house, and hundreds of yards woven for other families.”
Harriet became Mrs. George Nims, and was a tailoress, cutting and making clothing. She is now in Kansas.
Delia married Sumner Thornton, and moved West, crossing the plains with cows and oxen hitched to their wagons, after rebels stole their horses.
Miranda is Mrs. William Radcliffe, and Eliza was Mrs. Corwin Wainor.
Mrs. Jesse Peters -- Elizabeth Usher -- came in 1841 from Springfield, Pa. The roads were poor then, and her daughters, Mary [Mrs. Green], and Aditha [Mrs. J. Wallington Barrett], tell of riding in mud boats and going miles out of the way by roads that were nothing but paths. Laura and Almira were never married, and one adopted daughter lives with the family yet.
Mrs. William Usher was Mrs. Elizabeth Hart, who was born in Hartstown, Pa., and soon sickened of these woods and returned. Sarah Hart became Mrs. James Loveland. Mrs. Thomas Carroll and Mrs. B. Carroll WERE NEIGHBORS.
Mrs. Electa S. Farley came from Lenox and made Millsford her home many years ago. No one who attends the church socials given by Mrs. John D. Mills, nee Elizabeth Farley, would think of a little girl in homespun dress peeking through chinks in a loft of a log house, but she tells of many such scenes; one, when a mad dog passed and herself and sisters, Mary E., who was Mrs. B. F. Young, and Charlotte J., Mrs. Burton A. Uline, were all saved by the mother’s care.
Mrs. Lathrop Fuller was Sophronia Miner, and Mrs. Persis Wilson and daughters, Rhoda, Maria, Persis, and Harriet, came in 1848, and Mrs. Robert Mason, nee Phebe McCauley, and a sister, Lucina, Mrs. Williams, came later.
Mrs. Libbie Pooler, an active temperance worker, and Mrs. C. J. Smith [Amy H. Craig], daughters of Mrs. John C. Craig, complete our list.
A story is told of a wedding in 1832 when Julia Bassett became Mrs. Daniel Cornell. The wedding supper was laid upon a door of the log cabin, placed on a small cherry table brought from Massachusetts. The neighbors were all invited, but some friends of the groom thought to have some sport by stealing the bride to pawn for whiskey. It did not succeed, but it made things lively. The floor was a puncheon one.
Her sister, Mary E., became Mrs. Marshall Conant, of Dorset; Esther K., Mrs. Sumner Conant; and Emma J., Mrs. Elijah Clark, all good, true women.
Mud boats, puncheon floors, split-log bridges, and brush paths are all of the past, and as they are recalled by those who lived here in those days they bear testimony only of one thing, the high moral character of the women who bore their lives patiently and aided to build homes and make life better. Many pioneers yet live to tell of their hardships, and pleasures also, that this imperfect sketch cannot give.
MRS. P. C. NORTON, Chairman and Historian; Dorset Committee -- Mrs. Amy H. C. Smith, Mrs. Mary B. Chapin, Mrs. Kennedy, Miss Laura Barrett, Miss Lillian May Bissell, Miss Myra L. Hadlock.
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