From "Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve," Part III, Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham, Editor [published under the auspices of the Women’s Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission, December, 1896], p. p. 753-755:
PIONEER WOMEN OF NEW LYME, 1803-1850
New Lyme is situated in the southern part of Ashtabula County, about sixty miles from Cleveland, in an easterly direction. It was bought of The Connecticut Land Co. in 1795, and first settled by Mr. and Mrs. Joel Owen in 1803.
They lived seven miles from any white neighbor for seven years. When they first came to New Lyme they found sixty Indians living on their land. They [the Indians] were of a peaceful disposition and often supplied them with game in exchange for articles they needed. Mrs. Barber, a daughter of Joel Owen, is still living in Colebrook.
In the year 1811 several families came to New Lyme, among them Mr. and Mrs. Peter Chapman. Mrs. Chapman was the mother of Mrs. Jeremiah Dodge, whose husband was the first merchant, and who with his descendants contributed much to the prosperity of the town.
In 1821 a party of twenty-four started from Lyme, Conn. With two two-horse and two ox-teams. Two women did the cooking for the party, and every Saturday they stopped and did the washing; in about six weeks they had reached their destination. They found many Indians there, who though quiet and friendly, were a great terror to the children.
Mrs. John Sobeiski Peck, a daughter of Rumsey Reeve; one of the party relates the following of her mother:
“Mary Ann Baldwin Reeve came to this town in 1821 with her husband and three children, the youngest a babe of six weeks old. The babe slept in a basket hung to the roof of the covered wagon. I well remember of hearing my mother tell of sitting in her log house, with her little ones around her, listening to the fearful howling of the wolves, fearing they might come down the chimney, and of her joy at the arrival of my father, when they slunk away into the forest.”
“My mother, as well as all housewives of the day, spun and wove her own flax for summer wear, and spun, wove and colored the wool for the winter garments, which in addition to the other family duties was no small matter, as there were only nine stalwart boys and ONLY ONE GIRL, and she nearly the youngest.”
Many wild animals were found here, among them bears and wolves, which frequently attacked and killed the sheep and young cattle of the settlers. Mr. Elijah Brown had a cow and calf killed and eaten by the wolves, some of the bones of which may still be seen.
The young ladies of the day, as well as the mothers performed much out-of-door labor, such as pulling flax, making gardens, milking cows, feeding calves and pigs. Besides making their own garments they must contrive some way to obtain the things they needed from the merchants, so they made additional cloth and braided hats to exchange for the things they needed.
Mrs. Elijah Brown, formerly Sarepta Reeve, was especially skilled in this business. Her daughter, Mrs. Judge Deming, says she well remembers seeing her mounted on a horse with a string of twenty-three hats each side of her, and a large roll of cloth fastened on the horse behind her, starting for Austinburg to exchange them for necessaries. She was a woman of strong and sympathetic nature and a lover of flowers, which she cultivated in great abundance.
In 1811 Mr. Joseph Miller with his wife, nee Elizabeth Huntley, started for this town, and a company of others with them; they had a hard journey, especially on the Lake shore. When Mrs. Miller learned she was only two miles from her future home she left the company and went forward.
Her husband told her to follow the marked trees till she came to one that was cut down and then stop, as she had reached the end of her journey, which she did, where the company soon over-took her. The men immediately commenced cutting brush to make a fire, but Mrs. Miller began to drive nails into the trees to hang up her ironware and towels. Her daughter, Mrs. Temperance Hyde, who gave me this sketch is still living near the old homestead.
There were many heroic women in those days who braved cold, hunger, and even famine, for at one time the women were obliged to cut the green heads of wheat to keep themselves and the little ones from starvation, while the men had gone to Youngstown for supplies.
But there were some women of exceptional courage in New Lyme in those early days.
Mrs. Peter Chapman in the month of October, 1814 was visiting at the home of Vinton B. Way, one and one half miles south of her dwelling. About sundown Mr. Way’s hogs came rushing out of the woods covered with blood. Mrs. Chapman was about to start for home and Mr. Way proposed going with her, as one of his hogs was missing, and the others SMEARED WITH BLOOD had come out of the woods directly in her path. He feared the bears might attack her; she said no, he should not go, she was not afraid of bears! No not she!
Away she went walking very fast; soon she discovered a monstrous bear a little in advance of her walking up a high bank with a dead hog in his mouth, she screamed at him and doubling her speed soon overtook him. The bear cast one look back at her, dropped the hog and scampered off, while she was yelling at the top of her voice. Mr. Way hearing her screams was soon at the spot, and insisted on walking with her as she still had a mile farther to walk. But she said, “No I have made the bear run and can do it again.”
The same woman saved the wool and mutton of a sheep that a wolf had killed not three rods from her door. Just as she was sitting down to dinner, hearing the commotion she rushed out with her case knife and drove him away.
Mrs. Zopher Gee, mother of Elmore and Essley Gee, men well-known in the business world, was a woman of marked ability and self-possession. It had been the custom to meet on Sabbath for religious services. At one of the meetings hymns had been sung, several had spoken, but no one had offered prayer. Some one remarked that it would be well to supply this deficiency. Seeing that each looked at the other and no one responded, Mrs. Gee knelt and offered a fervent prayer for herself and neighbors.
New Lyme was a stronghold of anti-slavery sentiment in its early days. Many a fleeing slave has had reason to bless the help and succor that has helped him on to freedom.
In March, 1837, David Hall married Sophia A. Handcock of New Lyme, O. In this new home, surrounded by deep woods, where wolves howled through the night, where bear and other wild animals were known to be, went the bride and groom, he twenty-three years old and she seventeen. With strong determinations to master all difficulties, they bravely bore all hardships to own a home and a farm. The young husband with an ax felled all the timber, employing help only to clear it away. In a short time they added FORTY ACRES MORE to their farm.
In one season, David Hall cleared ten acres, in another fifteen acres. During these days of hardest work and many deprivations, corn was ten shillings and wheat three dollars a bushel. To raise money the families clearing land had to leach ashes from the wood, boil it down to black salts or lye; this they sold by the hundred weight, receiving for it about two dollars and a half a hundred. To raise money enough one season to buy seed wheat, David Hall chopped forty cords of wood for ten dollars; much of the time the snow being a foot and a half deep. The ten dollars earned by such hard work bought only three bushels of wheat. This is one sample of the struggles and hardships our forefathers endured to make the thrifty prosperous country we live in.
In the meantime the wife and mother had the same genious for hard work. She brewed and baked, turned the spinning wheel, made the clothes of husband and son, employing help only at harvest time or at a raising bee.
David Hall and his wife, past the age of three score and ten years are still living on a farm in Harpersfield, Ashtabula County, O.
The pioneers have nearly all passed away and the noble deeds of many heroic women must be forever unrecorded here, but when the last great record is unfolded, not one self-denying act shall be forgotten.
MRS. E. E. TUCKERMAN, Historian.
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