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Home: Regional: U.S. States: Ohio: Ashtabula County

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Pioneer Women of Orwell
Posted by: Carol Page Tilson (ID *****2353) Date: June 05, 2010 at 23:32:08
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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. 129-132:


Orwell is located in the southern part of Ashtabula county on the P., Y. & A. Railroad, about fifty miles east of Cleveland.

After the township had been surveyed, many years passed before it was permanently settled, because the land was held at $5 per acre [a price above land in adjoining townships], though considered to be of poorer quality. Windsor, an adjoining township, had been settled some fifteen years previously.

Orwell was called Leffingwell until about 1826. In 1815 our township was a wilderness filled with wild beasts and wild men. One of our early circuit riders said he thought it was intended for them, and the white man was an intruder, but thanks be to our brave pioneer fathers and mothers who left pleasant homes and friends in the East and came West as the advance torch-bearers of a brave, self-sacrificing people, the wilderness has been made to blossom as the rose. They came, they saw, they conquered.

Orwell has to-day as much thrift and enterprise as any place of the same population on the Western Reserve. Good schools, churches, and a general line of business are found within her borders. Many writers, speakers, and thinkers, both men and women, have gone out from this township to fill places of distinction and trust.

The first white settler in the township was A. R. Paine, who came from New York State in 1815, and after visiting several places, he returned in the spring of 1817, and thereafter made it his home. To Mrs. Paine, in 1820, belongs the distinction of being the mother of the first white girl, Lucinda Paine, born in the township. Mrs. Paine was noted for getting up toothsome dishes, and led all the others in the culinary art.

About this time Mr. Solomon Chandler moved here, and to Mr. and Mrs. Chandler belongs the honor of giving to the township the first white boy, Gates, born in 1824, the son afterwards spending many years in California, but returned to Orwell, where he is now living. Naomi, wife of Solomon Chandler was a woman of kindly nature, and noted for her hospitality. The wild animals at that day thought the white people had no rights that they were bound to respect, so when the wolves and bears wanted food, they simply helped themselves. At one time, a large bear came to the Chandler hog pen and took out a fine porker, but so bravely did they fight it that it dropped the hog and started for the woods to save its life. At this time "Big Injun" Jim was living in the vicinity, who often came to the Chandler cabin and ordered Mrs. Chandler to cook for him a meal, which she always did through fear, as he often threatened people’s lives. Things went on from bad to worse until some of the pioneer Nimrods retired him on the principle that there is no good Indian but a dead Indian. From this time, the township built up rapidly. The newcomers, who were mostly "DOWN EASTERS," were hailed with great delight. They usually came with ox teams, and were many weeks on the road, the distance that can now be made in a few hours. These women suffered in common with those of other townships the privations incident to pioneer life, but a generous hospitality characterized every neighbor, and what each had was divided to the last with others. When one wanted help, all were ready to aid. We, their children and grandchildren, cannot now realize how great were the hardships of our early settlers. The story will never be completely told. However, they got as much enjoyment out of life as we who have so much more to do with.

In 1818 Mr. Benjamin Babcock moved here from the State of New York. The organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church was effected at his home in 1822 with a membership of twelve. Now the same church has a membership of about 225. John, his son, led to the alter the first bride of the township, who commenced housekeeping with only what things she carried tied in her handkerchief. She was Miss Lydia, daughter of Daniel R. Wolcott, who came from Bristol, Conn., in 1822. Miss Wolcott taught the first school in town and was also a great worker in the church and lives to a good old age.

Mr. Wolcott kept the first tavern.

Mr. A. Spaulding and wife, of New York, settled here about 1820. It seems by the early records that he was a leading spirit among the pioneers, becoming the first justice of the peace and also the first postmaster. Mrs. Spaulding had aristocratic tendencies and did not adjust herself to circumstances and to pioneer life as readily as others.

In 1831, Mr. S. Stone, wife and family came to Orwell from Otsego county, New York. Mrs. Stone was a woman of a happy nature and cheerful disposition -- looking on the bright side of everything. In early life she was an active worker in the church, Sabbath school, and all benevolent enterprises. At the ripe old age of ninety-one she was gathered to her fathers. She was a lifelong member of the Baptist Church, which was founded at her home in 1832.

In 1832, Mr. Ezra Pratt, wife, and family came here from Lyme, Conn. He had been a merchant in New York and on his arrival opened up our first store. His wife was a woman of culture, refinement, and energy -- looking well after her household. Her daughters were educated at Mount Holyoke, Hudson, and Oberlin. They were a very religious family and founded the Orwell Presbyterian Church.

Mrs. Mary A. Howard was a Miss Mary A. Barber, of Toland county, Connecticut. They left the East in 1833 and after a few years in this vicinity settled permanently in Orwell in 1837, living here till death.

Mrs. Howard was the mother of five children, Mary A., first wife of D. P. EELLS, OF CLEVELAND; Lucy R., Jane C., Martha M., and one son, E. D. Howard, of Ashtabula. Mrs. Howard was always a leading woman in the church, anti-slavery, temperance, and all benevolent enterprises. She was president of the Orwell Soldiers’ Aid Society during the war. Contributions were sent out from here to the value of $1,518.90. Of the eight ladies composing the officers of the society all have long since passed over the river.

Mrs. Mary Bent Smith, the mother of Orsamus, Franklin, and Pomeroy Smith, who, with their father, George Smith, bought most of the land where the present village of Orwell now stands, came to Orwell in 1836, where she died in 1859 at the age of ninety years. Her father, Captain Silas Bent, was one of the pioneer party of forty-eight men, who, with General Rufus Putnam, made the first permanent settlement in Ohio at Marietta, on the Ohio River. Mrs. Smith was born in Sudbury, Middlesex county, Massachusetts, in 1769, and remembered distinctly standing in the dooryard with her mother and listening to the noise of battle at Lexington and Concord in the war of the American Revolution, and in which her father was a participant. She grew to young womanhood amid scenes of the mighty struggle, married at eighteen a soldier of the Revolution eight years her senior, and reared a family of fourteen children, nearly all of whom grew to maturity, and, between 1820 and 1836, settled in Ashtabula county. Her daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Clapp, one of the very few if not the only surviving daughter of a Revolutionary soldier, is now living in Windsor, this county.

Mrs. Mercy Gunn Kendall, mother of Mrs. Orsamus Smith, of Orwell, who lived in Orwell with her daughter before her removal to Austinburg, O., where she died, in 1863, at the age of ninety-five years, was a sister of Elijah Gunn, the pioneer, who, with his wife, Mindwell Carver-Gunn, and son, Christopher Gunn, accompanied the Moses Cleveland party and constituted the first entire family -- father, mother, and child -- to settle on the Western Reserve.

Mr. Elijah Gunn visited his sister, Mrs. Kendall, in Bloomfield about 1847, being then more than ninety years old and living in the western part of Ohio, from which place he rode in an open buggy to visit his sister. He was then an active man, appearing not more then seventy-five or seventy-eight years of age.

Mercy Gunn Kendall was and reared in Deerfield, Mass., amid the historic scenes of ancient Indian massacres. She grew from childhood to womanhood in the midst of war’s alarms, and saw, at different times, her father and six stalwart brothers shoulder their flint-lock muskets and go to battle for liberty. She was the mother of fourteen children, eleven of whom came to Ohio.

Elmira Kendall Smith, the wife of Orsamus Smith, was born in Deerfield, Mass., in 1806, and came to Ohio about 1835, where she was engaged in teaching in the public schools at Warren in 1840. Here she was married to Orsamus Smith, whose first wife, Melinda Clapp-Smith, had died, leaving three young children. Miss Kendall was a teacher of considerable note, both in Massachusetts and in her new home in Ohio. She was one of the earliest pupils of Miss Mary Lyon at the celebrated Mt. Holyoke school, the first seminary of the kind to be established. Mrs. Smith died in Orwell in 1888, where she had spent nearly fifty years of her life, beloved by all who knew her. Her son, W. O., and daughter, Emma Smith, live on the old homestead.

Mrs. Orange Northway, husband and children, moved from New York to Orwell prior to 1840. Congressman S. A. Northway, one of their sons, experienced some of the pioneer hardships. His father located in the northeast part of the town, first building him a log cabin, then felling the trees and clearing away for corn, which was planted by chopping into the ground and dropping in the seed. Then they had to watch it constantly to keep off the birds, deer, squirrels, and coons. Only a few vegetables were raised for the first year, not a spoonful of wheat flour was in the house, and only one bushel of rye. Corn, in its different forms, was the sole breadstuff. Wild meat was plentiful. In the winter the children attended school at the center, two and one half miles away. The tramp through the wet weeds or snow resulted in the thinly-clad boys and girls being sopping wet to above their knees. They would sit in their wet clothes all day, and the return home added more to their discomfort, but when they reached that blessed haven of children -- home -- the wet clothes and stockings were quickly removed and their feet and limbs soon dried before a roaring fire.

THE GOOD MOTHER would rinse out the wet stockings and hang them up, and they would be dry and warm the next morning, to meet with the same experience of the day before. But childhood even then was not all unhappiness. How different is the lot of boys and girls of to-day!

Mr. Northway’s experience, as told by himself, does not differ from many others of that day. Mrs. Northway was a woman of talent and great force of character, and to her is due the honor of her son reaching so high a position in life.

Mrs. Isaac Tuckerman, grandmother of Dr. Tuckerman, of Cleveland, came to Orwell in 1837. She was an earnest and faithful Christian woman, and her home was for years an underground railroad depot for colored fugitives. In religion she was a Wesleyan Methodist.

Mrs. Sally Ruby and husband, John, came from Connecticut to Orwell in 1837. They were the parents of eight children -- five daughters and three sons -- of whom only three are living -- Mrs. Martha J. Smith, of Dorset; Mr. Mason Ruby of Orwell; and Mrs. Lappington, of Missouri.

Mrs. James Smith [Angeline Jordan] came to Orwell in 1832. They had three daughters, one of whom became noted as an educator, and is now living in Nebraska. Mrs. Mary Northway was another of our pioneers who faithfully met life’s responsibilities, and but few years since passed through the "Valley of the Shadow"; and but too soon our pioneer mothers will be gone.

Very many noble women lived here prior to 1840, but space will not permit more than a mere mention of some of their names in this sketch. Mrs. Luke Osborn, Mrs. Charles Crippen, Mrs. Amherst Phelps, Mrs. Hudson, Mrs. Rufus Northway, Mrs. Woodworth, Mrs. Goddard, Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Babcock, Mrs. Jude Waters, and others.

Our Orwell pioneer mothers never performed any very heroic deeds, but did the common duties of life uncommonly well.

MRS. HELEN M. STONE, Chairman and Historian. Orwell committee -- Mrs. D. T. Northway, Mrs. M. M. Paine, Miss Emma Smith, and Mrs. M. C. Babcock.


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