Thursday, July 7, 2011

Onward from Norfolk, Connecticut

"It is necessary, in order that the thread of the narrative should not be spun to a length which might fatigue the reader, that he should imagine a week to have intervened between the scene with which the preceding (post of the same subject) closed and the events with which it is our intention to resume in relation in this."

Ahem! That is the opening sentence of Chapter VIII after the quotation from Troilus and Cressida of James Fenimore Cooper's The Prairie. It was taken from the Project Gutenberg site of books in the public domain and says in more flowery language than I intend to use that which is my "intention to resume" concerning the subject on which we began these series of posts, traveling to the West.

We shall leave the scenes of Connecticut and pick up with the History of Ashtabula County, Ohio, 1798 to 1878, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Pioneers and Most Prominent Men, by the Williams Brothers of Philadelphia. This book is also in the public domain and was reprinted by the Higginson Book Co.  

Joseph Case and Lydia Mills Case, mentioned earlier, figure in the history of Austinburg Township in Ashtabula County, PA, but first we will rehash the foundation of the township and some of its history and move on to the settlement of the town.

      "In the year 1798 the Connecticut land company was organized, composed of fifty-six individuals, resident of Connecticut.  

     "On the 5th of September of the same year, the company received a deed for about three million acres of land lying in the northeastern part of Ohio, and called the Western Reserve.

     "It appears from the records of the Connecticut land company that when the division of the land was made among the members of the company, ninety-three townships, east of the Cuyahoga, was drawn in a lottery, and the township of Austinburg, then known as number eleven of the fourth range, fell to Messrs. Austin, Rockwell, Battell, and others, and these parties, in connection with other gentlemen of Connecticut who had drawn adjoining lands, formed themselves into a company, called the Torrington land company.

     Because of "the fear of Indian disturbances and the prospect of war with the French," the first attempt at colonization of Austinburg, "designated in the field notes as 'Blakeslee,'"  was abandoned by Colonel Blakeslee and he ended up settling in Genessee county, New York. 

     "About the same time a singular accident befell one of the company, which resulted in a way least expected,  but which proved almost providential, at least a blessing in disguise.

      "This accident was nothing more nor less than the biting of a mad dog of Judge Austin, who seemed to be the leading spirit in the new company. The symptom of the terrible disease of hydrophobia succeeded, nearly baffling the skill of the best physicians. It was, however, while in this state of anxiety and fear that it was advised by physicians and friends, as a relief, that the judge should for a time, leave his home and divert his thoughts from his dreadful disease by travel in foreign lands. To this he consented, but instead of going abroad he resolved to himself to make a tour to the WILD LANDS in the WEST [emphasis added], and to open a way for a colony in that region.

      Judge Austin formed a party of "Roswell Stevens and his wife, newly married, and three young men, David Allen, Anson COLT [emphasis added], and Samuel Fobes, all of whom he had hired for the purpose, and George Beckwith, his wife,  and two small children, in company, set out on this long journey, having taken farming tools and a team for the purpose of make improvements." At Schenectedy, they split up, the Judge to go overland with his team and the others to go by boat to the Grand River where they would meet up. Austin was down to his last pork rind when he got word that the boat had finally arrived. "With the assistance of his men, the judge afterwards was able to transport his goods and provisions on hand-sleds from the landing to Austinburg.

     "On the 5th day of June, 1799, the first blow struck by a white man's axe in the town of Austinburg was struck by Judge Eliphalet Austin himself, the chief proprietor of the lands and the pioneer settler of all."

     The small group set about building cabins for themselves and the judge organized his colony and headed back to Connecticut to sell the land and bring in settlers.

      "Those who were enlisted in the enterprise were men of the like spirit,--men who sought homes for themselves and their families, but who at the same time sought to plant institutions in the new land. It is remarkable that the character of a place as well as of a country through all time partakes of the spirit and character of those who first settled it. The foundations of society in the township of Austinburg were laid in such a manner as later generations have had much reason to be grateful, and by men of whom their posterity have no reason to be ashamed.

     "The names of Deacon Noah Cowles, Captain Joseph Case, his son, afterwards Deacon Joseph M. Case, Adna Cowles, Solomon Cowles, Joseph B. Cowles, Roger Nettleton, Dr. Orestes K. Hawley, John Wright, Jr., Joseph Moses, Daniel C. Phelps, Isaac Butterfield, Ephraim Rice, Calvin Stone, David Allen, and Sterling Mills are all worthy of a high place, and should be highly regarded in the tablet of memory; for they, with Judge Eliphalet Austin and his family, may be regarded as the founders of society in this important community, and as the originators of influences which have extended far to bless this country. These were all the members of the colony which, under the lead and through the influence of Judge Austin, were to start in the spring of 1800 for a permanent settlement in this FAR-OFF WILDERNESS [emphasis added]."

With cabins to build, lands to clear, farms to plant, and crops to raise, we will continue with the Discovery and Settlement of The West from a personal perspective in the next post. What amazes and amuses me about this is the time it takes from the landing of the Mayflower in 1620 to the move west in the late 1700's and the 1800's and the speed it picks up from then right up until today.



  1. I'm reading a collection of old horror/ghost stories at the moment, and the language certainly does come off as stilted, and the pace as slow compared to today. I still enjoy them but sometimes the language gets to me.

  2. Hah! The writing styles have changed along with the landscape and with all the new words, mostly technological, it seems, it's a different language now than 50 or 75 years ago. I saw somewhere that the comma will soon be long gone, too, like the semi-colon, it's becoming extinct, and maybe that apostrophe, too. Cooper uses thirty words when twenty will do, but I enjoy that stuff.

  3. I think the style you're talking about was meant to reflect social refinement and learning. Just as there's an "academic style" among academics today that the average Joe would find incomprehensible. I was especially fascinated by the almost Shakespearean use of language in DEADWOOD as an attempt to capture the tone of human discourse in that era.

    As for settlements in the West, weren't they usually money-making in their essential purpose? The first settlers (the company) got the land at bargain basement prices, and then as more people moved in, prices would steadily rise and the early settlers became wealthy.

  4. There was a more refined parlance in the earlier days in those with "larnin'" and they wrote in the same way. I was not, and still not, a subscriber to HBO, but I'm going to purchase the DVDs of Deadwood one of these days. Everyone around me says its worth a look, and I'll be listening to the lingo.

    In the settlements it was the one(s) who received the land grants that ended up rich, and some of the early settlers also. I didn't get that impression about my ancestors, but some may have participated in the riches, although I haven't found any records to support it.