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Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Strong Woman's Ride

Reading Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey reminded me of the lady in early Ohio who took a ride back East to find a minister as told in the History of Ashtabula County [Ohio]:

""During the apring of this year (1810), Mrs. Austin, the wife of Judge Eliphalet Austin, of Austinburg, a woman of great piety, innate strength of mind, and energy, came to the conclusion that they ought to have a settled minister; that the field was ripe for a bountiful spiritual harvest, and she notified her husband that she would go back to old Connecticut on horseback and hunt up a minister! And sure enough that brave woman, with all her change of clothing in a traveling portmanteau, started alone on horseback on that long journey to Connecticut, six hundred miles away, through an unsettled country, and almost unbroken forests most of the way. She arrived safely at her destination after a ride of over thirty days. We have in our mind's eye some of her great-granddaughters who, when they made a journey taking about one-half of that time, were constrained to take along several enormous Saratoga trunks. What would they have thought of traveling on a thirty days' journey with their wardrobes concentrated into a portmanteau? We cannot help drawing a contrast. In spite of their thorough modern education, their culture and accomplishments, and the advantages they had of living in the midst of a higher grade of civilization, they can never excel their good old grandmother in her piety, in all the that made the true woman, in the amount of the sound sense she possessed, of the strength of character she had, the remarkable energy she showed, and the heart she had overflowing with kindness.

"Mrs. Austin went to Bristol, and was closeted with Mrs. Cowles, and there she brought up the subject of the need of a minister to preach the gospel in New Connecticut. Mrs. Cowles fell in with the idea of having her husband accept the call thus tendered by the intrepid woman who had come so far for that purpose. She saw in the then far distant Western Reserve rich and cheap land, and a chance for her boys to fight successfully their way through life. The matter was broached to her husband, and he was easily persuaded to take a trip to New Connecticut, and make a prospective examination of the field which he had been invited to cultivate. Accordingly he started on horseback, and reached Austinburg, and the result of his examination was that he concluded to move the family there. He returned to Bristol, and in the following year, 1811, he took an affectionate leave of his old parishioners, with whom he had been associated so long. We of this fast age are in the habit of accomplishing that same journey, with the comfort and adjunct of the sleeping-car, in from twenty-four to twenty-eight hours, and can communicate with absent friends (literally in no time at all) by telegraph. . . . . . . . . . This can be appreciated when it is considered that the country they were emigrating to at that time was thirty to forty days' journey off, over horrible mud and corduroy roads, up and down steep ungraded hills, with scarcely any hotels on the wayside, with the consciousness that the probability was very remote indeed of any ever returning again to the scenes of thie childhood, and this too at a time when it took over two months for a letter to be sent and deliverd and an answer received, at an expense of fifty cents' postage both ways."

Wow! If that wasn't a daring and dangerous journey for any single rider, let alone a female, to make at the time. The town of Austinburg had only been in existence since 1799 and you could count the number of settlers on your fingers.  It isn't much different today from what I can gather, although the Western Reserve had several hundred or even thousands of land-seekers all told at that time.

(NOTE: History of Ashtabula County, first published in 1878 is in the public domain.)

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