Frederick A. Henry
Captain Henry of Geauga
(Cleveland: The Gates Press, 1942)
C A P T A I N H E N RY
O F G E A U G A
A Family Chronicle
FREDERICK A. HENRY
CLEVELAND: THE GATES PRESS
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The following pages are intended to mirror a life which, though not great, had yet incident enough to have furnished forth a score of sensational romances; part enough in matters of public moment to enliven and explain not a few of the historian's chapters; worth enough to attract the intimacy of divers men of note, including a president of the United States; and personal charm enough to thrill ever and anon with numberless affectionate memories the filial pen that has essayed with diffidence this grateful task.
During the last two years of my father's life, after the partial blindness which finally became total had come upon him, he narrated from time to time at my request, and I forthwith set down as nearly as possible in his own words, the story of much of his early life. As long, too, as he himself by sight and touch could guide pen or pencil, he wrote what he humorously called "feeling" letters and reminiscences of log house days and other periods of his life. He was unable of course to read what he had thus written, and it therefore required correction at the hands of others. In the portions of these writings that I reproduce, such changes as were not made during his lifetime and under his own direction I have sparingly supplied, being careful however to make none that he himself would not certainly have indicated if his sight had not failed.
From these sources and from the autobiographical material to be gleaned here and there from his letters, diaries, official reports, contributions to the press, and other miscellaneous writings, I conceived the idea after his death of piecing together a fairly connected account of his life as told by himself. But upon trial this project proved not to be feasible, for the results were too palpably patchwork, without unity, completeness, or finish. It was with reluctance, however, that I abandoned this plan; for autobiography, whatever its defects, must be acknowledged, in its use of the first person, to afford a liveliness of style, and in its unconscious revelations, a vividness of portraiture, to which the life of the same person when written by another can not be expected to attain. My father's style, moreover, though not elegant, was both forcible and interesting, and the autobiographical fragments already mentioned are such as to inspire the wish that they formed a continuous whole.
This wish grew even stronger as I came more and more to realize the disadvantages under which a son must labor in writing his father's life. He is confronted at the outset with the petty but awkward dilemma of either writing impersonally as of a stranger or else of obtruding his own personality in every direct reference to that of his subject. The one course is as unnatural as the other is tedious. How greatly do the younger Tennyson's constant though scarcely avoidable repetitions of the phrase "my father" interfere with the liveliness of his excellent biography of the laureate.
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Again, the son is always under the suspicion and perhaps the temptation of not discovering "the nakedness of his father" respecting any fault or frailty which might seem, however slightly, to dishonor him. The consciousness as well as the solution of such difficulties is expressed in that greatest of biographies, Boswell's Life of Johnson, a work which my father often read and greatly relished. "Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it," says Boswell in his Introduction, "to the best of my abilities;"
but in the chronological series of Johnson's life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I produce, Wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this method is more lively, and will make my readers better acquainted with him, than even most of those who actually knew him, but could know him only partially.... And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write not his panegyric, which must be all praise, but his Life.
On this point, Boswell quotes from Johnson's Rambler:
If the biographer writes from personal knowledge, and makes haste to gratify the public curiosity, there is danger lest his interest, his fear, his gratitude, or his tenderness, overpower his fidelity, and tempt him to conceal, if not to invent.
The greatest of biographers, then, has served as my monitor in these respects, far below its classic model, in the eminence of both author and subject, though my modest work must rank. By what means and with what success I have met the special difficulties of closest kinship between the biographer and his subject I must let the results themselves reveal.
For the privilege, always graciously accorded, of quoting from various books and periodicals things written by, or about, or in some way related to my subject, and incorporated herein with specific credit noted in loco, I record here generally, without needless recapitulation, my sincere thanks to those in proprietary control of the sources cited.
Finally I may add, in justification for including homely minutiae of household, farm, and business affairs, and for excursions into ancestral reminiscence and local history, that this book was projected for the family, the friends and associates in various connections, and especially for the succeeding generations of him who is its theme, with no serious thought of its being read or published noticeably further afield. Even so, no other means of honoring the memory of the dead can be so effective or durable as the intimate formal biography, where the worth and interest of the subject warrant such commemoration; for of my father's name and merit it must soon be said, as of all the sons of men,
...nequeGeauga Lake, Ohio
si chartae sileant quod bene feceris
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The Scotch-Irish country in the province of Ulster, whence sprang the Henry line that is herein dealt with, is substantially the Northern Ireland of today. The region so peopled comprised, with some overflow, the coastal counties of Londonderry, Antrim, and Down, and southwest of them the inland counties of Tyrone, Armagh, and Fermanagh. Of these, Tyrone and Londonderry occupy the area encircled by the broadly curving valleys of the Foyle and the Bann, which flow northerly by the ports of Derry and Coleraine, thirty miles apart, through lake or estuary into the sea.
In 1610, under James I, most of this territory became crown land, by confiscation from the rebellious Irish nobility -- an exercise of arbitrary power which, whether wise or unwise, has kept the Irish question white-hot in British politics for over three centuries. The famous Plantation of Ulster ensued, under royal favor, and soon repeopled the region, chiefly with thrifty and intelligent Scottish Presbyterian colonists, whose descendants became the celebrated Scotch-Irish -- a race tall, angular, and sinewy in body; in habit pious, opinionated, and untidy; but, on the whole, fitted both physically and mentally to excel.
A century later, in 1718-1720, a prolonged drouth, a series of epidemics, and a depressed state of the linen export trade, together with the long endured and ever increasing oppression of extortionate rents and compulsory religious conformity, induced wholesale migrations of Ulstermen to America. 1 Though most of the Scotch-Irish landed in Boston, and settled mainly in the frontier towns of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, many were scattered through the colonies from Maine to South Carolina. Viewed by both Puritan and Cavalier with British prejudice against the "Irishmen," they nevertheless became in half a century a most important element of the population in both numbers and influence. 2
1 The romance of this movement is nowhere more vividly or truthfully portrayed than in the Reverend Elijah Kellogg's Good Old Times. It is pleasant to recall that my boyhood copy of this stirring tale, when in 1880 I lent it to "Grandma" Garfield in Mentor, gave her such delight, with its pictures of pioneer struggles very like her own, that for some time afterwards, in token of her grateful regard for the lender, she treasured in her Bible some of his youthful letters to her grandsons.
2 Says the Reverend Doctor Maclntosh in his "The Making of the Ulsterman" (The Berea Quarterly, October, 1908, at page 9): "The plantation of the Scot into Ulster kept for the world the essential and best features of the lowlander. But the vast change gave birth to and trained a somewhat new and distinct man, soon to be needed for a great task which only the Ulsterman could do; and that work --
2 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
The patronymic Henry appears in the early eighteenth century town or county records of every colony where the Scotch-Irish settled. The petition of March 26, 1718, signed by over two hundred "Inhabitants of the North of Ireland," to Governor Shute of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, for "suitable encouragement" of "their inclinations to transport" themselves and their families to New England, bears the signatures of Robert and James Henry, Robert Hendre, and William and Robert Hendry. From eight different towns, moreover, in Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim, and Down, nine commissioners and ruling elders of the name Henry, though none apparently of the name Hendry, figure in the records of presbytery and synod in Ulster between 1691 and 1718. In the next twenty years there appear on this side of the ocean, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony alone, at least nine distinct, though not necessarily unrelated, Henry families, besides one or more of the name Hendry. Like-sounding when uttered with the Celtic burr, the two names are perhaps identical in origin, as indeed, by the common dropping of the "d" in Hendry, they are often indistinguishable today.
Descended from one of these Scotch-Irish Henrys in Massachusetts (for I set aside as incredible, the tradition current in one of the remote female branches of this family, 1 that their progenitor was "the Regicide Whalley, who went by the name of William Henry to evade recognition by the officers of Charles II"), CHARLES EUGENE HENRY, the subject of this narrative, was of the sixth generation of his family in America; the line being: William, Robert, John, Simon, John, Charles. The earliest record bears date an even century before his birth. It discloses that on June 24th, 1735, William Henry, husbandman, of Stow, Massachusetts, purchased from Nathaniel Page, of Lunenburg, one hundred and sixteen acres of land, besides eight acres of meadow, in the northeastern part of the latter town.
A few years later, his eldest son Robert Henry, also of Stow, removed with his wife Eleanor and their first-born child John to that part of the neighboring town of Groton which was later set off as Shirley. Sometime after Robert's death in 1759, John, who became by occupation a mason and builder of chimneys, removed to Columbia, then a part of Lebanon, Connecticut, and known as Lebanon Crank. There he married Mary, youngest daughter of the Reverend William Gager (Yale College, 1721) and of Mary Allen, his third wife. There, too, their first child, Simon Henry, was born on November 27, 1766.
1 Genealogy of the Fuller Families Descending from Robert Fuller, by Newton Fuller, of New London, Connecticut, 1898; page 11.
which none save God, the Guide, foresaw -- was with Puritan to work the revolution which gave humanity this republic."
Voluminous lists of persons, places, ships, etc., concerned in the movement of Ulstermen to America, appear in Charles K. Bolton's Scotch, Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America (Boston: Bacon and Brown; 1910), and in Stimner G. Wood's Ulster Scots and Blandford Scouts (published by the author, West Medway, Massachusetts: 1928).
SIMON HENRY AND RHODA PARSONS 3
At that time Lebanon was distinguished as the site of the Reverend Eleazer Wheelock's Indian Charity School, which Joseph Brant, the Mohawk warrior, then a youth, had recently entered as a pupil, and which, by evolution and transfer to New Hampshire, finally became Dartmouth College. Lebanon gained further renown, a few years later, from the efficient War Office there maintained under the patriotic eye of Connecticut's bluff old Revolutionary governor, Jonathan Trumbull. From this town John Henry had a brief record of service in the Revolution. He then removed successively to Bolton, Andover, and finally to Enfield, Connecticut, where he filled divers minor town offices, and died in 1819, aged seventy-six years. His widowed mother Eleanor had died there in 1807; his wife in 1812.
Simon Henry married in the same town, in 1792, Rhoda Parsons, who, born March 13, 1774, was fourth of the nine children of John and Ann (Osborn) Parsons and came of most respectable ancestry. 1 His mother and wife thus brought into the Henry line of descent two successive strains of fine old Puritan stock, which was henceforth to preponderate over his father's vigorous Scotch-Irish blood. The young couple removed shortly to Middlefield, Massachusetts, and thence to Washington, Berkshire County, where for a quarter-century they cultivated their farm and reared a family of ten children. Here Simon Henry was repeatedly chosen moderator of the town meetings and first of the three selectmen elected annually, besides discharging many other public functions down to the very date of his removal to Ohio. In 1812-1813, a war-time period of especial responsibility, he was sent to the legislature, or General Court, and soon afterwards his three oldest sons served their country in the second war with Great Britain.
Notwithstanding this prosperity amidst the lovely but sterile Berkshire Hills, New Connecticut (as the Western Reserve in Ohio was then often
1 She could number among her forefathers Deacon Benjamin Parsons, and Richard Vore, as well as John Keep and John Leonard, both of whom were among the six persons killed at Pecowsick Brook on March 26, 1676, when, as they and others were proceeding peacefully with their families, under a strong but craven armed escort, to church in Springfield, Massachusetts,
Caused Captain Nixon and forty men to run.
In her veins, moreover, coursed the mingled blood of Robert Pease, William Warriner, Richard Montague, Thomas Marshfield, and of Deacon Samuel Chapin, in whose widely copied statue, as "The Puritan," by St. Gaudens, the city of Springfield publicly and worthily commemorates New England's pioneers. She descended, too, from Robert Goodell, John Adams (not the president), William Vassall, John Osborn, Richard Oldage, Begat Eggleston, John Talcott, John Stiles, and other worthies among the first settlers of New England.
2 Among other committees to which he was assigned was one to "perambulate Peru": i. e. to join a representative of that town in walking along the boundarv line between it and Washington and in repairing or restoring the monuments or freshening the blazes on the trees which marked its course. Another was to "reseat the meeting-house," meaning thereby not the changing of the pews, but the assigning of the church sittings among the members and parishioners according to the respect due and the tribute received in each case.
4 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
called) appealed to their imagination as a land of greater promise. In an obituary notice which Father wrote of one of the earliest pioneers of this region, Rachel McConotighey, the widow of his uncle William Henry, for the Chagrin Falls Exponent of September 13, 1888, he said:
During the years... 1815, 1816, and 1817, settlers came in great numbers from the East, and the somber forest that covered a score of counties south of Lake Erie was dotted here and there with clearings. The burning brush and log heaps became a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In every township one or two churches and half a score of schoolhouses sprang up as if by magic, and social life, together with township and county government, became more marked.
Nearly a quarter of the people of the town of Washington emigrated west-ward in the decade 1811-1820, and Simon Henry, anxious to provide for the settlement of his sons, procured from Simon Perkins, of Warren, in exchange for the Massachusetts farm, a much larger tract in Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio. To Ohio, therefore, with his wife and eight children (two of the older ones, Orrin and John, having been sent ahead the year before) he removed in the autumn of 1817, a year described in Villard's John Brown (at page nine) as one not only of extreme scarcity of money "but of the greatest distress for want of provisions known during the Nineteenth Century."
His terse diary of their forty-five days' journey 1 into the heart of the wilderness begins: "We started from home Sept. 18th on Thursday in the afternoon and staid at Wm. Noble's." The next night, at New Lebanon, they put up at Pierce's tavern, where the charge "$1.57" seems well worth recording. With a daily progress of about fifteen miles, their only long stops en route were a three days' visit at Smyrna with Rhoda's brothers John and Elam Parsons, and four days at Madison, near their journey's end, to await word from their sons at the new location before proceeding farther on the main road west or venturing from it into any doubtful byway. Finally on November 1 the last entry reads, "Saturday night home." From the Berkshire Hills to the Western Reserve they had come nearly six hundred miles, but their pilgrimage began and ended at "home." The advent of the Henrys is thus recounted in the Pioneer and General History of Geauga County (page 137):
In Washington they were neighbors of George and Robert Smith and John Fowler, who had preceded them to Ohio by a year or two. George Smith's family were their nearest neighbors, and when they parted with them it was without hope of meeting them again. Two years after the departure of the Smiths, they decided to try their fortunes in the wilds of Ohio, so, bidding good-by to their friends, they started on the wearisome forty days' journey.
1 They traveled via New Lebanon, Albany, Union, Sharon, Middlefield, Cooperstown, Sherburne, Smyrna, Nelson, Tully, Skaneateles, Geneva, Canandaigua, Bloomfield, Avon, Batavia, Btiffalo, Fredonia, Northeast, Erie, Conneaut, Saybrook, Madison, Painesville, Mentor, Chester.
PIONEERS IN BAINBRIDGE 5
The last night of the journey they stayed at Hudson's Corners in Chester. Between there and the center of Bainbridge there was but one house, and that without a tenant (built and afterwards occupied by Gideon Russell of Russell township). Orrin, the oldest son, met them in Chester with two fresh teams, and the Smiths and Fowlers came up soon after and kept them company through the day.... With George Smith and Simon Henry, especially, was this a glad meeting. They [had] worked together while young men, clearing their rugged mountain farms, and when, after a separation that both thought final, George Smith rode up to them, those men of fifty years could only clasp hands while the starting tears expressed what their tongues refused to tell.
With the help of fresh cattle, their own jaded ones were enabled to be at nightfall within a half mile of their future home. This now smooth meadow was then a black ash swamp, and after struggling over roots and through mud till about halfway across, the wagon settled hopelessly down in the mire, and in spite of all the drivers could do, had to be abandoned for the night. The mother and smaller children were carried to dry land by the grown-up sons; the girls and Calvin (a boy of nine) had been sent off before dark on the horses of their old neighbors, and were already among friends. Packing on their backs the necessary articles for cooking, they went on foot to the cabin which the sons had built, whose ample chimney gave them a view of the tree-tops waving in the November wind. They were the ninth family in the township, and with the three young men and as many young women, made an important accession to the isolated settlement.
The first settlement of Bainbridge township dates from 1811, with the coming of David McConoughey, of Blandford, Massachusetts. He was followed quickly by Jasper Lacy and Gamaliel H. Kent, of Suffield, Connecticut. In 1812 came Alexander Osborn, of Blandford, and two years later George and Robert Smith, of Washington. Enos D. Kingsley emigrated from the adjacent town of Becket, Massachusetts, in 1816, and was joined the next year by his neighbors, Joseph Ely, of Middlefield, and John Fowler and Simon Henry, of Washington. These were followed in 1818 by Deacon Jonas H. Childs, of Becket, Justus Bissell, of Middlefield, and by Daniel McFarland and Philip Haskins, of Adams, Massachusetts.
Surrounded thus by old neighbors, the Henrys for many years dwelt peacefully in their new home, till Simon Henry, often chosen a justice of the peace or a township trustee, died on June 26, 1854, in his eighty-eighth year, having survived his wife by seven years. His grandchildren remembered him as a stoop-shouldered, blue-eyed old man, with horny hands forever gathering highway pebbles into capacious coat pockets and lodging the same in some rut farther along his farm front; or, dim of sight, rising from his chair by the doorstep to accost some passer-by with a commanding, "Well, who are you?" while, with foot or hand on the wheel of the traveler's vehicle, he detained him willy-nilly till the inquirer's curiosity was appeased. His wife Rhoda, black-eyed, keen-minded, and kind-hearted, added her contribution to the strain of vigorous, assertive personality which they handed on.
6 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
Their son John Henry, father of the subject of this book, was born in 1796, and had just attained to man's estate on the family's arrival at their new home in Ohio. The lad, it is said, had been selected by Mr. John Parsons, of Enfield, Connecticut, from among his daughter Rhoda's large family, to go back home with him from Berkshire and attend school in the older community; thus lightening the mother's growing burden, while enlarging the opportunity of one by no means the least promising of her children. Afterwards, when his father in 1813 was sitting in the General Court, John, then at Latin School near Boston, witnessed with him the great reception tendered to Commodore Bainbridge, on the latter's arrival there in February, with his flagship Constitution, after capturing the British frigate, Java. Inspired no doubt by this spectacle of martial glory, and chafing withal beneath fraternal gibes
The family had hardly settled in the new country, when the young scholar John Henry was finding welcome relief from the endless toilsome grappling with the forest by "keeping" school in winter. While thus engaged in the older settlement of Canfield, Ohio, some forty miles to the southeast, whither he had been called to teach in a select school for advanced pupils, including some with experience as teachers, he met and on the first of July, 1819, he married one of his teacher-pupils, Polly, the seventh child of Captain Simon and Ruth (Hanchet) Jaqua.
Born in Salisbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut, on May 1, 1800, Polly Jaqua had come with her parents to Johnston, Trumbull County, Ohio, in September, 1804. Her father, said to have been a minute man in the Revolution (though I have never found any record of his service), was the first justice of the peace in that township; and his father, Aaron Jaqua, whose wife was Rebecca House, of Lebanon, had been a Connecticut soldier and "clerk" in the French Wars. The absurd tradition, often repeated by their romantic granddaughter Polly, that her "honored father was descended on
JAQUA LINEAGE 7
the one side from Lord House, and on the other from Cardinal Jaques," if not always implicitly credited, stood at least unchallenged, until one of her grandnephews, who had taken orders in the Episcopal Church, became curious about his jaqua ancestry. Thereupon the scandalous cardinal's pretensions were speedily and indignantly shattered on the rock of sacerdotal celibacy. It is perhaps needless to add that neither branch of this family legend derives any support from the actual records of Simon Jaqua's honorable New England lineage. 1
To some, indeed, Polly's vitality and Gallic impulsiveness lent color to the notion (derived originally, it may be, from the peculiar surname) that she came somehow of French descent, if not from the dubious prelate, then certainly from Huguenot stock. Old Doctor David Shipherd, for example, benignant and oracular, once flattered her prankish boy Edward by descanting upon his "Huguenot birthright of industry, longevity, the moles on your back" (he had seen the boys of both households "in swimming" together in the Chagrin), "your music, persistence of accomplishment, and liberality."
But though the Jaquas came to Connecticut from North Kingston, Rhode Island, where indeed the Tourgees, Ayraults, and other French Huguenots found asylum after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes on October 18, 1685, the family settlement there antedates by some years that crisis in the world's history. At least four of the name Jaques (for so it was originally spelled) fought in King Philip's War, wherein the famous capture of the Narragansetts' fort in the Great Swamp Fight of December 19, 1675, occurred at South Kingston, only a few miles south of the seventeen hundred and forty acres granted on January 1, 1672, to a quartet of coadventurers, including Polly's ancestor, Thomas Jaques, one of the four. 2
Of Polly Jaqua's grandfather, a curious relic still extant is a small leather-bound book of Gospel Sonnets or Spiritual Songs (Glasgow, 1760), much worn, and inscribed in a clerkly hand, "Aaron Jaqua's Book, a Present from his son William Tupper, in the Army of the United States, Jany 5th, 1782." First of these gospel sonnets is an old song entitled "Smoking Spiritualized," to which a second part is newly added. Each part has five pious stanzas, and each stanza ends with the admonitory refrain, "Thus think, and smoke tobacco." In The Oxford Book of English Verse, selection Number 390 (a poor variant of Part I) omits the most interesting stanza,
1 The Jaqua (or Jaques) line, beginning with the immigrant to America, runs: Henry, John, Abraham, Thomas, Ebenezer, Aaron, Simon, Polly. That of Aaron Jaqua's wife: Samuel (son of the Reverend John House, of Eastwill, County Kent, England), Samuel, Jr., Nathaniel, Rebecca. That of Simon Jaqua's wife: Deacon Thomas Hanchett, Deacon John, John, Ebenezer, Amos (Hanchet), Ruth.
2 Aaron Jaques, uncle of the Aaron Jaqua who married Rebecca House, served in that war tinder Captain Jonathan Remington, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, -- a circumstance corroborative of other evidence that the Rhode Island family descended from Henry Jaques, who emigrated from Wiltshire, England, to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1640. In Shakespeare's "As You Like It," a Jaques, it will be remembered, attended upon the exiled duke in the Forest of Arden.
8 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
which alludes to the old time smocker's habit of burning out his clay pipe in the fire to make it draw:
Think on thy soul defil'd with sin;
For then the fire
It does require.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
Even more strongly in another particular did Aaron jaqua influence the lives of his descendants. After the early death, in 1782, of his daughter-in-law, Charity Grinnell, he counseled his widowed son, Simon, to choose for a second wife, Ruth Hanchet, "because," as he prudently observed, "the Hanchets live forever." This young woman, the daughter of Amos and Hannah (Holly) Hanchet, of Salisbury, Connecticut, and seventh in the line of Deacon Thomas, of Wethersfield, did indeed so happily unite in her own person the qualities of piety and longevity, as amply to justify her father-in-law's observation, construed either carnally or spiritually.
In the flesh Ruth Jaqua lived to be ninety-one, and her daughter Polly to be nearly eighty-one; while each, during a long widowhood and almost until death, tended her own dairy throughout the week, and on Sunday journeyed horseback some miles to church. As throwing light on the personalities of these sterling pioneer women, whose scant advantages meant for them no lack of faculty of the non-academic sort, I quote verbatim the following letter, from mother to daughter, written from Crawford County, Pennsylvania, in the former's seventieth year, after she had visited the younger woman's rapidly growing family in Geauga County, Ohio, by horseback journey past their old Trumbull County home, sixty miles each way on the forest-girt roads:
Followfield March 10 1832.
Throw the goodness of an all wise
Being I am in the land of the liveing yet
And enjoy my health very well Praised be
The Lord for his goodness to me --
I yest Receivd your leter dated febury 5 was very
Glad to here from you it being the first I have
Heard from you sence i came from your house
You speake of troubles trust in the Lord he will
Suport you yes in six and in seven he will
Not forsake you take courage then his Grace is
Suficient for you -- O my Child I feel for you and
Yours -- But to tel you of my journey home
MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER 9
Had to stay there 2 weeks A great meting
Cauld 4 days meeting began thursday Continued
Til monday morning Prayer meeting every night
& every morning before sun rise -- Wensday evenig
Before that meeting Mr Weeb caried me
Up to here Elder Eddy preach and
Carroline Bates was maried to A Dicson
Next day the prispoterioti Meeting Began Mr. Johnson's
Tow sons one Daughter was Converted to God
Welthy hine Hirum hine Lucy ann Dickson
Harret Hill and more to the amount of 40
Charyty came here the first day of February made me
A short viset it was very pleaseing to me
I should be very glad to have a viset from you
Mr Joseph Leech has lost there oldest Boy he
Died happy in the lord, there little girl exsperienced
Religion & tinited with the Church
Brother Hitchcock is to preach here today
And I must Conclude Wishing you health and prostperity
My Respects to your family and all enquierin friends
The following, written by her daughter seven years later, while both were visiting in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, is probably a mere memorandum rather than a letter:
Orange, May 7th 1839 --
Mother will be seventy seven next November she has rode horseback 60 miles to see myself and family -- arrived last tuesday -- wednesday T was 39 years old-thirsday we all attended the funeral of Amasa Russ -- died of inflamation in head -- yesterday Monday we started to visit a son of uncle John H[anchet] M. B. who died April 24th 1837 aged 73 -- found them well pleasant family -- call'd at good B. Fords -- had short and good visit b F prayed powerful 1 -- had a melting time -- with flowing tears. I remembered the happy times when we had met in days of other years -- feel if I could enjoy such privileges I could sincerely say fearless of Hell and gastly death I break through every foe -- The wings of love and arms of faith would bear me conquer through.
My dear Father Simon Jaqua was born June llth, 1754 and died June 25th 1825 -- aged 71.
Before his death, the early date of which is thus carefully minuted, Simon Jaqua had not only somewhat tinctured his son-in-law with Swedenborgianism,
1 Brother Ford's supplications were indeed "powerful." He would jump as high as the table and shotit loud enough to be heard a mile away. "We children," said Aunt Eliza, "were scared when he prayed in the old log house; Father never prayed that way.
10 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
as already intimated, but had taught him also the elements of land mensuration and the convenient use of decimals therein. Under such influences the young teacher and surveyor, John Henry, continued in Johnston for a period of nearly four years, during which his wife Polly bore him two sons, christened appropriately Simon Jaqua and John Newton.
From Johnston to Bainbridge, thirty-five miles due west, they removed in March, 1823; and for the rest of their lives made their home on the north half of lot twenty-seven, tract three -- a part of Simon Henry's long strip of land, lying remote from his own residence and just west of the Aurora fork of the Chagrin River. Five years later, the father, continuing the partition of his lands among his sons, put this parcel of a hundred acres at John's disposal, conveying it on February 16, 1828, as follows: fifteen acres at the west end, by John's request, to his brother Calvin, in pursuance of some dealings between them; fifty acres at the east end to John himself, for the consideration of one hundred dollars; and the remaining thirty-five acres to the same, for the consideration of love and affection. This ancestral farm of eighty-five acres John eventually conveyed to his sons Simon and Charles. Simon sold his south half to Charles, in whose family accordingly both parcels have since remained.
Besides the two sons in Johnston, seven children were born in Bainbridge in the fifteen years from 1826 to 1841: William Ray Babcock, Mary Maria, Martha Ann, Emma Eliza, Charles Eugene, Harriet Eliza, and Edward Everett. Of these, William (or Babcock, as the child's father has it) and Emma died in infancy. Nearly two years after the former's death, John Henry penned this tribute in the back of his Methodist class-meeting record book:
[ facing 10 ]
John and Polly Jaqua Henry (bottom) and children: Charles (top)
Maria Goodsell and Newton (middle) Eliza Brown & Edward (left)
Ann Brewster and Simon (right)
STATE IN GRACE AND IN LIFE 11
The same book records the attendance at eighty class meetings from June 28, 1828, to May 1836. 1 The class comprised twenty-one members much of the time; but by deaths, removals, withdrawals, and one expulsion, it dwindled to a third of that number and finally flickered out. Some of the members came from the adjacent townships of Aurora and Solon, over the county lines. The "State in Grace" of each one is marked "B," perhaps for Baptized; the "State in Life," "M" or "S." Heading the lists of names throughout the record are John and Polly Henry. Then follows Joseph Witter (a Revolutionary soldier and one of the guards at the execution of Major Andre) with his wife Hannah. 2
John Henry's worldly condition at this epoch is indicated by a tax receipt of November 30, 1831, which discloses a charge of $1.464 for that year on his eighty-five acres of land, and $0.504 on his chattels; making a total of $1.968, which, less road tax worked, left a balance of $1.33 paid by him in money. Trivial as this exaction now seems, it was then more burdensome than the far heavier taxes of today; and with the growing public needs of the new community, the burden was bound to increase rapidly. Between 1831 and 1835 the tax valuation of this farm rose from $163 to $240, probably implying the erection meanwhile of the split-log house hereinafter described. The tax rate fluctuated from $9 per thousand in 1831, and $5.50 in 1835, to $10.48 1/3 in 1837.
The civic side of John Henry's life is further illustrated by a certificate dated April 17, 1830, and signed by Aaron Squire, Simon Henry, and Enos Kingsley, of Bainbridge, as township trustees, appointing him supervisor of highways in District Number 9, a humble but exacting office to which he was probably often called. Teacher's certificates were also issued to him by George Wilber, of Auburn, and O. Henry, on January 21, 1832; by David Shipherd and M. Henry, of Bainbridge, on January 14-19, 1833; and by Nelson Eggleston and S. D. Kelley, of Aurora, on November 8, 1833. For twenty-nine terms, in all, he is said to have taught school, not
1 During this period the conference and circuit were thus officered: presiding elders, William Swayze (1828) and Ira Eddy (1830); circuit preachers, Ignatius H. Sackett and Cornelius Jones (1828), John Chandler and John McLean (1829), Caleb Brown and John Ferris (1830), Thomas Carr and Lorenzo D. Prosser (1833); class leaders, John Henry (1828-1831, 1833-1836) and Jarvis McConoughey (1831-1833). John Crawford, circuit preacher, had previously certified at Bainbridge, on March 5, 1828, "that John Henry is an acceptable member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a Class Leader in Cleveland Circuit, Pittsburgh Conference."
2 Also Abraham and Laura Witter, Lucius and Hannah Eggleston, Harvey and Catherine Waldo, and James H. (or J. Harvey) and Cornelia Henry. The last named were neighbors of John Henry, but not akin to him. They are marked as having moved away after the meeting of June 12, 1831, but a relative, Reuben Henry, afterwards lived in the vicinity for many years.
Married members, whose consorts apparently had not joined, were Jarvis McConoughey, Fanny Bull, Sally Herrington, Harriet A. Prior, and Lewis Olney. Of the single "State in Life" were William Witter and Elvira Woodward, who, however, were joined in wedlock in 1830; also Amelia M. Bull, Amelia Ann Herrington, and Maria, Sophia, Lucy J., and Eliza Ann Robbins. Abraham and Laura Witter moved
12 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
only in his own and surrounding townships, but also, because of the higher pay in older settlements, as far away as Crawford County, Pennsylvania, near the last home of his widowed mother-in-law, Ruth jaqua, and her daughter Drusilla, of whose husband, David McGranahan, uncle of the hymnist James McGranahan, he was very fond.
A rough plat, made by John Henry, on February 18, 1833, of Bainbridge School District Number 1, where he lived, locates the farms of his neighbors, Graham, Giles, William Henry, Witter, Squire, Eggleston, Mason, Russ, Waldo, Kent, Marshall, and Benjamin Rush, besides his own homestead. This corner of Bainbridge was about as populous then as it has been at any time since; but the great forest, abounding in wolves, occasional bears and deer, and other wild things, loomed omnipresent, with small, slow-spreading clearings surrounding the log houses of the settlers and connected by threading trails that but tardily attained to the dignity of roads. Said Father, in his obituary of Mrs. Rachel Henry, above cited:
The woods were full of game, and the streams and lakes of fish; and when one became sick a ready and curative remedy was found in roots, herbs, or bark.
With scarcely any inequality of fortune among the pioneers, envy's tooth gnawed them not. All alike were poor; all struggling towards better things for their children in the years to come. And the children, at least, found happiness in this environment. Born amidst the forest, they grew up in the glamor of it. Unconscious of the limitations to which it subjected them, they knew only the manifold riches of nature's wilds.
But not a few of their elders, who had tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, suffered vain regrets for what they had found and lost in the life they had left behind them. Many, never acclimatized in the new country, burned and shook their lives away with fever and ague, or sank slowly beneath subtler and yet more fatal visitations. Even the consolations of their religion of otherworldliness served often but to emphasize the gloom of their life in this world. One source of alleviation of their lot was, however, unfailing: neighborliness and hospitality abounded, and the social intercourse of log-rollings, quilting and husking bees, of spelling schools, training days, church and camp meetings, lawsuits, elections, raisings, weddings, and even of
away after the meeting of February 14, 1830; and Harriet A. Prior after February 21. The Waldos and Lewis Olney withdrew or removed, while Lucy Robbins and Amelia Bull were "dropped." Joseph Witter died in February, 1831, and his widow moved away, to reappear later, however, with a Joseph and Esther Witter.
In the winter of 1834-1835, Jarvis McConotighey, a mighty hunter before the Lord, who brought haunches of venison from time to time as welcome gifts to the Henry household, "removed to Solon," having sold his farm to Gideon Kent; and Sophia Robbins "removed to Streetsborough class." Lucius Eggleston was "expelled for bad conduct to his wife"; and in May, 1836, Fanny Bull "joined the new divinity men." This crowning apostasy appears effectually to have closed a chapter, which is thus minutely reproduced as helping to make clear the surroundings amid which the subject hereof was born, some six months before.
TRAITS OF PARENTS 13
funerals, afforded variety to toilsome lives. Every device to relieve the somberness of existence was eagerly welcomed unless forbidden by their moral code. Many of the pioneer women and most of the men sought and found solace in smoking, and to Polly and Rachel Henry, Deborah McConoughey, and many other of the neighboring housewives, when they forgathered for an afternoon visit, clay pipes and tobacco were no less important adjuncts of the occasion than their knitting.
John and Polly Henry were not ill mated. Both were God-fearing and home-loving, fond of reading and of the society of good people. In most other respects their temperaments were complemental. Her democracy brooked no patronizing, and her effectual foil to such offending was either a plainlv feigned surprise at unfounded pretensions, or else a naive blundering on skeletons in the offender's closet. Her husband, no less sensitive, but more reticent on such occasions, preferred to shtin those who gave him offence.
Like the rest of the Henrys he was given to nicknaming. To his children who "peeked" over his shoulder, or otherwise manifested undue interest in business not their own, he would shout, "Lyman Fowler, go and sit down." If any of them talked too much or too freely, "Joel Giles, be still." His son Simon's father-in-law, Mr. Wesley Whipple, was always "Old Crescent" after he had presumed to explain to Schoolmaster John Henry how to spell "Crescent City." Grandfather called his daughter Ann "Skit" from the agility with which in girlhood she eluded Father's playful pursuit by taking a tremendous leap through one of the open windows of the old log house. A little later, Henry Brewster, triumphing over all the rest of her many suitors, was brevetted "The Little Corporal," for his resemblance to Napoleon in frame and stature and in accomplishing whatever he undertook. The name "Captain Jaqua," which Grandfather applied to his son Newton, long remained uninterpreted, despite the other children's searching inquiries, until Uncle Edward came home on furlough from the army, when, said he,
Father was so glad to see me that in the woods I cautiously asked him for the thousandth time why that nickname to Newton. "Why, I don't know, unless it was that Newton was so full of roguery."
Beneath the jest lurked this hint of seriousness: Grandmother always maintained that her father was "more spiritual" than her mother; but Grandfather, having discerned some real or fancied limitations on Captain Jaqua's spirituality, preferred the sound piety of his mother-in-law. Truthful always, and plain-spoken when plain speaking was required, Grandfather Henry impressed one as habitually "Careful in speech, forbearing toward men, and faithful to God." Of this draft of his epitaph, which, after his death in 1869, his son Charles had worded, General Garfield, the friend of both, on its submission to him for criticism, exclaimed, "That is splendid, Charlie; I can suggest but one change: for 'men' read man; it is more comprehensive."
14 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
Alike conscientious, John Henry was a moralist; his wife, a casuist. Doctor Shipherd often said, "John and Orrin Henry were the most honest men I ever knew." And Orrin, in his old age, wrote to his nephew Charles, "I always thought my brother John had a call to preach." As postmaster at Pond, for so the local railroad station and post office, now Geauga Lake, was called, John Henry, during this decade of his later years (March 11, 1857, to October 10, 1867), kind-hearted and obliging though he was, could not be induced to violate the Government's regulations by a hair's breadth for the accommodation of anyone. But his wife would take the locked mail pouch from her husband's hands, and, despite his mute protest, slip into it letters brought to the office by anxious patrons too late for regular posting. "It was a queer post office," said Mrs. Mary (Henry) Kennedy:
"Have you any letters for me, Uncle John?" his niece Adelaide inquired.
So, too, as wife and widow, John Henry's helpmate scrupled not, among even her adult children, to appropriate a Peter's plenty to the relief of a needy Paul. Though never extravagant -- how could she be? -- credit to her was always as good as cash, especially in aid of her children. To each of her family in turn, even when they stood at cross purposes, the sympathetic mother and loyal wife lent her whole-souled support. The one in trouble at the moment always enlisted her aid.
Ever resolute and aspiring, in contrast to her husband's resigned acceptance of their lot in life, for her it was emphatically not enough that they should "barely live and be content." He, on the other hand, never robust in body nor strenuous in action, implicitly accepted, not as a mere convenient pretext, but as from the divinely inspired word, his Master's injunction: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"
His brother William, thrifty and blunt, complaining of breaches made by cattle and Chagrin floods in John's part of their line, was wont to denounce the latter's "shiftless Jaqua fence" -- a double thrust, aimed not only at John's ineffectual poling of the river, but also at the enervating cause thereof, "the filthy tobacco habit." This vice, originating with the Jaquas, had ensnared even his own wife Rachel, whose secret supply of the weed he once slipped angrily into her teakettle, and at another time besprinkled with gunpowder, to the acute discomfort of the smoker and her family. In the following quatrain he frequently proclaimed his antipathy to my Lady Nicotine:
JOHN HENRY, SURVEYOR AND SCHOOLMASTER 15
And from the devil doth proceed;
It picks your pocket, burns your clothes,
And makes a chimney of your nose.
Thus as time went on, the amenities of fraternal intercourse between these brothers devolved more and more upon their wives and children.
John Henry's avocations, as schoolteacher, surveyor, and later as postmaster, interfered necessarily with his efficiency as a farmer. I have the field notes of over forty surveys made by him between 1833 and 1846 in Bainbridge, Russell, Auburn, Troy, Aurora, Solon, and elsewhere; and these are doubtless but a portion of all that he made. On one of them is marked, "Charge $4.00," a rate of pay that could hardly yield a competence. His son Edward wrote me that John Henry was "commissioned surveyor by the fourteenth governor of Ohio," Wilson Shannon. "This commission," he added, "I let Governor McKinley or Governor Hayes take as a curiosity, and I cannot find it." The record in the governor's office at Columbus discloses that on October 29, 1840, when the division of the county had created vacancies in some of its offices, a commission was issued to John Henry as county surveyor of Geauga County for three years, thus qualifying my father's impression that he "was elected county surveyor one or two terms, and declined to serve any longer, as he lived twenty-one miles from the county seat." But the courts sometimes appointed him to ascertain boundaries, lay out highways, or partition estates.
I have also five of John Henry's neatly kept teacher's records, the earliest of which is marked in his fine hand: "School journal, Commencing Nov 24th, 1834, in the Southeast corner of Bainbridge; Enos D. Kingsley, Park Brown, Thomas Smith, Directors; Horace Crosby, Treasurer; John Henry, Teacher; compensation 12 Dollars per month." The school was in session six days each week, Christmas and New Year's included, and it closed on February 22, 1835. 1 During the next winter he taught in Solon, beginning on December 10, 1835, eleven days after the birth of his son Charles, and continuing, Saturdays and holidays included, and with only an occasional day missed to attend to surveys or other urgent business, until March 8, 1836. 2 The other three records in my possession cover terms which he taught in Pennsylvania during the winters of 1839-1840, 1840-1841, and 1842-1843. Many other such journals of his have disappeared.
Trusting in Providence no less implicitly than her husband, Polly Henry's optimism was commonly translated into action. Hers was decidedly the more
1 The pupils were E. D. Kingsley; George, Robert, and Thomas Smith; G. Smith, Jr. Also, William Russell, Horace Crosby, Park Brown, Samuel Creager, William Burgess, Seymour Dodge, Abner Bingham, David Baird, John Scouten, Alexander, Jr., and Russel Osborn, Cornelius Bowerman, and Susan Barber, the only girl!
2 His pupils here were E. and John Trowbridge, W. Stannard, G. Mason, A., H., and W. Dunwell, Wid and J. Baldwin, A. and William Witter, Moses Shaw, Festus Merry, Warren Howell, Charles Warren, H. Phelps, J. Bartlett, and Jarvis McConoughey.
16 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
intrepid spirit; her temperament more buoyant and volatile. If the tea was out, or they lacked money to pay taxes, his reply to her inquiry as to what they were going to do was apt to be "I don't know any more than the dead." But she would turn to her loom, finish a bolt of rag carpet and, throwing it on the old mare's back, ride with it to Solon, Aurora, or even to distant Warren, returning triumphant in due time, the crisis met. When the wolves followed her through the forest, she would sing in clear, ringing tones a Wesleyan hymn, and the wolves would stop howling and listen, but keep on following more distantly to the clearing in the woods.
Doctor John Hatch, of Aurora, always maintained that his Aunt Polly -- he was her nephew by marriage -- had a "voice like an angel's, the sweetest he ever heard;" and I myself have heard her sing, when she was over seventy years old, in tones even then so melodious as to confirm the verity of his testimony. In all the Methodist meetings great and small which she attended in the early days, she was commonly the one to be called on or to volunteer to lead the singing. At church, people who did not know she was present would recognize her voice in the congregational chorus of Rock of Ages, Happy Day, the Missionary Hymn, or any of the grand old numbers, -- Nettleton, Amsterdam, Ardon, Bethany, and scores of others. "The Aurora folks," said my Aunt Ann Brewster, "often used to get her to sing there."
Her appearance, too, was captivating. Mr. Austin Beecher, a competent if somewhat carnal-minded judge of female beauty, often asserted that in her youth she was one of the handsomest women be ever saw. I can answer for the regularity of her features and the brightness of her black eyes down to the time of her death.
Added to these charms was her lively imagination, which lifted her constantly above the hardships of pioneer life. Though intensely practical in every-day affairs, she was no stranger to the world of dreams and romance. She had the full measure of superstition of those early days. To spill the salt was an omen of misadventure; to drop her dishcloth a sure sign of visitors. Of similar import was the crowing of a rooster on the doorstep or the floating of tea grounds in the cup. During the malaria epidemic of 1846 she, the mainstay of her stricken family, feeling that she at all hazards must be rid of the disease, resorted at last to mild diablerie:
Now I'll tie you up to this old beech tree.
The Bible was to her a book not only of divine revelation but of pious divination as well. Special providences were the constant attendants of family and neighborhood life. Dreams were as plainly significant to her as to Joseph of old. Her vision tales of "The Ox with Great Horns," and "The Two
POLLY HENRY'S THRILLING TALES 17
Balls of Fire," held her children and grandchildren spellbound. Deaths especially were foretokened by dreams of the grim horseman and his pale steed. Thus she suffered double agonies when, as she averred, the dread visitor, so heralded, actually crossed her threshold. Conversely, "Dream of the dead and you'll hear from the living," was a favorite aphorism, its prediction seldom or never failing. The characters of fiction, moreover, in her vivid rehearsal of Scott's and Cooper's tales, donned robes of flesh so real that in after years, as the children came to read the books for themselves, the stories of "Di Vernon," "Harvey the Spy," "Leatherstocking," and all the rest, seemed like biographies of veritable persons.
Her husband, John Henry, often reproving her for minor inaccuracies, could not only repeat from memory every word in Webster's Spelling Book when he presided at spelling schools, but he could recite the whole of Scott's "Lady of the Lake," much of Goldsmith's "Deserted Village," and all or large parts of divers other poems. She, however, could lift clear of the printed page and marshal in living pageantry "Fitz-James" and "Roderick Dhu" with all their border hosts. "Her account of the great meteoric shower in 1833," declared her son Edward, "was thrilling."
It seemed as though the stars of heaven were all falling, and everyone but her husband, John Henry, thought the world was coming to an end. The effect on some of the neighbors was for good. Two or three wicked swearing fellows became almost converted to God, and behaved themselves for a long time. More meteors would have made them go to the mourners' bench. 1
In conversation her vivacity was such that her words and thoughts sometimes tripped over one another. On the road to "the Center," according to a story which has certainly not deteriorated in the telling, she one day late in life reined in her pony at Charley Chase's blacksmith shop and, hailing the horseshoer, said, "I want you to set Dolly's shoe. Have you heard that George Shipherd's baby is dead? It has gone clickety-clack, clickety-clack, all the way up."
Calling upon Mrs. Amanda Briggs, who had just finished baking a pound-cake, and whose child stood clinging to her skirts, Grandmother exclaimed, "Oh, what a beautiful cake! And what a beautiful child!" Then inquiringly. "Raised with empt'in's?" At another time, when one of her granddaughters, Cora or Florence Brown, made a new kind of cake at her house, Grandmother extolled it as being "so moist and so dry," meaning doubtless that it was neither crumbly nor heavy.
An inveterate matchmaker and gossip, she was by no means a trouble- breeder; for she said to people's faces, frankly and with impunity, what others would only whisper behind their backs. When one of the same neighbors took his mother's hired girl to the county fair and stayed two or three
1 One of the neighboring Henrys, a very intelligent man, unrelated to Father's family, is said to have even got his suit or robe ready to go up in the general ascension.
18 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
days, the girl petulantly denied Mistress Polly's suggestion of a runaway marriage; whereat her interlocutor replied spiritedly, "It looks like the game without the name."
The young man's mother, at another time, came weeping and wringing her hands to tell Grandmother that her son was drafted, and cried, "What shall I do?" Grandmother had three sons at the front already. But the oldest, residing nearby with his family, still remained. So she exclaimed cheerily, "Why, maybe Simon can go in his place!"
Those who were in sickness or trouble knew well her neighborly kindness and tender ministrations. It became such a religious habit with her to go to funerals, that in later years she was wont to attend them even when her acquaintance with the households which death had invaded was but slight. Her own death from pneumonia on January 21, 1881, was due to imprudent exposure to inclement weather on such an occasion. She was a persistent letter-writer, and all of the Henry kindred who had moved farther west before the Civil War, including one who sided with the South in that conflict, were long kept in touch with their relatives in Ohio through her unfailing diligence as a correspondent. Her sympathies were so keen as often to engross her mind to the exclusion of all other considerations, however important. This is illustrated by Father's account to his grandchildren of "a little incident of childhood days."
If anything got into the eye and gave great pain, it was believed that a louse put under the eyelid would relieve the intense suffering. Cousin Jehu Brainard and his wife Maria lived in the old round-log house adjacent to ours. Cousin Maria one day began to scream with pain in her eye. Your great-grandmother, full of sympathy, got a little tin box ["her round black snuffbox, " said Aunt Ann, "with flowers on the cover"] and sent me up the hill as fast as my young legs could carry me. Brother [a grandchild] could not run faster or talk faster. Almost out of breath, I said to Mrs. G--, "Cousin Maria is in awful pain in her eye. Mamma wants a louse to get it out." With a look of haughty scorn I never forgot, she replied, "Go home and tell your mother to comb her own darn young 'uns heads." I returned with empty tin box, wondering why she had treated me so scornfully, as we had always been the best of neighbors.
Long years afterwards, when "Aunt Polly," as the neighbors called her, lived all alone in her widowhood, declining the invitations of her children to live with them, I recall her smiling face at the door and her cheery greeting, "Oh you deary!" when the clicking gate announced a grandchild's coming. I remember the old-fashioned flowers in her dooryard, with its bachelor's buttons and marigolds, its meetin' seed, its yellow dahlias, larkspurs, and roses, its "pinies," poppies, and pansies, and its wonderful perennial shrubs, the "tree of heaven" and the "tree of life." I can still taste the mellow russets and pippins in her orchard below the house, and the pies and the peppermint drops from her cupboards. I fancy myself again driving
IN HEAVEN'S ENVIRONS 19
up her cows, Old Star, Little Star, Beauty, Spot, 1 and the rest; or bringing her mail from the post office-letters from children or from cousins in the West, the Guide to Holiness which she read alone, and Robert Bonner's New York Ledger which, as she sat knitting, sewing carpet rags, or paring apples, I was always glad to read to her, with its thrilling tales by Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., or Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth.
I see her now sitting by her fireside beneath the festoons of boneset and lobelia, wild berries and dried apples, that adorned her ceiling, and reading her worn and dog-eared "Testament and Psalms," all stained with tears and candle grease. I scent the pungent wholesome savor of her sage, catnip, and pennyroyal. I hear the clang of her loom at the head of the stairs, and see the swift-darting shuttles, as with aged but still deft hands and feet she wove into handsome carpet the rags she had patiently cut and dyed and sewn. My dear grandmother! She surely trod the road to heaven, for it was in heaven's environs that her children and their children always found her.
1 One cow was curiously yclept "Stonewall Jackson," doubtless by Grandfather.
[ 20 ]
Of the nine children born to John and Polly Henry, Charles was the seventh. Writing to me, April 18, 1901, from Cincinnati, about my birth, he thus digressed:
By the way, Dr. Shipherd helped me into the world; also Aunt Maria, Aunt Ann, Aunt Eliza, and Uncle Ed; and I think took his pay in sheep at a dollar a head, sheep and babies, -- they were not particular about the count. Your grandpa and grandma had, I think, nine children, who lived to preach and do other things, [save that] two or three died young, probably the best ones. Your three aunts have averaged better than their brothers.
The following note to one of these aunts he appended to a business letter, written in 1890, from Dallas, Texas, to her husband, "Deacon" Henry Brewster; but by an odd balancing of errors elsewhere rectified by him, he has here subtracted one from the number of the years of his age and added the same to the number of pounds he was said to have weighed at birth:
On inspection of the frail mite of humanity whose nativity is thus recounted, the women, skilled in their neighborly office, could not in candor encourage the mother with even the conventional judgment that it was "a likely child." They took the minikin into the outer room, before the blazing fireplace, to wash and dress and weigh it; but could only whisper to one another, as they scanned the steelyard's beam, "They'll never raise it."
Winter was at hand. Soon the husband and father must go away to begin his winter's school. The log house in the clearing on the west flood-bank of the Chagrin already abounded in little mouths to feed and little bodies
A MAN BORN INTO THE WORLD 21
to clothe, and the night's baying chorus lurked uncomfortably near its threshold. Prostrate and helpless, with her puny new babe beside her, the mother, stouthearted though she was, saw little occasion "for joy that a man is born into the world." When the women 1 were gone she broke down completely, and amidst sobs besought her husband to "fetch the Book and let it fall open" where it would, for such comfort as Providence might provide in the first text to strike his eye. John Henry, acquainted alike with his Bible and with his wife, obeyed. Providentially the volume fell open at Psalm 128, and with twinkling eye he read the third verse: "Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round thy table."
"Shut the book," impatiently commanded the mother. But her tears were dried, and with an appreciative grimace at her husband, she nestled the little babe to her bosom and contentedly fell asleep.
"The spirit of her brief rebellion had, however, on one occasion," said my father, "the powerful aid of our maiden aunt, Father's strong-minded sister Mary, who had rejected numerous lovers in former days on account of their non-belief in some religious tenet. She was silenced by the strength of Father's faith, when he replied meekly to her lashing, 'Sister, if the Lord sends us children we'll not murmur.' "
In a holiday greeting to my children, written on New Year's day, 1905, in Cleveland, Father told in the third person (lapsing midway insensibly into the first person), of his own infancy:
Grandpa was only three weeks old his first Christmas and four weeks his first New Year's. He therefore can not remember them. He probably "rampaged" and made much fuss to enforce a "maternal contribution." Grandpa weighed four pounds, some say five pounds, in those days. Your great-grandma did the best she could with a large family of small children. Your Great-uncle Newton was much help to her that cold winter. He was 16 or 17 (really 13 or 14) years old and saved your grandpa's life many times. He relates the story of how he not up nights and waded barefoot, down outside stairs of the log house home, in snow a foot deep, and warmed a quart or so of milk two or three times a night to save the little one's life. It only took the milk of two or three fresh cows that winter to save your dear grandpa's life._________
1 Mrs. Russ and Aunt Rachel. When the former's grandson, Joseph Price, was horn a year or two later, they blew a horn in the night to wake Grandmother and summon her assistance.
22 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
cold winter. Your Great-uncle Newton was told by his Aunt Mary, when he was seventeen years old, that he had a call to preach. He rather thought so also, as it was easier than clearing land in pioneer days. He devoted himself to that toil through life, except for three years as a very good soldier during the Civil War.
All this rollicking is a little hard on Uncle Newton, whose sincerity I have never doubted. Two comments may explain Father's humorous ingratitude. In the first place, though he himself had, on occasion, a naive, inoffensive manner of boasting, he much disliked this quality in others, especially in a benefactor reminding his beneficiary of favors conferred. Secondly, as their sister Eliza recalled, Father's first earnings, sixteen dollars in silver paid him by James McClintock 1 for work as a farm hand, lay hid in the ground where he had buried it for safekeeping, when his elder brother Newton, who had obeyed the "call to preach," came home on a visit. Learning of the boy's little hoard, he asked him if he did not "want to lend it to the Lord," that is, of course, to the use of the Lord's needy circuit-riding vicar! It required but little persuasion to induce the lad to do as he was desired. He dug up his money and piously "lent it to the Lord," without then anticipating or thereafter delighting in the legitimate use to which, as he afterwards learned, his offering had been applied.
Nevertheless, in after years, whenever Uncle Newton came back to Bainbridge on a visit and preached one of his excellent sermons in the old Methodist church there, Father regularly renewed his contribution, and Uncle Newton always acknowledged it with the phrase (sometimes humorously inverted), "He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord." Thus their fraternal intercourse, while not ardent, was by no means unfriendly. Both of Father's older brothers erred in trifling with the boy's pecuniary rights. How the iron entered his soul they never realized. Twelve or fourteen years later, when he was far away and had not seen them for years, he wrote to his mother from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on April 25, 1864:
I trust that your memory will recall to mind the fact that years ago I was an industrious boy, working for eight or nine dollars per month, at hard labor, and going to bed each night with my young bones sore from toil, and that the money thus earned was "borrowed" from me by those who could earn ten dollars to my one. I trust that you will forgive me; I mean no reflection on you nor Father._________
1 Aunt Ann thought it was four dollars and a half, which Father had earned at Carlos Henry's. But Aunt Eliza insisted that, though his first wages were as Aunt Ann said, he paid out that money for shoes, etc.
EARLIEST MEMORIES 23
The following letter, about his infancy and later life, Father addressed to me when I was a senior in Hiram College:
Dallas, Texas, Nov. 29th, 1887, 7 P.M.
The red woolen dress, which Father mentions, was of his mother's coloring and weaving. It gave place, on the occasion of his Grandmother Jaqua's visit in May, 1839, when he was three years and a half old, said Aunt Ann, "to a mouse-colored suit, Simon's castoff clothes made over. Ellen McGranahan, her granddaughter, afterwards Mrs. Coulter, came with Grandma Jaqua. Newton 'slied' Charlie into the bedroom and changed his dress for the new suit, and Grandma exclaimed, 'Why, what bright little boy is this?'" Her departure for home marks Father's first remembrance of any event and, I believe, his only memory of her. The mental picture portrayed his grandmother seated on her pony ready to go, and his mother in tears on the ground by her side.
At another time (October 11, 1886, from Dallas) he wrote: "My earliest recollection of the hills and valleys about my birthplace was that the hills were very high and the valleys deep. They looked smaller as I grew older." 1
1 In fact, as shown by the United States Topographical Map, the entire range of variation in surface levels in Bainbridge is about 320 feet. The Chagrin River, opposite the site of the old log house, lies 940 feet above sea level; Father's birthplace, 960;
24 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
The southwestern corner of Bainbridge is indeed a rugged and beautiful region. Much of it, too hilly to cultivate, was best suited to dairy farming and to maple sugar-making. The rock maples of the original forest thus largely escaped the woodman's ax, and with the new ones since allowed to grow, they perpetuate through the revolving years the romance of "sugaring" in springtime, and in the fall the glorious color symphonies of autumn leaves. The hills abound in springs and spring brooks, whose chill waters, meandering into the Chagrin, afforded here and there, in pioneer days, a natural home of brook trout. The lake, also spring-fed, and teeming with fine fish, has, curiously enough, no connection with the river, a tunnel of only a few hundred yards towards which would drain the deep basin dry.
Of Father's birthplace, thus bounteously environed with nature's charms, I quote his description, which I wrote out, as nearly as possible in his own words, from my notes of a conversation with him at my home in Cleveland on Tuesday evening, March 27, 1906, after he had become blind and unable to write:
Our home was really two houses, each about twenty-five by thirty-six feet. The first stood nearer the river, but faced north, broadside towards the highway. It was built of round straight logs, halved in at the corners, with the cracks filled with mud, and with a broad fireplace. The chimney, constructed of stones or bog ore chunks, was topped off with sticks. A few years after, but before I can remember, the other log house was erected more comfortably of split cucumber, with half logs neatly dovetailed at the corners. Like the cap of a "T," it stood at the west end of the first house, separated from it by the great chimney with its fireplaces opening into each._________
1 "Or rather," said Aunt Ann, "his brother-in-law, Lawyer West, a brother of Cousin Maria. Cousin Jehu lived opposite Gideon Kent, though he may have lived in the old log house a little while first." This was about 1841-1842. See the Brainerd-Brainard Genealogy, volume 2, page 148.
2 "It was Mother's building spot," said Aunt Ann, "but she gave it up to Simon."
Geauga Lake, 1007; Father's and Grandfather's homes in later life, 1020; and, on the east side of the Chagrin, the land rises abruptly to about the same height, and then gradually to the level of 1260 feet at a point east of "the Center."
LOG HOUSE HOME AND NEIGHBORS 25
fifteen paces from the south door the spring bubbled tip at the foot of the hill, where wild plum trees grew, loaded with plums; and in the opposite direction the outdoor oven, half as far again from the house, was reached through the east or front entrance, which opened near the northeast bedroom.
Father's sisters, Ann and Eliza, recalled more particularly a large brick oven in the old log house, heated with "oven wood" or kindlings until, after raking out the coals, "they could hold their hands in only long enough to count eleven." Then it was ready without further heating to cook rye and Indian bread, pies, etc.
Half a mile northeast of us across the river, the Russ family lived among the rocks on the hills; and east about the same distance, Uncle William's comfortable home overlooked the valley. Farther east, Uncle Orrin's house sheltered another large family; and beyond them, in the old homestead, with Grandfather Simon Henry, on the Chillicothe road two miles away, lived Uncle Calvin's family, and also, until her marriage late in life to Elijah French, our pious, outspoken Aunt Mary. Over in that neighborhood, too, dwelt Aunt Rhoda Root and Father's beloved and early widowed sister, Aunt Anne Lacy, with their numerous children.
My notes make mention also of the "buzzing flax-wheel," of the "trundle-bed, which stood against the west wall near the bedroom door," of the odorous dye-pot, and of the outside stairs which descended from a platform next the chimney northwards alongside the east wall of the split-log house to the ground. In loving remembrance of his oldest sister Maria, amidst those scenes of their childhood, Father wrote from Geauga Lake on September 25, 1904, two days after her death in East Cleveland, to her daughters Jennie and Kate:
I wish to give a word of comfort in your deep sorrow for the loss of a dear mother and noble woman. From my early childhood she was always a dear sister to me. I can just remember how she soothed my childish sorrows by_________
1 Also known as Eggleston's Mills; later, as Fuller's Mills, and to the unregenerate as Hell Holler." There Captain Norton, with his cultured wife from New York city, resided, and above the mill, the Goodsell, Rogers, and Thompson families reared their log houses.
26 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
gentle words. Oh, how beautiful her face in those moments! The picture is clear and lovely across the bridge of years. The tender tone of her voice was my sweetest music. Her lullaby songs, sacred with my mother's, still linger in memory, tender and holy. They cheer and comfort me with advancing age....
I recall Grandmother's telling me of their neighbor Mrs. Russ' fondness for Father when he was a child in dresses. She often brought him sweetmeats of her own making, and from her place of playful concealment behind a bush or around the corner of the house she would beckon him to come and get them. The first tidings of her coming would often be the little boy's gleeful prattle to his mother, "Mis' Russie, custard!" From Mrs. Warren, too, the tanner's wife, the child frequently received gifts of cake.
Playing around the house in summer was not without its dangers. Even after they had moved into the home on the hill, Grandmother once saw the boy almost in the act of stepping barefoot on a yellow rattlesnake or copperhead coiled in the front dooryard; and at an earlier time, as Aunt Ann recalled, a great spotted adder appeared before her in the old round-log house. Fortunately the reptiles were seen in time to escape the peril of their fangs. Winter, too, had its drawbacks for the children. Besides Uncle Newton's tale of walking barefoot down the outside stairs in the snow at night, it was a common experience in the loft to wake of a winter's morning and find the bed all spread with a white coverlet of snow that had blown and sifted in through chinks in the log walls. No vestige of those walls remains, though when I was a boy their outlines were traceable in the sod of our pasture. Some weeks after my brother Jim's death Father wrote to me from Geauga Lake, on October 25, 1901:
Today I wandered about the place of the old double log house where I was born. I had just spent three hours looking over Jim's papers. He was a gentleman indeed, from babyhood to the grave.
Bowed with age and sorrow, he sought the spot where he was born, to find comfort once again at Mother's knee! The few gnarled old trees, surviving there, grew from apple seeds she long ago had planted in rotten stumps of the clearing to shield the seedling shoots from browsing cattle. Later his father and "Uncle" Ben Williams grafted them, and they bore good fruit
THE WILDERNESS MARCH 27
abundantly. Among his mother's old songs that he recalled there under the old apple trees was doubtless "The Wilderness March," 1 of which he wrote
If fair Canaan they ever possessed,
They must still keep in sight of the pillar of light
Which led to the promised rest;
That the camps on the road could not be their abode,
But, as oft as the trumpet should blow,
Then all glad of a chance for a further advance
They'd take up their baggage and go.
I am thankful indeed for the heavenly head
Which before us has hitherto gone,
For that pillar of love which onward doth move
And gathers our souls into one;
While that sin-hating throng is advancing along
Into closer communion they flow,
So all that would stand in that heavenly land
Must take up their crosses and go.
Here the way is all new as it opens to view
And behind is a foaming Red Sea,
So none needs to speak of the onion or leek
Or talk about garlic to me;
I'm engaged in pursuit and must have the good fruit
That in Canaan's rich valleys doth grow,
Though millions of foes should arise to oppose
For on I'm resolved to go.
Though some in the rear preach terror and fear
And complain of the trials they meet,
Though the lions before with great fury do roar,
I'm resolved I will never retreat;
We are little, 'tis true, and our numbers are few
And the sons of old Anak are tall,
With the resolute few I'm resolved to go through,
Keeping on at the risk of my all.
On Jordan's near side I can never abide
For no place of repose I can see,
I shall come to the spot and inherit the lot
Which the Lord God shall give unto me;
It is union I seek with the pure and the meek
And an end to all discord and strife,
I have fixed my eyes on the heavenly prize
And press on at the risk of my life.
My honors and wealth, my pleasures and health,
I am willing should now be at stake,
And if Christ I obtain I shall think it great gain
For the sacrifice which I shall make;
All that I forsook like a bubble will look
From the midst of that glorified throng,
O then let us agree and from bondage be free
And to Zion be moving along.
Now the morning doth dawn for the camp to move on
And the priests each his trumpet doth blow,
At the sound of the trump I am ready to jump
And for one I'm resolved to go;
Though my trials are great I submit to my fate
For the storm it will shortly be o'er,
I shall thankfully see what a blessing to me
Was the cross mortifying I bore.
28 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
out for me at different times the first stanza and parts of others. From different sources I have recovered the whole. It was sung, said Uncle Edward, to "music in the Lowell Mason collection, first stanza [four lines] low, fa-sol-la; second stanza high, la-sol-fa, by couplets." Father suggested the swing of the lines by writing drolly, "blow-wo," "Sea-ee," and "grow-wo." In the third and seventh stanzas Uncle Edward emphasized the pronoun in "I'm resolved." He recalled, too, how "Grandfather Henry would sing it in the woods, ringing out the words, 'from bondage be free,' "and how Banyor Mason, the Shaker, would dance and sing it with a "Lo-lo" chorus and a shout at the end.
"The Lavender Girl," another old-time song, and always a favorite with Father, dated back in his recollection (as he wrote to his oldest grandchild, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, on May 9, 1901) to "sixty years ago":
As the sun climbs over the hill
To my children he wrote from Detroit, on Julie 13, 1901:
Your great-ganma used to lullaby your ganpa to sleep, with sweet voice and loving words:
Other lines, with like repetition and refrain, were:
Where now are the children of Israel?
They came up through great tribulation.
There might have been, and doubtless were, an endless number of verses -- enough, at least, to put babies to sleep. On the margin of a newspaper clipping, reproducing the following old-time favorite "piece" from the
SPEAKING PIECES 29
Columbian Orator, Father noted: "I 'spoke' this with pride when seven or eight years old."
You'd scarce expect one of my age
No doubt he also memorized and declaimed, in view of his Berkshire parent's avocation as "Old Master Whackemwell," that other old favorite, "The Smack in School," beginning:
'Mid Berkshire hills not far away
To children of a soldier of the War of 1812 nothing could be more natural than the use of the following "choosing-in rhyme," which Aunt Eliza recalled their using in her youth. 1
We are marching forward toward Quebec
From Dallas, Texas, on December 10, 1887, Father wrote to his "Dear Sister Ann":
On the twenty-ninth of November I passed the fifty-second milestone of life. On that day I fell into a retrospect of my early childhood. The great dread of several years of my childhood was the oft-repeated talk of Simon that I must be bound out. just what "bound out" meant I hardly knew, but it scared me whenever I heard him talk about it._________
1 America rhymed with day, and are was pronounced air.
30 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
money, and I thought that was the proper thing to do with it. Of course, I nearly always forgot where I buried it, and I sometimes think I have foolishly gone on burying money in the ground ever since.
"Aunt Sally" (mantle of Charity) and "five years old" (what precocity!) must, of course, be set down as figments of poetic license and imagination -- humorous concessions to rhyme and reason. Father was always writing doggerel to his children, and affecting to be deeply hurt when reflections were cast on its poetic merit. He had, however, attained to the age mentioned when the following letter, postmarked, "Harts X Roads, Pa., Feb. 9. Paid 10) 99 and addressed, on the outside of the folded foolscap sheet, which answered
1 Or rather, said Aunt Ann, "into her bedroom to pray."
DOLEFUL SCHOOLMASTER WRITES HOME 31
for both envelope and enclosure, "Mrs. Polly Henry, Bissels P. Office, Bainbridge, Geauga Co., Ohio," was written by her husband while teaching school in Crawford County, Pennsylvania:
North Shenango, 7th Feb., 1841.
32 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
bound to do for her in that case on the score of justice. I told her she need not be uneasy on that account, but feel entirely at home with us. She looks more thin and poor in the face than I ever saw her before. She thinks she may visit us next summer, if well; but says she can not be reconciled to staying out, around home, nights, as she could once; for she thinks much of tending upon her cows, saving all her milk, and making all the butter she can, and living quite independent and upon her own resources. She remarks frequently that in all probability she will not need help much longer. She thinks much of her new saddle and some other things got within the course of the year. I think myself that there is a kind of sympathy existing between her and the girls at this time on account of their mingling their sorrows in the hour of trial.
Newton was not yet nineteen. School teaching in Western Pennsylvania, was then serious business for a youth, where the older male pupils were wont to demand whiskey as their Christmas treat from the teacher! Grandfather disliked this singular custom, though he was not a teetotaler. So abstemious, however, were his habits, that his son-in-law, Henry Brewster, while helping him in the hayfield in the summer of 1851, was quite amazed at his suggesting and,
SICKNESS AND TROUBLES 33
on production of the former's demijohn, imbibing "a little liquor." The day was hot and the work was hard. "I declare, Deacon," said Grandfather, "that goes right to the spot." Times have changed since- school children and class leaders were justified by public opinion in respect of such potations. 1
Apparently Grandfather Henry's active church relations suffered no intermission when he was away teaching school, for among his papers I find the following, dated February 28, 1841, and signed by Dillon Prosser: "This may certify that the bearer, John Henry, is an acceptable member of the M. E. church on Williamsfield (circuit), Erie Conference." Abounding thus in the riches of grace, he was sadly lacking in those of this world. His oldest son, Simon, now almost twenty-one, though destined to like impecuniosity, had become of substantial aid in the support of the family, as shown by two receipts to him from Archibald Robbins, a merchant of Solon, for ten dollars paid on May 26, 1840, and five dollars, on January 27, 1841, "to apply on Mr. John Henry's account."
Two years later, John Henry was again nearing the end of a term of school in Pennsylvania. It must have been at this time that he was brought home prostrate in a sleigh, from a severe hemorrhage that threatened his life. My Aunt Eliza told me that this incident marks her earliest recollection, and that she can never forget being held up over his bed with the other children, to say a last farewell to their father when he was thought to be dying. He lived, however, for more than a quarter-century thereafter, though with health and strength somewhat impaired.
The next few years brought many hardships. A promissory note of May 9, 1844, for $16.50, from John to William Henry, bears endorsements of partial payments: $1.50 in feathers on September 9, 1845; fifty cents in cash on December 13, 1845; $4 in oats on July 2, 1847; and as late as June 20, 1853, there was still due thereon a balance of $5. These transactions throw light on William's characterizations of his brother John. Other small debts accumulated during the disability of the family's head. Some of these originated through his son Simon, who was building and furnishing the house on the hill, in preparation for his first marriage on September 25, 1845, to Prudence Southworth (called "Suthard"). The bride and groom lived together but six months. Assigning the pretext that she had been misled to believe her husband owned the farm, she left him on March 28, 1846, under the enticement of one Nat Bailey. On the same date, at Grandmother's instance, as Aunt Eliza recalled, John Henry and family moved into the house which his daughter-in-law had incontinently vacated. Thus when Father was little more than ten years old, his log-house days were at an end.
1 Since the above was written the pendulum appears to be again swinging the other way.
[ 34 ]
During the year 1846 the fever and ague afflicted nearly every family within a radius of a mile from Hopkins' millpond. Some of the aged and infirm died. Father "shook" with the ague all summer, until the recurring chills grew gradually less frequent and the disease at last wore itself out. Deacon Hopkins was finally arrested for maintaining a public nuisance; but after a long delay, during which he attempted to clear his malaria-breeding pond of its moldering flood trash, a freshet put an end to the trouble by carrying away his milldam, and the Deacon was acquitted.
Meanwhile two judgments for debts, aggregating a little over one hundred dollars, were recovered against Grandfather by William Stannard and by D. A. & J. W. McFarland, respectively. To one who earned but a third or a half that amount in teaching a winter's school, such indebtedness, poor health apart, must have loomed large. The neighbors apparently sympathized with him, for they refrained from bidding at three successive attempts to sell on execution his farm chattels that had been levied on. The matter dragged on from April to November, 1845, when the two constables, Orson S. Bush and Pizarro Bissell, who held the rival writs, came into official conflict over the property. Each finally sold portions of it, and Bush then sued Bissell in trespass for seizing from his custody, on November 10, 1845, "one red cow, one red and white cow, one brown steer, one brindle steer, ten bulls, ten cows, ten oxen, ten calves, ten stags of the plaintiff." The tens were, of course, a prudential legal fiction of pioneer pleading; but the ridiculous formula, repeated again and again in Constable Bush's declaration, so impressed Father's childish imagination that, ever after, and sometimes perhaps to his own hurt, he held in contempt all legal verbosity.
A kind Methodist brother named Bosworth had bid in the two cows, and permitted Grandfather to keep and ultimately to redeem them from the forced sale. But this, and other episodes, including the long standing account incurred at Hallock's store in Chagrin Falls when Uncle Simon was building his house, haunted the home like specters for several years, during which Grandfather's convalescence from his hemorrhage was retarded by the ever prevalent malaria. If Grandmother's incautiousness about debt had contributed to their plight, it was her indefatigable energy, resourcefulness, and optimism that finally brought the household safe through this trying period. In a letter to Aunt Ann, Uncle Ed cited a case in point:
MODISH FEAST OF WOODCHUCK 35
A dry season occurred about 1850. Potatoes were scarce and corn for johnnycake was not abundant. Sylvester Squire had an immense crop of white turnips that year. Mr. and Mrs. Squire told Mother, who was always scouting around for food for her big family,... "Send up your boys and get all the turnips you want; we have enough to supply the neighborhood." When we children, Charley, Eliza, and myself, came from school in the deep snow, Mother had the joyful news about the flat turnips. Charley and I started with bags and a hand-sled across the hilly lots for Squire's. How I recall every turn of the path, the hills, the wood, the old elm log across the lagoon or old river- bed, [and places where we had] to wallow in the snow like buffalo. Charley said he had "rather be licked than go after turnips." I was tickled....
To his niece, Mrs. Kate (Goodsell) Augur, Uncle Ed wrote from Chicago, where he was in the employ of the United States Express Company, of another and earlier foraging experience:
A big crate of woodchucks came the other day for a tony feast. I looked at them a long time, lost in sunny memories of the beautiful Chagrin River hills and the murmuring river where woodchucks grow to their full size. Now I'll tell you of a pleasant memory of your mother, sister Maria.... Our family was large; johnnycake, mush, hulled corn, the principal diet; and about June meat was scarce, as chickens were not large enough, and the dried veal and pork gone. Your grandmother was wishing for meat. Your Grandfather Henry considered the meat question mathematically, and, without words, took his cane, and the dogs and I "follered" to the river hills.
The family misfortunes, by some not quite fairly ascribed to the men folk's "shiftlessness," profoundly wounded Father's boyish pride. From my note- book, which records, under date of Sunday, January 29, 1905, that "Father has been telling me tonight about his early life," I quote:
36 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
When your Uncle Simon Henry had his troubles over his first marriage, your grandfather was very much worried; and, fearing that his own property might be teased or torn away from him in the family difficulties, he deeded his farm [July 19, 1845] to your grandmother's brother-in-law, David McGranahan, whom he knew to be an honest man. Uncle Simon, when he heard of it, was vexed and scolded about it to others. McGranahan held the title for a few years, and then deeded the farm back again (October 19, 1852).
Certainly their little brother Ed had a juster appreciation than Father of Uncle Simon's passion for music. Writing long afterwards (August 6, 1900) to their sister, Aunt Maria Goodsell, and her daughter Kate, his recollections of half a century before, he said:
In the July Century Magazine is a good article I read to Annie on "Memories of a Musical Life," by William Mason, son of Lowell Mason. It brought Simon face to face with me, as he had an exact picture of Lowell Mason. How Simon would work and build a barn to get money to attend a musical convention of Lowell Mason's at Cleveland! Dressed with care, silk hat, new shiny rubber shoes; take his singing books, a pound of Aunt Rachel's butter, and a dressed chicken of Mother's -- the only things he ever would carry-for Maria Brainerd; foot it to Cleveland, and stay almost a week to drill in music.
SHUNNING TUNEFUL SLOTH 37
The soul of music resided also in Father's breast, although the reproach of indulging it always deterred him from acquiring any understanding of harmonics or even of musical notation. But Simon, skilled in those doubtful mysteries, would allow nothing to detain him from the annual festival in Cleveland. Whatever his difficulties, he could never forego that foretaste of heaven. But such tuneful sloth Father industriously shunned.
Before entering upon Father's account of his "working out," something should be said of his earliest playmates and school days and of his boyhood diversions. He wrote two papers entitled "My First Circus," one of which was published (January 14, 1905) in the Ohio Farmer. The other, written many years earlier and mislaid before its completion, is more detailed and lively as far as it goes. I have therefore pieced the two together to tell the whole story in Father's own words:
On the broad side of Hurd's barn were posted the great bills. After a sweeping glance over the whole, my eye rested on the picture of a man, life-size, looking straight at me, with the happiest smiling countenance I ever saw. Dressed in a tight-fitting suit with broad red and white stripes, he was standing on a globe large as a washtub, rolling it under his feet up an inclined plane._________
1 "Old Gin," or "Jinn," I supposed was the name of the family steed, till Father later herein called her "Kit." But in his narratives he often altered familiar names.
38 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
name of the firm many times, until I almost fancied that I really knew the gentlemen. I gave a prolonged and heavy accent on the second syllable of the latter gentleman's name, until corrected some days afterward by an older boy, who sneeringly imitated my accent and immediately thereafter rolled off the full names of the firm with a tremendous emphasis on the last syllable, "van."
FIRST CIRCUS 39
I therefore dropped down into the saddle and jogged along, wondering whether the tent was as high as Father's barn and covered as much ground as Giles's milking yard. I recollected that the McCarteys, friends of our family, lived more than half way to Hudson, eleven miles distant, where the circus was to hold forth three weeks thereafter. Mrs. McCartey had asked Mother to let me visit them. I therefore began on that line, and Mother consented. I said nothing about the circus then.
40 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
for the morrow. Only one thing marred the pleasure of anticipation. My sisters had sewed on those buttons with the animals sideways, or heads down! This grieved me very much when I discovered the fearful blunder. I thought there was some probability of motives of revenge on their part, as a return for my calling one of their beaux "Squinty" 1 on account of a non-coincidence in his optical movements. I had often spoken to them with great confidence of his fitness, from considerations of economy of time, to cut bean poles. And now they had returned a Roland for an Oliver, whatever that meant. My father had used the expression sometimes, and though I had never seen Mr. Roland, Mr. Oliver came often to our neighborhood, and generally quite hungry._________
1 This was Horace Reeves. He took both Aunt Ann and Aunt Maria to this circus, and with great magnanimity, they permitted Father to ride home in the back of their buggy.
SUNDAY TRUANCY AND BACKSLIDING 41
easily, with the ladies gracefully tiptoeing on broad level pads instead of bare backs. I watched for the clown. He was a joker indeed! And there was the ringmaster, who had not been advertised on the bills. He was a perfect gentleman, but the clown always got the best of it in their talk.
Among Father's cousins, the boys nearest his own age included Nelson Henry, the only son of his Uncle Calvin; Oliver and Jasper, or "Goud" and "Jap," Lacy; Nelson Root; Harrison or "Hack" Henry, one of Uncle William's boys; and Uncle Orrin's son Marvin, known for some inscrutable reason as "Super-blueskin," or briefly as "Supe." All of the cousins bore nicknames; some of them unlovely. Father's was "Shuck," probably deemed a fitting variant of Charles because he had gathered and shucked butternuts, and exchanged them for boots to wear to school in winter.
Like most normal boys the Henry cousins differed but slightly in some respects from a set of young heathen. As their rude ancestors, centuries ago, identified the festivals of Christianity with their own barbarous feast days, so by a sort of atavism these lads, adapting the calendar of the church to that of boyhood, observed Easter, with savage rites, as "Egg Sunday." "For weeks before," said Father, "we boys used to gather all the eggs we could find, and hide them." And Uncle Ed described "the great Easters," "when Supe, Hack, Goud Lacy, and a big lot of boys would go over on Uncle William's side of the river and boil eggs and run naked on the sand. I think it was Supe that broke the record and ate over two dozen of boiled eggs." Father in his early teens was especially prone to slip away on Sundays after breakfast, and play all day with his cousins over the river. One Sunday morning Uncle Ed watched him narrowly, knowing that he wanted to meet Hack and Supe down in the valley. Fattier had almost eluded him by some strategy, when, "as I rushed around the house," said Uncle Ed, "I saw Charley disappearing over the fence into the deep gully that soon led to the river."
I hollered to Father and Mother. Father ran after Charley and brought him back with stern orders, "You must either go to meeting with Main, or stay at home; you are not going Hacking and Suping it today." Charley vowed vengeance on me; but we wondered why Fattier did not go. Newton said that Uncle Calvin, Joseph Ely, and some others began wearing finer clothes to church, and some style was put on; and another reason was, as Father told them to their face: The presiding elder and Aunt Mary and Uncle Calvin had labored with Father as a backslider. Father had not opened his month, but listened to the steady fire at him for an hour, Mother joining in. Father lighted his clay pipe, got his ax that we boys must never touch, then made his speech to Aunt Mary, yelling Methodist fashion, "You may all talk and talk and talk till doomsday, but I am not going to kneel in prayer with men who make leaky sap buckets." Father struck for the woods like Thoreau.
42 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
Uncle Henry and Aunt Ann Brewster reasoned that Grandfather could not have urged so pointless an excuse; and I agree that the phrase "leaky sap buckets" must be metonymical for aggravated hypocrisy. Grandfather by no means faltered in the faith; but one of his bodily habit would need but small provocation to cease going three or four miles over rough roads to church and sitting on hard seats through long and often execrable sermons. The incident shows how inevitably young people observe and imitate their parents' ways.
To recur now to Father's cousin playmates -- Supe was Shuck's closest crony, though now and again Hack became almost equally congenial. The others of their age lived too far away to enter this inner circle; but all were close friends, and numerous enough to constitute a social community in themselves. Clannish both in consciousness and in repute, though not in any sense exclusive, the neighbors esteemed them a good-natured, fun-loving and fairly well-behaved crew. Of these kindred, and particularly of the family which numbered Supe among its members, Father, near the close of his life, recorded, under the caption, "Log House Days," divers droll incidents; and from his narratives I quote:
Orrin Henry, the oldest son of Simon and Rhoda, was in many respects a remarkable man. He served, with his brothers William and John, in the War of 1812. They all obeyed orders and were good soldiers-so far as is known. Not heroes, they never boasted of killing large numbers of wicked British and scalping scores of wild Indians who were fighting for England. None of Simon Henry's sons was ever known to use profane language. They did not need to. Their plain, blunt rebukes to sinners were far more forcible than a torrent of oaths. It became common report that every Henry carried a club to strike back when attacked. Any wicked sinner who provoked them soon sneaked off in sore discomfiture amid the derisive laughter of bystanders.
UNCLE BUNG'S ZEAL AND CANDOR 43
On the same date, October 15, 1904, Father wrote further of his Uncle Orrin as follows:
All the children of Simon and Rhoda Parsons Henry were God-fearing people and trained their numerous grandchildren to walk in the strait and narrow path and to avoid the eternal torments of John Calvin's burning lake. A queer waggery and love of fun made up the sunshine of their daily life. For everybody they had a nickname that fitted some characteristic. Almost every one of the second and about all of the third generation had such names; none, however, with the sting of a wasp but always ludicrous and witty. Clergymen of that day admonished sinners, in vigorous and earnest phrase, of the eternal lake. The preacher would warm up to what the brethren called a "powerful sermon."
Uncle Bung's honest heart always blurted out the truth in prayer meetings and at log house raisings. A gifted "crazy crank" of a shoemaker and jack-o-all-trades, named Oliver Stone, became well known in a dozen towns for his ability, eloquence, and burning desire for a chance to bring forth the tears and sobs of repentant sinners at revivals and prayer meetings. He always appeared at such times full of penitence for his sins. Everybody knew that Oliver had "an abundant sufficiency" of sin and hypocrisy. Uncle Bung, an honest Christian like Luther and Calvin, despised his pretensions.
44 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
boys, rather liked to hear him. He had a plaintive, silvery voice, and always evoked tears, sobs, and handkerchiefs from emotional, goodhearted people. Indeed he said, in confidential inebriated confessions in country barrooms, that he only wanted five minutes at a revival or big prayer meeting, to bring a flood of tears from repentant sinners.
BOY AND 'POSSUM - CLOUDS OF PIGEONS 45
corrupt and ruin a large number of Uncle Bung's grandchildren now living in the West.
From other boyhood recollections which Father reduced to writing during the fall and winter of 1904-1905, under the same title, I quote:
Every family had a Bible, and some had Clarke's Commentaries ' and Fox's Book of Martyrs with its rude woodcut pictures of men tied to a stake and a large fire of burning wood about their legs. We boys were not shocked by the cruelty, but thought it fooling away the wood. "Why not boil sap with it?" With few books, and active minds, the early settlers had a thirst for growth in knowledge. They drifted into the discussion of religious dogmas: foreordination, election, justification by faith, and other tenets. These religious discussions, aided by the Columbian Reader, Daboll's Arithmetic and Kirkham's or Murray's Grammar, increased the activity of their minds. I never knew any ill will or hatred to result; and sharp controversies often increased their friendship. But, like Goldsmith's village schoolmaster, none of them ever yielded;
46 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
the upright net, or a long string to pull the trap. We often caught a dozen or more birds in this way. The pigeons would sometimes settle down in the edge of a large beech forest, and, flying over and over each other, a few feet at a time, would soon clear forty or fifty acres of nuts and seeds. In a few seasons they disappeared, and I have not seen a single pigeon of that breed for over forty years.
QUAINT BAINBRIDGE CHARACTERS 47
a hard fight to prevent race extinction. Only the woodchuck, skunk, and rabbit seem able to hold their homes against their common enemy, man.
It would require a volume to record all of Father's reminiscences of his boyhood days. A few more anecdotes or character sketches of neighbors must here suffice. I may merely mention "old Father Giles, who furnished all the piety for two or three generations" of his family. "He used big words without knowing their meaning. 'How is your son?' he was asked. 'Oh, Dan'l's fust rate, he's made over five hundred dollars tradin' bosses and pilferin' round.'
He once took "cabinet passage on a compeller to Shetongo" (Chicago) ; and during the Crimean War he expressed much interest in the "Kazar" of all the Russias. Father delighted to tell of "Daddy Giles, in tremulous tones, petitioning the Creator: 'O thou great diagonal God, may we not come into thy presence as a hoss rusheth into battle.'"
A favorite among Father's whimsical phrases was, "Since you urge me so." He gave the key to it as follows:
In pioneer days a quaint character, Jesse North, made reeds for the looms of housewives who did their own weaving. "Uncle Jess" managed to get pay for his reeds, and also to board around and get his living free by talking of election, sanctification, and other theological subjects common in the conversation of those days. Uncle Jess was a voracious eater. He would sometimes go from house to house and eat two or three breakfasts or hearty dinners in a day. Old Deacon Goodwin, a generous old neighbor, finally grew spunky, after he had fed Jess scores of times to meals at all hours. The Deacon said that Uncle Jess was eating him out of house and home, just because Jess agreed with him on foreordination and justification by faith.
Another character sketch:
Among the early settlers along the valley of the Chagrin River, were Hezekiah Russ and wife from Connecticut. He had four boys: David, Jonathan, Josiah, and Amasa. He also had two daughters, Fanny and Mary Ann. Daddy Russ never belonged to any church and so far as I know never attended church, but he was voluble in quotations from the Bible, especially the Old Testament. A sort of walking commentary in discussing religious dogmas, he bothered the Calvinists, Methodists, and Baptists with quotations against their respective tenets. He was always ready to argue doctrinal points, and always good-natured, honest, witty, and shiftless. Never known to do a day's work, he was never idle; but always poking about, going to mill with a bushel of corn on his shoulder, or visiting the neighbors to "talk Scriptur'." He was six feet high, of powerful frame, loose-jointed, much like a bear or groundhog.
48 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
The Henry boys were always on the watch for Daddy Russ, sack on shoulder, on his way to mill. With grave faces and meek, respectful demeanor, they appeared as penitents at the mourners' bench asking for good fruit from the tree of knowledge. Daddy was always glad to "quote Scriptur'" and show them the strait and narrow path. Meanwhile he would shift the bag of corn from one shoulder to the other for nearly an hour. This was just the thing that the serious young seekers for the light wanted. They had their fuii after Daddy walked away to mill with his grist. They always treated him with respect and deference, and Daddy always liked the Henry boys as "good boys."
There were still other figures, familiar though less personal, in Father's recollections of his boyhood days:
When the shoemaker (Silas Bolton or Sheldon Ide) came around "whipping the cat," to make shoes for the family in the fall, I often wished as a ]ad that I could be a shoemaker too. His bench was in the cosy corner. A large kettle of corn-meal mush, fresh and yellow, hung from the hook on the crane over the fire. Singing merry songs and telling funny stories, he drove his pegs with wonderful dexterity and speed. He cut and split his pegs from a maple log in the ample wood pile and baked them in a spider at the fire. When he called for linen thread, spun on the little wheel, it was always ready. Doubling it and rolling it, over his leather apron, on his right leg, he would wax his thread and, sticking in a hog bristle, make seams that would wear a year with the hardest use among the roots and stumps.
LORDLY STAGE DRIVERS 49
when a shoe was done, and eat a quart bowl of mush and milk. We boys had fond hopes of learning the shoemaker's trade. It was such a jolly life to go from house to house and make shoes and boots for the family in cold weather, and tell stories from the corner of the log house, with its broad, generous fireplace.
[ 50 ]
Allusions already made herein, to the pioneers' habit of religious discussion, to the "Holmes fog," to the "Campbellite" reformation, to the "New Divinity" men, and finally to the Mormons, suggest certainly the existence of an unusual religious ferment. Among the many Disciples of Christ, or "Campbellites," on the Western Reserve, who were attracted for a season into the Mormon fold, Sidney Rigdon stood easily first. Ambitious, erratic, and eloquent, but not over-scrupulous, he became at once the brains of Mormondom. Grandfather John Henry maintained that he probably compiled the Book of Mormon while sojourning one winter (1825-1826) 1 in Bainbridge. In his quarters south of the Center, he seemed always to be writing, sometimes far into the night; and though he received courteously all who called, he would first lift the lid of his desk and lock his mysterious manuscript away therein before admitting them.
Some years of foreknowledge of the appearance of the Book of Mormon in April, 1830 (it was ready for the press in June, 1829), is, moreover, expressly ascribed to Rigdon by various contemporaries and particularly in a letter from Darwin Atwater, of Mantua, to the author of Hayden's Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, quoted at pages 239 and 240 of that work. In a communication to the Cleveland Leader, which appeared in its issue of Sunday, March 14, 1886, Father wrote from Geauga Lake, under date of March 9, the following account of Rigdon's connection with "The Spaulding Manuscript and Book of Mormon."
Other engagements prevented my hearing President Fairchild's lecture last evening upon the Book of Mormon and its relation to the Spaulding__________
1. Linn's The History of the Mormons, p. 60; Hayden's Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, p. 191.
SIDNEY RIGDON'S BOOK OF MORMON 51
manuscript. It has been the popular belief among older citizens of the Reserve, and especially among those who had personal contact with early Mormonism, that the Book of Mormon was made up in part from the Spaulding document, and yet there was no direct or positive evidence to prove it. From some facts and incidents connected with the career of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon when they were in Geauga and Portage counties preaching their alleged new gospel I came to the conclusion some years ago that the Book of Mormon was the work of Sidney Rigdon, with perhaps some changes and additions by Smith or others. So far as I know, these facts and circumstances have never been published. The truth or falsity of the Spaulding matter in no manner affects them, and they came to me in a way that leaves no doubt in my mind that the Book of Mormon, or a large part thereof, was written by Rigdon within two miles of the spot where I am now writing.
52 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
silence and professions as a prophet. Those who were not awed by the glamour of mystery became convinced of one thing, that he was a man of little or no education, while Rigdon was a fine orator, a fair writer, and among the men of that day a good scholar.
Edward H. Anderson, the authorized compiler of A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, declared that Rigdon embraced their faith about November, 1830, in or near Kirtland, Ohio; and going straightway to New York "to inquire of the Prophet what was the will of the Lord concerning" him, he "was retained to assist Joseph as scribe in the inspired revision of the Holy Bible, which work was begun just before the close of the year 1830." With Smith, Rigdon returned to Ohio about February 1, 1831, and that summer they made a short trip to Missouri. Coming back to Ohio, they lived in Hiram, Portage County, until the following April, when they again visited Missouri, both having been tarred and feathered in Hiram, during the night of March 24-25, 1832. 1 They returned to Kirtland in June
1. See the Geauga Gazette for April 17, 1832, in the Western Reserve Historical Society. (Misc. No. 21.)
WHIG CAMPAIGN SONGS 53
of that year, and according to Anderson completed their "revision" of the New Testament on February 2, 1833.
In view of these dates there seems to be no warrant for the conjecture that this revision, rather than the Book of Mornton, was the work on which Rigdon labored in Bainbridge in 1825-1826. The impress of Mormon proselyting during the next few years, though visible in Bainbridge, was less apparent there than in some of the surrounding towns. None of the Henrys was inveigled into the movement, although in 1837 [sic - 1838?], when the Mormons'cavalcade passed through Bainbridge on their journey to Nauvoo, Illinois [sic - Missouri], and camped on the Case farm in Aurora, Carlos Henry as a boy came near going with them, and John and Harriet Squire, near neighbors, did go -- the latter marrying the Mormon Elder Snow.
The Abolition movement struck yet closer home. The Henrys, for generations opposed to slavery, aligned themselves with the Federalists first, and then with the Whigs, while those parties lasted. "They were all," said Father in a letter from "Home, October 21, 1904," "disciples of Washington, Hamilton, Webster, Clay, and Corwin." Though too young to remember much about the "Log Cabin Campaign" of 1840, Father must often have sung in boyish play, as he sometimes did in after years, the stirring campaign songs of the Whigs:
All the country through?
It is the ball a-rolling on
For Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,
And with 'em we'll beat little Van,
Van, Van is a used up man;
And with 'em we'll beat little Van.
Oh, where, tell me where, was your Buckeye Cabin made?
'Twas built among the merry boys who wield the plow and spade
Where the Log Cabins stand in the bonnie Buckeye shade.
1. Both are quoted in full in Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol. 2, pp. 707-9. Each had many stanzas.
54 CAPTAIN HENRY OF GEAUGA
(view enlargement of Henry home photo) (view enlargement of map image)
Pages 432-735 not transcribed.
Frederick A. Henry
(Mayfield, Ohio: 1962 -- from 1946 MS)
C E N T E R V I L L E M I L L S
O L D C H I L L I C O T H E R O A D
FREDERICK A. HENRY
October 1, 1946
Reproduced for Mayfield City Schools Camping Program -- April 1962
[ 1. ]
"Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness." So sighed the poet Cowper a century and a half ago. And so at times sighs everyone today. To rough it a bit in the country is the sort of vacation annually coveted by almost any youth from six to sixty.
A few score mermbers of the Cleveland Y.M.C.A. go each summer to its North Woods Camp at Lake Temagami in Canada, very near to nature's heart. Others enjoy the attractive River Road Camp, But the majority take their yearly outing of days or weeks at Centerville, twenty-five miles southeast of Cleveland, there they find much to delight them. The camp grounds of about 140 acres are completely encircled by farm lands: No other equal area, with a surface so pleasantly varied and in a location both protected and accessible, could be more suitable for its purpose.
Situated partly in Original Lot No. 22 in Aurora but mostly now in Lot No. 13 of Tract 3 in Bainbridge Township, the whole parcel is crossed by the highway which, running along the Portage-Geauga county line easterly from the Old Chillicothe Road is now known as Crakel [sic] Road in honor of the Association's beloved first promoter of this camp. Southwesterly through both parcels runs a small branching creek, broadened into a little lake near its mouth and merged by a dam into a mill-pond at Crackel Road. Below the pond is a deep rocky gorge several rods long, with precipitous head and sides, and leading southwesterly to the near-by Aurora fork of the Chagrin River into which the creek flows. In some deeds, however, the creek is called the river, with the river its tributary.
Two stations on the Erie Railroad are each about three miles distant from this sie -- Auora to the southeast and Geauga Lake to the west; but there are very few human habitations within a mile and a half of the camp.
It was not always so. Before the advent of the railroad in 1856, a small but flourishing industrial community had here grown up known as Centreville Mills. (It was always so spelled, high up on the front of the old gristmill, with the first word curved over the second.) Mr. William A. Benjamin, some of whose kindred for generations have dwelt just east of the mill property, estimates that years ago within "a radius of less than two miles there were over fifty houses, a brick yard, tannery, blacksmith's and shoemaker's shops, gristmill and carding or woolen mill; also a cooperage where they made barrels, and wooden utensils, as bowls, etc."
To recall something of the history and traditions of this hamlet; of the storied Chillicothe Road which runs by it from Painesville on Lake Erie towards Ohio's first state capital, and of the Chagrin River whose small northeastern tributary there, rushing throucth the little canyon, energized both mill and populace -- to tell all this to those who are fond of the place today can but deepen their devotion both to it and to its present use.
The English poet's longing "for a lodge in some vast wilderness" was painfully fulfilled by those Who first threaded the almost continuous forest from New England to the New Connecticut or Western Reserve. By the terms of her royal charter the original colony of Connecticut was bounded west by the great South Sea or Pacific Ocean, far beyond the jurisdiction of the British Crown.
Even in the east the overlapping royal grants to William Penn and to the Duke of York so far prevailed as to give the states named after them the land west of the present state of Connecticut to the eastern boundary of Ohio. When the original states that claimed ownership and jurisdiction of western lands were induced to deed the same to the United States, Connecticut relinquished only her political sovereignty over a large area south of Lake Erie and reserved title to the soil for herself and her vendees. Nearly all the eastern part of this Reserve was sold to the Connecticut Land Company (or syndicate, as it would now he called,) and through it every chain of title to the land is still traced. Settlers here did not "take up land from the Government; they bought it from members of the syndicate or their assigns.
The underlying Indian claims to the ground were already in course of extinction by successive treaties. East of the Cuyahoga River the region had long been neutral ground, almost uninhabited by any natives after the powerful Iroquois of western New York three centuries ago had literally exterminated the fierce and boastful Eries here.
So the pioneers in Aurora and Bainbridge had no actual Indian troubles, although they were sometimes alerted by alarms in other communities. Wandering groups of friendly Indians occasionally passed over their old paths in this region. Of these routes a minor one ran from the mouth of the Chagrin River up the valley and through Wilson's Mill, says Frank N. Wilcox, in his Chio Indian Trails on pages 119-120, "it crossed to the east bank and entered Gates Mills, crossing again where the original inn stands, and passing over the low grounds of the present polo park, followed up the west side, either on the ridge or the foot of the ridge, to the narrow gorge southwest of Chagrin Falls (U.S. 422). It crossed at this point, followed up the Aurora branch over the McFarand Creek to the Onondaga town just southeast of Geauga Lake, and turning southeast on rising gro,and, came to another Onondaga town at Aurora." Having thus passed close by the present Centerville Camp, the trail, branching from Aurora through small towns of the Senecas, became merged with the great mail trails beyond.
My Grandmother Polly Henry, about 1823, saw a small group of one or more Indian families strolling along the Chagrin trail just west of the river and south of Pettibone Road. They paused on the hillside across the brook from her loghouse home and she watched their dusky children at play, as they rolled laughing and screaming down the grassy slope. By the time there were perhaps three dozen White families comprising less than three hundred individual residents within the twenty-five square miles of Bainbridge Township, which until 1811 had not a single inhabitant. Equally tenantless were Russell and Auburn, the townships north and east of it,
The settlement of Aurora, however, had begun a dozen years earlier, and the first road opened in either township was the one that Ebenezer Sheldon cut in 1799 from Aurora center northwesterly till it intersected a bridle path to Cleveland. Three years later a thoroughfare was begun to continue the same route from Cleveland to Warren, via Aurora, Mantua and Hiram. Neighborhoocds off the main roads were connected with them by lesser cuts. The Connecticut Land Company had already voted on January 30, 1798, to lay out their first two roads on the Reserve; namely, the one along the lake shore from the Pennsylvania line to Cleveland, and the other from Painesville through the northeast part of Geauga County to the salt springs between Warren and Youngstown.
Pending completion of these roads General Edward Paine, or his son, presumably
acting in behalf of the Land Company under the road laws of the Territorial Goverment, employed Mr. Abraham Tappan to lay out and open the so-called Chillicothe Road. This was apparently opened through the Reserve in 1802 via the centers of Kirtland, Chester, Russell, Bainbridge and Aurora, thence swerving through Hudson to or beyond the south boundary of the Company's land,
From such employment little more was then expected or performed than to run a run [sic - line?] of least resistance, blaze or girdle the trees and clear away undergrowth so that a yoke of oxen and a sled might contrive to get through. Fifteen years later, parts of this road were still almost impassable for wheeled vehicles. My great-grandfather, Simon Henry, driving a team and wagon from Berkshire to his new purchase in Bainbridge in the fall of 1817 was stuck fast in the mire of this main highway when in sight of his destination a mile north of Centerville. Yet it is said to have been along this thoroughfare in 1813 that cast-iron cannon balls were brought on pack-mules or horses from the Ohio River to the mouth of the Chagrin, where they were taken on board Perry's ships and added to the ammunition that battered the British fleet into submission in the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813.
Over primitive highways of this sort it was only their indispensable or specially prized goods that the first settlers could bring here from the East in their covered wcagons hauled by horses or oxen, along with whatever other livestock they could carry, lead or drive. Nothing but their own skill and physical effort could add to what they had thus brought. Food, clothing, furniture, tools, medicines, hardware, lumber -- everything new that they required -- had to be improvised.
At first there were no stores or stocks of merchandise nearer than Pittsburgh. Grain grown in small cleared spots could only he turned into meal or flour by the little portable handmills which produced but a pint or two a day and were almost worthless. Hardly less so were their pit-saws, handled by two men, for converting logs into boards. The household utensils for producing cloth were somewhat more efficient, but they too required excessive time and toil in proportion to the results obtained,
The Land Company sought to lessen these hardships by grants of land and loans for the building of power grist-mills and sawmills and the attracting of other enterprises and craftsmen. Whereby land sales would be stimulated. But the earliest gristmills so established at Kirtland, Newburgh and more remote points were hard to reach and their grists were mostly poor and eXpensive.
The first mills were all run by water power. The need of them was so great that before 1820 they had begun to multiply along nearly every rapid little stream of this hilly region. Wherever there were narrows which a short dam would span, a millsite was likely to he located. From Aurora station northwest to the Solon line, the Chagrin River in early days flowed past five sawmills and gristmills -- one for almost every mile. The one at Centerville, begun in 1830, was the first of these, although its water power came not from the river proper but, as already intimated, from its small eastern tributary which flows into the Chagrin a few rods above the bridge at the Chillicothe Road. Here where two townships and two counties, two streams and two roads, converge, John Jackson, a youth of pluck and parts, established the home where for 130 years in an unbroken line he or his son, Erastus, or his granddaughter, Jeanette Jackson Hanna, continued to reside.
The old homestead was part, says Mrs. Hanna, of "a tract of 250 or 300 acres" that he acquired and his selection of it is thus described by her. "In the summer or fall of 1812 he started out on horseback from Chester, Massachusetts, to find a place to purchase where there would be water, as he wished to erect a mill to do wool-carding and cloth-dressirg. He was eighteen years old and selected the land where we have always lived on account of the water power. * * * he went to Massachusetts and taught a winter school, and in the spring moved his parents to our present location. Their first house was a log one and stood about where the barn is now."
This was later supplanted by the main part of the frame house which faces west on the east side Of the Chillicothe Road at the top of the curved hill leading southwesterly near the school side and the Jackson family burying-ground on the right, to the highway bridge over the Chagrin River. The school building there was moved up and joined to the house when the Aurora district schools were centralized. * Centerville is redolent of the annals of the Jackson clan -- of which more hereafter.
About the time when young Jackson projected his carding mill hard by the natural waterfall below the house, Freeman Howard took over the millsite just above it, and his gristmill, said to have been built in 1813, may have been in operation before the woolen mill. Howard's gristmill was a small building to which first settlers of Aurora, Bainbridge, and neighoring townships came on foot or horseback bringing corn or wheat, a little at a time, to be ground. A few years later this early structure was destroyed by fire, though a fragment of the wall near its northwest corner still stands, and square notches in the flat rock bed of the stream above the natural waterfall still mark the footings of the timbers that braced the original wooden dam.
The first mill was soon replaced by a larger one, fifty feet upstream. From the rock beneath to the roof above, it had seven different floor levels. Afterwards the long east wing or feed room was added. Of the new mill Mrs. John R. (Alice Wilber) Patterson writes: "It was used as a gristmill, sawmill, rake factory and blacksmith shop. The story had been handed down that when the last timber wasin place in the mill, Mr. Howard climbed up on the ridgepole with a jug of whiskey, walked the length of it taking drink from the jug, threw it over his head and smashed it on the rocks sixty or seventy feet below And so the mill was christened "Centreville Mills." The first word carved in large capitals over the second, was painted high above the front entrance and declared to the world both the familiar name and its original spelling.
The power for these mills was from, overshot water-wheels. Mr. Benjamin recalls that his father "used to tell of getting into the one at the old mill with a lot of other boys and making it go round like the wheel on a squirrel cage. Of his own neighborhood along Crackel Road east of the mill, he says further, "The first house on this side of the bridge was a long [sic - log?] cabin built and lived in by a shoemaker named Slater. He sold the place to Freeman Howard, who built what we know as the 'White House' or Carlton house. Howard lived there
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* This district schoolhouse was long a principal feature in the lIfe of the community. It nearly always had exceptionally good teachers -- Fannie McCollum, Clara Jackson, Laura Squire, Emma Case, Zora Jones, Libbie Kinsman, and Carrie Kent, not to mention others, especially those of the long period before the last twenty years of its existence. The schoolhouse figured largely also in the church life there, particularly that of the Aurora Baptist Church.
for several years, then sold the mill and property, including the house where he lived, to Alfred Williams, who later sold it to Gorham and Aplin of Cleveland."
Their title uas transferred by Sheriff's sale in February 1862, to Asa D. Howard,, from whom, in June 1864, it was acquired by twin brothers,, Amasa and Asa Carlton. Meanwhile the mill was operated for short periods by William Smith and Robert Jones respectively -- perhaps under abortive negotiations for its purchase. Asa Carlton lived in the White House a few years until his death by accident, and Amasa soon afterwards married his widow. From the Carltons the property was bought in 1866 by William Boulton. Pending payment of the full price, Amasa stayed on, perhaps to protect his equity, and sixteen years later he repurchased the place at sheriff's sale.
"We knew him," says Mr. Benjamin, "as "Uncle Am C'." He moved to Burton, having got his nephew, Herbert A. Carlton, in February 1882, to come to Centerville, occupy the White House, and manage the business. Herbert in turn induced his more experienced friend and former schoolmate, Lauren H. Norton, to come also and help him to get started with the gristmill. Norton moved into the mill house where Boulton had lived and where the Y.M.C.A. caretaker, Mr. Piatrowski, now lives, and resided there from April 3, 1882 until his removal to Bedford, July 30, 1896. *
After a year's trial of the new mnagement Uncle Amasa, being advanced in years, Without children, and fond of his nephew, was ready to turn over to him the entire Centerville property, retaining only a life interest for himself and wife. Herbert's conduct of the combined gristmill, sawmill, and allied enterprises lasted for nearly a score of years to the close of 1901. During the first fourteen of those years the gristmill, with Norton as miller, was mounting to its peak of prosperity, though business of the sawmill was declining and the populatioon of the vicinity had already fallen off. In this center of the dairy region, once called "Cheesedom," [the] grinding of feed for cattle had become the gristmill's chief function. **
At one time the sawmill had been a major feature at Centerville, but in this period it was subsidiary. It was situated under the east wing of the gristmill, facing Crakel Road and flanked the mill-pond. At the foot of the stairs leading from the main floor above a doorway opened out over the big rock between the mill dam and the natural fall below, furnishing one of the many striking views of the gorge and its rushing waters to be had from different angles and levels of the Mill's mazes. The sawmill opposite had a dirt floor, in the midst of which stood the "old belter" for sawing whole logs as they were rolled on to the long table for their turn at the great saw. There was plenty of space the logs that were brough in and the lumber to be taken out.
During the same period Centerville Mills branched out with sundry other lines of business and new sources of revenue -- picnics and skating parties at the little lake, dances with refreshments in the new pavilion, a photograph gallery
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* His daughter Daisy, now Mrs. Ivan Ohler of Lucas, Ohio, was born there and has kindly kindly supplied many facts for this narrative.
** As a flouring mill its product, after the pioneers [critical] need had been met, was generally deemed too gritty for human food, its millstones being of softer rock than granite used elsewhere.
next to the gristmill and small merchandising of tobacco, candy and other wares in the mill itself. It was in the spring of 1898 that Still Benjamin and his father built the pavilion for Carlton, and they both worked at the gristmill for the next two years while it ran night and day.
The younger man, a half-century later, reflects, "The farmers did not buy feed as they do now but most of them brought big grists of corn and oats to be ground. I have seen that east wing piled so full of grists with each man's name and, the number of his sacks that there was only a lane through to wheel out the sacks. They ground by the bushel -- four cents a bushel then -- now it is fifteen cents per hundredweight. Then after the silos came the grinding began to fall off.
It was in the winter of 1901-02 that Herbert Carlton conveyed the mill property to the brothers Alton L. and Otis B. Eggleston. Some months later the former, who lived unmarried with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Asahel M. Eggleston, moved with them into the Carlton house. While "Ase and Altie," father and son, thus assumed active charge of the business at Centerville, the other brother, Otis, remained at their old homestead a half mile north and worked the farm. At the mill Alton, who had been crippled by an accident in childhood, came near losing his life when he was caught in one of the belts. * The brothers made some improvements including the installing of a roller mill for flour. But they were unskilled in the new process and the wheat-grinding trade had fled beyond recall. So, as Mr. Benjamin remembers, "they never ground five hundred bushels of wheat in all the time they had it and the flour was about as good as none. The bread made from it was good sole leather."
One of the many turning points curiously coincident with the beginning of the new century was the passing of rural sawmlls and gristmills, now no longer needed, which in early days had attracted busy settlements only to see them later melt away. Although the Egglestons ran the business for ten years longer there was not much to do and in June 1911 they sold out to Dr. Leigh Baker, oculist of Cleveland and friend of the Y.M.C.A., for whose use he made the purchase. The doctor had married into the Jackson family and resided much of the time near their old home at Centerville. On August 10, 1911 the mill property, with another parcel of the original Jackson land, was conveyed to the Association and since then about one hundred acres of adjacent land in Bainbridge have been added to the Camp.
For three or four years, and largely as a matter of sentiment, the mill was kept running for three days a week with Mr. Benjamin's father as miller and Mr.
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* Over the years there were a number of accidents at or near Centerville though fewer than might he expected amidst so many hazards. Besides this and the one in the sawmill to Anderson hereafter mentioned, an earlier one cost Will Kelso a finger, and afterwards when he was demonstrating how it happened, he lost another digit! The treacherous circular saw also shortened two of Art Carlton's fingers and a feed cutter mangled Hugh Norton's hand between thumb and forefinger. Others suffered lesser mishaps. His father, the miller, while oiling mchinery in the wheel-pit slipped and fell on a bolthead and injured his back. At another time a part of the mill floor gave way under him and he was wedged in the hole but escaped serious injury. The gravest causualty of all was the instant death of Levi Jackson's wife and daughter and his own life-long crippling when their buggy was struck by an Erie train November 1, 1891 at the dangerous crossing south of Centerville.
Anderson for the Y.M.C.A. as overseer. The latter was caught one day by a log,and was laid up all winter with broken bones. The last time the gristmill was used at all was the winter of 1917-18 when Mr. Anderson allowed Will Benjamin and Dennis Hoskensmith to assume its care and keep and grind feed for their own large dairies but not for the public. At last, after long idleness, the century old building was torn down in 1931.
Few now remember the surroundings of the mill in its heyday fifty years ago but with the research and reminiscence of Mmes. Patterson, Hanna and Ohler, and of Mr. Benjamin, supplementing those of the writer, the scene may still be reconstructed. The only buildings on the Bainbridge side of Crackel Road was the horsehead with six or seven stalls for the teams and wagons of the farmers while waiting for their grists. From there to the bridge the south shore of the little lake kept close to the road. Its north end was choked with unattractive water plants but along the east shore grew several patches of pond lilies, transplanted from Lake Punderson in South Newbury, with floating flat pads and large fragrant blossoms glorious with snow-white petals and stamens of gold. Originally the lake's narrow neck was spanned by a red wooden bridge with a central stone pier and sides boarded up five feet from the floor. In 1895 a bridge of steel was erected jointly by the two counties.
On the Aurora side of Crackel Road, near the corner of the Chillicothe Road, Mr. Benjamin says there was once the blacksmith shop of one John Bell of which no trace remains. Past the Jackson orchard and in the adjoining meadow or mill-yard which reached hack to the creek gorge, were formerly two houses built and occupied respectively by a millwright named Bruice and by Mr. Benjamin's great uncle Chester Howard. Several families afterwards lived in these houses until parts of them were moved over to form the millhouse already often mentioned.
A driveway very familiar to the mill patrons ran all the way around the millhouse. Beginning at the northwest corner of the dooryard, it wound down a little slope to the mill platform or loading dock then continued on between a small oil house and the photograph gallery up to Crackel Road near the west end of the bridge. The gallery, a long, low building once used for oil storage, had been remodeled into a dwelling which Harry Sprague and his wife occupied for a short time and it was then altered again to suit them. Many people came there and had pictures taken by Art Carlton or Hugh Norton.
A few yards east of the bridge was the Jackson's lane or reserved right of way, paralleling the creek gorge from the barn to their land in the rear along the river. The White House just east had, a large dooryard adjoining this was send is the W. A. Benjamin farm. Its northwest corner on Crackel Road is also the northeast corner of the Association's Aurora holdings as well as those of the original Jackson purchase.
The little that is known ahout John E. Jackson's carding mill is a shorter story. Its relationship to that of Centerville Mills and the Y.M.C.A. Camp would be negligible but for John E. Jackson's commanding personality that underlies and once dominated the whole scene. With citations from Mrs. Julia Benjamin's paper written for the Aurora Centennial and published a third of a century later in the Chagrin Valley Herald. Mrs. Patterson, supplementing her own sprightly narrative, says "that opposite and across the river from Dr. Baker's house was a plank house built and used by Ephraim Gloyd who had a tannery and brickyard a little to the north. Just at the foot of the hill was the mill where carding and cloth pressing was carried on. Freeman Howard, one time
owner, sold this mill to Frank Carpenter who did not pay for it as agreed. Mr. Howard was making arrangements to resume possession and it so vexed Mr. Carpenter that he moved the machinery in the night to Akron and set fire to and burned the building.
"Mr. Jackson built a log house about where Mrs. Hanna's barn is. Later he built the main part of her house. He became a colonel of militia, was also a member of the State Senate in 1843-44, and in the time of the anti-slavery agitation his house was a station of the Underground Railroad. Many slaves were concealed there and secretly conveyed to the next station."
"He was also County Surveyor and later became a Baptist minister," says Mrs. Hanna. Ordained June 25, 1851 and preached regularly or occasionally in Russell, Auburn, Painesville, Aurora and elsewhere. He finally "was taken with a stroke while preaching in our schoolhouse -- the same one we went to -- and now the wing of my house."
Born February 22, 1794 on Washington's sixty-second birthday, this remarkable man who had been school-teacher, wool-carder, surveyor, and in middle life was addressed as "Colonel" or "Senator," had become widely known during the last eighteen years of his life as "Elder Jackson." On April 16, 1869 at the age of seventy-five he met his sudden death. In young manhood he had married Clarissa Tinker of Nelson who lived to be seventy-eight and died February 1, 1879. They had eight children, born from 1822 to 1834, five boys and three girls. *
Father used to repeat a story about the sons and their puritanical sire which seems hardly credible. One fine midsummer morning, on the first day of the week, the good elder with his well worn copy of Josephus' History of the Jews was reading its contemporary account of the early Christians aloud to the boys, whose long legs were perched on the table and chairs around the kitchen. Suddenly at the open door a neighbor appeared, all out of breath, crying, "Elder Jackson, the cows are in your corn!" Deliberately raising his spectacles above his brow the good man calmly replied, "We knew it."
Many of the Jacksons lie at rest in their private graveyard west of the Chillicothe Road and north of the river. "The way we came to have the little family cemetery," says Mrs. Hanna, "was this: My grandfather had a dream in which he saw the little knoll; so, when he arrived and saw this hillock he said, 'This is the knoll of my dream and I am going to he buried here. No one else need be unless he wants to.'"
Old records of the Aurora Baptist Church which flourished from 1834 until about 1869 and of which John E. Jackson was a charter member, the chief pillar, and long the clerk, disclose his stern stand against slavery, intemperance, Universalism, and all evildoing, and the opposition he and his followers incurred therefrom. The church was often at high tension and even for a while disfellowshipped this devoted leader's family and others for their independent minority stand in a dissension within the membership. It seemed as if every new or competing religious movement in the vicinity gained one or more recruits from among these Baptist brethren. In 1837 the Mormons' cavalcade started from - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* The sons were Levi, John, Erastus, William Henry Harrison, and one other -- perhaps Arobel; the daughters were Lovina (Mrs. George W. VanSant), Aurelia and Clara, whose first husband was a Dewey and who married the second time to Prof. Eversole of Wooster College.
Kirtland along the Chillicothe Road for Nauvoo, Illinois [sic - Far West, Missouri?] they camped the first night on the Case farm a half mile south of Centerville. The church record shortly afterwards notes: February 31, 1838, Albert Smith excluded for joining the Mormons,
A dozen years previously, through the winter of 1825-26, Sidney Rigdon, one of the founders of that faith, brother-in-law of Adamson Bentley of Chagrin Falls, and a prominent minister of the Disciples, was sojourning in Bainbridge at a place on the Chillicothe Road just above Taylor Road and a mile north of Centerville. He was diligently engaged in writing something which he said would "throw light upon some portions of the gospel" though he carefully guarded his manuscript and would not discuss its contents. Three years later the Book of Mormon was ready for publication and in April 1830 was published. Rigdon, who was then preaching for the Disciples Church in Mantua, at once announced his own conversion to Mormonism and some of the pillars of his Mantua congregation concurred with him.
The Book of Mormon is a literary absurdity, based no doubt on some unpublished work of pseudo-history and by a later writer interlarded with elaborate material of a religious mold. It so abounds in phrases and notions of Disciples' publications of that time that none can doubt its origin. Rigdon was the only Disciple erratic enough as well as the only Mormon schooled enough, to have produced it. The book was surely written by him in Bainbridge.
In the decade preceding the Civil War the Aurora Baptists, like many congregations of the different denominations in this region, formally declared Condemnation of slavery. There was more or less opposition in nearly every church to the taking of any stand officially on this controversial subject after it had become an acute political issue. This may have underlain the before mentioned Aurora Baptists' action of January 19, 1856 when Elder Jackson was preaching elsewhere, withdrawing fellowship from several resident members of his family.
Four years earlier an anti-slavery dissension had reached a tragic climax in the Bainbridge Congregational Church, two miles and a half north of Centerville. The meeting house was on a lot leased for church purposes out of the farm of abolitionist Owen Brown, half-brother to John Brown of Harper's Ferry. Besides his reversionary right to the land, Brown had bought quite a number of pews which entitled him to a considerable voice as to the use of the building. He had arranged with the Reverend Mead Holmes, minister of the church, for an anti-slavery address there on Sunday afternoon, October 12, 1851, by Parker Pillsbury, a noted abolitionist orator. A large crowd came that day to the forenoon service bringing their lunch baskets in expectation of staying to hear the speech. At the close of his morning sermon Mr. Holmes (probably backed by influential parshioners) announced that he would preach there that afternoon. Brown, who was present, arose and reminded him of their agreement. The preacher ignoring him, repeated his announcement. Brown retorted angrily, "If you go preach here this afternoon it will be the last time you will ever preach from that pulpit."
The congregation sat thunderstruck during the benediction. Accord between the two men was now impossible. Brown prepared the nearby common for an outdoor meeting and Pillsbury spoke to a large audience while Mead addressed a mere handful in the church. Early the next morning the church lot was seen to be fenced in with the rest of Brown's farm and a quantity of straw heaped a short distance in front of the church entrance while ominous pounding sounds issued from within the locked edifice. Menacing growls scared the curious urchins and a remonstrant deacon who tried to learn what was going on. Finally the-great front doors were flung open and the high pulpit, with Bible and cushion, was
toppled out upon the strawpile, to all of which Brown set fire thus making good his word that Holmes "would never preach from that pulpit again." A bitter litigation followed and the church did not long survive the Pyrrhic victory it won.
Let those who will lament the "good old times," when this whole region answered the poet's dream of "some vast wilderness" or of the later times when farm boys rode horses to the mill, Centerville serves humanity today more largely and vitally than ever before. The people of the region round about Centerville are on the whole more law-abiding, less litigious and less fanatical than any previous generation here. And with all deference to the consecrated souls, like Elder Jackson, who have worshipped and ministered here in days gone by, the people live more amicably today and sound religions, though less loudly and dogmatically declared, is now more helpfully taught and appreciated in Bainbridge and Aurora, including Centerville, which is a part of both, than in any former period.
(Note: the pagination of the 1962 Mayfield City Schools publication of Mr. Henry's paper does NOT follow that of his 1946 manuscript.)
(Supplementary pages stapled to the 1962 publication of Mr. Henry's paper)
THE OLDEN DAYS:
The recorded history of our area, claimed originally by the French and later by Great Britain, dates back only to 1662 when the British King, Charles the Second, made a land grant to Connecticut colonists which became known as the Connecticut Western Reserve. About 120 miles long from East to West and an average of 50 miles wide from North to South, this wilderness included the 25.9 sq. miles of land that is now Bainbridge Township.
Ohio was admitted to the Union in 1803 as the 17th state. The land was surveyed and Geauga County was the second county to be created in the state and was named for a river. Geauga is the Indian name for raccoon. The river was later renamed the Grand River.
Recent archeological finds indicate that pre-historic Indians inhabited the Chagrin Valley thousands of years ago. Small Indian mounds have been found in Geauga, County, however there is no evidence that any Indian Tribes were native to this area after the mound builders disappeared centuries ago.
The Eries and the Chats first came here in the early part of the "17th Century but they, were driven out or destroyed by the,lroquois about 1655. For almost 50 years Ohio was next used only as a hunting ground. In the 1700's, the push westward by the white man forced thousands of Indians into Ohio. Two principal Indian "families" were involved; Algonquins and Iroquois. The tribes included Miamis, Wyandots, Hurons, Shawnees, Delawares, Tugcarawes, Senecas, Cherokees and Ottawas; 15,000 in all. Their war parties and hunting parties roamed the wilderness. Indian trails crisscrossed our area. Our route 306 was originally an Indian Trail and another crossed in the Tanglewood area near McFarland's Creek. Arrow-heads can still be found in this area. Between Bainbridge and Catsden Roads there is a flat "tablerock" having several depressions which catch and hold water. It is believed to be a mill where Indians ground their corn and sharpened their tools.
THE EARLIEST PIONEERS AND THE BEGINNING OF BAINBRIDGE:
The first road through what is now known as Bainbridge was begun in 1801. A Captain Edward A. Paine and his engineers, working under authority of the territorial government, surveyed a North/South route from Lake Erie to Chillicothe which was the political center of the territory at that time. The road followed, for almost its entire length, what was the old Indian Trail.
Over this mud road came the early settlers, leaving their homes in the East to start a new life in the wilderness. On Thanksgiving Day in 1811, David McConoughey, his wife, Mary, and their 6 children became the first settlers in what was to become Bainbridge Township. They had purchased 100 acres of forest-land in what is now Southeastern Bainbridge, from a Benjamin Gorham. They spent many months clearing their land, and building their log cabin; 18 x 20 feet for 8 people.
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Here was a beautiful, fertile, heavily forested land in the lowest foothills of the Alleghenies (Geographers have said that the great plains of the Midwestern and prairies states begin in this latitude at the foot of Cleveland's Cedar Hill Road).
Wood was abundant for cabins, barns and furniture. They had a choice of maple, beech, white ash, oak, basswood, cucumber, whitewood, hickory, black walnut, wild cherry and wild plum as well as the long-gone abundant and disappearing elm. There were ample lakes, ponds and streams that abounded in fish and game. There were bear, deer, elk, wolves and wildcats plus fox, beaver, rabbit, squirrels, and raccoons. Pheasant, wild turkey, grouse, ducks and geese were also sources of food for the pioneers.
The early settlers found hardship and danger as well. Though wild game was abundant there were also wolves and bear. Indiana still lived in the forest even though their rights to the land had been taken from them by treaties. Some were resentful of the white intruders and were a real danger. A few of the wild animals mentioned above also were a threat to person and crops. Passable roads were all but non-existent.
In spite of all, two other families joined the McConoughey's in 1811; the Jasper Lacy and the Gamaliel Kent families. Roughly 50 families followed to Bainbridge Township (created and named in 1817) in the next 25 years. The area became known at various times as Austintown, Kentstown and Bissell's Corners.
A. E. Kent and G. H. Kent, the Sons of Gamaliel Kent: Early Residents of Bainbridge
The descendants of some of these early founders still live in the area and their names are well known to all of us, having been perpetuated in physical features of the township; McFarland Creek and McFarland Corners, Haskins Road, Pettibone Road, Taylor-May Road, Snyder Road and Savage Road were named after early arrivals to the area.
Bainbridge, the name selected for the township was in honor of a popular naval hero of the War of 1812. Wounded in battle and with a long career in the Navy, Commodore William Bainbridge commanded the U.S.S. Constitution known as "Old Ironsides."
In 1818, Justus Bissell opened a tavern on Chillicothe Road (Route 306) a little South of Bainbridge-Solon Road. He was appointed the first postmaster and the post office was located in the tavern. The tavern formed the nucleus of Bainbridge Center as we know it today. Some years later, Bissell moved his enterprise to the Northwest corner of Chillicothe and Bainbridge-Solon Road. The original tavern became a private residence and stands today as the oldest home in the township.
Bainbridge Center -- from an 1857 Map of Bainbridge Township
The fourth U.S. census conducted in 1820 counted 199 residents. By 1850, there were 1,014. Chillicothe Rd., (Route 306) was and is, the main route through the township. Three others were soon built; the Bainbridge-Chagrin Rd., the Bainbridge-Solon Rd., and the Bainbridge-Auburn Road, but all three were commonly referred to as Bainbridge Road. It was only in recent times that the situation was clarified when the road to Chagrin Falls became officially named Chagrin Road and the road from Solon through Bainbridge to Auburn became simply Bainbridge Rd. For almost 100 years, the road from Chagrin Falls through Bainbridge to Auburn was part of the main route from Cleveland to Youngstown.
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Shortly after World War I, the route from Chagrin Falls to Chillicothe Rd. was improved and later extended to the East and became known as route U.S. 422. This improved highway had a major effect in Bainbridge. Traffic through the township was diverted to the shorter better route to Youngstown and it slowed the development of Bainbridge since businesses tended to move to the new road.
In 1816, the first school in the township was opened in a log house on the north side of Taylor-May Road between Chillicothe and Haskins Roads. It was soon replaced by a larger building on Chillicothe Rd. opposite Taylor-May. By 1861, there were 10 schools scattered around Bainbridge with a total attendance of 90 boys and 77 girls. These schools were discontinued around the turn of the century when a new frame building was constructed on Chillicothe Rd. at the township center and was known as the Bainbridge Centralized School. In 1942 it was replaced by the current Intermediate School.
There are now 5 schools in the Kengton system (today combined with the Auburn Schools) with a total enrollment of about 2500 pupils.
The first store in the community was located on Chillicothe and Taylor-May Roads and operated by the Kent family. In 1833, a general store was opened at the center but the store that remains in clear memory to some of the most recent arrivals to the community is one that was located on the northwest corner of Chillicothe and Bainbridge-Solon Roads. It was built about 1846 and faced east. Horses and the grocery wagon were kept in the barn which still stands on Chillicothe-Solon Road behind the site of the old store. When the State of Ohio acquired the land in 1971, the store was given to the Geauga Historical Society of Burton and was moved to its present location in Burton's Century Village.
1826 Site of Sidney Rigdon Cabin, near intersection of Chillicothe & Taylor-May Roads.
(School immediately South; Kent Family's Dry Goods Store across the Road, to the East)
The building now standing on the Southwest corner of Chillicothe Road and Bainbridge-Solon Road was originally built as the Methodist Church. It was sold to the township in 1867 when their new church was built across the road. The old building has had a varied history. It has been used as the townhall, a school, a basketball court, the fire station and as a garage. The "new" Methodist Church was changed to the Bainbridge Comunity Church in 1924 and is a township landmark today.
Along the southern boundary of Bainbridge on Crackel Rd. a small but flourishing industrial community known as Centerville Mills evolved. Within a radius of less than two miles there were over fifty houses, a brickyard, a tannery, a blacksmith and shoemaker's shop, a gristmill, a woolen mill and a cooperage where barrels and wooded utensils were made. The first mill, powered by overshot water wheels was built around 1813 by Freeman Howard. It was used as a gristmill, a sawmill, a rake factory, a blacksmith shop, and distillery. The mill was sold in 1901-02 to the brothers Alton L. and Otis B. Eggleston who operated the mill for ten years. In 1911 the mill property was sold to the Cleveland Young Men's Christian Association and to this day is known as Centerville Mills Y.M.C.A. camp.
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY:
The turn of the century, and the Industrial Revolution, changed the character of Bainbridge. Farming became less attractive and people moved to better paying Jobs in Cleveland. At the same time, the automobile brought the city closer to Bainbridge and the natural beauty of the land attracted people. They came for recreations and some stayed to lives foreshadowing the growth of a residential community. The proximity of the city to Bainbridge and indifferent county law enforcement combined to attract People for less noble purposes.
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The property now occupied by the Valley Presbyterian Church was once occupied by a house and barn that had been transformed Into a "social and recreational" club known as the Maple Leaf Country Club, or more commonly, Himmelstein's Club. There was wide open gambling, bootleg liquor and other "social activities." Black touring cars and couples in evening clothes came from Cleveland and it Is said that the Club also brought electricity to the township since the earliest line was strung along Chagrin Road ending at the Club. Several of the original buildings are still standing and are now a part of the church property. The Club was closed in 1927 by order of the sheriff.
The Pettibone, or Arrow Club operated from about 1939 until 1949, on Pettibone Road across the line from Solon. This gambling casino was designed with a large central room surrounded by smaller rooms. The walls between the center room and the outside rooms were 3 to 4 feet thick and hollow, with a catwalk running through them. From the catwalk, any of the rooms could be observed through peep-holes in the walls. The club burned down some years later.
Across the road from the club was the Bainbridge Race Track. It opened around 1927 and remained popular until 1939 when the betting of horse races was legalized by the State. A short section of the track is in Cuyahoga County. During its prime, the Cuyahoga sheriff occasionally attempted to stop the race as the horses passed into his jurisdiction. Since the illegal betting occurred across the county line there was little he could do. The track was also used for dog racing, and was later bought by the Cranwood Race Association. It was operated until 1956 when the grandstands burned to the ground.
The coming of the automobile also changed the recreational areas in Bainbridge. Geauga Lake, partly in Bainbridge, began in 1870 as a picnic ground. When the rail line cut through Bainbridge, a depot was built near the lake shore, and summer cottages grew up around it. Even though a hotel had been built, and an amusement park begun in 1884, the park remained mostly open meadow and apple orchard. The main attractions for a quiet weekend excursion were boating, pop-corn, fireworks, hard cider, horseshoe-pitching, apple butter and picnics. Excursions first came by train and later by bus. A dance hall was built that remained popular into the 30's. Amusement rides were constructed on the old picnic grounds, in the middle 1920's. The park has been updated and expanded with the addition of modern rides. Sea World, the first in the East, has been built adjacent to Geauga Lake.
The remains of Chagrin River Beach can be found on Bainbridge Roads opposite River Road. This picnic area was started in the early Twenties for an increasingly mobile society. There were three or four deep holes in the Chagrin River which proved to be 'popular swimming areas. Portions of the bath houses can still be seen. A two lane bowling alley was installed in a roofed pavillion in the early Thirtieg and was popular for a few years. The two towers on either side of the gate were rumored to have been constructed as lookout points for a gambling club that never materialized. After the Beach closed, the towers were occasionally rented as low-cost apartments until 1960.
Today, Bainbridge is a thriving bedroom community. No longer the wilderness that it once was, we nevertheless have stands of virgin woods, open fields and farm-lands and many buildings well over a century old. We have Lake Lucerne, Tanglewood, the new Geauga Lake recreation area and the very pleagant Chagrin Falls as our nearest "big" neighbor. Bainbridge is a nice place to live.
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The home of George Smith was the first place used for religious services. Soon after, a log house was erected across the roari from Smith's, which served as both church and school. A Congregational Church was organized in Bainbridge on June 9, 1819 by John Leslie, a travelling missionary. In 1832-33, a Congregational Church was built on the lot just south of the Clyde Nichols home. It was torn down in 1870.
In 1871 a Universalist Society, organized by Rev. Wilson of Akron, held services in the town hall. Later they built a church. The congregation numbered twenty five. The church was later used by the Disciples. In 1905 it was sold and moved to Chagrin Road where it was made into a dwelling.
In 1822 the Methodists formed a society in Bainbridge. At first services were held in members' homes. Later they built a church across from the present church. In 1867 it was sold to the township for a town hall. In 1868 the present church was built. It prospered for many years, but eventually many members died or moved away. Because of this they withdrew from the Methodist Conference. Later a church Was formed which was open to all denominations. It was called the United Protestant Church. It is now called the Bainbridge Community Church, which is located on route 306.
Frederick Augustus Henry (1867-1949)
Frederick A. Henry's Biography of his Father
In his 1946 historical sketch of Aurora and Bainbridge townships, Frederick A. Henry records these interesting conclusions:
"[speaking of the Aurora Baptist Church, 1834-1869] ...It seemed as if every new or competing religious movement in the vicinity gained one or more recruits from among these Baptist brethren. In 1837 when the Mormons' cavalcade started from Kirtland along the Chillicothe Road for Nauvoo, Illinois, they camped the first night on the Case farm a half mile south of Centerville. The church record shortly afterwards notes: 'February 3, 1838. Albert Smith excluded for joining the Mormons.'"
In an earlier version of this account, published on page 53 of his 1942 biography of his father, Captain Henry of Geauga, Frederick A. Henry provides the same information that he gives in the first paragraph above: "when the Mormons'cavalcade passed through Bainbridge on their journey to Nauvoo, Illinois [sic - Missouri], and camped on the Case farm in Aurora, Carlos Henry as a boy came near going with them, and John and Harriet Squire, near neighbors, did go -- the latter marrying the Mormon Elder Snow." For some reason Mr. Henry did not mention Albert Smith having joined the Mormons' passing "Kirtland Camp" when he wrote his 1942 published account. The Otis P. Case farm, where the 1838 "Kirtland Camp" Mormons paused in their southward journey, was located just south of the Bainbridge-Aurora township line, north of Aurora Center, on Chillicothe Road (Ohio State Highway 306).
Frederick A. Henry's information regarding Sidney's Rigdon's 1826-27 "sojourning in Bainbridge" evidently came from the recollections of his father, Charles Eugene Henry (1835-1906), who wrote about the same subject in 1886. Frederick's father (who had not yet been born during's Rigdon's residence at Bainbridge) in turn, derived the information from conversations with his own father, John Henry (1796-1869) and more particularly George Wilber, a life-long resident of adjoining Auburn township.
Frederick A. Henry's Grandfather John Henry
Had Frederick A. Henry's grandfather left behind any written or published account of Sidney Rigdon's life in Bainbridge, such an historical momento would indeed be a valuable one. As it now stands, there is no known account of Methodist Class Leader John Henry's interaction with the recently defrocked Baptist parson, Sidney Rigdon, lately relocated to Bainbridge from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is not likely that relations between the two men were particularly cordial. Rigdon himself supplies a small glimpse into this obscure portion of his early religious career:
[In 1826 Rev. Rigdon]... removed to Ohio as an Independent Baptist, preaching what he pleased and contradicting whomsoever he pleased. He himself stated that not unfrequently he would attend a service and take his seat among the congregation, and after the sermon arise and ask the liberty of adding a few remarks, and then quote passages of Scripture to show the erronous doctrines which the preacher had just uttered, and close by inviting the congregation to come and hear him at his next appointment. This kept the community in a ferment and secured for him crowded houses. He seemed just on the point of forming a new sect which should overthrow by learning, logic and eloquence all the creeds and religious systems of the world!!
Dr. Carl N. Brewster's Theory:
No doubt Rev. Rigdon's actions did keep "the community in ferment," all through the southwest corner of Geauga and northern section of Portage counties. In an 1945 manuscript entitled, "Did Sidney Rigdon write the Book of Mormon?" Professor Carl M. Brewster (a relative of Frederick A. Henry quotes from page 143 of the 1880 Pioneer and General History of Geauga County, as follows:
"Joel S. Giles came from Warsaw, New York, to Bainbridge... [his] farm [was] situated near the southwest corner of the township... [on the edge of] Geauga lake... Joel Giles, sr., and wife, were members of the Baptist church, which was organized at an early day in that part of the township. Services were held first in private houses, and later in a school-house. The church propsered for a few years, but was eventually broken up by a wolf in sheep's clothing (Sidney Rigdon, of Mormon notoriety), who entered the fold, and the sheep were scattered abroad."
If Sidney Rigdon's unorthodox preaching of 1826-27 alienated many of his fellow Baptists, the modern reader can only wonder what sort of effect the man must have had upon the local Methodists and Presbyterians. No doubt Reverend Rigdon found more sympathetic audiences a few miles further east, in Auburn and Mantua. He was respected enough in the former township to be called upon to preach a funeral sermon there in May of 1822, when he was residing in Pittsburgh, but perhaps happened to then be visiting his wife's relatives in neighboring Trumbull Co., Ohio (see the 1885 Isaac Butts statement in Deming's Naked Truths newspaper). Or, perhaps Issac Butts' memory of his brother's death was off by a year, and Rigdon was called over from Trumbull Co. to preach the funeral sermon before he moved to Pittsburgh. At any rate, Sidney Rigdon appears to have been a well-known religious figure in Auburn during the 1820s. His close interactions with Auburn settlers who had come there from Palmyra and Manchester must be accepted as a solid fact -- and a fact that dates to several years prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon in the former New York town.
As already stated, John Henry left behind no written nor published recollections of Sidney Rigdon, so his memories of the defrocked Baptist preacher evidently came down to cousins Frederick A. Henry and Carl M. Brewster only as oral family traditions. Frederick's father, Charles E. Henry, passed along what appears to be more substantial oral history, in his 1886 letter to the Cleveland Leader. Both Frederick and Carl make this letter the certerpiece of their respective claims for Rigdon's involvement in the creation of the Book of Mormon. Charles E. Henry's re-telling of George Wilber's 1826 experiences with Sidney Rigdon are made doubly interesting by the fact that Mr. Wilber was a long-time resident of Auburn. Wilber undoubtedly lived among and personally knew most of the Auburn settlers whose families came from the Palmyra area. For example, Frederick A. Henry lists George's name as being recorded in the same Henry Brewster account book that held the names of Christopher M. Stafford and "Grandfather" John Henry, (see Captain Henry of Geauga, p. 73).
The reported recollections of George Wilber, giving an account of the Rev. Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith. Jr. interacting together in Bainbridge township, in what must have been either 1826 or early 1827, are probably authentic. Whether or not they are reliable is another matter, however: it is unfortunate that they only come down to the modern reader, as Henry family tradition, via "Captain" Charles E. Henry. The same might be said of the reported recollections of Dencey Thompson Henry (who was the 1827 bride of "Grandfather" John Henry's nephew, Orrin P. Henry, Sr., as well as a nursemaid in the Rigdon home at Bainbridge). Dencey's potentially invaluable reminiscences of life in the Rigdon home come to the modern reader as hearsay, via her son, Orrin P. Henry, Jr. Carl M. Brewster, when he was writing his 1945 manuscript concerning Sidney Rigdon, evidently never had Dencey's recollections to use in "triangulating" the suspected presence of Joseph Smith, Jr. in Geauga Co., Ohio during 1826-27. Dr. Brewster did have the first of two reminiscences left by the neice of Sidney Rigdon's wife available for his consultation, however. In the 1879 publication of her Rigdon recollections, Amarilla Brooks Dunlap stated: "When I was quite a child I visited Mr. Rigdon's family. He married my aunt. They at that time lived in Bainbridge, Ohio. During my visit Mr. Rigdon went to his bedroom and took from a trunk which he kept locked a certain manuscript. He came out into the other room and seated himself by the fireplace and commenced reading it. His wife at that moment came into the room and exclaimed, 'What! you're studying that thing again?' or something to that effect. She then added, 'I mean to burn that paper.' He said, 'No, indeed, you will not. This will be a great thing some day!' Whenever he was reading this he was so completely occupied that he seemed entirely unconscious of anything passing around him." In a c. 1881 recollection (of which Brewster was evidently unaware and does not cite) Amarilla Brooks Dunlap communicated that she "lived under the Rigdon roof at that time" (while the Rigdons were at Bainbridge) and that the situation in the family was "greatly to the concern of Mrs. R. for her husband's health," because "Mr. Rigdon was for some months secretly and sedulously engaged over a mysteriously and carefully guarded manuscript of a very questionable character."
Rigdon's 1826 neighbor George Wilber
Possibly the future Mormon prophet did come to Auburn during 1826 and/or 1827. It was a place far removed from his Pennsylvania legal troubles and from disgruntled money-diggers, such as Samuel Lawrence, in the Pamyra area. If Smith did visit Auburn during the mid-1820s he would have found the families of former neighbors and friends living there. And five miles to the west lived the highly controversial Rev. Sidney Rigdon, of course. Carl M. Brewster's reliance upon old family traditions may not have been a total mistake -- but his conclusion that Smith accompanied Orrin Porter Rockwell to that region, to visit with Rockwell's relatives, must be a "red herring" on an otherwise profitable trail for historical inquiry.
Information from Local Residents:
One of the earliest families to settle in Bainbridge township was that of Gamaliel Kent, Sr. (1768-1831) who arrived in Bainbridge in 1811. The 1880 Pioneer and General History of Geauga County provides the following information on this family's early mercantile venture, at the corner of Chillicothe Road and Taylor-May Road: "Mr. Kent and son, Elihu, purchased the first dry goods and groceries offered for sale in the township. The stock of good was very limited in quantity and variety, consisting of such articles as were considered indispensible. Some were sold on credit, and the accounts were written with chalk upon the side of the house. Paper was not easily obtained at that period. The business was very soon abandoned."
Sidney Rigdon Cabin Site, with Kent Store across the Road, to the East
The Kent family's first dry goods store was located across Chillicothe Road, either immediately east of Sidney Rigdon's Cabin, on the property of Elihu L. Kent, or perhaps at the southeast intersection of Taylor-May Road and Chillicothe Road, on property owned by his brother, Gamaliel H. Kent. Elihu L. Kent died in 1827 and his death may have led to the closure of the Kent store on Chillicothe Road. One of Gamaliel Kent, Sr.'s surviving sons, Alexander Edson Kent (1802-1882), was evidently also employed in the family's short-lived dry goods and grocery store. His recollections of Sidney Rigdon's 1826-27 residence in Bainbridge were relayed to James T. Cobb, in a Dec. 17, 1878 letter written by his son Alexander Gamaliel Kent (1845-c.1900):
I have just returned from my father [A. E. Kent] where I have endeavored to find out dates as far as feasable in regard to matters of which you ask. When I first wrote you I think I told you that father thought that Rigdon was a regular preacher here for more than one year. I find on looking over his old books more thoroughly that there was an account[,] the first date [of which] was April 4th 1826. Also found accounts in nearly every month, the last one being March 17th 1827. The artickles were butter, sugar, beef, pork, candles, wheat, oats and such artickles as would be needed for the support of family. Father done considerable tanning for him in May 1826. He says that Rigdon use[d] to preach occasionally in town before he became a regular preacher but could not say when he lived there, but is quite sure he did not live in Pittsburgh, and did not come direct from Pittsburgh here. And is quite sure that he did not leave town before the spring of 1827.
Father says that he knows that he [Rigdon] lived here while he was making this account. And I think there is no doubt that he came to Bainbridge to reside in the spring of 1826 and went away in the spring of 1827. He live[d] in a little house built for him about a mile south of the center of the town, and the mound still shows where it was... " (original document in the Theodore Schroeder Collection, University of Wisconsin -- Madison Library),
Alexander Edson Kent (1802-1882)
The fact that Sidney Rigdon did not open an account at the Kent Store until April 4, 1826, may indicate that in the days and weeks before that time the Rigdons were living upon resources brought with them from Pittsburgh and had no immediate need for credit at the store. It is also probable, that during the initial period, after their early 1826 arrival in Bainbridge, that the local Baptists came to the aid of the preacher's family and supplied most of their needs. Alexander Edson Kent (who was there at the time) mentions that Rigdon had "a little house built for him;" this too may have been supplied by the Bainbridge Baptists. However, before April of 1826, the Rev. Sidney Rigdon's reputation as a desirable asset to the local Baptists may have sunk to the point that they no longer cared to support his ministry.
Alexander Edson Kent's recollection, "that Rigdon use[d] to preach occasionally in town before he became a regular preacher," may be a reference to Sideny Rigdon's first residence in Ohio, when he traveled about the northeastern part of that state, conducting Baptist services. It is also probable that the Rigdon family "did not come direct from Pittsburgh" to Bainbridge, but stopped along the way, in the Warren area, to visit with Mrs. Rigdon's family there. One other comment attributed to Alexander Edson Kent deserves special attention. His son, Alexander, quotes the old man as having "done considerable tanning for him in May 1826;" but there is no indication in the old Bainbridge histories that Alexander Edson Kent was ever a tanner. Probably this information was taken directly from the old Kent Store account book, and does not provide a full explanation of an agreement by which Mr. Kent and Sidney Rigdon exchanged leather for groceries. Rigdon, who was an experienced leather finisher, might have turned bulk leather (obtained by Kent from the local tannery) into finished pieces or home-manufactured items, for sale in the Kent Store or elsewhere. Such an arrangement would have allowed Rigdon to obtain some of his "butter, sugar, beef, pork, candles, wheat, oats, etc." without the exchange of hard currency.
If the local Baptists did arrange for "a little house built for him," the question naturally arises as to why Rigdon's cabin was located at the intersection of Chillicothe and Taylor-May roads. The most probable reason would have been that the township school, which had recently been erected at that same intersection (on Joseph North's property), was intended for occasional use as a church. According to the 1880 Pioneer and General History of Geauga Co "The first school in the township was taught in a small log house, near George Smith's, by a young man from Windham, named Skiff, in 1816." History does not record how long this early educational effort continued, but it had evidently disappeared by the early 1820s. The 1896 Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve reports that the first Bainbridge "school house was built of round logs in 1825." This was the school house near Rigdon's cabin, and its first known teacher was George Wilber, from nearby Auburn. Mr. Wilber was married to Rachael Smith, a young lady of Bainbridge, by Rev. John Seward, on Sep. 27, 1826. The couple evidently met only a few months before their marriage, when Rachael was on her "way to church" and came across George, who was a stranger to her. The logical explanation for this unexpected encounter was that Rachael was then attending church in the new school house "built of round logs," where George had just arrived, to teach the winter 1825-26 school term.
Rigdon's home being located just north of the new school house (George Wilber reportedly said they were 200 yards apart) would have proved a convenience for his intended Sunday preaching services. According to the 1880 Pioneer and General History of Geauga Co early church meetings were sometimes held in the home of the Bainbridge lay Baptist leader, Joel Giles, Sr.: "[Baptist] Services were held first in private houses, and later in a school-house. The church prospered for a few years, but was eventually broken up by a wolf in sheep's clothing (Sidney Rigdon, of Mormon notoriety), who entered the fold, and the sheep were scattered abroad." Gamaliel H. Kent (son of Gameliel Kent) in 1830 was one of the founding members of the Aurora Baptist (later Disciples) congregation; which probably indicates that members of the Kent family were among those "scattered sheep."
Among the early Baptists of Bainbridge and adjoining Aurora townships was Harvey Baldwin, Sr. (1796-1882). At least it may be presumed that the Baldwins of Bainbridge and Aurora were originally Baptists, before they became supporters of Alexander Campbell and members of the Disciples of Christ church (see Hayden's History of the Disciples, pp. 261, 376-79, etc.). Since Harvey Baldwin, Sr. owned the property just north of the plot on which Sidney Rigdon's log house was located (on the property of Robert Root), it is possible that Mr. Baldwin exercised some influence in obtaining that site for the Rigdon home. The 1885 History of Portage County, Ohio provides the following information on Harvey Baldwin, Jr. and his father:
HARVEY BALDWIN, farmer, P.O. Aurora, was born in Geauga County, Ohio, April 14, 1823; son of Harvey and Laura (Kent) Baldwin... Harvey Baldwin, Sr., was born in Danbury, Conn., in 1796, and came to Cleveland, Ohio, with his father and family in 1806, and the following year to Aurora Township, this county... [he was] in the cheese business for a period of twenty-five years... In 1830 he purchased land in Streetsboro, this county, and in connection with farming, engaged extensively in the manufacture and sale of cheese. He died in February, 1882. His wife, the mother of the subject of this sketch, was born in Suffield, Conn., March, 1797, came to Aurora Township, this county, in 1807, and is now residing with our subject. Mr. Baldwin, the subject of this sketch, was reared on the farm, and he engaged as farm-hand for Charles Harmon, and in 1847 commenced farming for himself in connecting with dairying, which he has since continued, excepting three years spent in California. In December, 1847, he married Emily Carver...
Harvey Baldwin, Sr. & Harvey Baldwin, Jr.: Prominent Area Residents
During the mid-1880s, Arthur B. Deming visited with the old residents of the Bainbridge-Aurora-Auburn area, and took their statements regarding Sidney Rigdon, the rise of Ohio Mormonism, etc. In 1888 Mr. Deming published this recollection of Harvey Baldwin, Sr., via his son: "Harvey Baldwin, of Aurora, Portage County, Ohio, says that over thirty years ago he heard his father say that he belonged to the Baptist Church in Bainbridge, Portage [sic - Geauga?] County, Ohio, when Sidney Rigdon preached there, and that several times when he called to see Rigdon he found him in a room by himself, and that he each time hurriedly put away books and papers he had as though he did not wish him to see them." The statment thus conveyed to Deming would be of no particular value, aside from the fact that other neighbors of Rigdon, who knew him in 1826-27, recalled similar circumstances and events. The fact that Harvey Baldwin, Sr. owned property very near the site of Rigdon's Bainbridge residence, also helps to make him a potentially relevant source.