From "Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve," Part I, Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham, Editor [published under the auspices of the Women’s Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission, July, 1896], p. p. 10-13:
PIONEER WOMEN OF GENEVA, 1808-1850
There is such a mighty measure,
Such infinity of treasure,
Such magnificence of labor,
Helpfulness ‘twixt friend and neighbor,
That ‘tis hard to clip and scatter
Tales of such bewitching matter.
To pack the stars of the universe inside a the compass of a teacup, would be as possible a feat as to attempt to relate the countless incidents in the lives of the heroic Geneva pioneer women, within the limits of one brief newspaper article. Only a fractional tale of these splendid multiple lives can be placed in the record. The miracle of detail is impossible.
This explanation is due to the descendants of the many noble families unmentioned in this article, whose fore-mothers were equally brave, tried, and true; moreover, some families have kindly and promptly responded to the call for data, and others have been delayed. Their records to the present generation are lost in the mists of the past, unattainable, except through aid of the descendants, therefore not here.
Fan-shaped [trapezoid] Geneva township on the breezy shore of sapphire Lake Erie, was named after Geneva, N. Y., by Major Levi Gaylord, to whom the honor of selecting a name was accorded. He chose "Geneva," because Geneva, N. Y., was "THE PRETTIEST TOWN" through which he passed from Harpersfield, N. Y., on his journey to locate here in 1806. The township was detached from Harpersfield March 11, 1816.
The first settler was Theobald Bartholomew, a man of great courage, who emigrated from Charlotte, Schoharie county, N. Y., in 1805, and located on the South Ridge. He and his wife and two children were taken prisoners by black-hearted Brandt and his Indians in 1778, the night before the attack on Fort Charlotte. They were released and traveled on foot with their two babies through the snow to the fort, arousing those in its shelter in time to repel the fierce attack. During the tempestuous days of the Revolution, he served with distinction in border warfare, and was eminent in the settlement which he planted in Ohio. His companion was well fitted by patriotism, sterling worth, and courage, to be the primal woman of the Geneva wildwood.
Another notable pioneer -- Abigail, sister of General Freegift Patchen, and wife of Theobald’s brother -- was present in Fort Charlotte, and with steady nerve helped to make cartridges to defeat the fierce Indian invaders. With a heart like that of Bible Ruth, and with wonderful resolution, though she was a widow, she and her children accompanied the Bartholomews to this region, and with fortitude endured the hardships of early times. The Bartholomew family in its ramifications is one of the leading foundation families of this township. Tradition says the great foreign ancestress was a zealous Huguenot maiden, who during religious persecution was hidden in a cask, ventilated by air holes, and shipped from the country to save her life. The handsomely-bound records in possession of Miss Louisa Bartholomew, of Geneva, containing portraits, coats of arms, genealogy, and history, are the most complete the memorial committee found in the township. In this ledger of events is the following account of the Bartholomew migration to Ohio: "They removed from the Charlotte Valley by sleds drawn over the snow; after reaching the future site of Buffalo, they made the ice on Lake Erie their highway, and on the 4th of March, 1800, made a landing in Ohio." A thaw was in progress, and the ice was breaking from the shore. Had they been a few hours later all must have perished, and the pioneer history of this region been materially altered.
Mrs. Benjamin Bartholomew was the first landlady of the township. Her husband built a log cabin on the South Ridge in 1830*. Betsey Bartholomew, wife of Jacob Lamont, was noted for her ability to dance with a candlestick and lighted candle poised upon her head. She could pursue this pastime for hours in the midst of many dancers with the candle flame shining undisturbed, like a STAR ABOVE HER BROW.
Mrs. Elisha Wiard, from Connecticut, a woman of fine abilities, and the ancestors of leading Geneva citizens of to-day in commercial and Christian circles; Mrs. James Morrison, Sr., also from Harpersfield, N. Y., and the women of the households of Dr. Nathan B. Johnson, Abram Webster, Noah Cowles, Levi Gaylord, and John Ketcham, constituted nearly all the pioneer wives and daughters prior to 1808. After that date there was an influx of many families, whose histories may be found in county and family archives but those voluminous pages must necessarily be omitted in this circumscribed chronicle. We simply cull a few stories of the olden time.
Miss Mary Morrow married Rev. Jonathan Leslie in Cannonsburg, Pa., and removed to the South Ridge in 1810, when he was sent by the Connecticut Missionary Society to the "Connecticut Western Reserve." Much of the time he was absent on mission work, and in the war of 1812 he was made a chaplain. She was surrounded by forests with only bridle paths of blazed trees, but cared for her children as only a brave pioneer woman could. Grist mills were distant, but she and the children managed to have their grain ground by taking it on horseback.
The "Priest Leslie Mansion" was built in 1814. Abetted by Mrs. Leslie, Rev. Mr. Leslie determined no whisky should be used at the raising. He invited brave men from Ashtabula to Painesville, who came on the day appointed, when the work was quietly accomplished, and a lunch with a temperance drink of hot coffee was served by the hostess. Subsequently Rev. Mr. Leslie’s stern temperance preaching awoke a tide of persecution, which Mrs. Leslie patiently endured, but in due time, the era passed and the memory of the Leslies is honored. In 1819 she visited one of her husband’s parishioners [evidently a careless housekeeper], who gave her a bed with damp sheets in which to sleep. Inflammatory rheumatism of acutely painful type ensued, and for eighteen years Mrs. Leslie was unable to walk a step. Her sufferings were intense until she died, but she was never heard to utter an impatient, murmuring word.
Mrs. Cynthia Waterman Morse was a person of dauntless courage. When a girl she was pursued by a bear in the woods, while she was picking blackberries. She threw the berries to the bear and while the animal stopped to devour them she escaped. She was once boating with an invalid lady and the lady’s husband on Lake Erie, when a brisk breeze prevented their return to the shore. He rowed in vain and gave up exhausted. Cynthia sprang to the oars and demanded of the invalid lady if she meant to drown. This rallied her, and the two by very hard work brought the boat in safety to the shore. Her home was attacked by a stranger one night when she was alone with her children and a young nephew. Her husband had just been paid a sum of money, which it was supposed was in the house in his absence. At the third onslaught she was armed with an ax and her ten-year-old nephew with a gun. She told the ruffian if he entered he would be "a dead man." He believed her and departed. In the year 1840 Cynthia was the proud mother of a son old enough to vote for William Henry Harrison.
Sophia Hawley came to Ohio from Hartford, Conn., when a child of seven years with her parents. She married David Stone and settled on the South Ridge in 1834**. She spun and wove linen and wool for all the clothing for her family of nine children, and ministered with beautiful love to her husband’s widowed mother, who came from Connecticut to spend her sunset hours of life with this good daughter-in-law. Many a night as Mrs. Stone cheerfully spun and wove, the hungry wolves howled at her door, but undisturbed she continued HER DOMESTIC LABORS.
Mrs. Polly Bowers [Mary Potter Gaylord], daughter of Major Levi Gaylord, used to relate the story of a shopping expedition undertaken when she was sixteen years old with her sister-in-law, Mrs. Smith Gaylord. They went on horseback to Painesville, hitched their horses in the "slashing," and were ferried over Grand River in a canoe, there being no bridge. When fastening her horse, she tore her dress, and was greatly annoyed by the misfortune that happened to her toilet. She bought material for a white dress.
Margaret Gaylord, afterwards Mrs. Otis Johnson, taught a summer school [the first, it is said, in the township] in 1810.
Polly Gaylord was once mistaken for a wild turkey by a hunter, but just as he was about to shoot, she changed her position, and he discovered that his target amid the bushes was a pretty girl in a red cloak.
Louisa Stillman, of Massachusetts, went with her parents to Michigan, and came with them to Ohio in 1834. She married George Whitfield Shepard, and her son, George S. Shepard, still lives on the South Ridge property. She was a superbly benevolent woman, noted to dying days for her good gifts. She was nearly burned to death at one time by a bursting bottle of liniment, which she had put into a kettle of warm water. She was getting dinner for a tramp, and lifted the bottle, when the cold air striking the glass, shattered it. The alcohol struck her, and instantly ignited. The tramp threw his coat over her head and smothered the flames. Though terribly burned for the time, her life was saved.
Parthenia Gaylord, granddaughter of Major Levi Gaylord, married Warren P. Spencer, the first editor of the Geneva Times, a paper established in 1866.
Betsey Hubbell, born in Hector, N. Y., in 1806, married George W. Gould, cousin of Jay Gould, the millionaire. They came to Geneva in 1833, and had a family of nine children. Three of her daughters reside in Geneva, Mesdames Huldah Munger, Olive Morgan and Jennie Tuller, the latter the widow of Thomas B. Tuller, who kept for many years the most famous hostelry on the Western Reserve.
In the year 1818 the valiant grandmother of Mrs. Arthur Mitchelson shot a bear which was attempting to steal a pig from the pen.
Mrs. Parthenia Webster Stephens, the oldest living pioneer born on the South Ridge, has in her possession valuable relics of ye olden time -- a gilt-banded earthen washbowl, the first ever bought in Geneva; a fine linen towel, woven by her great-grandmother for part of the wedding outfit of Deborah Webster, Mrs. Stephen’s grandmother. The towel, fresh and strong of texture, is nearly 200 years old. She also has a blue and white platter bought in 1800 by the maiden "Deborah" before she was married. This has a picture of the White House in the center, Washington’s portrait at one side, and in fifteen white scallops the names of the States of the Union. When Mrs. Stephens’ parents came to Ohio they had with them their eldest born and then only child, a little son six weeks old. She was delicate, but at Conneaut Creek, in the midst of a wild storm, she left the ox-cart and forded across the water with the waves to her neck at times, and holding the babe. She thought she could cross more safely by feeling her way with her feet than to bear the possible lurches and over-turning of the cart. Despite her chilly bath NO HARM RESULTED.
The postoffice was for many years located on the South Ridge, and thither the people came from far and near for the comparatively meager mails Uncle Sam then delivered.
While wonderful history was weaving on the South Ridge a little later settlement was made on the lake shore. Here was the "Jericho Log Seminary," where the great penman Platt Rogers Spencer taught pioneer youths and maidens the beautiful art which is now the ideal penmanship in the business colleges of the world. His wife, Persis Warren Duty Spencer, was a marvelous woman. She possessed great executive abilities, her heart was pure as gold, and she gave the whole of its preciousness to her genius husband. The wise and cultured delighted to meet her, and she was mistress of the science of gracious but unanswerable debate. Anecdotes of her devotion to her husband and family are so rich and numerous that they would fill a volume. She inspired him to become the grand man whose name is written forever on the scroll of fame. Her sons were knightly gentlemen and her daughter, Sarah Spencer Sloan, living westward, is a gifted and useful woman.
Minerva Jennings, wife of Barzliia Morrison, of East Main street, Geneva, is termed the "goddess of pure wisdom" by her pupils of yore. She was one of the first teachers on the lake shore. Her educational spirit and methods were in the line of the distinguished humanitarian, Froebel. More than half a century ago she served as a truer kindergartner than are often found in the profession to-day. She taught the history of the United States by autumn leaf coinage, and she compensated for rainy indoor sessions by extended but educational hours outdoors. Her understanding of child nature was profound. She was equal of to a staff of college professors in the enthusiasm she inspired and the love for knowledge. Her memory will be a jewel, and her influence in molding lofty characters is still manifested.
Mrs. Mandana Todd Austin, wife of David Austin, came with her parents to Geneva from Granby, Conn., when three years of age. They spent one years in Michigan before coming here, but the ague compelled their removal. She and her sisters, who still reside here, have many pleasant recollections of early days, when there were no paths but those blazed on trees. This is one she relates:
Maria Atkins started on horseback for Austinburg by a blazed path to go to the grist mill. Night descended while she was returning, and fearing she might lose her way in the darkness she tied her horse to a small tree, sought shelter amid the divided roots of a larger tree close by, and sat there all night listening to the howls of savage wolves and other wild animals. In the morning she reached her LAKE SHORE HOME SAFELY.
It was a strange coincidence that Mrs. Auren Knapp, from Western New York, and Mrs. R. B. Munger, of Saratoga, N. Y., were married the same day, reached Geneva the same day, and their husbands had bought the same farm in the north settlement. R. B. Munger immediately selected another plot, and the neighbors were the most amicable of friends. His wife was a very noble lady, and he amassed a great fortune by industry and business talent. His daughter, Mrs. Mary Swan, of Geneva, resides in a home on the site of the one he occupied for twenty-five years. She is a pioneer of whom Geneva may be proud, abounding in beneficent works. When a child she and her sister, Maria, used to come through a long piece of woodland to Sunday school. To save her white stockings from being soiled by the brush, she often carried them and her slippers, donning the pretty footgear as they neared the town settlement. Once she lost a stocking, and the loss caused much wonderment, as her friends did not know her custom of preserving neatness of hose in the way named.
Mrs. Mary Tuttle, now the widow of Makepeace Fitch, was a lonely pioneer. She came to Geneva in 1831. Her husband conducted extensive lumber and shipping business, and did much to build up the business interests of the township. She is the last of her lake shore generation. Her wedding dress was of white linen, worn by her mother. Once when driving down the corduroy Jericho road, so rough that her husband walked, for only one could ride, she cried, "Makepeace! Will this ever be a road?" It was, indeed, a terrible thoroughfare, but in 1896 is a smooth and fair as a rural road can be. One of her daughters relates that her first store dress was bought when she was nine years old. It was "pink calico," and exquisite as a June rose in the eyes of the delighted child, only accustomed to homespun clothing.
Emily Atkins, when seventeen years of age, married Colonel George Turner, and they came from Jefferson and settled at the mouth of Indian Creek in 1822. She left ten sisters, and felt the isolation from her society, as her letters show. She died at the age of thirty-six years. She was a woman of uncommon personal attractions, and a beautiful singer. Her son, aged seventy-two years, says: "She was a great home center to us all, ready to cheer, guard, and direct; always ready to give a helping hand to a friend or neighbor. She planted Christian seeds that will never die, but increase through generations."
A merry story is that of a sleighing party bowling on the lake shore road when Sarah Turner and another girl fell into the snow from the end of the sleigh, the end board having fallen out. They were not missed for some time, and when the party turned about and searched for them they were walking as fast as possible to overtake the company.
And here, amid the snows and the grayness of night, in the quiet of a pioneer evening, I will drop the curtain of Geneva at 1840, only regretting that I could not enlarge the panorama, and tell of the Prentices, renowned hereabouts; the scholastic teacher, Josiah Alford; have given further history of the Jennings family, and many others. But as Time wrote "Finis," so must I.
LAURA ROSAMOND WHITE, Chairman and Historian; Geneva Committee -- Pheme L. Cowles, Rosina M. Smith, Sara F. Goodrich, Theodora F. Jones, Celia F. Higley, Ellen O. Babcox, Blanche M. Chamberlain.
*The date of 1830 [for construction of the Bartholomew house] may be a typographical error as Benjamin Bartholomew and several other families mentioned in this article are on the 1810 Tax List of Harpersfield Township, then-Geauga Co., OH.
**Ashtabula County marriage records show that Sophia Hawley married David J. Stone 5 Oct 1814.