From "Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve," Part IV, Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham, Editor [published under the auspices of the Women’s Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission, February, 1897], p. p. 906-909:
PIONEER WOMEN OF SHEFFIELD, 1817-1850
There are two townships of Sheffield in the Western Reserve, one in Lorain County on Lake Erie and the other in Ashtabula County, in the southeastern part of it, about sixty miles from Cleveland.
When the settlers reached this place a great forest spread out on every side, except here and there a small open glade where peach stones had been planted, and it often happened that the fruit from these -- very small cling-stones they must have been -- together with the wild onions, cowslip greens and game was the chief dependence for food. Had the early settlers been as familiar with the varieties of mushrooms as we are now, that would have been a valuable food in their days of near starvation.
Today the pioneers are all numbered with the dead and their descendants with few exceptions are so scattered that little can be learned concerning their history. Neighborhood and family traditions, however, simply prove that the MOTHERS OF SHEFFIELD by their courage, industry, and hopefulness made possible the peaceful arts of civilization. It was the spirit of self-sacrifice displayed by the women, their devotion to duty and their own great faith that encouraged and sustained the men to the accomplishment of great results in material things.
Lydia Mather, daughter of Samuel Mather, first purchaser of Sheffield land, was the first woman to own a farm, which fell to her by inheritance.
The first settlement as made on the south side of Ashtabula River by John R. Gage and his wife Ruth Woodbury, who moved into their log house in 1817. "Aunt Ruth" Gage was noted for her social qualities, her skill as a cook, and her wonderful strength, most unusual in a woman. She could swing a heavy iron kettle holding five pails of water on and off the fireplace crane with one hand without spilling a drop. In a playful scuffle with her husband, she fell on a plow and broke her leg, and though there were two hired men to cook for besides her own family, she continued her household work while recovering from the accident in bed, with but her five year old daughter, Lodema, to help. In after years, Harry Purdy, one of the men, often said that they never missed a comfortable meal during that time. It seems an impossible tale, and if true, the details of its accomplishment would make interesting reading.
The men found a nest of wild turkey eggs in the woods and Mrs. Gage set them under a hen who hatched them all out. When about half grown the young turkeys showed signs of rejoining their forebears in the woods, whereupon wild turkey roasted and broiled became a frequent dish upon the family table.
Mrs. Gage had a family of five sons and three daughters. Lodema [Mrs. Zachariah Clark] was born in 1818, the first white child born in the township. She lived seventy-five years. Laura, the second girl married G. C. A. Bushnell, who for many years was a leading public man in the country. Harriet [Mrs. Calvin Crosby] is yet living in Sheffield, on the original Gage farm. She is one of the oldest natives of the township.
The Woodbury family came from Ackworth, N. H., in 1810, and were well known in the Revolutionary history of that state.
Samuel P. Castle and wife [Clarissa Deming] came from Hartford, Ct., and settled in Sheffield in 1814. Mrs. Castle taught the first school in a private log house before any regular school house was built. She was the mother of a well known and prosperous family.
John Mack and wife [Charlotte Alexander] came from Northampton, Mass., in 1816 and first settled in Ashtabula but soon removed to this place. They raised the usual large pioneer family. Louisa, the oldest, married Harmon Stevens; Mary -- Pierce Kingsbury, and Eliza, the youngest daughter, married Edward Gillette and is now seventy years old. All these men were prominent farmers in the community. Mrs. Gillette lives on the original Mack farm, and tells this incident of her mother who was noted for her kindness to the sick and needy.
One evening she carried her six months old babe through the woods nearly two miles, crossing a creek on a log, in order to watch with one sick neighbor. Finding that some one else forestalled her sympathy, she started back after dark for her home, MISSED THE DIM TRAIL in the forest gloom and remained out all night, terrorized every moment by possible wolves and other wild animals still infesting the country.
Lucina Bliss and husband [Thomas Rogers] arrived in 1836 and raised a large family. Their oldest daughter, Jane, who married William R. Howard, is still living in Sheffield at the age of eighty-three years. She gives interesting details concerning their first pioneer beds, which consisted of poles, the outer ends of which rested on crossed sticks, the inner ends stuck in the wall. The mattress was strips of bark stretched across these poles. Their first and only brooms for a long time were made of hemlock boughs.
Mary Liewelling [Mrs. Beriah Bliss] possessed all the superior moral and mental characteristics that her Welsh name would indicate, supported as they were by a tenacity of purpose that made her a valuable member of the community. She was the mother of ten children, six of whom were daughters. Eight of these children are now living in various states of the Union, where they became prominent in educational and business affairs.
Mrs. Anna Schermerhorn, whose maiden name was Anna Vechten, was the widow of Richard Schermerhorn, a Revolutionary soldier. His family were intermarried with the famous Schuylers of New York. Mrs. Schermerhorn like her husband was of the fifth American generation of Holland Dutch ancestry. When left a widow she came to Sheffield to live with her grandchildren, the well known Clute family, and died in 1853 at the great age of ninety-six years, in full possession of all her faculties.
Her two daughters married brothers, Mary to John D. Clute and Elizabeth to Nicholas Clute.
John D. and Mary Clute had four sons and two daughters; Richard S., the eldest, married Emma Butler and [2nd] Mary Christ; Abraham married Laurette Jumal; Jacob married Nancy Welton; Ome married Caroline Cassiday; Christana Clute became Mrs. Richard Chapin; she was born in 1826 and is still living in Sheffield; and Anna Maria Clute married Clark O. Wiley.
When Mary Schermerhorn came to Sheffield she had in her possession title deeds and other papers concerning New York estates that had been willed to the fourth generation, from the one who made them out, and in which her children would have shared. But thinking them of no particular value, she pasted them over the CHINKS BETWEEN THE LOGS of her cabin, to shut out the wind and cold.
Matilda Hill, wife of John Atwater, was the mother of seven sons who became prominent men and also raised two adopted daughters. She was known best by her charitable work among the sick or friendless.
Huldah Morse came with her husband William Todd in 1842, and the couple are now aged seventy-nine and eighty-one respectively. They are the only couple now living in the township who came to it at so early a day.
Mrs. William Peebles [Anna Wilder] and her husband wrested a fine home from the forests of South Sheffield, where they located at an early day and raised a family of children, who, in after years, became prominent citizens of the town. Mrs. Peebles though eighty-eight years of age and the oldest living pioneer woman, is in full possession of all of her superior mental faculties. She resides with her daughter Frances [Mrs. Wilber Atwater] in the adjacent township of Kingsville.
Eveline Stanton, wife of Zebulon Whipple and mother of five sons and a daughter, was a woman of much breadth of mind and great kindness of heart, tinged with a melancholy which she struggled to overcome.
Mrs. Rufus Westcott [Anna Richmond] was especially noted for her unaffected piety, her domestic virtues, and unbounded charity. She was the daughter of Rev. Edmund Richmond and wife [Ruth Leaming]. They were the founders of the local Baptist church and continued to be its chief support. Elder Richmond continued [as] its pastor until his death in 1861. Many of their descendants became well known ministers, the taste and gift in that direction seeming to be one of inheritance.
Harriet Wiltsey, wife of Phineas Rogers, came to Sheffield in 1835 from Orange County, N. Y., and is now eighty-three years old, and the only living member of the Methodist church when the present building was erected in 1844, though the membership at that time numbered fifty-five. She had a family of eight children, six of them daughters: Julia [Mrs. Moses]; Lucy [Mrs. Dr. Wilson]; Mira [Mrs. Ufford] and Mary [Mrs. Lyon], who were twins; Ida [Mrs. Kent] and Matilda. The mother who had no equal, even to recent date, in making and blending colors and in weaving domestic cloth and carpets.
Ozias Camp and wife, Polly Loveland came from Durham, Conn., in 1831. For many years they were active in the Congregational church. Mrs. Camp was a NOTABLE HOUSEKEEPER and cook and her taste as a florist was displayed in the garden and grounds around her home. These traits were inherited by her three daughters, Zimema [Mrs. Leffingwell], Mary [Mrs. Avery], and Ann. Mrs. Leffingwell recently celebrated her eightieth birthday by having her children and grandchildren at her home, where she prepared with her own hands an elaborate dinner.
Mrs. Samuel Johnson [Phoebe Camp] also came with her husband from Connecticut in 1825. They were the parents of seventeen children, including three pairs of twins. Their influence as a family of culture made its impress upon the community.
Ann Tyler was born in Poultney, Vt., in 1800 and came to Sheffield with her husband, Luther Curtis, in 1833. They had three daughters, Mary, Jane and Lucy. The eldest married Addison Giddings of Jefferson, son of the historic Joshua Giddings. Mrs. Curtis was of quiet tastes but her influence for the higher things of life permeated the entire community as the genial rays of the sun are of more value than a storm.
Joseph Porter Eastman and wife [Phoebe C. Addington] moved from their native county, Oneida, N. Y., in 1833 and thereafter lived continuously on their large farm in Sheffield and in the adjacent village of Kingsville. They raised four sons and three daughters. Emmeline became Mrs. Albert Webster, Caroline, Mrs. A. Benedict, and Mary E. married Amos Southwick, Emmeline when a bride of 1852 made the then perilous trip to California. Superior social culture combined with natural refinement made Mrs. Eastman a woman of mark in church and society, but did not in the least interfere with her duties as a competent housewife and devoted mother.
Anna Taft came with her father’s family from Washington County, N. Y., about 1825. She taught school several years with marked success and married Joshua L. Gage in 1829. From that time they resided continuously upon the farm where they first settled. She was distinguished for her great energy, high standards, and helpfulness to the poor and unfortunate. It was largely through her influence that the famous "Old Red Schoolhouse" was erected at the corners at Gageville, through voluntary contributions of a few early settlers, though at the sacrifice of luxuries and even comforts of life. For many years it was used also as a town hall, was the only frame school house in the county, and the only meeting house. It was used by all denominations and was the scene of all the early revivals of religion, in fact was the storm center about which ALL PUBLIC OPINION concentrated and from which all public enterprise went forth.
There were two daughters in this family, the eldest, Caroline, with her husband Rev. M. R. Kenny, resides in Hillsdale, Mich. The younger, Chestina, is the writer of this Sheffield sketch and still owns and occupies the fine home farm which her parents wrested from the wilderness.
The above women were but a few of those who were prominently identified in developing the social, educational, religious and material welfare of the township of Sheffield. Their detailed history cannot be recorded in the brief space given to this history, but will be felt by their descendants and by society during ages to come.
MRS. HENRY S. STEVENS, Historian. Sheffield Committee -- Mrs. Huldah Todd, Mrs. Harriet Rogers.