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Welcome to
Mahoning County, Ohio
History & Genealogy


Historical Collections of the

Mahoning Valley
containing an account of the Two
Pioneer Reunions:
together with a Selection of
Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, etc.
relating to the
Sale and Settlement of the Lands Belonging to
the Connecticut Land Company.
Vol. I
Publ. by the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.


Pg. 258


     THIS township is situated in the northern tier of the county, upon the Ashtabula and Warren Turnpike, and is the southern terminus of the Painesville and Bloomfield Plank Road.  Until the opening of the Ashtabula, Youngstown, and Pittsburg Railroad it was especially in land, a journey of sixteen miles, by the turnpike to Warren, being necessary every time it was desired to visit the county-seat or a market town.  In order to avoid this journey, which was not the most agreeable at all seasons of the year, the people got into a way of living very much within themselves, shops of almost every kind being established and kept in successful operation.  The eastern portion of the township is mostly covered with a tamarack swamp, which, from time immemorial, has furnished a favorite hunting ground and whortleberry patch.  Formerly myriads of pigeons roosted here every Fall and Spring; but, for the last few years, they have not been so plenty, owing, doubtless, to the vigorous way in which they have been hunted.  In very early times the center was low and marshy, but when the trees were felled away the land seemed to drain itself, and no indication of the former wetness is now to be seen.


     The township was purchased in 1814, by Ephraim Brown, of Westmoreland, New Hampshire, and Thomas Howe, of Williamstown, Vermont, of Peter Chardon Brookes, of Boston, the proprietor of large tracts in this portion of the Reserve.  Although the purchasers were of nearly the same age, Howe was uncle to Brown, and the two had been raised together in the same neighborhood. The first commercial transaction between them happened when they 'were under ten years old.  Howe rented a hen of Brown for the season, and returned her at the close with half her brood of chickens.


     Soon after their purchase of Bloomfield, they engaged S. J. Ensign to survey it.  And in the Winter of 1814-15, Leman Ferry

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and family, consisting of a wife, two sons and four daughters, moved into the township and settled upon land now owned by his son, N. B. Ferry.  This was the first family.  About the same time with.  Ferry came Timothy Bigelow, Aaron Smith, Jared Green, and Mahew Crowell, and very soon after, Jared Kimble brought on his family.  Two or three years after the joint purchase, Howe sold his interest to Brown, reserving only one thousand acres in the southern part.  In the Spring of 1815, Willard Crowell, Israel Proctor, Samuel Eastman, and David Comstock came on foot from Vermont.


     By special request, Howe allowed his favorite dog Argus to accompany these men.  Very much to their chagrin the dog was missed somewhere in New York and did not again join them.  Several months after, Howe drove through; and, on stopping at a wayside inn to rest his horse, was much surprised to find Argus, who manifested his delight in all the ways within his power.  Mr. Howe remarked to the landlord that he was glad to find his dog.  The landlord insisted, as landlords will, that he had raised the dog from a puppy.  Howe thought it would be easy to test the matter of ownership, and, pointing to his cutter, told the dog to take care of it.  He then told the astonished innkeeper, that if he could take any thing from the cutter, the dog was his; otherwise not.  The landlord endeavored by coaxing and threatening to obtain possession of a robe or whip, but in vain.  Argus, rejoiced at finding his old master, immediately resumed a grateful service to him.  When Howe was ready to start, he told his host that he should not call off his dog, but Argus was only too glad to follow, and in the new country was a general favorite, and became famous as a deer and bear dog.


     Aaron Smith was the first carpenter, and built a saw-mill on the Center Creek, and in 1819, he constructed a grist-mill on Grand River for Ephraim Brown, who, shortly after, attached a dwelling.  Leman Ferry, Jr., was the first miller, and attended this mill.  Milo Harris was the first cabinet-maker.  A man by the name of Green, was the first blacksmith.  Comstock opened the first boot and shoe shop.


     Mr. Howe removed to the township in 1817 with his family, consisting of a wife, three sons and two daughters.  One of the daughters

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and two sons are still living in the township.  Mr. Brown had come on the year before.  Bringing with him his family, consisting of a wife, three sons, and one daughter, together with Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Proctor.  One of the sons and the daughter, together with Mrs. Proctor, are now living in the township.
     The first male white child born within the limits of the township was Charles Thayer.  The first house was constructed of logs by Leman Ferry.  The first school was taught by Chester Howard, in 1818.  The first school at the Center was taught during the Winter of 1818-19, by N. M. Green.  The first resident physician was Benjamin Palmer, who boarded with Mr. Brown.  The first death was that of Mrs. Crowell, Mr. Howe's sister.  There was no case brought in the Common Pleas Court, from this town, for forty-two years after its first settlement.


     The first sermon was preached in Ferry's cabin, in 1815, by Rev. Giles H. Cowles, of Austinburg, a Congregationalist minister.  Rev. Joseph Badger spoke once or twice at about the same time.  The first sermon by a Methodist minister was preached in Thayer's cabin by Rev. Ira Eddy.  Meetings were held for some time at the hotel, which was built in 1818.  These meeting were conducted on the most liberal basis.  Brown, who was a non-professor, would read a sermon; Kimble, a Congregationalist, or Bigelow, a Baptist, or Ferry, a Presbyterian, would conclude the exercises by prayer, and all would return, as they had come, on foot or in carts, feeling that they had worshiped God as acceptably, I dare say, as we do now, with all our modern conveniences.  The Methodist Church was regularly organized in 1818.  The Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. Giles H. Cowles, in 1821, with five members.


     Many interesting incidents of the early time have been gleaned from the children of the first settlers, now old men and women, some of which I will relate.  Leman Ferry, for some time, had fifteen or six teen of the men who had come on alone, to improve their lands, boarding with him, as his was- the first family in town.  The cows and hogs at this early time had no place to run except in the woods.  The hogs, as many of them as could be found, were brought in, late in the Fall of each year, and confined in rail pens to be fattened.  But each year a greater or less number of them would escape, and

[Pg. 261]

thus it came about, in a comparatively short time, that wild and ferocious hogs were quite numerous in the forest; and they were really, with their huge tusks and long legs, of from four to six years' growth, the most dangerous beasts of the time, with the exception, perhaps, of the wolves and bears.  The sport of feudal and Middle Age times was, now and then, revived in a great hunt of these Ohio wild boars, and often some luckless Adonis would find himself too closely pursued for convenience, and be obliged to take refuge by climbing a tree or huge root.  Mr. N. B. Ferry tells me that often, when a boy, while searching for the cows through the forest, his dog would start a hog, whose squealing would attract others ; and soon force enough would be summoned to turn upon the dog and himself, and that while he would climb a sapling for safety, the dog would be obliged to use every effort in his power to escape the fury of his pursuers.


     One night as Mr. N. B. Ferry, then a boy, was gone longer after the cows than usual, his father started out also in search of them, taking another direction from that pursued by his son.  The father was unsuccessful in his search, and, as he had spent considerable time, his return was made in the dark.  When within only a short distance of the house he was startled by the baying of wolves very near at hand, and fearing that he would not be able to reach home, he immediately climbed a tree and called out for assistance.  His boarders each seized a gun, and hastened to the rescue, and by them the wolves were very easily frightened away.  It was afterwards ascertained that the wolves were not at first in pursuit of Mr. Ferry.  Jared Green had that day killed a deer and dragged it home.  The wolves had found this trail, and were following it with all assiduity when Ferry, having unwittingly taken nearly the same course, they had come after him.


     One night Howe's cow hid her calf, which had been born during the day, somewhere in the forest, and came home without it.  Mr. Howe directed his boys to fasten the cow till morning, and then follow her, as she would be sure to go directly to the spot where she had concealed her offspring.  The boys did as directed, and after following for some distance, at length came to a clump of bushes, where the cow began to low for her calf.  This was the spot where it had undoubtedly been secreted, but it was now nowhere in the vicinity.  Blood was found, however, and it was thought some wild beast had

[Pg. 262]

destroyed it. In fact, the trail was plainly visible where the carcass had been dragged away.  Following this trail a short distance they found a portion of the carcass placed between two trees that had fallen across each other, carefully covered with leaves.  The boys returned, and related what they had seen to Mr. Norton, who was considerable of a trapper, and he immediately declared that it was the work of a bear.  He, accordingly, that night set a trap between the trees.  On going to the spot next morning it was found that the trap had been sprung, but the bear had pulled out and gone.  The carcass of the calf was gone also, without a visible trail.  Norton, who was well acquainted with the habits of the animal he had to deal with, directed that a circuit of some distance be made around the spot where the trap had been, for he declared that the bear, after carrying his load for a short distance, would drag it.  In this way the trail was again found and followed to a spot where the remaining portion of the carcass was deposited and again covered with leaves.  Here Norton set two stout traps, one on each side of the carcass, and attached heavy clogs to them, so that the bear could move around, and thus not endeavor to get entirely released.  Next morning young Howe was at the traps before Norton, and found the ground for many feet around torn up as though a drove of hogs had been there.  The bear had sprung both traps, but soon getting released from one, had gone, dragging the other and the clogs with him.  After following a short distance he heard the trap clink against the stones in the creek bottom, near by, and called to Norton, who was just coming up.  The dogs were set on the trail, and soon were heard to bark.  Hastening on in the direction, they found the bear endeavoring to climb a tree with the trap on one of his fore paws.  Hindered by this, and the constant attacks of the dogs in the rear, he was soon brought down by the rifles of the men.  He weighed over four hundred pounds, and was well worth all the trouble it had cost to take him.


     In their hunting excursions these pioneers cracked jokes of a very practical character upon the new-comers to the town.  At one time a large company of men were out on a hunt, during which they camped out several nights, subsisting during the time upon the game they killed from day to day.  It had been noticed that one of the company was a great coward, and so it was arranged one night to while away the weary hours by means of a little innocent fun with him.  One of the company got quietly outside of the camp, and, as soon as all was

[Pg. 263]

quiet for the night, began to produce some very strange and unaccountable noises.  The men who were in the secret paid but little attention to the matter, most of them snoring away as if nothing was happening.  But the unsophisticated member of the camp wished he was anywhere else.  He very soon raised the alarm by asking what that noise was.  As soon as the attention of the men was called to the matter they were alarmed indeed, and decided that it was the howl of, a catamount.  The new-comer was now almost frantic with fear, and requested that he be covered with a huge trough that was near the camp, so that the ferocious animal could not get at him.  When he found out the joke, some days afterward, he was cured of much of his cowardice.


     One Sunday afternoon in September, 1823, as the people of this township were returning home from Church, a negro, with his wife and two children, were seen making their way north on the turnpike leading from Warren to Ashtabula.  The poor darkies were much worn with travel, being obliged to make their way with all possible haste on foot, and carry the younger children in their arms.  The good people of the town immediately supposed that the strangers were escaped slaves; but to no one in the village was the story then told.  At nearly dark of the same day three men, the owner of the slaves, his son, and a supernumerary, rode up to the tavern, and, announcing themselves as slave-hunters, inquired for the objects of their pursuit.  On being informed that they were only a short distance in advance, and being very much fatigued by their hard riding, they concluded, on the advice of the landlord, to remain all night.  After charging him without fail to call them very early in the morning, they retired.  When they were well settled in their rooms the landlord left strict orders for no one in the house to stir in the morning till he called them.  So soon as it was noised abroad that the slave hunters were in town, and so nearly up with the fugitives, the wildest excitement prevailed.  Squire Brown was the master spirit, and utilized the willing hands to the very best advantage for the oppressed.  He got out his covered wagon and horses, and, as soon as it was dark, sent on a party of men to overtake and shield them from danger; and when the danger was past to bring them back to Bloomfield.  These men overtook the fugitives in the north part of Rome, Ashtabula County, about twelve miles north of here.  On inquiring at the house where they were secreted; the owner, with-

[Pg. 264]

out waiting to reply, ordered them from his premises.  Considerable time and argument were consumed in making him understand that they were friendly disposed towards his guests.  But at length, an understanding having been arrived at, the family was taken into the wagon and conveyed a short distance south to a tavern kept by a man by the name of Crowell, with a barn standing back in the field.  Into this barn the wagon, with its load, was driven, and remained quietly until the hunters came up several hours after and passed on.
     But let us return to the Virginians and their cheery host at Bloomfield.  For some unknown reason—unknown to the slave-hunters at least, all the people in the hotel that Monday morning over slept themselves.  The anxious owner of the slaves was the first to arouse himself and shake off the sleepy god.  The landlord was profoundly ashamed of himself, or at least he said so; he didn't know when he had been so careless before.  But now he was determined to make it all, up by increased spryness.  Difficulties, however, awaited him at every point.  He found and arrayed himself in one boot, but the other was nowhere to be found.  It was at last discovered in an out-of-the-way place, and he was now ready to repair to the barn.  The door to the stable was locked, and the key left in the house.  Another hunt was now instituted for the key, and the Virginia chivalry were detained ten minutes more in this manner.  When the horses were led out it was found that each of them was wanting a shoe, and the hoof of one of them was badly broken into the bargain.  The owners were confident the shoes were all right the night before, or at least they had not noticed their loss.  The shoes must be replaced, and the horses were led around to Mr. Barnes, the blacksmith, with orders for him to proceed with all possible dispatch in replacing them.  The smith, who was usually at his post by this time in the day, waiting for a job, could this morning nowhere be found until considerable time had been consumed in a vigorous search.  But now he could do nothing but bungle.  He had trouble in unlocking the door, and then he could scarcely make a fire.  He had, at last, not a shoe in his shop, and his last nails were used in a job he performed the Saturday night previous.  Nails and shoes must be made, but nothing like hurry was discernible in his whole proceedings.  At length, however, the horses were ready, and at about nine o'clock the slave- hunters proceeded on their way.  At nearly noon the three men rode up to the tavern in front of the barn in which the wagon had been driven, and from the cracks in the loft the now happy family saw their pursuers pass on.  After a safe time

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had elapsed the wagon came forth from its place of concealment and proceeded southward.  About the middle of the afternoon it arrived in Bloomfield again, and the people were led into the dense woods, where men had been sent, under the direction of Squire Brown, and had constructed a temporary hut, where two trees had been thrown up by the roots.  This was very easily done by placing a roof over the upturned roots of the trees.  Food was carried to the fugitives by night for a short time until the excitement passed by.  Then they were brought to a log cabin that had been constructed nearer the center on Mr. Brown's land.
     About three days after the return of the darkies, the hunters rode up to the tavern on their homeward journey.  They found a warrant, issued by Squire Kimble, awaiting their attention.  Their offense was
that of running the toll-gate on the turnpike a little north of Warren.  On passing the gate they had supposed that the objects of their pursuit had taken the State road toward Painsville, and therefore paid the half toll necessary to go by that route; whereas, if they had represented that they were coming to Bloomfield, they would have been
required to pay full toll.  On application to Mr. Harris for horse-feed, they were told that no slave-hunter's horses could again stand in his stable under any consideration.  They then hitched their horses to the sign-post, and proceeded with the constable to Squire Kimble's, where they were fined five dollars each and costs.  On their return they found the tails and manes of their steeds wanting as to "hair," and a notice pinned to one of the saddles, which read something as follows:

"Slave-hunters, beware !
For sincerely we swear
That if again here
You ever appear,
We'll give you the coat of a Tory to wear.''

     This latter episode was greatly deplored by those who took the most active part in the rescue.  It was entirely at variance with the noble motives which had inspired them.  But in all good enterprises, where the emotional nature of whole communities is strongly enlisted, it is almost invariably the case that some unbridled spirits carry the matter to an extreme and cause regret upon the part of the better principled majority.
     This was years before the equitable, property-securing, Fugitive Slave law was passed, and it was not at that time a crime against the United States to brand oppression in its true characters and

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     make slave-hunters feel that they had no sympathy in the Northern liberty-loving heart.  I fear that these Virginia gentry returned to their homes feeling, if not exactly that they had "fallen among thieves," that they had not been treated exactly like brothers.
     The family remained in the cabin we have mentioned for considerable time, the father working for Squire Brown.  They proved to be industrious and well disposed, and no one regretted the trouble he had been put to on their account.  At length Squire Brown watched his opportunity and put them aboard a Canada-bound vessel, at Ashtabula harbor, paying their fare to the land of freedom.  It was feared after this that they failed to reach their destination, and parties were sent on to ascertain what they could concerning the matter.  By this means knowledge was obtained that they reached their destination in due time in perfect safety.
     The story which has been somewhat often repeated, that the cabin the family occupied was called "Uncle Tom's Cabin," is pronounced by the best authority a myth.  It probably arose from the fact that the man's name was Tom.  But he was never called Uncle Tom, and, besides, this all transpired nearly a third of a century before the famous work of Mrs. Stowe was conceived, and it would be a very remarkable coincidence if it had been so called.  The name may possibly have been applied in later days to the remnants of the hut in the woods.


     This rescue was the beginning of the " underground railroad," so long the object of detestation by the slave-holders of the borders; and which was the means of assisting very many poor fugitives from bondage on their way to British soil. It was a regular organization.  Men were appointed in every town to attend to the matter, and were sworn to assist the refugees in every way in their power.  And be it set down to the credit of this whole region that there is not a case on record of a runaway being betrayed.  And this seems strange, too, when we consider how much opposition there was, in some quarters, to abolition, and what appeals were constantly made to the cupidity of men, in the form of rewards, etc.  Take the case under consideration, where a family was kept during a whole Winter, known to nearly a whole town to be persons for whom a large reward had been offered, and still not the semblance of an attempt made at betraying them.  The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law only seemed to strengthen the zeal of these noble men; and it came about that this

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region was known all over the South.  To the slave it was known as a haven of safety; to the slave-hunter it was known as hopeless ground; and when a runaway was tracked into its limits he was usually given up.

     Note.—The slave rescue recorded above is very variously related by those who have a remembrance of it.  The author has taken every pains within his power to harmonize the different accounts.  As an illustration of what I mean, I may mention the day of the week upon which the negroes first made their appearance in town.  Some say it was on Friday, others on Saturday; but the best authority seems to indicate the day mentioned.  Many other particulars might be mentioned, but this will show the tendency, and, really, they are all rather immaterial.






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