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 History of Trumbull & Mahoning Counties, Ohio
Published:  Cleveland: H. Z. Williams & Bros.

Trumbull County, Ohio
Pg. 472


     Gustavus is the second of the northern tier of townships of Trumbull county, being the seventh township in the second range.  It is north of Johnston, east of Greene, and west of Kinsman. Wayne township, Ashtabula county, adjoins it on the north.
     The soil is good, and agricultural industry prospers.  No railroad enters this township.  Kinsman station on the Lake Shore branch road, four and a half miles from Gustavus center, is the nearest railroad point.  Farming is the principal business of the inhabitants of this township.  Two small villages, Hart's corners and the center, a mile apart, each contains a dozen or more houses, one store and a few shops.  The surface is undulating with no particularly striking features.  The soil is mostly sandy loam, somewhat gravelly in places.  Some clayey spots are found near the streams.  The drainage of the township is received by Pymatuning creek, which crosses the northeastern corner of the township, thence flows southeasterly through Kinsman and Vernon. Most of the streams are small, and are confined to the eastern half of the township.  All flow toward the east.


This township was surveyed and the lots numbered in 1800.  Colonel Lemuel Storrs having purchased a part of lot number two, gave the township the name of his son, Gustavus.


     JOSIAH PELTON, having purchased a tract of land north of the center of this township, came out in the year 1800, on horseback, to view his purchase and select a spot for a home.  Having arrived in the unbroken wilderness, he turned his horse loose to graze along the Pymatuning creek.  Mr. Pelton remained all summer, and during this time his horse had became so nearly wild that when he was wanted to carry his owner back to Connecticut in the fall, Mr. Pelton was obliged to catch him with a lasso, which proved a very difficult job.  But at length having succeeded, Mr. Pelton made the return trip in company with a missionary who had no horse, but was allowed the use of this on a part of the way.  Arriving at home in safety Mr. Pelton made an offer of one hundred acres of his land to the woman who would first engage to make her home in the wilds of Gustavus.
     His son Jesse induced Ruhamah DeWolf, of Granby, Connecticut, to accept this offer, and she engaged to undertake with him the hardships of pioneer life.  She came with her father's family to Vernon and there remained until a clearing had been made and a log cabin built upon the farm.  The raising of this cabin took place the fourth day of June, 1802, Mr. Pelton being assisted in his labor by men from Vernon.  A heavy fall of rain came on, and all who at tended the raising were obliged to remain all night at the cabin.  The next day they reached home, but were obliged to bridge some of the swollen creeks intervening by felling trees across them.
     Mrs. Pelton did not take up her abode in the new cabin until the following December.  Her husband meanwhile boarded himself, carrying his bread from Vernon.  One day as he was going after a supply he saw a panther in a tree on the bank of the Pymatuning.  He tied his hat and coat upon a bush, ordered his dog to watch them, and then returned to the center after his

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gun. The dog kept faithful watch until his master's return, when the panther was killed and found to measure nearly seven feet.
     Elias Pelton, brother of Jesse, was the second man who settled in Gustavus with his family.  His daughter Barbara, afterwards the wife of Hezekiah Barnes, was the first white child in the township who survived.  She died in 1881.  Her brother Storrs was the first male child.
     Soon after these settlers arrived Josiah Pelton, the father, came here to reside.  His sons were Jesse, Harvey, Elias, Zenas, Ithemur, and Julius.  All remained a couple of years.  Harvey died in Geauga county; Zenas moved to Michigan with his sons when an old man, and Jesse died in Pennsylvania.  The others lived and died in Gustavus.  All settled near the center on adjoining farms.  Two daughters of Josiah Pelton, Mrs. John Lane and Eliphaz Perkins, also resided in this township.  Of his grandchildren, Tenserd D. and Cynthia, children of Jesse Pelton, and Lysander, son of Julius, are still living in this township; also Mrs. Annis Barber, daughter of Julius.

     In Jue, 1804, OBEDIAH GILDERSLEEVE and ily came.  They journeyed by team in company with Calvin Cone and others. Mr. Gildersleeve —the name is now abbreviated to Gilder—was from Hartland, Connecticut.  He settled on a farm about one-half mile east of the center.  Eight children were brought here and another was born after the arrival of the family.  Mr. Gilder died in 1805 aged fifty years, and was among the first to be buried in the township graveyard north of the center.  Mrs. Gilder lived to be seventy.  The children were Bailey, Obed, Polly, Orril, Sally, Annis, Phebe, Chloe, and BetseyChloe was drowned in the creek when a child; Betsey also died young.  The others all lived to mature years, and three, Obed, Orril, and Phebe, are still living, aged respectively eighty-nine, eighty-seven, and eighty years.  The two former reside in Kinsman, and Phebe in Gustavus.

     THADDEUS SELBY, from Hartland, Connecticut, settled in 1804 one and one-half miles east of the center.  One of his daughters, Mrs. M. S. Whittlesey, is living in Cleveland.  The other members of the family were Jeremiah W., who died at St. Paul; Ephraim C., Laura E. (Beman), who lived in Gustavus, and Eliza (Ely), who died in Illinois. Ephraim lived on the old homestead till 1861, and died in Gustavus in September, 1881.  He married Wealthy Bishop, who is still living.  Their family of five children all survive.

     CALVIN CONE, also of Hartland, settled in the eastern part of the township, but moved to Hartford township after some years.  He was a State Senator from Trumbull county in 1806–9, and a very prominent man in his day.  He was the first justice of the peace in Gustavus township, and was probably appointed to that office about 1808.

     A little later ASA and DOSEY CASE, brothers, settled in the southwest of the township.  Mrs. Totten and Mrs. St. John, daughters of Dosey Case, are the only representatives of the original families now in this township.

     JOHN LANE, about 1805, settled one mile north and a half-mile east of the center, where his son Cyrus now lives.

     Six weeks or more were required for a journey from Connecticut to this township.  Often the travelers had to build bridges and repair roads in order to proceed upon their way.  The usual custom was to journey, a large company of emigrants to the West together, with ox teams and large covered wagons.  Gipsy like, they ate and slept in these wagons.

     After 1805 settlers continued coming gradually. Jehiel Meacham, better known as 'Squire Meacham, came at the request of Calvin Cone, Esq., who thought the settlement needed a blacksmith.  Cone gave him fifty acres of land as an inducement to settle.  Meacham accordingly came and located in a cabin across the road from Cone's.  Land was then worth $2 per acre and upwards.  Of the Meacham family, Jehiel, Jr., moved West when an old man and died; Ralph died in Mecca; Horatio is living; Edmund died in this township; Lydia (Allen) died in Kinsman; Patty (St. John) resides in Gustavus, Lucia (Moore) moved West.

     JOSEPH HART settled in Gustavus in 1811.  His sons Nelson and Charles are still residents of the township.

     RIVERIUS BIDWELL, of Canton, Connecticut, settled in the southeastern part of Gustavus in 1812.  Other early settlers between the years 1810 and 1820 were Aaron Lyon, Lemuel Newton, William Linsley, Rufus Beman, and others,

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mostly from Connecticut.  One of the later settlers and a thrifty farmer of Gustavus is Mr. C. E. Fisher.  He was born in Germany in 1834.  In 1847 he emigrated to America with his parents.  He lived in Herkimer county, New York, about six years, and in California about as long.  In 1861 he settled in Gustavus, on the fine farm which he now owns.  Mr. Fisher married Aurelia Hafer, a native of Germany, in 1861, and has three children—George, Henry, and Andrew.  In politics he is a Republican, in religion a Methodist.


     This township was detached from Greene in 1821, and organized as a distinct township.  The first officers were elected Sept. 11, 1821, and were as follows: Ithemur Pelton, Asa Case, Rufus Beman, trustees; William Roberts, Abraham Griswold, overseers of the poor; Ithemur Pelton, Walter W. Thornton, fence viewers; Jehiel Meacham, Jr., Lester Waters, constables; Joseph Hart, treasurer; Thaddeus Selby, township clerk; George Moses, lister; Marcus Andrews, Zenas Pelton, Thaddeus Selby, Joseph Hart, Harvey Pelton, Solomon Waters, Oliver Crosby, supervisors.
     The first wedding was the marriage of Eliphaz Perkins and Zilpah, daughter of Josiah Pelton, April 6, 1804.  The township had no justice of the peace at that time, and it is said that this couple waited a year for a missionary to come and perform the ceremony.


The first few years of the settlement, Beaver, Pennsylvania, was the most convenient point at which there was a grist-mill.  After a few years milling was done at Jamestown, Pennsylvania, fifteen miles distant.
     Boiled wheat, with maple sugar or syrup, was a palatable and wholesome article of food much used by the early settlers on account of the difficulty they experienced in obtaining flour and meal.
     The small amount of store trading done by the settlers of this township at the newly established store in Kinsman was by barter.  Men were glad to receive pay for labor in provisions.  A man's daily wages were forty cents; with a yoke of oxen, seventy-five cents.  Women worked for seventy-five cents and one dollar per week, seldom receiving cash.  Wheat was thirty cents per bushel; corn fifteen, and oats eight or ten cents.  A good horse was worth $65.  Of articles which had to be procured at the store the prices were about as follow: tea, $1.25 per pound; codfish, eighteen cents per pound; the poorest kind of brown sugar, twelve and a half cents.


     The first school ever taught in this township was held in the house of Elias PeltonRoxy Brockway was the teacher.  It was a private school, for the benefit of the Pelton children.  The first public school was kept in John Lane's log barn about 1809, Sally Wakeman teacher.  Children found their way to this dispensary of learning by following a path marked by blazed trees.
     The first school-house was built upon the farm of Riverius Bidwell in 1813. Soon after Esther Bidwell taught school there.  As all the children were not provided with hats and caps some came to school with handkerchiefs tied over their heads.  Miss Bidwell was a very popular teacher.


     The evils of intemperance were painfully evident among some of the early settlers.  Rev. Joseph Badger was a rigid temperance man, and his influence caused some reformations.  Marquis Andrews set on foot a temperance move ment and called a meeting for the purpose of discussing the evils of immoderate drinking.  He offered a resolution embodying his views, which the citizens so amended as to almost entirely obliterate its original meaning.  Then a pledge was circulated so strongly worded that when it came to Andrews he would not sign it.  Like many another temperance lecturer, he was not willing to practice total abstinence himself.

IN 1812.*

     The call for troops for the war was received with enthusiasm, and nearly every able-bodied man in Gustavus volunteered for the service.  The next day after the call was received here Marquis Andrews led towards Fort Stephenson at Lower Sandusky (now Fremont), a company armed and equipped. Among these volunteers
*For this and many other facts included in this chapter
the writer is indebted to a published article by Miss P. M.,
Barnes, of Gustavus.

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were Joseph, Elias, and Julius Pelton, Lemuel Newton, Aaron Rice, Joseph Hart, John Lane, Thaddeus Selby, Aaron Lyon, Elam Linsley, and Lester Cone.
     An amusing incident connected with the call was that when Squire Meacham learned that equipments were demanded as well as men, he proceeded to bury his two brass kettles in his corn-field.  But his son Jehiel enlisted and the kettles had to be brought out for immediate use, as each man was required to furnish his own camp-kettle and blanket.
     After the departure of the troops some experienced great anxiety through fear of an at tack by the Indians, who were known to be the allies of the British.  As the settlement was left almost wholly without arms and men this fear was not unnatural to the defenceless women and children left behind.
     One day some boys killed a fawn in the western part of the township, and expressed their delight at their success in hunting by wild shouts and other boyish actions.  Mrs. Newton, who lived two miles west of the center, was alone in her house with two small children.  She heard the outcry and supposed that a band of Indians were raising the war-cry.  Hastily taking up her children she left the house as secretly as possible and went to the center where her nearest neighbors lived.  She and all others rejoiced when the true cause of her alarm became known.


     It is almost unnecessary to state that the dense forests of this neighborhood were the lurking places of wolves and other wild animals in great numbers.
As a missionary Rev. Joseph Badger labored in Gustavus as early as 1804; but it was several years later that he entered the pulpit one Sunday morning and related the experiences of the previous night.  Said he:
I had started to come through from Ashtabula, but there being no path I got ahead but slowly, and I cannot say how far I had come when darkness came upon me.  As I could make no headway through a pathless wood, I tied my horse so that it could feed about some and then lay down on the ground to rest.  Ere long I was aroused by the cry of a wolf.  This cry was answered and soon it seemed that a hundred ravenous wolves were howling for their prey.  I quickly arose, tied my horse more firmly, and, feeling about in the darkness, found a stout limb, which I cut for a cudgel, and prepared for an encounter with the enemy.
The wolves formed a circle about me.  I drew near to my horse and walked around him constantly.  The wolves came so near that I could hear the snapping of their jaws.  All night long I kept up this walk, beating the trees with my stick and shouting to keep the hungry animals at bay.  My horse trembled, but trusting in my protection did not try to get away.
     In the first gray light of morning the wolves began to creep slowly away.  Their cries grew fainter and fainter in the distance, and I found that they had left me.  Blessing God for the countless manifestations of His goodness in preserving me through this and similar perils, I was again proceeding on my way when once more the barking of wolves resounded through the forest.  There was little opportunity for me to hasten, as fallen trees, brush, and bushes were in the way.  The pursuers were coming quite near, and their howling rent the air, when suddenly there was a crashing near me, and like a flash of light, a fine, full grown deer leaped out, bubbles of white foam falling from his mouth, and panting for breath. He thrust his head alongside my faithful horse and so came beside me until we reached a clearing probably four miles from the place where I had spent the night.  The hungry wolves were again baffled, and retired to await the coming of another night in which to continue their search for food.


     ICHABOD MERRITT was quite a noted hunter.  He was out one day with an old man known as “OldWheeler, and tracked a bear to a large, hollow whitewood stump.  The stump was too large and smooth for a man to climb, so a tree was cut and made to fall so as to lean against it.  Merritt was then able to climb to the top of the stump, and, having reached this point, he pointed his rifle down the hollow trunk and discharged it.  Before he could load again the old bear came rushing out of the top of the stump to avenge her own injuries and protect her young, which were in the hollow hiding-place.  Merritt knew that to jump would be as certain death as to remain within reach of the bear.  He crept out on a limb of the tree which he had cut, and so managed to keep out of her clutches.  “OldWheeler, on the ground, nearly bereft of his wits, was shouting: “Oh dear!  You'll be killed ! you'll be killed !” in a voice loud enough to frighten anything except a maddened bear, and had not the presence of mind to use the gun he held in his hand.  Ike Mowry happened to be not far away, and having heard Merritt's gun and the shouts of Wheeler, came to the rescue.  With one shot he brought down the bear and released the hunter from his peril.  A hole was then chopped into the stump and two little cubs were taken out.


     A post-office was established in this township

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a few years prior to 1830, and Riverius Bidwell, who lived in the southern part of the township, was appointed postmaster.  The inhabitants of the center were not satisfied with the location of the office, and Rev. Joseph Badger sought to change it.  He drew a map of the township showing the location of each house, thus proving that the center was the most convenient point for all to reach, and sent it to the department at Washington.  Shortly after he was commissioned postmaster, and the office was moved to his house near the center.  Now another difficulty began to trouble him. The weekly mail arrived on Sunday, and Rev. Badger had conscientious scruples against secular labor on that day.  He, therefore, sent another remonstrance to Washington threatening to resign unless this arrangement was changed.  His letter had the desired result, and the mall-carrier thereafter arrived in Gustavus on a week day.  Mr. Badger resigned in 1830.  While postmaster he kept the mail in a small hand-basket.  Marvin was mail-carrier.  This place now has a daily mail to and from Burg Hill, on the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio railroad.


     The first store in this township was opened on the northeast corner at the center by George Hezlep, about 1828.  He had been clerk for John Kinsman some years.  Mr. Hezlep remained many years and was a successful merchant.  Soon after he began business here Stoddard Stevens and Alvin Hayes opened a store in the eastern part of the township.


     Dr. Allen, of Kinsman, was the first who practiced in this township.  Not only the white people but Indians as well were his patients.  Some of the latter who were living on the Pymatuning had the small-pox in early times.  Dr. Allen attended them and controlled the disease so effectually that it never spread at all.
     The first doctor who settled in this township was Naphtali Streeter, who came previous to 1812.  Although his qualifications he nevertheless had some practice. were limited, he neveretheless had some practice.
     The only physician in the township at present is Dr. Isaac Barclay, who, during his residence here, has gained hosts of friends and an extensive practice.  Dr. Barclay was born in old Trumbull county, in Poland, May 29, 1822.  He is the son of Francis and Elizabeth Barclay, his father being a native of Pennsylvania and his mother of Virginia.  Dr. Barclay is the youngest of twelve brothers.  The whole family consisted of seventeen children, of whom eight are living, six sons and two daughters.
     He studied medicine in Youngstown with Dr. Timothy Woodbridge, and graduated from the medical department of the Western Reserve college, Cleveland, in 1847.  He was engaged in practicing in Youngstown nine years, in Girard five, and at Mineral Ridge four.  In 1865 he came to Gustavus.  Dr. Barclay was married in 1856 to Melvina Silliman, of Fowler township.  She died in September following their marriage.  He married his second wife, Mary Jane Holcomb, of Gustavus, in 1863.  No children by either marriage.


in this township was built by Josiah Pelton on his own farm in early times.  No water grist-mill was ever built in the township.


     A good school exerts a powerful influence in any community.  Its fruits are apparent even to the most careless observer, and we believe that it is a standard truth that in a rural town where a flourishing academy is located, the general morals, to say nothing of intelligence, are better than in places where no such schools are.  Gustavus has shown commendable enterprise in educational mattters.  The project of building an academy was started by Rev. Benjamin Fenn, Buell Barnes, S. C. Stevens, Stephen Linsley, E. H. Bishop, George W. Cowden, and other prominent citizens.  In 1841 the matter took definite shape, and a subscription paper was circulated which received the signatures of a large number.  Each subscriber agreed to take a certain number of shares of the stock, each share being $10.   Some of the largest subscribers were Ebenezer H. Bishop, ten shares; S. C. Stevens, fifteen; Buell Barnes, twelve; Philo Gates, twelve; George Hezlep, twenty; James Q. Horner, fifteen.
     Buell Barnes, then a member of the Legislature, succeeded in getting an act of incorporation passed.  In 1843–44, a substantial two story brick building was erected, and in the fall

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of 1844 the institution was opened with Franklin B. Hough principal.  The school has been fairly successful considering the small population of the community on which it depends for support.  The number of teachers has been large.  James H. Brainard, John B. Beach, and E. P. Clisbee, each taught several terms.  The present principal, Mr. L. P. Hodgman, has been at the head of the school two years. The usual number of pupils is from fifty to seventy-five.
     In 1881 a building to be used as a boarding hall was erected.  It cost, including furnishing, about $2,300.









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