Charlestown is thirty-six miles southeast of Cleveland and five miles east of Ravenna. It lies between two through railroads from east to west. The Erie passes through the northwest part of the township and the P. & W. the south part. The Mahoning River crosses it from west to east in the south part. The center road, leading from Warren to Ravenna, passes over three ridges. From these eminencies magnificent views are obtained of the surrounding country. It is a rural district, but characterized by the intelligence of its people.
Abel FORSHY, a "squatter," was the first white inhabitant, and his wife the first white woman to die and be buried on our hillsides. In 1805 General John CAMPBELL settled in the southwest corner of the town, building his house on the four corners of adjacent towns. His wife was Miss Sally ELY, of Deerfield. They were married in 1800, a justice of the peace walking twenty-seven miles to perform the ceremony. In 1810 the families of John BALDWIN and Linus CURTIS came from Granville, Mass. The women of these families were Esther HAMILTON BALDWIN and her daughter Lois, afterwards the wife of Horace REED, of Rootstown, and Peggy PEEK CURTIS, with three daughters. Prudence married Homer CAMPBELL and lived at Campbellsport. Olive and Melissa died in young maidenhood.
After 1810 new families were arriving each year, almost entirely from Massachusetts and Connecticut, a good class of citizens to found a new community. The different companies had their common experiences in their six weeks' journey over corduroy roads, through swamps and bridgeless streams, while each had special events to remember and relate to the grandchildren.
Charles CURTIS and wife, with nine children, the youngest a babe of three months, came in 1811. They decided not to travel on the Sabbath, while others who started in company, thought best to "keep moving." Mr. CURTIS arrived two days in advance of the other families. The babe became Mrs. Annie NICHOLS and lived to a good old age.
When the family of Joseph STEADMAN arrived at Genesse River, the bridge had been swept away, excepting the stringers on which some loose boards were laid. The goods and team were ferried across by an Indian. Being anxious to cross before night, Mrs. STEADMAN and daughter Polly (afterwards Mrs. Adolphus BALDWIN) each took a young child and crossed safely on the stringers.
When the HALLs were on the journey a young man took a baby cousin in his arms and walked on. When night came no teams had arrived, he could not return, so he sat down by a tree in the forest and held the supperless baby all night. It was some time next day before the anxieties of all were allayed by a happy meeting. Timothy and Joel HALL located southeast of the center, building a log house of one room for temporary use. Here Prudence SHELDON HALL and Elizabeth SMITH HALL presided over their large households, drawing a charcoal line from the center of the large fireplace through the room to designate each one's dominion.
The Congregational Church was organized by some of the settlers before leaving Massachusetts, in 1811. There were only two women members, Mrs. Charles CURTIS (Lucy BARNES) and Mrs. John BALDWIN. In 1840 there were fifty-two women's names on the church record. But three of this number are now living, Mrs. Martha LOOMIS SHEPHERD, of this place, Jane CATLIN, Hartford, Conn., and Mrs. Ann E. NORTON AUSTIN, Suffield, Conn.
Mrs. Deacon Lewis LOOMIS (Charity HOUGH) provided the elements for communion services for many years.
Rebekah AUSTIN, wife of R.L. COE, was probably the first woman to depart from the custom of the women keeping silence in the churches. Mrs. COE was born in Torringford, Conn., in 1797, came to this town a bride in 1824, and lived on the COE homestead until her death in 1893. In a letter written to her children in her eighty-ninth year, she tells of her conversion at the age of sixteen while visiting in New Haven, Conn., and of church work.
The first Sunday school in town was held at their home. She was a teacher in the Sunday school for thirty years. She was also active in the temperance work in early years, and her interest in all Christian work continued until the close of her long life.
The M.E. Church was organized in 1834. The women members at that time were Mrs. Claudius COE (Nancy EMORY), Mrs. Adna C. COE (Prudence HALL), Sarah C. COE, Diodama STEADMAN, Clarissa, Minerva, and Orlina HALL. When the school house was occupied by the regular Congregational appointments, meetings were held in barns, sometimes in midwinter, the women sitting on bundles of grain, the men standing during service. A small brick church was built on the southwest corner of the Public Square. The roof was taken off by a cyclone in 1850 and not repaired.
During this time there were many praying, testifying Christian women in the church, but the most gifted in prayer and exhortation was Sarah C. COE, afterwards Mrs. Nathan BROWN, of Butler, Pa. The first M.E. minister to reside in town with his family was Rouse P. GARDINER. There being no parsonage, L.L. BROWN, afterwards Judge BROWN, and wife gave the family a share of their home for six months.
Sophia COE, afterwards Mrs. James NEWTON, taught the first school in 1811, with eighteen pupils, in a little log schoolhouse at the center. A frame building was soon erected to serve for all public purposes.
Among the women teachers of the first half century were Irene PRENTICE, Delta DORMAN, Annette DORMAN, Lucia RODD, Martha LOOMIS, Sarah COE, Elizabeth COE, Anne E. NORTON, Clarissa WILCOX, Elizabeth AULL, Martha KNAPP, Lavina WETMORE, Lydia KNAPP, Ann J. KNAPP, Mary PECK, Amanda PECK, and Emily WETMORE.
In 1833 Mrs. Rev. SWIFT taught a select school which was attended by most of the young ladies in town. Lucia ROOD, now Mrs. J.M. BEARDSLEY, was one of the pupils. Mrs. J.L. COE (Anna J. KNAPPS) tells of being assistant teacher in district No. 1, now known as Augerburg school. There were sixty-one pupils of all ages, from young men and women to children of four years. Four to twenty-one was the district school age. These pupils were crowded into one small room, with very little of convenience or comfort, yet as full of fun and mischief as the youth of today.
The children now have different times. For them are spent more pains and dimes; But for real sport and merry ways The times were good in olden days.
The usual wages for teachers work was from seventy-five cents to $1 per week for summer and $1.25 for winter schools and board around. The latter condition brought many and varied experiences.
Before frame houses were built there was but one room for all purposes, and this usually well filled with members of the family. A young man having come twenty-five miles to visit a lady friend wished a little private conversation with her. He procured a large leather apron and put it over their heads. It proved satisfactory, as they lived a long and prosperous married life as Mr. and Mrs. Elyra MARION at Bazetta, O. Prudence HALL was the recipient of attentions from Jesse GRANT, father of President GRANT, but not having heard of the great "Ulysses," she turned from Jesse and bestowed her hand on her townsman Adna C. COE.
The family of Charles CURTIS inherited the gift of song. Mrs. Lucy NICHOLS sang in the Congregational choir for many years; Mrs. Ann NORTON AUSTIN, Mrs. Dr. B.F. PITMAN (Sarah CURTIS), Mrs. B.F. KNAPP (Ellis CURTIS) are remembered by many for the melody of their voices.
There has never been a time since there was church singing in town but this family has had representatives in the Congregational choir.
The four daughters of Deacon and Mrs. Oliver WILCOX were also good singers. They were Mrs. Laurana CURTIS, Mrs. Clarissa RANDALL, Mrs. B.F. PITMAN, and Mrs. Mary NEWTON. The daughters of the WETMORE family were among the leading singers in the M.E. Church. Mrs. Lavinia WORDEN, Flora, Saphronia, Emily, and Mrs. Lucia SANFORD. Ellen (now Mrs. A.S. PECK) of Kingsville, O.), the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Raizemon LOOMIS, was the singer of the family, and for a number of years the leading soprano in church and concert work.
Mrs. E. B. BROWN (Asenath WATROUS), Cynthia P. COE, Cornelia A. HALL, Mrs. George ECKERT (Harriet FARNHAM), and Mrs. Norris KING (Julia DORMAN) are lovers of choice plants and beautiful flowers. The latter also has a large collection of rare curiosities. Mrs. Polly COLLINS and daughters, Mrs. Lydia LYNDE, Mrs. Mary HUDSON, and Mrs. Harriet SHAW were natural nurses, and have cared for very many sick people. Mrs. John W. BALDWIN (Maria TROWBRIDGE) always gave willing and efficient aid in sickness. Mrs. John BALDWIN (Esther HAMILTON) was mother of the first child born to the settlers.
Mrs. Martha LOOMIS SHEPHARD lives with her brother, U.B. LOOMIS, within a stone's throw of where her father built his log house in 1821. She well remembers the journey "from the East" and how the children played along by the wayside. She still enjoys life, and scatters sunshine with her cheerful ways.
Mrs. T.B. KING came to this town as Sally WILLIAMS in 1839, and was soon married to her present husband. They celebrated their golden wedding, and have had several years since added. As wife of the church steward, she furnished the communion elements for the Methodist Episcopal Church for many years.
Ruth DAVIS was born in Wales and came to America in 1834, and to Charlestown the following year. She married Richard SODON, and in 1851 was left a widow with two sons dependent on her efforts for support. By diligence and good management she provided home comforts and educated her children, instilling in their young minds true Christian principles. In 1858 Mrs. Sodon married Rev. Owen R. OWENS, who died in 1859. For several years her home has been with her son, A.J. SODON, Pittsburg, Pa., surrounded with comforts, loved and honored by all who have known her true life.
Mrs. Chester NOBLE (Laura PULSIFER) well remembers her fears as the wolves howled around her father's dwelling in the forests of Windham, and has passed through the common experiences of pioneer life. She has been deprived of sight for many years, and looks forward with joy to release from her prison house, into the light of eternal day.
When Mary Ann McCALL, of Nelson, first saw "Orchard Hill" it was a dreary "slashing," and her heart sank within her at thought of making it her home. But she had promised, and soon was settled in a little cabin on the pathless hillside, the bride of Joel D. HALL. Here they established a Christian home, turned the wilderness into fruitful fields, and crowned the hill with their commodious farm buildings. They were very loyal to the church of their choice (Methodist), and she has lived to see all of her five children and five grandchildren members of the same church. She gave a son in her country's need, who died in 1862. In her eighty-second year she retains her facilities, attends church and Sunday school, and has read the Bible through several times since she was seventy-five years old.
The wheel of fortune has not turned more favorable for any woman that ever lived in town than for Sybil, the wife of Jeremiah LOUDEN, the only colored family that ever lived in town permanently. Mr. LOUDIN was a hard-working well-to-do farmer, but did not provide for his family, and his wife worked for the neighbors to get necessities. Peace did not always (if ever) reign in the household, and finally Mrs. LOUDIN took the children and made her home in Ravenna. Some two or three decades afterwards she returned to town (to attend a funeral of a former neighbor) in as much style as any lady in the land, and accompanied by her illustrious son, T.J. LOUDIN of "Jubilee Singers" fame.
There were many notable housewives among the pioneer women, but Mrs. H.P. CURTIS (Orpha CASE) won the reputation of being "the neatest woman in town"; circumstances favored her more than many women in that respect.
The southwest part of town is known as Knapp street, so called from Samuel KNAPP, who settled there with his large family in 1815, when it was an unbroken forest. In the forties and fifties this neighborhood was noted for its large family circles, that have given so much pleasure to their members during the decades that have followed. Most of the mothers in these families have passed away, but their sons and daughters may be found as business men and leading women in many of the towns and cities of Ohio, while some have gone beyond their native State. Very few remain in this town.
Mrs. Norman ROOD (Louisa TIBBITS) the mother of thirteen children, full of old-time energy, still presides at the ROOD homestead, where she commenced her married life. She gives hearty welcome to the good-sized company of children and grandchildren, who often find their way thither.
Mrs. J.M. BEARDSLEY (Lucia ROOD) also abides in the home of her girlhood and although in the eighty-second year of her age, spends her time mainly in reading, and is alive to all matters of interest in the community and country. She is an earnest Methodist and Prohibitionist. Mrs. Junia KNAPP (Martha EDWARDS) was the mother of six sons and six daughters.
A son gives this tribute to her memory: "She was a true and loving wife, a beloved mother, a kind neighbor, and a friend to all."
Mrs. Ezra KNAPP (Lydia WITHERELL) had her romance in her young life, as full of joy and sorrow as many a written story.
Mrs. William ROOD, Jr., (Julia CLARK) rejoiced in eight pretty daughters, and three sons, while her neighbor just across the fields, Mrs. A.T. KING (Sarah ROOD), had eight thrifty boys and one daughter. These two women, with Aunt Lucia BEARDSLEY, were easy talkers, and there was a merry chatter at the afternoon tea parties in Knapp street, in the effort to win the contest of words.
Mrs. George KNAPP (Betsey EDWARDS) was a good neighbor, best known and loved in her own home circle to which she was devoted. The East street was known in early times as "Quill street." In the forties the pioneer mothers on this street were most of them claimed as "aunts" by the whole community. There was Aunt Polly CARRINGTON, whose maiden name was CATLIN, Aunt Lucia AUSTIN, who was a CARRINGTON, Aunt Sophy NEWTON, that was COE, Aunt Sophy PARSONS, who was AUSTIN, Aunt Aurel CURTIS (Aurelia LOOMIS), Aunt Nabby BROWN, who was a WILLIMON, Aunt Achsah WETMORE, who was a RICHARDSON. Besides these there was Mrs. Albert AUSTIN (Emma NEWTON), Mrs. H. KIRTLAND (Almira DENNISON), Mrs. S. GILMAN (Louisa HILL), Mrs. R. WOODRUFF (Wealthy LOOMIS), Mrs. R. LOOMIS (Nancy COLT), Mrs. David BISHOP (Sarah KENNEDY), Mrs. Oliver WILCOX (Eleanor HAMMOND).
These women, like the rest of the early settlers, were from Massachusetts or Connecticut, and each had their excellencies.
The first lady graduates in town were from Quill street - Miss Emily WETMORE from the W.R. Seminary, Farmington, O., and was afterward preceptress in the same institution. She has taught for many years, and now lives in Corunna, Mich. She is much interested and an efficient worker in W.C.T.U. and other philanthropic work.
Miss Chloe LOOMIS was a graduate of the Episcopal Seminary, of Granville, O., and married the Hon. Nelson ROBERTS, of Connecticut. Her present residence is with her sister, Irene, Mrs. Rev. W.H. ROBERTS, Northford, Conn. The northwestern part of town was settled by JAMES families, and has been known as "Jimtown." Mrs. Rosa JAMES WOLCOTT sends the following sketch of her grandmother's journey to the new country:
"Polly JAMES and Irena JAMES, with their husbands and five children, and Eunice VINING, who afterward married Daniel DAWLEY, of Ravenna, came to Charlestown in 1817. The journey was made in November. One of the men drove the ox team, while the other cut the roads which became so bad the women decided to walk. They would carry some of the children ahead, set them down, and go back for the others. When they came to a stream of water, they would take off their shoes and stockings and wade through. Irena JAMES and Eunice VINING walked the entire distance from Buffalo, N.Y., to Ravenna. They averaged about ten miles a day."
A large company of these true, brave women worthy of mention are looking out of the past. The descendants of these pioneer women have reason to be proud of their achievements. The "new woman" of today is the woman of early days, with her energies and abilities directed to new fields to cultivate, because the old fields of pioneer life have been subdued. May they prove worthy daughters of the grand fore-mothers of our country.
Sophia BROWN MORRIS Chairman and Historian Charlestown Committee - Mrs. Leonard THOMPSON, Mrs. Fannie B. HALL, Mrs. Rosa WOLCOTT
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