Ashtabula Co., Ohio
SOURCE: History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Large, Moina W.
Topeka :: Historical Pub. Co.,, 1924, 1132 pgs.
ORGANIZATION OF COUNTY AND TOWNSHIPS.
LEGISLATIVE ACT OF 1800 - TRUMBULL COUNTY - ORIGINAL
TOWNSHIPS - OFFICERS - ASHTABULA COUNTY IN 1811 - DIVISION INTO TOWNSHIPS -
HARTSGROVE - EARLY LEGISLATION - FIRST COUNTY OFFICIALS - CENSUS ENUMERATIONS -
COUNTY SEAT - COURT HOUSE..
It was on July 10, 1800, that the
Legislature of the State of Connecticut authorized to return to the United
States government the right of jurisdiction over New Connecticut, and the
Western Reserve was converted, through proclamation of hte Governor and judges
of the Northwestern Territory, into a county which was named Trumbull, in honor
of Jonathan Trumbull, who was then Governor of the State of Connecticut.
Warren was assigned as the county seat, and the first court of jurisdiction over
the newly made county was called to convene in that town on August 25, 1800.
During this session the court appointed a committee
whose duty it was to divide the county of Trumbull into townships, and to make a
report to the court at an early date, describing the boundary lines of each
subdivision thus made. The original Trumbull County was therefore divided
into eight townships that were named Youngstown, Warren, Vernon, Richfield,
Painesville, Middlefield, Hudson and Cleveland.
This township of Richfield is the one in which the
readers of this work are interested, that division having embraced all of what
is now Ashtabula County, excepting the two southern tiers of townships that now
constitute Windsor, Orwell, Colebrook, Wayne, Williamsfield, Hartsgrove, Rome,
New Lyme, Cherry Valley and Andover were included in the township laid out as
Vernon, while Windsor, Orwell, Hartsgrove and Rome were in Middlefield.
The present towns of Madison and Thompson, now in Lake County, were also
included in the original Richfield.
At the May term of court, 1801, the original eight
townships were formed into election districts, called the "Northern" and the
"Southern" districts. Middlefield, Richfield, Painesville and Cleveland
constituted the "Northern" district, and the home of one Simon Perkins,
at the intersection of the Young's road and the Lake Road (now Concord,
in Lake County), was designated as the place of holding the elections.
Youngstown, Hudson, Warren and Vernon, the "Southern" district, did their voting
at the home of Ephraim Quimby, in Warren.
So far as can be ascertained from available
history, Noah Cowles and Nathan King were the first trustees of
Richfield, Aaron Wheeler was justice of the peace, and John Harper
and Miles Case were constables.
In 1804 the county of Geauga was formed, and its
territory embraced the greater portion of the present limits of Ashtabula
County. However, this county came into its own three years later, being
organized in 1811.
Richfield Township was left intact until 1804, when
Divisions Nos. 12, 13 and 14 were set aside as the town of Salem, which is now
The next subdivision of Richfield was made in 1807, by
setting out that territory now embracing Geneva, Harpersfield, Trumbull and
Hartsgrove and calling it Harpersfield Township.
The following year further disintegration of Richfield
was accomplished by assigning the territory now Kingsville, Sheffield, Ashtabula
and Plymouth as Ashtabula, and forming Jefferson out of what ultimately became
Jefferson, Denmark, Pierpont, Lenox, Dorset and Richmond.
In 1810 Kingsville was taken from Ashtabula and
organized, Sheffield being included in that separation.
When Ashtabula County was organized, on January 22,
1811, its confines embraced six organized townships, namely: Salem,
including Nos. 12, 13, and 14 of the first range; Ashtabula, including No. 12
and 13 of the third range; Kingsville, including Nos. 12 and 13 of the second
range; Jefferson, including Nos. 10 and 11 of the first, second and third
ranges, and Richfield, which took in the remaining territory of the county,
excepting Nos. 8 and 9 of the five ranges.
In 1806 Williamsfield, Wayne and Colebrook were
included in a township called Green, which embraced other territory to be
considerable extent in Trumbull County.
Wayne Township was organized in 1811, and included in
it were the present townships of Wayne, Williamsfield, Colebrook, Andover,
Cherry Valley and New Lyme.
Windsor Township was also organized in July of that
year, and its territory included Orwell, which was then known as Leffingwell.
In 1812 Austinburg, including what is now Saybrook, was
That section now embracing New Lyme and Colebrook was
set aside as Lebanon, in 1813, which name it bore until 1825, when it became New
In 1813, also, Denmark was taken away from Jefferson's
authority and organized with boundaries which included Pierpont, Richmond and
Dorset. Pierpont and Richmond were taken away five years later and named
Saybrook was detached from Austinburg in 1816, and was
known as Wrightsburg until 1827.
The year 1816 also saw Harpersfield territory dissected
and Geneva was the result.
The township of Salem was reduced in territory in 1818,
by cutting off what is now Monroe.
In 1819 Wayne gave up Andover and Cherry Valley, the
two being combined as Andover.
In the same year Morgan was taken from Richfield, and
Lenox was detached from Jefferson.
Sheffield was organized in 1820 from the southern
section of Kingsville.
Leffingwell (Orwell) was attached to Richfield in 1823,
and the two were known as Richfield until 1826, when Orwell was organized into a
township by itself.
The township of Trumbull was detached from Harpersfield
in 1825, and embraced what is now Hartsgrove.
Cherry Valley broke away from Andover in 1827, and
Richmond from Pierpont during the following year.
All that was left of the original Richfield Township
was taken away in 1828, when, upon petition by residents, the name of Rome was
Hartsgrove came into its own in 1830, and the finish to
more than a quarter of a century of "cut-and-dry" methods of settlement,
organization and reorganization, was reached in 1838, when the major part of No.
12 of the third range was taken from Ashtabula and named Plymouth. The
organization of Plymouth was effected on Independence Day of that year, and thus
closed the final chapter of the history of Richfield's division into the
twenty-eight townships that now compose the county of Ashtabula.
This section was embraced in what was known also as New
Connecticut, and there was no civil government organized therein until the year
1800. This free condition was because of the fact that the State of
Connecticut and the Connecticut Land Company had refused to give Congress the
right to formulate laws to govern the inhabitants of the Western Reserve.
The pioneer settlers of this county were, therefore,
without civil laws and were entirely independent of any sort of government other
than the dictates of their good old New England consciences. This
condition could not possibly obtain at the present time in even teh most remote
points of this great country, but it was not abused by those sturdy sons of
toil, as they had not come for selfish aims, alone, and they had proper respect
for the rights of others. If, at times, some one did digress from this
tranquil condition of existence, and committed some act that was not in accord
with the customary way of living, the others disposed of his case as seemed most
appropriate, and, it is said, always prescribed and administered an effectual
From the time that Moses Cleaveland and his
party landed on the south shore of Lake Erie, in Conneaut, there was a lapse of
15 years before affairs so shaped themselves that Ashtabula County could be
organized. On January 22, 1811, the State Legislature passed the following
"Be it enacted, etc., that the county of Ashtabula be,
and the same hereby is organized into a separate county, and that the townships
numbered eight, in Trumbull County, shall be attached to and become a part of
said county of Ashtabula."
Section 8052 states:
"That on the first Monday of May, next, the legal
voters residing in the county of Ashtabula shall assemble in their respective
townships, at the usual places of holding elections in said townships, and elect
their several county officers, who shall hold their offices until the next
annual election. This act to take effect and be in force from and after
the first day of May next."
The description of the county as given provided:
"That all of Geauga and Trumbull Counties which lies
north of the townships numbered seven, and east of the sixth range of townships
(all in the Connecticut Western Reserve), shall be a distinct and separate
county by the name of Ashtabula."
The first men who served the new county as officers,
and their respective positions, follow: Presiding judge, Benjamin
Ruggles associate judges, Aaron Wheeler, Ebenezer Hewins and
Solomon Griswold; treasurer, David Hendry; recorder, James Harper;
county clerk, Timothy R. Hawley; sheriff, Nathan Strong.
In accordance with the State Constitution, the
above judiciary was established, and the first term of court was called to be
held in Jefferson, on June 20, 1811. Following were the first grand jurors
selected: Noah Cowles, Peleg Sweet, Stephen Brown, Jesse D. Hawley,
William Perrin, Walter Fobes, Ebenezer K. Lampson, Sterling Mills, Michael
Webster, Gideon Leet, Joshua Rockwell, Eliphalet Austin, James A. Harper, Moses
Wright and David Hendry. Eliphalet Austin was appointed by the
court as foreman of this first grand jury. The jury was duly sworn and
charged by the court.
The first suit on record was "State of Ohio vs.
Orrison Cleveland", for assault and battery. The court ordered the
There was, in the beginning of the judicial activities
of the county, no petit jury. Peter Hitchcock was the first
prosecuting attorney pro tem, and Ezra Kellogg was the first regular
prosecutor. The first county surveyor appointed was Timothy R. Hawley.
The first judge was J. Addison Giddings.
The first election of county commissioners, as held
in Ashtabula, Austinburg, Jefferson and Harpersfield, was declared illegal by
the common pleas judge, who ruled out the returns from those townships, and that
the votes of the remaining townships should be added together and that the
candidates found to have the plurality of votes should be declared elected.
This ruling, apparently, did not meet with popular favor. It is recorded
that James Harper was the only one of those thus declared elected who did
not decline to serve. Upon refusal of the others, the court appointed
Nathan Strong and Titus Hayes to serve until the next regular
At the next term of court the three commissioners
presented their expense bills, which, in comparison with the expense of the like
body of today, is interesting. James Harper's expense was $31.50,
Nathan Strong spent $28, and Titus Hayes' activities in the
interest of the county had cost him but $13.10.
The records whom that the first case brought before the
judge by the grand jury involved Isaac Cook and Amos Fisk, who
were up for fighting. It is recorded that both were fined.
From the arrival of the first settlers, Ashtabula
County was destined to experience a healthy growth, indefinitely. In the
early days the reports going back East from those who had braved dangers and
suffered the privations attendant upon the breaking into a wilderness were all
favorable and resulted in bringing many who contemplated casting their lots in
the new West to this immediate section, rather than to some other of which they
knew nothing. The records show that but very few of the early emigrants to
this section were dissatisfied with what they found and as a consequence moved
on. The succeeding generations also, as a rule, remained hereabouts, and
as the decades passed by the newcomers and the natural increase of local
population caused the number of inhabitants to increase each year. For the
sake of comparisons, we give figures on population as shown by the census
enumerations of 1840, 1850 and 1920;
|City or Town.
|Morgan (Rock Creek)
| (Rock Creek Station)
| Total county
The above figures for the years 1840
and 1850 are taken from a report published in the Ashtabula Sentinel, and the
figures for 1920 from the National Map Company's compilation of the Fourteenth
Federal Census. The individual figures shown under 1920 must embrace the
corporations or village only, as the total for the county is given the Federal
Census as 65,545, in 1920, while the figures quoted above show but 44,798.
However, the figures shown present matter for
interesting comparison. In the first decade represented in the figures,
Conneaut was larger than Ashtabula, but during that 10 year period the former
town gained but 44 inhabitants, while the latter added 466. The next
three-score-and-ten years show Ashtabula far ahead. Austinburg, one of the
early-year leading villages, showed a healthy gain between the first two
periods, but in the latter had dropped off 25 per cent. Harpersfield, that
started out so bravely and auspiciously, could not seem to hold her people, her
population gradually decreasing until, in the last census, the town was not
[PICTURE OF HARBOR HIGH SCHOOL BUILDING, ASHTABULA, OHIO]
[PICTURE OF HIGH SCHOOL BUILDING, ASHTABULA, OHIO]
mention. A half dozen others of the towns of the county
failed to get into the reference list at hand. In the general summary it
is seen that the county has increased its population about threefold in the past
four score of years, but he greatest part of the increase has been within the
last fifty cycles.
For some time prior to 1850 there was agitation among
certain residents of the south part of the county, together with those from over
the line to the south and west, relative to the proposition that the southern
portion of Ashtabula County be split up and detached from the parent
commonwealth. That there was political influence in the project was
apparent. Several proposals were made, seeking to dismember old Ashtabula.
One was that the two most southern rows of townships in this county be attached
to the five townships on the north line of Trumbull County and set out as
a separate county to be called "Hartford", the official seat of which should be
Colebrook. This would have lost to the original family the towns of
Hartsgrove, Rome, New Lyme, Cherry Valley, Andover, Windsor, Orwell, Colebrook,
Wayne and Williamsfield. Another scheme was to attach Windsor and
Hartsgrove to Geauga County, add Richmond and Dorset to the other eight of the
southern rows and combine them with the same five from Trumbull, and have the
county seat at Wayne.
The scheme did not, however, reach the point of real
action till the court house at Jefferson burned, on August 17, 1850. That
misfortune seemed to revive the agitation in regard to the dismemberment of the
county, and some of the projectors lost no time in getting to the county
commissioners with a request that that body take no steps looking to the
rebuilding of the court house until it should be determined whether or not they
could hope to accomplish the designs on the southern section. For years
prior to this time Ashtabula had nourished a hope that the county seat would be
moved to her bailiwick some day, and the destruction of the court house seemed
to furnish the opportune time for action looking to that end. The
situation in the southern section of the county was encouraging to those who
sought to have Ashtabula village benefit by Jefferson's misfortune, and they,
too, got busy with the commissioners. The plans of both interests that
were seeking a change, however, were doomed to disappointment, for before the
day of the fire had passed the county commissioners held a meeting, called in
contractors and arrived at an estimate of what it would cost to rebuild the
court house on its old site. They reached an estimate figure of $9,000.
The building was insured for $8,000, and with that and money they had as surplus
in the county fund, they saw how they could go ahead and replace the old
building with a new and better one and not occasion a dollar of extra cost on
the county. Before the disturbing elements had gathered their forces for a
final call for a showdown the contract was let for rebuilding and the
controversy was settled.
What particular interests were to be served by the
hoped-for dismemberment of the county did not appear, but it was evident that it
was attempted for individual aggrandizement of some nature, for Andover, Dorset
and other townships involved by the scheme held public meetings and passed
resolutions against the proposed action. Old Ashtabula County,
seventy-five years later, still holds her undivided territory and Jefferson
still has the court house, but Ashtabula's hope to some time be the county seat
is not dead.