History of
Ashtabula Co., Ohio

SOURCE: History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Large, Moina W.
Topeka :: Historical Pub. Co.,, 1924, 1132 pgs.




     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 Conneaut.
     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 organized.
     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 Lyme.
     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 Pierpont.
     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 adopted.
     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 cure.
     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 enactment:
     "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 defendant discharged.
     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 election.
     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. 1840 1850 1920
Ashtabula 1,711 2,177 22,082
Andover 881 963 921
Austinburg 1,046 1,285 300
Colebrook 530 688 1,000
Conneaut 2,650 2,694 9,343
Denmark 176 241 -----
Dorset 173 236 200
Geneva 1,215 1,358 3,081
Harpersfield 1,397 1,278 -----
Hartsgrove 553 650 800
Jefferson 710 1,064 1,532
Kingsville 1,420 1,494 1,198
Lenox 550 731 -----
Monroe 1,324 1,587 200
Morgan (Rock Creek) 643 880 483
     (Rock Creek Station) ----- ----- 200
New Lyme 527 628 400
Orwell 458 825 800
Pierpont 639 999 250
Plymouth 706 753 -----
Richmond 384 706 248
Rome 765 744 610
Saybrook 934 1,374 250
Sheffield 683 845 -----
Trumbull 438 805 -----
Wayne 767 899 -----
Williamsfield 892 682 200
Windsor 876 1,033 700
  _______ _______ _______
       Total county 23,048 27,619 -----

     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 given



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.

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