Ashtabula Co., Ohio
SOURCE: History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Large, Moina W.
Topeka :: Historical Pub. Co.,, 1924, 1132 pgs.
TORRINGTON LAND COMPANY - JUDGE ELIPHALET AUSTIN - TOWN OF
AUSTINBURG - FIRST CHURCH IN RESERVE - FIRST HOTEL - FIRST WOMAN - THE INDIANS
FAREWELL - GRAND RIVER INSTITUTE - EAGLEVILLE.
In the lottery apportionment, mentioned
elsewhere, Eliphalet Austin, William Battell, Samuel Rockwell and
Ephraim Robbins became the joint owners of Township No. 11, Range 4,
embracing the acres later named Austinburg, to perpetuate the memory of the
first named owner. The holdings of these four men represented an
investment of $12,893.15, and their ownership included 15,645 acres.
This was all forest land, with a beautiful river skirting it, which promised
wonderful facilities for transportation and power for a community, as this river
entered Lake Erie, a few miles away. The owners of this land were still
back in Connecticut and, after the drawing had been completed, they and the men
of the company who had drawn land immediately adjacent to that held by Austin
and his partners held a conference and decided that they would proceed at once
to clear and develop their property and make it attractive, in hope of an early
colonization. They formed the Torrington Land Company, and immediately set
preparations afoot for organizing an initial party, to include some of the
owners and others, to set out for the new country, and learn what successes or
failures it might hold for them.
The early history of Austinburg is very aptly related
by the Rev. S. D. Peet, at one time an Ashtabula minister, who prepared
it for the historical work published in 1878 by Williams Brothers.
Taking up the thread of the story at this point, he writes:
"After the purchase, and this singular allotment of the
land, the Torrington Land Company resolved to immediately attempt the
colonization of their purchase. This first resolution, however, fell short
of its purpose. The enterprise was committed to Colonel Blakeslee,
as the leader, and preparations were made to set out at once for the region.
It is said that Colonel Blakeslee went so far as to deed his property and
receive a title to land in Austinburg in exchange, together with a grant of 70
acres on Grand River (the one skirting the property), including a mill site.
It will be discovered from the records of the surveying party that the township
now called Austinburg was designated in the field notes as 'Blakeslee'.
The undertaking was abandoned, however, as a prospect of a war with the French
and some fear of Indian disturbances discouraged the party and broke down the
enterprise. Colonel Blakeslee therefore abandoned the property and
afterwards took a commission in the army, which had been called by order of
President Adams, and served until the adjustment of difficulties, in 1801.
"About the same time a singular incident befell one of
the members of the company, which resulted in a way least expected, but which
proved almost providential, at least a blessing in disguise. Judge
Austin, the leading spirit of the company, was bitten by a mad dog, and
symptoms of hydrophobia developed, nearly baffling the skill of the best
physicians. He was advised to leave his home and divert his thoughts from
his condition by traveling in other parts. This resulted in his resolution
to make a tour to his wild lands in the West.
"Accordingly, in the spring of 1799, Judge Austin,
accompanied by Rosswell Stevens and his bride, and three young men,
David Allen, Anson Colt and Samuel Fobes, all of whom he had hired
for the purpose; and George Beckwith, his wife and two children, set out
with farming tools and a team on the long journey.
"All traveled together until they reached Schenectaddy.
There he put the married men and their wives and children abroad a couple of
small boats, and the three single men and himself proceeded by land. The
land party having arrived in the vicinity, Judge Austin proceeded at once
to Harpersfield, to the home of Alexander Harper, and thence to the
landing hoping to find the boat. Not meeting the party there, he returned
to the Harper home and went to bed.
"During the night the household was aroused by the
voice of a messenger, who had come to tell them of the safe arrival of the boat
party, and next day the goods and provisions were transported to Austinburg on
sleds. Cabins were soon erected. These were constructed from unhewn,
rough logs, with bark roofs held in place by poles lying crosswise from end to
end of the cabins. The cabin occupied by Judge Austin stood on the
spot now (1876) occupied by Irving Knapp's brick building.
George Beckwith's cabin stood near where is now Grand River Institute.
"As soon as Judge Austin and his company had
settled in their new homes, they began the work of leveling the forest and
clearing the land for the first crop of wheat. He spent the following
summer visiting other holdings in that vicinity and their tenants, and in the
fall he returned to his Eastern home.
"The names of Deacon Noah Cowles, Capt. Joseph Case
and his son, afterward Deacon James M. Case; Adna, Solomon and Joseph
B. Cowles; Roger Nettleton, Dr. Orestes K. Hawley, John Wright, Jr., Jonah
Moses, Daniel C. Phelps, Isaac Butterfield, Ephraim Rice, Calvin Stone, David
Allen and Sterling Mills, together with Judge Eliphalet Austin
and his family, were members of the colony which, under the leadership of
Judge Austin, started in the spring of 1800, from Connecticut, and
eventually joined the others in Austinburg.
"Judge Austin transported from the East, on this
trip, the first stock of goods taken into Austinburg, consisting of grocers,
clothing, boots and shoes, hardware and various implements which would be
necessities in the work he knew to be before his party.
"The first crop of wheat gleaned in 1800 was taken by
Judge Austin to Newburg to be ground, that town boasting the only mill in
"That fall several of the men of the colony returned to
their Eastern homes to get their families and belongings.
"These first settlers were devout Christians, and from
the time of their arrival they observed their devotions as circumstances would
permit. For some time they assembled regularly at the home of Judge
Austin, for divine township. These meetings soon became known to
settlers far around and many came in each Sunday to share in the devotions.
When the attendance had become too large for the Austin home to
accommodate, they repaired to the large barn, where meetings were held for a
long time. The home of Deacon Mills, who resided in another section
of the township, was also the place for holding devotional meetings."
Following farther the relation of Rev. Pett, we
learn that, according to his statement, the first sermon ever heard in the
Western Reserve was delivered by teh Rev. Joseph Badger, of Blanford,
Mass., who had been sent into the new country by the Connecticut Missionary
Society as the pioneer missionary and general evangelist. His first sermon
was delivered in Austinburg, on October 19, 1801. On Thursday, Oct. 24,
1801, according to Rev. Badger's journal made at that time, "ten males
and six females" assembled and instituted the first church organization in the
The town of Austinburg was located on a girdled and
partly cleared in 1798. As immigration from the East continued and family
after family settled in other small colonies, a few miles removed in all
directions, it soon became necessary to establish means of communication with
these settlements, and to that end other roads were laid out.
In the winter of 1800 the men of the Austin
party cut a road from Austinburg to the Ashtabula Creek. This road
intersected the original girdled road at Austinburg, and in following years was
gradually extended through Morgan, New Lyme, across a corner of Colebrook, to
Wayne, and on through Gustavus, to Kinsmana and Poland. This came to be
known as the "Salt road". Other direct roads were subsequently made to
Harpersfield and Jefferson.
A story of early utility of the Grand River is related.
Finding river transportation much easier than land, the early residents along
that stream made "dugouts" from large logs and used them as cargo craft, loading
them with salt, lime, household goods, groceries and other commodities, and
transporting same from Gregory's Mills, in Harpersfield, to Griswold's Landing,
Grand River, which meant so much to the early and later
history of Austinburg, rises in Trumbull County and crosses Ashtabula County
near its western border, emptying into Lake Erie at Fairport. On this
stream, in the township of Austinburg, the first sawmill in the county was
erected in 1801, by Judge Austin. Close to it was also built the
first grist mill in the county, by Ambrose Humphrey Previous to the
erection of this grist mill, a crude device had been used by those who did not
have the means or opportunity to transport their grain to the nearest mill, at
Newburg. A horse-power mill of crude construction, having a single buhr
and making a very coarse grist, constituted the slow and tedious process by
which flour was obtained. The man who had a grist to put through would
carry the same on his horse to this makeshift mill, and, attaching his horse to
the sweep, would do his own milling.
The decision of the Rev. Badger to make
Austinburg his future home constituted quite an acquisition to the social life
of the colony, as he had a large family. They settled in the south part of
The result of the first real revival in Ashtabula
County, which was held in Austinburg in 1804, was the bringing into the church
of 41 new members, and teh Lord's Supper was administered to 62 persons.
There was not yet any preacher for the church. Rev. Badger supplied
the pulpit when he was at home, but much of this time was spent elsewhere in
pursuit of his missionary calling.
First Church in
Reserve - This organization effected on Oct. 24, 1801, constituted
the first church society on the Western Reserve of Connecticut. It was a
dozen years after the organization before their regular meeting house was built.
It was started in 1812 and finished several years later. Money for its
construction was raised on subscription, up to the steeple, which crowning glory
was paid for by the women of the congregation. It was the first building
at the raising of which the use of whisky as an essential part of the ceremonies
was dispensed with. The women decided it was not fitting to the occasion,
but they furnished a substitute in way of home-brewed beer, flavored with
sassafras and other herbs.
The need for a minister was supplied in a most unusual
manner. Judge Austin's wife, one of the staunch members of the
society, decided that they must have a pastor, and, as the men were all busy,
she started out on horseback, alone, for Connecticut, where she succeeded in
engaging a preacher, the Rev. Giles H. Cowles, and returned with him a
few weeks later in Austinburg. He was duly installed as the first regular
pastor of the Austinburg church and also for the church at Morgan. The
installation ceremonies took place in Deacon Mill's barn.
The Sabbath of the early settlers began with sunset on
Saturday evening and ended with the setting sun on Sunday evening. During
that interval no work of any nature was tolerated, and "sparking" was even
- In 1850 Capt. L. B. Austin erected the first "public house" in
Austinburg, and, in honor of this progressive step, the citizens called a
meeting, which was held in the new tavern, at which they had a big celebration
and incidentally passed resolutions thanking Mr. Austin for his public
spirit and progressiveness.
The First Woman
- The first woman in Austinburg is said to have been Mrs. Sterling Mills,
who, accompanied by her husband and with a baby in arms, spent a night without
cover excepting the dense forest trees en route to the "Austin Camp".
The Indians' Farewell
- For a number of years after the white settlers began making their homes
in Austinburg, the Chippewa Indians continued to make annual spring visitation
to that township, for the purpose of making their year's supply of maple sugar.
The white residents became quite familiar with the Indians' language and manners
and there was no disturbing element in their coming, as the Redmen were always
well behaved and peaceable. On one of these spring pilgrimages of the
Redskins, the whites noted with considerable interest and wonderment that the
number of visitors was much greater than usual, and upon inquiry learned that
this was to be the last coming of these old lords of the forest. When they
had completed the object of their visit, they sent several of their number to
the "Beaver Meadows" (the big marsh, which is the subject of another article
herein) in quest of beavers, and they invited the settlers to join them in the
farewell feast, at which beaver meat was the crowning dish, and over which
Chief Omich pronounced the valedictory of his race to the newcomers.
Grand River Institute.
- One of the permanent and worthy establishments of Ashtabula County is the
Grand River Institute, in Austinburg, which was founded in 1831 and still
continues a prosperous institution. From a historical sketch written by
the hon. Granville W. Mooney and Edwin F. Moulton in 1912, and
loaned the editor by Prof. E. W. Hamblin, the present principal,
who has served in that capacity since 1908, the following history of the
institution is obtained.
The charter for the school that is now Grand River
Institute was granted by act of the Legislature on Washington's birthday, 1831,
to the Ashtabula County School of Science and Industry, its purpose being stated
as for the "founding of a manual labor school to educate pious and worthy young
men for the gospel ministry". The incorporators were the Rev. Giles H.
Cowles, Jarius Guild, Dr. Orestes K. Hawley, the Rev. Eliphalet
Austin, Moses Wilcox, Ward Childs, Joab Austin and Gaius W. St. John.
It is claimed that this school is the oldest educational foundation on the
Western Reserve and among the oldest schools in the State of Ohio.
Immediately after the founding of the institution,
Dr. Hawley endowed the school with his property at Mechanicsville, which was
a valuable one for those days. It embraced a woolen mill, a grist mill and
a linseed oil mill and some land.
The first building for the institution of learning was
erected on this land, near the bank of the river, and it is still in existence,
being now used as the boy's dormitory. Lucius M. Austin was then
teaching a select school in the cooper shop, and he was made the first principal
in the manual labor school.
By 1836 this school on the bank of Grand River had
attained to one of considerable importance and was attracting students from
beyond the borders of the state. During the year 1835 Joab Austin
offered to substantially increase the endowment, on condition that the school be
moved to its present site and the name changed to Grand River Institute.
This proposition was accepted, and the moving of the building was one of the
interesting incidents in the history of the school. The building is a
two-story structure, 36 by 50 feet, and constructed with the ponderous framework
that was characteristic of that period. It had to be moved about three
miles, the route including one heavy hill.
Moving machinery was entirely wanting in that pioneer
settlement, and it was no small undertaking to construct the necessary trucks
and wheels upon which to convey the structure. After many weeks of
preliminary planning, the building was raised and placed upon its improvised
trucks and the entire populace for miles around was on hand to witness the rare
sight of transporting such a mass to a new location. A hundred yoke of
oxen were attached to the building, by direct draft, and the caravan progressed
finely until the hill was reached, but when the great trucks started up the
grade, the chains snapped under the strain like so much twine and all efforts of
the blacksmiths to repair them successfully proved futile and the project
threatened failure. Finally a sailor, who happened to be in the crowd,
suggested that a towline such as were used on the lake vessels would do the
work. The farmers and crowd generally were skeptical that any rope would
hold a draft that had snapped their chains, but the sailor insisted and an ox
cart was sent to Ashtabula Harbor for a "hawser". The sailor was
vindicated, for the big rope withstood the strain and building followed the
drove of oxen to its present location in Austinburg.
In 1840 it was decided to admit young women students,
and the institute became a "co-ed" school. This was not accomplished,
however, without a great amount of discussion over the wisdom of allowing the
young men's prospects to be endangered by the admission of females on equal
standing. At this time the "higher education" of women and scarcely
reached. At this time the higher education" of women had scarcely reached
its experimental stage, and there was not a co-educational school of any
importance in existence. Mary Lyons had but just founded Mt.
Admission of the young ladies necessitated the erection
of the Ladies' Hall. Grand River Institute thus became one of the pioneer
schools, not only in advocating co-education, but in working out a successful
policy for the administration of such a school, and it is of interests to note
that the first lady in charge of this department was one of Mary Lyons'
first two graduates, Miss Katherine Snow. She was succeeded by
Miss Betsy Cowles, who afterward became so pronounced a leader of the
anti-slavery movement in Ashtabula County.
The school prospered wonderfully during the decade of
1836-46. There were over 200 students, representing 15 different states
and territories. The Ladies' Hall was so crowded that trundle beds were
made to run under the old fashioned high posters, so the capacity of the
dormitory might be increased. It was certainly not the luxurious
surroundings to be found at this school that attracted the students, for, as
late as 1846, a catalog announces that "rooms for men are furnished with a
bedstead, and for those young ladies have a table and chair in addition".
Some of the earliest publications of the school
contained descriptions of the best ox cart routes to take for those living
within a hundred miles of the institution. Those coming from greater
distances were advised to come by the Great Lakes, as they could most
conveniently reach the school by way of the 11 mile rout from Ashtabula Harbor.
Among the early laws of the school were found curious
requirements, among which are said to have been: "The stove and the
bedstead belong to the school. Students are not expected to remove them
when the depart." "Coals or fire are not to be carried through the halls,
or from one building to another, except in vessels designated for that purpose."
The Ladies' Hall that was erected in 1840 was burned in
1857, but was immediately rebuilt.
The next occurrence which seriously influenced the work
was the outbreak of the Civil War. The abolition sentiment had always been
strong in both school and community and Austinburg had been for many years
one of the most important stations on the "Underground Railroad".
Joshua R. Giddings and Benjamin F. Wade were both at hand to arouse
the sentiment of patriotism to it highest pitch. Many were the runaway
Negroes who found their way to liberty through the connivance of the
large-hearted but exceedingly shrewd Yankees of Austinburg. A son of
John Brown was a student in this institution at the time of his father's
famous and disastrous raid at Harper's Ferry. It hardly needed the
stirring eloquence of James Monroe, Stephen Foster, Parker Pillsbury,
Abbey Kelley and William Lloyd Garrison to create an intense interest
in the impending struggle, yet these and other famous abolitionists came here
and came to find a community, church and school united in its conviction of
right; a pulpit that dare preach it, and a community that dared make its
convictions effective, and wholly able to take care of itself in the act.
When the call came, the young men of the institute enlisted almost in a body.
Grand River Institute had not recovered from that
depletion up to 1868, when Jacob Tuckerman, a rising young educator, was called
to the principalship. Under his management, however, the school again grew
rapidly in numbers and influence. Prof. Granville W. Mooney was principal
from 1897 to 1904.
In later years Grand River Institute has kept pace with
the constantly enlarging curriculums and become a high grade, college fitting
school. The present principal, Earl W. Hamblin, has been at the
head of the school since 1908, and his good wife has been preceptress during
this time. They have more than made good in their positions. Dr.
Moulton, who as been intimately acquainted with the conduct of G. R. I. for
more than a half century, says: "Mr. and Mrs. Hamblin were both born and
made for the high positions they hold today. If Professor Hamblin
has a superior, it is his wife - and if Mrs. Hamblin has a superior, it
is her husband.
(By Mrs. Laura Peck Dorman.) Eagleville is a settlement
that was many years ago established in the south part of Austinburg Township on
Mills Creek. The colonizing of this particular section was occasioned
because of the exceptional water power afforded by the stream, which, like all
other inland waterways of this county, was much more voluminous when the forests
prevented the rapid evaporation than it is today. The creek was named
after the Mills families, who had settled upon its banks in the early
pioneer days. So far as I am able to learn, the first settlement in this
section of the township was in 1806. Among the earliest settlers were the
families of Maj. Clement Tuttle, and Deacon Constantine Mills,
both of whom were soldiers in the war of the Revolution. They were
great-grandparents of the writer of this sketch.
The Tuttle family came from Connecticut in a
very large wagon, drawn by six yokes of oxen, I have been informed. I
think 14 persons came in this wagon. I have seen a spinning wheel and an
arm chair that were transported to the "New Connecticut" in that wagon. In
that chair, with her first baby in her lap, rode Mrs. Ira Tuttle.
There were also the twin sons of Major Tuttle, Ira and Ara, and
his daughters and others. Of the Mills name, there were two
families, the respective heads of whom were Constantine and Sterling.
The wife of Constantine Mills, who was Philecta Way, was the
daughter of a lady whose maiden name was Hannah Sterling, of the
Sterling Castle family, in Scotland.
Among the early settlers were the families of Deacon
Case, James Stone, Gild, Price, Walcott, Beach, Osborn and Wright,
and a little later came the Hills, Austin and Sellick families.
Coming down to the fifties and the sixties, there were the families of
Howard, Brown, Lee, Peck, Williams, VanWarner, Ensign, Cushman, Smith, and
Eagleville was named because of an eagle that
habitually perched upon a mill. I suppose that this was the first mill,
for this place soon became a thriving town, with numerous industries. I
judge from what has been told me that the most active period of the village was
between 1820 and 1840. There was a grist mill that later expanded into a
regular flouring mill; a saw mill, tanneries, three blacksmith shops, a
three-story cabinet factory, a hattery and other industries; then there were
general stores, a millinery shop and a shoe shop. Students came from some
distance to attend the splendid school of the village. A Disciple Church
was founded at an early date and some of the residents centered their
interests in the big Congregational Church at Austinburg Center, until a church
of that denomination was built at Eagleville. The town also boasted a
large hotel at one time.
It is a matter of no little interest, historically,
that the village of Eagleville at one time came within one vote of putting the
county seat in Austinburg Township, instead of Jefferson. The two towns,
Eagleville and Jefferson, were being considered, and a sharp controversy was
waged as to which should have the honor of being the county's seat of authority
and possess the forthcoming court house. When it came to a settlement of
the question, it was done through a vote of the authorities the matter had been
left, and the vote was tied, leaving the deciding ballot to be cast by the
chairman of the meeting. He, being a resident of Jefferson, cast his vote
in favor of that town.
Interest ran high in Eagleville when the Ashtabula &
New Lisbon Railroad was projected, and matters went so far that grading was
started. But it was abandoned, and farmers' line fences were placed in the
middle of the graded roadbed.
Eagleville has always been a great dairying section,
but the cheese factory that used to take care of the milk has long since given
way to the demand of the city, and all the spare milk is now shipped to
Pittsburgh. I do not know what became of the larger buildings which had
disappeared before my day, but, one after another, the large dwellings and a
large general store have been destroyed by fire; three buildings have been
raised; they were the old hotel, and cheese factory and a large old mercantile
building, and the lumber in them shipped to other places for use in building.
The old families and most of their descendants are gone. Three children of
Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Peck still reside on land once belonging to Ira
Tuttle, in whose family Mrs. Peck was the youngest child. A
great granddaughter lives in a house on the spot where Mr. Tuttle first
settled. The first house was a large log structure, in which the twin
brothers, Ara and Ira, dwelt.
The next neighbor on the north was Col. Roswell
Austin. I can recall him and his wife as very aged people. He
was very eccentric, as was also his son, Henry, who succeeded him in
ownership of the farm. When Henry was a well grown boy his father
sent him one afternoon to drive up the cows. He left the house and
disappeared and was not seen again for years. Exactly seen years to the
day and hour, he was next seen there, driving up the cows from the Mill Creek
flats. His father's only remark, as the boy came up to the house, was:
"Henry, you've been a long time getting those cows." Grandchildren
of Henry Austin still live on land that was once a part of this farm.