History of
Ashtabula Co., Ohio

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



     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 the section.
     "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 Western Reserve.
     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, in Windsor.
     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 town.
     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 taboo.

     First Hotel - 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. Holyoke.
     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.

     Eagleville - (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 others.
     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.

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