CONNEAUT, OHIO HISTORY & GENEALOGY

History of
Ashtabula Co., Ohio

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

Denmark Township

CHAPTER XIX.

INDIAN TERRITORY - PETER KNAPP AND SOLOMON GRIGGS - OTHER EARLY SETTLERS - FIRST ELECTION OF OFFICERS - HAIL STORM - DENMARK WOODS - MODEST VILLAGE.

     The township of Denmark, bounded no the north by Sheffield, on the east by Pierpont, south by Dorset and west by Jefferson, was once the property of one Caleb Atwater, of Wallingford, Conn., to whose lot it fell in the Connecticut Land Company's drawing that has been mentioned elsewhere.  The allotment comprised 15,400 acres, which he soon afterward divided between his children, but none of them ever cared to take up a residence in the wild and almost trackless country it covered.  The land eventually changed to other hands and the Atwater  interests ceased.
     At the time of the drawing, 1798, this particular section was inhabited by Indians, to whom it afforded splendid hunting.  They continued to occupy it until the breaking out of the War of 1812, when they suddenly withdrew to other parts and never returned, excepting for brief hunting sojourns after the war was over.  In a few years they disappeared entirely.
     The earliest settler of whom there was record was Peter Knapp, who chose a spot beside a pretty brook, whereon he built a cabin, and the stream became known in after years as Peter Creek.
    
On another stream in the northwestern section of the township, Solomon Griggs built himself a home, after the fashion of the cabins of that period, and Griggs Creek became its name.
     Peter Creek was later populated by the addition of Ebenezer Williams a chairmaker by trade, who erected a chair factory on the bank, in 1834.
     Before any one settled in the township of Denmark, it was penetrated by a road that was blazed from Jefferson to Sorrel Hill, over the Pennsylvania state line.  This thoroughfare was frequently traversed by persons traveling westward or returning toward the east, but Denmark did not seem to appeal to them as a place to settle in.
     It was in 1809 that Peter Knapp and his family came that way and decided to cast their lot in that unbroken (excepting for the blazed road) wilderness.  They threw up a temporary abiding place by fashioning a framework over which they drew the canvas cover from their wagon for a roof.  They used tree bark for a floor, and, it being in midsummer, sided their domicile with heavily foliaged boughs from trees, which afforded them ample shelter until the men of the family had builded a log house.
     In 1811 Mrs. Knapp gave birth to a girl baby, the first white child born in the township.
     Following the settlement of the first family a few months.  Daniel Knapp and John Dibble, Jr., came from the East and settled nearby the home of those who had preceded them.  John Dibble, Sr., and John Boomhower, who had first settled in Austinburg, soon joined the Denmark colony, and not long afterward the community was further enlarged by the addition of Philip Goff, Ezra Dibble, Ebenezer Platt, Alanson Williams, William Crooker.  The last named seemed to look farther ahead than the others, for not long after he had become a permanent resident, he proceeded to erect the first tavern in Denmark.  He also built the first saw and grist mills in the township.  These mills were located on Ashtabula Creek, where a bend of that stream just breaks over the line into Denmark Township, in the very southeasterly corner.  The mills and the tavern were on the original blazed road mentioned above.
     In 1828 Philip Goff built a saw mill on Mills Creek.  The bank of Peter Creek boasted the first schoolhouse, in which the first teacher was Obed Dibble.  That was in the winter of 1812-13, and there were a score of pupils in attendance that first term.  The schoolhouse was on the Dibble property, and Obed lived at home.  IT is said he received the munificent salary of $7 per month.  Miss Patience Baldwin  succeeded young Dibble in the summer, there being more urgent work for him to perform during the months when crops demanded attention.
     In 1812, at about the same time, William Morrison and Miss Chloe Goff were married, and Miss Nancy Huntley became the bride of Elihu Knapp.  These were the first marriages among the Denmark residents.  In after years Mr. and Mrs. Knapp's son, Harvey, became a missionary and was sent by his society to India.  There, after a time, his health failed and he decided to return to the parental roof, but he grew rapidly worse and died on shipboard and was buried at sea.
     A Dr. Willis was the first physician to undertake to care for the ailments of the Denmark community and their surrounding neighbors.  He settled there in 1830, but remained only a few years.  He said the folks thereabouts were too healthy.
     On Daniel Knapp's farm the first cemetery was located, and the first body deposited therein was that of the youngest daughter of the Knapp family.  Elder Joshua Woodworth, of Jefferson, officiated at the funeral and his sermon on that occasion was the first ever preached in the township.
     In 1832 a frame building was put up which served as church, schoolhouse, town hall and general assembling place for all public meetings.  The church services were those of the Baptist denomination, which had been organized for 20 years, but had never had a regular pastor, and had been holding its meetings in the homes of the members.  After the opening of this public place for worship, itinerant ministers who happened to travel that way, or regularly employed pastors of churches not far removed, where engaged to preach, and the gatherings soon became of a rather undenominational nature.
     John Dibble held the distinction of being the first United States government employee in Denmark, he having been appointed the first post-master of the town.
     Ezra Dibble was the first justice of the peace appointed for the township, his jurisdiction including also that territory which later became Dorset, Richmond and Pierpont.  The formal organization of the township of Denmark, which then included the other towns above named, was effected on Aug. 3, 1813.
     The first state and county election was held in Denmark on Oct. 8, 1816, when Levi Gaylord received eight votes, as a candidate for commissioner, and six votes were given Peter Hitchcock for member of Congress. 
     The first real misfortune that befell the pioneers of this township was due to an unseasonable hail storm in June, 1812.  A great amount of cleared acreage had been sown to wheat the previous fall, and the people were secure in the prospect for an abundant harvest for the next winter, in fact were dependent upon it for their breadstuff.  The grain was growing splendidly when the storm came along and riddled every field and laid it low and the crop was a total failure.
     The Williams Brothers History credits the following incident of early days to "the oldest inhabitant.":
     "Late in the fall following their arrival in Denmark, Peter Knapp and his son Nicholas, were out in the woods prospecting for coon.  The elder Knapp carried an ax, while the juvenile was entirely unarmed.  They had become somewhat separated, when Nick espied a young bear, and immediately gave chase.  Bruin, seeing his chances of escape growing woefully uncertain, attempted to climb a tree, and had succeeded in getting up nearly out of reach, when the boy seized him by the hair on the hips, and that bear came down.  Once on terra firma, his desire to turn around and masticate the youthful Nicholas seem unbounded.  At each effort in that direction, however, the boy pulled the other way, at the same time shouting lustily for his father, who, hearing the disturbance, soon appeared and closed the scene by a well directed blow with the ax."
     There were many wild animals, including bear, deer, and wolves, and as if such beasts were not enough to cope with, the lowlands were infested with rattlesnakes, which were a constant silent menace to pedestrians and horses.  The locality afforded splendid hunting, and for many years the "Denmark Woods" were known all through this section.
     The hand of progress did not smile on Denmark, as its location was not such, geographically, as to place it in the path of any largely traveled highway or a railroad; being thus deprived, there was never anything to give it commercial interest, and, while it developed a splendid farming section, it has not to this day acquired more than a modest village status.

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