Ashtabula Co., Ohio
SOURCE: History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Large, Moina W.
Topeka :: Historical Pub. Co.,, 1924, 1132 pgs.
INDIAN TERRITORY - PETER KNAPP AND SOLOMON GRIGGS - OTHER
EARLY SETTLERS - FIRST ELECTION OF OFFICERS - HAIL STORM - DENMARK WOODS -
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
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
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
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
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.