History of
Ashtabula Co., Ohio

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

Orwell Township



     Township No. 8, in the most southerly tier of the county, was organized under the name of Orwell in 1826, and the original officers were Joseph and Solomon Chandler and Alanson Spaulding, trustees, and Lyman Richards, clerk. This organization was effected nine years after the first white settler, A. R. Paine, had emigrated from Stillwater, N. Y., and established his future home in the southwestern part of the township.
     By the terms of division of the county when the Connecticut Land Company apportioned it among the stockholders, each township was to bring $12,903.23. In the drawing that determined the ownership of the respective township sites, in 1798, the following members came into ownership of Orwell: Moses Cleaveland, William and Joseph Williams, Jabes and Ashael Adams and Joseph Howland. This township was the first one drawn. The ownership soon passed to the hands of Daniel L. Coit and Christopher Leffingwell. The valuation of the land was placed at $5 an acre, which was considered a high price, as other adjoining townships offered just as good land at a lower price. That had the effect of holding back the settlement of that tract for several years. Mr. Leffingwell was the active owner in the platting of the property, which was apportioned into one-mile-square lots, and the name originally given to the township was Leffingwell, which maintained up to the time of the regular organization as Orwell.
     Whether it was the price of the land, the topographical status of the section, the nature of the soil, or some other particular objection, the fact stood that, though a road was early broken through Orwell from north to south, and hundreds of emigrants seeking home sites plodded their labor≠ious way through the township for years before any one decided to settle there. At the time of the organization of the township of Orwell, history relates that there were but eight actual voters residing within its confines. The law stipulated that no township organization could be legally effected wherein there were less than 10 votes. The parties at interest would not let a little technicality like that prevent them from pursuing their purpose, so they are said to have "stuffed the ballot box" by running in two votes of men who were temporarily domiciled in the township while constructing a bridge over Grand River.
     The Paine family constituted a conspicuous figure in the original foundation of the township's population. They were not only the first comers, but Mrs. Paine gave birth to the first white child born in the township. Mr. Paine constructed the first house and the first barn within the boundaries of Orwell.
     Solomon Chandler was the second man to cast his lot in the township, and following him came William Watrous, Eli Andrews, John Babcock, Alonzo Spaulding, who built the first frame house; Ezra Pratt, George A. Howard, Henry L. Rice, Christopher Loveland, John Weed, Solomon Hunter, Thomas Stone, John Bronson and others who figured more or less in the early activities toward the settlement of Orwell, and in its later growth and progress.
     In 1820 the Rev. Giles H. Cowles preached the first regular sermon to an Orwell congregation, the meeting being held at the home of Alanson Spaulding. Two years later an organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church was effected, but it was not until 1845 that the church had sufficient funds to undertake the erection of a building of its own, and it took five years to complete it.
     In 1831 residents of Orwell and Colebrook combined in the formation of a church society, from which the Orwell contingent withdrew in 1837, forming a church of the Congregational denomination of their own. They built a church in 1841.
     The Baptist Church was organized in 1837, after having held regular denominational meetings for five years.
     With a class of a dozen pupils, Miss Lydia C. Walcott taught the first school in Orwell, in 1822. In 1851 Orwell Academy erected a large build≠ing, and became a very popular educational establishment. The first board of officers consisted of Jason Waters, A. Bingham and C. A. Pratt, with Jacob Tuckerman as secretary, and Rufus Barnard treasurer. Prof. Tuckerman was also the principal and for many years was one of the leading educational men of this section of the state. His work in other leading schools of the county is mentioned elsewhere. As many as 150 students were included in the attendance on some years, and they came from far reaches.
     The road laid out from Austinburg straight southward, through to Trumbull County, intersected Orwell Township through the center, and was its first regular road. This was an authorized state road and was turnpiked through Orwell in 1819, giving residents a splendid outlet to the north or south, but it was hard traveling in any other direction, until the putting through of a road from the Pennsylvania state line to Cleveland, called the Cleveland and Pennsylvania state road. The Williams Brothers' History said, in describing the Orwell roads: "Previous to the opening of the Cleveland and Pennsylvania state road, there was no point at which Grand River could be crossed, except on the line of the devious old pioneer route leading from Judge Griswold's dwelling, in Windsor, to that of Judge Hayes, in Wayne. When it became known to the settlers of Windsor and Orwell that the state would establish a road leading through the centers of the southern tiers of townships, they resolved to put the road through the Grand River bottoms on each side of the stream in a passable condition. They agreed to celebrate the 4th day of July, 1830, by assembling in force on that day and beginning the proposed work. On the morning of that day, therefore, over 300 men, residents of Orwell and Windsor and some from neighboring townships, were on the ground with carts, ox-sleds, mud boats, with all the teams that could be mustered, the men equipped with axes, hoes, shovels, handspikes and mattocks. The men were divided into companies, placed under the command of a captain, and the work began. The ladies had come also, and while the men pushed forward the work they spread a table and prepared a bountiful repast. All worked like the heroes they were, and when night came the embankment that stood before them as a result of their toils was a thing of keen delight to every heart."
     A stock company installed a cheese factory in Orwell in 1874 and in the town's progress it became an important point for travelers, for whose accommodation there were two hotels and numerous stores.
     In 1850 Phillips & Bigelow established a stage line between Cleveland and Orwell, leaving the former place on Wednesday and the latter on Thursday morning of each week. The fare each way was $1.50. The run was called the Cleveland and Orwell Express, and the route took in sev≠eral towns between the terminal points.
     A new town hall and Odd Fellows' Hall graced the village in the year 1880. Orwell was noted in '70s and '80s as a circus town, and many of its residents had the circus fever badly.
     The Orwell Agricultural Society was organized on May 31, 1856, with Col. George A. Howard president; Dr. William M. Eames, secretary; C. A. B. Pratt, treasurer, and the following vice-presidents: Lewis Waters, Rufus Barnard, Amander Bingham, L. A. Pratt, Anson Russell, N. A. Barnes and C. A. B. Pratt. In the following August the society leased property for fair-grounds, and for many years thereafter the Orwell Fair was an annual attraction to many hundreds of people.
     In the spring of 1870 a stock company built a cheese factory in Orwell which was a prosperous institution so long as there was material for its output. It, like many other like establishments in the county, eventually succumbed to the shortage of milk after the city buyers began invading the county.
     Orwell has always been one of the prosperous communities of the county, the milling industry being one of its chief establishments, com≠mercially. The center of the village is about a mile from the station of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the settlement about which is known as East Orwell.
     The population of Orwell in the 1920 census was given as 800.
     Writing home to his own paper, the Jefferson Gazette, a few years ago, the Hon. E. L. Lampson, then reader in the House of Representatives, recited a little history that he had heard from Mrs. G. E. Hurlbert. They were strolling through the Zoo, in Washington, and came across a herd of deer. That reminded her of stories of early days in Orwell, and she remarked that her father's old powder horn showed marks representing the death of 499 of those pretty creatures, by his gun, along the wind≠ing banks of Grand River. Her mother rode on horseback from Orwell to Warren, and carried a baby in her arms. Behind her was a bag filled with deerskin mittens that she had made and was taking to the city to trade for household necessities.
     Orwell is given the distinction of having been the first township that was drawn in the big Connecticut Land Company's lottery.
     It is related that at the time when A. R. Paine, the first settler, came to Orwell, in April, 1817, his nearest neighbor was three miles away, in Bloomfield, and the first one north was six miles away. His stock of provisions for the first winter of his sojourn was purchased in Painesville. He paid $15 a barrel for potatoes, 25 cents a pound for pork, $1 a bushel for potatoes and $1 a pound for tobacco.
     Good and Bad Indians.óBecause of the exceptional good hunting that the forest in and about Orwell Township afforded, a few of the Indians remained in that vicinity for some time after the white man began his invasion of what they had always considered their exclusive territory. In hunting season many of those who had moved on would return and pitch their tepees for periods of weeks at a time. Eventually, however, the last of the Redmen took their departure, and their going was not mourned by their successors. The Williams History is credited with the following incident of the last days of the Indians in this vicinity:
     "There were but two families of Indians in Orwell at the time the white settlers arrived. One of these consisted of old Captain Phillips, his squaw and two sons, called Captain Henry and John. Capt. Phillips was inoffensive and very industrious. Of a far different character was the other Indian 'family', for, although he was the only member of his household, he insisted that he should be considered a 'whole family', and thus called himself. He was a ferocious, blood thirsty fellow and led a vagabond life, fond of nothing else save to hunt and to imbibe freely of 'firewater'. He was a Canadian Indian and went by the name of 'Indian Joe'. Old Capt. Phillips was accustomed to say of him, 'Look out Jim, Jim bad, bery bad Indian'. This 'Bery Bad Jim' had his place of encampment in the southeastern part of the township. In December, 1821, Sylvester Hill, a resident of Painesville, and a hunter of some note, followed the track of three bears for three days, until he discovered them treed in the top of a large, hollow whitewood tree, not very far from the vicinity of 'Indian Jim's' place of rendezvous. It seems that the Indian had also found the bears, and their place of lodgment being on his hunting ground, he claimed the animals as his property. Hill observed the prints in the snow near the bear tree of Jim's moccasins, and anxious to secure the booty, he hastened to the cabin of Mr. Babcock, and procuring the assistance of John and David Babcock and Daniel Rood, returned. The tree was felled, two of the bears killed and carried away. The Indian, upon finding his bear tree cut down and his bears gone, became furiously enraged. He knew Hill's tracks and following him to the settlement charged him with stealing his bears and demanded restitution. Hill declined to satisfy him, and the Indian left, threatening vengeance. It soon became known that the Indian was on the lookout for Hill, with the full purpose of taking his life. The latter returned to Painesville to avoid the threatened danger, where he remained a few weeks; but his love for hunting became paramount to his fear of the Indian, and he returned to the forests of Orwell, hoping that Jim's ire had by this time abated. But such was not the case. Learning that Hill had returned he again sought opportunity to kill him. On the morning of Jan. 1,1822, the savage, learning that Hill and a companion, John Babcock, had gone that day to hunt in the woods of Colebrook, started in pursuit, and coming to the house of Joel Blakeslee, with flashing eyes and horrible threats enquired for Hill. Mr. Blakeslee could give him no information. He left the house, pronouncing Hill's name with fearful imprecations, and, after carefully examining the ground about the house for evidence of his enemy's tracks, started for the forest in a northeasterly direction with his rifle, tomahawk and long knife, brandishing in the air as he went forward. This was the last that was ever seen of 'Indian Jim'. He went into that forest, but never came out of it. Along toward night Hill and Babcock emerged from the woods and, arriving at Blakeslee's residence, were asked if they had seen anything of 'Indian Jim'. Of course they had not seen him, and were profoundly ignorant of his whereabouts. It is said that John Babcock was the best marksman in the township of Orwell."

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