Conneaut History & Genealogy - Ashtabula Co., Ohio
 

History of
Ashtabula Co., Ohio

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

Sheffield Township

CHAPTER XXXVI


SAMUEL MATHER, JR. - ORIGINAL OWNER - FIRST SETTLER - OTHER SETTLERS - ORGANIZED IN 1820 - FIRST OFFICERS - RELIGIOUS SERVICES - FARMING AND DAIRY INDUSTRY

     Township No. 12, of Range No. 2, of Ashtabula County, was christened Sheffield when it was disconnected from Kingsville, as a separate township, in the year 1820. Prior to that time that portion of Kingsville had been called East Matherstown, to distinguish it from Matherstown, a name by which Saybrook was at one time known. Samuel Mather, Jr., one of the stockholders in the Connecticut Land Company, had been the original owner of the Sheffield tract, and he had divided it between his three children, giving each an equal share. None of them, however, became actual residents of the township. Matthew Hubbard and Henry Parsons, of Ashtabula, were employed by the heirs to dispose of the land and it was parceled out to settlers. The earliest comers found that the Ashtabula River, which traversed the north-central portion of the township, from east to west, constituted the only break in the otherwise solid forest that covered the land. In 1811 one Moore came into the Sheffield section and built a log cabin, in which he lived for a time, and then moved on farther west. John Shaw was the next man on the scene, he coming in 1812. He was the first permanent settler, and his descendants are still to be found in and about this locality. Shaw was said to have been a deserter from the English army. His son, Truman, told of his father's experience, and how he came to this country. According to his account, the elder Shaw was a soldier in the British army in Canada at the opening of the War of 1812 between the British and Americans, but, chafing under the bondage to which British soldiers were subjected, and hearing of the "Free America", he decided to make a change. Accordingly, he and several others who shared his feelings embarked in a small boat from Long Point and crossed Lake Erie to the American shore. The winds and tides sent the boat up the lake, and when they reached this side they made landing at Ashtabula, in the night, and fared inland till they were far enough away from the lake to feel safe from any possibility of capture. In about the year 1815 several families came into Sheffield, among them being noted the Mendalls and Springsteads. One of Reuben Mendall's daughters was the bride in the first wedding ceremony performed in the township, a justice of the peace, Smith Webster, coming over from Kingsville to tie the knot, and the event was attended by no little difficulty in the preliminaries. To Chauncy Atwater was given the task of procuring the necessary license, which he did by walking to Jefferson. On the return with the precious document in his pocket he got off his course and spent the night in the forest. Next day, when he had again obtained his bearings and came to the river, he found that the rains of the night before had caused the' stream to swell to an extent that made it impossible to cross at the ford, and he had to take a roundabout course to the bridge at Kelloggsville, thus adding about 10 miles to his return journey. In the year 1817 additions were made to the colony by arrival of the families of Chauncey Atwater and some others, and following them came Phinneas Webster, Samuel P. Castle, Thomas Fargo, Zebediah Whipple, John R. Gage, Elam Osborn, John Usher and others. Most of these newcomers settled about the northern part of the township and in the vicinity of the river.
     At the organization of the township of Sheffield, in 1820, a very modest list of officers was named: One trustee, John Gage; John Briggs, justice of the peace; Chauncey Atwater, clerk, and Samuel Johnson, treasurer.
     Clarissa Cassell taught school in a log cabin prior to 1819, when the first building was put up expressly for school purposes. Ten years later the general utility building which came to be known as "The Red School house" was erected, and it served the town for all public meetings and also for religious assemblages for a number of years.
     The Methodists were the pioneers in holding religious services and they were organized into a church in 1824. Elder Lane, an itinerant preacher of the Erie Conference, preached for this congregation once a month for some time. The Baptist Church was organized by and its pastoral requirements served by the Rev. Edmund Richmond, who gave the land for the church house and assisted in its building. The organization was in 1835, and Rev. Richmond's pastorate continued until his death in 1861. The Free-Will Baptists organized in 1839, and built their church in 1853. The Rev. M. L. Rollin was its first pastor. The Rev. George Sleeper and Ambrose Shelley were chiefly instrumental in the organization of the United Brethren church in 1857.
     The splendid pasturage of Sheffield made it an ideal section for dairy farming, and the town soon took its place with other prosperous sections of the county in the cheese-making industry. The ample free water power was also conducive to milling industries, and the banks of the river boasted numerous saw and grist mills. The first mercantile establishment in the township was carried on by Salmon Chandler, who conducted a general store. In 1845 David Richmond was appointed the town's first postmaster. ft is said that the income of the office for the first three months of its history was 83 cents. H. G. Hinds built a hotel at the Center, in 1861.

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