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.

Wayne Township



     Prior to the year 1811, that section of Ashtabula County now included in Wayne, Williamsfield, Andover, Colebrook, Cherry Valley and New Lyme, constituted a part of Green Township, in Trumbull County. In that year this portion was set out and all included in the new township of Wayne. The records in the Trumbull County commissioner's office show that on April 11, 1811, this dissection took place, and at a called meeting, held at the home of Nathan Fobes, the following township officers were elected: George Wakeman, Joshua Giddings and Ezra Woodworth, trustees; Nathaniel Coleman, clerk; Thomas Ford, treasurer; Titus Hayes and Samuel Tuttle, overseers of the poor; Zopher Case and Joshua Fobes, fence viewers; David Fobes, Anson Jones and Albigance Woodworth, supervisors. Samuel Tuttle and Nathaniel Coleman were later named justices of the peace for the township. Thus was organized the town that gave to the country one of the greatest advocates of the freedom of all men, Joshua R. Giddings, whose late boy and young manhood years were spent in Wayne, where he obtained the meager education he acquired in the district school of that part of the township that was long known by the name of Lindenville. The territory of the township was reduced in 1813 by taking away New Lyme and Colebrook; in 1819 by Andover and Cherry Valley, and in 1826 Williamsfield withdrew and organized independently, leaving the Wayne Township of today.
     The first white man who disturbed the quietude of nature in the wilds of Wayne was one Titus Hayes, a young man who happened that way while trying to connect with the surveying parties of the Connecticut Land Company that were working in the Western Reserve in 1798. The first real settlers, however, came in 1803. In 1799 Wayne Township was surveyed into lots, each of which contained 160 acres. In 1800 Oliver Phelps, one of the members of the Connecticut Land Company, purchased this township from the company, and in 1803 he sold 1,500 acres of it to Simon Fobes, of Somers, Connecticut, who proceeded to the early development of the section. In the summer of that year he took his son, Joshua, and wife, and another son, Elias, and started for the new landed possession in Ohio, his intention being to help them to locate and get established, after which he expected to return to the East. On the way they were joined by David Fobes, a cousin of the boys, whose ambition, or a spirit of adventure, had led him to undertake the hazardous trip and brave the dangers and discomforts of a life in unknown lands. They were 49 days en route and their journey ended at the home of Jesse Pelton, who had preceded them a short time and settled in the center of the township.
When these people had become established in their new home they learned that the nearest white neighbors were five miles away. They had plenty of Redskin neighbors, however, and the latter were very good to the newcomers and helped them in many ways, especially favoring them with gifts of deer and bear meat, the white men being too busy with their clearing and building operations to spend time hunting.
     This section was quite sparsely settled at that time. The nearest neighbors on the west were in Windsor Township, 15 miles away; on the north there were none nearer than Kingsville, about 25 miles, and on the east the nearest whites were in Meadville, Pa. Five or more miles to the south, in Gustavus or Kinsman, there were a few settlers with whom they occasionally came in contact. There were no roads in any direction until the year after the Fobes families arrived on the scene; then they and the Morgan settlers cut a road through from the Fobes settlement to the town of Morgan (Rock Creek), a distance of about 15 miles. By this means the Wayne residents were able to effect a connection with other roads that gave them access to markets in distant towns.
Something about Wayne appealed to the fancy of Titus Hayes, the young engineer who was the first to visit the place, in 1798, but who at that time made but a transitory call. In the winter of 1804-5 he, in company with Elisha Giddings, moved with their families from Canandaigua, N. Y., to Ohio, and stopped first in Hartford, Trumbull County, where they remained until the following winter, for the purpose of raising breadstuffs to sustain them until they could effect a clearing and prepare for future crops in Wayne, where they intended to locate on forest land, and to which place they journeyed in the fall. There they settled on adjoining lots, a little northeast of the center of the township. Others whose names are chronicled as among the early settlers of Wayne included George Wakeman, Joshua Giddings (father of Joshua R.), Edward Inman, Henry Moses, Nathaniel Coleman, Nathan Fobes and others.
     In 1804 Mrs. David Fobes gave birth to the first white child born in the township. Sarah, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Fobes, was the bride in the first wedding ceremony performed in Wayne, that being in 1807, and the groom was Philemon Brockway. The first death was that of Mrs. Thankful Fobes, grandmother of Joshua.  Her husband followed her to the beyond only three days later. So it was that the Fobes family, among the original settlers, were conspicuous in the early life of Wayne Township, and their descendants were many and may still be found in the interior localities of the county.
     According to the records made by the Rev. Joseph Badger, who was instrumental in the establishment of many churches in Ashtabula County, the first Sabbath sermon preached in Wayne was at the home of Joshua Fobes, on November 2, 1806. Ten years after that the Congregationalists organized the town's first regular church society. Credit is given to Linas H. Jones for the following account of the early religious activities of the township, published in the Williams History of 1878:
     "The first church organization in Wayne was Congregational, formed in 1816. Previous to this, for some years, regular religious services were held on the Sabbath at private houses, prominent among which were those of Joshua and Levi Fobes, at the center, and at the house of Benjamin Ward, on the Hayes road. These services were conducted by Simon Fobes, a soldier of the Revolutionary army, consisting of two services of a sermon read at each, with prayer and singing, in accordance with the usual form of those days, which practice continued until 1816. At this time an effort was made to establish more permanently the institutions of the gospel. The citizens of. Wayne and Williamsfield united in building a place of worship. Neither township was much settled, except in the contiguous halves of each, and both were under one township organization.  A large house was built of logs, piled one above the other, and covered with 'shakes'—much like barrel staves, except being less in thickness—from three and a half to four feet in length. These were laid loose upon poles, or 'ribs', which ran across the building, for their support, and were held in their places by poles or weights. The crevices between the logs of the sides were 'chinked' with wood and mud, making them quite formidable against the blasts of winter. A floor of boards covered about one-half of the room, while the remaining portion was the bare earth', except logs, hewed upon the upper side, to support a floor, when the finances might justify the outlay. These logs were used as seats, and made a substantial and solid sitting. In winter a fire was built upon the ground, near the center, the smoke very tardily making its exit through the crevices in and around the roof, but often tarrying sufficiently to cause tears, without the aid of eloquence or pathos. After about two years a floor covered the whole area. A gallery was erected at one end of the building, which accommodated the choir, as aristocratic, but much less exclusive, than those of more modern times. In this humble building the citizens and their families assembled in mass, holding two services each Sabbath, conducted by deacons, notable among whom were Ezra Leonard, Norman Wilcox and Calvin Andrews. Occasionally a missionary would spend a Sabbath with them. The first minister employed by the church was the Rev. Alvin Coe, for a term of four Sabbaths; afterwards, one by the name of Bowen, as a candidate for settlement; but he did not prove acceptable. Early in the summer of 1819 we were visited by the Rev. Ephraim P. Woodruff, in the capacity of a missionary, of the Missionary Society of the State of Connecticut, who labored with us several weeks, when arrangements were made with him to settle with us as our minister, and labor as such one-half of his time, at a salary of $200 per year, which was to be increased $10 per year until it reached $250. He was installed as pastor in August, 1819, and returned to Connecticut for his family, which consisted of his wife and six children. He returned with his family in October, and settled in his log house, which had been provided for them in his absence, perfectly surrounded by forest, with no building nearer than half a mile, except our lonely looking forest church. One-half of Mr. Woodworth's time was spent as a missionary among the destitute churches in this part of the Western Reserve, making, usually, tours of two weeks each, and thus alternating in his home and mission labors. He was a laborious, persevering and efficient man, both as a pastor and as a citizen. Three services on the Sabbath was the rule, two at the church, and at evening in some quarter of his parish, usually at some schoolhouse. He exhibited much zeal in the interests of education, and made a specialty of visiting each school twice in each session, giving notice of the intended visit on the Sabbath previous.
     To attend church was a general rule of almost the entire population, and the difference in attendance between deacon and preaching meetings was small. Our religious interests were harmonious and prosperous, until the winter of 1831, when our house of sacred memory was destroyed by fire. Our pastor was equal to the emergency, for he had a building of logs that he had used for "all work", which he at once appropriated to the needs of the church. A part of the upper story was taken out and the choir perched upon the remainder, their heads coming in frequent contact with the roof, while the mass were seated below. But this state of things could not long continue. A house, or houses, must be built. The people upon this side of the creek thought it time that interest called for a house nearer home, and that that interest centered upon the Hayes road. To this those upon the Center road demurred, uniting their interest with those upon the east side and Williamsfield, awaiting a more favorable opportunity for building at the Center.
     The Hayes road interests started forward, hewed and drew the timber to the spot, when, in a maze of doubt, the work was suspended. Those on the east side, with West Williamsfield, encouraged by this suspension, united their efforts and built a house on nearly the same spot on which stood the old log church. In this state of things, regular religious services were established at the schoolhouse on the Hayes road, north of the center line, and kept up from Sabbath to Sabbath, with preaching about one-half of the time. In October, 1832, a Congregational Church was organized, with 29 members, 20 of whom were from the former church, and all living east of the north-and-south center road. This state of things continued for about two years. In the meantime those on the center road, and west, remained members of the original church of Wayne and Williamsfield, but, uniting their efforts with others of the township, commenced the building of a house at the Center, which was undenominational, stimulated by a Center interest. In this state of things the project of a house on the Hayes road was abandoned, and an arrangement made to take the house at the Center. A Congregational Society was organized and incorporated in the spring of 1835, and it assumed the financial responsibility in connection with financing the building and supplying preaching, together with incidental expenses. Those living upon the Center road withdrew from the mother church and united with the new one, known as the First Congregational Church of Wayne. This church was not finally finished until 1840, and in 1872 it was destroyed by fire. Another church was completed and dedicated in 1875. The Wayne and Williamsfield church was moved to West Williamsfield, about 1845, and located near the Wayne Township line, in a section quite thickly populated. Of the Wayne residents who continued their affiliation to this branch of the church, it was said by those of the other branch: "They live with bodies in Wayne, but souls in Williamsfield."
      In addition to the public schools that were opened early in the life of the township communities, there was the Wayne Academy, an institution established by a stock company, which erected a building in 1846, and carried on a creditable educational establishment for a number of years. Many of the young men and women of Wayne and adjacent territory acquired their "higher" education in this seat of learning.
     Hari Miner was appointed Wayne's first postmaster, the office being established in 1823. In 1820 Loomis & Brown erected and put into operation the first grist mill, the same being located on the Pymatuning Creek, in the eastern part of the township. This creek traversed the entire length of the township from north to south, along the eastern portion, within a mile or so of the township line, and was the chief attraction for settlers. The southeastern portion of the township was quite thickly populated, another populous section being in the center of the township, being known as Lindenville. Gradually the intercourse between residents of these respective settlements caused the intervening section to be settled and in the course of years the population of the township was principally at and between those points. Hayes & Stevens opened the first store in Wayne in 1825.
     The western portion of the township was not favored with any watercourses worthy of mention. A small tributary of the Pymatuning coursed through the central section. There was, however, splendid pasturage and for many years Wayne occupied a place of prominence in the cheese-making industry of the county. It is noted that C. C. Wick had about four tons of cheese on exhibition at the Ohio State Fair in the year 1852. This had to be transported many miles by team, both going and coming, and it meant that the man who had the ambition to go to that much trouble to advertise Ashtabula Couny to the state, was the right kind of a citizen.
     That the territory embraced in the township of Wayne was in a very early day a stronghold for the prehistoric race of which there is evidence of existence throughout the county is shown by the presence of a few remaining signs, even today, of what was once a commodious enclosure, doubtless a fortress for protection against enemies of those unknown men. In the southeastern part of the township, where "Brown's Mill" was built in 1821, there was at that time a circular embankment that enclosed two full acres, the mounded barricade being about four feet high, and within this was an inner circle, affording double protection to those ancients who had constructed the works. The circle skirted the Pymatuning Creek on the banks of which the mill was built and to make room for which, and the mill-race, a portion of the fortress was leveled off. Indians who resided thereabouts claimed they had no history, nor tradition, that explain the mystery of the enclosure. The site of the old fort was even then overgrown with great forest trees that had grown since it was constructed.

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