History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Sketch of the Early Settlement of Conneaut
by Harvey Nettleton, Esq.
|The following article was found at Conneaut Public
It was taken from the Geneva Times Newspaper - continued -
The surrender of General Hull's army in August, 1812, and the territory of Michigan, left the whole northern frontier of Ohio exposed to the incursions of the enemy. The British at the same time having undisputed possession of the lake, the settlements along its shore were kept in a continual state of agitation and alarm.
The country had been actually devastated as far east as the Huron, the inhabitants either murdered or driven from their homes, before a sufficient force could be collected to arrest their progress. To repel this invasion the whole effective force of the country had been called into the field, leaving the new settlements in an exposed and defenceless condition. In this state of things the British seemed to derive great satisfaction in sailing along our shores, firing cannon and making other demonstrations of hostility calculated to annoy and alarm the inhabitants.
They had in two or three instances effected a landing from their vessels in small parties, killed some cattle and possessed themselves of some other articles of plunder of little value. Expresses were frequently arriving with tidings from the seat of war, and it was not uncommon for the people to be called out of their beds at the dead of night to hear exaggerated accounts of the murders and cruelties of the Indians.
It was during this period of excitement that the great alarm experienced by the people of Conneaut and vicinity occurred, to wit: on the night of the 11th of August, 1812. Two British vessels of rather suspicious appearance had been observed off shore during the day previous. They had been watched with considerable attention by the guard that was station at the mouth of the creek, and by some of the inhabitants, who concluded that they showed more heads on their decks than was requisite for any laudable purpose, and a suspicion was entertained that they only awaited the approach of night with a design of making a descent upon the shore. The vessels, however, dropped quietly down the lake and no serious alarm was felt until in the dusk of the evening, when some boats were discovered by the sentinel at a small distance from the shore, steering directly towards the mouth of the creek. One of the sentinels hailed lustily, fired off his musketry, and considering discretion the better part of valor, threw it on the beach and mounting his horse started off for home at the top of his speed. As he dashed through the settlements he cried with a stentorian voice, "turn out! save your lives! the British and Indians are landing and will be upon you in fifteen minutes!"
The alarm was instantly taken and the confusion and consternation that ensued, were such as to baffle description.
Before the fifteen minutes had elapsed almost every house in the settlement was deserted, and a large portion of the population had taken refuge in the woods; and such was the celerity of their movements that in many instances their doors were left open and their lights unextinguished. In one case it is related that a family commenced their flight in so much trepidation that they left one of their children, a little girl of two or three years of age, asleep in the house, and that the mistake was not discovered until they had proceeded to a considerable distance.
The inhabitants of the upper part of the settlement principally fled across the creek and retired to Fort Hill, where amidst its ancient ruins then covered with a thick forest, they hoped to find a place of temporary security. Before reaching this place of refuge, however, a variety of disasters, more or less serious, had occurred, principally occasioned by the necessity of fording the Conneaut.
In the absence of other means of conveyance the younger children, and some of the women, were obligated to be carried over on the shoulders of the men. One rather portly lady was being thus transported on the back of her husband, who happened to be a small man, when, by missing his footing on a slippery rock in the middle passage, they were both precipitated into the stream, and before he could shift his ballast so as to shake his head fairly above water, it is said he was in danger of being drowned. Within the dilapidated walls of the old fort, hid among the bushes, they passed a tedious and uncomfortable night, in momentary expectation of hearing the yells of the savages or witnessing from the hill the conflagration of their dwellings.
Two or three of the families who were fleeing from the Indian massacres of the west, on the night in question had put up at one of the frontier houses in the west part of the town and were quietly enjoying their rest after a hard day's journey. Their children, who, with the addition or those belonging to the cabin, amounted to twenty or thirty, were snugly reposing on the floor around them. They were congratulating themselves on their escape to the place of safety, where their children were beyond the reach of the murderous tomahawk, when a horse in full career dashed heavily upon a pole bridge that was situated near the house, producing a concussion which is not inaptly compared to thunder. At the same time the full, swelling voice of the bold sentinel broke upon their ear, repeating the ominous sounds of turn out, &e."
The scene that followed, we shall not attempt to describe, and shall only observe in passing, that, in an incredible short space of time, the numerous company of children had been aroused from their sleep and the whole party had gained the shelter of the woods.
The people of East Conneaut had fixed their principal place of rendezvous in a thick hemlock grove on the banks of Smoke Creek, a small tributary of the Conneaut, about one-fourth of a mile south from the ridge road. In the recesses of this grove were collected a considerable company, consisting principally of women and children, who had been suddenly transferred from their dwellings on the announcement, of the landing of the enemy. The locality seemed to promise a tolerable chance for security, but from its vicinity to the main road it was deemed requisite that the most perfect silence should be maintained.
Thus circumstanced, nothing could be more annoying than the crying of children and the barking of dogs. By that soothing attention which the mother knows so well how to bestow, the children were kept reasonably quiet, but he noisy and pugnacious qualities of the canine species could not be so easily restrained.
One little dog, probably excited by the novelty of the scene, rendered himself conspicuous by keeping up a continual yelping "without any mitigation or remorse of voice." Various means were employed to induce him to desist, but to no purpose, until the patience of the ladies was altogether exhausted, and in a consultation held upon the spot, it was unanimously resolved, that that particular dog should die; and in accordance with this resolution he was sentenced to be hanged "without benefit of clergy," The elastics furnished by the ladies served as a substitute for a cord, which being fastened around the neck of the culprit, he was led to execution, and was soon dangling in the air, being suspended from a sapling which had been bent over for that purpose.
Some individuals fled during the night to Lexington, Pa., a distance of ten or twelve miles, rousing the inhabitants and extending the alarm in the neighboring settlements.
But the night with all its inquietude and alarm, passed away, and as the morning with its calm and peaceful light broke upon the scene, the cheering sound of "all's well!" which resounded from every quarter, gave assurance that the danger was averted and that peace and safety had returned to bless their habitations.
Within an hour after the alarm was given it was ascertained by several of the citizens who had proceeded to the mouth of the creek for the purpose of reconnoitering, that no cause for alarm whatever existed, but he evil was done, and for the time being did not admit of any remedy.
The boats which the excited imagination of the sentry had filled with British and Indians, belonged to Captain Dobbins, of Erie, who was on his way down the lake, having on board some families bound for Conneaut, which he was endeavoring to land, but discovering that his appearance was creating alarm, he hauled off the shore and continued his voyage.
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