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 -
Numerous incidents connected with the early history of this township might be recorded, among which the adventure of Solomon Sweatland, that took place in the month of September, 1817, excited an unusual degree of interest at the time, and was noticed by many of the papers in different parts of the country.
Sweatland was a young, active man, and resided with his family on the lake shore, some little distance below the mouth of Conneaut Creek. He, in common with many of the early settlers, was attached to the wild sports of the woods, and occasionally followed the chase, as a source of both of profit and amusement.
A favorite method of taking deer, practiced at the time, was by coursing them with hounds and driving them into the lake, as it is well known that those animals when pursued readily take to the water. For this purpose Sweatland kept a canoe at the mouth of a small stream that entered the lake near his residence, and his hunting operations were carried on in connection with one of his neighbors, who was owner of the requisite number of hounds.
The arrangements were, that Mr. Cozens, the neighbor referred to, should go to the woods and start the dogs on the scent, whilst Sweatland was prepared with the canoe to pursue and capture the deer as soon as it should be driven to take the water.
It was a lovely morning in early autumn, and Sweatland, in anticipation of his favorite sport, had risen at the first dawn of light, and without putting on his coat or waistcoat, left his cabin, listening in the meantime in expectation of the approach of the dogs. His patience was not put to a severe trial before his ears were saluted with the deep baying of the hounds, and on arriving at the beach he perceived that the deer had already taken to the lake, and was moving out at some distance from the shore. In the enthusiasm of the moment he threw his hat upon the beach, his canoe put in requisition, and shoving from the shore he was soon engaged in an animated and rapid pursuit. The wind, which had been fresh from the south during the night and gradually increasing, was now blowing nearly a gale, but intent on securing his prize, Sweatland was not in a condition to yield to the dictates of prudence. The deer, which was a vigorous animal of his kind, hoisted his flag of defiance, and breasting the waves stoutly, showed that a race with a log canoe and a single paddle he was not easily outdone. Sweatland had attained a considerable distance from the shore, and encountered a heavy sea before overtaking the animal, but was not apprised of the imminent peril of his situation, until shooting past him the deer turned toward the shore. He was, however, brought to a full appreciation of his danger, when , on tacking his frail vessel and heading towards the land, he found that with his utmost exertions he could make no progress in the desired direction, but was continually drifting further to sea.
He had been observed in his outward progress by Mr. Cozens, who had arrived immediately after the hounds and by his own family, and as he disappeared from sight considerable apprehensions were entertained for his safety. The alarm was soon given in the neighborhood, and it was decided by those who were competent to judge, that his return would be impossible, and that unless help could be afforded he was doomed to perish at sea. Actuated by those generous impulses that often induce men to peril their own lives to preserve those of others, Messrs. Gilbert, Cozens and Belden took a light boat at the mouth of the creek and proceeded in search of the wanderer, with the determination of making every effort for his relief. They met the deer returning toward the shore nearly exhausted, but the man who was the object of their solicitude was no where to be seen. They made stretches off shore within probable range of the fugitive for some hours, until they had gained a distance of five or six miles from the land, when meeting with a sea in which they judged it impossible for a canoe to live, they abandoned the search, returned with difficulty to the shore, and Sweatland was given up for lost.
One or two schooners were in sight in the course of the day, and he made every signal in his power to attract their attention, but without success. The shore continued in sight, and in tracing its distance outline he could distinguish the spot where his cabin stood, within whose holy precincts were contained the cherished objects of his affections, now doubly endeared from the prospect of losing them forever.
At these familiar objects receded from his view and the shores seemed to sink beneath the troubled waters, the last tie which united him in companionship to his fellow men, seemed dissolved, and the busy world, with all its interests, forever hidden from his sight.
Fortunately, Sweatland possessed a cool head and a stout heart, which united with the tolerable share of physical strength and power of endurance, eminently qualified him for the pat he was to act on this emergency. He was a good sailor, and as such would not yield to despondency until the last expedient had been tried to save his bark and preserve the lives of the crew. One only expedient remained, that of putting before the wind and endeavoring to reach the Canada shore. This he resolved to embrace as his forlorn hope. It was now blowing a gale and the sea was evidently increasing as he proceeded from the shore, and yet he was borne on over the dizzy waters by a power that no human agency could control. He was obliged to sand erect, moving cautiously from one extremity to the other, in order to trim his vessel to the waves, well aware that a single lost stroke of the paddle or a tottering movement would swamp his frail bark and bring his adventure to a final close. Much of his attention was likewise required in bailing and cleaning his canoe of water, an operation which he was obliged to perform by making use of his shoes, a substantial pair of stogies that happened fortunately to be upon his feet. Hitherto he had been blest with he cheerful light of heaven, and amidst all his perils could say "the light is sweet and it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun," but to add to his distress the shades of night were now gathering around him, and he was soon enveloped in darkness. The sky was overcast and the light of a few stars that twinkled through he haze alone remained to guide his path over the dark and troubled waters. In this fearful condition, destitute of food and necessary clothing, his log was rocked upon the billows during that day and terrible night. When morning appeared he was in sight of land, and found he had made Long Point, on the Canada shore. Here he was met by an adverse wind and a cross sea, but the same providential aid which had guided him thus far, still sustained and protected him, and after being buffeted by the winds and waves for nearly thirty hours, he succeeded in reaching the land in safety.
What was the nature of the sensations he experience on once more treading the "green and solid earth" we shall not attempt to inquire, but his trials were not yet ended. He found himself fait with hunger and exhausted with fatigue, at the distance of forty miles from any habitation, while the country that intervened was a desert filled with marshes and tangled thickets, from which nothing could be obtained to supply his wants. These difficulties, together with the reduced state of his strength, rendered his progress toward the settlements necessarily slow and toilsome. On his way he found a quantity of goods, supposed to have been driven on shore from the wreck of some vessel, which though they afforded him no immediate relief, were afterwards of material service to him.
He ultimately arrived at the settlement, and was received and treated with great kindess and hospitality by the people. After his strength was sufficiently recruited, he returned with a boat, accompanied by some of the inhabatants, and brought off the goods.
From this place he proceeded by land to Buffalo; where with the avails of his treasure, he furnished himself in the garb of a gentleman, and finding the schooner Fire Fly, Captain Charles Brown, from Ashtabula in the harbor, he shipped on board and was soon on the way to rejoin his family.
When the Fire Fly arrived off his dwelling they fired guns from the deck and the crew gave three lo_d cheers. On landing he found his funeral sermon had been preached and had the rare privilege of seeing his own widow clothed in the habiliaments of mourning.
Written in 1844-5
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