James Kingsbury, who arrived at Conneaut shortly after the surveying
party, wintered with his family at this place in a cabin which stood on a spot
now covered by the waters of the lake. This was about the first family
that wintered on the Reserve.
The story of the sufferings of this family has often
been told, but in the midst of plenty, where want is unknown, can with
difficulty be appreciated. The surveyors, in the prosecution of their
labors westwardly, had principally removed their stores to Cleveland, while the
family of Judge Kingsbury remained at Conneaut. Being compelled by
business to leave in the fall for the State of New York, with the hope of a
speedy return to his family, the judge was attacked by a severe fit of sickness,
confining him to his bed until the setting in of winter. As soon as able
he proceeded on his return as far as Buffalo, where he hired an Indian to guide
him through the wilderness. AT Presque Isle, anticipating the wants of hsi
family, he purchased twenty pounds of flour. In crossing Elk creek on the
ice he disabled his horse, left him in the snow, and mounting his flour on his
own back pursued his way filled with gloomy forebodings in relation to the fate
of his family. On his arrival late one evening his worst apprehensions
were more than realized in a scene agonizing to the husband and father.
Stretched on her cot lay the partner of his cares, who had followed him through
all the dangers and hardships of the wilderness without repining, pale and
emaciated, reduced by meagre famine to the last stages in which life can be
supported, and near the mother, on a little pallet, were the remains of his
youngest child, born in his absence, who had just expired for the want of that
nourishment which the mother, deprived of sustenance, was unable to give.
Shut up by a gloomy wilderness she was far distant alike from the aid or
sympathy of friends, filled with anxiety for an absent husband, suffering with
want and destitute of necessary assistance, and her children expiring around her
Such is the picture presented by which the wives and
daughters of the present day may form some estimate of the hardships endured by
the pioneers of this beautiful country. It appears that Judge
Kingsbury, in order to supply the wants of his family, was under the necessity
of transporting his provisions from Cleveland on a hand sled, and that himself
and hired man drew a barrel of beef the whole distance at a single load.
Mr. Kingsbury was the first who thrust a sickle
into the first wheat field planted on the soil of the Reserve. His wife
was interred at Cleveland, about the year 1843. The fate of her child -
the first white child born on the Reserve, starved to death for want of
nourishment - will not soon be forgotten.
CONNEAUT IN 1846. The harbor
of Conneaut is now an important point of transshipment. It has a pier with
a light-house upon it, two forwarding houses and eleven dwellings. Several
vessels ply from here, and it is a frequent stopping place for steamers.
Two miles south of the harbor, twenty-two from Jefferson,,,, twenty-eight from
Erie, Pa., is the borough of Conneaut on the west bank of Conneaut creek.
It contains four churches, eleven stores, one newspaper printing office, a fine
classical academy, Mr. L. W. Savage and Miss Mary Booth,
principals, and about 1,000 inhabitants - Old Edition.
Conneaut, on Lake Erie, sixty-eight miles east of
Cleveland, also on the L. S. & M. S. and N. Y. C. & St. L. Railroads. The
main shops of the Nickel Plate railroad are located here. It is expected
that the harbor will shortly be opened by the Conneaut, Jamestown and Southern
Railroad, giving improved shipping facilities.
Newspapers: Herald, Republican, W. T.
Findlay, editor; The Reporter, Republican, J. P. Reig, editor.
Churches: 1 Congregational, 1 Baptist, 1 Methodist, 1 Catholic and 1 Christian.
Banks: Conneaut Mutual Loan Association, Thereon S. Winship, president,
C. Hayward, cashier; First National, S. J. Smith, president, B.
E. Thayer, cashier. Principal industries are railroad shops, paper
mill, Record Manufacturing Company, Cummins Canning Factory. Population in
1880, 1,245; school census in 1886, 564; E. C. Cary, superintendent.
The first permanent settlement in Conneaut was 1799.
Thomas Montgomery and Aaron Wright settled here in the spring of
1798. Robert Montgomery and family, Levi and John
Montgomery, Nathan and John King, and Samuel Bemus and
family came the same season.
When the settlers arrived some twenty or thirty Indian
cabins were still standing, which were said to present an appearance of neatness
and comfort not usual with this race. The Massauga tribe, which inhabited
the spot, were obliged to leave in consequence of the murder of a white man
Two young men taken at the defeat of St. Clair were
said to have been prisoners for a considerable time among the Indians of this
village. On their arrival at Conneaut they were made to run the gauntlet,
and received the orthodox number of blows and kicks usual on such occasions.
In solemn council it was resolved that the life of Fitz Gibbon should be
saved, but the other, whose name is not recollected, was condemned to be burned.
He was bound to a tree, and large quantity of hickory bark tied into fagots and
piled around him. But from the horrors of the most painful of deaths he
was saved by the interposition of a young squaw belonging to the tribe.
Touched by sympathy she interceded in his behalf, and by her expostulations,
backed by several packages of fur and a small sum of money, succeeded in
effecting his deliverance; an act in the lowly Indian maid which entitles her
name to be honorably recorded with that of Pocahontas, among the good and
virtuous of every age.
There were mounds situated in the eastern part of the
village of Conneaut and an extensive burying ground near the Presbyterian
church, which appear to have had no connection with the burying places of the
Indians. Among the human bones found in the mounds were some belonging to
men of gigantic structure. Some of the skulls were of sufficient capacity
to admit the head of an ordinary man, and jaw bones that might have been fitted
on over the face with equal facility; the other bones were proportionately
large. The burying ground referred to contained about four acres, and with
the exception of a slight angle in conformity with the natural contour of the
ground was in the form of an oblong square. It appeared to have been
accurately surveyed into lots running from north to south, and exhibited all the
order and propriety of arrangement deemed necessary to constitute Christian
burial. On the first examination of the ground by the settlers they found
it covered with the ordinary forest trees, with an opening near the centre
containing a single butternut. The graves were distinguished by slight
depressions disposed in straight rows, and were estimated to number from two to
three thousand. On examination in 1800 they were found to contain human
bones, invariably blackened by time, which on exposure to the air soon crumbled
to dust. Traces of ancient cultivation observed by the first settlers on
the lands of the vicinity, although covered with forest, exhibited signs of
having once been thrown up into squares and terraces, and laid out into gardens.
There was a fragment or chip of a tree at one time in
the possession of the Ashtabula Historical Society, which was a curiosity.
The tree of which that was a chip was chopped down and butted off for a saw log,
about three feet from the ground, some thirty rods southeast of Fort Hill, in
Conneaut, in 1829, by Silas A. DAvis, on land owned by B. H. King.
Some marks were found upon it near the heart of the tree. The Hon.
Nehemiah King, with a magnifying glass, counted 350 annualer rings in that
part of the stump, outside of these marks. Deducting 350 from 1829, leaves
1479, which must have been the year when these cuts were made. This was
thirteen years before the discovery of America by Columbus. It perhaps was
done by the race of the mounds, with an axe of copper, as that people had the
art of hardening that metal so as to cut like steel.
In the spring of 1815 a mound on Harbor street,
Conneaut, was cut through for a road. One morning succeeding a heavy rain
a Mr. Walker, who was up very early, picked up a jaw bone together with
an artificial tooth which lay near. He brought them forthwith to Mr. P.
R. Spencer, secretary of the Historical Society, who fitted the tooth in a
cavity from which it had evidently fallen. The tooth was metallic,
probably silver, but little was then thought of the circumstance.
The adventure of Mr. Solomon Sweatland, of
Conneaut, who crossed Lake Erie in an upon canoe, in September, 1817, is one of
unusual interest. He had been accustomed, with the aid of a neighbor,
Mr. Cozzens, and a few hounds, to drive the deer into the lake, where,
pursuing them in a canoe, he shot them with but little difficulty. The
circumstances which took place at this time are vividly given in the annexed
extract from the records of the Historical Society:
Adventures of Solomon Sweatland. - 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 ere his
ears were saluted by 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 at some
distance from the shore. In the enthusiasm of the moment he threw his hat
upon the beach, his canoe was put in requisition, and shoving from the shore he
was soon engaged in a rapid and animated 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 situation
to yield to the dictates of prudence. The deer, which was a vigorous
animal of his kind, hoisted its flag of defiance, and breasting the waves
stoutly showed that in a race with a log canoe and a single paddle he was not
Sweatland had attained a considerable distance from the
shore and encountered a heavy sea before overtaking the animal, but was not
apprised of the eminent peril of his situation until shooting past him the deer
turned towards 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 farther to sea. He had
been observed in his outward progress by Mr. Cousins, 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 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, Cousins and Belden
took a light boat at the mouth of the creek and proceeded in search of the
wanderer, with the determination to make every effort for his relief. They
met the deer returning towards the shore nearly exhausted, but the man who was
the object of their solicitude was nowhere 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 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
The canoe in which he was embarked was dug from a large
whitewood log by Major James Brookes, for a fishing boat; it was about
fourteen feet in length and rather wide in proportion, and was considered a
superior one of the kind. Sweatland still continued to lie off,
still heading towards the land, with a faint hope that the wind might abate, or
that aid might reach him from the shore. One or two schooners were in
sight in 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 distant 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.
As these familiar objects receded from view, and the shores appeared 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 a tolerable share of physical strength and
power of endurance, eminently qualified him for the part he was to act in this
emergency. He was a good sailor, and as such would not yield to
despondency until the last expedient had been exhausted. One only
expedient remained, that of putting before the wind and endeavoring to reach the
Canada shore, a distance of about fifty miles. This he resolved to embrace
as his forlorn hope.
It was not blowing a gale, and the sea was evidently
increasing as he proceeded from the shore, and yet he was borne onwards over the
dizzy waters by a power that no human agency could control. He was obliged
to stand 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 his canoe from the water, an operation which he was obliged to perform
by making use of his shoes, a substantial pair of stoggies, that happened
fortunately to be upon his feet.
Hitherto he had been blessed with the 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 the haze alone remained to guide his path over the dark and troubled
waters. In this fearful condition, destitute of food and the necessary
clothing, his log canoe was rocked upon the billows during that long and
terrible night. When morning appeared he was in sight of land, and found
he had made Long Point, in 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 were the emotions he experienced on treading once
more "the green and solid earth," we shall not attempt to inquire, but his
trials were not yet ended. He found himself faint with hunger and
exhausted with fatigue, at the distance of forty miles from any human
habitation, whilst the country that intervened was a desert field 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 towards the settlements 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, although they afforded him no immediate relief, were
afterwards of material service.
He ultimately arrived at the settlement, and was
received and treated with great kindness and hospitality by the people.
After his strength was sufficiently recruited, he returned with a boat,
accompanied by some of the inhabitants, 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 "Traveller,"
Capt. Chas. Brown, from Conneaut, in the harbor, he shipped on board and
was soon on his way to rejoin his family. When the packet arrived off his
dwelling, they fired guns from the deck and the crew gave three loud cheers.
On landing, he found his funeral sermon had been preached, and had the rare
privilege of seeing his own widow clothed in the habiliments of mourning.