PIONEER WOMEN OF WAKEMAN
HURON COUNTY
18101850

Wakeman takes its name from one of its original owners, Jessup Wakeman, who lived in Southbury, Conn. Perhaps it was owing to this fact that so many of its first settlers came from Southbury and Woodbury, a town a few miles distant.

Wakeman lies half way between the college town of Oberlin, and the thriving business town of Norwalk. It is a farming community, with a puritan ancestry, and bears unmistakable marks of its parentage. A pastor in one of the churches here, says that it is nearer like Rootstown, O., than any place he ever saw.

The pioneer women of those early days brought with them New England habits of thrift and industry. The little wheel for spinning flax, and a large one for wool were in every home. Most of them taught their daughters to walk in these good old ways, but their granddaughters and great-granddaughters put these useful articles away in attics and lumber rooms, as curious relics of the lost arts of their grandmothers.

To Mrs. Augustine Canfield belongs the distinction of being the first white women to live in Wakeman. She came with her husband and four little ones, all the way from what was then far-off Connecticut, in a wagon, and from Buffalo much of the way was through the forest.

The youngest son was the first white child born in the town. The first house was made of barks, in which she lived six weeks, while a log house was being built.

Mrs. Canfield was of a sunny, even temperament. She did not make a profession of religion till late in life, but Rev. H. H. Betts, a Home Missionary, who often preached here, once said of her "she is one of those persons much better than many professing Christians."

The first religious service in the town, was held in her house, and the first hymn sang, was to the tune of immortal old "Windham".

Six weeks after Mrs. Canfield came here, Mrs. Amiel Pierce (Electa Blackman), with her husband and four children settled about a quarter of a mile farther north. Mrs. Pierce was a deeply religious woman, and had an abiding faith in what she called Providence.

The Congregational Church of this place was organized in a large unfurnished chamber in her house. After years of "going to meeting", as it was then called, in a lumber wagon drawn by horse or oxen, as the state of the roads permitted, the old "Squire" as he was known by his town people, bought a buggy and brought it home. Here was a case of a very special Providence, Mrs. Pierce thought. The happy woman and her youngest daughter went out to view their treasure. Mrs. Pierce was a very large and heavy woman, and as she climbed into the buggy to try it, the bottom board fell through. Just at this junction the Squire came along and with a twinkle in his eye said: Well, Lecta, Providence didn't nail the bottom board in very tight for you.

The third pioneer woman was Mrs. Samuel Bristol, (Eunice Sherman) who came the next spring, and settled about a quarter of a mile still farther to the north. She was a homeloving and homekeeping woman. Until long after she became an old lady, her only way of going to church, or to the store, was on horseback. For years, she rode a large, black horse, which was kept especially for her use.

The next spring, young Mr. Clarke and his young wife, Laura Downs, settled a quarter of a mile to the south of Mr. Canfield. Mrs. Clarke was a singer, and her four children all inherited the gift. The first school in the place was taught by her, in her own house. She was paid one dollar a week in provisions for money was an unheard of quantity in those days.

Settlers now began to arrive in large numbers. In 1820 Mrs. Silas French (Ann Curtiss) came with her husband and a large family of children, some of them already married. Her son Burton was one of the three who first voted the old "Liberty Ticket".

In 1822 another Southbury woman, Mrs. Justin Sherman (Genea Sherman) born 1788, came into the neighborhood. Mrs. Sherman only lived two years, leaving five sons and one daughter. One son, Nathan Gould, lived many years in Norwalk. His youngest daughter, Mary married the oldest son of Ex-Pres. Hayes.

Another woman, Mrs. Betsey Redding came in a year or two to fill Mrs. Sherman's place, a good, motherly woman who did her duty faithfully and well. The first grave in the Wakeman Cemetery was made for Mrs. Olive Minor, who arrived with her husband, two children and a granddaughter in 1820.

Mrs. Minor only lived six weeks after her arrival, and a path was cut through the trees and underbrush to her grave. The daughter afterwards married Chester Manville. She was a shrewd, quick-witted woman. Her dry, droll sayings used to be quoted by the neighbors with great relish.

Mrs. Minor's granddaughter (Susan Curtiss) married Minott Pierce, and died a few years ago. She was mourned by the community and the church, but most of all in the home where she had so long been the centre and life.

Ann Manville, a young slip of a girl, came here with her brother to be his housekeeper, before he was married. She soon married Amos Clarke and became the mother of a large family of children, several of whom still survive her.

Mrs. Cyrus Strong (Susan Curtiss) was from Woodbury, Conn., and the mother of fourteen children, eleven of whom grew to manhood and womanhood. There was a FOUNTAIN OF SONG in this family, for at least eight of the eleven where singers of especial excellence.

A sister-in-law, Esther Strong came into the wilderness to visit them and was persuaded to become one of the pioneer woman of Wakeman by Everett Hill. Mrs. Hill was a woman of rare judgement and decision of character. Her home was one of the way-stations on the U.G. R. R. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, a large family of fugitives were landed there in some way, best known to the officials of the said railway. Her only daughter afterwards gave me an amusing account of the proceedings.

True to her nature, Mrs. Hill put the children in her own bed and gave them every aid and comfort. In order to break the infamous law into as many pieces as possible, the daughter took the little darkies in her lap and fed them with her own hands.

Mrs. Hill survived her husband more than forty years, dying in Tabor, Iowa at the age of ninety-three.

Her third son has been for more than thirty years the honored and beloved pastor of the Congregational Church, in Atlantic, Iowa, his first and only pastorate.

A whole generation has passed away since Mrs. Hill lived among us, but the fragrance of that consistant Christian life is still here.

Another acquistion from Woodbury was Mrs. Rufus Bunce (Mary Booth), and she too had a sister who came to visit her, and afterwards married Isaac Todd. AUNT FANNY as she always was called, saw a good deal of the workings of the same mysterious railroad before mentioned. Many were the midnight departures from her home of these poor fugitives on their way to the North Star, via Oberlin.

Mrs. Todd's last days were saddened by the death of a well beloved son, who died in the hospital just before the battle of Pittsburgh Landing. Mrs. Lydia Camp and Mrs. Jane Marks, both lost their firstborn sons in the same regiment.

Mrs. Reuben Hall (Betsey Coe) was another mother of a family of singers. One of her sons was a musical enthusiast, and for many years was the chorister in the Congregational Church here. His first musical instrument was a flute, which his mother bought with her butter.

Mrs. Joel Wheeler (Elvira Betts) was another mother of a singing family. She was a woman who was entirely devoted to her family. Over the chasm of more than forty years I can still hear the clear, tenor voice of her youngest son, as he chanted with his sister in the Episcopal choir: As it was in the beginning, is now and every shall be, world without end, Amen.

Mrs. Xenophon Betts, the wife of the first settled minister here, was a lovely, cultured woman. Coming from her Connecticut home of comfort and plenty, she settled here, and for seven years shared the toils, isolation and home- sickness of her pioneer sisters. She died a few years afterwards in Lyme, O.

Many years afterward her husband came back and delivered an address before the Firelands Society, in which he gave a most touching tribute to her memory.

Of those who came later was Mrs. Jabez Hanford (Abby Richards). She was the mother of eleven children. Her second daughter, Mary Hanford, married C.C. Canfield, son of the first pioneer. Her home, as well as that of others we have mentioned, was a place where many a poor slave was warmed, clothed, fed and sent on his way to Canada rejoicing. The same was true of Mrs. Burton Frenel (Augusta Dayton). Her husband was one of a little band of Abolitionists in the place, who voted for "Liberty and Birney", and rejoiced greatly over every slave that they were able to send on their way to freedom.

Mrs. Isaac Judson was another woman whose home often sheltered the fleeing fugitive. On one occasion a whole family took refuge with them. For fear some unfriendly neighbor might discover their secret, they were taken to an old log house which was surrounded by a field of corn. Mrs. Judson disguised some of the younger members in their transit, by dressing them up in her own children's clothes.

Mrs. Bela Coe (Maria Hill) came here from Portage Co., with her husband and one son. The son was for many years, the leading tenor singer in the choir of the Congregational Church of this place.

Mrs. Isaac Hill (Miss Curtiss) was the daughter of a REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIER who died here. Mrs. Lemuel Kingsbury had the honor of being the wife of a soldier of the Revolution. Her granddaughter, Mrs. M. V. Armstrong is a resident of Wakeman.

Mrs. A. C. Hall came here from Edinburg, Portage Co. at the time of her marriage. Extreme conscientiousness was her most striking characteristic. With her, to deliberately choose the wrong was a thing impossible. Both she and her sister-in-law, Mrs. L. S. Hall, were home-loving and home-keeping woman. Neither of them ever dreamed that the sphere of home was a narrow one, or ever had any longings to soar beyond it.

Good Deacon Wilson's wife, Amarilla White, came to Wakeman young, and in the early days of its settlement. As I remember her in the later years of her life she was a beautiful old lady, straight and slim as a girl, with shining black eyes, and hair and brows to match.

She was an ideal Deacon's wife, the very embodiment of every womanly quality. As she walked by the side of her husband to church on Sundays, and to the Thursday evening prayer meeting, they were a comfortable and good couple to look at.

The sister-in-law, Mrs. Charles King (Nancy Wilson) came later. She was the wife of a soldier in the war of 1812.

Mrs. D. O. Wilson (Jane McComber) was worthy of being the daughter-in-law of Deacon Wilson and wife. She had the honor of being wounded in the WHISKEY WAR which broke out here some forty years ago.

Mrs. Edward Bunce (Olivia Hall) for several years one of the leading soprano singers in Wakeman. She not only had the gift of a sweet voice, but was also fair to look upon. By her side in the choir was Julia A. Bunce, afterwards Mrs. David Pierce. On the same seat was Hannah Clark, now Mrs. John Bryant of Buffalo and Frances Hanford, now Mrs. Kinney of Harvard, Ill.

Perhaps few realized then how much the pleasure and success of the Sabbath service depended on these beautiful singers.

Mrs. Lansing Waugh, (Docia Miner) came with her husband from New York state. She brought up her flock of girls in good, old-fashioned ways. As they left the home roof for homes of their own, they just naturally inclined to mother's ways, because, as twigs they were bent that way.

Mrs. Mindwell Waugh is living today in the person of her daughter Minerva, Mrs. S. C. French. This busy mother of a large family, while she rocked the cradle with her foot, and with her hands wrought at the family sewing, found there was one thing more she could do at the same time, she could count the time for the older children to practice their music lessons. It is needless to say that Mrs. French has never been afflicted with that disease which fashionable women call "ennui".

Eunice Burr came with her parents from Connecticut to Florence and married L. B. Pierce, son of the second pioneer. She was one of the most generous and helpful of women. She had in a large measure one of those virtues which Paul recommended to the saints at Rome, "given to hospitality".

The only murder in the town was that of Mrs. Lawther, by her husband. He was tried and sentenced to prison for life, but committed suicide while in jail.

A few rods from the Lawther home lived Mrs. William Bentley (Lydia Parker). Her youngest daughter, Mary, wife of Mr. S. Munger, and family now live on the old homestead.

Mrs. Erastus French (Ruth Squires) was married at sixteen, and came here as one of the first settlers of Wakeman. She also was one of the first members of the M. E. Church. Mrs. French had a HUNGER FOR BOOKS, which was never appeased, and her large family of girls was all like her in this respect.

Mrs. Merrit Hyde (Lucy Betts) also came here early and lived to be ninety-three years of age. She retained her faculties, and was bright and active until almost the last year of her life.

Polly Beecher came with her father's family from Bridgewater, Conn., and was one of the early school teachers of the place. She married Forsyth Arnold and settled in the northeast part of the town.

Across the road from Mrs. Arnold came a little later, Mrs. Edward Denman, while a little south lived Mrs. Dereemer.

Mrs. J. E. Hanford came with her husband about 1830; she only lived a few months, and her place was afterwards filled by Augusta Hervey, whose son, Edwin Hanford, is living on the old place.

Among those who came quite late, were Mrs. Dexter Bacon and her sister, Mrs. Dryden Barber from Simsbury, Conn. Mrs. Bacon could well have sat for the portrait of "Miss Ophelia" as painted by Mrs. Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin; she had what in Yankee vernacular would be called "faculty" and abhorred shiftlessness as a mortal sin.

Mrs. Dryden Barber lived with us only a few years, then removed with her family to Traer, Iowa. She was one of those modest, unassuming women, who must be seen in their home to be appreciated. Her youngest daughter married Charles Green of Lyndon, Kan., who has quite a local reputation as historian and antiquarian.

About 1836 came Mrs. Marquis Randall (Angeline Hanford) with her family. Her youngest son, Charles Randall, has been for many years in business in Cleveland.

Near the meeting house, as it was then called, lived Mrs. Hiram Abbott and her sister-in-law, Mrs. James Abbott. Still nearer lived Mrs. Luce, who settled here in the early days, and close by was her neighbor, Mrs. Joseph Utter, and on the other side, Mrs. Issac Russel.

Mrs. George Tillinghast came early into the wilderness to find a home with her husband. He was the first blacksmith in the place. Three of her children are now living in Norwalk.

Mrs. Peter Sherman (Samantha Mallory) came from Woodbury, Conn; she was a typical, wide awake, active Yankee housewife.

Mrs. Sala Todd (Harriet Nounan) was a woman who clung to the old ways. Everything belonging to her household was under the careful eye of it's mistress.

Mrs. George Todd (Betsey Pierpont) was a relative of a distinguished lawyer of the name of Pierpont. The large family of Mrs. Samuel Welch (Betsey Billings) came in 1844. Only two sons are living here at present.

In the south part of town, Mrs. Isaac Haskins and her family were early settlers. Her grandson, Erford Haskins, lives on the old place. Two daughters still survive her, Mrs. H. Peck of this place, and Mrs. Maxwell of Indiana.

Mrs. Lawrence (Sarah Evans) came later. She must have been a bonnie lass, for in middle life she was fair to look upon, she was a constant reader, and wielded a ready pen. It was to this intellectual mother, probably, that her son, M. J. Lawrence of the OHIO FARMER owes his many gifts.

Jeanette Shelton was a Woodbury, Conn. girl, arrived in Wakeman in it's early days, and married Joseph French. She lived the usual toiling, self- sacrificing life of a farmer's wife, with a home full of growing girls and boys. But the children were brought up to habits of industry and frugality, and thus escaped many a snare SPREAD FOR IDLE FEET.

Such , in brief, are some of the characteristics of the pioneer women of Wakeman. Their lives were wrought into the history of the place, often through much toil, privation and suffering., Most of them have for many years been resting from their labors. Here and there one is left, just as a few scattered leaves will sometimes cling to a tree, after the storms of winter have gathered their companions into heaps on the ground.

Elizabeth Denton, Chairman and Historian

Wakeman committee: Mrs. A. B. Coe Mrs. Isaac Haskins Mrs. M. V. Armstrong Mrs. Mary Wilson Mrs. Mary Munger Mrs. A. Pelton of Toledo, O.

Gertrude Van Rensselear Wickham, editor, A Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve: published under the auspices of the Woman's Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission 2 volumes (1896; reprint, Middleton, KY.: Whipporwill Press, 1981), 559-563.

Transcribed and submitted by Cathi Vannice 01 January 2002

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