Archives: May 2010
In beginning the history of the settlement of Boston Township, Range 11, Town 4, we turn to the “History of Summit County” by William Henry Perrin. Published in 1892, here is his description of the Township.
“When the first settlers came to the township, the prospect was anything but encouraging. The Cuyahoga River, then a marshy stream that overflowed its banks all together too often for the happiness or prosperity of the settler, passed northward across the township a short distance west of the center. Along the adjacent valley were frequent bogs and marshes of decaying vegetable matter, that, under the heat of the summer sun, threw off noxious vapors to poison and contaminate the air. A large portion of the township was cut by narrow, deep gorges and ravines, that were overhung by precipitous ridges and hills, covered with a heavy forest, and having a heavy, sterile soil that gave no word of encouragement or promise to the backwoodsman. The woods were filled with wild animals, and, what was equally a cause for apprehension of danger, bands of Indians were near that might begin the work of slaughter at any moment. Markets and mills were miles distant, and the journey by team through the woods was rendered so slow and harassing by reason of mud and fallen timber, that the distance was practically doubled.”
The first settlers in Range 11, town 4, Boston Township, were Alfred Wolcott, and James Stanford.
When the township, the entire Western Reserve, was surveyed in 1796-97, the survey stopped at the Cuyahoga River. Land west of the this western boarder of the United States, was not ceded by the Natives, nor surveyed, till… 1805.
You may recognize the name Simon Perkins. He purchased massive amounts of land besides the acreage that would later become downtown Akron. In fact in the year 1815, he owned so much land that he paid nearly 1/7 of all the real estate taxes in the State of Ohio. Perkins with Judge Kirkland, had land interests in Boston Twp. Both living in Warren they hired a local surveyor to divide the townships into lots. This was in 1805. In 1806 the surveyors returned leaving their wives (and children?) in the well established community of Hudson while they constructed a crude shanty approx. 8’x 8’ and barley tall enough to stand in, in what would become the present day Boston Cemetery. Working out of the shanty and living from the fruits of their guns and the small amount of provisions they got weekly from Hudson they began to clear farms and build cabins on their own lots.
Picture a sunrise in the Cuyahoga River Valley, mist rising off the marsh. A peaceful and serene picture? It’s not always been so.
Alfred Wolcott built what is described as a round cabin (probably octagonal) on his lot in the Cuyahoga River valley just north of what would become the town of Boston. It is thought that Sa…muel Ewart was in the employment of Wolcott and together they finished the home in a matter of a few months. Wolcott had married the prior fall or winter, and left his bride Hannah of Youngstown in the care of Hudsonites while he prepared the nuptial cabin. When he brought her to the valley, it did not meet her approval. It seems that having been built low in the valley, they were close by a swampy area. At that time the mist rising off the water was thought to be poisonous, probably the smell of the rotting vegetation didn’t help any. (Today we know that it was the mosquitoes that carried disease) Alfred, not wanting to displease Hannah, traded lots with James Stanford who had built on the northeastern part of the township. Stanford had also been a member of the survey party of 1805, and settled in Range 11, Town 4 (Boston Township), just weeks after Wolcott. Stanford got a double good deal, because when he cleaned the swampy area, it was found to be a spring and a good source of clean drinking water. And yes, this is the Stanford homestead that is now a hostel.
Alfred and Hannah would have a son in 1812. Alfred Jr. would (much later) be elected to the State Legislature.
Of Native Americans in Boston Township, I’ve been able to find this information.
Prior to the settlement of the township, this was a favorite spot for many Tribes. There are several burial mounds, and evidence of encampments and forts are scattered throughout the valley. Proof that this area was well established hundred…s and possibly thousands of years before it was “discovered”.
About the time the very first white men were exploring the valley, Chief Pontiac lived in a village near Boston (close to the base of the hills of Boston Mills Ski Resort). Here Chief Pontiac began his rebellion against the British at Fort Detroit in the 1760’s. The village was still there when the white men began to settle the area, and it was in this village that a totem pole had been placed. Before great hunts and times of war, the Natives would gather round this totem and offer gifts of tobacco to their Gods. Then after they left, those settlers brave enough would confiscate the gifts. A Tribe of Seneca had a village based at the very northern edge of the township. They were under Chief Sigwanish who was very friendly to the settlers (more about Chief Sigwanish in a later posts). When you drive up Riverview Rd, north of Boston, watch for wild apple trees. They are descendants of the apple orchard planted by the Seneca of this village.
At the time the settlers came, there was also a large village just southeast of the village of Peninsula. Picture the area incorporated by Brandywine Golf coarse. Some 30-40 acres of land had been cleared by the Natives and planted in corn. In fact in 1804 settlers from Hudson came to this field and purchased corn from the Natives. On your next drive by, notice the extremely high ground on the north side of the golf coarse. This knoll (almost 300 ft above the river) provides a excellent view of both the upper and lower valley. In fact on a clear day you can see the downtown buildings in Cleveland, so it would stand to reason that one would also be able to see smoke signals from the mouth of the Cuyahoga, and in turn be able to send signals as far south as Copley Township (where there is another knoll) Small wonder the local Natives knew the outcome of the rebellion in the west days before the settlers.
We return to the dark side of our local history. Although this story does not begin in Summit County, it ended here and nearly caused war with the local Natives. You may recognize many of the names involved. Right or wrong, no matter which side you take, it is our history.
In the winter of 1806-07, the settlement of Dee…rfield in Portage County was a mixed community of Natives and White Men. That winter a horse trade was made between a settler named Daniel Divers, and a Native named John Nickshaw. Both parties were initially pleased with the trade, Diver trading a mare and colt for a pony. The problem was that the mare had been raised on hay and refused to scavenge food for herself in the woods. The natives never provided hay for their horses, letting them “eat sticks” (forage on their own). After several months Nickshaw wanted to trade back, but Diver refused so Nickshaw thought he had been cheated. Nickshaw, being an older man, requested John Mohawk to avenge him.
On Jan. 20, 1807 Daniel and his brother John were entertaining friends at Daniel’s cabin when Nickshaw, Mohawk, and John Bigson and his two sons, all under the influence of whisky, came and demanded recompense. They were dismissed and sent on their way. They waited till about 10 that evening and when John Diver left for home. Mohawk shot him thinking it was Daniel and the party fled into the night. The bullet entered John’s temple and severed his optic nerves blinding him for life. Word of the attack spread quickly and the next morning 25 men started out in pursuit of the party. It was very cold, there was snow on the ground and as some of the posse began to drop out, others from the communities they passed through joined in. The chase went north and west, and in Hudson George Darrow and Jonathan Williams joined the party (yes, that Jonathan Williams, see posts 4/20-4/23). That evening the 5 men were found in the Indian village at the base of what is now Boston Mills Ski resort. Bigson and his sons were captured, but Nickshaw and Mohawk got away pursued by Darrow and Williams, who quickly overtook them. They were ordered to stop and surrender but refused. Williams shot Nickshaw in the back, but Mohawk got away. A squaw that had run with them was left in the snow to fend on her own and later died.
Bigson and his sons were taken back to Deerfield and later acquitted. The Natives demanded that Williams be brought to trial, and the Whites demanded that Mohawk be turned over and tried. Tempers raged and it was only through considerable dialog between David Hudson, Heman Oviatt, and Chief Sigwanish, that a bloody war was averted. Over time tempers died down, and neither Mohawk, or Williams was ever brought to trial.