1797 was the second year of the survey of the Western Reserve by the Connecticut Land Company. In charge of supplies that year was Joshua Stow. The first building built by the survey crew was on the east side of Conneaut creek near Lake Eire. They used it as a main storeroom and affectionately named it “Stow Castle”. At some point during the next two years Joshua Stow visited the area known as Range 10, Town 3. He called it “one of the prettiest and most romantic spots in the Western Reserve”. The next year he purchased it for $14,154. This third time investment was a charm, since twice before he had invested heavily in land in Pennsylvania and (in a land fraud deal involving) the Louisiana Purchase. He had nearly lost everything in those deals.
During the time that the township was settled, he made many trips (13) here from his home town of Middletown, Connecticut, and would continue to reinvest his money in the township that would bear his name, but he never settled in Stow.
Back in Connecticut, he became a postmaster, and a tax collector. Stow also became very involved in behind the scenes politics. Although a deeply religious man, he believed that the church should not be involved in the government and was a Jefferson supporter.
Being born April 22, 1762, we was 24 years old when he married his wife Ruth (they had 3 children), 36 when he would have been Commissary for the Connecticut Land Company, and 43 when Stow was settled. He died at age 84 and is buried in his hometown of Middletown Ct.
William Wetmore was a cousin to Joshua Stow. Wetmore had been a successful businessman in the same town as Stow. In fact, many of the early settlers in Stow would come from the same town of Middletown Connecticut. After a few bad investments Wetmore took the job of Deputy Clerk for the county. It was at this point in 1…804 that Stow offered Wetmore the job of being his land agent (realtor) in the new state of Ohio. Wetmore accepted and with his wife and 4 children used a span of horses (two horses that are nearly identical, even in color) and a covered wagon on a overland route that took 42 days to get to the new frontier. One of the first things he did was to hire Joseph Darrow to survey the township in to 90 equal lots. Wetmore built his cabin on the southeast center lot about 20 rods (one rod equals 16 ½ feet) east of the very center of town. For those that know the area, this would be approximately where Walgreens is now, but remember it was also unbroken wilderness. Even though the Indians had long since given up the rights to this land, there were still large numbers around and one (sometimes two) Indian villages on Silver lake. Wetmore kept a good relationship with them and gained their respect by not trying to take advantage of them. When trading with the Indians, he would have them state their terms and he would either accept or reject the deal, never arguing with his neighbors.
With the help of his brother Titus, who had come with him, in 1804, William Wetmore cleared some of his land and put in a field of wheat. After threshing it with flails he had about 4 bushels. We have talked about the difficulties in milling grain in those early days. The closest mill that year was in Newburg, near Cleveland. He hired a man from Hudson who would take the grain to the mill, but would charge a price of one-half of the milled flour. If this seems a high price, realize that there were no roads and it would take one day to get there, one for the milling and one to return. The current going rate for the milling process was 1/8th of the milled flour. Meaning that from his approximately 240 lb. of wheat Wetmore got 74 lbs of flour. Lapin, the man that took the wheat wouldn’t take the whole amount at once and wouldn’t go till he, himself ran out of flour first. This meant that the Wetmore family would often go without. Mrs. Wetmore became creative, using the kernels of the wheat to make pudding (yummmm). They frequently state that if not for the gifts of bear and deer meat from the neighboring Indians, they would have starved.
I like to read between the lines and take the endless lists of names, and dates and match them with a timeline that we know. When I did that with the Darrow’s list of births and deaths and matched it with the timeline of their life… well things just became more real.
Joseph Darrow would have been 24 when he left his home in New York state to go west with David Hudson on their adventure, 27 when he met 20 year old Sally and they married a year later. Sally had her first baby when she was 24, the same year that they moved into their own cabin in Stow. Joseph would have gone to war with General Wadsworth when he was 35, and they were 52 and 46 respectively when their last child was born. Of their 13 children, two died within a week of each other in 1828, and two more died 3 months apart in 1832 (suggesting epidemics of some sort). Two other children never saw their 3rd birthdays. Sally died in 1847, 2 weeks short of their 45th wedding anniversary. Joseph never remarried (rare in those days) and passed 9 years later at age 81.
Joseph Darrow was hired on by David Hudson on Hudson’s very first trip to the Western Reserve in 1799. Darrow was a surveyor and helped to divide Hudson Township into sellable lots, and to lay out the town roads. In April, 1803 Joseph Darrow married Sally Prior. Does the name Prior sound familiar? Simon and Catherine Prior, and their 11 children (including Sally), came to the Western Reserve to settle in Northampton in the spring of 1802. Remember also that Simon dropped off his wife and all but the oldest boys to stay with David Hudson while the “men” built a cabin in Northampton. In Sept. 1804 the Darrows bought lot 86, the northern most lot of the east side of Rt. 91 in Stow and built a home of their own. In the next 24 years they would have 13 children. 1804 was also the year that Stow was “officially” founded. William Wetmore moved to Stow and would be hired by Joshua Stow as his land agent (realtor). Wetmore in turn, would hire Joseph Darrow to survey Range 10, Town 3, (Stow) into sellable lots and to lay out the roads. Later Darrow would make improvements to the road that connected the two townships of Hudson and Stow. Those who know the area, know that what would later become Rt. 91 is also known as Darrow Rd.
Joseph Darrow is also a Veteran of the War of 1812.
There are two types of rattlesnakes native to Ohio, though the last ones seen in northern Ohio were back in the 1950s. In fact both the Eastern Massasauga and Timber rattlesnakes are listed on the endangered species list by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The Massasauga was named by the Chippewa and means “great river m…outh” probably due to the fact that it enjoys swamps and wetlands. Adults grow to be 20 to 30 inches in length and are described as short and thick. The Massasauga is more aggressive than the Timber Rattler, that was often described as the “yellow” snake. Preferring to retreat, they still looked much more malicious as they grow to lengths of four to six feet!
From the journals of C.C. Bronson, come these accounts from a time when Stow was a frontier town. Taken from interviews with Henry Wetmore, (and written down just as they are recorded) who would have been 3 years old when their family was the first to move to Stow in 1804.
“I have been frequently urged to sketch some of the scenes witnessed by the early of Stow Township, particularly in reference to Indians, and Snakes, Bear, Wolves, Squirrels, and Pigeons; but have as often objected on the ground that so much of this has been related by others that it has mainly passed down to the present generation by tradition, and now might and probably would to many, be rather stale.
In regard to rattle snakes, there have been so many improbable stories and even falsehoods published that anything I might say about them be placed in the same list, for instance statements of rattle snakes chasing people, and not long since it was stated that a snake climbed up into a mans wagon to bite him, both of which are falsehoods; they never chase or pursue anyone. But being now solicited by you, Mr. Editor, I will state a few facts and give a short sketch upon each of the subjects above mentioned and some of the circumstances connected there with. I am also induced to do so by the self consideration or convection of the fact that I am now the only survivor left of the four families who came to Stow from Middletown, Connecticut, and arrived in June, 1804, when Indians, wild beasts and snakes possessed the land. My Father settled in his log house one half mile North of Stow Corners (This cabin was on the SE corner of 91 and Graham, think Walgreens. RDJ HASC), and about four years after moved onto the beautiful spot now occupied by Mr. Moore on the bank of Silver Lake.
On our arrival in Stow, I was three years and four months old, and can distinctly remember some of the most vivid scenes which took place in the autumn of that year with snakes, and from and after 1805 still more distinctly, some of which I will relate.
As the terror of the numerous snakes made the earliest impression on me I will speak of them first, as all the other wild beasts were comparatively harmless to man.
Rattle snakes were numerous in Stow Township, caused by their having so favorable a place to winter, in the caves and in the gorge near Stow Corners, usually called Stow Gulf. (Stow Corners is the intersection of Rts. 59 & 91, Stow Gulf is now better know as Adell Durbin. RDJ HASC) In the summer they were so numerous for miles around the Gulf that it was unsafe for a person to step in among weeds or grass without first viewing the ground. Our good old dog had killed (snakes) more or less every day, and had been bitten twice and cured by the Indians by the medical qualities of a plant, of which I will speak hereafter; but a fatal day came for our poor dog. He was sleeping on the shady side of a stump, of a tree near our door, and flopping his big ears to keep off the flies, when a snake came creeping along on the opposite side of the stump, and seeing the dog flop his ears took it as an insult or a demonstration of war and bit him behind his ear, which proved fatal. The usual remedies were used and an Indian doctor sent for. He came, and, as he saw the dog shook his head and said: “No cure when dog bit there”. We buried the poor dog, and when put in the ground I cried most piteously, as he was my companion and protector. A monument of stones covers the place, which remained for several years.
John Campbell’s cabin mentioned here would have been approximately where “Marc’s” is, remembering that in this forested wilderness, the only sign of civilization was this small cluster of log cabins, the only link with other settlers being a blazed trail in the woods and swamps where Rt. 91 would be.
“About eighty rods from our house where we first settled, who was one of the four heads of families mentioned, built a log house and put his wife and one child, a babe, in it. Having no boards in those days floors, split logs were used, with the split side up. These would shrink and make open places, which, added to frequent knots and other irregularities, made rough and open floors. One day Mrs. Campbell put her child, then two or three years old, in the middle of the floor and gave it a tin of bread and milk, shutting the door, went up to see my mother. On her return she thought she would just look in through a little window to see what the child was doing, as she heard the child uttering some childish words, and, behold, there lay a large yellow rattle snake, coiled almost into the childs lap, and was licking the milk off from the childs apron, which had dropped upon it: and the child, just at the moment the mother looked in, was patting the snake over the head with the spoon to make him stop doing so. Mrs. Campbell opined the door with a scream, and the snake went down through a crack in the floor. She took the child to our house, and my Father and M. Campbell, who soon came, turned over the logs of the floor and killed the snake. It evidently smelt the milk, and with an instinctive impression of the childs innocence and inability to hurt him, attempted to partake of some of the childs food.”
My father came here with a single span of horses and one of them was bitten and died, which proved a great loss to us at that particular time. A man Samuel Baker, came here about 1808 or 09, and built a Log House just North of the Cemetery, at that time a plan was formed to watch every spring at the different places where the snakes came up out of the Gulf until they should be exterminated. And Baker said he would be one of the number if Sunday was given to him, as he could not spend a working day, which was agreed to. One Sabbath morning, about 10 a.m. he discovered a large number of snakes just opposite the Cemetery coming out of a small crevice in the rocks about 10 feet below where he stood, at the base of which was a narrow strip of land above the abyss below, upon which the snakes were sunning. When Baker supposed they were all out he pulled off his coat and dropped it down the mouth of the crevice, and then with a pole prepared for the purpose he croked the crevice with his coat.
Then with the pole he descended and killed 65 rattle snakes. My Father, Brother, good old Deacon Butler, myself and others saw them counted, why I have mentioned Deacon Butlers name is this: he, with the few inhabitants here, was holding a Deacons Meeting at Stow Corners in a Log House, and just as Mr. Butler was in the midst of a prayer Bakers son came bounding into the room exclaiming at the top of his voice, “O, Dads got a pile of snakes; Dads got a pile of snakes!” The Deacon said “Amen”, and all ran out to view the slain enemy, which was a sight for is indeed and which I will remember. My Father hired Baker to blast open the den the next day, and found only one more in there, the largest one of all, supposed to be the pioneer, and the mother and grandmother of good share of those killed. The Den was like an old out door brick oven, only larger, and full of leaves carried in by animals before the snakes took possession. This watching was continued every spring until they were exterminated in this vicinity.
The weed that was used by the Indians to cure snake bites (grew) along on the boarders of the Gulf, and what is singular about it is that it all disappeared when the snakes did. It was a handsome plant growing about two feet in height, w…ith small leaves, and when hung up in the house, it was ornamental. No fly would light upon it while it was green. In applying this plant to the cure of snake bites they would pound the stock and leaves and extract the juice and give internally if the poison was likely to reach the stomach. And always bind the pounded fiber on the wound, and if the location of the wound would admit of being lanced, say to the depth of the wound thy did so. There was a young man came into our neighborhood, who, I think was a relative of the Walkers in Stow, and was bitten and died under these circumstances as near as I can recollect, as it was told to me, He was warned to wear cow hide boots, impenetrable to snake teeth, but for some reason he omitted it. Soon after his arrival he went out to pick blackberries, and thought he would elude the snakes by getting on logs and reach for the berries, but a “Massasnugur” snake was on the log and bit him on the heel and as he turned to escape, bit him the second time, and one bite in that place is said to be sure death to anyone. His leg in a few hours was the color of the snake, and the swelling continued up to his vitals in spite of all remedies. This species of snakes was not common with us, but was detested, if possible, more than the rattle snake, as it never gave any warning, while the other would frequently give any warning, while the other would frequently give you notice with rattles to stand back.
WHEN WILD BEASTS POSSESSED THE LAND
Wild animals of all kinds were very numerous at the early day of which I write, and to man they were harmless. No fears were entertained that the bear or wolf would attack anyone. The wolfs in their howlings at night were frightful, but to cowardly to attack, although persons going any distance at night usually carried a torch or a lantern; either would insure perfect safety, as they were afraid of fire. The only beast (wild) the people were afraid of in the least was the panther. There were but a few of these and only one was killed that we knew of. The bear was however a pest, and he was a great hindrance to hog grazing for he was exceedingly fond of pork and would capture hogs in the day time, if they were far from the house, while in some cases Bruin would follow them to within a few rods of it. To instances I will relate. I obtained permission of my mother to pick up some nuts near a foot path, about fifty rods (275 yards HASC) from the house, one day, and while in the narrow path I saw our hogs come running in for dear life. As I stepped aside to let them pass I discovered that immediately in the rear was a large bear at full speed. As he approached he did not leave the path but passed within six or eight feet of me and as he passed looked me squarely in the face, but did not slacken his speed. The hogs ran on, jumped through a gap in the fence near the house, and into their pen. My mother noticed the fright of the hogs and saw them come in on the path I had gone out on an behold there was the bear but a few rods in the rear, and I 15 20 rods behind the bear running home. Bruin came onto the fence gap and halted. Mother screamed and waved her hand for me to go around so as not to encounter the bear on his return. So eager for a rasher that he stood there by the fence not more than five rods off, looking at mother and the porkers, while I ran around him into the house. Then when mother saw I was safe, she approached the bear with weapons and drove him off. We had to pen our hogs every night in a bear proof pen to insure their safety.
During the winter of 1808, Joseph Darrow, then of Stow, went hunting in Mud Brook swamp near Hudson. He saw two bears and followed them to the ledges of Boston Township (north of Virginia Kendal). After he had seen where their den was, he went back to Stow and told his father, two brothers, and a neighbor. Early the next morning they set out and after inspecting the area, found another hole where the bears might escape. Rolling a bolder over it, one of the party was assigned to stand watch over the exit. Joseph Darrow then crawled into the entrance with his rifle. After creeping on hands and knees through the small entrance for 15 or 20 feet, he saw one of the bears and taking aim at it’s head, fired. (Imagine shooting a black powder rifle inside a small dark cave.) He had to back, back out to reload. Upon returning into the cave, he drove the other bruin to try to escape through the blocked exit. Enough of an opening remained that when the bear was partially exposed the assigned sentinel shot it. The hunting party was rewarded with 300 pounds of bear meat.
This was life as a settler in Summit County.
There was in 1804 a large village of some 500 Native Americans living at Silver Lake on the south shore. Every time you drive down Rt. 59, you are driving right through the center of where their village was.
Had it not been for the generosity, intelligence, and kindness of these aboriginal neighbors, the first settlers… of Stow could have starved and/or died from sickness that first winter.
From the pen of Henry Wetmore, via “The Bronson Book” by C.C. Bronson.
“Father had a space of an acre or two near the house cleared of brush, and without plowing, planted a variety of common vegetables. The new rich soil produced an abundant yield, and the crop proved a mine of wealth to us in our dealings with the red men. All our vegetables were new to them, and a marvel in their estimation. After giving to all who had given to us, to their full satisfaction, Father got them to establish prices; that is to say how much of our products should be considered an equivalent for their game. They fixed upon six good turnips or cucumbers for a quarter of venison or a turkey, etc. In making any of these exchanges, Father added to the vegetables calling the addition a present, thereby securing the friendship of the Indians. In ho instance did they steal vegetables from us. By this system of exchange we were supplied with meat, fowls and wild fruit in abundance… Thus we lived in friendship and confidence; never fastening our doors at night and never molested. During the daytime some of them, or their squaws and children, were at our house everyday more or less. One of the great attractions was our looking glass, all had to see it, and scarce one that did not look behind the glass also. It was great amusement for us boys.”
The friendship between the settlers of Stow and the Native Americans that lived along the shore of Silver Lake became strong and fast. Visitations were made daily by the women and children. It was extra distressful then, when the Wetmores and others noticed that the local tribes had suddenly stopped all communications…. Instead small groups of braves were noticed gathered together, talking in hushed tones and looking at the cabins. Rumors had come to the settlement that the British were recruiting various tribes as allies, and of Indian uprisings in the west. News had come from Hudson that a militia was being drummed up and reinforcements had been sent for. That evening drums could be heard in the woods. The men took turns keeping watch with loaded rifles. Imagine their surprise when after a long and anxious night, no smoke from the cooking fires of the village could be seen. Upon closer and apprehensive inspection, the men found out that everyone was gone. Anything of value was gone, and the fires had been put out. It was like a ghost town. Not till a few years later, when some of the tribe returned was the truth found out.
A British soldier/spy dressed and painted as one of their own, had infiltrated the Silver Lake camp and had convinced the tribe to join the British alliance. For joining forces and fighting with the British against the new settlers, they were promised that they would gain back all the land that they had had to sign over. This was agreed to except that Chief Wagmong would allow no harm could come to the local settlers. After their triumphant return the “White Man” would be given one chance to run. In return for this concession, it was agreed that the tribes must leave immediately. In essence, they gave up their beautiful homes to save their friends, the settlers of Stow.
The Native Americans here went west to Detroit and fought with the British until they realized that they had been tricked. They then joined forces with the Gen. Harrison and the Americans and fought in the battle of the Thames in Canada. Tecumseh was killed in this battle. The return of the “Red Man” to Silver Lake was sad. It was only a few braves that returned and without their families. They found that many more settlers had come and that the hunting that had at one time been so plentiful was now greatly diminished. So instead they went to, and settled on the land that the government gave them on the Wolf River in Wisconsin.
In the year 1806 there was a total eclipse of the sun in this area on June 16th. Imagine the surprise of those who were uneducated in these things, settlers and Native Americans. Here’s another story from the Bronson book (just as he wrote it):
“Mr. Wetmore says: the dense woods intensified its darkness and gloom, and animals of all kinds were frightened. Owls hooted, wolves howled, most hideously. Our hens went to roost on stumps and logs – darkness coming on so suddenly that they did not reach the coop. In the midst of this scene Cochrans wife ran out, fell upon her knees in the greatest fright, emploring the Lord to save us, exclaiming that this was the end of the world and the Judgment Day. My Father subdued her lamentation as he could by inducing her to look through a smoked glass, and by assuring her that it was an Eclipse of the sun. Although he had no knowledge of it until it came, not having Almanacks at that day, on the Reserve.
When Mrs. Chchran discovered the true cause of the sudden darkness, she turned her lamentation into hysteric laughter. Her husband had bought lot 43, …(approx. where Silver Lake Country Club is, RDJ HASC) and was erecting a Log House. Meanwhile they lived with us. On the morning of the Eclipse he was cutting out for the door of his cabin, when suddenly the darkness enveloped him. The woods on the North were famous for wolves, and the animals, howling with terror at the oppressive darkness, so frightened Cochean that he climbed to the ridge pole of the building as panic stricken as his wife. When the sun reappeared. The wolves ceased their howling and the owls their hooting, Cochran clambered down and ran home, his wife running out to meet him, both thankful for their escape from their supposed danger, she for the consoling belief that the world would continue for a while longer and he for the light of the sun once more and the departure of the wolves.”
No settler was ever killed by the Native Americans in what would be Summit County. Unfortunately the same can not be said of the Natives by the “white man”. There were several “Indian hunters” in the area, the most notorious being Jonathan Williams. He lived in Northampton, near the intersection of the corners of the t…hree townships that we have studied so far. Beside Northampton, he is mentioned in the histories of Hudson and Stow. He was a fierce Indian fighter.
At one time a Brave was bragging that he had put a notch in his tomahawk every time he had killed a white. He had 99 notches and told Williams that he wanted 100. The brave was under the influence of “sacknee” when he spoke and soon wandered off into the woods and swamp. Williams slipped away from the group assembled at the cabin, returning later saying that “the injun tomahawk would never get it’s next notch”. Years later when asked what happen to the Brave, Williams responded that his remains could probably be found in Mud Brook.
From the pen of Henry Wetmore, via “The Bronson Book” by C.C. Bronson. Speaking of an incident between his father, William, and the Native Americans of Silver Lake.
“Such confidence had we in them that our doors were never fastened at night. We never had but one article stolen from us and that was under circumstances of… peculiar temptation. My father had what in those days was a remarkable knife, with many blades, and including tools for several purposes besides cutting. An Indian was overcome with temptation and stole it. When the Chief found out he directed four Indians to convey the thief to Father and make him give up the knife. The Indian who keenly felt his disgrace, was ashamed to confront my Father and by dint of persuasion induced his captors to take him before Heman Oviatt at Hudson, where he gave up the knife. That Indian never made his appearance to us afterwards, nor did any of them take the least thing from us, not even a melon or a ear of corn from our garden. Just here I am constrained to say: even if it is a digression, that I wish I could say as much for the honesty of the whites, even at this late day of progress and knowledge.”
- Henry Wetmore, 1872
Again, from the book “The Western Reserve and Early Ohio” by P.P. Cherry
“Indian Wilson had been at Heman Oviatt’s in Hudson and got ”squabby” or ”cockazy” as the Indians called it and on his way back, he was in an ugly condition. He stopped in a house where he found a woman and two little children alone. Seizing them… by the hair, he flourished his scalping knife as if intending to take their scalps and after frightening them to his heart’s content, left. Another account says:—”He went to the house of Old Mother Newell near the town line on Paines’ road. She was alone and noticing his approach, she took the precaution to bar the door. Denied admittance to the cabin which had but one door, he put his gun-barrel through the opening between the logs and satisfied his ugly disposition by forcing her, with threats, to dance in the middle of the floor until, tired of the sport, he went away. He had scarcely left before Mrs. Newell, on the watch for some passer-by, saw Williams coming along the trail with his gun on his shoulder, as usual. She called him and related the circumstances. Williams waited only long enough to hear the story when he pushed on after the Indian. Wilson through the woods hoping to avoid an encounter. Wil-finding Williams on his trail, left the road and struck Williams gained on him slowly but surely and when in the vicinity of a piece of “honey-comb swamp,” taking an advantage of a moment when the Indian was off his guard, he shot and killed him. Drawing his body into this piece of swamp, he thrust it out of sight, also sending the Indian’s rifle down with him. The disappearance of Wilson caused a great commotion among the Indians. The Indians suspected what the whites did not learn until years afterward and Williams was obliged to be constantly on his guard ever after.”
It seems that no matter what the time period, there are genuinely kind and good people, and, for lack of a better term on a PG site, buttheads. But was Jonathan Williams a bad person for wanting revenge on a group of people that killed his family? Was that group of people, the Native Americans, wrong for fighting the invaders that were trying to take their homes and destroy their very way of life?
I warned you last week that this was the dark side of our local history, but it is our history. This is the last of the information that I could find about Williams. My guess is that like other “Frontiersmen” (not settler) he moved on when the hunting got scarce, and the country got to crowded with people for his tastes.
Again, from the book “The Western Reserve and Early Ohio” by P.P. Cherry.
“One day an Indian came to the house of Williams and told him that there was a snake on his trail. The next morning before going out, he took a good look from the little window of his house. On the border of the clearing, he saw an Indian watching the house and then suddenly disappear. Williams took down his rifle, looked carefully to the flint and priming and said to his wife, “There is an Indian out there. I’ll trick him, tie up the dog and don’t be scared.” So saying, he suddenly opened the door and before the Indian had a chance to shoot, took refuge behind a bank of earth near the house. He hurried a short distance and got behind a tree and with his rifle ready began to watch for his foe. He saw the Indian’s dog coming towards him. Suddenly, the savage glided through a small glade on the edge of the woods. Like a flash, Williams raised his rifle and fired. The bullet went straight to its mark. The body was secreted in Mud-brook….On another occasion it is said that Williams while hunting, when the ground was covered with a slight fall of snow, lost his bearings and found himself following his own track in a circle. He observed, upon coming on his own trail, the track also of a moccasined foot and with a hunter’s instinct, recognized his pursuer, he took to a tree and shot him as he came again, following the trail.