EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a weekly series on our region’s history offered in a collaborative effort by local historical societies.
“Why in the world would we want to leave Connecticut and walk hundreds of miles to a land no one has seen?”
That is what some brave souls asked themselves as they made the journey into what is now called the Western Reserve. Even these Connecticut Land investors were smart enough to sell their shares to land agents who sold it to common folk.
There were no lawyers, doctors, or accountants. Farming is what they knew and that’s why they answered the incentive of $100 and 5 free acres from John Stark Edwards. Well, you may ask, why couldn’t they make a living in Connecticut?
By the late 1700s, young people were leaving Connecticut because there was no economic opportunity. Farming practices of the early settlers created the loss of virgin forests and native wildlife. Farms were smaller and less productive. Decades of insufficient fertilizing, weeding and crop rotation destroyed the land. Survival meant moving.
Populations could not be supported. Connecticut’s 17 earliest settlers had 72 sons and daughters to divide this land. An illustration is the example of David and Rachel Clark who lived in the Rev. Mr. Mills’ house at 100 S. Main St., exemplifying the longevity and fertility of some of the colonists. When Clark died, the four-story home housed many generations as told by his obituary:
“Oct. 26 David Clark, aged 94 years, married to Rachel Moore in May 1750, with whom he lived 64 years and five months, she dying the 9th of October 1814 aged 83 years. Their descendants are 20 children, 117 grandchildren, 111 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren, making the fifth generation. The whole, 260.”
And they left for Ohio battling mosquitoes, disease, forests and death to settle the Western Reserve by wagon or on foot through the Alleghenies. Shelter, food, health, protection, ownership of land, transportation and currency were issues they struggled with to determine if they returned for security and stability, or risk everything.
Below is a letter written by Edwards in August 1801 from Mesopotamia:
My settlement is doing finely. We have this day had a lecture delivered by a clergyman. There were about 40 people present. Our country is increasing in numbers. You can have no idea of what pleasures are derived from improvements that are daily in the making, every day brings a new inhabitant, a neighbor opens a road, raises a barn or begins a new farm. Indeed the Scripture is fulfilled where it says, “the Wilderness shall be made to blossom as the rose.” Our country does literally flow with milk and honey. Bees are beyond calculation numerous. Trees of them are found in every direction. Go into a cornfield in blossom and you are stunned with their noise. And the rich variety of flowers which the woods afford them it would give you pleasure to see.
“We risked everything for this.”
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