FLORENCE TWP., Erie Co., Ohio from HISTORY OF THE FIRELANDS by W.W.Williams 1879 pages 445-453.
[note: the following list of “sufferers” is abridged. Also included was the amount of loss, by whom classified, and amount classified. This refers to those claims granted in the “Firelands” in 1808 to those in Connecticut whose property had been destroyed by fire during the Revolution. All of the following claims were sold to Isaac Bronson, Ebenezer Jesup Jr., Jesup Wakeman, and Joseph Wakeman.]
Classification No.1, Section 1. Original grantees: Abigail Armour, Reuben Coe, Jonathan Coe, Humphrey Denton, Isaac Davis, Sylvanus Ferris, Josiah Ferris, Moses Ferris, Ezra Finch, Pack Ferris, Charles Green, Abel Gould, Joseph Wakeman, Abigail Hubbel, Jabez Thorp, Charles Green, Nathaniel Benedict, John Gregory Jr., Benj. Isaac’s heirs, Col. Steph’n St. John Classification No.2, Section 2. Jabez Thorp, Jonathan Darrow, Samuel Squire, Col.Stephen St. John, Ann Seymour, Timothy Whitney, Jarvis Kellogg, Desire Siscat, Mary Lockwood, Cyrus Bissry, Sarah Eversley, Stephen G. Thatcher, John Richards, Gershom Pritchard, Capt. Phin. Hanford, Ezra Waterbury, Hannah Gregory, Daniel Sturges, John Phillow, Daniel Webb, Nathan Burrill, Betty Jarvis, John Eversley, Thos. Fitch’s heirs, Charles Green, Joseph Hubby. Jr., Nathaniel Husted, William Jacobs, Joshua Knapp, Jonathan Knap, Israel Lockwood, William Lockwood, Andrew Marshall, Caleb Mead, Thomas Mesnard, Jesse Mead, Henry Mead Classification No.3, Section 3. Samuel Squire, Ann Hull, Solomon Sturges, Francis D. Swords, John Wilson, Hezekiah Sturges, Henry Mead, John Mesnard Jr., James Moe, Henry Marshall, Angus McCall, Elkana Mead, John Mysnard, Theophilus Peck Jr., Solomon Purdy, James Philips, Thomas Rich, Jonathan Raynolds, Oliver Fairchild, John Parrot, Thos H. Wakeman, Thos. Fitch’s heirs, Hannah Fitch’s heirs, Stephen and Hooker St. John, Fountain Smith, Mathew Benedict Jr., Samuel Benedict Jr., Nathaniel Benedict, Philip Corbon, Joseph Gunn, Benj. Hitchcock, Alexander Stewart, Nath’l Taylor 3rd, Mathew Taylor, Preserved Wood, Elijah Wood, Matthew Willis, Matthew Benedict, Daniel Hickok, Ebenezer Haytt, Daniel Haytt Classification No.4, Section 4. Daniel Haytt or David Haytt, Ebenezer Jesup(two rights), Jabez Hubbel, Enock Benedict, Hezekiah Sturges, Elijah Abel, Thos. H. Wakeman, John Perry, Aaron Jennings, Nathan Beers NAME. The name of the township was originally Jesup, after Ebenezer Jesup, one of the original proprietors of its soil. From some dislike of the gentleman, the name was subsequently, at a meeting by the inhabitants, changed to Florence.
The surface of the township is generally rolling. The soil is a sandy loam, with a more clayey soil in some portions. Sandstone underlies a considerable portion of the township, and several quarries have been opened. The King quarry, on lot number three, in the third section, and one on the Vermillion, in the first section, are the only quarries now worked to any extent. The former is owned by Joseph King, and was opened some thirty years ago. Grindstones were formerly quite extensively made from this quarry. The principal varieties of native timber were whitewood, white oak, hickory, black walnut, chestnut, beech, maple, cherry, ash, and basswood. The principal stream is the Vermillion River, which heads in a little lake of the same name in Ashland County. The origin of the name is not known, but it is thought by some to have been derived from a red clay found in many places along the banks of the river. The stream flows through the eastern part of the township, its general course being north, and empties into Lake Erie. La Chapelle Creek, the only other water course in the township worthy of mention, rises in Townsend, and, entering Florence from Wakeman about a mile and a quarter east of the west town line, flows through the west part of the township, and finally into Lake Erie.
For a number of years after the arrival of the first settler in Florence, deer, wolves, wild turkeys, and smaller game too numerous to specify, were found in great abundance. Bears, though not infrequently seen, were not so numerous as in more marshy townships. The honor of killing the first bear naturally fell to Richard Brewer and Christopher Shaeffer, two of the best shots in the county. Shaeffer was out with his gun one evening, when a bear suddenly loped across his path a short distance in front of him. Just as he raised his rifle to fire, a little snow dropped from the branch of a small tree above him upon the barrel of his gun, obscuring the sight, and the bear got away. The next morning he obtained the assistance of Brewer, and with two good dogs they tracked the bear into Berlin, where they found him in a marsh. The bear ran to a log, which he had no sooner reached than Brewer fired, but only wounding, not killing, him. The report of the gun was the signal for the onset of the dogs. They seized the animal as he tried to escape, but were being badly worsted in the encounter, when Brewer grabbed the bear by the fur and plunged a hatchet into his head. He released the dogs, rose upon his hind legs, gave one piercing howl, and fell over on his back, dead. The bear was an unusually large one, the flesh on his sides, it is said, measuring six inches. Shaeffer subsequently killed a bear in Florence, the only one ever killed in the township. He has probably killed more deer than any man in the county, often following them by day and by night. He killed by actual count one thousand deer, after which he kept no record. The last year that he hunted, and when deer were less numerous than formerly, he shot seventy. One method of his hunt at night was to fix up a torch of some kind which would attract the deer within range of his gun.
The first family that settled in the township was that of Ezra Sprague. Mr. Sprague was born in Alford, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, March 27, 1785, and emigrated to Ohio in 1807. The same year he married Harriet A. Griswold, of Windsor Township, Ashtabula County, and resided in the vicinity of Grand River until the Spring of 1809, when, with his wife and one child, he came to this township. He settled where his daughter, Laura, lives on lot number thirty-eight in the fourth section, and resided on his original location until his death. He died January 6, 1856. Mr. Sprague was a man of strong traits of character. He was the first justice of the peace in the township, and afterwards held the position of associate judge of Common Pleas for fourteen years. In the early years of his official duties he rode to court on horseback with a blanket doubled up for a saddle and strips of basswood for stirrups. Mrs. Sprague died January 23, 1853, aged seventy one. They had a family of seven children, only two of whom are living, viz.: Mrs. H. F. Merry at Sandusky City, and Laura Sprague in this township on the old homestead. The sons, Simon H. and Solomon G. Sprague, were well known residents of this township for many years. The former was the oldest of the family, and was born prior to their settlement in Florence. He died January 17, 1874. His widow still resides in the township. Solomon G. Sprague was born May 9, 1816, married Mary Collins, December 15, 1857, and died January 27, 1876. His family still reside in Florence. In July, 1809, Eli S. Barnum and his sister Rachel, Rufus Judson and family, Charles Betts and Joseph Parsons, arrived from Danbury, Connecticut. Barnum located on the southwest corner of what is now called Florence Corners, and was the first settler at that place. He subsequently married Miss Root, then of Henrietta, sister of Mrs. Calvin Leonard. He was the proprietor’s agent for the sale of the lands of this township, and was a justice of the peace and postmaster at Florence Corners for many years. He finally removed to Cleveland, where he died. Rufus Judson, after a residence for a few years near Florence Corners, moved to the lake shore, as did also Judge Meeker, who, for a short time, lived in Florence. Charles Betts took up his abode in the south part of the township, where he lived alone for many years, being a bachelor. His brother, Isaac, finally came out, and occupied the house with him. One day, while Charles was sitting at the table, eating his meal, Isaac, impelled by a desire to secure his property, struck him upon the head with the sharp edge of a post ax, cutting through his skull, and killing him instantly. He then concealed the body under the barn, where it was, a short time after, discovered. The murderer was sent to the penitentiary, and died there. Joseph Parsons settled a short distance west of Ezra Sprague, afterwards called Sprague’s Corners. He kept bachelor’s hall there a number of years. His wife could not be induced to exchange the old home for a life in the woods of Florence, and she always remained in Connecticut. His son subsequently came out with his family, and occupied the house with his father a number of years, when they all removed to the lake shore. In 1810, John Brooks, Sr., Joseph Sears and Jeremiah Wilson, and their families, were added. Mr. Brooks located at Sprague’s Corners, on lot Thirty-seven. He was a soldier in the Revolution, and was in several important engagements, amongst others those of White Plains and Monmouth, and was twice wounded. He died at the age of ninety- one. His son, John Brooks, Jr., married Adeline Squire, and settled a short distance south of Florence Corners, on the east side of the road. They are both deceased and the last of the family moved to Kansas a short time since. Joseph Brooks, another son, married a daughter [note: should this be sister?] of Eli S. Barnum, and settled across the road from his brother John. In 1811, Town Clark with his widowed mother, with several younger children, and George Brooks, her son-in-law, and his family of wife and child, moved in from Onondaga County, New York. The Clark family bought and settled where Mrs. Solomon G. Sprague resides. Seven years after, Mrs. Clark married a Mr. Downing, and removed to Michigan. Mrs. John Hill, aged seventy-six, is the only member of the family now living in the township. George Brooks settled in the south part of the township. In 1836, he removed to Michigan, and afterwards started for California and died on the way. These were the only inhabitants of the township until after the war. They were among the earliest settlers of the Firelands, and their situation was one of complete isolation, shut off by woods from neighbors in every direction. To obtain their grinding, they had to travel on foot through an unbroken forest to Newburgh, near Cleveland. Ezra Sprague, when making such a journey, on one occasion lost his way near where Elyria now is, and lay out in a storm all night. He had been sick with ague for some time previous, but, it is said, after the drenching he received that night he never suffered another shake. Although the pioneers of Florence never suffered for provisions to the endangerment of life, yet they were compelled to live in the simplest manner. Grated or “jointed” corn, potatoes, and milk constituted the only articles of food they had for weeks at a time. A wild onion grew abundantly on the river bottoms, and other wild but hardly edible vegetables were frequently gathered, and gave, at least, variety to the meal. All kinds of provisions were high during the early years of settlement of the township, and they could not be procured short of Huron or Sandusky. Pork sold for twenty dollars per barrel, flour for sixteen dollars, tea two dollars and fifty cents per pound, and salt ten dollars per barrel. Joab Squire once carried two hundred pounds of maple sugar to Sandusky, which he exchanged for two barrels of salt, the trip requiring three days. At another time he went to Huron and bought twenty-five pounds of bacon at twenty-five cents per pound, and lugged it home on his back. There was scarcely any money in circulation, and exchanges were made principally in the products of the soil. The first specie currency which circulated among the settlers of Florence, was what was called “cut money.” A silver dollar was cut into ten or twelve pieces and passed for shillings, a kind of inflation that was popular with all. The first paper money which the settlers were unfortunate enough to possess, was the notes of the Owl Creek Bank, in the denominations of six and a fourth, twelve and a half, thirty-seven and a half, and fifty cents. The bank was of the wildcat description, and soon collapsed. Perhaps the greatest hardship endured by the first settlers was in the matter of necessary clothing. Common factory cloth was worth fifty cents a yard, for which one bushel of wheat was usually exchanged. Home-made woolen cloth was four dollars per yard. Flax was raised, and summer clothing manufactured, but suitable material for winter wear was not so easily provided, sheep being difficult to raise in the new country. The masculine portion of the inhabitants depended almost entirely on buckskin for clothing material, and although it answered very well the purpose of wear and tear in the woods, it was anything but comfortable to the wearer. After a wetting and drying, the garments would be as stiff as if made of sheet-iron. During the progress of the war the inhabitants lived in almost constant fear of Indian massacre. 1811, the settlers joined in the erection of a block- house just north of the present residence of Mrs. Solomon Sprague. It was used as a dwelling by Mrs. Clark and her family, but was the fortress to which the inhabitants fled for safety in the hour of danger. Whenever a report of the approach of Indians reached the settlement, the settlers would remove their families to the block-house, and they would all remain there for days at a time. On one occasion, while a man was going with his family to the fort, a circumstance occurred, which created the greatest excitement. A young man, with a gun, was sent some distance ahead of his family to keep a look-out for Indians. When within half a mile of the blockhouse, the report of a gun was heard, and the young man came running back with the intelligence that he had seen two Indians, one of whom shot at him, at the same time showing a bullet-hole in his coat. The alarm spread rapidly, and all the inhabitants collected at the block-house, and made every preparation they could for an attack which, they expected, would be made that night. The women and children were sent into the room above while the men with guns, pitchforks and clubs, awaited below the expected assault. During the night the alarm was given by the occupants of the second story that Indians with fire-brands were approaching in the direction of a small building that stood near the house with the evident intent of setting it on fire, which would communicate it to the fortified building. Thus amidst the greatest excitement they spent the night, no one in the house showing any disposition to sleep, except the individual whose coat had been pierced with a bullet the evening before, which fact was regarded as significant, and no savages appeared. As the morning dawned, the fact also began to dawn upon their minds that they were the victims of a cruel hoax, and that the said individual had shot the bullet through his coat to give the appearance of credibility to his story. This suspicion proved to be correct, but what punishment, if any, was inflicted upon the offender we are unable to record. The alarm of Indians carrying fire-brands grew out of the fact that sparks and cinders were carried by the wind in the direction of the blockhouse from a burning log heap. When the surrender of Detroit occurred, the settlers removed their families to Cleveland. The men remained in the township, all working together, with their guns close by, on a single farm to be the better prepared for any attack that might be made, while one of their number was stationed as a sentinel to watch the approach of danger. But the enemy had not the temerity to come within range of their guns. After the close of the war, the township settled more rapidly. One of the first families that moved in was that of Lambert Shaeffer [Jr.?], formerly from Schoharie County, New York. He came to Ohio in 1812[?], stopping at Painesville, where he carried on blacksmithing until the war was over, when he removed to this township, arriving in February, 1815. He settled on the Vermillion, in the first section, where Mr. Graves now lives. He moved into a cabin which stood on his purchase and formerly occupied by Jeremiah Wilson, who left at the breaking out of the war. Shaeffer died at the home of his son Christopher, in this township, about twenty-six years ago, his wife previously. They had seven children, one of whom died in the east. Three are yet living, viz.: Mrs. Richard Brewer and Christopher Shaeffer in this township, and Elias in Illinois. William Blackman moved in about this time. He was originally from Connecticut, but removed to Towanda Creek, New York, in 1802, and, before the war, settled near Buffalo, which he saw burned by the British. After his arrival with his family in this township, he lived for a year in the block-house with widow Clark and family. He then purchased and settled in the third section, on what is now known as the Mason place, but afterwards changed his location to the Vermillion, in the first section, where, in connection with Harley Mason, he established a saw-mill. Meeting with some reverses, he went to New London, and, later, to Indiana. He finally returned to Florence, and died at the house of his daughter, Mrs. Denman. One of the prominent pioneers of Florence and a resident of the township for fifty-two years was Joab Squire. Mr. Squire was born in Fairfield County, Connecticut, November 2, 1777. In 1799 he married Mary Bulkley, and in 1815 emigrated to the West. During the most of this time his life was upon the sea. For several years he commanded a vessel of which he was the owner, engaged in the coasting trade from Boston, Massachusetts, to Charleston, South Carolina. Once, while passing around Cape Cod, his vessel was wrecked in a storm, on Nantucket Shoals, and Captain Squire and his wife narrowly escaped drowning. The loss of his vessel was a serious reverse to him, but he secured an interest in another and continued on the sea until the war commenced In April, 1815, he started with his family for this township, where he had previously purchased a tract of land. After a tedious journey, most of the way by water, he arrived at Cleveland in July, 1815, which was then a place of a few small buildings, giving little promise of the splendid city it has since become. He came from Cleveland by lake to the mouth of the Vermillion, and thence by land to this township. He settled on lot number twenty-nine in the fourth section, where he resided until his death. When he arrived here his family consisted of his wife and nine children, the youngest less than a year old. Babies had to be rocked, then as now, and having no cradle, Mrs. Squire rocked hers in a sap trough. Mr. Squire was twice married and was the father of sixteen children, all but one of whom lived to adult age. He died March 31, 1867, and was buried in the family burying ground on the old homestead. Five of the children survive, as follows: Mrs. William Tillinghast, formerly of Berlin, now of Toledo; Julius, in Ottawa County; Julia (a twin sister of Julius), now wife of Edwin A. Denton, of Florence; Joab, a practicing physician at East Toledo; and Benjamin B., in Wakeman. During the year 1816 several accessions were made to the settlement. One of these was Daniel Chandler, who came in from Orange County, New York. He was then unmarried, but in October, 1818, he married Sally Summers, daughter of Mark Summers, who settled in Vermillion the year previous. After his marriage, Mr. Chandler settled down where his widow still resides; half a mile west of Birmingham. He died there, October 21, 1869, aged seventy-eight. Mrs. Chandler is now eighty-one. They had thirteen children, ten of whom are living. Jonathan Bryant, the same year, settled in the second section, a short distance south of the Harrison burying-ground. He soon after moved to Birmingham, and resided there the remainder of his life. Mr. Bryant was, for many years, a justice of the peace of this township. John Denman, a native of England, came to Florence from Sullivan County, New York, in 1816, making the journey afoot, with his knapsack on his back. Three years afterward, he married Marinda Blackman, and settled on lot number seventy-eight, in the first section, erecting his cabin where the apple orchard now is, southeast of the present frame house. That orchard he planted from seed that he brought from the East in his knapsack. Mr. Denman died on his original location, March 23, 1878, within two days of eighty-seven years of age. Mrs. Denman still occupies the old homestead, aged seventy-six. They had a family of fifteen children, who lived to mature age, and were married. Twelve are now living. In the same year, Harley Mason, and his brother Chauncey, with a one-horse wagon and a few tools, came in. Harley was a millwright, and had started for Cincinnati to obtain work at his trade. When he got to Florence, he found William Blackman engaged in the erection of a saw mill on the Vermillion, and he went in partnership with him. After the mill was built, he traded his interest in it to Blackman, for the farm now occupied by Hiram Smith. December 29, 1819, he married Susan Cahoon, daughter of Wilber Cahoon, a pioneer of the township of Avon, Lorain County. Mr. Mason was one of the active businessmen of the township. He was much engaged in milling, and was also a large owner of land. He died in February, 1851. His widow still survives, and lives with a son, a short distance north of the place on which her husband first located. There were twelve children, five of whom are living, viz.: in this township, Wilber T.; Norman; and Lodema, wife of John Poyer; Charles, in Clyde, Ohio; and Huldah (Mrs. John Marsh), in Iowa. Chauncey Mason, who came in with his brother, Harley, lived on rented land for a number of years, and then removed to Michigan. In the fall of 1816, Bowen Case came to Florence, from Auburn, New York with Aaron Parsons and family. Parsons settled where Job Fish now lives. He finally moved to Wakeman, and his widow now resides there. Mr. Case married, December 25, 1829, Amanda Brumdadge, of Vermillion, and settled half a mile north of Florence Corners. He resided there until twelve years ago, when he moved to the Corners, where he has since resided. He is now aged seventy- four, and is living with his second wife. The first settlers at Birmingham, formerly called Mecca, were Perez Starr and Uriah Hawley, who settled there in 1816. Starr came from Portage County, and his brothers, William, Jared, and Dudley, came in about the same time. Hiram, a son of Perez Starr, occupies the place on which his father settled. Hawley located on the place now occupied by Charles Bristol. He subsequently moved to Brownhelm, and finally to Iowa, where he died. Starr and Hawley were both active business men, and some of their enterprises are elsewhere mentioned. Isaac and John Furman and their families came into the township in 1817. The former settled a short distance east of Sprague’s Corners, and always lived there afterwards. John settled on the river, but finally moved to Richland County. In the fall of the same year, Richard Brewer and his brother Peter, and his family, moved in from Delaware County, New York. Peter Brewer located where widow Harrison now lives. Richard married Nancy Shaeffer, daughter of Lambert Shaeffer, and began pioneer life on the hill just north of his brother. He now lives west of Birmingham, on the road to Florence Corners, aged ninety years — one of the oldest residents of the township. Asahel Parker and family settled near where Mrs. James Wood now lives, in the year 1818. He died many years ago, and his son William W., residing in Florence, is the only survivor of the family. In the summer of 1818 William Carter and family moved in from New York and settled at the “forks of the river”, above Birmingham. He died there in 1853. Jedediah Higgins and several sons and their families came into the township in 1819 and settled in the same locality. Aaron Higgins established a tannery there at an early date, but subsequently moved it down the river to Birmingham, where he afterwards erected a large frame building and carried on shoe making in connection with his other business. The works were finally destroyed by fire. Chester King and family emigrated to Florence from Hartford, Connecticut, in 1819, the journey, which was made with a horse team and wagon, consuming six weeks. Mr. King first settled on the present location at the Mason family burying ground. A few years afterwards he changed his location to Chapelle creek, where he subsequently had a saw mill for a number of years. He soon after moved to the place now occupied by his son, Joseph King, and there spent the remainder of his days. In the early years of his settlement Mr. King was much of the time at work in his mill, and often remained at work there until late into the night. Once, when returning home with a piece of venison, he was pursued by a pack of wolves, the hungry animals crowding so closely upon his footsteps that he was compelled to abandon his meat and run for dear life for his home. Mr. King was born in Hartford County, Connecticut, in 1784. He married Jemima Smith, of Lyme, Connecticut, and was the father of seven children. He died in Florence in March, 1861, and his wife in February, 1854. Four of the children are now living, as follows: Chester C., in Vermillion; Hiram, at Hillsdale, Michigan; Rosanna E., married John F. Fuller (deceased), and resides at Norwalk; Joseph, living in Florence on the old homestead, married January 1, 1850, Melona Masters, of Berlin. They have two children living and one deceased. In 1824, Jacob Shoff came into the township from Guildhall, Vermont. January, 1829, he married (his first wife having died in Vermont) Sally Haise, whose father, John Haise, settled, about the year 1826, a mile north of Florence Corners. Mr. Shoff settled on the farm adjoining that of his father-in-law on the north, where Jeremiah Baker now lives. He resided here until about thirty years ago, when he moved a little west of Birmingham, where he lived until his death, May 9, 1859. Mrs. Shoff survives, aged seventy-two. There were five children, four of whom are living, and three in this township. Horatio N. Shoff is the proprietor of the Shoff House, on the old Russell stand, in Birmingham. He erected the building in 1872, the former building occupying the same site, having burned down the fall before. George W. Clary has resided in this township for nearly forty years. His father, Colonel Elihu Clary, was among the earliest pioneers of the Firelands, being the first settler of Peru Township, Huron County. Mr. Clary was married to Eliza Chandler in 1844, and resides a mile south of Birmingham. John Hill, a native of England, emigrated to the United States in 1819. He resided in Cayuga County, New York, until 1824, when he removed to Florence, having, the year before, purchased a farm on lot forty-eight in the fourth section. He died on this place March 5, 1879. His first wife died in 1842, and he subsequently married the widow of Henry Bishop, formerly Miss Clark, whose widowed mother came to Florence in 1811. Silas Wood was a resident of the township for a number of years, and was prominently identified with its industrial interests. He came to Ohio from Pennsylvania, with his parents, in 1824, who settled in Greenfield, Huron County. He soon after began work for Seba Mather, who was, at that time, operating a fulling factory, on Huron River, east of Greenfield Center. Mr. Wood continued in his employ until he was twenty-one years of age. He then entered into the employ of Hawley & Whittlesey, proprietors of a clothing factory at Terryville, and a year afterwards became a partner. That was in the fall of 1826. In 1827, he married Hannah Ennes, whose parents had come to Birmingham a few years previous. After continuing in the clothing factory some six years, he sold and removed to Berlin, where he lived on a farm for a year, and then purchased and settled in Henrietta, on the Calvin Leonard farm, where he resided about twenty years. He then took up his residence at Birmingham, where, the year before, he had established a store in connection with L. S. Griggs. He soon after erected the present stone grist mill at Birmingham, and subsequently the saw mill, having previously disposed of his store. A year or two after the completion of the mill, he sold a half interest to Hiram Arnold, and a few years later the rest to a Mr. Bartlett. He then re-engaged in trade at Birmingham, in which he continued until his death. He died suddenly, with goods in his hand, October 30, 1866. Mrs. Wood died on the 22d of November, 1873. Mr. Wood was a man of great energy of character, and acquired a fine property. He was the father of five children, four of whom are living, viz.: Mrs. Althida Arnold and George S. Wood, at Birmingham, and Mrs. Hannah A. Kline and Mrs. Sarah A. Strauss, at Oberlin. David L. Hill settled where he now lives, (lot number eleven, section three), in 1832. The country was still quite new in that quarter, and he had nothing to begin with in the woods but his ax. He has labored hard all his life, and his industry and economy have been rewarded by the acquirement of a fine property. He was born July 22, 1791, and was a soldier in the War of 1812. His first wife died December 18, 1875, and he married for his’ second wife, December 31, 1877, Mrs. Hall, widow of Aaron Hall, with whom he is now living. Mr. Hill is the father of eight children, three of whom are living.
The first school house was built at Sprague’s Corners on land owned by John Brooks, Sr., lot number thirty-seven, section four. The first teacher was Ruth Squire, daughter of Joab Squire, and afterwards wife of Erastus French, of Wakeman. The school derived its support from the parents of the scholars, who paid in proportion to the number sent. The school house was subsequently taken down, and rebuilt on the south side of the road. Adaline Squire, a sister of Ruth, who afterwards became the wife of John Brooks, Jr., was also one of the earliest teachers. The second school house built in the township was located half a mile west of Birmingham, and Rhoda Root kept the first school in it. Her practice of opening the school with prayer was the cause of some displeasure to a certain individual, and a school meeting was held on one occasion, to consider his grievance, which resulted in the teacher being sustained. A few years after, a school house was erected in the village of Birmingham.
The earliest religious meetings were held at the house of Eli S. Barnum, at Florence Corners, at which itinerant preachers officiated. The first religious society organized was of the Congregational order. The meeting was held at the house of Mr. Barnum, a missionary by the name of Loomis officiating on the occasion. The society included members from this township, Vermillion, Wakeman, and Clarksfield. The present Congregational church at Florence Corners was organized January 7, 1832, by a cominittce of the presbytery of Huron, consisting of J. B. Bradstreet, Xenophon Betts, and Samuel Dunton. The following are the names of the members who joined at the time of the organization: Charles Whittlesey and wife, David Shaver and wife, Simeon Crane and wife, Uriah Hawley, Mrs. Mary A. Baker, Mrs. Tryphena Leonard, Mrs. Ruth Hines, Mrs. Mary Barnum, Mrs. Sarah M. Dunton, Mrs. Alice Olds, Mrs. Hannah Haise, Mrs. Betsey Thompson, John Phillips and wife. Uriah Hawley was chosen clerk. The church building was completed in 1842, costing two thousand and twelve dollars, the lot for which was donated by Jessup Wakeman. The church for several years after its organization was supplied by preachers from neighboring towns. The first regular pastor was the Rev. Eldad Barber, who was called October 10, 1842. He officiated as pastor of the church for nearly thirty years, and his labors ended only with his death, in the Spring of 1871. He was followed by Hubbard Lawrence, who continued until April, 1878. Rev. Mr. Hale then preached for the church until August of the same year, since when Rev. Mr. Wright has officiated as pastor. The present membership of the church is fourteen. Thomas A. McGregor is church clerk. The First Congregational Church, in Birmingham, was originally of the Presbyterian order, and was organized in the year 1838, by a committee consisting of Philo Wells and Mr. Xenophon Betts, of Vermillion, and Joseph Swift, of Henrietta. The members were: Philo Wells and wife, Calvin Leonard and wife, Joseph Swift and wife; Xenophon Betts and wife, and a few others whose names are not remembered. In February, 1845, the church, by amendment of its charter, adopted the congregational form, but continued under the care of the presbytery until January, 1874; when it withdrew therefrom. Eldad Barber was probably the first preacher. Rev. Goodell and Carlisle preached at a later date, after which Mr. Barber again officiated. The last pastor was Rev. C. C. Creegan, of Wakeman. The membership at present is about twenty-five. Charles Graves is clerk and A. Lawrence, deacon. The society do not hold regular services at present, and their building is occupied by the Methodist Episcopal society, Rev. Mr. Royce officiating once in two weeks. The Sabbath school numbers about sixty scholars. David Leonard is superintendent. The Methodists held meetings at the old log school house, one mile south of Florence Corners as early as 1816 or 1817, at which Rev. Nathan Smith, the first preacher in the township, usually officiated. There are now two societies of this denomination in the township, one at Florence Corners and another at Birmingham. The writer is unable to give the facts of their organization, although applying personally to many who were supposed to be able to furnish the necessary information. And a letter, with postage enclosed, addressed to the pastor of the church at Florence Corners, who is said to have the early records of both churches, fails to elicit the courtesy of an answer. A Baptist church was organized in 1818, at the house of Luther Norris, by John Rigdon, a minister from Richland County, and their meetings were held alternately at the house of Mr. Norris and at Florence Corners. About the same time, a Baptist society was formed in Henrietta, Lorain County, where meetings were held in the school house about a mile east of Birmingham, and the Baptists in Florence subsequently united there. In July, 1837, by resolution of the church in Henrietta, a branch was organized at Birmingham, consisting of the following members: James and Catharine Daly, Henry and Mary Howe, John and Ann Blair, Richard and Catharine Laughton and Hannah Brown, and the society was called the “Henrietta and Birmingham Baptist Church.” In May, 1840, the branch at Birmingham organized independently. The Disciples Church at Birmingham, was organized in 1845, with about forty members. It continued prosperous, under the labors of able men, the membership increasing to about seventy, when Sidney Rigdon, one of its preachers, embraced the doctrine of Mormonism, and drew off about one-half of the church. A house of worship was erected the same year, in which the society was organized, costing about twelve hundred dollars. Almon Andress, now of Birmingham, was the first elder of the church, and has continued as such for nearly fifty years. Jonathan Bryant officiated in the same capacity for some time, and Silas Wood was deacon. No regular services have been held for some time. The Evangelical church, in the the first section, was formed about twenty years ago, at the school house just east of Mr. Clary’s, with a membership of about twenty. In 1866, the present house of worship, on the county line, was erected, and cost about nine hundred dollars. The membership at present numbers about what it did originally. Rev. George Hassenflug is pastor. POST OFFICE. The first mail route through the township extended from Cleveland to the old county seat on Huron River. The post office was at Florence Corners, and Eli S. Barnum was the first postmaster. He kept the office in his dwelling, and continued postmaster for many years. His successors have been William F. Perry, Jeremiah Baker, and George P. Baker who continues to hold the office. Cyrus Butler was the first postmaster at Birmingham. G. W. Chandler is the present incumbent.
Florence was organized as an independent township April 7, 1817. The first election for township officers was held at the log school house one mile south of Florence Corners. Joab Squire was elected clerk; Eli S. Barnum, John Brooks, Sr., and Isaac Furman, trustees; Ezra Sprague, justice of the peace. The number of votes polled was seventeen. The township officers elected on April, 1879, are as follows: W. J. Rowland, clerk; E. B. Peck, George Taylor and A. B. Denman, trustees; John H. Poyer, treasurer; Charles A. Heale, assessor; H. G. Thompson and N. G. Taft, justices of the peace.
In the summer of 1809, Almon Ruggles and his brother, in fulfillment of a contract with the proprietors of the township, erected a grist mill on the Vermillion near the south town line. The mill was no sooner put in operation, than a sudden freshet swept mill, dam and everything before it. In 1811, the Messrs. Ruggles began the erection of another mill, on the La Chapelle, near the north line of the township, which was completed the next year. The mill proved a great convenience to the settlers not only in this, but in adjoining and more distant townships, as no grinding could be obtained short of Newburg or Cold Creek. The proprietors subsequently added a saw mill. A number of years afterwards, the mills were bought by Harley Mason, who also built another sawmill on the same stream, a short distance above. The first sawmill in the township was built by Eli S. Barnum, on the La Chapelle, in the summer of 1810. On the same creek a saw mill was built, at an early date, by Job Smith. Smith was an early settler in Berlin, but afterwards removed to Brownhelm. The mention of his name recalls the following story: He is said at one time to have purchased a stock of goods in New York, for which he agreed to pay the owner five hundred coon skins, “taken as they run,” by which the merchant naturally understood an average lot. But it appears that Smith attached, in this instance, at least, a very different meaning to the phrase. The skins not being delivered, the dealer came on to investigate the matter, and inquired of Smith when he would fulfill his contract. “Why,” said Smith, “you were to take them ‘as they run’; the woods are full of them, take them when you please! ” The mill built by Smith, was afterwards owned and run for many years by Chester King. In 1816, William Blackman erected a saw mill on the Vermillion, above the forks of the river, where the stone quarry now is. Before completing it, Harley Mason came in and purchased a half interest. Soon after it was finished, Mason sold his interest to Blackman, receiving in exchange a farm of eighty acres, now occupied by Mr. Hiram Smith. This proved a fortunate transaction for Mason, and equally unfortunate for Blackman, for shortly afterwards a freshet carried away the dam, mill and all, leaving the owner without a dollar in the world. He then removed to New London, where he bettered his fortunes. In 1816, Perez Starr, and his brother Dudley, erected a saw mill, and the next year a grist mill, on the Vermillion, on or near, the site of the present grist mill at Birmingham. Perez bought his brother out shortly afterwards, and carried on the business for a number of years, when they were bought out by Cyrus Butler, who operated them until his death. The next owner was Ahira Cobb, who subsequently traded them, with other property, to a man of the name of Dunham, of Cleveland, for property in that city. The mills burned down while Dunham owned them, and the mill-seat was afterwards purchased by Silas Wood, who, at the time, owned a stone grist mill farther up the river, built by Wines & Walker. This he then took down and moved to Birmingham, and erected the present grist mill, having, the year previous, in 1854, built a saw mill there. These mills are now owned by G. H. Arnold.
The first store in the township appears to have been opened at Birmingham, by Erastus Butler. In the county assessor’s list of merchants and traders, with their assessed capital, in Huron County, for the year 1826, he is the only trader mentioned for this township. The amount of his capital as given was eighteen hundred dollars. In 1828, the name of Cyrus Butler appears with only a capital of five hundred dollars. In 1829, Ferris & Wood, of Florence Corners, were assessed on seven hundred and fifty dollars. In 1830, J. V. Vredenburg with six hundred dollars, J. L. Wood, six hundred dollars, and Charles P. Judson, seven hundred dollars, are mentioned. Cyrus Butler, a pioneer merchant of Florence, and at one time, the owner of the old mills at Birmingham, had, at one time, a forge, a short distance below the mills, and manufactured bar iron for a few years, the ore for which was obtained in Vermillion. The works finally went off in a freshet. An ax factory was formerly carried on there, for a short time, by a man by the name of Pratt. Birmingham, as we have seen, from the mention of some of its early enterprises, was once a place of considerable business activity. It had, among its business men, such men as Perez Starr, Ahira Cobb, Uriah Hawley, Silas Wood and others, men of great energy, business experience and property. The village neglected the opportunity, once presented, of securing a railroad and its glory have long since departed. And at Terryville, where once was heard the busy hum of industry, is now a collection of only a few old houses. Birmingham is now a place of some two hundred and fifty inhabitants, with three churches, two school houses, one grist mill, one saw mill, one hotel, one drug and hardware store, one general store, one grocery, one millinery and fancy goods, one furniture shop, two blacksmith shops, one carriage shop, two wagon and repair shops, one cooper shop, one cigar factory, one meat market, one tailor shop. At Florence Corners there are two churches, one school house, two general stores, one harness shop, two blacksmith shops, one shoe shop. At the present time there are three saw mills in the township, viz.: Wilber T. Mason’s on the La Chapelle, Edwin Botsford near Florence Corners, and Eli Grave’s southwest of Birmingham. There are two cheese factories — those of George P. Baker near Florence Corners, and George Van Fleet at Birmingham.
Notice: the above material is Public Domain (no copyright). File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by Ted Reising email@example.com Dec. 15, 1998.