[From Historical Collections of Ohio, 1849]
Geauga was formed from Trumbull, in 1805, since which its original limits have been much reduced. In March, 1840, the county of Lake was mainly formed from its northern part. The name Geauga, or Sheauga, signifies, in the Indian language, raccoon: it was originally applied to Grand river; thus, " Sheauga sepe," i. e. Raccoon River. The surface is rolling and heavily timbered, and the soil generally clay. The principal exports are sheep, cattle, butter and cheese. The following is a list of its townships, in 1840, with their population.
Population of Geauga, in 1820, was 7791 ; in 1880 15,813, and in 1840, 16,299, or 42 inhabitants to a square mile.
This county being at the head waters of Chagrin, Cuyahoga and Grand rivers, is high ground, and more subject to deep snows than any other part of the Reserve. It was formerly much subject to high sweeping winds or tornadoes. In August, 1804, John Miner was killed at Chester. He had lately moved from Burton, with part of his family, into a log house which he had built at that place. A furious storm suddenly arose, and the timber commenced falling on all sides, when he directed his two children to go under the floor and stepped to the door to see the falling timber: at that instant three trees fell across the house and killed him instantly. The children remained in the house until the next morning, when the oldest made her way to a neighbor, about two miles distant, and related the sad tidings.#
The first settlement in Geauga, was at Burton, in the year 1798, when three families settled there from Connecticut. This settlement was in the interior of the country, at a considerable distance from any other. The hardships and privations of the early settlers of the Reserve, are well described in the annexed article from the pen of one who was familiar with them.
The settlement of the Reserve commenced in a manner somewhat peculiar. Instead of beginning on one side of a county, and progressing gradually into the interior, as had usually been done in similar cases, the proprietors of the Reserve, being governed by different and separate views, began their improvements wherever their individual interests led them. Hence we find many of the first settlers immured in a dense forest, 15 or 20 miles or more from the abode of any white inhabitants. In consequence of their scattered situation, journeys were some times to be performed of 20 or 50 miles, for the sole purpose of having the staple of an ox-yoke mended, or some other mechanical job, in itself trifling but absolutely essential for the successful prosecution of business. These journeys had to be performed through the wilderness, at a great expense of time, and, in many cases, the only safe guide to direct their course, were the township lines made by the surveyors
The want of mills to grind the first harvests, was in itself a great evil. Prior to the year 1800, many families used a small hand-mill, properly called a sweat mill, which took; the hard labor of two hours to supply flour enough for one person a single day. About the year 1800, one or two grist-mills, operating by water power, were erected. One of these was at Newburg, now in Cuyahoga county. But the distance of many of the settlements from the mills, and the want of roads, often rendered the expense of grinding a single bushel, equal the value of two or three.
The difficulties of procuring subsistence for a family, in such circumstances, must be obvious. Few, however, can now fully realise circumstances then very common. Often would a man leave his family in the wilderness with a stinted supply of food, and with the team or pack horse go perhaps some 20 or 30 miles for provision. The necessary appendages of his journey would be an axe, a pocket compass, fire works, and blanket and bells He cut and beat his way through the woods with his axe, and forded almost impassible streams. When the day was spent, he stopped where he was, fastened his bells to his beasts, and set them at liberty to provide for themselves. Then he would strike a fire, not only to dissipate, in some degree, the gloom and damps of night, but to annoy the gnats and musketoes, and prevent the approach of wolves, bears and panthers. Thus the night passed, with the trees for his shelter. At early dawn, or perhaps long before, he is listening to catch the sound of bells, to him sweet music, for often many hours of tedious wanderings were consumed, ere he could find his team and resume his journey. If prospered on reaching his place of destination, in obtaining his expected supply, he follows his lonely way back to his anxious and secluded family, and perhaps has scarce time to refresh and rest himself, ere the same journey and errand had to be repeated.
CHARDON is 170 miles NE. of Columbus, and 28 from Cleveland. It was laid out about the year 1808, for the county seat, and named from Peter Chardon Brookes, of Boston, then proprietor of the soil. There are but few villages in Ohio, that stand upon such an elevated, commanding ridge as this, and it can be seen in some directions for several miles: although but about 14 miles from Lake Erie, it is computed to be 600 feet above it. The village is scattered and small. In the center is a handsome green, of about eleven acres, on which stands the public buildings, two of which, the court house and Methodist church, are shown in the engraving. The Baptist church and a classical academy, which are on or face the public square, are not shown in this view. Chardon has 6 stores, a newspaper., printing office, and in 1840, had 446 inhabitants.
Geauga suffered much from the "great drouth," in northern Ohio in the summer of 1845, the following brief description of which was communicated to Dr. S. P. Hildreth, by Seabury Ford, Esq., of Geauga, and published in Silliman's Journal.
The district of country which suffered the most, was about one hundred miles in length and fifty or sixty in width, extending nearly east and west parallel with the lake, and in some places directly bordering on the shore of this great inland sea. There was no rain from the last of March, or the 1st of April, until the 10th of June, when there fell a little rain for one day, but no more until the Ed of July, when there probably fell half an inch, as it made the roads a little muddy. From this time, no more rain fell until early in September This long-continued drouth reduced the streams of water to mere rills, and many springs and wells heretofore unfailing became dry, or nearly so. The grass crop entirely failed and through several counties the pasture grounds in places were so dry, that in walking across them the dust would rise under the feet, as in highways. So dry was the grass in meadows, that fires, when accidentally kindled, would run over them as over a stubble-field, and great caution was required to prevent damage from them. The crop of oats and corn was nearly destroyed. Many fields of wheat so perished that no attempt was made to harvest them. Scions set in the nursery, dried up for lack of sap in the stocks, and many of the forest trees withered, and an shed their leaves much earlier than usual. The health of the inhabitants was not materially affected, although much sickness was anticipated Grasshoppers were multiplied exceedingly in many places, and destroyed every green thing that the drouth had spared, even to the thistles and elder tops by the road side.
The late frosts and cold drying winds of the spring months, cut off nearly all the fruit, and what few apples remained, were defective at the core, and decayed soon after being gathered in the fall. Many of the farmers sowed fields of turnips in August and September hoping to raise winter food for their cattle, but the seed generally failed to vegetate for lack of moisture. So great was the scarcity of food for the domestic animals, that early in the autumn large droves of cattle were sent into the valley of the Scioto, where the crops were more abundant, to pass the winter, while others were sent eastward into the borders of Pennsylvania. This region of country abounds in grasses, and one of the staple commodities is the produce of the dairy. Many stocks of dairy cows were broken up and dispersed, selling for only four or five dollars a head, as the cost of wintering would be more than their worth in the spring. Such great losses and suffering from the effects of drouth, has not been experienced in Ohio for many years, if at all since the settlement of the country As the lands become more completely cleared of the forest trees, dry summers will doubtless be more frequent. In a region so near a large body of water, we should expect more rain than in one at a distance. The sky in that district is nevertheless, much oftener covered with clouds than in the southern portion of the state, where rains are more abundant; but the dividing edge, or height of land between Lake Erie and the waters of the Ohio, lacks a range of high hills to attract the moisture from the clouds and cause it to descend in showers of rain.
Burton, a pleasant village, 8 miles SE. of Chardon, contains 1 Presbyterian, l Methodist and 1 Disciples church, an academy and about 175 inhabitants. Parkman, on a branch of Grand rivers named from Robert B. Parkman, is 16 miles SE. of Chardon, and contains an academy, 1 Methodist and 1 Universalist church, 1 flouring, l saw and 1 fulling mill, and about 30 dwellings. Three dams are thrown across the river at this place, having unitedly about 60 feet fall, and furnishing much power. There are other small places in the county, at which are post-offices: they are Auburn, Bundysburg, East Claridon, Fowler's Mill, Hamden, Huntsburg, Newberg, Thompson, Welshfield and Chester Cross Roads. At Chester the Geauga seminary, under the patronage of the Western Reserve Free-Will Baptist society. This flourishing institution has about 200 pupils, Elder Daniel Branch, A. M., principal.
# Judge Amzi Atwater