History of Groton Township, Erie County, OH

From: The Centennial History of Erie County, Ohio
By: H. L. Peeke
President of the Firelands Historical Society
Sandusky, Ohio 1925

Groton Township

This township was originally known as Wheatsborough, after a Mr. Wheat who owned the greater portion of it. The name was afterward changed at the request of some of the inhabitants.

The surface is level; about one half being prairie, while the northern portion was covered with scrubby timber. The soil of the southern half is black muck, with a sprinkling of sand; while the northern portion has a limestone soil, with a substratum of limestone suitable for building purposes. A small stream runs through the township, rising in Lyme and flowing in a northeasterly direction to Oxford. The Indians gave it the name of Pipe Creek because of a soft stone suitable for making pipes found along its banks. In former times a lime kiln was operated here, but was discontinued, and now the limestone is sent elsewhere to be burned, several kilns being supplied by it.

Wild animals formerly abounded here as elsewhere on the Firelands, and elderly residents used to tell of the time when wolves, deer, wildcats, foxes, wild turkeys, raccoons and prairie chickens were hunted and killed. A Mr. Rash, in an old record, gives a vivid word picture of the method by which the natives used to attempt to catch wild turkeys.

"To see about one hundred Indians surround the same number of wild turkeys, to see the turkeys fly without one of them being killed, and to hear the outlandish guttural ejaculations of the exasperated redskins, wishing the turkeys were in a place decidedly remote from the happy hunting grounds was very funny to the spectators."

The Indians of the township were mostly members of the Seneca tribe, and in many respects differed from the Wyandots and neighboring tribes. The Senecas were one of the tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy, and noted like them for the wisdom and simplicity of character which has given them a place in history. Matrons were represented in their public councils, and exercised a veto influence in questions of peace and war, while the orators, Red Jacket, of the Senecas; Logan, of the Cayugas, and Shenandoah, of the Oneidas, who are historical characters, gave proof of the eloquence that distinguished this people.

Groton Township is No. 5, range 24, and is bounded on the north by Margaretta, south by Lyme, in Huron County, east by Oxford, and west by the townships of York and Townsend, in Sandusky County.

The township was not organized until June 2, 1834, when an election was held at the house of William McCord, and the following officers were chosen: Trustees, Nathaniel Chapman, Bishop Stebbins, Nathan Strong; clerk, Hiram Deyo; treasurer, Stephen Crippen; justice of the peace, Stephen Crippen; constable, Joshua Lace; fence viewers, George Cook, Orange Potter, Elaphall Toppen; poor masters, James Bemiss, James Morecraft.

The first settlement was made on Pipe Creek by Jonathan Sprague, Squire Richey and others in 1809. In 1811 Capt. Seth Harrington, for many years one of the most prominent men of his township, moved in from Conneaut, Ohio, with his family. He was originally from Rhode Island. He had a family of ten children. Among other early settlers were Hiram Blackman, George Furguson, Alexis Jackson, William James and Phineas Dunham.

Squire Richey felled the first tree and built the first log house. The settlers' cabins were primitive affairs, but much more comfortable than those built by the wandering squatters who preceded them. These had built bark huts, with four posts and a ridge pole. Layers of bark were wound round the sides of the post, overlapping, so as to shed rain, and the roof was laid on in the same way. The trials of the pioneers were very great. Not only were they in danger from Indians, but they suffered from scarcity of food and clothing. There was not a family in this region during the years 1809 and 1810 who did not endure these hardships in some form. Game was plentiful, but living entirely on wild meat developed feebleness and disease in everyone except the savages. For many years after the War of 1812 clothing was made from the skins of wild animals, and caps of raccoon skin, with the fur outside, jackets and pantaloons of deer skin, and other garments to match were universally worn. There were no tanneries to dress leather, and when wet these articles became hard as a board. A man in these garments, in mid winter, was about as comfortable as if wearing pieces of stovepipe. Besides all these inconveniences, the season became sickly, and for several years privation and distress followed the settlers.

Touching stories are found in the ancient records of events in Ohio during those early days, and we read with astonishment and wonder at the motive that induced those men to take their families to the new country where suffering and danger awaited them. One young man with his family settled in thick woods, cleared his small patch of ground, became sick and died. Soon after a hunter passing the clearing saw everything still and mistrusted there must be something wrong with the family. He opened the door, and was startled by the appearance of a woman sitting by the fire, pale and emaciated, holding in her arms a sickly babe. She burst into ears and at length said, "There is my little Edward," pointing to the bed. "I expect he is dying. And here is my babe, so sick I cannot lay it down, and I am so weak I can hardly sit in my chair. Oh, that I was back in my own country, where I could fall in the arms of my mother!" Tears rolled down the cheeks of the hunter as he walked away for help.

Amusing stories were told by the pioneers of the makeshifts necessary in the early days, and in the light and comfort of later times they were sometimes heard to say, "Ah, those happy days of primitive simplicity when all family pride was forgotten in general friendship and kindness of personal attachment." Could any amount of conventional elegance compensate for the hearty hospitality related in an old history when a visit was gotten up by the ladies to call on a neighbor who lived at a distance? The hostess at once began preparations for tea. She had but one fireproof vessel, an old bake oven, and of course it would take some time. Some pork was fried in the kettle first to get lard, then cakes were made and fried in the lard, then shortcakes were made and baked in it, then it was used as a bucket to draw water which was afterward heated in it and the tea made in it.

The first house was built by Seth Harrington in 1817. The first child born in the township was Ann Furguson, daughter of George Furguson. The first death was that of a man named Standish Wood. There were no undertakers on the Firelands then, and the bereaved were obliged to see their loved ones buried in rudest simplicity. The first funeral was an instance of the extremity to which the early set tiers were reduced. The coffin was made from the boards of a wagon box, and those that were not used at this time were kept for another occasion. When the wagon box was at length used up, Seth Harrington and George Sprague made several coffins from oak trees, split into puncheons and dressed down to look like boards.

The settlers had to go to Cleveland for their mail until a route was established between Cleveland and Detroit, passing through Groton. John Paxton carried the mail in 1814. Afterwards Groton people depended on the Bloomingville postoffice. Groton postoffice was established in 1854, with Rev. Zar Patch, a local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as the first commissioned postmaster. The postoffice is now at the center of the township.

The first magistrate was elected in 1816, and as Squire Richey has lived in history in connection with a story told of a young couple he met while riding over the prairie, who were going to his house to be married. The justice dismounted and performed the ceremony on the spot.

The first physician was Dr. W. Hastings, who commenced practicing in the early part of 1810. After the War of 1812 he moved to Knox County, Ohio, where he was elected member of the Legislature. He returned to Groton with his family in 1815. They had eight children, all sons. The doctor continued his practice until his death in 1864, at the age of eighty nine.

The beginning of Groton's school system was a school taught by Elijah Fleming in 1818, and was supported by subscriptions that amounted to $14 a month.

Among the early settlers whose names deserve a place in the history of Groton Township are Amos McLouth, Samuel Bemiss, Charles Rash and Worthington Nims.

Amos McLouth came to Groton in 1817, with three other families, from the beautiful Berkshire hills of Massachusetts. Mr. McLouth, with his family, remained. He died here in 1870 at the age of seventy six. He was at one time clerk of the Common Pleas Court, and has also held several other prominent positions in the county.

Samuel Bemiss came from Buffalo by water, on the steamer Superior, the only vessel on the lake, she having taken the place of the Walk-on-the-Water, which had foundered a short time before.

Charles Rash found his way to the Firelands in 1815, from Ontario County, New York. He made the journey on horseback, and was followed by his brother in the same way in 1819. The journey occupied nine days, and the brothers settled on the farm since owned by Libey Rash. Charles became justice of the peace in 1820, and served in that capacity for eighteen years consecutively. He died in 1853, aged sixty one.

Worthington Nims came from Massachusetts in 1826, and selected his home, then went back to marry his wife, and came to reside here.

Religious meetings were held first in the dwellings of the settlers by Reverend Mr. Gurley and others. The pioneer church was Methodist and met in the northeast corner of the township, where a church building was afterwards built. Another church is located on lot No. 35 in section 3. Sand Hill Church is a union of all denominations.

Early in the settlement a grist mill was built on Pipe Creek, by Eli and Edward Ford, and a distillery just above it on the same stream. A tannery was also built on Pipe Creek by Truman Bonney; and there was at one time a cabinet shop of large capacity that carried on a good business. There is no village in this township. The Seven Mile House is the first and only hotel. The first store was opened at Pipe Creek, at one time quite a village, by John Wheeler, of Sandusky, in about 1830.

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