The Wright families from Massachusetts; Doicletian, Ralph, and George, and Sherman, with their father and mother and Lemuel Jones, a brother-in-law, reached East Conneaut about the middle of October, 1811. It is reported the Diocletian had made a purchase where now is the city of Cleveland, but on visiting the place he found only a half a dozen log houses and every family sick with fever and ague, and he declared that he would not live there. So he returned to Conneaut and bought the farm now owned by A.J. Cheney. He built on the east end of his lot near Smoke Run, while his brothers and Mr. Jones erected their shanties on the banks of the stream. So little did Mr. Wright know of the future growth of that city, he sold his farm, where, within a few years he would have been, with scarcely an effort of his own, independently rich. The Wright brothers were living on the banks of Smoke Run at the time of the British and Indian alarm, August 11, 1812. The two vessels off the harbor were supposed to be British, and Mr. Kezerta, one of the watch, threw down his gun, mounted his horse, and ran through the woods screaming at every jump, “The British and Indians are landing and they will kill us all. Turn out and escape to the woods!” The Wright families on Smoke Run made their way fording the stream or walking on fallen trees across, meeting underbrush, with children in their arms and budgets in their hands, expecting at any moment to hear the yell of savages and the crack of their rifles. All gathered at the house of Diocletian Wright, a half to three-quarters of a mile away. But when the true condition of things was learned all turned the false alarm into the greatest scene of merriment. Captain Dobbins of Erie commanded one of the vessels and on board he had a few families that wished to land at Conneaut. But when he learned of the great fright on shore he started his course down the lake to Erie harbor.
In 1813, Ralph and Sherman effected an exchange of farms with Ezekial Olds, and moved on to the ridge, the former occupying the house of Mr. Olds, where David Pollock now lives, and the latter a log house south of Alonzo Ward’s on top of the hill at the south-west corner of his orchard. They held their property in company and built their tannery in the ravine about half-way between them. For a number of years they carried on a thriving business.
Lemuel Jones, in 1814, bought the place where Mrs. Harriet, widow of Elisha Farnham, Esq., now lives. He built the first sawmill. It stood a few feet in the rear of Farnham’s mill. Years later, when lumbering became an object, the milliard would be stored full of logs, making a year’s work for the sawyer. When they had an abundance of water, the mill with two sets of man ran night and day.
The Hicks brothers: David, Joseph, James, and Stephen; natives of Vermont, but late citizens of Canada, arrived in Conneaut in 1809, and located on lands near the cheese factory in Amboy. They remained until about three years, until the beginning of the war of 1812, when having compelled in Canada, never to take up arms against Great Britain, they packed their goods and removed to Vermont. Here they remained until the spring of 1814 when all but Stephen, who began a course in medicine, started their return to Ohio. While stopping in a few days at Rochester, New York, the British and Indians burned Buffalo. Soon after they reached their destination and settled at South Ridge. David Hicks bought land now owned by Asa Shepard, and built his log house about ten rods west of the road. James erected his house about twenty rods north of A.S. Shepard’s, just west of the ravine. They began clearing the land. Wheat being a staple article, they set themselves to work for a large crop. They girdled and under brushed twenty acres, and by September of the next year, 1815, they put in the seed. For this they paid $2.50 a bushel; but at the harvest of 1816, a little more than a year after peace was declared, wheat dropped to a wonderfully low rate, selling at twenty-five cents per bushel. “Thus,” they said, “you can clearly see the difference between peace and war.” This greatly disappointed them, as they were contemplating early payments of their lands.
Joseph Hicks built a house near where John Howard lives, but after a few years erected one on the south bank of the creek, a few rods from the point of land that almost overhangs the south end of the south covered bridge, on the east side of the road, the land now owned by Daniel A. Waite.
Phinneas Alexander, whose first wife was a sister of the Hicks, bought the farm that is now the residence of Shelby Smith. In 1815 Mr. Alexander sold to Luke and Jacob Thayer. They were on their way to Ohio when peace was declared between Britain and the United States. Soon after this Jacob sold his share of the farm to his brother Luke, and bought the estate now owned by his son, Lewis A. Thayer, on the portion whose land the F.B. Church edifice was built. Eli Sanford, who farmed an estate 150 acres by Litchfield pond or lake in Connecticut, contemplating a removal to Ohio, made two journeys here, one in 1812 and the other in 1813, to look at land. He made a purchase of various lots, some in Portage County, amounting in all to about fifteen hundred acres. He wanted land for his growing family. He arrived in Conneaut, July 5, 1814, and moved on his farm across the way from the F.B. Church, where his son Eber, old and feeble in health still resides.
He paid Urcel Holmes of Litchfield, Connecticut, $4.00 per acre because it was supposed to be near the center of town. Mr. Sanford brought a family of three daughters: Sarah, Roena, and Catherine; and four sons: Chester, Henry, Eber, and Simeon. Wheeler, Daniel, and Harriet were born in Ohio. The family was of Welsh extraction.
A cheap ordinary log house was all that he had to shelter his family for twelve years. Then he erected the neat and tasty dwelling that now occupies the homestead.
Noah Fogg, about this time put up his shanty on the farm of Elbridge Bemus, just south of the enclosure in his front yard, where he remained about two years.
In the spring of 1815, Jacob Williams, son-in-law of the Wrights, bought out James Olds, the present site of Levant M. Horton, and Mr. Olds purchased Mr. Fogg’s, the present Bemus place. Mr. Williams brought with him a family of three daughters; Lydia, Elvira, and Louisa; and four sons: Marshal, Diocletion, Ralph, and Harvey; Mary Ann and Edwin R. being brown in Ohio.
John Foz, who came to Ohio a land looker two years before, moved his goods in the spring of 1814. He brought a family of three daughters: Betsey, Ruth, and Mary; and five sons: Lewis, Sinclair, Benjamin, Samuel, and Eleazer. They settled on the present site of Daniel Fox, son of Samuel about (?) and three-fourths miles west of the South Ridge post office.
In 1815, Thomas Mastin, Jr., accompanied by his father Thomas, Sr. and mother bought out Elijah Wadsworth sixty acres on the east side of the road, a part of which is now the homestead of Rev. Rufus Clark. His log cabin stood on the school lot recently purchased of Asa Shepard, in front of where the new school building stands. They had one daughter, Cyntha, and an adopted son, Luman A. Strong.
In the autumn of 1814, Seth Thompson returned to Vershire, Vermont, the home of his father, reported the good qualities of the soil in Ohio and the fine opportunities for a young man here, and in the last winter, with a span of horses and sleigh, Zebediah Thompson accompanied him on his return. At the salt works in Syracuse, N.Y., they made the purchase of a few barrels of salt, hoping to make a little money out of their sale. They paid $13 a barrel for it, but the war closed before they could bring it into market in Ohio, and they were compelled to sell it for about one-half of what they paid for it. In Ohio, it had sold for $40 per barrel; now it can be bought for $1.16 per barrel.
Zebediah Thompson bought the farm about three-fourths of a mile east of his brother Seth, where he lives and dies; the present property of Prof. H.A. Andrews. Mr. Thompson married Miss Polly Remington who came to western Pennsylvania about one year before.
A large number of these settlers came to Ohio near the close of the war, 1812-1815 and remember something of the burning of Buffalo in the spring of 1814. The Hicks families were at Rochester at the time.
Miss Polly Remington, who became the wife of Zebediah Thompson, when on the way with her family saw some of the charred ruins as the passed. Eli Sanford, while stopping in Buffalo with is family, heard the landlord tell the story of its burning, the Indians running with their torches to set the fires, and one who was overtaken by an American officer, who with a fearful stroke of his sword, cut his head from his body and returned to his company holding his booty streaming with blood. And John Fox, with is family passing through Buffalo about six weeks after those malicious indecendiaries had effected the conflagration. All remember distinctly the destructive work of the enemy, while on their way to a new state.
Thus this was part of town was so rapidly settled. Within about five years after Mr. Thompson set up his domicile on the hill at the south-east corner of his orchard, all the farms along the Center road to Farnham’s mill, were settled by actual settlers. They were men and women well adapted to their times. They were people of indomitable courage and great executive ability. Self reliant and resolved on making a place for themselves, they wrought with a will, never stopping to think of dead men’s shoes, or the estates of their fathers. They, with an energy, proposed to have a property which their own hand had earned, and homes which their skill had wrought. The forest gave way before them, fences enclosed their acres, lumber came up from the mills, farming buildings stood up in their yards, the wool and flax came in and the wheels spun, the looms wove and everything started into life.