History of South Ridge (Farnham)
Conneaut Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio

Reverend Rufus B. Clark

Rev. Rufus Clark's Monument in City Cemetery, Conneaut, Ohio

Died Nov. 25, 1889,
Aged 70 Y'rs 2 D'ys,
He was for 50 years an earnest
F.W.B. Preacher

Died Aug. 7, 1886,
Aged 64 Y'rs 8 M'os 29 D'ys

Published in the Conneaut Reporter
Starting about January 22, 1880

In attempting to furnish your readers with a few sketches of early history in this part of Conneaut Township, known as South Ridge, your correspondent would not assume that he is sufficiently acquainted with all the circumstances to enable him to give every family its place, or every party its due. So many of the pioneers have removed or been consigned to the cemetery, that so much interesting matter, at this date, 1880, being more than seventy years since the first white man slept a night on this ground, has passed beyond our reach. Thinking undoubtedly, that such fare as they met, and such lives as they lived could never be of any special service to their descendents, and also for want of time to keep a diary, no record has been kept, except for the record of memory, and this much effaced by age and the length of time. With the help of this, however, some things can be identified, and go in as facts to make our sketches.

Abler pens have written largely of the Borough of Conneaut, noting its origin, thrift, and growth into a first class town, and we do not need to particularize here. But that we might more easily comprehend the situation of our little hamlet, let us imagine ourselves alone in the dense forest where not a mark of civilized life is to be seen. As early as 1798 the Western Reserve began to be dotted with settlers here and there. Two families were where is now the city of Cleveland; three in Harpersfield; two in Mentor; ten in Youngstown; and one in Conneaut. The one in Conneaut was Thomas Montgomery, and Aaron Wright, a young man who lived in the harbor in the log shanty erected in 1796 by the great surveying party that sailed up Lake Erie, and named “Stowe’s Castle,” after one of the men. But the first house where is now the Borough of Conneaut was build of poles by Aaron Wright in 1799. It stood at the top of the hill, going north from Rathbun’s mill, on the south side of Liberty Street, the present site of G.W. Cummin’s residence. The same year Robert Levi and John Montgomery came, and in 1800, James the fifth brother of the Montgomery family. That year there followed Seth Harrington and James Harper with their families, and Daniel Baldwin, and James and Nathaniel Laughlin, and settled at first near the lake on both sides of the creek. Samuel Bemus, Nathan and John King arrived in 1799 and settled west of Conneaut on the banks of the creek. The King family were numerous, there being Dr. Nehemiah, Peter Sr., Peter Jr., Elisha, Howard, and John. They were from New Hampshire.

The first settlers on what is now Center Road running south from Conneaut through Monroe and other towns of the first range, was Seth Thompson. His father Seth, was of English extraction, and in nearly a day removed to Berkshire, VT., where he raised a family of nearly 5 boys and 5 girls. Their agricultural pursuits led them to look for larger farms and better soil than appeared within their reach in Berkshire.

About this time the State of Ohio was receiving particular attention as possessing unequal qualities for farming purposes. Here lands were rich, heavily timbered, and well watered. Nothing was needed but the strong hand of the farmer to drive back the forests, mellow the soil, cast in the seed, and reap the harvest.

Seth Tmopson Jr., the oldest of the children, resolved to see himself in this promising country, and if he was pleased with it, secure a home. He reached Conneaut (then New Litchfield, after Litchfield, Connecticut,) May 8, 1808. During the summer he labored for Judge King, at $8 a month, who the lived on the Colonel Fiefield farm, where two years since Mr. Olmstead erected his beautiful mansion. Having bought of Urial Holmes, of Litchfield, Ct., the farm now owned by John Howard, recently purchased of L.B. Skinner, containing 116 acres at $2.50 an acre. Mr. Thompson took possession in the Spring of 1809. In the company of his cousin, Zadoc Thompson, both men of 21 years, they built a log cabin on the hill near the south-west corner of the orchard which still occupied the ground. Here for two or three years they kept a bachelor’s hall. Just west of their cabin he sowed the apple seeds which he had brought from Vermont a year before. From these seeds grew a thriving nursery. During the summer he cleared four of five acres east of his cabin running along the brow of the hill to the ravine and thence down the hillside, and from their nursery they transplanted apple trees for their orchard. The orchard, through a lapse of 65 years, has greatly declined in its productiveness. The first year of its bearing, Mr. Thompson informs us, he gathered all the apples in his hat, took them to his house and with his family sat down and ate them. Since then it has been one of one of the best and most productive of any in town, yielding from 500 to 1000 bushels per season. The nursery stood fro many years and became the source from which many other orchards in the neighborhood took their rise, but has now disappeared. The second summer they cleared ten acres north of the orchard, on the flats or low ground. Thus these two heroes struck the first blows for civilized life in the vicinity of South Ridge. Their nearest neighbors in the east was John Law, three miles away, being in Pennsylvania, east of Bliss’ Corners, and nearest to the south-west, David Niles, afterward J.P., with a family of five sons, Leonard, David, Sanford, Hiram, Jefferson, and two daughters, Clarissa and her sister who married Elijah Pool, pitching their domicile on the farm where now resides William Brydle, Sr. They began where all was raw material. Not a tree was cut, not a house built, a well dug, a road laid out, or any of the comforts of civilized life. They began at zero, not having what even Adam has, a rib as a helpmate. Such hardships would now be regarded as intolerable. But they were living in anticipation, and it was not many years before they reaped the fruits of their toil in sweet participation. Though exposed to the bite of the serpent, to the fury of wild beasts, common dangers of the day, they ventured into the thicket where help was too far away to be called, though sickness might overtake, or the falling trees disable the,.

Their first bed and bedding were made of peeled bark. From the trees they had out they stripped it, and one piece was laid on the ground to keep them from the damp earth, and another they laid over, to shelter them from the rain and dew. Within a few days they split shingles and pealed bark enough to put a roof on their new shanty. Then they could dispense with their bark sheets and coarse blankets. Day after day their axes tolled with heavy blows on the tall timbers, though no human being was near enough to hear the echoes or respond to their voice. No clock rung out the hour of day, or dinner horn sounded for the welcome meal. The sun, moon, and stars measures their time, and their appetites gave notice for the serving of tables.

At this time there was no road of any kind in the vicinity of South Ridge. Indian trails were all about the track the pedestrian could discover. When Mr. Thompson took up his abode at this place, such a track was noticeable as leaving the ridge road to East Conneaut’s short distance west of the brick school house, (now, 1880, a new wooden structure) running on to the hog-back, in a northwesterly direction, crossing Smoke Runcreek, intersecting the east line of A.J. Cheney’s fam, thence in an angling direction across John Howard’s farm, up just west by Alonzo ward’s to Levant M. Horton’s, thence north-west by Nehmiah DeMaranville, where had settled two or three families.

It probably was along this trail that Rufus S. Reed came on a severe wintry day on a trading expedition with the Indians. Mr. Reed was a merchant in Erie, Pennsylvania, and was on his way to the station of old Phillips, a Seneca Indian in Denmark. He had with him a French pony, and to his saddle was firmly attached a sack of silver money. When chilled on the pony’s back he would alight and walk, driving the animal before him. Becoming weary, Mr. Reed took the bridle and tried to remount, when the intelligent animal refused to let him. Again and again, he made the attempt, but the little nag as often slipped away from him, and did not, on any terms, come to reconciliation, but broke away from him and ran off into the woods. Pursuing his lost treasure with eagerness and becoming exhausted, he fortunately encountered Seth Harrington, one of the greatest hunters of those times, on his return from the camp of Phillips. He besought Mr. Harrington to catch his pony or shoot him, so that he could secure his money. By driving the animal to a narrow point of land in a bend of Ashtabula creek, Mr. Harrington captured him and returned in triumph, the pony and the money to the rightful owner.

It was very evident that the early settlers followed Indian trails at first. Along this path to East Conneaut down the creek bank, and through its waters near the paper mill, Mr. Thompson carried on his back his meal, flour and other provisions, until he could clear enough of his land to raise them, or until he could inclose lands for keeping a team.

Part II 1