By Carl Seliskar
Few of the earliest settlers matched the impact of one young man named Elijah, the oldest son of Stephen and Lydia Bridgman Pomeroy, the first permanent settlers of Huntsburg, Ohio. Elijah was a truly exceptional person in just about every way. Elijah, over his roughly 80 years in Huntsburg provided enthusiasm, leadership and craftsmanship needed for making the Township grow and prosper.
This is the first of three articles devoted to Elijah Pomeroy. In this one we use his own words describing the first days in Huntsburg; how he came with his family as a young boy of ten years in 1808 to find a wilderness that had to be tamed. The following articles will be mainly devoted to Elijah’s skills as a woodsman and craftsman.
Elijah was born on April 13, 1798 in Northampton, Mass. and died on Feb. 6, 1890 in Huntsburg. He married Mary Ann Scott (1809-1867) on June 28, 1827, the oldest daughter of Aaron and Sarah Scott. Together they had seven children: Lucretia, Malinda, Julia Ann, Ansel Bridgman, Charles Hard, Sophia Jennette, Wallace and Alice Eliza.
First, a note on how we have written this and the following articles. We will quote Elijah’s writings without any changes using the manuscripts in the archives of the Huntsburg Historical Society.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “This town, No. 8 in the 6th range, and also Brecksville, was bought by Dr. E. Hunt and John Breck of North Hampton, Mass., about the year 1800. They formed a company of seven men in charge of Dr. Bond, and surveyed the land in 1803 into lots of quarter sections each. The term quarter sections was used because each lot was approximately ½ mile square. Thus, the area was ½ x ½ = ¼ square miles. They were anxious to get settlers on their land, and Dr. Hunt offered my father, Stephen Pomeroy, his choice of a lot, if he would go with his family and make a settlement, which promise was never fulfilled. My father shouldered his knapsack, started in April from North Hampton, and arrived in this town in May, 1807.”
John Breck was not the financial partner of Dr. Ebenezer Hunt; it was John’s father Robert Breck who was also a friend of Dr. Hunt. Robert Breck died in December of 1799 leaving his eldest son, John, as heir to his financial estate. Thus, in early legal dealings with settlers involving the Breck lots, John Breck represents the Robert Breck estate.
We have not found any evidence that Stephen Pomeroy was short changed after his settling Lot #4 in the Township. Stephen Pomeroy paid the taxes on Lot #4 during his use of that land. In every case we know of, Ebenezer Hunt and his descendants were fair in dealings with settlers. In another example of an agreement, Hunt legally codified via written contract for William Reed to build a grain and lumber mill on Findley’s Creek in exchange for 50 acres of land. Having completed the mills Reed received 50 acres of land free and clear. However, it is obvious that a disagreement arose in the Pomeroy family concerning the ownership of Lot #4. After Stephen Pomeroy died, Lot #4 was divided amongst his three male children and sold to them by Lewis Hunt at a then fair price.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “He [Stephen Pomeroy] selected a lot in the southwest part of the town, being the first lot taken up in and put up a log cabin 24×18 feet in size. He summoned help from three adjoining towns, and put up the house in two days. He made a clearing around the house and went back to Massachusetts. Next year he left North Hampton with his family, consisting of wife and six children: Lucretia, aged 12 years; Elijah, aged 10; Horace, aged 8; Melinda, aged 6; Bridgman, aged 4, and Lydia, aged 1 ½ years.”
A small section of an original hand-drawn Township map, dating to 1820 – 1830, showing the first several lots located in the southwest corner of the Township is shown below. Lot #4 (bottom center) was the lot chosen by Elijah’s father, Stephen H. Pomeroy, and it is where the Pomeroy family cleared the wilderness and made their home after 1808. The curvy vertical line running through Lot #4 is what is now called Tare Creek but is better known in Huntsburg by its original name, Findley’s Creek, named after John Findley.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “We started the fore part of July, with a wagon and three horses, and arrived here the 19th of August, 1808. We camped one night in the woods east of Buffalo in what was called the “Nineteen Mile Woods.” We traveled on the beach of the lake west of Buffalo. Going around what was called “Four Mile Woods,” we broke an axle of the wagon. All the tools we had was a narrow ax and an inch auger to make a new one. So we camped two nights in the “Four Mile Woods.” We had to camp out one night in Harpersfield. Next day we went to Painesville; found two or three houses there, one small frame house. Next day, this side of Painesville, going down what is called Big Hollow, over went wagon, and mother’s crockery broke to smash. I felt sorry for mother, for we had no stores to go to, to make the loss good. We camped in the woods that night. The way we did in camping out was to put a bell on one of the horses and turn them loose in the woods to feed. The next we went through to our log house.”
East of Painesville lies the Grand River which, near the headwaters with Lake Erie, flows through a steep gorge which greatly challenged wagon traffic. Later in time settlers would avoid this by turning south southwest of Painesville.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “When we came here this town was a wilderness; no settlement in Claridon or Montville. In Windsor there were a few settlers. We had about 40 or 50 Indians. They would select the best hunting grounds and build their huts in a circle around a fire, where they would smoke their venison. They lived here until the war of 1812 then went West and never returned. They would often call on us to the number of 20, on their way to Burton, where they traded their skins to a Mr. Fleming. Their chief was called Big Deer. He could speak English, and was very friendly.”
The local population of Native Americans, mainly Iroquois, was transient and used this area of the Western Reserve for hunting purposes. At the outset of the War of 1812 some Native Americans sided with the British. In addition, treaties with them effectively drove them westward and eventually out of the Western Reserve.
Wrap-up. Elijah Pomeroy was the first male child to come as a pioneer to Huntsburg. He and his family endured what was obviously many hardships to travel here only to be met by wild, untamed land. But he and his family persevered and cleared land for crops and pastures giving them opportunities to be healthy and productive. But make no mistake, pioneer life was very hard. There was a constant threat of disease; for example, measles was often fatal. The rates of consumption (tuberculosis) amongst the early settlers were staggering and nearly always fatal. So, their survival as the first Huntsburg citizens was almost miraculous.
In the next articles some of the tangible contributions of Elijah Pomeroy will be described with photographs showing them where possible.