By: Carl & Elaine Seliskar
“When we first came we had no roads in town.
All had to make their own roads to their log houses…”
This is the second of three articles devoted to Elijah Pomeroy. In this one we again use his own words describing the first days in Huntsburg beginning in 1808. First, a note on how we have written this article. We quote Elijah’s writings without any changes using the manuscripts in the archives of the Huntsburg Historical Society. His words are set off in quotation marks. After each such quotation we will add, as needed, our own comments about what he has said explaining some of his statements.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “The first winter we had everything to buy to live on. Father sold one of his horses to Judge Clapp, of Mentor, for two cows, 40 bushels of corn, and $10 in money. Father was a bee hunter and we lived on johnny-cake and honey. The way we worked it, each of us had a board 10 inches by 6 inches. Mother would spread on our board the johnny-cake. We took it to the open fire and baked it, first on one side and then on the other. We would then take it to the honey trough and spread our cake with honey. We also had plenty of game. The friendly Indians furnished us with game and venison.”
Here we see the real value of one horse: two cows, 40 bushels of corn, and ten bucks! Horses were also taxed at twice the rate as cows in the personal property tax schedule of the County.
The origin of the term johnny-cake is not totally certain. At one time it was also referred to as journey-cake due to its ability to be carried on long trips in saddlebags and baked along the way. Some also think that “janiken”, an American Indian word that meant corn-cake, could possibly be the origin of the term. In any event, the recipe for it is simple being a combination of cornmeal, water and salt. Johnny-cake is still popular in New England where the early pioneers learned of it from the Native Americans. Early cooks set the thick corn dough on a wooden board in front of an open fire to bake it. Now days it can be made in a hot skillet greased with bacon drippings to yield a delicious hearty cake worthy of lots of honey or maple syrup.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “When we first came we had no roads in town. All had to make their own roads to their log houses. We all had pocket compasses to guide us through the woods to the different settlements. Not much was done on the roads until Lewis Hunt came in 1817. He took a keen interest in roads in order to make a market for his land.”
The roads in the Township were initially set out on a one mile grid thus making two quarter section lots per mile of road. A quarter section lot was ½ mile square and roughly 150 acres of land. This grid pattern is still preserved today.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “The night we got the news of Hull’s surrender, about 1 or 2 o’clock, my mother woke us up, saying: “The Indians have come!” Father and I got up and went out to give them fight. But instead of Indians, about 100 rods from the house, a large bear had hold of one of our hogs. We had no powder for our gun, so we each took an ax to drive off the bear. By this time the bear had killed the hog. He took a hog that weighed 150 pounds in his hug, and was making off with it. I raised my ax and made after the bear. As I got near him he dropped the hog and made off into the swamp nearby. The bear devoured three pigs that would weigh 40 pounds apiece. We returned to the house and found mother smoking her pipe. I made up my mind that I would buy a good rifle and give the bears all they wanted.”
General William Hull is remembered as a general in the War of 1812 who surrendered Fort Detroit to the British on Aug. 16, 1812. He was later court-marshalled, convicted and sentenced to death, but was pardoned by President James Madison. Bears were obviously a threat to livestock that had to be dealt with. Taking on one with an ax is a feat that we might not want to take on in this day and age!
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “I have had some narrow escapes with bears but was never afraid of them or of wolves. I never had wolves come on me for a fight but once. In a swamp in Montville I had eight or ten come around within 20 feet of me. After I had shot two of them, they scattered.”
Although we do not have a rifle directly from Elijah Pomeroy, we do have one from Quartus Phelps (b. 1806, d. 1890), a contemporary of Elijah. (Quartus lived on Lot #75 just north of Huntley Road on the east side of Route 528.)
Elijah’s rifle would in all probability have been similar to that belonging to Quartus Phelps since they knew each other very well. The Phelps rifle is 54 caliber, single shot, percussion cap and ball rifle. Shown with a modern powder horn, all that was needed beyond this were caps, patches and lead balls.
Elijah Pomeroy, 1870. “There was plenty of game when we came here. I followed hunting until the year 1827. …. I killed 42 bears (33 with my dog), 5 wolves, 18 wildcats and 85 deer. I often got as high as three deer a day. We gave away venison to new settlers that were no hunters. If we sold, our price was one cent per pound.”
Even by today’s standards his is an impressive list. While a few bears are now seen every year in the County, it is clear that in the 1800s there were lots of them in the Huntsburg area. We assume that the wolves were northern gray wolves which still populate the upper regions of Canada.
Wrap up. In this article we have seen that Elijah Pomeroy even as a young lad braved the wildness of the Western Reserve from the first months surviving on meager rations to the later days of his life where still the native wild animals could threaten the settlers’ existence. In the next and final article, we will see some of the fine works of Elijah some of which still exist today for us to see and admire.