Editing and further preparation of manuscript by Alta Sims and Ellen Campbell
The author of the account is Belle Mansfield, who was born, October 3, 1856 and died January 19, 1912. She married Samuel Bates Wiest, who as the leading druggist in Ashland for many years. They had three children: John, Frederick, and Katharine.
The manuscript was given to the Ashland County Historical Society by George and Paul Wile, sons of Katharine Wiest and Zenith Trenton Wile.
From Mrs. Wiest’s obituary: “For some years Mrs. Wiest had been diligently engaged, when able to do so, in the preparation of a complete history of Ashland. She already had practically all the important data and interesting events of this place tabulated preparatory for the printer, and it is a source of regret that she was not privileged to witness the completion of a work that would surely have been a great credit to herself and the city of Ashland as well.
The Early Years: 1815-1850
In the state of Ohio, sections seven, eight, seventeen, and eighteen of Ashland County comprise the town of Ashland. The land to the west rises gradually, and the town is built on the sides of a hill with the north and south land sloping towards the center. Towards the east a gradual grade leads to a beautiful valley called the bottom lands. Everywhere nature has beautified this garden spot. The drainage from the hillside converges in a little stream of water, whose source is above and to the west of the town. It flows through the center of town, dividing it into North and South Ashland.
The Legend of Ashland
Almost all places of any importance have for their origin a legend. The legend of this town goes something like this:
Once upon a time two wayfarers were stranded in this place. They had traveled far and were very tired and hungry when darkness fell around them. They had their apple juice and were very unsteady in their legs and weary in their heads. They bunked for the night with blankets around them and the kind earth for their bed for no habitation was in sight.
When they awoke in the morning and saw the rising sun coming up over the valley in the east and the beauty of the surrounding countryside coming in their vision, they consulted together and proposed laying out a village and staying in this delightful place. They still felt the effects of their over-indulgence in the apple juice, so their ideas of direction were somewhat confused. They agreed to start from a certain point and by night met at the starting place. The paths they traveled during the day would be the streets of the town, and the results show why the town has not one strait or two parallel streets. Indeed this town is unprecedented for peculiar angles and the abrupt manner in which streets cease to exist by stopping short against either a house or barn or another street or alley. The authority for this legend is obscure, but the “oldest inhabitant” used to tell it when explaining the peculiar survey of the town.
Another story is that when the town was young there were two distillers whom all the men visited. The straight streets marked their going, and the crooked ones marked their coming home.
Ashland was not the town’s first name. Uniontown was the original name. William Montgomery has the credit of laying out the village and making the first survey. The township was named after him. This was July 28, 1815. It was the fourth town in the county. Loudonville was laid out on August 6, 1814, by James Loudon Prist and Stephen Butler. Perrysville, named for the victory of Commodore Perry, was laid out by Thomas Coulter on September 10, 1813. Jeromesville, named after Baptist Jerome, the original proprietor of the land upon which it was surveyed, was laid out on February 14, 1815, by Christian Deardorff and William Vaughn.
In the spring of 1815 a camp of Indians occupied the present site of the south side of Washington Street where it joins the Wooster Road. The main road or trail, for, for it was not much more than that, was the Wooster Road with a straight line northwest to the Portland Road, joining it where the Methodist church now stands. It is now known as the Olivesburg Road. Sandusky Street is so named because it was the road leading directly to the trading post of that name. West Main was called the Charles Mill Road, and Savannah Road Succeeded the Norwalk Road. Orange Road and Sullivan Road were called the Milan Road. It was a great thoroughfare for hauling grain. Cleveland Road was called the Harrisburg Road, that being the name of Lodi to which it led. Center Street and the road leading south were called the Huron Road, and Claremont Avenue was called the Mansfield Road.
When the official survey was made by William Montgomery, Main Street branched off where the gas house stands and went more directly west. It was the first thoroughfare of the town, and it was crooked, with cabins scattered here and there. A square was in the center of the town although it was not so designated on the map. The fountain at the corner of the Opera House would just about mark its center.
There were at this time only three or four cabins in town. William Montgomery occupied one. Mr. Croft, a tanner, occupied a cabin just north of the creek facing the square on the land now occupied by the Simon Pulley Shop. William Mongomery’s cabin was on the corner, but farther back where F.E. Myers’ new building now stands.
It was in the spring of 1817 that Joseph Sheets and his wife, Nancy Harper, came from Steubenville, Ohio, accompanied by Mrs. Sheets’ parents. William Montgomery invited them to share his cabin. Afterwards they spent a few months in a very inferior cabin in the northeast corner of the square where Mr. Sheets soon built a house. The place is now occupied by William Rogers and his wife. Joseph Sheets opened up a store and a tailor shop, tailoring being his trade. This was the town’s first store. Mr. Sheets also kept the first hostelry, giving a hearty welcome to all comers and making himself a very useful citizen. He finally disposed of his Uniontown property and bought from William Montgomery ninety acres of land south of the creek, which was subsequently laid out as South Ashland.
The first child of Joseph and Nancy Sheets was William, born in the house on Main Street on January 1, 1819. They lived there two years, then built a house on their farm across the creek. That house still stands and is owned by Lorin Miller. It was the first house built in South Ashland. The Joseph Wassen Land Company bought the land later from Mr. Sheets and laid out South Ashland. Gilbert and John Miller bought several acres on the north side of West Washington Street. The long, low house back of Charley Freer’s residence is the old Sheets Homestead where Mrs. Southerland (Martha) was born on September 18, 1824. Here she was married and here she is still living with her daughter, Mrs. Jameson.
Mrs. Sheets is recorded as saying that when she lived in the village it was a very lively place, especially on public days and Saturdays. She says it was not uncommon in those days to see five or six fights in the evening. The strong armed pugilist who could tan two or three dogskins claimed high honors. On one occasion, Mrs. Sheets states, the clans had gathered for a little settlement. Prior to opening the ball, they visited the distilleries to fit and prepare themselves for the task. In their absence, just after dark, Mrs. Sheets, butcher knife in hand, visited all the hitching posts and cut the horses loose. She says in fifteen minutes the village was cleared of the toughs. She thinks it was a little rough, but it was a work of necessity.
Alanson Andrews emigrated to Ohio in the spring of 1817. His first cabin was near the spring south of the creek. In a short time he moved across the road, north of the creek, a little to the east. He built a cabin at the south end of a lot now owned by Dr. R. B. Kinnaman, who bought it from M. H. Mansfield, who, in turn, purchased it from the Andrews estate. It was here that Lorin Andrews was born on April 1, 1819. He became prominent in the educational interests of the town. His career will be studied in a subsequent chapter.
The spirit of the times was ever on the wing: Ashland was not sleeping. Her people were alive to everything that tended toward advancement. The men took the lead in municipal affairs. They were the stars, but their satellites, the women, were not inactive.
Arrival of Joel Luther
On a pleasant evening in the fall of 1820 a young man of fair countenance with dark eyes and black hair, very erect but plainly dressed, drove in a one-horse wagon, with a wooden box for a trunk, to the front door of the Sheets tavern. He asked permission to lodge there for the night. It was granted, and the young man was soon seated for supper while his jaded horse was carefully stabled and fed by the landlord.
The new guest appeared to be a quiet, self-possessed and intelligent young man, and Mrs. Sheets soon has him engaged in a lively conversation. When supper was over, the routine of finding out the birthplace, the financial resources, the destination, and the personal peculiarities of the stranger was gone into in a systematic manner. During the ordeal it was learned that the stranger was a native of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, that he was born about 1794, that he had attended the neighborhood school until he was of age, and that then, like a true son of New England, he had come west to seek his fortune.
He had gone to Troy, New York, in 1816 where he taught school and studied medicine under a leading practitioner of that place. At the conclusion of his studies he had been licensed to practice and located for a short time at a place called Red Post in the vicinity of Troy. He finally preferred to go further west, so he started with one hundred dollars, his horse and wagon. Uniontown seemed to be the first settlement that attracted his attention. Thus, he stopped with Joseph Sheets.
His was the first horse and wagon in the town, and he had a box for a trunk that held all his earthly possessions. Mr. and Mrs. Sheets gave as their opinion that a physician might obtain a lively practice in this region as there was no doctor nearer than Mansfield. The young gentleman who had traveled west to seek his fortune was Doctor Joel Luther.
The doctor retired for the night pleased with the reception he had received and encouraged over the idea of having found a good location and a pleasant home. About daylight the next morning the occupants of the Sheets’ house were aroused by loud knocking at the front door. Mr. Sheets hastily opened it and asked what was wanted. A man who lived about three miles in the country inquired if there was not a doctor in town, stating that a member of his family was very sick. Mr. Sheets replied that a young doctor had just come the night before. In a short time Doctor Luther was mounted on his horse, winding his way along the paths through the forest led by the man who came from him. This was his first case, and being successfully treated, in soon led to an extensive practice.
The prevailing diseases of those days were autumnal fevers and bilious remittent. The treatment was such as kills the modern bullock, copious blood letting. Strong men required vigorous treatment, and they got it without stint. The lancet was an indispensible instrument. When a physician could not be hand, many private persons did the job, and human blood was abstracted freely.
Doctor Joel Luther erected an office a short distance above the McNulty House and continued the practice until 1831. Owing to poor health, he then opened a dry goods establishment and continued in business until his death in 1834. In 1824 he married Elizabeth Mycrantz, who died on April 19, 1880. Their only child, Katherine, married Dr. J.F. Sampsell. The result of this union was two children, Dr. Vinton Sampsell of Elyria and Mrs. Florence Semple of Ashland, whose son Maurice is practicing law in his hometown at the present time.
Uniontown continued to be the town’s name until the establishment of a post office in 1822. Then the name was changed to Ashland because there was another Uniontown in Ohio. Francis Graham was the first postmaster. He had come from Sandusky City in 1821. He rented a room at Joseph Sheets’ house and boarded with him, paying a dollar a week. He later put up a building farther up Main Street on the south side, on the site now owned by George Sneider, opposite Church Street.
Shortly after opening his store, Francis Graham began to feel the necessity of having a post off ice in town. Mr. Graham sent a petition to Judge Sloan, the member of Congress from this district, asking for the erection of a post office in Uniontown. The name of the village was then changed to Ashland, after the home of Henry Clay, the statesman from Kentucky. Francis Graham was made the first postmaster and did his official duties in connections with his other business.
When Mr. Graham came to the town there were fourteen or fifteen families living there. The place was without a store, without a tavern, and Joseph Sheets took care of the stray traveler if by chance one came. There was no church or post office.
Mr. Graham was married to Amelia Shepard, March 13, 1825, at Sandusky, Ohio. They came to Ashland on their wedding trip and made it their home. Their married life extended over 58 years. Mr. Graham died June 9, 1881. Mrs. Graham died February 24, 1896. Being born in 1800 she lived almost a century and in that time she saw Ashland from its infancy pass through all stages of growth, its vicissitudes, its joys and sorrows, its calamities and prosperities. She certainly had a vision, a panorama of years of Ashland’s growth seldom allotted to her sons and daughters.
In September, 1875, when the Pioneer and Historical Society of Ashland County was organized, both Mr. and Mrs. Graham were members. He was elected the first president.
When Francis Graham was on one of his trips to Detroit to get supplies he met and persuaded John Jacobs to accompany him home to Uniontown. When Mr. Jacobs and his wife arrived there was no cabin available. Mr. Graham had been an extensive buyer of corn, and to store it he had built a large corncrib. He removed the corn, and Mr. Jacobs and his wife moved in. (They were advocates of fresh air.) In one corner of the corncrib he had his table or bench and here he carried on his business which was that of being a tailor. The housekeeping was done in the rest of the apartment. It was here that their first child was born, Sarah, who married Mr. Deem. Both of them are now deceased. They left tow children, John of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Dia who married Mr. Daniels and lives on Maple Street.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs have been known to remark that in no time in their married life were they any happier. He became quite well-to-do and invested in property, some on Main Street. The last land remaining in the family is the Kenny Home on Center Street. It was the first brick house built on that street. Nr. And Mrs. Jacobs raised a large family; two of them whom are living, Mrs. Sue Kenny and Snyder Jacobs of Reading, Pennsylvania.
The Village Grows
Ashland now had about eighteen families: two farmers, two distillers, two tanners, one shoemaker, one tavern keeper, one blacksmith, one tailor, two hatters, one cooper, one storekeeper, one cabinetmaker, and one physician. This is really the beginning of the village.
William Sheets was born in the village of January 1, 1819. Next was Lorin Andrews on April 1 of the same year. There is no record of any baby girl born before Mahala Swineford (Ilger) in 1823 who was the oldest child of George Swineford who was a tanner by trade. His place of business stood where the Pulley Works on Center Street is now located, north of the creek.
On the south side of the creek, west of Center Street, about halfway between Washington Street and the creek is s spring. It was a well-known water supply for a great many of the villagers. It quality was good and its quantity was inexhaustible. It is there today.
By 1823 Ashland is populated by pioneers, people full of thrift, push, and energy. Very few leave; many move in. Cabins are superceded by good substantial houses. All kinds of business go on and everybody in the town is busy. In those days travel was all overland. Many travelers on their way west would leave news and travel on. Some, however, would be interested in the new town and would stop and locate here, so that Ashland was constantly gaining by the growing population. Strangers coming with the vast army of pioneers pushing west to open up new states and territories often stopped and allied themselves with the good people of Ashland. We find the village developing and growing. We see the passing of the old, the building of the new, the beginning of a good and substantial community.
The principal street of the village was very crooked, and cabins were ranged along wither side of it. A grist and saw mill or two, all propelled by water soon appeared. Jacob Grubb, an excellent cabinetmaker, and other mechanics soon erected dwellings. A demand for more goods introduced other businessmen and more stores were opened. The original plat filled rapidly and more room was required. Markley’s addition was laid out. In a few years Alanson Andrews, Francis Graham, Joseph Sheets, and Christopher Mycrantz added their additions, also. Doctors, lawyers, merchants, and mechanics continued to arrive, adding their professions and labor to the growing town.
Doctor William Demming arrived from Medina County about 1826. He practiced here until 1837 and then moved to Orange.
In the spring of 1830 a remarkable character named R. P. Fulkerson came to Ashland with his wife. His trade of being a blacksmith and auger-maker did not hinder him from developing his artistic sense. In addition to shoeing horses and repairing plows, he ironed many road-wagons and carriages and repaired guns. Being remarkably ingenious in working iron, he was able to turn his hand to many branches of the art. He was also fond of the study of botany, and his greenhouse, the first in town, gave evidence of his fine taste in the floral kingdom. He succeeded in introducing many fine varieties of fruit trees, flowering shrubs and plants. He was industrious in his researches into the habits of the honeybee. In fact, he took a lively interest in everything that could contribute to the happiness and prosperity of his race.
Along through the twenties, thirties, and up to 1843, a character long identified with the early history of the town must not be overlooked. John Chapman, known to the early settlers as Johnny Appleseed, was a native of Massachusetts, born sometime in 1775.
Many stories are told about him. One is that in 1796 he was seen in the autumn along the banks of the Potomac River visiting the cider mills where the farmers were pressing cider. Here he picked seeds from the pumice. When he had collected a sufficient quantity of seeds for his purpose, he carefully packed them in linen or leather sacks which he carried on his shoulders or by an old horse across the mountains to the territories west of the Ohio River.
He generally had with him an ax, a hatchet, and a Virginia hoe, with which he cleared and dug in loamy or rich soil along the banks of a stream. He would then erect a brush fence around this ground before planting his apple seeds. He would go on, visit another locality and do the same until he had apple orchards distributed as far west as Fort Wayne Indiana. About every six months he would pass over his route, trim and prune, and it was in this way that he became well-known.
He was ever the friend of animals and also of the Indians who never molested him. They regarded him as the “great medicine man.” He would never sleep in any bed at any of the taverns but would lie on the floor. His dress was a marvel of scraps and tatters, consisting mainly of cast-off, badly worn garments given to him by the pioneers in exchange for young apple trees. He always seemed thankful for such small favors, and by the aid of such articles, ill-fitting, patched and shabby, he protected himself against wintry blasts. He was very religious and a devout and ardent disciple of Swedenburg. He always carried a portion of his works.
Johnny Appleseed is reputed to have planted to orchards in Ashland, one in South Ashland and one in North Ashland. The location of the orchard south of the creek is unknown. The one on the north side of town was on the point of land where Sandusky and Pleasant Streets meet, on land now owned by Mrs. C.D. Mason known as Public Orchard. This was a place where once children could get apples without calling it stealing, although the land was owned by the late J.F Sprengle.
Social Life of Women
The social life of the townswomen was progressive. They had quiltings, rag sewings, and they found time to take their sewing and spend the day with a neighbor and talk things over. They boiled their own soap in the backyard and carried a good sample to their nearest neighbor. When the time came for getting ready to make apple butter, all the women of the town would be invited in to pare and core apples. The next day the apples would be boiled into apple butter. A neighbor would drop in now and then to see how the butter was getting along. If it were getting too thick, it would soon be time to take it off the fire. There were the babies to look after, for certainly the baby-habit was the style; large families were the fashion. Remedies were exchanged and recommended during sickness.
The young people had gatherings, too. The social life of the town was in keeping with the other advancements. A letter written by Dr. Joel Luther on December 27, 1829, to Hulbert Luther of West Lowville, Lewis County, New York, extended an invitation to come here and clerk in a hardware store, which advice he took. Joel Luther made the additional remark that by coming to Ashland, his brother could get into the best society. In the spring of 1830 he located in Ashland. He was employed by his brother and identified with Ashland and her interests for his brother and identified with Ashland and her interests for his long life of seventy years. He married Lydia E. Wicoff and left three children, Joel, Helen Luther Holland, and Emily Luther Burns.
Doctor Osterlin, a native of Germany, arrived in Ashland in October, 1834 and practiced medicine here until his death.
First Brussels Carpet
Mrs. Lang who lived on Fourth Street, in the house now owned and occupied by Judge W.T. Devor, caused quite a stir in the feminine hears when she bought a Brussels carpet, the first in town. Rag carpets were used in every house when carpets were used at all. Perhaps a “three-ply” did adorn the parlors of some, but a Brussels in Mrs. Lang’s parlor created some commotion. It did not need dodgers to announce it for the news was passed along until in twenty-four hours every man, woman, and child in Ashland knew that the Lang house had a Brussels carpet.
About 1840 Katherine Luther, then a child of ten, was made the possessor of a piano, the very first in town. It was bought in Massillon and hauled overland with much difficulty. It was of Chickering make and was handed down to her daughter Florence (Semple) who subsequently traded it for a later make of the same name. Soon after Katherine Luther’s piano came to town, Emily Luther (Burns) showed musical talent, and it was not long until another trip was made to Massillon. She, too, was made happy to own a Chickering. She kept it until she moved to California a few years ago. Then it was sold to Mrs. Bessie E. Moore, who prizes it very highly for it is the oldest piano in town at this present day and is in very good condition.
The first record of any municipal government in Ashland is in 1844 with Charles Demming acting as mayor. He issued an ordinance to have sidewalks placed on Main Street and to have this street graded; the sidewalks were to be ten feet wide, the paving to be sandstone or brick
The legislative act creating Ashland County was enacted on February 24, 1846. The new county was formed from territories of Richland, Huron, Lorain, and Wayne counties. On the first Monday of April, 1846, the county seat was located at Ashland by a vote of the electors. The citizens of Ashland had agreed to donate suitable grounds and five thousand dollars to erect county buildings thereon.
First County Jail and Courthouse
In 1847 and 1848 the old jail was erected by Ozias S. Kinney, architect. It cost the county about fourteen thousand dollars. An old stone church which stood a little west of the jail was purchased and used seven years as a courthouse. The county offices were upstairs in the jail. The church occupied about the middle of the courthouse square and had been built by the Methodist denomination. Ozias S. Kinney began to build the new courthouse in 1851 and completed it in 1853. It cost the county twenty thousand dollars.
The west side of Cottage Street from Sandusky Street was paved in 1847 and was called Graham’s addition. J. Sloan was mayor in 1847.
J.D Stubbs became mayor in 1849. Under his administration the north side of Third Street was paved.
More to be added soon!