A Matter of Priorities

Now that I’ve taken a second pass through all the letters and research I’ve accumulated, I notice something interesting about the priorities held by those who settled that part of the Northwest Territory that became Ohio.

I’ve mentioned before that Horton Howard led a group of Quakers (or Friends, as members of the Society of Friends called each other) to the Northwest territory in early 1800. The first task was to build shelter – rough hewn lumber chinked with mud, and newspaper pasted together and greased with hog lard for windows.

Small monthly meeting houses were built in Concord, Stillwater, Short Creek, and other places in 1801 through 1807, but the first Yearly Meeting house west of the Allegheny was not built until 1814 in Mt Pleasant.

While the spiritual needs were being met gradually, other, more temporal concerns were being addressed. In 1802 the first distillery in the area was built. In that year Horton was investigating the possibility of a salt refinery, and in 1803 the first grist mill, to grind flour, was built.


Marrying an outsider

Parents had concerns about their children even when times were simpler. The concern that Horton and his wife, Hannah have for their daughter is evident in this letter.

1825 – first day afternoon, 11th day of 12th month

Horton wrote to his daughter Sarah, who was at school in Columbus”

Mother asks me to “tell her to keep to meetings, to be careful of the company she keeps and not throw herself away” he follows this with his own words “I intreat thee my dear Child write frequently, and freely withhold nothing from us which would be interesting to us or or interestingr desirable or useful or relieving to thyself. “

They have, apparently, heard rumors that Sarah is becoming uncomfortably close with Samuel Forrer, who is not a member of the Society of Friends. Two months later, on the 13th of February, Samuel writes that he and Sarah were married in the parlor of a local minister, surrounded by a small group of friends to celebrate the occasion. Horton’s response is stiff, but he soon comes to accept and have affection for his new son-in-law.

Uncertainty of Living

I am impressed, when reading Horton’s letters, by his dedication to his family, and the importance he places on maintaining family connections. Some of that was likely the influence of the Quaker ways, but I wonder how much was a result of life’s uncertainties. Without antibiotics or other medeicines we take for granted, disease and death were common.

In July 1821, Horton’s second son, Joseph, left home to marry and return with his bride, Pharaby Patterson. This happy event turned to sorrow when the young wife contracted bilious fever and died less than three months after the marriage. Pharaby must have been loved by others in the family, as Joseph’s uncle chose this name for a daughter in early 1822.

Joseph’s sister, Rachel, also married shortly after her brother, and reportedly moved away to Kentucky. Rachel also died, in 1829, of bilious fever, leaving her husband with 3 children. In between these two deaths, Horton and Hannah also lost their daughter, Hannah, in 1825.

After these losses, it is understandable that Horton would hold his remaining family very dear.

A Full House

In 1804, Hannah Hastings of Wilmington, Delaware, visited the Howard’s community and struck up a friendship and correspondence with Horton.  Hannah’s letters were filled with admiration for Horton. I have wondered whether this admiration and friendship naturally blossomed into something warmer, or whether 30 year old Hannah suspected that Horton would soon be widowed again.

In September, 1804, Horton’s second wife, Mary Dew, died of “internal damage,” leaving Horton with his 12 year old son, Henry by his first wife, and with three children that he and Mary shared. Joseph was 6 years old, Rachel was 2, and Horton Jefferson Howard was 6 months.

When Horton’s obligatory one year mourning period ended, Hannah was caring for a  dying mother, and then helping to settle her estate, all while writing to Horton about their plans to marry. With the pressure of changing season and difficulty in travel, Horton convinced Hannah that waiting had disadvantages, and they were married on December 5, 1806. Hannah was 32 and Horton was 36. Over the course of the following 10 years, they added 6 more children to their family.

Moving Westward

Horton and his family were among the first to leave Carteret County, travelling to Fredericktown, Washington County, PA. Many others, including Horton’s father-in-law, Joseph Dew, Levina Hall, Jonas Small and sailed from Beaufort NC to Alexandria VA. From there, they travelled by wagon to Fredericktown, PA where they found Horton Howard and his family breaking their travels as their children recovered from whooping cough. Among the Friends leaving North Carolina, was Abigail Stanton, a widow with several young children. Once they received word that the land office in Steubenville was open, they continued their journey, settling on land near the Ohio River.

Shelters were hurriedly built – little more than squatter’s cabins made with log walls and roofs, chinked with mud, which shrank as it dried, allowing light and wind through the cracks.  Crude doors were made and partial floors were laid. Cooking was done outside until a chimney and fireplace was added. With these practicalities addressed, they could turn to improving their houses. Windows were added by cutting holes in the wall, and covered by pasting layers of newspaper, greased with hogs’ lard. These windows allowed a warm mellow light to shine through on sunny days. Rough hewn floors were laid, and additional chinking of cracks made the cabins cozier. Lofts, reached by ladder, were built to create sleeping areas.

This cabin, in Mt Pleasant, Ohio shows an early log cabin. Windows were added later to create a store front and an addition for living space had clapboard siding. This view gives an idea of the early settler’s homes.

Log cabin - Mt Pleasant