Early Farm Life Of Brownhelm Township Ohio

The appliances for farm culture were not the most efficient. Horses and wagons came slowly. Oxen and carts, however, furnished a very good substitute, indeed were best suited to the work in the midst of logs and stumps. They were not so convenient for trips to mill, or to market, or to meeting; but they were made to answer all these purposes. Indeed, a single ox, fitly harnessed, was sometimes made to do duty as a horse in plowing corn. The plow of these times was such as each farmer, possessing a little mechanical gumption, could make for himself. The share, as it was called by courtesy, was brought from the east, made of wrought iron and pointed with steel. The mould-board was split from an oak log and hewed into a slightly spiral form, and the whole was bound together by a bolt which extended from a block at the base up through the beam. The clear, shining furrow of the modern plowman could not follow such an implement. The sensation produced by the first cast-iron plow brought into the country brought people from miles to see it. The only drawback was that when the point failed, it could be replaced only by sending to Massachusetts, except that the proprietor chanced to be enough of a Yankee to Whittle out a mould for himself, and thus obtained a perpetual supply from a furnace at Elyria.

Mechanics and artisans appeared slowly. All the energies of the people were concentrated upon clearing the land, and they had no surplus means to support mechanics who should supply them with the refinements of life. Shoemakers were first called for, and some men found themselves shoemakers who had never been suspected, either by their friends or themselves, of any acquaintance with the art. Among the first who were recognized as accomplished artists in this line were Mr. Peck and his sons, Mr. Scott near the stone quarry, Mr. Wells on the lake, and afterward Mr. Hosford and his sons. Mr. Peck established a tannery, and could thus perform the whole labor of transforming into shoes the few hides which the murrain furnished to a reluctant community. The shoemaker often went from house to house making shoes for the entire family, an operation that was called “whipping the cat.”

The first blacksmith in town, and the only one for many years, was Deacon Shepard. A farmer like the rest, he spent his mornings and evenings and rainy days at his anvil. Such double service would seem too much for ordinary endurance; but the deacon walked among the people whom he thus served.

Seth Morse made rakes, scythe snaths and farm cradles. Mr. Blodgett manufactured brooms, and Solomon Whittlesey converted the farmer’s black salts into pearlash.

Alfred Avery was a wheelwright, and of course a carpenter, more strictly devoted to his trade than most of the first mechanics.

Thomas Sly, on the lake shore, was a carpenter, and his son James after him; on the south ridge, Durand and Hancock. Many of the farmers had sufficient skill in the working of wood to construct their plows, sleds, ox-yokes and ordinary farming implements, and to put an axle into a cart or wagon.

Ezekiel Goodrich, on the lake shore, was the first cabinet maker. There was no brick or stone mason in the early settlement. The only work in that line was the building of stick chimneys, and now and then one of stone and brick, and pointing the crevices of the log cabins every winter with clay - even the boys learned to do this. Such extempore mason-work was not always reliable. The stone chimney in the house built for Dr. Betts buried Mr. Pease in its ruins one day, when he was engaged laying the hearth. He was bruised, not killed.

The first flouring-mill was built by Judge Brown, in 1821, on the Vermillion, near the Swift place. After two or three years it was removed down the river and placed by the side of a saw mill, owned by Hinckley and Morse. It is the same mill later owned by Benjamin Bacon - the same perhaps in the sense that the boy’s knife was the same after having a new blade and a new handle. Its original infirmity was want of motive power in a dry time, a weakness from which it has never-fully recovered - the failure of the dam in a wet time, and the freezing up of the wheel in winter.

In the later 1800s there was one grist mill in the township. This was the mill of John H. Heyman, called the “Brownhelm Mills,” situated in West Brownhelm, on the Vermillion. The mill was erected in the fall of 1877, at a cost of some fifteen thousand dollars. There were three run of stones, beside a middlings stone. The mill was usually run by water power, but an engine had been added for use in dry seasons. The new process, called the “steaming process,” was adopted in the manufacture of flour, which consisted simply of steaming the wheat about six hours before grinding. About three hundred barrels of flour were now shipped per week, the principal market for which was Cleveland. It was one of the best establishments of the kind in this section of country. Mr. Heyman also had, in connection with his grist mill, a saw mill, run by the same motive power.

The first carding and cloth-dressing establishment was built by Uriah Hawley and Charles Whittlesey, on the Vermillion, but a little southwest of Brownhelm territory.

The first hotel in town was kept by Alva Curtis, first in his log house, afterwards in a more stately structure. It was always a pleasant home for a traveler. The sign itself gave notice that Sunday calls were not desired. Travelers were also entertained, for a consideration, at any house at which they felt inclined to stop. Mr. Curtis brought the first stock of goods into the town, and opened a store. His assortment was not extensive. Stores were afterwards opened at Black River, Elyria, South Amherst, North Amherst, and, in 1830, one by Ezekiel Goodrich, on the lake shore in Brownhelm, afterwards removed to the Ridge Road, near Mr. Curtis’.
Brownhelm Historical Association
Preserving the Rich History of Brownhelm, Ohio

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