Medina Township History
reprinted from the Medina Gazette – June 6, 2006 – by Judy Totts
Medina Township TimelineBY JUDY TOTTS
1795 Elijah Boardman became a member of the Connecticut Land Company. He was proprietor of several large tracts of land in the Western Reserve, including Medina Township. Others who owned small tracts included Homer Boardman, Judson Canfield, Z. Briggs, Roger Skinman and several others.
1810 The township was surveyed int 81 lots of equal size. A man named Hinman erected the first cabin in the township on Lot 22. He lived there only a short time; fear of the Indians during the war of 1812 drove them away.
1814 Zenas Hamilton, a native of Danbury, Conn. and the first permanent settler in Medina Township, moved there from Harpersfield, N.Y. in October. Hamilton moved into Hinman’s old cabin, part of his purchase, before building a large one for his family. It was a year and a half before another family arrived.
June 9, 1815 Matthew Hamilton, son of Zenas, was the first child born in the township. He grew up to become a doctor, moved out West and later drowned while crossing a river on his way to see a patient.
1816 James Moore arrived in March, followed by James Palmer, Chamberlin and Jacob Marsh, who helped him build his cabin. Rufus Ferris, land agent for Boardman, came in June, settling a half-mile north of Medina’s public square. Other settlers who staked their claims within the next year included Hiram Bronson, Noah Bronson, the Northrops, the Warners, Lathrop Seymour and Gad Blakeslee.
1817 Ferris erected the first frame barn in the township, assisted by J. and N.B. Northrop and men from Liverpool and Brunswick townships.
1817 Seymour, who served as a captain in the army in the War of 1812, built a sawmill with Timothy Doan. In 1818, he built a gristmill at Weymouth.
April 10, 1817 Men gathered to build a church about a mile northeast of the town (meeting) house. The Rev. R. Searle, an Episcopal clergyman, preached a sermon there at 4 p.m. that day. Searle organized the church that became St. Paul’s in Medina.
1817 Augustus Philips, said to be a descendent of the Indian chief King Philip, settled on the south half of Lot 53, sharing the property with F.A. Abbott. Philips’ parents arrived in 1820.
1817 The first death occurred. The daughter of Asahel Parmalee died during the family’s stop in Medina on the way to Sullivan.
1817 Eliza Northrop taught school in the log meeting house. She had 23 pupils, including Carlos and Lester Barnes, Banner and Harrison Seymour, Frank and Philander Calender, and Anna, Cynthia, Philemon, Chloe, Ruth and Madison Rice.
Nov. 30, 1818 The village of Medina was laid out, but the plat wasn’t recorded until Jan. 6, 1820.
1818 Captain Austin Badger settled in the township, building the first double-log house in the village. In partnership with a man named Hickox, he opened the first tavern. Officials held court proceedings there until the first courthouse was constructed.
1819 A man named Shoals built the first frame house in Medina village, designed as a dry goods store. Sherman Bronson and “Judge” Smith also opened stores.
July 4, 1819 The first Fourth of July celebration was held in town.
March 23, 1818 Giles Barnes and Eliza Northrop tied the knot for the first marriage in the township. The Rev. R. Searle performed the ceremony.
March 24, 1818 The first election was held for township officials, with Isaac Barnes, Noah M. Bronson and Abraham Scott serving as judges. The election results were: Joseph Northrop, Abraham Scott and Timothy Doan, township trustees; Isaac Barnes, township clerk; Rufus Ferris and Lathrop Seymour, overseers of the poor; Abijah Marsh and Benjamin Hull, fence
viewers; James Palmer, lister; Rufus Ferris, James Moore, Zenas Hamilton and William Painter, supervisors; Samuel Y. Potter and Ransom Clark, constables; and James Moore, treasurer. Zenas Hamilton was the first justice of the peace.
Feb. 21, 1819 The first Congregational Church members organized at the home of Isaac Barnes under the leadership of the Rev. William Hanford, a missionary. The Rev. Simeon Woodruff was one of the first pastors.
1820 Harmon Munson and Joseph Pritchard brought their families to Medina.
1820 The first Freemason’s lodge, No. 58, A.F. and A.M. was organized.
Aug. 23, 1833 The Baptist Church of Medina was established. Elder J. Newton was the first minister.
June 15, 1834 The Rev. George Elliott organized the Methodist Episcopal Church of Weymouth. A Congregational Church was organized at the house of Lathrop Seymour in January 1835.
1835 The village of Medina was incorporated.
April 19, 1841 Charlotte A. Weld opens the Medina Female School for the study of “reading, writing, spelling, geography, English grammar, natural philosophy, chemistry, algebra, Latin and the rudiments of French, mental philosophy and geometry.” It cost $1.50 to $3.50 per quarter, depending on the studies pursued.
April 11, 1848 Fire destroyed 12 buildings in Medina. Almost 22 years to the day later, on April 14, 1870, a second, larger fire spread and destroyed 40 buildings.
1856 Township teams of drivers and four-horse sleighs competed in the great sleigh-ride. It had been a yearly event, a contest to win based on the number of teams turned out. In the 1856 event, 181 Medina teams vied against Cuyahoga and Summit counties to win it back.
BY JUDY TOTTS
The oxen strained to pull the cart, gaining the top of the hill as the sun started to dip below the horizon. They stopped, snorting, as Zenas Hamilton halted them on the crest and waved his left arm expansively over the valley below.
“There it is,” Hamilton said to his wife as she walked up beside him, clutching her shawl more tightly around her shoulders as the breeze stirred the fallen leaves at their feet. She stared at the wild tangle of forest in the gathering dark.
“What?” she said, looking at her husband.
“There’s Hinman’s old cabin.” He pointed at the structure.
She stared. It cast a very small shadow, much shorter than the surrounding trees. She pulled her shawl up, surreptitiously studying her husband’s face. He wore a pleased look, like a cat that has deposited the night’s kill on the doorstep, waiting for approval. Thinking of cobbled streets and Sunday morning church bells, china plates on linen tablecloths, she swallowed hard. Her feet hurt after the long walk, and home in Harpersfield, N.Y., seemed very faraway.
“I think it’s very nice, dear,” she said finally.
The long grasses snatched at her skirt and petticoats as they started toward the cabin. At least there would be a roof over their heads tonight.
While Zenas tethered the oxen in the rude shed behind the cabin, she swept a family of mice out of one corner and found kindling for a fire. She paused in the doorway a moment, watching Zenas unyoke the great beasts. Crickets chirruped, beckoning the stars as the sky deepened to indigo.
This was their little bit of land now, bought from Elijah Boardman, a native of New Milford, Conn. She sighed and started to look for her cast iron kettle. At least they could have porridge tonight. Zenas promised to hunt tomorrow, and to start building a larger cabin. Until then, this would have to do. He was a good hunter, and they would depend on his skill to get them through the winter.
In the years to come, when the family was reduced to pounding corn into hominy or shelling wheat or rye by hand until they could get meal from the nearest mill, Zenas took his rifle and headed into the woods. The 1881 “History of Medina County” described one expedition: “He was out in the forest one day, and, approaching a large oak tree, discovered a bear at the foot, eating acorns, and as he looked up, saw in the tree the old one and her two cubs, getting off the acorns. Knowing that, as soon as he fired at the one on the ground, it would be the signal for the rapid descent of those in the tree, he prepared for the emergency by taking some bullets in his mouth and making every preparation for hastily reloading his gun. He then shot the larger bear at the foot of the tree, then hastily put some powder in his gun, spit a ball into the muzzle, gave it a ‘chug’ on the ground causing it to prime itself (this was before the invention of percussion caps), and in this way shot the others before they could get down and away, thus piling them in a heap at the foot of the tree in a very short time.”
The Hamiltons lived alone for almost a year and a half, before other settlers arrived. James Moore wrote about his cabin-raising, with James Palmer, Chamberlin and Marsh helping him. “This must have been in the forepart of April, 1816,” he wrote. “I cut and cleared, without team, three acres, where David Nettleton’s house now stands, and planted it with corn, and left it in care of Jacob Marsh, and the last of May, 1816, I started for Boston, returning in October of same year.”
When Rufus Ferris, who acted as agent for Boardman, and his wife came into the township on June 11, 1816, they settled about half-mile north of the public square. They started with a shanty, and Mrs. Ferris cooked and baked near a fallen tree on their land. Ferris, like most pioneers, worked quickly to establish himself. He put up the first frame barn in the township in two days, thanks to help from J. and N.B. Northrop and a contingent from Liverpool and Brunswick townships. He was described as fun-loving guy, and he “prepared two large pails of milk-punch, sweet but strong with whisky, and, in a short time, six or eight of those who drank most freely, were on their backs feeling upward for terra firma.”
When it came to building churches, they must have set a speed record – obviously minus drinking time – when they built the first Episcopal Church on April 10, 1817, “near the present residence of Chauncey Blakslee.” They cut the timber, cleared the underbrush, made the shingles and put up a log meeting house. “About noon, notice came that Mr. Searle would be there and preach a sermon at 4 o’clock in the afternoon that day. We did our best to be ready.” Not only did they finish the church, the exercises were accompanied with appropriate singing and all passed off in very pleasant pioneer style.”
Hiram Bronson, who became a respected citizen in the county, was a babe in arms when he came to Medina Township. “His mother rode most of the distance on horseback, and carried her infant.” Bronson later served two terms in the state legislature, but among his notable contributions listed in the 1881 history: “He drove the first cattle from Medina Township to market and hauled the first flour from the same place to Cleveland; also hauled potash there with ox team, bringing back salt. These trips usually occupied five days.”
Settlers traveled roads barely more than trails through the forest, cutting brush and trees to allow their carts and wagons to pass. One of the first roads went from Liverpool to Ferris’ home, passing Hamilton’s place. Another branched off from it and ran into Smith Road near the corner of the township. Once roads were better established, more enterprising settlers
traveled by sleigh, a mode of transportation that eventually begat the Great Sleigh Ride of 1856, with Medina County pitted against Cuyahoga and Summit counties. It was less a race and more a contest of which county gathered the most four-horse sleigh teams. To reclaim the prize flag from Summit, they mustered 181 teams, not counting a four-mule entry that was disqualified.
While the Marshes, Hamiltons, Bronsons and Warners brought order to the township, Capt. Austin Badger and his partner, a man named Hickox, brought civilization to the village of Medina. The village, originally called Mecca, was “the seventh place on the globe bearing that name. The others are Medina, a town of Arabia Deserta …the capital of Woolly, West Africa … a town and fort on the island of Bahrein … a town in Estremadura, Spain; Medina, Orleans County, N.Y. and Medina, Lenawee County, Mich.”
Badger put up the first log house in the village, quickly followed by a second. He kept the first as a tavern, opened for “the accommodation f ‘man and beast,’ in the fall of 1818. … This humble frontier tavern was a place of great resort. It was the great news emporium of the neighborhood. The people gathered to exchange their bits of gossip with each other and to elicit from traveler guests the fullest digest of the news of the day.”
Residents announced logging bees, house-raisings, dances and hunts. Chidester House, another early tavern, was a stage house on the Cleveland-Wooster-Columbus line: “About stage time, everybody flocked to the tavern to see the stage come in, just as the boys of the present day gather at the depot about train time, to see who can swear the biggest oaths, chew
the most tobacco, squirt out the greatest quantity of juice, and use the most obscene language. As the stage rattled up with the blowing of the horn, and the prancing of the ‘fiery, untamed steeds,’ the people stood around open-mouthed, ready to pick up any stray scrap of news from the outside world.”
Other hotels sprang up to serve the area, the American House, the Union and the Brenner, along with businesses catering to the settlers: dry goods stores run by a man named Shoals, Sherman Bronson and “Judge” Smith: a druggist and doctor, G. W. Howe; Oviatt and Bronson and Leonard and Harris, hatters; boot and shoemakers; carriage factory; hardware store; tannery; and law offices.
But during the early years, necessities were hard to come by, and since farming was the primary occupation, settlers sometimes bartered wheat and other crops for goods. “One man brought an ox-wagon filled with corn from Granger, eight miles distant, which he gladly exchanged for three yards of satinet for a pair of pantaloons. It was not until the opening of the Erie Canal that the settlers had a market.”
The township held its first election on March 24, 1818. Hamilton, elected the first justice of the peace, proved common sense prevailed, at least some of the time. In Northrop’s history of the county, he related the following tale. Joseph Northrop bought a pig from Woodward, a farmer in Bath. When the money for the pig – a whopping $2 – wasn’t immediately forthcoming, Woodward wanted to sue. Instead, Hamilton talked to Northrop about it and suggested if the money would be in Woodward’s hand within three months, no more would be said.
“In those primitive days, when people, in the simplicity of their hearts, were thoroughly honest, civil officers were frequently much more ready to save their neighbors trouble and expense than to pocket a paltry fee for a small lawsuit.” No law suit was involved when Samantha Doan contested Eliza Sargent being listed as the first girl born in the township. Sargent was born in August 1818; Doan claimed she was born in June, 1818. Apparently Doan didn’t pursue it, but enough fuss must have been raised to have the claim included in the 1881 history book.
The Doans ran the first store in Weymouth, with J.P. Doans’ brother-n-law. Weymouth, “one of the early points of settlement,” and named by Judge Bronson for Weymouth, Mass., started out as a bustling crossroads, with several mills, its own post office, blacksmith shop and cheese factory. It also served as the site for Lathrop Seymour’s sugar factory, built on the site of a mill. Seymour tried to manufacture sugar from potatoes, but the endeavor failed and the site reverted to a mill.
In addition to mills and the Sedgwick and Clark cheese factory that turned out 10 or 11 cheeses per day, Weymouth prospered in the lumber business until the timber disappeared. Its prominence in the township began to fade, gaining momentum when the powers that be decided the railroads would run elsewhere in the county. The historian writing about Weymouth in the 1881 history book speculated that “Weymouth came near being the county seat. But, for the fact that those owning the land around Weymouth lacked sufficient public spirit to donate land for public buildings, the place no doubt would have been selected as the seat of justice. Ah, what might have been!”