Ohio families originated in Cheshire, Connecticut

Ohio families originated in Cheshire, Connecticut

Before we get deeply into the various family branches that settled in Ohio's Western Reserve we need to go back to where they all came from.

Hattie Smith's family, as well as all the intersecting branches that populated Geauga County, Ohio, originated in the town of Cheshire, Connecticut, a small town adjoining Wallingford north of New Haven. The first residents settled in the western sections of Wallingford that would later become Cheshire in 1694. But it was Thomas Brooks, after he purchased a farm there in 1705, who was the prime mover in organizing a distinct town, something that finally happened in 1780.

Brooks is one of the surnames that will populate our story of settlement in the Connecticut Western Reserve, along with Bradley, Cook, Ford, Hitchcock, Merriman and others—all early residents of Cheshire. We will catch up with those other branches in Ohio, but our entry point will be through the family of Josiah Smith.

The first Josiah Smith came from a New Haven family and was not among the first wave of settlers in Cheshire. He arrived in 1752 following his marriage to Lois Kellogg, the daughter of an early settler. They produced eight children including a second Josiah Smith in 1757.

The younger Josiah saw considerable service in the Revolutionary War, most notably during the Battle of Horse Neck on February 29, 1779 when General Israel Putnam made his daring ride to save the town of Stamford. Josiah actually served three tours during the war, which we know because his service is well documented in later pension, burial and DAR records, the last including a remarkable affidavit by one of his daughters.

He must have been between call-ups on January 20, 1779, just a month before Horse Neck, when he married Thankful Hitchcock, a daughter of one of Cheshire's old families. They produced a son Levi Smith in 1780, followed by three daughters Meroe, Polly and Patty. This is the generation of Smiths (excepting Polly) who would later make the migration to Ohio beginning in 1805, although Josiah himself went to Geauga County in his last years and is buried there.

What motivated young men and families from Connecticut to set off to western lands? It was the opportunity to acquire property at a bargain. Families were large at this time. There were not enough acres in Connecticut to support all the offspring of the War generation. Which is why so many of them went either to Vermont, where Connecticut also claimed territory, or to Ohio after the Connecticut Land Company began making parcels available for purchase after 1796.

The first Smith family member to go to Ohio appears to be Meroe, married to John Cook from another prominent Cheshire family. They came to Burton, Ohio, as young marrieds in 1805. Their first child did not survive, but then they produced three children as they built a frontier family life in Burton. Their daughter Harriet Cook married a prominent Burton man, Seabury Ford, also from a Cheshire family, who later became the Governor of Ohio.

Our own Harriet E. Ford Smith, later to marry Herbert Stetson, was a first cousin to this Harriet Ford and appears to have been named in her honor.

The second Smith sibling to arrive in Ohio from Cheshire was Patty Smith, who married Selah Bradley in Burton in 1913. The Bradleys were another Cheshire family who were already established in Geauga County. Selah was the son on early Burton resident Thaddeus Bradley, who had served with Josiah Smith in the Connecticut Seventh Regiment, per Meroe's affidavit. Patty and Selah had five Bradley children before his untimely death in 1823, whereupon she remarried Trustam Sweat and had four more children until he also died in 1840.

Patty will be of interest to us because she then joined the next wave of family migration into Iowa in the 1840s. Her letter home from Wapello County, Iowa, to family members in Ohio, will be the subject of a future post.

Back to the third Smith sibling to arrive in Geauga County, Ohio. Levi Smith married Louisa Atwater in Cheshire in 1802 and they remained there for 15 years while having six children including Josiah T. Smith and a sister Arvilla Delight Smith who will come up again in our narrative. Sometime in 1818-19, Levi and family decamped for Geauga County, settling in Claridon, the next town north of Burton. Two more daughters would be born there as the Levi Smith family sank roots in Ohio.

Josiah T. Smith grew up in Claridon after arriving as an infant. He later settled his own farm in nearby Orwell, Ohio, in Bloomfield Township of adjoining Trumbull County. His wife was Martha Haskell, the daughter of Captain Haskell who had a homestead in Bloomfield Township after having relocated from Chautauqua, N.Y. Josiah and Martha had seven children raised in North Bloomfield, Ohio, including their fifth, Harriet Eliza Ford Smith, born January 7, 1854.

Later, of course, Harriet will marry Herbert Stetson and resettle in Iowa and then Montana. Now you understand her family origins on the Smith side. We have already looked a bit at Harriet's Haskell side, but next will go into more detail about the Haskell family's years in Chautauqua.