Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 5

Handout 1 - Adversity and Courage: Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve

Women made important contributions to the early settlement of Cleveland. Below you will find short biographies of Cleveland women. Read the biographies and then complete the accompanying activity.

Anna Sartwell Gunn and her family had accompanied the surveying party as far as Conneaut. In the Spring of 1797 Mrs. Gunn, her husband Elijah, and their six children moved into a cabin on River Street, where they lived for 3 years. Eventually they moved to a larger lot on the corner of Harvard and Woodhill Road. Because of the problem with malarial mosquitos, many of Cleveland's early settlers abandoned the low lying lands along the river for higher ground. Mrs. Gunn was well known as a nurse and midwife throughout the community.

Rebecca Fuller Carter left Vermont with her husband Lorenzo and their 3 children in the late summer of 1796. Because she was expecting another child, the Carters spent the winter of 1796 in Buffalo. By the middle of May, 1797, they had built a small log cabin close to the river bank near the foot of St. Clair Street. This very small house served as home to the Carter family, as a tavern, store, and trading post. The first party in Cleveland was celebrated here on July 4th, 1801. Mrs. Carter moved her family into a new larger home on Superior Street, where the family reestablished the village tavern. Mrs. Carter was said to be very timid and was very frightened of the local Indians. She was once chased around a wood pile by a hatchet-bearing Indian, who had had too much to drink in the Carter tavern.

Lucy Carter, Lorenzo Carter's sister married Ezekiel Hawley and left Vermont with him to settle in the Western Reserve. Little is known of her early life, other than that she accompanied her brother and his family to Cleveland. The family lived on West 9th Street, but later moved to a healthier location on Broadway near Woodhill Road. Both Lucy and her husband died in an epidemic of fever that occurred in Cleveland in 1827.

Eunice Waldo Kingsbury was from New Hampshire. She married James Kingsbury, who moved his young family to Cleveland to take advantage of the land boom in the late 18th century. The family was stricken with terrible hardships. Mr. Kingsbury left his wife and family in Conneaut and returned to New Hampshire to complete some urgent business. Mrs. Kingsbury was faced with keeping her family safe during a very harsh winter. Pregnant with her 4th child, she was unable to find a midwife and delivered her child with the help of some local Indians. The family cow ate poison leaves and died, leaving the children without milk. Mrs. Kingsbury suffered from a fever and could not feed her newborn child, who starved to death. Mr. Kingsbury eventually returned to Cleveland, but not as soon as Mrs. Kingsbury had hoped, because he too was stricken with a fever, which delayed his return to the Western Reserve. The family eventually settled into a house on what is now East 3rd and Huron Rd. Malaria, however, caused them to move, like others, to the corner of Kinsman and Woodhill Roads, where Mrs. Kingsbury raised 9 children. Mrs. Kingsbury lived to be 76 years old and is buried in the Erie Street Cemetery (located on East 9th Street between Carnegie and Prospect Avenues).

Anna Merrill Edwards married her husband, Rudolphus, a widower. When she arrived in Cleveland in 1798, she had a child of her own, as well as a young stepdaughter. Like others, the Edwards family located along what is now known as Woodhill Rd. Mrs. Edwards eventually had 8 children and was known for her spinning, weaving, and soap making. She accomplished all this and ran a tavern for travelers.

Olive Barlow Spafford arrived in Cleveland with her husband, Amos, one of the original surveying party in 1800. Mrs. Spafford's children were grown when she came to Cleveland. Two of her daughters married shortly after they arrived in Cleveland. One of Mrs. Spafford's daughters later died, and Mrs. Spafford raised her children. In 1810 Maj. Spafford was appointed Post Master of Fort Meigs, near Toledo, and Mrs. Spafford moved again to the edge of the frontier. During the War of 1812, Mrs. Spafford's home was burned by the British and the family was forced to flee by small boat up the Huron River to Milan, Ohio. When they returned to Fort Meigs, Mrs. Spafford was forced to begin life all over again, because the British has burned everything and killed the Spafford's livestock.

Sarah Adams Doan married Nathaniel Doan, the blacksmith for the surveying party, who was promised a town lot if he agreed to settle in Cleveland. The life the Doans faced in the beginning was very harsh. There was little food, and malarial fevers made most of the family very ill. For weeks at a time, the family lived on cornmeal they obtained from the little hamlet of Newburgh. The family carried corn to a grist mill erected along the bank of the Cuyahoga River, where it was ground and then completed the six mile round trip to their home. By 1800 the family fortunes took an upturn, and the Doans moved to Euclid Avenue and E. 105th Street, where Nathaniel built a large cabin, which served as the family residence as well as a tavern for travelers. Nathaniel Doan died in 1815 and Sarah Adams Doan remained a widow for 40 years.

Little is known of the life of Ruth Granger Williams, the wife of W.W. Williams, the pioneer miller of the village. The couple came from Connecticut and settled in Newburg, where they built a grist mill. Mrs. Williams became blind and it was said that she could recognize family and friends by the sound of their voices.

Susan Hamilton married her husband Samuel and came with him to the Connecticut Western Reserve, together with their six children, in the spring of 1801. Settling in Newburg, the family was faced with the death of Samuel in 1804, when he drowned in Buffalo Creek on his way back to Connecticut, and Mrs. Hamilton raised her children alone on the edge of the frontier.

Hannah Huntington and her husband Samuel left Norwich, Connecticut in 1801 for Cleveland. They and their 4 children moved into a log house, the largest in the settlement, built for them by Amos Spafford near West 6th Street. Mrs. Huntington had no experience in living on the frontier and the early years she spent in Cleveland were harsh. In 1806 the Huntingtons moved to the mouth of the Grand River near Painesville at Fairport Harbor. Mr. Huntington eventually became Governor of Ohio. Mrs. Huntington died in Painesville and is buried there in Evergreen Cemetery.


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