Huntsburg History—the Condensed Version

If you have been reading my articles for a while, you probably know that Huntsburg is my hometown. I am president of its historical society and got my start at Geauga News with my ongoing Huntsburg History series. My family has been here for nearly two centuries. I even share a birthday with the day of the first settlers’ arrival. This town is just who I am.

While the Huntsburg Series affords me the liberty of sharing large sums of small-town historical information in digestible chunks, the Geauga History series requires the challenge of summing up all the history I know and love into a few short paragraphs. Those that know me know this is not an easy task. However, here at the place where my two series collide, I will give the challenge of keeping you awake my very best!

Choosing His Land

In 1817, a man by the name of Stephen Pomeroy made his way through the northern Ohio wilderness. On the promise of free land, Pomeroy made the decision to be the first settler on a tract of Connecticut Western Reserve land owned by Ebenezer Hunt and John Breck. Upon arrival in the area, the first settler of Middlefield, Isaac Thompson, led Pomeroy north to the vacant land. Right as they crossed the line between the town properties, Stephen proudly proclaimed, “Here is where I shall set my stakes.”

Old Misty Forest

I have often attempted to re-create this moment in my head. What should have been a ceremonious moment in Huntsburg history (and certainly it was for Stephen Pomeroy,) likely looked a little different to Isaac Thompson. Of all 24 square miles of prime Northeast Ohio land that Pomeroy could have chosen from, Pomeroy may have been too caught up in the moment and claimed the first piece of Huntsburg he set foot on—certainly not the best. After his proclamation, I can picture so clearly the perplexed look Thompson must have had and the thought throbbing in his head…..really? HERE??

Further complicating matters was the fact that the promise made to him of free land had not been followed through, and that, despite the fact that he was told he was to be first to inhabit the new town, there was actually someone already there! That someone was John Finley, a mysterious loner longhunter who had set up his humble hut a little over a mile north of Pomeroy’s claim. Finley is quite a man of mystery, and is likely Huntsburg’s most famous resident, as he is said to have been the person that led Daniel Boone to the blue grass of Kentucky! For a detailed account of this fascinating character, make sure to find my past article dedicated to his dizzying life story.

Site of John Finley's hut

The Big Move

As the year progressed, Pomeroy cleared his land, and with the help of surrounding townsfolk, erected a log cabin. Then he returned to his family in Northampton, Massachusetts, and prepared them for the upcoming move. It was a trek that would last several weeks and is better detailed in my article called ‘The Big Move’.

On August 19, 1808, the Pomeroys came to the end of their long journey. They found themselves in the middle of a vast wilderness, surrounded by dark woods, vicious predators, and Native Americans, as described in my article ‘Arrival’. Slowly, more pioneers trickled into the area. Through back-breaking manual labor, the dense forests were transformed into fields and pastures. Following the War of 1812, the ‘Indians’ who were by all accounts turned out to be friendly in nature, went west never to return. And the large and dangerous wildlife was drastically thinned by residents wishing to protect their farms and families.

Black Bear

Stephen Pomeroy’s son Elijah became quite a gamesman, specializing in killing bears. In the book Our Huntsburg Heritage, the younger Pomeroy is credited with killing forty-two bears, five wolves, and eighteen ‘wildcats’ among countless other game. For a more detailed account from Elijah’s own writings, make sure to watch for future Huntsburg History articles.

Building a Community

stream

As more and more settlers came to Huntsburg, small sub-communities sprouted up. These usually revolved around a business or a prominent physical feature, like a stream. Such is the case with the Finley’s Creek community, and Joint, which arose at the exact intersection, or ‘joint’ where Hambden, Montville, Claridon, and Huntsburg townships meet. These tiny towns boasted their own stores, mills, and some even had their own post offices. In the case of Scottsburg, it even at one time had a population higher than Huntsburg Center! To read more on these communities, check out my earlier article called The Sub-Communities of Huntsburg.

In its first one-hundred years, Huntsburg became quite a community. It was even one of the few towns under consideration as a home for the Western Reserve Academy, which eventually went to nearby Hudson. Around the same time, a new method of transportation was taking the world by storm. The automobile revolutionized travel and began a fundamental shift in how we viewed our surroundings. Trips that would take a full day with a wagon or buggy could now be made in a matter of minutes. Folks were no longer obligated to commerce or employment in their immediate communities. Huntsburg residents commuted into Cleveland daily for work. Clevelanders moved to Huntsburg to escape the chaos of Cleveland. Our thriving farming town would begin its slow transformation into a ‘bedroom’ community.

What it’s like today…

Today, Huntsburg remains a fairly quiet township. In 2006, the Cardinal Local School District chose to discontinue use of the Huntsburg Elementary School. The decision took with it a major link in the community chain. However, Huntsburgers still come together, whether for Little League Baseball, the summer Concerts in the Park, or our very own Pumpkin Festival in October. The township recently purchased the old elementary school for use as future offices, rental areas, and a community reception hall. The trustees were gracious enough to reserve a classroom to house the Huntsburg Historical Society.

Through its 200-plus years of changes, Huntsburg has always remained a tight-knit community and one that this author is proud to call his home.

Ty Pilarczyk
Author: Ty Pilarczyk

Ty is the president of the Huntsburg Historical Society, and has lived in Huntsburg most of his life. When he is not designing, installing, and maintaining landscapes for the family construction business, Ty enjoys vegetable gardening, restoring and collecting old pressure lanterns, and spending time with his family.