They came by wagon.
They came by sled.
They came on land.
They came on water and even ice.
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, dozens of brave and determined souls migrated to the Connecticut Western Reserve in search of a new and better life. As we discussed in our previous installment of Huntsburg history, the nearly six-week journey was full of life-threatening perils. However, upon coming to this vast, forested wilderness, the pioneers of Huntsburg, Ohio discovered that their real journeys were only just beginning.
Upon arrival, one might picture celebration, and rest from the long trip. There may have been some excitement, wonder, and a family prayer, but it was short-lived. These tough-minded souls had much work to do if they were to survive for any length of time.
The first concerns when reaching their new lands were the primary aspects of survival—food, water, and shelter. A safe and relatively secure abode was first on the list. It meant refuge from the elements of weather, wildlife, and possible threats from Native Americans. In the case of our first settler, Steven Pomeroy, it was decided he would strike out by himself one year prior to the ‘big move’ and erect a home. And so, he loaded his power tools into his Ford F-150, and made his way to the local Home Depot.
Of course, I am kidding–I was just checking to see if you were still paying attention! Obviously, none of those amenities existed in that day. Stephen set out with only what he could carry in his knapsack–to build a house. Mind you, these crude country houses were no Taj Mahals. They were simple, one-room dwellings built from notched logs, much in the same way as those Lincoln Logs you played with in your childhood. Roofs were covered with wooden shingles. Floors were the very dirt the cabin was built over. The idea was immediate shelter to last until a proper home could be constructed.
Next at hand on the survival checklist were food and water. If springs could not be found, water would need to be obtained by hand-digging a well. There were no well-drilling rigs in that day, just the crude shovel and muscles to achieve the goal. Food was taken directly from the wild in the form of venison, turkey, quail, dove, and honey from bees. Items like bread were available from the nearest settlement at Burton. However, what a trip of a few minutes is today was a major trek back then.
After the immediate survival needs were met came the grueling, time-consuming task that still amazes me every time I drive by a vast farm field. Building a cabin was tough enough, having to fell and carve a few dozen trees with simple hand-powered tools. Often, the townsfolk would gather to assist a new settler in this endeavor. But to clear and burn some fifty to one hundred acres of gigantic trees to create fields with nothing but an axe, an ox, and a strong back? I must admit that I would find the task of just a few acres tough today with my chainsaw, truck, and tractor!
New environment…new dangers
With the new environment also came new dangers. The faces of wild game were different in those days, including such predators as black bears, wolves, and rattle snakes. Elijah Pomeroy, a son of Stephen Pomeroy, tells a story in Our Huntsburg Heritage about spotting a wolf the very day after they arrived in Huntsburg. He also grew to be quite a bear hunter—but that tale is worth its very own article….don’t you think?
There were also perceived dangers from Native Americans. I say perceived because, while tragic encounters with natives were plentiful in national history to that point, the semi-nomadic hunting parties in the region were quite friendly and left for western territories following the War of 1812. Still, rumors spread that, following the war, the ‘Indians’ would return one last time to unleash their revenge on the locals. So when Lydia Pomeroy awoke late one evening to a calamity outside their cabin, she was sure the natives had come and quickly woke the rest of the family. When Stephen and Elijah burst out of the door to give fight, it was discovered that, while there were no savages seeking scalps, there was a different and possibly more disturbing intruder—a large black bear had eaten three of their hogs!
The early settlers of Huntsburg wanted freedom and success within the parameters set forth by their Christian faith, and to them, there was only one way to achieve it—they had to work for it. HARD. Their tough and pious mental will to succeed and survive forever changed the local landscape and made an easier and better life for the generations to follow.