The Pioneers of Huntsburg: The Big Move

The Big Move

It was the last straw. She could no longer hold back. Poor Lydia Pomeroy found a nearby log, sat down, and sobbed. Almost six weeks prior, her family left behind all they knew in Massachusetts for what her husband was certain would be a better life. They packed what little possessions they could fit in their covered wagon and set out for a little log cabin in an uncertain frontier. To this point, Lydia had kept a positive attitude. But now, at the bottom of Big Hollow (The valley between Hambden and Concord on present day Rt. 608), their wagon had overturned and destroyed what little valuables she had left—her dishes.

Covered Wagon in the Winter

Harsh Winters

Little Truman Clark sat shivering in his older sister’s lap, wrapped in a quilt. The harsh winter winds whipped over the toddler’s face as the bobsled he was on, loaded with family and a few precious material goods, began to pull away from their Lunenburg, Vermont homestead. At only 2 ½ years old, Truman may not have known they were leaving for good. But if he did, he would have certainly been asking that favorite of toddler questions, a question that had to have crossed his father’s mind as the life they knew vanished behind them—Why?

These are just two samples of the stories held most dear by Huntsburg’s founding families—the tales of the ‘Big Move’.

And yes, I said bobsled.

Those who have gone through a major move, especially to another region, appreciate the monumental undertaking it can be. There’s the organizing, the packing, the truck rental (or hiring of a moving company), the loading, the several hours of driving, and then reversing the order. There could be several dangers along the way, like running out of gas, a flat tire, getting lost, or damaging the precious ‘stuff.’ Add kids into this mix, and it could make for a whole new set of headaches.

A Life Changing Move

But back in the early 1800’s, when families were making the westward trek into Huntsburg, moving was much more of a definitive and perilous event.

The decision alone was life-altering. It meant that you might never see your hometown, or family, again. The trip from the Pomeroys’ native town of Northampton, Massachusetts to Huntsburg can today be done in less than ten hours. A day of driving, and you are home for the holidays. But in their day, that adventure took six weeks or more though a thick, rugged, and dangerous wilderness.

Huntsburg first settler
These few rocks, located in a grove of trees close to the present-day intersection of Pioneer and Clay streets, mark the location of the hut of John Finley

Of course, the dangers faced on this early 19th century adventure never cross our minds today. Over the weeks of travel, the settlers had to come up with adequate food and potable water. There were dangers from wildlife, weather, and Native Americans. Trails consisted of nothing more than barely-worn paths marked by blazed trees.

Keep all this in mind the next time you are cruising I-90, with bottled water and snacks, and studying your GPS.

Speaking of cruising, what did these people use to transport themselves and their belongings? Mini-vans and moving trucks were still far in the future. To make the venture to Huntsburg, most came by covered wagon. Some made the complete venture over land, which involved navigating treacherous terrain through the Alleghenies. To bypass the mountains, some journeyed to the Erie Canal at Albany, rode barges to Buffalo, New York, then steamships to Fairport Harbor. Yet some, like my family, came by sled.

Yes, being a little different does tend to run in the ol’ genes, but there was a method to the madness. While braving the cold, these families shaved days off their trips, while also saving the toll for a barge ride. When the land beyond Buffalo proved tough to navigate, they would make their way to Ohio on a frozen Lake Erie!

What about breakdowns? Today we call AAA or our insurance company and get a tow within an hour.

The Pomeroys had no phone, and no service to call if they did. When an axle broke on their wagon, they used the few tools they had brought with them to hand-craft a replacement.

If this was such a risky and life-changing event, one has to ask what little Truman likely was asking—why? Why gamble away your life, your fortune, and your family?

The answer is as old as our country, and is the common thread between the ‘big moves’ of now and then.

Log Cabin in the Wilderness

Since the Mayflower struck our shores, people in America have always yearned for independence. We long to strike out on our own, to make a name for ourselves, and create a better way for our families—even if it means risking all we have to make it happen.

Huntsburg’s first settlers were no exception. With the temptation of inexpensive land, they came in droves to make their own way, to write their own page in history. Upon their arrivals, the trials, tribulations, and back-breaking labor they undertook to make that better way is nothing short of incredible, and will be the subject of our next episode in the history of Huntsburg.

Would you like to see the full accounts of the Clark and Pomeroy migrations to Huntsburg? You can find them on our Facebook page.

When did your family move to the area? What is their ‘moving’ story? Send it to huntsburghistory@gmail.com and we may use it in a future article!

A New Direction

You will find that the early history of Huntsburg I have shared so far could pass for any town in our county and region. With this in mind, I would like to invite you to read a new series of articles on Geauga County history. Along the way, we will discover the places and people that we know well, and those that are perhaps lesser known. We kick off the series next week with the making of a county from that old region known as the Western Reserve.

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.