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|Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 1993
Ladoska Z. Bunker, M. D. Ret.
The first time I heard this expression was in one of the
humanities programs several years ago. A young man from
Logan, West Virginia, told of his inability to identify
with his community and of his feeling that it was a
deadend place and particularly that nothing had ever
happened there. It was not until he had gradated from
high school and gone to the State University at
Morgantown that he had a feeling that he was in an area
where something had occurred, even if some time ago, and
that more things could happen and he could be a part of
them. Later he returned to Logan and learned that it was
the site of much West Virginia history and that his
father had grown up with one of the actors in the local
historical drama, The Feudist, Anse Hatfield.
We need to look at our backgrounds objectively to search
in our recent and more remote past, to recall the tales
of our grandfathers and old neighbors, and to secure for
ourselves a sense of place. It used to be said, "scratch
a Hoosier and you will find a Buckeye" on the basis that
almost everyone's ancestors in the Northern half of
Indiana had come, if not originally, at least later,
from Ohio. As I searched for the background of my
great-grandmother, Rosanna Groomes, I found her family
in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, where she had come as a
bride from Somerville, New York. Her mother, also as a
young woman, had come to Somerville from maritime New
England. Here there was continual movement, from England
to New England, to western New York, to Ohio, and in the
case of my grandmother to Indiana, all in 200 years.
These migrant people carried their remembrance of the
homeland with them as they traveled; few material things
survived the rugged moves, but old country speech and
customs and place names survived and gave continuity and
meaning to their lives.
Westward Migrations from New England
Migration from New England and Pennsylvania was
foreordained from the country's beginning. The
settlements of six New England colonies, Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and
Maine, comprised 66,608 square miles, less than twice
the size of the state of Indiana, 36,291 square miles.
With the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the mountains and
woods of Canada to the north, movement to the
west-southwest was inevitable.
One hundred fifty years after Plymouth Rock, the
seaboard cities were over-crowded, and much of the
available farm land was being exhausted by the poor farm
practices of the time. Ancient customs of land caused
much confusion and hardships as heirs sought to continue
agricultural operations. The law of primogeniture, which
we associate with nobility, was actually not law but
custom extending into all social classes. It gave all of
the decedent's land to the oldest son. This was a
prevailing practice among the colonists.
Borough English was another of these ancient ways in
which all of the property was given to the youngest son.
The custom of gavel kind, dating back to the Normans
(1066), divided all a deceased parent's land equally
among all his sons. Since this custom continued as late
as 1925 in Kent, England, one can see its effect in some
colonial settlements. These divisions reduced farms and
left some heirs landless. If a man died without sons,
his daughters were superseded by his brothers or
nephews, leaving generations of dependent widows or
often, for lack of a dowry, old maid daughters.
Large holdings descended to one heir, or under gavel
kind, were divided among many. Since families were
large, there were numerous landless members. If they
wished to continue as farmers or stockmen, they were
forced to seek new land in new territory. As early as
1754 the government of Connecticut bought a large tract
of land in Pennsylvania for persons wishing to expand
their farming operations. Connecticut migrants in the
Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania were victims of the most
savage Indian attack and massacres in American history.
This area filled up rather rapidly and was ceded to the
State of Pennsylvania in 1784.
After 1786 the Western Reserve was available in the next
40 years' migration and extended to western New York and
the Ohio lakeshore. This later extended to the "Firelands,"
500,000 acres granted to the New England "sufferers" of
the British Navy's bombardment of the east coast during
the Revolution. There was also some early migration to
Vermont, but this was a land of rock mountains and
rugged terrain, largely unsuitable for any farm
operations except dairying.
As an evidence of the movement of the population, the
Connecticut census of 1820 was 370,792 and in 1840 was
309,978. It is estimated that three million people
migrated from east to midwest, most of this movement
being first in the filling up of the middle states
beyond New England, that is, western New York, western
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and lower Michigan. Then
the great surge westward after gold was discovered in
California in 1849. This was followed by the later
migrations after the Civil War when the western lands
were opened up. The railroad extended across the
country, and the Indians were pacified.
Emigration to the westward part of Massachusetts began
about the time of the Revolution and, contrary to the
thrifty practices of the times, was promoted by bank
loans, mortgages, leases, and other real estate
maneuvers. By 1786 the exploited settlers, entangled in
taxes, high interest, poor crops, and bank mortgages,
staged Shay's Rebellion with 4,000 or more insurgents
storming U. S. armories. This was put down by Federal
troops and Shay, the leader, fled to Vermont. The
protestors were granted amnesty for laying down their
arms, but many were uneasy after their martial exploit
and left the area for Vermont or neighboring New York
All migrants were not happy in their new locations.
Migrants to Brattleboro, Vermont, who had settled there
in 1724, were so displeased by the Revolutionary War
that after its conclusion they petitioned to rejoin the
British Crown. It was not until 1791 that this heresy
was put aside and Vermont joined the United States.
Some migrants settled as squatters and had no claim to
their land. Hence they were often dispossessed,
sometimes after they had cleared the land and built a
cabin. Others hung on for many years in the backward
area, never having a real claim to their property until
they received "squatter's rights," based on the
assumption that possession is nine parts of the law.
Rhode Island, given to manufacturing of hardware,
cutlery, and cloth, contributed little to the western
migrations, her population in 1820 being 83,059 and
132,146 in 1840.
The state of Maine, with 3,200 square miles of lakes and
2,486 miles of waterline, was a land of rivers, marshes,
and mountains. Piney growth covered most of the state,
and the growing season was too short for peaches. There
was some migration within New England to this northern
wilderness as shown by the 1820 census, 298,269, and in
1840 there were 501,793. A good part of this population
was concentrated along Maine's Atlantic Seaboard.
New Hampshire was settled early and its land was worn
out by long use. It is an area of mountains and lakes,
glacial drifts, and stone outcropping and boulders the
size of houses. Great numbers of New Hampshire citizens
sought new land in the movements after 1800. The 1820
population was 244,022. The 1840 census was 284,574.
Many thousands of acres of land were given to
Revolutionary soldiers, militiamen, veterans of the War
of 1812, and other public servants. Land could also be
purchased from the government in newly opened areas,
such as the Indian lands available after the Treaty of
Greenville, 1795, and Paradise Springs, 1826, to name a
couple. Much of this could be purchased for $1.00 or
$1.25 per acre and had no restrictions as to use or
occupancy as the later "homestead" lands did. The
attraction of this low-priced land was tremendous, and
younger sons, poor farmers, along with various
enterprisers, hastened westward.
The distribution of the tribes from the Indian lands is
interesting. After the Shawnees made peace after being
defeated by General Wayne in 1795, they were removed
from their home on the Scioto in Ohio and taken to the
reservation in Missouri which was purchased from Spain,
since this was before the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1829 the Hurons-Wyandots were so decimated by wars
and disease that only 600 of this great tribe remained.
They had settled in Oklahoma. The expansion of New
England into mid-America was no wild west pageant but an
orderly and controlled march of civilization. The
newcomers brought with them a stable government with its
town meeting, churches, schools, and colleges. Only the
farthest outposts had forts, and these were abandoned as
the Indians were removed and as the country built up.
The New Englanders were fine mechanics, millwrights, and
builders, and soon neat white painted towns, often with
the center green of New England, covered the land. The
beautiful Greek Revival houses and public buildings,
some of which still remain, show us their capabilities.
Many towns carried the names of the settlers' early
homes in New England. Amherst, Andover, Bedford, Boston,
Cambridge, Clinton, Groton, Goshen, Kingston, Medford,
Manchester, Norwalk, Milford, Lisbon, Rockland, and
Troy, among others in Massachusetts then appeared in
Ohio and later in Iowa. The genealogists can often find
a forebear's early home in a New England town of the
same name as the home farther west.
In addition to our New England heritage there was a
great infusion of Teutonic blood coming from the
settlements and migration of Germans into Pennsylvania.
This area was opened up by William Penn, an English
Quaker, in 1682. He purchased the land from the Indians,
although he had received an English grant for it from
Charles II. Immediately he designated it for a religious
refuge for the persecuted sects of all nations. As early
as 1683 a large number of Germans of the Pentecostal
faiths had arrived, along with Quakers, and by the early
18th century, many Scotch and Irish. Everyone was
During the Revolutionary War the British brought over
22,000 mercenary soldiers, mostly from Hesse-Cassel,
Germany. The war was unpopular among many migrants. They
fraternized with the military, and many Hessians
deserted the British ranks and remained in Pennsylvania
after the war, being assimilated into the German
population. Since the soldiers were mercenaries and
fighting for pay rather than their homeland, no special
fault was attached to desertion. These names, Schamburg,
Homburg, Keller, Reinhardt, Hanauer, Marburg(er),
Shafer, Isenbarg(er), and Dietz, are those of some
assimilated Hessians. A Hessian ancestor is not an
uncommon find today.
Is there anyone here who doesn't have a Pennsylvania
Dutch or German ancestor? This prolific race spread over
mid-America and to this day our cooking and domestic
practices bear the stamp of their customs. Think of all
the things that you do like your ancestors. The ports of
Philadelphia and Baltimore vied with New York as a
gateway to America. The political upheavals in the
German states contributed many capable citizens to our
country. Some of these made their way to the western
lands soon after their arrival. Also many Pennsylvanians
joined the trek west. There is the story of the families
from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, traveling down the
National Road to Centerville, Indiana, and then through
the forest to Wabash County. It took them as long to go
from Centerville to Wabash County as it had to reach
there from Pennsylvania via the National Road.
I well remember my grandmother, a young girl in the
1850's telling of the hordes of "movers" who arrived
from the east every spring, traveling in covered wagons
on their way west. Those going to western Ohio, Indiana,
and eastern Illinois had herds of cattle, flocks of
sheep and swine, all driven overland by the herdsmen.
This ragtag army would descend on neat Ohio towns,
tramping down the roadway, breaking down palings, and
creating total confusion. Often they would camp in
meadows outside the towns. If there were ill or injured
among them, help would be asked of the townspeople, and
this was often grudgingly given. No one recognized these
dusty wanderers as the "heroic pioneers" of future
novels, movies and television serials.
When we remember that Ohio had fewer than 4,000
inhabitants in 1790, and a population of 581,295 in the
census of 1820, we can be aware of the tremendous effect
of internal migration in the eastern part of our
country. The Ohio census for 1840 was 1,519,467 and for
1860 was 2,339,511.
One of the considerable factors in interstate emigration
was the series of canals built in the early part of the
19th century. The Erie Canal, the Ohio and Western
Canals, and the Wabash and Erie Canal in our own area,
greatly contributed to the expansion of this country and
provided an outlet for agricultural products, the source
of income for the early settler. The first canal boat
reached Lagro, nine miles south of here, July 4, 1837.
For 20 years the canal was a link to the outside world.
It was then superseded by the railroad.
By the time of the Civil War (1861) the major migrations
east of the Mississippi River had been completed, and
home was where one lived and not someplace in Ohio,
Pennsylvania, or New England. A new stability appeared,
and a sense of place once more prevailed.
I hope with these remarks that I can interest you in
some of the sense of the in-depth history and feelings
of our country and to dig beneath the surface of legend,
which someone has said is the "prettiest part of the