The Samuel and Mary Bucklin Norton Family
From Little Falls, NY to Bucyrus, OH
The "First Families" of Bucyrus Township

Samuel Norton, the first settler of Bucyrus Township, was born within one mile of Congress Spring, near Saratoga, N. Y.. March 3, 1780. His father was of Scotch descent, and, many years previous to the birth of Samuel, had emigrated from Scotland and settled in Connecticut. Samuel Norton was married, January 1, 1804, to Miss Mary Bucklin, who was born in Coventry, Kent Co., R.I., October 31, 1785. The Bucklins were of English descent, and Mary Bucklin's parents moved from Rhode Island to Little Falls, N. Y., when she was about six years of age, and some twelve years afterward to what is now Susquehanna County, Penn., where she was married to Samuel Norton. The young couple settled near Elk Hill, then in Luzerne but now in Susquehanna County. This district is situated in the mountain regions of that State; the land is poor, and even at that time the country was very wild. It is said that at one time, while Norton was still a resident of Elk Hill, he shot a panther which measured eleven feet and three inches. These wild beasts have never been seen in Crawford County since it was first settled by white men, and although the first settlers of Bucyrus Township emigrated to a newer country, they did not, in some respects, find a wilder one. Norton was dissatisfied with this wild rocky Pennsylvania land and after residing there with his wife for over fifteen years, determined to seek a more congenial country. He took the Western fever and finally decided that his destination should be the land obtained by the New Purchase. His wife was opposed to this movement of the Norton family, and refused to go unless her brother Albijence Bucklin would go along. Norton finally succeeded in inducing Bucklin to accompany him with his family by promising him fifty acres of land.

Very late in the spring, of 1819, the pioneers left their home in Pennsylvania, and, after journeying about 600 miles in a big "schooner" wagon, reached the present site of Bucyrus some time in October, 1819. The party consisted of the following eighteen persons - Samuel Norton and his wife, Mary Norton, their three daughters Louisa (now Mrs. H. Garton. of Todd Township), Catharine (now Mrs. J. Shull, of Bucyrus), and Elizabeth (now Mrs, A. M. Jones, of Bucyrus), their three sons, Rensellaer, Warren, (now a resident of Missouri) and Waldo Norton; Albijence Bucklin and wife, their six children - Esther, Cynthia, Austris, Elizabeth, Almeda and Pitt; also Polly, an adopted daughter of the Bucklins and Seth Holmes. The latter was a Captain of teamsters during the war of 1812, and he always reported that the division he was in, which was commanded by Col. Morrison, passed over the land upon which Bucyrus is now located, and encamped for the night near where the Bucyrus Machine Works now stand. Holmes directed Norton and Bucklin to this section of the State, but, before they had finally determined upon a permanent location, the two families were left for a few days at the Harding settlement near what is now the city of Galion, and the three men visited different portions of the New Purchase. Of the eighteen members of this first settlement, seven are still alive - Mrs. H. Garton, of Todd Township; Mrs. J. Shull and Mrs. A. M. Jones. of Bucyrus: Warren Norton, of Kirksville, Adair Co.. Mo.; Esther and Cynthia, two of Bucklin's daughters and Polly, the adopted child. The three latter are residents of Western States.

After reaching their destination, the two families lived for three days in an Indian wigwam which stood near the present site of the court house, and, during this brief period, the three men constructed a more durable residence. This first rude home was built of small round logs and erected upon the bluff of the Sandusky River, near the site now occupied be the residence of Mr. Christian Shonert. The two families moved into this log cabin, and, shortly afterward, another was constructed near where Thomas Hall's barn is at the present time, and this was the first home of the Bucklin family. When these settlers constructed their first cabin, the nearest white neighbors were eight miles off, on the banks of the Olentangy and that settlement consisted only of a few squatters, who were generally as nomadic in habit as they were transient in location. It is reported, however, that at this time, Daniel McMichael and family who afterward occupied eighty acres north of Bucyrus, were residents of this same settlement on the Olentangy. In October 1819, there was not a single white man within what are now the limits of Crawford County, north and west of Norton's, but a few white families lived at Tymochtee, then in Crawford, but now Wyandot County. The Norton family occupied their first log cabin home during one winter and until July 1820. In this cabin was born, on February 11, 1819, Sophronia Norton (now Mrs. K M. Johnson of Chicago) who was the first white child born on what is now the town of Bucyrus or probably the first in the present limits of Crawford County. When a new survey of the land occupied by these first settlers had been made it was discovered that Norton's cabin (on the site of the present Shonert residence) was just north of his land and so he built another log cabin on the site now occupied by Mr. W. H. Drought's residence. This cabin was modeled after an improved style of architecture: it was known in those days as a double cabin house and had "stick chimneys," or chimneys with a foundation of stone and then built of sticks and plastered with mud. In this cabin, it is related by some of the inmates who are still living, the bark from basswood-trees was used for bed-cord, which was woven like chair-bottoms: but the family had plenty to eat, and were happy. At one time they had a barrel and a half of strained honey in the house, obtained from the wild bees of the woods.

The physical privations which many of these early families suffered, and the straits to which they were sometimes reduced, are hard to realize by citizens who, in the present day, have all the necessities, many of the conveniences and comforts, and a few of the luxuries, of life. In those days, many domestic articles designed for daily use about the household and farm were very rude and unhandy. Those early pioneer settlers could not always visit the market when they needed useful implements, and, consequently they pressed into service much material obtained from Nature's great storehouse. The fires, if permitted to go out, were relighted with punk and flint. Window-panes were made of oiled paper. When the Nortons arrived in 1819, the nearest flouring-mills were at Lexington, Richland Co., and the Herron Mills, near Fredericksburg. The man or boy who visited these mills walked the entire distance and led a horse loaded with two or three sacks of wheat. Sometimes there were many waiting and some customers could not secure a grist for two or three days. These mills were run by waterpower, and when the season was dry they were compelled to grind by hand. When the Norton family could not visit these mills, they secured flour, and meal by pounding the wheat or corn in a mortar, with a wooden pestle. The mortar used was a log hollowed out by burning a hole with fire until the cavity was large enough to hold half a bushel of grain. The meal was sifted with sieves of three different sizes, and three trades of flour were obtained. The finest was baked into bread; the coarsest was boiled and it sometimes required a whole day over the fire to soften it. When the wheat flour was all gone, the family subsisted on food prepared from corn meal, but frequently there was none of this in the cabin, and the mother of a family, busy with other household duties, was expected to provide a supper without even flour, corn meal, vegetables or meat. The father is away at work and will shortly appear, tired and hungry. The pioneer women were full of resources; they had an instrument they called a grater made by taking one side of an old tin bucket, punching small holes close together all over it, and, nailing it on a board in such a manner that the middle is curved upward two or three inches from the board. Meal could be made by industriously rubbing ears of corn along its surface; and this must be done till sufficient meal is obtained to furnish food for supper, and breakfast next morning. The mother, then having nothing in the house for supper, says to her children: "Here, Louisa, you and Warren take this basket and go out to the corn-patch and bring in enough corn to grate for supper and breakfast." When the children return, the grater is taken down, and, after considerable hard labor, the meal was provided. If the corn meal was mixed and baked in a Dutch oven, it was called "pone"; if baked on a board near or over the fire, it was called "Johnny cake"; and if it was made into round balls and baked in the oven, they then called these balls "corn dodgers." A very common way was to boil the meal into mush and eat it with milk. But sometimes flour and corn meal could not be either pounded with a pestle or grated with their rude instrument, for the reason that no grains of this description were in the cabin, and the Nortons could not secure of their few neighbors either grain, flour or meal. It is reported by Norton's daughters that they frequently lived for weeks without bread, during which time the family subsisted upon honey, pork, potatoes, and game from the woods. Wild turkeys were frequently shot: they were cooked on a hook in the fireplace, with a pan underneath to catch the drippings, and these were poured over the suspended carcass with a spoon. The forests were for many years full of smaller game, upon which a meal could be made when other expedients failed. One winter, Mr. Norton killed five deer near the present site of T.C. Hall's barn. Deerlick was situated near the river in this vicinity, and, when these animals visited this lick, they fell victims to the unerring shot of the first pioneer settler. Deer continued plenty in the vicinity of Bucyrus until after 1830. In consequence of the industry of many swarms of bees, Crawford, at an early day, was literally a land abounding with honey, if not milk. The Indians, depending on nature to provide food, never wasted what they found in the forest, and, in obtaining honey, never secured at one time more than they wished to supply their temporal wants. Norton found, in one day, twenty-three bee-trees, and the honey secured from the woods was always a rich treat to the children, and more especially when the family larder was not filled with those articles which, at this day, every family considers a necessity. Norton also secured his first swarm of bees from the wild bees found in the woods.

The hardships suffered by the Norton family were not only in consequence of a scarcity of food. It was necessary for the family to be clothed, and in 1820, Mose Emrich could not close out regardless of cost his entire stock of winter clothing to the few settlers of Crawford County. Sixty years ago, the county was without a clothing store, shoe store, dry-goods store or millinery establishment. Then the Norton family had to provide their own clothing and not only that but also make the cloth before the garment could be cut and sewed; nor was this all, for they frequently were compelled to spin the yarn with which they wove this cloth. The Nortons brought from Pennsylvania both looms and spinning-wheels; in those early days every young lady was taught to spin, and many added weaving to their skill as industrious and expert house-keepers; mothers frequently were expected to cook, wash, scrub, bake, sew, spin and weave for a large family of small children without any assistance. Mrs. Norton's elder children were valuable aid in providing clothing for their younger brothers and sisters. After the girls learned the art of spinning, they were made to finish so much each day. Mrs. Jones reports that, in order to encourage her, Mr. Norton cut the legs of the wheel and made it more convenient; that she soon acquired great skill and became an expert. At first she was quite proud of her handiwork, but soon found, to her sorrow, they appreciated the skill of the best spinner in the Norton family, for they increased her "stint" or task, and she had then less time for play. She relates that in her youthful days she frequently regretted ever learning how to spin because it was such tedious work. Shortly after Mr. Norton settled in Crawford County, he visited the Quaker settlement near Mount Gilead, and procured ten pounds of wool; this aided for some time in providing linsey-woolsey for winter garments. Flax was procured before many months, and linen garments were made for summer wear. Norton finally purchased forty sheep from settlers in Marion County, and brought these valuable domestic animals to his pioneer home, but in a few weeks they were all devoured by wolves. For many years, the settlers were not able to keep sheep in consequence of these same mutton-loving beasts. The early settlers were not fond of these ravenous animals; their howling and yelping made many a night hideous, and for this and many other reasons it was soon decided that in order to civilize the county the wolves should be exterminated. A bounty was paid by the State for the scalp of each wolf, not that these scalps were valuable, but because each new scalp secured furnished additional proof that the mutton-crop of the future looked more promising. The latest statistics prove that Crawford County has at the present time over fifty thousand sheep, but then, for over forty years, the County Commissioners for satisfactory reasons have stopped purchasing wolf-scalps. The only bears killed in Crawford since the Norton family removed to the township were an old she-bear and two cubs that wandered into Whetstone Township some forty-five years ago from their former haunts in what is now Morrow County. The weather during the winter of 1819-20 was very mild and yielded a bountiful harvest. Norton said in after years he never had a finer crop than the first one raised upon the soil of Bucyrus Township. In order to provide his family with shoes, Mr. Norton started a private tannery and for several years tanned all the leather necessary for family use; it was also necessary for him to manufacture home-made shoes, and consequently he was the first tanner and shoemaker that settled in the county. When other men arrived, however, who were skillful at these trades, he retired from business and patronized them. Norton brought the seed from which his first fruit trees were raised, from his old home in Pennsylvania.

Within a few days after the Norton family arrived at their new home, they were visited by a band of Indians from the Wyandot Reservation, near Upper Sandusky. These savage neighbors were always peaceable, and never committed any acts of depredation upon the person of any of the early settlers. They sometimes visited Norton's cabin when the men were absent, and at such times took great pleasure in frightening the unprotected inmates. At first, Mrs. Norton could not conceal her terror during these visits. The smaller children would gather around her skirts for protection, but the appearance of the good lady was not encouraging to her elder children who were as much frightened as their mother. The savages always enjoyed these scenes, and, when they discovered the effect their very presence inspired they gave vent to their feelings by numerous whoops, and yells, which conduct on their part was not calculated to assure the frightened family that they were only the innocent victims for the harmless savage amusement which their unwelcome visitors were having. The Sandusky River was navigable for Indian canoes only at high water, but it is reported that numerous Indian trails traversed the woods, which were being constantly used by the red man. These primitive highways were generally worn deep into the soil, for the reason that in traveling the savages walked single file, and each member of the band stepped in the spot his predecessor's foot had been. One of these trails crossed over the site now occupied by the Bucyrus Machine Works, and during a fine day the Norton children were playing "hide and go seek" in this vicinity; one young lady concealed herself behind a log, and, while in this position, a company of the savages came along the trail. Charley Elliott, an Indian well known to many early settlers, was with this band at the time. When the natives saw the child, they raised a whoop, which caused the little girl suddenly to feel that the play for the time being might be postponed, and she made haste to vacate her place of concealment. The children all ran screaming toward home, and the savages, noticing the effect caused by their sudden appearance, gave vent to their satisfaction by numerous whoops, yells and grunts, which caused the children to make still better time in their endeavors to reach the cabin, although the delighted natives did not attempt to follow the frightened innocents. The spring after Mr. Norton's family removed to their new home, the Indians appeared in force at their sugar-camp, which was then situated on and near the present site of the public square. Many maple-trees were in this vicinity, and it had been the custom of these natives to visit this locality each spring for the purpose of boiling the maple sap down into sugar. At such times, they brought large brass kettles, which were furnished them among other supplies which they received each year from the Government, in accordance with the stipulations of a previous treaty. Most of these Wyandot Indians were great beggars. Each year the United States distributed among this tribe a certain amount of goods, consisting of food, clothing, and also many valuable utensils, which latter articles were furnished in order to induce the natives to adopt civilized customs. These annual supplies destroyed what little industry the tribe might have cultivated for several centuries, for it made them dependent upon the generosity of others; and naturally if any additional articles were needed by them, they endeavored to secure these also from the whites by plaintive appeals. If their efforts proved fruitless, they sometimes brought dried venison, which they endeavored to trade to the settlers for pork, and they frequently appeared with bark baskets filled with cranberries, which they desired to trade for bread and pork. The Indians considered all the game in the forests their property, and, when they found the country was being rapidly settled by the whites, they frequently came into the neighborhood to hunt, in order that the game would not fall into the hands of white settlers.

When the lands of the New Purchase were offered for sale by the Government, Mr. Norton visited the land office at Delaware and entered four hundred acres, upon two hundred and forty of which the principal part of Bucyrus now stands. This tract of two hundred and forty acres extended from a line running along Perry street on the north, to a line along the Middletown road on the south, and from the section line a short distance west of Spring street on the west to a parallel line three-fourths of a mile east, or one-fourth of a mile west of the Whetstone Township line. It is reported by Mr. Norton's daughters that a party of Quakers desired this same land, and, when Mr. Norton visited the Government land office to secure his certificate, these Quakers tried to deceive him, endeavoring to persuade him that the lands he was about to enter, did not correspond with the tract he desired, but they were not successful. Mr. Norton gave Bucklin fifty acres off from the east of this two hundred and forty for coming West with him and after a few years Bucklin sold it to Mr. Harris Garton, son-in-law of Mr. Norton, and moved with his family to Michigan. The town of Bucyrus was surveyed on another fifty acres of Mr. Norton's land during the early part of 1822, and shortly after this Mr. Norton returned to Lakeville, Livingston Co., N. Y., and brought out to Bucyrus, his mother-in-law, Mrs. Elizabeth Bucklin and her daughter Elizabeth. Mrs. Bucklin was an educated lady, and had practiced medicine for forty years in Rhode Island. When she reached this new country she did not wish to continue her practice, but the settlers, when ill, would send for her, and as it was hard to refuse, she had an extensive reputation, if not a lucrative business. But the effect of a change at her time of life was not beneficial, and, several years after she arrived in the new country, she took sick and died. Her daughter Elizabeth married Louis Stephenson, a hatter, who worked at his trade for some years in Bucyrus. The Norton family lived in their double-cabin house until 1823, when another residence was erected on what is now a vacant corner between the Main Street, Mills and Perry street. This new building was an improvement on the round-logs double-cabin house: it was two stories high, was built of hewn logs and occupied by the family for about eight years, until they removed to the brick house now occupied by the Main Street Mills; this building was erected in 1831, and used as a private residence about four years, but in December, 1835, he started a hotel in this block, at which time he gave a grand opening that was attended by many old settlers. Col. Kilbourne was present and amused the company with many favorite songs. Mr. Norton, as landlord, entertained many prominent public men who visited the village, among whom was Gen. Harrison, when he passed through the place during the campaign of 1840. Samuel Norton was an Old School Baptist and in the early days of the town, Elder Pharez Jackson, from near Galion, visited Bucyrus once a month and preached at Mr. Norton's home. Mr. Jackson also preached at the houses of Joseph S. Morris, southeast of Bucyrus and James Scott's cabin. Elder Kaufman also occasionally held services at Mr. Norton's residence. Samuel Norton died April 18, 1856, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. From an obituary notice published in the Bucyrus Journal, the following extract is taken: "The death of Mr. Norton has left a vacancy among our citizens, as well as in his family, which cannot be filled. Being the first settler he was justly entitled to the name of the Father of Bucyrus. In the autumn of 1819, when the country around was in a state of nature and the dark glens of the forest re-echoed the hoarse howling, of the wild beasts and the dread war-whoop of the Indians, this hardy pioneer left his quiet home in Pennsylvania to seek his fortune in the West. Attracted by the beauty of the surrounding country, he erected a tent of poles, in which he spent the winter. His life for many years afterward was but a series of severe toil and exposure, which none but the most hardy and persevering could endure. For fifty years, he was an exemplary member of the Baptist Church, and through all the vicissitudes of his pioneer life, his spirits were kept buoyant by the hope of a future reward in the mansions of eternal glory. A large concourse of citizens attended his funeral, and all expressed their regret for their much esteemed citizen, and sympathy for his afflicted relatives." His wife, Mary Norton, lived three years after her husband's death, and finally passed away, April 29, 1859, and was laid beside her companion of fifth-two years of wedded life, in the graveyard northwest of Bucyrus.

Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Norton were the parents of twelve children, eight sons and four daughters viz.: Rensellaer, Louisa, Manford, Warren. Waldo, Catharine, Elizabeth, Sophronia, Harris P., Charles, Jefferson and William B. Many of these became the parents of large families, and the descendants of the first settler are very numerous.

Source: "History of Crawford County and Ohio." Chicago: Baskin & Battey, Historical Publishers. 1881.

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