29 September 2011

Pioneer Days in Ohio

Interesting Letter from Gen. Garfield - Recollections of the Brother of Lewis Cass
HON. JAS. A. GARFIELD has sent to the Secretary of the Western Reserve Historical Society the following letter, which the Cleveland Herald publishes:
HIRAM, Oct. 14th,  1871
A. F. Goodman, Secretary, &c., Cleveland, Ohio:
    DEAR SIR:  While recently spending the day in Dresden, Ohio, I called on the venerable GEO. W. CASS, whose high character, marked ability and wonderful memory make an hour spent in his company long to be remembered.  He has been a resident of Dresden since 1801, and has the most most perfect recollection of the leading events in the history of the State, and particularly the Muskingum Valley.  Among many recollections of early scenes and events in Ohio, the history of a journey made by him in 1797 was of peculiar interest to me as affording a basis for understanding the marvelous growth of Ohio.  Mr. Cass, brother of the late LEWIS CASS, is the son of JONATHAN CASS, who was an officer in the Army of the Revolution and after the war was a Major of infantry, and served under Gen. WAYNE, on the north-western frontier, in the last decade of the 18th century.  In 1797, Major Cass was on duty at Fort Hamilton, now Hamilton, Ohio.  In June of that year he received a furlough, and, with his family, went to his home in Exeter, N. H.  At that period there was but one white settlement in what is now Ohio, that at Marietta, begun in 1788.  There were however, several military posts, viz.:  Fort Washington, now Cincinnati, Fort Hamilton, Fort Laramie, Fort Recovery, Fort Wayne and Fort Defiance.  Beyond and between these places lay the unbroken wilderness.  The route taken by Major Cass and his family was the shortest, both in distance and time, of any then possible.  This is the route, as described by to me by Mr. Cass, who was eleven years old when the journey was made.  They pushed up the Big Miami in keel boats to near Fort Laramie, and thence passed over a portage of three miles, to the head waters of the St. Mary's River.  That stream they descended in batteaux, and were piloted by a half-breed Indian.  Mr. Cass remembers seeing vasty numbers of fish in the clear waters as they descended.  They passed down the Maumee to the lake, and thence rowed along the shore to Detroit.  After waiting at that point about ten days, they took passage on board a British schooner, and landed above Niagra Falls.  They were carted around the Falls; and, taking batteaux, rowed along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, stoppping nights and pitching their tents in the unbroken wilderness until the reached the mouth of the Oswego River, which they ascended until they entered a small lake, (Mr. Cass thinks it was the Oneida Lake) and from that up a small stream, at the head of which was a wooden lock through wich they passed down into the waters of the Mohawk, and thence to Albany.  There they took stages to Boston, and thence to Exeter, N. H.  The whole journey consumed three months - the actual running time being seventy-five days.  The journey from Hamilton, Ohio to Exeter, N. H., can now be made in thirty hours [16 hours in 2011].  I suggest to the Historical Society that the precious personal recollections of such a man as Mr. Cass should be preserved.  He is the most amiable and intelligent gentleman, and one of the few who has seen the whole growth of Ohio, almost from the beginning of its territorial existence.  Though now eighty-five years of age, few young men know more fully the history of events daily transpiring in the world than he, and few weigh their significance and tendency with more judgment. Very truly yours, J. A. GARFIELD.

Originally Published: 21 Oct 1871 in the New York Times

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