History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio
and Biographical Sketches of its Pioneers Most Prominent Men
Philadelphia - Williams Brothers
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MRS. AUSTIN CANFIELD
Chardon Twp. -
AUSTIN CANFIELD, one of the old settlers and solid
conservative citizens of Geauga, was born Mar. 10, 1804, at Litchfield,
Herkimer County, New York, and is still living in Chardon at the age of
seventy-four years. His parents, Norman and Susannah Canfield,
moved from New York State into Geauga County in 1812, first settling in
Hambden, and soon after going to Chardon, where the father opened an
inn, which stood upon the exact spot now occupied by the Chardon House.
It was a double log house, and many of the old residents of the county
and the country contiguous remember the substantial hospitality, of
which they received the benefit, under its roof. Austin
Canfield assisted his father in the tavern and upon his farm, coming
up to manhood's estate with no fear of hard work, and with a wholesome
respect for the class of people who earned their living. When his
father died, in 1821, the son moved on to the farm where he has resided
until the present time, though the land long since was sold off in lots,
and only the ground about the site of the old house left remaining.
The regard in which Austin Canfield has been and is held by his
townspeople is shown by the fact that for many years of his life he has
been in occupancy of public positions of trust and honor. He was
several times elected county assessor and also township assessor, and in
the years of the great bank failures was appointed commissioner of
insolvents, a place which he filled to the general satisfaction of the
people with whom he dealt in his official capacity and to the public.
He was captain of the old Light Infantry, a company said to have been
the best in the Reserve and in the State. As early as 1833 he
united with the Presbyterian church, of which denomination, and the
Congregational church in later days, he has been an active member, and
most of the time deacon. It was as a nurse, however, that
Austin Canfieldhas been most widely known through the later active
years of his life. For a long period he was always called by
neighbors and even people at a considerable distance in cases of
sickness, and many persons now living bear thankful testimony to the
care which he bestowed at the sick-bed through long nightwatches.
He seems to have been peculiarly fitted for this delicate duty, and in
its discharge has, though tact and tenderness, done a vast amount of
good, and endeared himself to hundreds of his fellow-creatures.
History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio - Publ. Philadelphia,
Williams Brothers - 1878 - Pg. 122
D. W. Canfield
W. CANFIELD was born in Chardon, Geauga Co., Ohio, Sept. 21,
1828. His father, Platt Canfield, was the oldest of the
four sons of Aaron Canfield, who, with his family, removed
from Tyringham, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, and settled in
Chardon in 1814. Aaron was a grandson of Colonel
Samuel Canfield, of New Milford, Connecticut. The mother
of D. W. Canfield was a daughter of Nathaniel Read, of
Berkshire county, Massachusetts. The subject of this sketch
received his education principally in the schools of Professors
Alfred Holbrook and T. W. Harvey. He was engaged in
teaching three terms, and in 1849 was married to Sophrona E.
Allen, daughter of Ira Allen, Esq., formerly from Danby,
Vermont. He remained for several years after his marriage on
the farm originally occupied by his father in Chardon, during which
time he prepared himself for the practice of his profession.
In 1858 he graduated at the Union Law College, and was admitted to
the bar the some year. During that year he also formed a
co-partnership with John French, which was terminated by the
death of Mr. French in October, 1861. The same fall he
was elected prosecuting attorney of Geauga County, and held that
office four years.
In 1861 he formed a co partnership with Hon. H. K.
Smith, which terminated in 1866 by the election of H. K.
Smith to the office of probate judge of Geauga County.
Upon the retirement of Mr. Smith, another co partnership was
formed with Judge M. C. Canfield, which continued for five
years, and was dissolved by the election of M. C. Canfield to
the office of Common Pleas judge. During the time he was a
partner of Mr. Canfield he served two years as representative
of the county in the State Legislature. Shortly after this he
held the office of mayor of the incorporated village of Chardon.
In 1871 he formed a co partnership with Hon. I. N.
Hathaway, which lasted until the fall of 1875, when he was
elected Common Pleas judge, to fill the vacancy caused by the death
of Judge M. C. Canfield, and served in that capacity until
the expiration of his term, at which time he again resumed the
practice of his profession. The Canfields were among
the earliest, as they have always been among the most substantial
respected and influential families of Chardon. The subject of
this sketch may be styled emphatically a self-made man, owing more
to his fortunate parentage, especially to a most excellent,
intelligent, and devoted mother, and to his own native energy and
will, then to any outward advantages for his success in life.
He received only a common education. As a lawyer he early took
a prominent position at the bar of his county, which he has ever
since maintained, the experience acquired in a long and successful
practice having in later years added greatly to his professional
resources. Possessing very considerable natural force and
fluency as a speaker, combined with quick discernment, ready tact,
and an earnest, pleasing manner, he has the essentials of a good
advocate, and, in the presentation to a jury of a case in which his
sympathies are enlisted, is not often excelled. The duties of
the several honorable and responsible positions to which he has been
called have been discharged with ability and fidelity. In the
House he served with credit on the judiciary and other important
committees, and was recognized, even by his political opponents, as
a most useful member; and it is believed that no judge with so short
a term of service ever left the bench with a better record. He
has always been active and efficient in the promotion of the
interests of his town and county, every enterprise having this end
in view meeting with this cordial support. He is also a strong
advocate of the temperance and other reform movements. Though
by early education and associations a Democrat, he became identified
with the Republican part from its organization, and has long been
one of its acknowledged leaders in Geauga County. A man of
clear intellect, ardent temperament, and strong attachments, few
have more decided elements of popularity or success.
Mr. Canfield's life has been blessed with that
greatest of benefactions, a wife in whom those qualities that grace
and ennoble womanhood are united in a marked degree. To him
she has always proved a real helper and a loving companion.
Active in the affairs of the church and society, and faithful to the
duties of the home-life she so fondly loves, she has ever proven
herself to be the true woman, wife, and mother.
He has three children living, - one son, Ira W.
Canfield, and two daughters: Eva C. Metcalf, wife of
Thomas Metcalf, Jr., of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Lizzie L.
Canfield, of Chardon. He has lost one daughter, - Della
W., who died Aug. 23, 1877, aged eleven years and eleven months,
- which bereavement was the greatest of all the sorrows of his life.
In religion he has been a member of the Christian church for more
than thirty years.
Source: History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio - Publ.
Philadelphia, Williams Brothers - 1878 - Pg. 103
THE CONVERSES OF CHARDON.
My Chardon days began in the spring of 1841, and I
lived for several years at the hotel of the late Judge
Avery. Just west of the hotel, under pleasant trees, amid
shrubs and flowers, was the cottage-home of the Converses.
At that day Mrs. Converse and her sister-in-law,
Mrs. Hoyt, were very comely young matrons, and quite the
leading women of Chardon society,—would have been leaders anywhere.
Famous singers were they of old-time fugue tunes and psalmody.
The Converse mansion was the first house .to which I was
invited in the village. It was my fortune to at once secure
the ever-continuing friend ship of the gifted mistress, than which
no greater blessing can fall on the giddy days of young manhood,--a
wise woman is so much more than a wise man can be. It was also
my luck to early acquire the regard of her husband, which attended
me through all his life, and the memory of my Chardon days brings
them ever to mind. I gladly undertake the office of a little
sketch of them, too warm perhaps for history. I could not do a
dry, hard outline, our attempt a cold analysis of character. I
approach them with the tender reverence with which we draw near the
resting-place of cherished ones, and lay there an offering to their
It is seen that the form of the woman rises first in my
thought. This is no disparagement to the man. There were
few men of her time who would not have been second to her, and the
deference to usage which requires me to draw his outline first on my
sheet does violence to my nature and judgment, which places a true,
noble woman before any man.
JUDE CONVERSE ("UNCLE JUDE" IN
Mr. Convese, born at Randolph, Orange county,
Vermont, July 21, 1806, was the youngest of the twelve children of
Joseph and Mary Converse. Of these but two survive,
Governor Julius Converse, of Vermont, an eminent lawyer, and who
reached the chief magistracy of his State through several of the
most important subordinate stations in the gift of her people; and
MRs. Eleanor Hoyt, of Cleveland. Another sister,
Mrs. Mary French, was for many years a highly-esteemed resident
of Chardon; was the mother of Mrs. Mary Foote widow of the
late Charles H. Foote; John French; Hon. Warren C.
French, an able lawyer and leading citizen of Vermont; J.
Wales French of Kirkland, Oneida county, New York; Mrs.
Calvin Knowles and Henry French, of Cleveland.
Jude was reared in New England, where his
ancestors were early planted, grew up amid its green hills, cold
blue steams, and snowy winters. The youngest of a large
family, one can easily understand he was the half-spoiled pet of
sisters, imbibed the ideas, inherited the traits of character, had
the usual educa
tion and habits of thought of a genuine New England boy. His
Hoyt, was for many years one of the most prominent men of Geauga
northern boundary was Lake Erie. In 1828 young Converse followed his
to Chardon, where, with the exception of two years at Cleveland, he
rest of his life. Soon after ‘his arrival he engaged in mercantile
he pursued with varying success for many years. The final failure in
that severest test of integrity and reputation, involved no loss of
no diminution of esteem and confidence. During most of the
Presidents Lincoln and Johnson he had the management of the Chardon
office, which he was compelled to relinquish, on the invasion of
disease, to the
general regret of the people. On the 8th of November, 1832, he was
marriage to Mrs. Sidney Denton, widow of the late Dr. E. Denton, of
Of this union and its fruits I am to speak elsewhere. His death
Chardon, on the 4th day of February, 1874, and there his remains
The Converses were a well-looking race, a good share of
which fell to J ude.
Slenderly made, standing five feet eight, blondc, blue-eyed, with
fair hair, pleasing
manners, and one of the frankest of manly faces, in which the
guilelessness of the
heart and soul were written in the clearest characters. His was a
nature, rich in all the social qualities, tender, simple, pure,
generous, just, sus
ceptible of enduring attachments, and endowed with the qualities
much love. He received a fair intellect, which saw clearly, formed
victions, upon which he unhesitatingly acted. Not self-assertive,
modest, his name was rarely heard out of his village. No one perhaps
in it more loved and esteemed, or died more regretted.
When one stands in the shadow of this woman,
estimates her possibilities, and turns to the calm tame serenity of
her way in life, which any woman could have trod, he feels as if
there had been a misapplication, a misappropriation of faculties.
Of the usual height, commanding presence, full-corsaged, a massive
head, broad be imperious, and an air and look that might become
regal, one is prepared for the unusual, the striking in her career,
and half-regrets her sex or curses its narrow limits. Her life
presents a fine subject for a study. A memoir would bring out
her traits with breadth and fullness; a sketch in some sort will be
Sidney Metcalf was born in Enfield,
Connecticut, Mar. 16, 1804. She also was one of twelve
children. Her father's name was Thomas, and her
mother's Sybil. Thomas and Eben
Metcalf, of Chardon, and Orrin Metcalf, of
Natchez, Mississippi, are brothers. Mrs. Elizabeth
Chandler, of Seneca county, Ohio, is a sister, as was Mrs.
Samuel Smith, of Chardon, also Mrs. Doctor
Auburn. One would like to know more of the Metcalfs.
They were a strong fibered race, coming from New Hampshire granite.
Governor Metcalf of New Hampshire (and probably Governor
Metcalf, of Kentucky, also, as the Metcalfs are supposed
to have had a common origin), was of that blood, and so is
Honorable Charles E. Glidden, of Warren. Thomas Metcalf
was a strong, positive-minded man, of exceptional force of character
and intelligence, as is Thomas, Jr. of Chardon.
Orrin, a younger son, is a leading man in his region, and for
many years sheriff of Adams, his county of residence, in
Mississippi. Another son, Doctor Asa B., early became a
resident also of that State, and after many years of successful
practice there, removed to California, where he died, and where his
widow and two accomplished daughters, Mrs. Ellen J. McHenry
and Mrs. Emma M. Hay still reside. The mother, Sybil
was said to be one of the most amiable of women, which I can
I knew nothing of the girlhood of Sidney.
I thought the name a funny one for a girl; somehow it always seemed
appropriate for Mrs. Converse. She accompanied
the Smiths to Chardon in 1817, when she was thirteen, and
grew and ripened in the richness and freedom of those years.
Such a nature and mind as hers will educate themselves, and secure
all there is of the best within their reach. At the age of
twenty she formed her first marriage, becoming the second wife of
Dr. Evert Denton, of Chardon, and assumed the care
of his four children. Dr. Denton was one of the most
famous physicians of his day, in a very wide circuit; a man not of
striking personal appearance, but of great learning and brilliant
parts; a sayer of things to be repeated, many of which remain.
After a happy union of six years, Sidney became a widow.
This was in 1830. She now went through one of the sorest tests
of a woman's life, - twenty-six, very attractive, a widow. In 1832
she formed what one might fancy her more real marriage, with Jude
Converse. Quite certain I am that the conditions favorable to
a happy union quite abundantly attended this last. The first
husband was a man to be admired, honored, revered, and doubtless
loved. The second was a man more to be loved. The gifted
never seek the same gifts. The beautiful wed the plain, and
genius mates with the moderately endowed, and is proud of the
acquisition. The heart does not always find its own, but
seldom fails to recognize it when it does. The dark, cynical,
witty, original man of genius, inferior presence, and forty years,
might not successfully rival the handsome, gay-hearted,
high-spirited youth of twenty-six. Sidney had intellect
and courage enough for half a dozen. However it may have been,
the marriage was one of rare unity and happiness. The home realized
the ideal conception of that word. The bright days of
prosperity without found answering light within. When the
outside world darkened it was illuminated by the radiance from the
hearthstone. There heart, soul, love, tenderness, warmth,
courage, and hope never diminished; surrounding darkness only made
them appear more conspicuous, steady, and enduring. With
children and grandchildren idolizing and clinging to her, the woman,
when she reached her second and real widowhood, pined. On the
first anniversary of her husband's death she was smitten with
illness, and five days after, Feb. 9, 1875, she followed him.
It has been said that no woman attains all her best
until motherhood. Mrs. Converse was the mother
of six children. Of the four by her first husband, Richard
E. and Sybil reached maturity. Richard is a
man of singular and fine acquirements, which for some inscrutable
reason have never been utilized, and, though possessing many
excellences, many men with none of his genius make a larger figure
in the world. Sybil also had rare intellectual
qualities, marked with a dreaminess that rendered her peculiar,—a
beautiful, gentle girl, of brilliant intellect. She died when
twenty-five, at her uncle's, in Natchez, of yellow fever. Of
the two of the last marriage, Julius O. will be the subject
of the following sketch. The others died in childhood; the
last, Mary Ellen, at the age of two and one-half
years. A rare, precocious child, her gifts provoked the fatal
of the gods, as in classic ages.
The mental qualities of Mrs. Converse
were practical, of the cast we call masculine, because of their
rarity among women. Her mind was enriched by wide and varied
reading, her perceptions quick, and her judgment of men and things
of singular accuracy. Few detected the tendency of the times
with greater sagacity, or were more fertile in suggesting
expedients. Force and strength were the leading features of
her character. The religious element was large and well
developed in her nature; her views of the order called advanced.
Self-poised, clear-seeing, strong, and masterful, though always
womanly, she was necessarily a centre. Tender woman, wife, and
mother, the law of her household was love. Generous and
sympathetic, her heart was a refuge to the stricken, and her hand a
ready helper to the needy. In her neighborhood she was a
resource of strength, wise counsel and charity; in her circle she
led without seeming to, and ruled by appearing to serve. When
one contemplates her completed life, he may perhaps cease to regret
that no broader and higher career was opened to her.
JULIUS ORRIN CONVERSE.
This gentleman bears the names of his
two uncles, the governor of Vermont, and Metcalf, of Natchez.
The only son and surviving child of the subjects of the two
preceding sketches, he was born at Chardon, May 1, 1834, and is now
forty-four years of age. He is what the English call
“personable,” stands six feet high, with more the complexion and
look of the Converses than of the Metcalfs. With the
kindly amiability of his father he unites the fine sense, good
judgment, and many of the mental characteristics of the mother.
The born pet of his parents through infancy and early childhood, he
came as near being spoiled by over-tenderness as falls to the lot of
the children of the most devoted. From the
day that he was able to walk he was the perpetual companion of his
father, who never relinquished his hand unless engaged in some act
requiring both of his own. In his walks to and from the “Red
Brick Store" to the post-office, to make calls or for recreation,
Jude was invariably attended by Julius. What the
result of continued prosperity in business would have been to the
junior may not be known. The child, so tenderly cherished by
he father, had early to learn the bitter-sweet lesson of persistent,
fruitful labor. He was not placed early at school, nor did he
ever at any time enjoy any but the commonest advantages. It is
believed that after his thirteenth year his attendance at school was
of the scantiest. A child of Sidney Converse
would hardly be entirely dependent upon outside facilities for
education. Julius could at no time, in the constant
presence of his father, have been a harum-scarum, rollicking boy.
At sixteen he entered upon his novitiate in a life-long
service of the press. It was in the office of a village
newspaper that he grew, developed, and ripened, as strong-minded men
do. It was there that he received his real outside education.
He is a favorable specimen of what it may do for a boy of pure New
England descent. I cannot imagine the faintest touch of the
Bohemian type, which is found distributed in all printing
establishments, on the character or habits of Julius. A
boy might run away from such a father as Jude Converse;
a tramping jour. printer never had a mother who greatly resembled
Sidney. Her providence must have been too wise, wide, and
warm to permit the birth of a wish to wander out of its circle.
His first work, beginning in 1850, was under the young Bruces,
William W. and Eli, on the Geauga Republic.
He then served under the late Hon. J. F. Asper, afterward
member of Congress from Missouri, who conducted the Free Democrat.
He was succeeded by the late J. S. Wright in
1852, who subsequently changed the name of the paper to
Jeffersonian Democrat. Young Converse followed the
press in this change of owners, and continued in a subordinate
position until he became the proprietor and editor, in January,
1859. These useful, fruitful years were mostly spent in the
same office, when, at the early age of twenty-five, he assumed the
responsibilities of the head and owner of the establishment.
The Converses were without exception pronounced Whigs.
Julius had breathed no other air; indeed, there was scarcely
enough of any other for a single breath. This came to them early
impregnated with decided anti slavery sentiment, and ere young
Converse graduated to full citizenship the Whig party had
disappeared. During this period he studied law, and was
admitted to the bar in 1858. He has a good mind for the law, where,
in the long run, the solid wins against the brilliant. He took
the paper, then free from local rivalries, with all the patronage of
the county, and at once met the requisitions of his position.
His predecessor was a cautious, prudent manager of the journal.
From the young editor it at once took a sharper and more advanced
position upon the one topic of slavery.
The next year saw the election of Mr. Lincoln
and the secession of the States, followed by the awful war, which
fought itself, dictated its own policy, fashioned all policy, and
formed all individual opinion. The whole nation was at war,
and all men, women, and children were more or less warriors,
soldiers, auxiliaries, victims, sufferers, and mourners.
During all those years, the young editor, ever stanch, contributed
his full quota to the one cause. The Jeffersonian Democrat was
finally changed to the more significant Republican. The paper
has steadily grown, broadened. and deepened, keeping fully abreast
of the intelligent community who sustain and are in some sort
sustained by it. Reared and living nearly all his days in the
village of Chardon, the centre of a purely agricultural community,
whose character and habits of thought are his, trained to the
constant calling of understanding and supplying their intellectual
needs, when the narrow limits of the means at his command are
remembered, contrasted with the expensive pages of the city dailies
and weeklies with which it competes, the Geauga Republican
must be esteemed quite the model country newspaper. With its
staff of good writers in each township, it. certainly meets one of
the demands of the city editor: it furnishes to his scissors all the
happenings within the limits of its circulation. Mr.
Converse is a good writer. He occasionally grapples with a
point or problem, and, in a half-dozen clear, well-considered,
compact, vigorous paragraphs, disposes of it. The fault I find
with him is, he writes too little. Then, when I estimate the
space at his command, and mark the disposition he makes of it, and
see that quite the whole of it is filled with original matter, in
short, pithy articles and paragraphs, I excuse his forbearance.
Really, the amount of skill and ability expended by one man on a
successful country paper would quite well furnish forth a lawyer, a
doctor, two or three preachers, and half a dozen lecturers.
Early in Mr. Lincoln's administration he
appointed Mr. Converse postmaster at Chardon, and
renewed it. This is the only office Mr. Converse
has ever held. I have never heard that he sought any office.
He has most of the time, for years, been chairman of the Republican
central committee of his county, and serves constantly on the
district committees, judicial, senatorial, and congressional, giving
the best of a ripened experience and rare judgment to the Republican
cause, with out other reward than the unstinted confidence and
esteem which have always
attended him. Singularly unambitious and modest, always
underestimating himself, and never claiming anything, frank-natured,
generous, of integrity undoubted, the blue-eyed, slender, silent boy
who, a few years since, was the docile companion of his father's
footsteps, has silently and unconsciously matured into one of the
first men of a community of unusual intelligence, critical, and
exacting in the qualities of its trusted men. Certainly, this
On the 24th of December,1862, he was united in marriage
with Julia P. Wright, daughter of Daniel H. and Susan P.
Wright, of Freedom, Portage county. The Wrights
were of vigorous Massachusetts stock, coming from the neighborhood
of Northampton, inheriting and transmitting to their children the
virtues and characteristics of the New England race. They were
the parents of five children, one dying in infancy. Of the two
sons, Daniel fell in the murderous battle of Cedar Mountain.
He carried the colors of his regiment, the gallant Seventh Ohio, and
met the usual fate of the standard-bearer. Our army suffered a
severe repulse there, and the hands which slew buried him.
Arthur, less fortunate, contracted disease of
the camp, march, and exposure, and died in hospital. Less
favored in death, parents and sisters had the solace of seeing his
grave made by kindred hands near his home. The parents survive
in honored age.
Mrs. Converse, a niece of the former
proprietor of the Republican, was born in Huntsburg, Mar. 5, 1836,
was carried to Freedom at seven, and grew to womanhood with the
intelligence and culture which came almost naturally to the children
of the favored Reserve. A brunette, with a good face and fine
eyes, accomplished, with womanly ways and manners, winning the love
and confidence of Sidney Converse,—a sure test of many
excellences,—she succeeds her in the love, confidence, and respect
of family, friends, and neighbors. She, too, graduated early in the
school of adverse fortune, was herself a teacher of children, and
derived the strength of character, independence, and completeness of
development which the women of her race receive from such training.
Of this marriage a daughter, Mary, fourteen years of age, is
the offspring, - Converse, as one sees, in face and form, in
disposition and ways also, I may imagine her going around much with
her father, watching his eyes, and hearing his words. Later,
the mother traits will appear. Daughters inherit from fathers
and sons from mothers. The German common folk have a pleasant
superstition that to be born in the month of May, a “ May child,” is
to secure happy fortunes. Mary Converse shares
with her father this pleasant omen. The children of such
parents as they were born of are surrounded by more fortunate
influences and providences. The family circle is complete with the
presence of Sarah N. Wright, the attractive younger sister of
When last in dear old Geauga (summer of 1878), I was
several times in the present Converse mansion,—-the
new and beautiful residence. It seemed pervaded with the
warmth and spirit of the old life, whose memories were to be
perpetual, and whose legends and traditions would live in perennial
Source: History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio - Publ.
Philadelphia, Williams Brothers - 1878 - Pg. 124
JOHN PHELPS CONVERSE was the seventh son and eleventh
Israel Converse, and was born in Randolph, Orange County,
Vermont, Jan. 27, 1792. His father was a native of Stafford,
The Converse family had its origin in the
province of Navarre, France, where it was known under the name of
De Coignieres. Robert and Robert de Coignieres
settled in Durham, England, in the latter part of the reign of
William the Conquerer. When the Reformation spread in
France, the De Coignieres became Huguenots, and many of the
family fell in the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Shortly after
that event, Pierre de Coignieres, with his wife and two
children, escaped to England, and settled in the county of Essex.
In process of time the name, following the English pronunciation,
became Conyers, and has been so called in England ever since.
In 1630, Edward Conyers, with Sarah, his
wife, and his two sons, Josiah and James (with the addition
of a third son, Samuel, born on the passage), sailed form
England in the fleet with Winthrop, and settled in Charlestown,
Massachusetts. During the passage across the ocean the name
"suffered a sea-change" by dropping a part of the y, and
became Convers, and so remained for several generations.
Just at what time the e was added to the name does not
appear. Some branches of the family have not yet adopted it.
Some time between 1735 and 1737, Josiah, the
fifth in descent from Edward Convers, settled in Stafford,
Connecticut, in which town was born, Aug. 7, 1743, Israel,
the father of John Phelps.
At the beginning of the War of the Revolution, Israel
Converse entered the army as second lieutenant in one of the
regiments of Connecticut troops, and the same year was raised to the
rank of captain. He remained in the army till the close of the
war, and was discharged with the rank of colonel. In 1787 he
removed with his family to Randolph, Vermont, and was one of the
pioneer settlers of that place, in which town his son, John
Phelps, was born, as above stated.
By the death of his father, which occurred in his
fifteenth year, the subject of our sketch was thrown upon his own
resources. While quite young he served some time with his
brother-in-law, a merchant in Montreal. He afterwards returned
to Vermont, and was engaged in a store with his elder brother and in
His health at that time not being good, he left Vermont
in 1812, and remained some time in the vicinity of Utica, New York.
During the first year he engaged in teaching, and was afterwards for
some time the superintendent in a glass-factory. In 1816 he
married Miss Betsey Collins, daughter of General Alexander
Collins, of Whitestown, New York, who survived her marriage but
one year. She died in February, 1817, leaving an infant son.
A few months after this event Mrs. Converse made his first
visit to Ohio, taking the journey partly on account of his health,
which was not good, and in part to ascertain its business prospects,
with a view to future settlement. The Western Reserve was then
the centre of attraction to all whose faces were turned towards
Ohio, and in the course of his journeyings he reached Parkman, where
he remained a few weeks. At this time also he went to Detroit,
and soon after returned to Oneida county.
In July, 1818, he was married, at Westmoreland, Oneida
county, to Miss Hannah B. Parkman, the youngest sister of
R. B. Parkman, whose acquaintance he had made when in Ohio, she
being then on a visit to her brother.
Immediately after this event he removed to Parkman and
permanently settled there. In October of that year he
purchased a place in the village containing several acres, on the
southwest corner of which stood an unfinished house, into which,
after putting it in order, he removed with his family, and in which
he resided fourteen years.
There being then no house of entertainment in the town,
and the location being favorable for that purpose, he opened a
hotel, which he kept, with some intermissions, as long as he
remained in the place.
For the purpose of creating a home market for the grain
raised in the town and vicinity, Mr. Parkman and himself, in
1820, built, and for some years owned, a distillery near the river,
and at that time it was looked upon as an important addition to the
business facilities of the town; but as the owners were in their own
habits temperance men, it needed only the rise of the temperance
reformation to cause the building to be converted to other uses.
In 1821 they built, on the left bank of the river,
below the village, a mill for the manufacture of linseed oil, which
continued in successful operation till 1835. In 1833 they
began the erection of a paper-mill, some rods higher up the river,
on the opposite side of the stream. At this point the banks of
the river are so high that, although the building was one of the
three stories, the roof only remained above the bank. After
the foundations were laid, and the frame put up and inclosed, the
original plan was changed, and it was finished as a flour-mill.
This mill was burned in 1838.
In the autumn of 1824 he opened a store in the village.
The next year he entered into partnership with his elder brother,
Porter Converse, which continued till 1828, when it was
dissolved and the business closed.
Shortly after this, Porter Converse removed to
Unionville, entered into business as a merchant, and resided there
till his death, which took place in 1870, in the ninety-third year
of his age.
Prior to 1824 the mail through Parkman was carried on
horseback once in the week.
Not far from this time Mr. Converse, with others
contracted with the postoffice department to carry the mail from
Fairport of Poland, Trumbull county, in a conveyance suitable for
the accommodation of the traveling public, which was soon enlarged
into a daily four-house post-coach.
The route lay through Painesville, Chardon, Burton,
Parkman, and Warren, and prior to the construction of railroads it
continued to be the main line of travel for the section of country
through which it passed.
His contracts were renewed and extended till the route
reached Sandusky, Monroe and Detroit. The prosecution of the
business involved many journeys to Washington and a residence there
of weeks, and sometimes months, during which time he became
acquainted with Henry Clay and other leaders of the
opposition in the time of the Jackson administration.
In 1832, the year of the first visitation of the
cholera in the United States, he was dangerously ill with it at
Monroe, Mich., but, not being acquainted with the forms of the
disease, he was unaware of his danger, and thus recovered. In
1833, the first mail ever carried across the territory of Michigan
was carried by him to Chicago, then only a trading-post, with three
or four houses, in the vicinity of Fort Dearborn, thus becoming a
second time a pioneer.
He was present when the land upon which the city of
Chicago is built was purchased of the Indians and their title
extinguished, and, forseeing the results which the advantages of the
location would ultimately produce, he determined to transfer to it
his interests and his residence, but a serious illness deterred him
at the time, and the fear of sickness for his family, which was then
the invariable attendant of western emigration, caused its ultimate
He closed his connection with the post-office
department in 1836, after twelve years of service, in which time he
had overcome all the difficulties of the route and literally made
straight paths for the feet of those who should succeed him.
In 1825 he, with Eleazar Hickox, of Burton, and
Isaac Mills, of Portage county, was appointed "to lay out,
improve, and keep in repair a road leading from Chardon, in Geauga
County, through Burton and Parkman village, in a direction towards
Warren." The :working" of this road through Parkman devolved
upon him, and was performed soon after the date of his commission.
He also, not far from this time, superintended the putting in good
traveling order several other roads in the township.
Mr. Converse was a member of the State
Legislature during the sessions of 1842-43. In the winter of
1846 he was appointed one of the associate judges of Geauga County,
and held the office till it was abolished under the new State
constitution of 1851.
In 1863 he was appointed assistant assessor under the
internal revenue law, but resigned the place on account of failing
heath in 1864.
Mrs. Converse died in 1859. She was the
youngest daughter of Alexander Parkman, and was born in
Westmoreland, Oneida county, New York, Sept. 25, 1793. She was
twenty-two years younger than her brother Robert Breck.
She had been a longer resident in Parkman than her husband; her
first visit was made in 1814, at which time, in company with her
brother, she made the whole journey from Oneida county on horseback.
They passed through Buffalo while it was still smoking from its
burning by the British troops and Indians.
She was a woman of intelligence and energy of
character, and in her own sphere met and discharged the arduous
duties which devolved upon her in the various relations of life in
which she was placed.
In 1862, Mr. Converse married Mrs. Rebecca
Hahns, of Cleveland, who survived him. She died instantly
of apoplexy in September, 1877.
Mr. Converse always took a deep interest in all
matters pertaining to the public welfare, both as regarded in his
own neighborhood and that of the country at large, and was ever
ready to give to such his hearty support.
He gave an ardent adherence to the government during
the war of the rebellion, and rejoiced with all good patriots in the
overthrow of slavery.
When he met with reverses of fortune - and he had his
full share of them - he did not give way to despondency or inaction.
His usual phrase at such times was, "We will pick the flint and try
again." In politics he was a Whig of the Giddings and Wade
school. He was one of the delegates to the Buffalo convention
of 1848, at the time of the organization of the Free Soil movement,
which culminated in the Republican party, to the principles of which
he gave an unwavering support.
He was kind and affectionate in his domestic relations,
and for the last twenty-five years he was a member of the
Congregational church. His death took place Feb. 21, 1865, at
the age of seventy-three.
His family consisted of four children; the eldest,
Oliver Collins, the son of his first wife, who was born at
Cayuga, New York, Jan. 18, 1817, died at Parkman in 1839.
His three daughters, the children of
his second wife, are still living.
Source: History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio, Publ.
Philadelphia by Williams Brothers - 1878 - Page 87