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Excerpts from The Pioneer Families of CLEVELAND

Col. James Kingsbury


When Col. James Kingsbury concluded to make a "hazard of new fortunes" by leaving Alstead, N. H., for the wilds of Ohio, he little dreamed that it would take a whole year to reach his final destination. Furthermore, could he have foreseen even a part of the tragedy awaiting him, it is more than probable Cleveland would have lacked one of its pioneers of 1797. In his haste to make the change, he did not wait for surveyors to lay out the land and report conditions, but left New Hampshire, June, 1796, about the time that Moses Cleaveland and his party arrived in Buffalo on their way to the Western Reserve.

It is difficult, from the stand-point of to-day, when the average man is over-careful, perhaps, regarding the health and comfort of his family, why or how a husband and father could be induced to burn all his ships behind him and, in absolute ignorance of what awaited his wife and little ones, start with them on a journey of hundreds of miles, in order to settle down in a trackless wilderness, out of reach of medical aid, and all else that pertains to the safety of civilization. That another babe was added to the number and perished, and that the whole family nearly lost their lives through starvation and exposure, seems a natural consequence of a rash undertaking.

But Judge Kingsbury was not the only Cleveland pioneer to take such risks, and the only reason that his experiences were not identically those of many other, was simply through great good luck rather tan wise precaution. He was the son of Absolm Kingsbury, of Norwich, Conn. As that part of Connecticut was aflame with patriotism through the Revolutionary period, it is not remarkable that all his older brothers saw active service in the cause of Freedom. He himself born in 1767, was too young to engage in the strife. After the close of the war, members of the family removed to New Hampshire, and at the age of 21 r. Kingsbury married Miss Eunice Waldo. She was the daughter of John and Hannah Carleton Waldo. Her grandfather, Lieut. John Carleton, her father, and two brothers reinforced the garrison of Ticonderoga when it was besieged. When they started for Ohio, Mr. and Mrs. Kingsbury had three children. The oldest , a daughter, was three years old, the next a boy, was two years old, and the youngest, also a boy, was an infant. They took with them a cow, horse, yoke of oxen, and a few household necessities.

Accompanying them was a young lad by the name of Carleton, the nephew of Mr. Kingsbury, who assisted by driving the animals in advance of the family, or following with them close in the rear.

When Oswego was reached, the party continued the journey in an open, flat-bottomed boat, which conveyed them through Lake Ontario and, perhaps, Lake Erie, while the nephew on foot or horseback drove the animals along the shores. They arrived in Conneaut, Ohio, in October, four months from the time they started on their journey.

Moses Cleaveland and his surveyors left Cleveland on their way back to civilization, October 18, and Conneaut, Oct. 21. Whether the Kingsburys reached the latter place in time to meet the surveyors has not been stated, and just where the family spent the following winter months is a matter of conjecture. They could not have been with the Guns at Castle Stow, for no mention whatever is made of the Guns in the narration of all that befell the Kingsburys in their desperate struggle for existence.

Conneaut is on the site of an Indian village, about a mile and a half from the mouth of the river and Castle Stow. It consisted of a number of rude but comfortable cabins, occupied in the summer months by a remnant of the Massasaugas, who, at the approach of the winter, vacated until spring, spending intervening time farther south.

Mr. Kingsbury may have taken advantage of this to obtain the use of one of these cabins, which would explain why the family seem to have been living separate from the Guns.

Why it seemed expedient for him to leave his family under such circumstances and return at once to Alsted, N. H., has never been clearly explained. He intended to make the journey there and return on horseback within six weeks.

Meanwhile, he had been storing up malaria in his system, and by the time he reached his former home, it began its work. For weeks he lay on his bed, too ill to start back for Ohio, and before he was able to do so, Mrs. Kingsbury passed through the supreme peril of motherhood alone in the wilderness. Before she could attend once more to household affairs, the nephew, through ignorance of the consequences, poisoned the cow by feeding it oak twigs. Those of the elm or beech would have been harmless, and twigs of trees and bushes were the only provender available, but the boy did not know that any difference existed.

Then Mrs. Kingsbury became ill, and while burning with the fever, natural sustenance for the babe ceased, and she had to endure its moans of starvation , unable to relieve it.

It died as Mr. Kingsbury came staggering back from the East, his poor horse having dropped exhausted by the way.

With the help of his nephew he fashioned a rude coffin, and dug a grave in the frozen ground. As they bore the little body out of the cabin, Mrs. Kingsbury sank back unconscious. There was no food in store, and Mr. Kingsbury started back for Erie to obtain corn, dragging a handsleigh there and back.

This corn, partially crushed, was all the family had to eat until March, when pigeons and other wild game began to return from the South. When, in 1797, the second surveyor party, on its way to finish the work of the previous summer, arrived at Conneaut, they found the Kingsburys in a feeble condition of health through lack of proper food and medicine. Their immediate wants were relieved, and they accompanied the surveyors to Cleveland.

Whether from the start this place had been Mr. Kingsbury's objective point, or that he concluded to accept the offer of 100 acres of land from the Connecticut Land Company, should he become a settler of the frontier hamlet, has not been ascertained.

The family took refuge in an old trading hut on the west side of the river, nearly opposite the foot of St. Clair Street, in which they remained until their own cabin was built. Mr. Kingsbury had selected original lots 59 and 60 -- the site of the Old Stone Church and old court-house, but as Cleveland was all woods, with lots only partially defined, he may have made a mistake when he built on lot 64. The post-office and E. 3rd Street now occupy lot 63, so that the site of Kingsbury's cabin is now covered with the city hall building. Within two years they removed to the northwest corner of Kinsman and Woodhill Roads, on a farm, a portion of which was underlaid with fine building stone, and proved of great value. Mr. Kingsbury also owned several city lots, which ultimately netted a fortune. The light-house on Water Street stands on one of these. The large frame-house that remained the homestead for 45 years was, in its day, considered quite pretentious, and was the center of hospitality and good cheer.

Mrs. Eunice Kingsbury was a good, kind-hearted woman, it was but natural that she could never endure the thought of allowing any one to go hungry, and was prompt to relieve necessity in any form. The homestead stood far enough from town for young and old to make it the terminus of merry sleighing parties, who were welcomed, warmed and feasted with typical, old-fashioned hospitality. Memories of it lingered with the early settlers as long as life lasted, and traditions of it handed down to posterity. The kindly spirit that pervaded it, the big elm trees that shaded it, the apple and cherry trees surrounding it -- whose delicious fruit was freely shared with many who had none, and the children who overflowed it, leading happy, natural lives.

Col. Kingsbury became "Squire Kingsbury", and then "Judge Kingsbury", and filled may placed of trust in the city and county. He died in 1847, aged 80 years. His three older brothers, Dr. Asa Kingsbury, Lieut. Ephraim Kingsbury, and Obadiah Kingsbury, were soldiers of the American Revolution. His sister Margaret married John Carleton, whose children settled in Western Reserve.

Mrs. Eunie Waldo Kingsbury died in 1843, aged 73 years.

Judge and Mrs. Eunice Waldo Kingsbury were both laid to rest in Erie Street Cemetery.

Their children were:

Amos Kingsbury, b. 1793; m. Kingsbury Ingersoll; 2nd, Mary Sherman.

Almon Kingsbury, b. 1795; m. Lucy cone.

Abigail Kingsbury, b. 1792; m. Dyer Sherman, of Vermont.

Elmira Kingsbury, b. 1794; m. Perley Hosmer.

Nancy Kingsbury, b. 1798; m. Caleb Baldwin Cleveland.

Claista Kingsbury, b. 1800; m. Runa Baldwin.

Diana Kingsbury, b. 1804; m. Buckley Steadman.

Albert Kingsbury, b. 1806; m. Malinda Robinson; 2nd, Mrs. Sophia Bates Laughton.

James Kingsbury, b. 1813; m. Lucinda Williams.

Of Amos Kingsbury, the oldest son of Judge Kingsbury, little can be learned. He married his first wife, Kingsbury Ingersoll, in January 1815.

She died, leaving a little son, Dyer (?) Kingsbury, who lived in his later years in Wisconsin.

Amos Kingsbury married, secondly, Mary Sherman -- sister of Dyer Sherman, his brother-in-law, in January, 1820. Only one son was born of this union, the Rev. C. T. Kingsbury, of Alliance, Ohio.

Both children were brought up in their grandfather's home. Amos Kingsbury was somewhat of a religious enthusiast. He suffered from ill-health many years, and was obliged to seek a warmer climate. Receiving a government position in Arkansas, he removed to that state. But his heart was in missionary work, and while there he labored and preached among the poor and illiterate, either black or white. He was a good man, respected and loved.

Almon Kingsbury was a quiet, dreamy sort of a man, very impractical in business affairs. He kept a store in early days on Superior Street, just west of Uncle Abram Hickox' blacksmith shop. A story illustrating his business stand-point is told, which may or may not be true.

A man wishing a saw picked one out at Almon's store, and inquired the price of it. There were in stock several other saws of assorted sizes. Almon looked at the saw, hesitated, and then remarked, "I guess I don't want to part with that. I have a complete assortment of sizes now, and if I let you have it the set will be broken."

Needless to add that he did not acquire any property save what was left him by his father. His wife, Lucinda Cone Kingsbury -- whom he married in August, 1820 -- was a fine woman, and her children were a credit to the Kingsbury name. Louisa Kingsbury, for some, was a Cleveland public school teacher. She married Mr. Crooker, of Buffalo, N. Y.

Lucy Kingsbury married Cornelius Lansing Seymour, son of Alexander Seymour. Dianna Kingsbury married Samuel Hastings, of Boston, Mass. James Kingsbury married Philanda Phelps, of Milwaukee. George Kingsbury m. Fanny -----, and lives in Buffalo.

Abigail Kingsbury, of "Nabby," oldest daughter of Judge Kingsbury, led an eventful life. While yet in her teens, a brother and sister arrived from Vermont, named Sherman. the former Dyer Sherman laid siege to Miss Kingsbury's heart and won it. They were married February, 1808. They were a popular couple, and while keeping a tavern on Broadway, near E. 55th Street, became widely known. It stood on a 50-acre lot, the gift of Judge Kingsbury. He also afterward gave them 160 acres of land on the road to Warrensville, upon which they lived in late life. Previous to this Mrs. Sherman had received a city lot from her father, which she sold to the government for a large sum in gold. But in their old age, the greater part of this fortune had melted away. It is said that the chief reason of this was the sudden appearance of a woman and a middle-aged son from Vermont, who claimed Dyer Sherman for husband and father, and that he gave up everything he possessed to appease them and evade court process and penalty.

Dyer and Abigail Kingsbury Sherman had two daughters -- Susan and Margaret, neither of whom married fortunately not wisely in the two ventures they each made in matrimony. The latter lived and died in a Western state. Early in December, 1814, there was a double wedding in the old Kingsbury homestead, and a great merry-making. Two daughters of the household -- Nancy and Calista, married the Baldwin brothers -- Caleb and Runa -- and in less than a month afterward Amos Kingsbury married his first, Kingsbury Ingersoll.

Runa and Clarista Baldwin began housekeeping in a home belonging to them on the north-west corner of Woodland and Wilson -- E. 55th Street. Here they lived in health and prosperity for 20 years, when, in the summer of 1834, Runa Baldwin was stricken with cholera, an epidemic that year, and died, of course, suddenly. Clarrissa survived him many years.

They had an interesting family of children.

Sherman and Albert Baldwin became celebrated physicians of San Francisco. Almon Baldwin lived in Toledo. Alfred Baldwin died in Cleveland. Sophrona Baldwin married a Mr. Burrows, of Schalersville, O. Martha Baldwin married a Mr. Lougee, of Oakland, Cal.

Nancy Kingsbury was the second wife of Caleb Baldwin. His first marriage was with Phoebe Gaylord, of Newburgh.

When the Mormon excitement was at its height, and its teachings were being discussed pro and con at every fireside, Caleb and Nancy became converts of the new faith. There was an element of mysticism in it sufficient to be an attraction to people of intense religious emotion, and it is possible that the former Baptist minister, who lived in that county, and whom they often met, may have been the influence that decided them to leave their comfortable home and its environment of kinship and life-long neighbors, to face what proved to be danger and many hardships.

Elmira Kingsbury Hosmer had four children. She lived and died in Chicago, Ill.

Diantha Kingsbury became the second wife of the once well-known Buckley Stedman. He kept a large market, for years, in Cleveland. Diantha made a model step-mother to his children by the first wife.

The family became wealthy, and subsequently removed to Washington, D. C.

James Waldo Kingsbury, the youngest child of Judge and Eunice Kingsbury, was born in the old homestead in 1813, and remained in it until his death in 1881 -- 68 years.

He inherited this property with other and valuable land. Like his brothers, he possessed less business qualifications than other and more desirable gifts. He was a good, kind man, an indulgent father, and the most enviable of neighbors.

But little by little his inheritance slipped through his hands, until little remains in the possession of his children. He was long an invalid before his death.

His wife was Lucinda Williams, daughter of Andrew and Elizabeth DeWolfe Williams, who died in 1870, aged 54.

They had ten children. The first five died in infancy.

Those remaining were Egbert, Norman, Fanny, Caroline and Ellen Kingsbury -- Mrs. William Parton -- now a widow with these sons.

Mr. Kingsbury left the homestead to his youngest son, who died soon after his marriage, leaving it to his wife.

She married again for her second husband a man bearing a German name, who remodeled the house following a fire that nearly destroyed it, so that the old landmark has passed out of the family, and is greatly changed from its former appearance.

Mrs. Eunice Waldo Kingsbury, wife of Judge Kingsbury, had a brother -- Roswell Waldo -- who was a pioneer of Schalersville in 1815.

As was also their sister, Hannah Waldo Thompson.

Another brother, Dr. Carleton Waldo, was a pioneer of Butler County.

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Updated March 16, 2002
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