Before the American Revolution, the land west of the Allegheny Mountains was claimed by several of the original 13 colonies. The Connecticut Western Reserve was a portion of land claimed by the Colony of Connecticut, and later by the state of Connecticut, in what is now mostly the northeastern region of Ohio. The Reserve had been granted to the Colony by King Charles II., and originally stretched from Eastern Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River.
Connecticut relinquished claim to much of its western lands in 1786 following the American Revolutionary War. However, the state retained a portion south of Lake Erie and sold much of this remaining Western Reserve to the Connecticut Land Company, organized in Hartford, Connecticut in 1795. Money from the sale of this land was to be used for education of Connecticut residents and to encourage settlement from the east. Connecticut ceded its final claims on the territory to the United States in 1800. Ashtabula County was part of this “Western Reserve.” It is said that the Native American meaning for the word Ashtabula is “River of Many Fish“.
Forty-eight men subscribed and paid Connecticut $1,200,000.00. One of these was Nehemiah Hubbard, who paid the state $19,039.00. The first settlement in what would become Plymouth Township was in 1804 – 1805, when Thomas McGahhe and William Thompson cleared land and built the first log house on Lot 5 (on the north side of the present Plymouth Ridge Road, just west of the hilltop at Knickerbocker Circle.)
In spring 1806, Samuel White settled on 200 acres on the north line of the township, along present-day Seven Hills and Howard Roads. His acreage included the creek on which the Fitz Woolen Mill would later be established. Thomas Gordon came in 1807, and settled on the 240 acres of Lot 6. He erected the first sawmill in 1809.
It is said that the first white child born in the township was a son born to David Burnett in 1807, and the first death was a widow named Hanan, who died in the spring of 1807. In the summer of 1810, the first schoolhouse was built of logs in the hollow just north of the present Maple Grove Cemetery on land then owned by Asher Blakeslee. Classes were taught the following winter by Warner Mann. There were 12 students whose parents paid their share of the teacher’s salary. More hardy settlers arrived in 1811, families of men such as Captain Moses Hall, Zadock Mann, John Blakeslee, Lynus Hall, Titus Seymour, David Warren, Elias Upson, Noah Bronson, and the Hubbards. Many of their descendants still live in Plymouth today.
As settlers arrived, more and more land was cleared and trails that would serve as “roads” were painstakingly forged through the dense wilderness. Most current roads follow the early roads cut through the woods by these early settlers. A clipping from a history booklet put out by Plymouth Community Sunday School in 1938 claims that this is the reason why Plymouth’s roads are the most crooked in the county.
The Connecticut Land Company soon laid out the “old girdled road”, which ran from Kelloggsville west through Sheffield, along Plymouth Ridge, through Saybrook to Cleveland. Eventually, out of necessity, the Ashtabula-Jefferson Road was put through the Plymouth marsh, completed around 1817.
Families of the first settlers filtering in to meet up with loved ones already here found simple one-room structures of hand-hewn logs held together with wooden pegs. They were crude and unsophisticated. The builders took shelter in covered wagons and makeshift lean-tos until there permanent homes were completed.
John and Sala Blakeslee finished their cabin in 1810 on a plot of land located on what is now Seven Hills Road. It was in this cabin that the first Episcopal Church service west of the Alleghenies was held. Zadoc Mann led services under the encouragement of the Reverend Searle, the previous minister who resided in Plymouth, Connecticut at the time. Services continued in the cabin until 1817 when the group found the need to establish a more official church in Ashtabula, which became St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The tiny structure where it all began still stands today and is said by the Ashtabula County Historical Society to be the oldest such structure in its original form and on its original foundation in the State of Ohio. Known as the Blakeslee Log Cabin, the now 200-plus-year old structure has been placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
More people meant progress, and progress brought with it the need for organization. On January 7, 1838, the Ashtabula County Commissioners detached this small area of the Western Reserve from the southern portion of Ashtabula Township. It was designated Township #12 of the third range, meaning the 12th township north from the southern boundary of the Western Reserve, and the third west from the Pennsylvania line. Because more settlers had come from Plymouth Valley, Connecticut, than any other one place, the township was given the name of Plymouth.
On July 4th, 1838, the following took place: Robert Seymour, Samuel Burnett and Josiah Allen were elected as judges. Levi and Wells Blakeslee, clerks of said election being duly sworn according to law, proceeded to elect the following officers: Samuel Burnett, Andrew Willey and William Stewart, township trustees; Levi Blakeslee, township clerk; and Bennet Seymour, Solomon A. Simons, Elias Upson and Merit M. Mann, supervisors. The first Justice of the Peace was Warner Mann, who was elected on November 9th, 1838. The first United States post office at Plymouth was opened in 1846 in a building just east of the current railroad tracks on Carson Road by William Mann, who also operated a small general store.
The year 1872 saw a surge of development with the opening of the railroad from Ashtabula to Oil City, Pennsylvania. Due to heavy coal and iron ore freights, the Low Grade from Carson southward was constructed, running from Carson to Doughton in 1902. The actual name “Carson” was used by railroad men to distinguish it from the Plymouth railroad in Richland. When the railroad opened in 1872, the section from Ashtabula through Plymouth and Jefferson was known as the High Grade due to the steep incline.
According to a newspaper article at the time of the opening of the Low Grade, Carson had three churches, a store, a boarding house and a blacksmith shop, as well as a depot. The year 1872 also brought with it the opening of Plymouth’s first cheese factory by D. Clump. Later, in 1875, W. B. Johnson opened a second cheese factory on a farm located on Plymouth Ridge Road just west of the present Rockwell Road.
With the development of more farms, farmers found the need to work together and in 1901, East Plymouth Grange was organized. However, the Grange Hall was not built until 1914-15. The Grange still functions today and offers a great deal of community service to the surrounding area.
It is interesting to note that in 1918, when Ashtabula City voted for prohibition, Plymouth Township remained the only “wet” township in the county. Robert Atkins erected a building at Pennsylvania & Ohio Railway interurban line Stop 91 (near the corner of present Route 45 and Jefferson Road), where he opened the only saloon in Ashtabula County at the time. The saloon operated until national prohibition in 1920. The building was purchased by the Plymouth Board of Education and was known as the Little Marsh School. It served as Plymouth’s only two-room school until the new elementary school was built on Plymouth Road. The dedication on September 22, 1939 of this much larger school closed the book on Plymouth’s one and two-room school house era. With it, in so many other ways, came the modernization of a community.
Compiled and submitted by Julie Grandbouche
Edited by Maryann Stevenson
Resources and Credits :
- “A History of Ashtabula Township” by John Hall
- History of Ashtabula County, Ohio 1878
- “Historical Sketches of Ashtabula County, Ohio” by Catherine Ellsworth
- “The 100th Anniversary of Plymouth Township, 1838 -1938” put out by Plymouth Community Sunday School and written by Mrs. Lucien W. Mann and Iona Seymour
- The extensive history collection of the late Carl Latimer