Pearl Settlement in the West

I am fortunate to have recently been loaned the Pearl genealogy/history written by Marian Arlene Pearl. It has been generously shared with me by Marion Emmons who is now in possession of this history of our family. In the process of copying this record I have come across many interesting tales, learned more about the history of our family from the time of John the immigrant,and I have been blessed with more insight into the lives and times of our ancestors. One of the insights I have come to appreciate is the story of the journey of Laura Shellenbarger’s family from Connecticut to the wilds of Ohio. This courageous act typifies the determination and toughness of those who choose to undertake such a dangerous journey.

Laura contacted me after discovering our blog. Her family is descended from Capt. Timothy Pearl, a son of Timothy from whom our Hampton Pearls are descended, and a half brother of James Pearl, our direct ancestor.

Linda Shellenbarger’s great-great-great grandpa, Oliver Pearl, born in Willington, CT in 1788, left Connecticut to pursue opportunities in the west. He had married Mary Sexton in 1811. Oliver was a farmer and he and Mary lived in Ellington, CT  for 8 years after their marriage before “trading his farm for 100 acres of heavily timbered land in what is now Berlin Township, Erie County, Ohio. He also acquired 40 acres at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, now a part of Cleveland. With true pioneer courage, this family now consisting of a wife and 4 small children, piled their household furniture and farm equipment into wagons, leaving Connecticut in 1819 for weeks of hazardous traveling. When they reached the pioneer farm at Cuyahoga River, malarial conditions forced them to continue on to their tract of land in Berlin. This was through a wilderness so dense that Mr. Pearl had to cut a road through to enable the teams to haul the wagons. According to history they passed through a Huron Indian village, now the site of the city of Milan, some 8 miles from his homestead. Fortunately, the Indians were friendly at that time to white settlers. Mr. Pearl first erected a cabin of round logs, later replacing it with a more spacious home of hewn logs. This couple was known for their kindness and good works. They helped to organize a Methodist church and were regular in attendance. Ten children were born to this union.”

Some of the information that Marian Arlene Pearl found was in Hewson L. Peeke’s “A Standard History of Erie Co. in 2 vols published in 1916., and The Firelands Historical Soc. Norwalk, Ohio Vol. 111 pg 26 Fireland Pioneers. and Huron Co. D.A.R. records Vol. 2 1812-1939 and Pearl/ History from E. Eldridge, Pearl family Bible.

The Fire Lands resource interested me. In looking up what this referred to, I found the following.  The Firelands tract was located at the western end of the Connecticut Western Reserve in what is now the state of Ohio. This land was set aside for people who lived in those Connecticut towns who had lost their homes when the British had burned them during the Revolutionary War. The towns affected were Danbury, Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, New London, New Haven, Norwalk and Ridgefield. Eventually about 30 towns were established in the Firelands on the southern shore area of Lake Erie. But, apparently not too many people from the above Connecticut towns took advantage of this opportunity, probably because of Indian hostilities around the War of 1812 and the thickly forested land, that was hard to clear for farming.  A number of members of Oliver Pearl’s family did move from northeastern Connecticut to this area of Ohio.

Dorothy Vander Meulen, Pearl Family Historian

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