Early settlers head west

When some look back on Howland Township history, they wonder how early settlers were able to cross the wilderness and reach our section of the Connecticut Western Reserve.

Looking at contemporary survey maps of Pennsylvania’s and Virginia’s topography, you can see the many deep river valleys and mountains that are tree-covered in dense old-growth forests.

Covered Conestoga wagon caravans that carried pioneer families also had to hold lumber-cutting scouts to carve trails through thick forests and build crude bridges to traverse swift-flowing streams and rivers, with the hope of reaching the Cumberland Gap and crossing into Ohio.

The families traveling the future mid-Ohio entry route, via the Erie Canal route faced easier terrain but still saw the same, if less severe obstacles.

The northern St. Lawrence River entry provided a water access route with portages and an against-water current to reach Lake Erie and Ohio’s future northern shore through Native American- and English-controlled areas.

Land obstacles were only part of the travel problems for potential settlers, since Ohio’s rain, snow and drought increased hazards. Flooded waterways or a shallow depths of water also made for problems.

Although Conestoga wagons were designed to have their wheels removed for future conversions into boats, any repeated need for wheel removal prior to reaching goals for settlement impeded travel and often delayed seasonal deadlines for shelter.

Carnivorous animals with limited previous interaction with man, threatened settlers and their livestock, further complicating travel.

The possibility of food sources lost to spoiling and other unforeseen accidents, one would wonder why any East Coast settler would want to travel into the northwestern wilderness of a savage North America.

However, many people did go west and eventually settled in Ohio. A few of the settlers’ desires that prompted the western expansion into Ohio were: a yearning for adventure and exploration; the eagerness to escape the population growth along the East Coast; a longing for ownership of personal property; and a manifest destiny to populate what they expected to become a powerful future America.

People should remember that the above reasons eventually led to Ohio partitioning from the Northwest Territory and admitting to the Union as the 17th state March 1, 1803.

Ohio’s influence helped propel the United States into an international political entity, as demonstrated through the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding

Contact Warner Taiclet, president of the Howland Historical Society, at 330-856-1115.