Incidents Pertaining to the Life of Asa Mosher Townsend

Written by his son Henry H. Townsend, July 30 1920

Early in the nineteenth century a young man, Thomas Townsend by name, was working with others of his craft in a shoe shop, in his home town, at West Grove, Pennsylvania. One day some movers stopped at the village. They were on their way to seek a home in the new country of Ohio. They invited the young man to go with them. He told them that if they would wait a day, he would. He closed up his business and the next day but one, mounted on a horse, he accompanied the movers. He came into that part of Ohio known afterwards as Knox County, and filed on a tract of land one and one half miles north of the village of Fredericktown. This was a densely wooded district and here the young pioneer proceeded to clear a farm. In the course of a few years he married Elizabeth Speakman. To them were born four children:

William, 8th month, 14, 1809;
James, 9th month 13, 1811;
Hannah, 12th month, 12, 1813; and
Samuel, 2nd month, 6, 1816 (Deceased in infancy).

After this the mother died and in 1817, 3rd month, 9th, Thomas Townsend married Ruth Mosher. To them were born nine children as follows:

Elizabeth W., born 7th mo., 27, 1820, married Thomas Barrington;
Bethiah M., born 7th mo, 16, 1822, married Mark Barrington;
Asa Mosher, born 8th mo., 10, 1824, married Elizabeth G. Wood;
Rachel W., born 9th mo., 16, 1826, married Blackburn Vore;
Esther W., born 2nd mo., 27, 1829, married Henry Hathaway;
Mary, born 6th mo., 23, 1831, married Joel Heald;
Thomas, born 11th mo., 10, 1833, married Mary Gue;
Ruth G., born 11th mo., 20, 1836, married William Lewis; and
Letitia Ann, born 1st mo., 11, 1841, married Obed Folsom.

The two sets of children grew up together as one family and so far as I ever learned without jealousy but bound by ties of love as well as kinship as full brothers and sisters. Asa Mosher Townsend, the subject of this narrative, thus grew up under care and tutelage of two older brothers as well as of his father. I have heard uncle James Townsend tell of my father's wanting a paddle for use in the maple sugar camp, and while Uncle James was looking for something to make it of, the little tot brought him a chip saying, "Here's the tof to make it off."

When the curtain first rises revealing the subject of this narrative to the eye of the writer, the father Asa Townsend was about thirty years old. He had already married Elizabeth G. Wood and had a family of four children, Clayton, Mary, Ellen, Henry H. and Lydia W., and they were living in a house which had been built by his brother, William Townsend, almost directly across the road from Grandfather Townsend's old homestead. Hard by his residence Wm. Townsend had built quite an extensive crockery establishment which he carried on for a number of years and if I am not mistaken he had served an apprenticeship as a potter before undertaking the business. Sometime near the year 1853, Wm. Townsend along with other members of the Townsend family had caught the western fever and had moved to West Branch, Cedar County, Iowa. Among these were included James Townsend, Thomas and Elizabeth (Townsend) Barrington and Timothy and Hannah (Townsend) Kirk (think that possibly the latter family never lived here but Hannah Townsend married Timothy Kirk of Indiana and that they moved later to West Branch, Iowa). My father, Asa Townsend, succeeded to the crockery business and it was in our home and about the "Old Pot Shop" and in connection with this business that I first knew my father. Across the road and a little to the south lived Grandfather Thomas Townsend with the younger members of his family, Mary, Thomas, Ruth, and Letitia. Grandmother Townsend had died before my time but I remember Grandfather very well. The only time, however, that I recall his ever talking directly to me was a reproof given me for digging up his front yard. I was early possessed with the idea of growing trees and was energetically grubbing up some pear sprouts to set out in my nursery.

This little community with the crockery establishment as its center was known locally as "Claysville." My father employed a potter and there were busy days about the shop, especially when the kiln was to be filled with crocks and the fires started for their burning. These fires were slow at first but were gradually increased till the third day when flames poured out at the summit giving the appearance of a volcano. Then after a few days of cooling, the doorway was opened up and all hands were busied carrying out the wares. Loads of crocks were now to be hauled away to nearby towns. My brother, Clayton, and I would often accompany our father in these trips. Especially delighted were we when we took trips to Johnsville, where lived a merchant named Upton Cover who always remembered us by some little presents from his store. When father went without us he always brought us some presents. I shall never forget the occasion when running to meet him on one of his returns he pulled from his pockets my first pair of skates. His thoughtful interest in his children was revealed by these incidents. I recall finding him one day working in the carpenter room of the "pot shop." To my inquiry as to what he was making he bade me wait and see. I later discovered that it was a hand sled for me. On another occasion I recall his attitude on finding that I had broken a valuable tool. I remember no word of reproof but a study of how it might be repaired. Knowing that I was guilty of abuse of this tool, his attitude made a lasting impression on me. I give these as my earliest recollections of my father. As I grew older I beheld his dealing with the outside world. He always had good neighbors and the reason was not far to find. From my earliest recollections, daily family worship was seldom if ever omitted. He was faithful in church services and served a preparative and monthly meeting clerk, and I think sometimes as quarterly meeting clerk. Our home was one of hospitality, my mother sharing with him the care and comfort of the guests. They were both school teachers. Aunt Letitia Folsom gives the following incident: "Asa was the one I went to school to in the old log school in the woods. I remember one time there was a peddler came along with books, etc. Asa left the school room for a few minutes and when he came in he handed me a primer. Oh, how pleased I was!" Father always took great interest in schools, was generally one of the directors of our district school near the old Friend's Meeting house in Ohio, and on moving to Iowa, as will be seen, was one of the promoters of the Le Grand Academy. Father had a large part in running the "Underground Railroad." It was his part at times to drive a closed carriage full of runaway slaves far enough in the night to get them safely housed before daylight at the next station, returning by day. I well remember that it was no uncommon thing to have colored persons at our house awaiting transportation. From our place they traveled north towards Lake Erie, generally to Sandusky. In the settlement of the estate after Grandfather Townsend's death, my father came into possession of the home place and we moved onto the old homestead. Uncle Thomas and aunts Mary, Ruth, and Letitia continued to live in the same house and in Fredericktown for a few years. Ruth married William Lewis. The others moved to West Branch, Iowa. My father gave his attention mainly to farming. In the spring of each year maple sugar making occupied our time. Our sugar camp was for a time north of Grandfather's camp, over which Uncle Thomas presided, but finally we came into possession of the home camp and ran it for years. Father prided himself on making a fine quality of sugar. It was too fine to suit us children, for there were not enough lumps in it. The sugar barrel was kept in our kitchen attic, to which we had free access. Strange as it appears now, we thought it inferior to "store" sugar.

Our Friends' meeting, Owl Creek Preparative Meeting, gradually grew smaller as family after family moved west. I well remember one Fourth Day Meeting in which my Father and I were the only male members present. It was Preparative Meeting day. After the shutters were pulled down father named me for clerk. There being no objection raised, I was duly appointed. There being no business for the day, the meeting concluded. Thus began my career as clerk, of which I have had my share since. I served my apprenticeship in copying minutes for father. In early days Owl Creek Meeting was a comparatively large body. Then came the Hicksite separation and the Hicksites held meeting on one side of the shutters and the Orthodox Friends on the other. Before my day, however, the Hicksites discontinued their meetings. In the Orthodox meeting, I recall, in my boyhood, the following families -- the Lewises, the Willitts, Vores, Comforts, Brodericks, Wrights, Barringtons, Cones, Fawcetts, and the Townsends.

Close by the brick meeting house, with its row of locust trees in the front yard, was the district school known as the "Fagus Grove School." Both the church and the school were on a beautiful tract of land adorned with many beech trees. Fagus Grove school was above the average of country schools. Many of the teachers were Friends. Father had taught in the old log school house, and there I commenced my school days under my Aunt Rhoda Wood. Ann Willits was the teacher when we moved to the new frame building. In the frame building I recall as my teachers, Thomas Townsend, Sarah Lewis, Jane Lewis, Hannah Lewis, John Chambers, Mary Underwood, Mary and Nettie Levering. The last named became my brother Clayton's wife.

Our family, as enumerated above, comprised four children. Clayton, the oldest was a boy of keen intellect and an insatiable reader. Being four years older than the writer and matured beyond his years, he was to me the source of general information. He graduated at the Fredericktown High School and later took up the study of medicine, graduating at the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons. He practiced medicine several years, mainly at Fredericktown, but later turned his attention more directly to Educational work. In preparation for this work he entered Haverford College and was expecting to graduate in the spring of 1880, but tuberculosis fastened itself upon him and he died in the summer of 1880, leaving a wife and two daughters. Mary Ellen was a good student and became the main stay of the family in later years during mother's affliction. She married Daniel W. Pearson. They had a family of four children. Henry H. married Anna Hunt. Have four daughters. Lydia W. died at the age of eleven years.

As grandfather Thomas Townsend had come from Pennsylvania a young man, we knew little about his relatives. One day, along in the sixties, we were all from home except father who was plowing in a field some distance from the house, where he was visited by two tall men. They said they were from Pennsylvania and their names were Daniel and Thomas Pennington. The former had married Letitia Townsend, a niece of Grandfather's and a first cousin of father's. They had started out from home to hunt up their relatives, Thomas Townsend's descendants. Their wives were with them. This visit proved to be a very enjoyable one and introduced us to our Pennsylvania relatives. A brother of Grandfather Townsend had nine children, seven of whom were living. The three boys were Samuel, Thomas, and William. Each was married and had children. The four girls were married as follows: Letitia married Daniel Pennington. They had nine sons. Belinda married Enoch Gatchel - nine children. Elizabeth married Amos Michener - three children. Amanda married Jesse Good - ten children. This makes us directly related to a large number of Penningtons, Gatchels, Micheners, and Goods. Grandfather also had three half brothers, John, Stephen and Joseph. These four Penningtons who visited us in Ohio went on to West Branch, Iowa and were welcomed by relatives there. My brother Clayton, afterwards visited the relatives in Pennsylvania, mostly at West Grove in Chester County.

In the spring of 1871 father offered our farm for sale at $90 an acre, a price he scarcely expected to get, but was taken up by John Fiddler and we gave possession in two weeks. Finding ourselves cut loose from home, we started on a western trip visiting relatives first in Ohio then Michigan and from there to Cedar Co., Iowa, and finally to Marshall County, Iowa. We finally settled at LeGrand in that county. Father went into the Lumber, Grain and Coal business with Ami Willits whom he had known in Ohio. At LeGrand were many Ohio people and my mother had a sister living in the same county. The lumber and coal business proved satisfactory but heavy losses were sustained in the grain business including three cars of wheat burned in the great Chicago fire. Some years later father sold the grain elevator and formed a partnership with a Mr. Chilson, Arthur Chilson's father, in the hardware business. After a few years he sold his interest in the store. He had bought about 50 acres of land and had built a house. From my earliest recollection I had seen bridges and houses in Ohio built by Uncle Thos. Barrington. Father felt that he could scarcely have a house built right without Uncle Thomas building it and so Uncle Thomas consented to come to LeGrand and supervise its construction. Here was my best acquaintance with my loved Uncle Thomas Barrington.

At LeGrand father took a lively interest in church and school matters. He was one of the leaders in founding LeGrand Academy from which I was the first graduate.

In 1902 father came to Northbranch, Kansas where I was teaching, and bought a farm. He and mother and Mary Ellen and family moved there later. The climate of Kansas gave my father some relief from the asthma from which he occasionally suffered severely in Iowa. In buying the farm father met with a heavy financial loss through a bank failure where his money was deposited. It was in connection with this loss that I saw his character revealed at its best. He bore it with Christian fortitude and manifested the fact that his main treasure of dependence was laid up in Heaven.

While living at Northbranch, they had delightful visits, which we shared, from Uncle James Townsend and William Hammell's. Also a second visit from Uncle James with Uncle Blackburn Vore. In the fall of 1899 Mother, who had been in feeble health for many years from paralysis died. She was very emaciated and her features drawn but in death there was a relaxation and her former beauty returned. "She was beautiful in death." She was a noble woman and notwithstanding her handicap for many years, she still maintained a sweet spirit. After Mother's death Father came to live with us at Hesper, Kansas, where we had been living for a few years. In the fall of the next year we moved back with father to the farm at Northbranch, intending for father to live with us the remainder of his life. Daniel and Mary Ellen Pearson were to move to Oklahoma the next spring. While we were all living together father was taken sick and died within a few days of the close of the 19th century, December 27, 1900. Father had felt for some time that the end was near. He often quoted from the English Reader passages concerning life and death as well as from the Bible. In his character he left his children a rich heritage.


The Baltimore Blacksmith

To show the newness of the country when Grandfather came to Ohio I will relate a story which I have heard my father tell. One day in Baltimore, Md., as a blacksmith named John Ellicott was returning to his shop after dinner he passed an auctioneer who was crying several hundred acres of land in Ohio. He heard the bid 21 cents an acre and he sang out as he passed 22 cents. Later in the day he was very much surprised to be informed in his shop that his bid had been accepted. He paid the price and later visited the land to find that it comprised some of the best land Ohio could offer. This land joined grandfather's land. Father said he remembered seeing him, a one armed man, while visiting his land and putting up with Grandfather. The land was cut up into a number of farms and Ellicott's Mills built on one of its water courses. The story of the one arm is interesting. Ellicott doubted Watt's assertion that there is power in steam. To disprove it he hammered out an iron keg or retort, put some water into it and welded it up. He then placed it on his forge saying that if there is power in the steam it will burst the retort. While he was blowing his bellows with one hand on the handle it did explode and took his arm off and laid it on a shelf of his shop. It is interesting too to note that a man of my father's early days was doubting the power of steam. "What hath God wrought?"

The Railroad

In the early days of railroad building the Sandusky Mansfield and Newark Railroad was constructed running through Grandfather's farm. It ran in a nearly north and south direction but with considerable of a curve and through a cut of about 25 ft. deep. For the farm lane a bridge was constructed over this cut.

It was an endless source of delight to be at this bridge and see the trains come around the curve and go under the bridge. There was a very steep grade at this place and it was no uncommon thing for freight trains to stall going north. Father was not the last one to be interested in these trains and his boys caught the same spirit. Many a time have Clayton and I raced out the lane when we heard a train coming, especially if it were an extra. The railroad cut was so deep that it cut through the layer of gravel that held the surrounding upland water supply. All the wells in that vicinity had to be deepened after the cut was made. It gave rise, however, to a beautiful stream of cool fresh water on each side of the track. This water came out of the banks in beautiful springs. The gravel banks on each side of the cut became fine places for specimen hunting. The gravel was that of the Drift Period and contained specimens from wide areas and many geological formations. To those who are familiar with the scenes here described there will come, no doubt, many happy associations. To the younger generation, far removed from these scenes, but a vague idea will be realized. The Past grows old and dies, but in the mainds and hearts of the newer generations new thoughts and aspirations spring up and the Present thrives on the decay of the Past.

H. H. Townsend