Introduction to Pioneer Stories


"The first settlers of this region were hunters, the advance guard of the real and permanent settlers of the great west. As nearly as can be ascertained the first permanent settlers came into the Firelands and took up places of residence in the year 1808, and they have left their names in their numerous descendants who still reside in Milan and vicinity. Dependent upon the water and the woods for a meager living, dressed in the coon skin caps and the deer skin clothes, great numbers of these early settlers succumbed after a short struggle with the terrible hardships incident to pioneer life. These early settlers generally erected the ordinary log cabin for a home, but others of a wandering character built bark huts, let a hunter's life and trafficked with the Indians of the forest. The great majority of the early permanent settlers of the Milan section were of upright character - bold, daring and generous to a fault. Although enduring great privations, much happiness and pleasure, consequent upon the careless freedom of their model of life, fee to the kind of existence they were leading in their new homes."   by Jas. A. Ryan on "The Town of Milan" (1928)


Milan is unique in that we most treasure the history of this area. The village and the township has buildings, homes and farms that link it back to the 19th. Century. Ryan's introduction to pioneer life (the first paragraph) is what this section is all about. I tell the stories of the early settlers who lived and died in the 1800's. They are not glamorous or famous names, but the people that invested in this land to make Milan what is now today. And I think, we have to honor these folks that moved to this land and the incredible hardships they endured with pioneer life.


Rattlesnakes at Old Women Creek

We began this story with Fowler, dressed in his hiking clothes which included buckskin pantaloons for trousers and shupack moccasins on his feet, hiking south from Abbot's Settlement* through the woods following specific marks on the trees to guide him to the grist mill site. He was wearing this outfit to protect him from pine needles and reptiles in the area. But before he started there was a heavy rain the day before and because he was walking through the woods with tall grass and herbage, he was soon as wet as if he had waded in the creek.


Justice at the Old County Seat

We live in a very organized society. We accept man made laws, police, lawyers, judges, juries, courtrooms and prison to uphold the laws of a modern civilized man. But there was a time when there weren’t many man made laws and even less people to uphold these laws. For the early settlers, religion played a huge part in their lives. Knowing the difference between right and wrong, understanding the Ten Commandments and the fear of God based upon religious teaching are what allowed people to live together and prosper in wilderness communities across this great land.


Return J. M. Ward

 The Tragic Story of Return Ward

On June 12th, 1857, at 11:56am, Return Jonathan Meigs Ward was hanged at the Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio. A violent and jealous man, he was sentenced to death after he murdered his wife Olive, on February 5, 1857 in Sylvania, Ohio. As it turns out, Ward was probably the first serial killer brought to justice in Ohio, as he confessed to two other murders in Ohio. Return Ward was born on June 8, 1815 in old Abbot's Settlement* which is in Milan Township, at his parents home - Jared and Huldah Ward.


Camp Avery and The War of 1812

In 1811, it became known that large numbers of Indians were traveling to Fort Madden, which was held by the British, where they were supplied with firearms and ammunition. The settlers in this area noted that some of the braves from the nearby Indian Villages had also left to get their arms. When America declared war against the British Empire on June 18, 1812, the vast Northwest Territory, including the Firelands, was subject to raids from the British and the Indians.

The Town Plot of Huron

The ghost town of 1812-24 Huron was owned by David Abbot, then sold to Ebenezer Merry and then re-sold to David Abbot. Fascinating story - still researching. Because on mini-strokes, I lost my speech or writing. I've leave to "The Town Plot of Huron" to other writing.   


Renappi Clubhouse

In the late 1890's there was a Renappi (Indian name) Clubhouse which had boat docks and depot for the train and the clubhouse was on Abbot's Island and still exits today - still researching. Because on mini-strokes, I lost my speech or writing. I've leave to "Renappi Clubhouse" to other writing.


*Abbot’s Settlement: When David Abbot purchased 1800 acres on both sides of the Huron River, this area was part of Avery Township (Avery Town now known as Milan Township) which was on both sides of Mason Road.  In 1811, Abbot submitted to the recorder’s office a “Town Plat of Huron” which was on the east side of the river and after the war, this area became briefly the County Seat on Huron Township, until it was moved to Norwalk in 1818. Abbot’s Settlement is also known with historians as Abbott’s Settlement, Huron, Avery (there is no record of changing the name from Huron to Avery) and the old county seat. The old town of Huron/Avery are gone today and they have no relationship to the current towns of Huron or Avery in Northern Ohio today.


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