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This undated article, found in the archives of Mary Fitz-Gerald Riddle, was probably written in the first third of the 20th century. The picture is from http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/.


Benjamin Tappan, Beset by Hard Luck, Fought Way Through Uncharted Wilderness To Become First Ravennan
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He and Wife Named Ravenna After Italian City

BY E.Y. LACEY

The Record-Courier presents to its readers the first newspaper pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Tappan, first settlers and home-makers in Ravenna. Brave hearts, resolute purpose, invincible will and strong arms to hew their way alone enabled the pioneer couple to win.

Although the Tappans left for other fields a long time ago, the name is an heirloom and it is of more than passing interest to Ravenna people of today to know that three of the granddaughters are living in Steubenville where they have taught school for many years.

When Benjamin Tappan and his wife. Nancy Wright Tappan, of staunch New England stock, moved into the log cabin he erected in the woods on what was afterward known as the Marcus Heath farm in east Ravenna, and which is now included in the home estate of attorney H. R. Loomis, former mayor of the county seat, they established the first household shrine in the wilderness community, and one of the first in Portage county.

Built First Cabin

Tappan came into the wilds of Ravenna in 1799 and built the first cabin in the settlement on what is now the Edinburg road southeast of Ravenna city on what was afterward the Captain Joseph D. King farm just out of Campbellsport. It was afterward, in early 1808. that he laid out the village of Ravenna, with Bowery street on the north, Oak street on the south, Walnut street on the east and Sycamore street on the west. The town, however, was not incorporated until 1853, forty four years after the removal of its founder to Steubenville in 1809.

Tappan erected his second cabin on what afterward became the Marcus Heath farm and in 1800 returned to Connecticut, where he married Miss Nancy Wright, member of a distinguished family, sister of Judge John C. Wright, and a young woman of superior mind and culture.

Returning with her husband to his forest settlement, she gave Ravenna its name, after the historic city in Italy, and it was through her initiative that the town was selected as the county seat in competition with Franklin Mills, now Kent city, which had the prize almost within grasp. Tappan afterward replaced the cabin with a frame house in 1804, built by John McManus. This was the second frame building in the settlement, the first one having been built by Henry Sapp on the site of the present H. R. Loomis business structure on East Main Street.

The vast outreach of the American wilderness will appear from the fact that a single cabin in either place marked the site of the cities

Benjamin Tappan, Jr., son of Benjamin Tappan, a Congregational clergyman, was born in Massachusetts in 1773 and came to Ravenna as agent of his father, principal proprietor of the township, owning 10,291 acres, more than two thirds of the total.

He was an able lawyer, well educated and a linguist, and it must have been love of adventure and achievement that took him from the comforts of an established society into the solitude and hardships of uninhabited wilds. But he carried on his work and other settlers followed him in large numbers and it was not long before the community began to assume the character of its New England fatherland.

He was an able lawyer, and in 1803 was chosen to represent the Trumbull district of which Portage was then a part, in the Ohio Senate. Portage County was formed out of Trumbull County in 1807, and the act of erecting the county designated his house as the place of holding the first court. But according to unwritten history, the house was burned to the ground the night before the court was to convene and the session was thereupon ordered to be held in the Robert Eaton house, a frame dwelling still standing on the Campbellsport road now owned by Henry Swartz of the Oakwood allotment.

General's Aide In War

It was Miss Sally Wright, sister of Mrs. Tappan, who taught the first school in the settlement on the Mahoning stream flowing through Ryedale, country home of Warner Riddle.

Following his removal to Steubenville in 1809, the Ravenna pioneer became aide-de-camp to General Wadsworth in the war of 1812, was judge of the fifth Ohio Circuit, United States District Judge for Ohio, and United States Senator from 1830 to 1845. He compiled Tappan's Law Reports and was a recognized legal authority. He died in Steubenville in 1857, and the death of Mrs. Tappan occurred in the same city about twenty years later.

Tappan

A life size portrait in oil of Judge Tappan adorns the wall back of the jury box in the Steubenville court house.

His three granddaughters, Miss Isabella Tappan, Miss Mary Tappan and Mrs. Sarah Tappan Collins, are still teaching in Steubenville and were thus employed when Attorney H. W. Campbell of Ravenna was teaching in the commercial department of its high school in 1908. Their father was Dr. Benjamin Tappan, and the family records show that there has been a Benjamin Tappan in all of the generations.

Miss Isabella Tappan is planning to come to Ravenna at an early date and visit the scenes of her grandfather's settlements and his pioneer activities.

On his way from Massachusetts Benjamin Tappan fell in with David Hudson who was on his way to found the well known college town, and they boated together as far as Boston, Summit County, where they separated for their respective destinations.

Boat Shattered

Preceding this, Tappan and, Hudson overtook Elias Harmon and his wife, who were in a small boat on their way to Mantua. They nearly capsized in the ice filled waters of the Niagara River and when in Lake Erie their boats were driven to land off the shores of Ashtabula County. Harmon's boat was shattered and he and his wife had to complete their journey overland. Tappan and Hudson sailed along the shores of the lake to Cleveland where they entered the Cuyahoga River and they were forced to land at Boston.

Although the waters of the Cuyahoga were of wider and deeper flow then than now, the voyagers reached the place of shoals shown in the picture, about an eighth of a mile from the present highway bridge in the hamlet of Boston that made further progress impossible without portage to deeper water up stream. They landed with their goods, and leaving his possessions in a tent in charge of one of his men, Tappan set out with Benjamin Bigsby to find his way through the unchartered wilds to Ravenna, fully twenty five miles away. By cutting and slashing and blazing of trees, they finally reached the old Indian trail near the present Standing Rock cemetery in Kent. Tappan started from Boston with a yoke of oxen and a sled on which he loaded some of his farming utensils.

Had Only 1 Left

The death of one of his oxen left him in a vast forest without a team and with but a single dollar in money. But defeat was not written in his vocabulary. He dispatched one of his men through the woods to Erie, Pa., a hundred miles away, for a loan of money, which was obtained from Captain Lyman, commander at the fort. Tappan himself went on to Youngstown where he bought an ox on credit, thus enabling him to get his belongings to Ravenna and begin his settlement. Returning to Boston for a second load, he found that his remaining goods had been abandoned, his man gone, and the tent plundered. These unexpected delays and losses made it impossible for him to complete his cabin before January, 1800, when he took shelter under its roof with Bigsby.

The river over which he made his way resembles a mountain stream at places, winding its sinuous course through a valley walled with wooded hills, picturesque and of labyrinth beauty. The roadway skirts the edges of deep ravines at places, warning automobile drivers against speed or carelessness.

Boston is a hamlet of about 200 population, with a post office, church and the usual complement of country stores. There is a grade school house of concrete blocks in which pupils are prepared for high school at Peninsula, two miles away.

The idle plant of the Chase bag manufactory closed about ten years ago and employing upward of one hundred hands, tells a story of former industrial life.

Used By Perry

Near the bridge that spans the bed of the defunct Ohio canal is a well preserved building of spacious size erected at the opening of the canal in 1827 for a warehouse and store, located within fourteen feet of the water. It was formerly owned by Philander Hall of Akron and now is the property and home of Mrs. Catherine Kogut, whose son, Joe, and daughters, Miss Mary Kogut and Mrs. Kate Senft, are living with her.

It is said that Commodore Perry of Lake Erie battle fame floated some of the timbers for his fleet from old Portage, ten miles up the stream from Boston.

John Laube, Ravenna grocer across tracks from the Erie depot in Ravenna, formerly lived in Boston Township, and it is of interest to Ravenna people to know that Rev. Francis Mcllwain, who was Rector of Grace Church, Episcopal for nine years, was boom and reared in Peninsula.

From this epic of the woods it will be seen that wilderness home builders did not come into a life of easy doings and leisurely pleasure. And so it was with the man and woman who founded Ravenna and gave it name and prestige.

Lowrie Furnishes Photos

The accompanying pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Tappan, the river scene and the old Boston building were obtained by John Lowrie, 714 E. Spruce Ave., who made a special trip to Steubenville where he met Miss Isabella Tappan, who kindly loaned him the photographs of her honored grandparents, whose faces appear in local print for the first time Mr. Lowrie, who returned with Mrs. Lowrie from a world tour March, 1933, is deeply interested in pioneer history and in stories of the home life and experiences of the fathers and mothers who braved perils and privations to subdue the wilderness. His home is a museum of souvenirs and old time literature that delights lovers of research. It was he also who obtained the photograph of the place of Tappan landing by wading into the stream and picturing its swirling waters and scenic shores.

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