Friday, October 23, 2009

Pioneer Family of the Old Black Swamp:
John & Naomi Newcomer

The following material was transcribed from: History of Fulton County (Ohio); Vol I; Frank H. Reighard, Editor; Lewis Publishing Co., NY; (1920); pages 203-205. The second part of this page contains information on the Black Swamp area of Northwest Ohio which includes Fulton County.

[Editor's note: In this first part, I added some extra paragraph breaks for easier reading, and corrected a few spelling errors. I also added in a few notes enclosed in "[ ]"'s.]

This narrative starts on the bottom half of page 203.

John Newcomer and family came in 1844, and settled upon land which latter, as Newcomer's Addition, came within the boundaries of the village of Wauseon. The Newcomers were typical pioneers. John, son of Jacob, and grandson of Ulrich, was born in 1807, states the family genealogy. He married Naomi Debolt in 1831; moved to Holmes county, Ohio in 1837; and in 1844 moved "to the unsettled regions of Western Ohio, and settled in what was then Lucas, but now is Fulton county, and carved out a home from the forests where afterwards was located the town of Wauseon." He died in Wauseon fifty-six years latter, and an obituary gives the following information:

"In the early spring of 1844 he came west, purchased 160 acres of wild land where now (1890) is embraced Newcomer's Addition to Wauseon, and the Northwestern Fair Grounds, and before returning to his eastern home let a contract to clear off 3 acres of ground across the street and in front of his late residence.

In May, 1844, he loaded up a wagon with household effects, and left Holmes county for the new home in the west. The cavalcade consisted of: a covered wagon, pulled by two horses; one extra saddle horse; two cows; two or three head of young heifers; eight or ten head of sheep; father, mother, four children (one a babe of four weeks) and three other people. The trip was made in nine days."

George D. Newcomer, who is still living in Wauseon, was the babe of four weeks of that trip. He says that his mother rode the saddle horse, and presumably carried him also. The eldest of the four children was Solomen, then twelve years old. The two elder boys and their sister made the journey on foot driving the cattle and sheep. The obituary of John Newcomer continues:

"The day after that on which they landed at the William Bayes homestead, Father Newcomer and his two boys, armed with axes, grubbing hoes, and strong will, blazed a way through the wood... and in two days a quarter of an acre was cleared off. In less then three weeks a cabin with 'puncheon floor' was ready for occupancy."

John Newcomer's first log cabin was of round logs, but later he built a large hewn-log house, of two floors. That house was a stopping place for travelers. George D. Newcomer says that when the railroad was being built in 1853-54, they often had forty or fifty boarders all of whom would sleep in the one large upstairs room, sleeping on the floor, and arranging themselves as well as they could around the room, "feet to the center." The small log house was then used as a dining room. The cooking was all done on a spit, before an old-fashioned fireplace.

John Newcomer had a good part in the development of Clinton Township and of Wauseon. He held several local offices, and for nine years was a justice of the peace. "He took a leading part in the erection of the church (Methodist Episcopal) at Wauseon", and was "the first Mason made by Wauseon Lodge, on its organization, 1864."

(Newcomer Plot, Union Cem.
Wauseon, Ohio)

The golden anniversary of the wedding of John and Naomi Newcomer was held in 1881, and on that day 175 friends, most of whom were prominent residents of Fulton county, called to pay "their respects to Uncle John and his bride of fifty years ago." Mrs. Newcomer died five years later, aged seventy-two years, having lived long enough to see a remarkable change take place in the locality to which they had come in 1844.

Of their children, Solomen went to Nebraska in 1856, and in the next fifty years only visited Wauseon twice, once to attend his parent's golden wedding anniversary, and the last time in 1912. He died in Wauseon on this second visit. His life had been an adventurous one, "gold prospecting, and fighting Indians, carrying United States mails, on snowshoes over mountains and barren wastes." In his last years he lived in Idaho.

Anna, or Hester Ann, was born in Clinton Township on February 28, 1846, and was, it seems, the first white child born in what now is within the corporate limits of Wauseon. She married Wesley A. Blake, and in the marital state lived almost fifty years, her death occurring in 1913, just three weeks short of what would have been their golden wedding celebration. She was a staunch Methodist, like her mother, and was an ardent church worker.

George D. , the only surviving child of John and Naomi Newcomer still lives in Wauseon, much respected. His life record has been good. He enlisted in the spring of 1862, and discharged at the end of the war, his service including a brief term as a Confederate prisoner [Harpers Ferry, 1862]. During his life George D. Newcomer has taken useful part in Wauseon and county affairs; he was trustee of the township for six years, and for three terms was a commissioner of Fulton County. [George D. Newcomer died on November 3, 1931 in Wauseon, Ohio.]

Note on The Black Swamp Area of Northwest Ohio

In the book Heritage of the Black Swamp (compiled and written by Cynthia Harger and Norma Snyder on behalf of the Sauder Museum, Archbold, Ohio; 1978), Erie Sauder gives a description of that area west of Sandusky and north of the Maumee River, of which Fulton County is a part. At the time of the early settlement of the area in the mid 1830's it was "..over 2,000 square miles of flat, swampy, unhealthy land..." It was not until the 1850's that a massive drainage project made the place more hospitable, (and some of the richest farmland in the nation). It was the swamp that made this land so cheap that the poorer immigrants found their home here.

Harger and Snyder go on to relate more about the hard times the Black Swamp settlers faced, wolves, floods, hard back breaking work to carve out a home in the wilderness of Northwest Ohio. This is the area John and Naomi Newcomer brought their family to in 1844. They were indeed true pioneers.

Transcribed and edited by Bill Newcomer, great-grandson of George D. Newcomer, and great-great-grandson of John & Naomi Newcomer, December, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by J. William Newcomer. All rights reserved.

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