In the year 1852 my parents, a younger brother and myself moved from the State of Ohio, town of Strongsville into the township of Duplain, Mich. We settled on the farm that G. W. Bates now owns (W & N & 1/4(?) Sec14) a little west of Elsie.
Some thought my father crazy to leave his home in Ohio and movve(sic) into a wilderness, as Michigan was then called. But he thought himself perfectly sane, and with Franklin Tillotson and family who accompanied us, started on the 6th day of May 1852. We had three spans of horses and wagons, took what household goods we could, and the rest of our goods we shipped to Detroit.
We were one week on the road. There had been heavy freshets that spring and carried off many bridges, so that sometimes had great difficulty in crossing. Would often walk over places we dare not ride. But not withstanding all these obstructions, there were many things connected with our journey that made it pleasant. Among our number was a sister of Mrs. Tillotson Mary Sexton, she and I would often get tired of riding and walk away ahead of the wagons, but careful not to lose sight of the white covers for fear of getting lost, as there were roads branching off in different directions. Often we would make the woods ring with our songs, my brother joining in the chorus.
When we were within two miles of and a half of what was to be our home we found a bridge gone and could not cross over with our wagons. My brother proposed to me that, being so near to the promised land, we could foot it the rest of the way. Of course I consented. He shouldered his gun and away we started. The rest of our company stayed over night at Mr. Gleason's. Some of you well remember the Gleasons.
I shall never forget that night. There was only one house where Elsie is now located. That stood on the corner where Mr. Dotys'(?) hotel now stands, and was occupied by J. D. Sickels and family. The other three corners were wilderness. As we turned the corner going west and found our way around the tall dark pines that dotted the road here and there, a sort of homesick feeling crept over me, a longing for the old home left behind.
The everlasting hum of the mosquitoes and the croakings of the frogs, while away in the woods the hooting of the owls, made every thing seem so weird and dreary, had no tendency to chase away the fast falling tears; nothing sounded pleasant but the song of the whipporwills (sic) which were very numerous here.
We, however, reached our future home where our friends were anxiously expecting us. G. W. Lewis and family, a brother in law of mine, had taken possession of the house for the day and had everything in readiness for our coming. It was a log house, standing where G. W. Bates house now stands, and there I spent my first night in Duplain.
After a few days father and Mr. Tillotson went to Detroit after the rest of our goods. That was the nearest point we could ship them. Railroads were not known here then.
I was a young girl of nineteen summers and not very favorably impressed with the idea of leaving my old home, where I had passed my girlhood days, leave all my old associates behind and try my fortunes in a wilderness land, infested with bears, wolves, and massangers, as I supposed it to be; and then Michigan was considered as being almost out of the world, a sort of jumping off place. But as I was always happy with father and mother I consented to come, with the promise of going back in a year.
But before the year came around other thoughts and duties occupied my mind, new acquaintances were formed, and I became attached to a certain young gentleman of this place, and am proud to say - I never regretted that attachment.
The next spring, one bright beautiful day, the 20th of April, I was married to Lyman Cobb. I can see quite a number here that witnessed that ceremony, but a still larger number that was present are sleeping in yonder cemetery.
Two weeks later saw us settled in a little log house on the farm I now own, East of Elsie. The little log cabin has disappeared and in its place a comfortable farm house. Our log cabin consisted of kitchen dining room and parlor -- all combined. We did not go to house keeping as many of our young married people think they must at the present time. No hanging lamps hung from our ceiling, no fancy lamps adorned our center table. The tallow candle took the place of these. Many a night have I worked until the wee small hours by the dim light of a tallow candle. Many an evening have I spent watching the log heaps and brush burn; how pleasant they looked as they crackled and snapped away. Every one made the number less.
We were happy and hopeful, working early and late to make our home bud and blossom like the rose. Years rolled on with now and then an addition to our family, which added to our cares and anxiety, yet we toiled on with a resolute will. On Sunday morning the oxen were yoked up and hitched to the lumber wagon and we, with our little ones went to the house of worship, just as proud and happy as in after years when we owned our horses and carriage. We thought nothing of going to the Colony to church with our oxen, and as many as could ride were welcome, and we always carried a load.
I want to tell the young people today how we built our home. It did not spring up in a few weeks or months; we were two or three years getting things together. We had no pine timber on our land, so Mr. Cobb went into the pinery, cut and drew the logs for Isaac Watson on shares, then drew the lumber to Owosso and had it planed and got the door and window frames made there. The shingle timber he got in the same way. Every shingle on our house and barn he split and shaved, did it stormy days and long winter evenings. Many an evening have I invited him to bring his shaving horse into my best room. Of course it made some litter but it was clean dirt and made nice kindlings; and while he shaved the shingles I was knitting stockings for the children. And while we worked we would we would often fill the little cabin with our songs. Ah! Me! My mind often flies back to those years. I think they were the happiest days of my life.
But times changed. We old pioneers don't want to see our children endure the hardship and privation of pioneer life, in fact I don't think they could. I fear they would lack the muscle and the grit.
I am the mother of six children. All but one grown up to manhood and womanhood. One by one they have left the old home nest, with the exception of one. In 1882 there came the first great sorrow of my life. Our youngest, our baby boy was suddenly snatched away by death. Only six summers had passed over his head, yet it seemed we had had him always and could not live without him. Life never seamed just the same since then, but time healed, in a measure, the wound.
In 1888 another greater sorrow was mine to bear. My husband, the choice of my youth, the one who had borne the toil and privation of pioneer life was taken from me. He sweetly rests from his labors.
And now in conclusion let me say to the old pioneers, since we last met in these beautiful woods, many have been the changes, many have been called to their long time. I see many before me whose heads are white with the frosts of many winters. Time has laid his hand heavily on some of us. It tells by our silver locks and furrowed brow that time with us is short. Like the autumn leaf, we are silently falling one by one. Soon our places will be filled with the young men and women of today. Soon it will be said of us, they have gone to their rest!
No more our sweet sleep shall be disturbed by fevered dreams. No noise, no turmoil shall wake our weary eyes. Soon our loved ones will stand by our open graves, and hear the solemn words pronounced -- "dust to dust, ashes to ashes."
This article was written by Susan Hicks Cobb, daughter of Oliver and Sally Hicks, wife of Lyman Cobb. I thank Elizabeth Hess, her great-granddaughter, for sending it to me.
The hand-drawn portraits of Lyman Cobb and Susan Hicks originally appeared in History of Shiawassee and Clinton Counties by Franklin Ellis.
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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.