Updated: Dec 1, 2022
"The Connecticut Settlers Entering The Western Reserve” by Howard Pyle (1853-1911)
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of moving to somewhere new and making a fresh start? When he had the opportunity to do just this, Harvey Stebbins seized it. Harvey Stebbins, who was born in 1793, was the youngest child of Medad and Sarah Stebbins of Longmeadow. Medad Stebbins, who had served in the local militia, was one of the minute men who marched upon the Lexington Alarm from Springfield on April 20, 1775. When Medad died on September 9, 1804, Alexander Field, a prominent citizen of Longmeadow, became Harvey’s guardian. In this capacity, Alexander Field turned to John Robinson, a man in Granville, Massachusetts with close ties to Longmeadow.
Naomi Bliss Robinson
John Robinson had married Naomi Bliss from Longmeadow and the couple had been blessed with six daughters but they had no sons. Daughters were able to assist Naomi with the housework but, in an age when work was strictly gendered, daughters couldn’t help John with heavy farm work. John Robinson needed an assistant, and he found one in Harvey Stebbins.
The archives of the Longmeadow Historical Society include the apprentice indenture for Harvey Stebbins. Indentures apprenticing children to learn a trade were commonplace in New England. Following the accepted custom, Alexander Field indentured Harvey to John Robinson to learn the “art, trade or mistery of husbandry” until he turned age 21 on September 22, 1814. At the end of the indenture, John Robinson promised to pay Harvey $120 and provide him with a good Bible and two suits of clothes.
Harvey lived with the Robinson family during his indenture in Granville and, according to a family memoir in our archives, “As Grandpa had no sons and six daughters, they were all very fond of Harvey Stebbins.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Harvey became romantically attached to one of John’s daughters, Julia.
In the collections of the Longmeadow Historical Society are a number of samplers created by these daughters as they learned needlework, one of the skills needed by a properly educated girl at that time.
Sampler by Naomi Robinson created in 1816
A family story relates that when his indenture ended, Harvey and a friend, Elijah Hall, joined the migration of New Englanders to the Connecticut Western Reserve to seek their fortunes.
The Connecticut Western Reserve, also known as New Connecticut, is land that was claimed by the colony (then, the state) of Connecticut which was located west of Pennsylvania. Comprising what is now northeastern Ohio, New Connecticut was bordered by Lake Erie on the north and Pennsylvania on the east, and it extended west to the Sandusky Bay. Indigenous peoples had deep roots in this land, of course, and their claims clashed with those of Connecticut. Click here for additional information about the many claimants to the Connecticut Western Reserve land. Connecticut’s claims prevailed and the state sold the land to a group of speculators known as the Connecticut Land Company; the company surveyed the land and sold it to settlers for new development.
Western Reserve in 1826
Family legend says that Harvey and Elijah walked from Granville, Mass. to Ohio. In 1817, Harvey used most of his $120 to buy land in the just-opened township of Brunswick in Medina County, Ohio. Harvey was one of the first white settlers in Brunswick, and he was one of 19 men who voted in the first town election on April 6, 1818.
Harvey spent a year clearing the land of heavy timber and building a snug cabin. The Connecticut Western Reserve at this time was rife with wild animals such as bears and rattlesnakes, and he must have faced daily challenges while he was establishing his homestead. Sometime between April and November of 1818, Harvey and Elijah walked back to Granville. Both men married their sweethearts in November, 1818, and then both couples honeymooned as they returned to Ohio with wagons full of household effects and yokes of oxen. According to family lore, the return trip took six weeks.