Who Was Emily Nash?
In February 1813, the six-year old Emily Nash arrived in the Western Reserve with her parents, four siblings, and one cousin. Traveling in a covered wagon from Windsor, Massachusetts, they arrived in Geauga County, Ohio to make their new home. Although Emily Nash did not live in the Cuyahoga Valley, she offers us fascinating glimpses of Western Reserve life.
In Her Own Words
Emily Nash left us an amazing legacy! She kept a diary for 76 years, starting with her departure from Massachusetts in 1812 to her death in 1888. The early years when she was a girl are rich in detail, making this a rare and important historical document. When she was older, Emily Nash recopied the section of her journal from when she was ages 6 to 14, possibly adding new information. Here are quotes from her girlhood in early Ohio. Beware, some words were spelled and pronounced differently in the past!
Building a House
“Febuary  Mr Beals folks were so kind they turned out to help farther [father] cut the logs for building a house. In a fiew day they had the logs readey for raising. They went to Parkman to get help to raise up the logs. In a fiew days it was up and coverd with long shingles and a place for a door sawed out. March first  To day farther got up real early and had breakfast real early was going to try to move in to his log house. We were so crowded where we were so he put his goods and family all on the long sled and started for his house. There was no road only marked trees…We got there soon enough to get the load under shelter before dark without door to floor. When it was time to go to bed there was no place to put the bed only on the ground. Mother says take the boards that were on the long sled. Farther laid them down…and put the beds on to them. We all slept real well and began to feel that we were at home in Ohio with wild beasts and wild men. For instead of finding the land flowing with milk and honey we found it flowing with all sorts of wild animals such as bairs, wolves, wild cats, and snakes of every kind and every sise but we are hopeing for better times soon.
Farther was a carpenter and he brought his chest of tools. He went to work splitting planks and hewed them smothe with his broad ax. So in a fiew days we had a nice smothe whitewood floor. Then he made some bedsteads out of poles. Then we had a nice place for our beds and began to take confort. In a few days he took the sled boar[d]s and made a nice door then he made a table hewed out with his broad ax four feet long and three wide. Then we were so comfortable that Harvey Pratt wished to come and board with us. He had taken up some land near by us. He wanted to work for his board. We wanted his work to help build a chimney for our house before winter came upon us. In a short time we had a chimney and a good stone hearth and a winder. Then farther began to chink [fill in] between the logs. This he did evenings.”
“He [Emily’s father] had John [her brother] and me gather hickory bark days to make a nice light evenings so we could all work. All had to work then or starve with hunger. Mother found all the work spinning and weaveing that we could do. There were two families in Burton Mr John Ford and Mr [Eleazer] Hickock that wanted lots of spinning and weaving. Their familys were boys and wore home made clothes would and pay us in any thing we wanted. Mr Ford let us have a cow and twelve sheep and wanted women work for pay. He let us have meat and lots of provision so we made out to live and not go hungrey. If it had not been for the womens work we could not get along for provisions is very high it being in the time of the war [War of 1812].
Now we have a span of horses a yoke of oxen cows, and twelve sheep and nothing to feed them. Only what they can get in the woods. The sheep we have to yard nights to keep them from the wolves that are real thick. The cattle can fight their way but the wolves bit off one of the oxes tails only left a piece about six inches long. He could not keep off the flies with such a short tail…”
A Ruined Boy
“Joseph and Elie Beals were about of an age and both fond of rastling [wrestling] to [t]ry their strength. Always at it when not in school. One night Josep[h] asked Elie to go home with him and stay over night. He did so on the way they rastled all the way home sometimes both of then down in the deep snow. It was ruff and tumble all the way home. When they got to farthers they were both nearly tired out. They went to bed to rest both hopeing to try their strength more in the morning but when they got up in the morning Joseph could hardley walk alone. There was sonething the matter of one of his hips. He could not go to school for a long time and his hip pained him real [bad]. Farther had the docter try to doo something to help him but he tried in vain. Nothing seemed to doo any good. The doctor concluded that the ligature that held the hip bone in to the socket was broke at rastling with Elie Beals. He could doo nothing to help him. He was a ruined boy. Father did not have him stir about much hopeing he could get better in time but he did not get any better…
Josephs hip is getting worse all the time. The bone is got out of the socket and is very painful and cannot labour to help farther to cl[e]ar up the farm. It is hard for him to get about with his lame hip. It is getting to look bad and makes that leg shorter than the other. Farther think she had better have some trade that he can labour at and not be on his feet. So Nathaniel Colson had him go up to Claridon to Mr Stephen Pitkins to learn shoemakers trade. He is makeing good business at shoemakeing doing well. He makes for his lame leg a shoe with a cork bottom about six inches high. That leg is so much shorter than the other. His hip looks real bad but he gets around and labours considerable.
It is making it bad for farther to have Joseph leave us. Farther neads his help to clear up the farm but he is gone never to return. So farther has to make boys of his girls. Me the most of any one. The older ones chose to labour at the loom and wheel. I would yoke up the oxen and drive them to plow an harrow any thing there was to do…”
Robert Wheeler, editor. “Emily Nash: A Girl’s View of Growing Up on the Frontier, 1812-1820.” Visions of the Western Reserve: Public and Private Documents of Northeastern Ohio, 1750-1860.Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2000.
Last updated: April 10, 2015