Robert Andrew was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1814. At the age of 23, he moved to the United States seeking a better life. In 1841, Robert Andrew and his wife Ann Abigail Tubbs settled in Boston Township, the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley. Robert Andrew earned a living by farming and painting decorative designs on canal boats for the boatyards in nearby villages of Peninsula and Boston. Sometimes he also painted signs and portraits, and occasionally pulled painful teeth! Robert Andrew had two sons, Angelo (named after the famous painter Michelangelo) and Bobby.
In His Own Words
The following entries have been taken from Robert Andrew’s 1849 journal. Note that he often starts with a weather report and does not use much punctuation to jot down his thoughts. “Nancy” is Robert Andrew’s pet name for his wife Ann Abigail. The village of Little York that he mentions was at the crossroads of Olde Eight and Highland roads in what is now Northfield Center Township, Ohio. Our selection is grouped by topic, but the original journal entries were written in order by date.
All text is copyright of the Peninsula Library & Historical Society.
“Tuesday, February 20
A little milder Poor Angelo quite sick. Gave him a dose of rhubarb at night. Nancy took a dose like wise. Painting at home Dr. Wilcox’s sign.
Wednesday, February 21
Dull—Child better but astonishing weak it is curious how one days sickness has taken away his strength Painting Portraits at Watermans.
Saturday, September 15
At Home. Nancy went to Miss Lucas’ funeral. Died she did from Maltreatment of Doctors.
Tuesday, October 9
Rain at times now a days. Gen’l Holt came in a stew this morning before I had finished breakfast for me to pull two teeth for his wife who he said was suffering…”
“Tuesday, February 27
Mild—Could see the fog hovering over the river at Sun rise. Walked to Dr. Wilcoxs and took his Portrait home Got a chunk of Pork but did not see Dr. as I wished—
Monday, April 30
Hot and gleamy. Splitting wood. finished fixing one Strawberry bed and nearly the other—Wonder what luck we shall have this year—Last year they blossomed good but bore no good fruit. Got straw for Nancy to fill her Mattresses she has commenced cleaning up for spring…
Friday, May 4
Thunder showers. Finished planting top onions. Rob and I went fishing. Caught a lot of Bullheads one of their cursed spears ran into my finger. Brought home one of Dr. Painters signs. Got some drugs there.
Friday, July 13
Finished raking and stacking up my hay. Mean job to have to carry on ones back. Higgin mowing for Bagley. Helped Brannan a little harvesting. Got supper there”
Pastimes and Social Activities
“Sunday, May 27
Sultry and showery. Towards evening Nancy the children Mrs. Baley & her two children and meself went on a picknic to the river fishing. Bobby caught a wacking big red horse that most dragged him into the river…
Friday, September 28
…In the evening we went down to Auction a pedlar had at J.Cross’s [a local wagon shop where Robert Andrews worked in 1837]. Bought a little basket, whistles, etc for the children. Borrowed Aces violin and leaved for Douds where I practiced some of my old songs. Bye and bye D. came home. More singing and laughing about. Douds dancing and churning.
Sunday, October 7
Rain all day. Reading.
Sunday, November 18
Delightful Indian summer. Lots of company today. Messars Bagley & Bates with their families here to dinner and supper a sort of Pig feet with some little grog. Rob came home from hunting and said Ringwood had got shot and sure enough the poor fellow came limping home after dark wounded slight.”
Change from Log Cabins to Wood-framed Houses
“Sunday, September 30
Rain like the fury. Varnished box. Washed up. Took a stroll round Little York with Ace Woodround to Hewitt’s place thro the saw mill etc. By Jim’s but the place is altered since I first saw it when I came to the country. It was where I hired out to learn a trade. They were most all log houses then. Now the inhabitants have all got frames.”
Randolph S. Bergdorf, editor. Life Along the Canal: The 1849 Journal of Robert Andrew. Peninsula, Ohio: Peninsula Library and Historical Society, 1990.