Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Time Travel: 1812, When Benjamin McClure Was Born

Benjamin McClure, born in April, 1812 in Ohio, was among the early settlers of Wabash, Indiana (where he died in 1896). According to Wabash County Early Settlers, he and his wife Sarah and their son, Theodore W. McClure, came to Wabash in September, 1844. Benjamin is hubby's great-great-grandpa.
Wabash Cty Historical Museum

In this latest entry of my "time travel" series, I try to imagine a little of what life was like for Benjamin and family in the Ohio of 1812. Sadly, I don't know Benjamin's parents' names, nor his birth place, but finding out is one of the top priorities for this year.

The 1812 War was the big news in Benjamin's birth year, but it was also the year Louisiana became a U.S. state (as Google News Timeline reminded me).
  • Did war touch the McClure family? I don't know for certain. Benjamin was born a few months before America declared war on Britain in 1812. According to Ohio History Central, some former British soldiers were settled in Ohio and gave firearms to native Americans to resist the westward expansion of colonists. Once US forces won the war and the British gave up their claims, this practice ended. But war was in the air around the world: Napoleon was trying to expand France's claims in Europe and in Russia (!). The US was still a young nation and I imagine that the McClure family was uncertain about the country's ability to survive, let alone thrive. Did some McClure family members serve in the Revolution? Were they wounded or killed? Wish I knew.
  • Ohio was a fast-growing farm state. Admitted to the Union in 1803, Ohio had 230,000 residents at the time of the 1810 Census (and more than double that amount by the 1820 Census). Most were farmers, but during Benjamin McClure's lifetime, Ohio's industry developed rapidly because of ore deposits and other natural resources. Having access to water and good roads helped build the business base (steamboats were just being introduced in Ohio when Benjamin was born). Some settlers may have been attracted by the fact that Ohio tolerated diverse religions. I'm almost certain that Benjamin's parents were farmers, not refugees in search of a haven from persecution. Home was probably a simple cabin on the farm property, with no frills, at least in the early days. Later, with prosperity and more land, the family's home was more elaborate.
  • Financial ups and downs. Just a few years after Benjamin was born, the Panic of 1819 prompted bankruptcies and financial turmoil in Ohio and many other states. Farmers were certainly not exempt from the problems, although I imagine that Benjamin's family was fairly self-sufficient because of the farm. That said, weather extremes must have caused the McClures hardships and worries. They also needed to get through the winters financially and weather hot/dry summers that threatened crops. How did they manage their money? The family was large, as most were in that time, and yet Benjamin had enough money to acquire 80 acres in Wabash by at least 1875. Very impressive.

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