Researching family history can be rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. The Plain City Historical Society is often visited or contacted by individuals seeking information on a member or branch of their family. Sometimes we can provide the information they are looking for, and sometimes we can only offer suggestions of other sources to try. The family information we have is only what we have been given and is often incomplete.
I am fortunate in that my mother’s family, the Bidwells, are almost frighteningly organized. There is a national Bidwell Family Association, and in 2011 they published the second edition of their family history, a two-volume illustrated genealogy. Since Bidwells were among the early settlers of Madison County, I thought I would share some family history.
The history of the Bidwell family in America begins with John Bidwell of Hartford, Connecticut. He was one of the founding fathers of the city in 1635. His 1666 home is still standing in East Hartford. John and his wife Sarah had seven children, three girls and four boys. Their fourth son, Samuel, was born in Hartford in 1650. Samuel’s seventh child was Nathaniel (1688 to ca. 1759). Nathaniel and his wife Mary had six children, the third being another Samuel (1728-1799). Samuel married Sarah Sparks in Glastonbury, Connecticut in November 1752. The second of their 11 children was Isaac (1755-1813).
Isaac Bidwell fought in the American Revolution and participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill. On Dec. 7, 1776 he married Rhoda Beckley. They had 12 children. Sometime between 1786 and 1788 they moved to Middlesex, Vermont, where their sixth child and fifth son, Elisha, was born on March 29, 1789.
Elisha married Dorothy Willey on Sept. 16, 1810. Dorothy was a descendant of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, both passengers on the Mayflower. Their son Urial was born in August 1811 and their second child, Isaac, on Jan. 17, 1813. They would eventually be the parents of 17 children, only three of whom died as youngsters.
In 1813, Elisha and Dorothy came to Ohio from Vermont, an overland wagon journey that must have been quite an ordeal with a 2-year-old and an infant to care for. They first settled near the present site of Columbus, then in 1816 moved to the southwest portion of Canaan Township in Madison County. They built their cabin not far from that of Jonathan Alder. Elisha was injured while building the cabin, leaving his right arm crippled. This cabin was donated to the Ohio Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection) in 1953.
The family moved several times over the years, but always within Madison County. Elisha was a farmer, but like many pioneers, put his hand to whatever work was available to provide for his family. Elisha died Sept. 11, 1849. Dorothy and her sons Urial and Washington died in a smallpox epidemic in June and July of 1856. Some family members believe that Elisha and Dorothy were buried in the old Gartin Cemetery. Stones were later erected in the Foster Chapel Cemetery where many of their children lie.
Brothers Mahlon, Benjamin and Elisha all served in the Civil War. Mahlon was wounded in the war and never married. Both Benjamin and Elisha were members of the 40th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Benjamin, a private in Company B, was killed Sept. 20, 1863 at the Battle of Chickamauga. I have never been able to find any information on where he was buried. It is likely that he was one of many filling a mass grave somewhere on the battlefield. Elisha was a sergeant in Company A and died on Sept. 12, 1864 of wounds received during the Battle of Lovejoy Station, Georgia. He had been taken to the Army hospital at Chattanooga and is buried in the National Cemetery there.
Their older brother Isaac married Melinda Guthridge of Urbana in 1839. They had 10 children. Their fourth child and second son was Henry (1846-1938). Henry married Adeline Patterson, daughter of Archibald and Nancy Paxton Patterson, on July 4, 1872. They had five children, one of whom was my grandfather, Rodney (1884-1957).
Anyone who can trace their family back to the early days of settlement in our area will have a similar tale to tell of large families and long journeys by wagon from places like Vermont, Connecticut and New York. We all can point to the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad in our family trees. Does the fact that my Uncle Harold was sheriff of Madison County make up for the fact that we have distant cousins who robbed the Bank of England?
Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.