Sarah Thorp of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Joel Thorp, with his wife Sarah, moved with an ox team, in May, ‘99 , from North Haven, Connecticut, to Millsford, in Ashtabula county, and were the first settlers in that region. They soon had a small clearing on and about an old beaver dam, which was very rich and mellow.
Towards the first of June, the family being short of provisions, Mr. Thorp started off alone to procure some through the wilderness, with no guide but a pocket compass, to the nearest settlement, about 20 miles distant, in Pennsylvania.
His family, consisting of Mrs. Thorp and three children, the oldest child, Basil, being but eight years of age, were before his return reduced to extremities for the want of food. They were compelled, in a measure, to dig for and subsist on roots, which yielded but little nourishment.
The children in vain asked food, promising to be satisfied with the least possible portion. The boy, Basil, remembered to have seen some kernels of corn in a crack of one of the logs of the cabin, and passed hours in an unsuccessful search for them. Mrs. Thorp emptied the straw out of her bed and picked it over to obtain the little wheat it contained, which she boiled and gave to her children.
Her husband, it seems, had taught her to shoot at a mark, in which she acquired great skill. When all her means for procuring food were exhausted, she saw, as she stood in her cabin door, a wild turkey flying near. She took down her husband’s rifle, and, on looking for ammunition, was surprised to find only sufficient for a small charge.
Carefully cleaning the barrel, so as not to lose any by its sticking to the sides as it went down, she set some apart for priming and loaded the piece with the remainder, and started in pursuit of the turkey, reflecting that on her success depended the lives of herself and children.
Under the excitement of her feelings she came near defeating her object, by frightening the turkey, which flew a short distance and again alighted in a potato patch. Upon this, she returned to the house and waited until the fowl had begun to wallow in the loose earth.
On her second approach, she acted with great caution and coolness, creeping slyly on her hands and knees from log to log until she had gained the last obstruction between herself and the desired object. It was now a trying moment, and a crowd of emotions passed through her mind as she lifted the rifle to a level with her eye.
She fired; the result was fortunate: the turkey was killed and herself and family preserved from death by her skill.
Mrs. Thorp married three times. Her first husband was killed in Canada, in the war of 1812; her second was supposed to have been murdered. Her last husband’s name was Gordiner. She died in Orange, in this county, Nov. 1, 1846.
And here is a little more information about Sarah Thorp, quoted from Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve, July, 1896. This publication (a magazine?) was edited by Mrs. Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham under the auspices of the Woman's Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission (source.)
The first settlers [of the Dorset area of Ashtabula County, Ohio] were Mr. Joel Thorp and wife, whose name was Sarah, and three little children, who came from North Haven, Conn., in a pioneer wagon, drawn by two yoke of oxen. An uncle of Mrs. Thorp in Pittsburg gave her a horse, which she rode the rest of the way, and which the wolves soon destroyed. They located on a beaver dam, near the center, and built a log house in May, 1799.
Towards the first of June, Mr. Thorp started to the nearest mill in Pennsylvania, twenty miles away, with only a pocket compass for guide, and staying longer than expected, the family were famishing, when the mother’s watchful eye saw a wild turkey pass the door. Waiting for it to wallow in the dirt, she shot it with the last charge of powder in the house.
Another time she shot a large bear in a huge, wild cherry tree near their house, and “the bear tree,” as it was called, is still kept in mementoes in the county, in cabinet specimens, furniture, and canes. Mrs. Thorp died in Orange, Cuyahoga county, November 1, 1846, then Mrs. Gardiner.
Stories like these makes me laugh a little about one of my Mennonite neighbor ladies. She told me that she and her husband had been "pioneers" of the Mennonite community in Christian County, KY. Well, yes, they were some of the first Mennonites in the area, but her life as a "pioneer" of the 1980s in Kentucky did not include the hardships and dangers that women like Sarah Thorp faced.