Abiel Gerrish and his wife Eliza Dodge Gerrish were among the group of settlers coming from New Hampshire to form the "Yankee Settlement" at Lake Prairie, in West Creek Township. Abiel was descended from Capt. WIlliam Gerrish, the founder of the family in America.
Capt. William Gerrish was born in England in 1617, and settled in Newbury, Mass., in 1639, where he was captain of the Military Band. He also was a government representative from 1650 to 1654. The captain died in 1687.
His son, Col. Moses Gerrish, was born in 1656 in Newbury, and married Jane Sewell, the sister of Chief Justice Sewell of Massachusetts. Their son, Col. Joseph Gerrish (1682-1765), also lived in Newbury and was a member of the colonial legislature for 20 years. He also was elected to a seat in the provincial congress.
Joseph was noted for swimming the Merrimac River, near its mouth, every year until he was past age 70.
He was married to Mary, daughter of Moses and Lydia Coffin Little of Newbury. Joseph and Mary had a son, Capt. Stephen Gerrish (1711-1788), who was born in Newbury and later lived at Canterbury and Boscawen, New Hampshire.
Col. Henry Gerrish, the son of Stephen, was born in Boscawen in 1742. Henry married Martha Clough, daughter of Jeremiah and Sarah Elkins Clough of Canterbury. Henry and Martha had seven sons and four daughters, including Martha, who married Jesse Little, the grandfather of Joseph Ames Little, whom we wrote about in our last column.
One of the seven sons was Henry Gerrish (1772-1862). He married Mary Foster, the daughter of Abiel and Mary Rogers Foster of Canterbury, in 1796, and they were the parents of Abiel Gerrish, the early settler of Lake Prairie.
Abiel was born in 1806. At first he settled in Canterbury, New Hampshire, then later went on the Gerrish homestead in Boscawen, and finally in 1856 came to West Creek, Lake County, Ind., where he and his wife became a part of the Lake Prairie community.
Abiel had married Eliza Dodge, daughter of Paul and Jane Pearson Dodge. Their children were Maria, Martha, Mary, James, Jane and Ann. The couple celebrated their golden wedding in 1880.
Gerrish gave a corner of his land for the site of the Lake Priarie Church and school and they were charter members of the church. When the schools were consolidated and the district wished to sell the school site, it was found that a clause in the deed stated that if the land was not used for school purposes it would revert to the Gerrish heirs.
Hester Little Adams, Abiel's great granddaughter, helped locate all the living heirs and the title was cleared to allow all the land to be taken by the church.
The Lake Prairie Presbyterian Church is still a thriving rural church and ever since its organization in 1856, Gerrish and Little descendants have been active members and served on its board.
James L. Gerrish (1836-1929), the only son of Abiel and Eliza, was born in Boscawen and moved to Indiana with his parents in 1856. James married Lena Dyer of Wheaton, Ill. Their twin daughters, Carrie and Agnes, born in 1872, died in infancy and are buried in the Lake Prairie cemetery.
In the 1890's the couple moved to Ft. Worth, Tex., with their other children, Henry and Kittie.
Maria, eldest of Abiel's children, was born in Canterbury in 1831 and married Joseph Barnard Jr. of Contoocook, New Hampshire, a farmer and lumberman. Among their nine children were George E., Rhoda F. and Mary E. Maria and her family remained in the east.
Martha, the second daughter of Abiel and Eliza, was born in Canterbury in 1832 and died in 1875 in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. Martha was married to William S. Freed (1834-1916) and they were the parents of four daughters: Adelia, Marie, Lottie and Sarah.
Mary, the third daughter of Abiel, born in 1834 in New Hamshire, came west with her parents and married Joseph Ames Little of West Creek Township.
Jane, the fourth daughter of Abiel and Eliza, was also born in New Hampshire and came west with her parents. She married Thomas Stroud of Wheeler, Ind., who was born in 1835 in Newingron, England.
Jane and Thomas are both buried in the Bonfield Cemetery near where they settled. They were the parents of five children: Mary E., Frederick H., Anna Belle, Edwin G. and Esther O.
Ann, the youngest daughter of Abiel and Eliza Gerrish, was born in New Hampshire in 1847 and also came with her family in 1856 to Lake County. She was educated in the public schools and after attending Western Female Seminary, she taught in the township schools near her home.
In 1868 Ann married David Brush and settled in Waveland, Ind. In 1876 they took Sarah Freed, the three-year-old daughter of Annie's sister Martha, into their home, caring for her and educating her. Other nieces and a nephew also stayed with them for varying periods.
David Brush died in 1890, and in 1904 Ann Gerrish Brush married T. Abbot Wason and came back to the Lowell area to live. After Abbot's death in 1912, Ann continued to live in the Wason home and later stayed with her stepson, Boyd H. Wason and family. Ann died in 1936.
Abiel Gerrish was elected to the first board of trustees of the Lake Prairie Presbyterian Church, serving with Charles Marvin, Amos Brannon, Joseph A. Little and Abiel Peach. He also served as Township trustee and was active in community affairs.
Abiel Gerrish died in 1884. His wife, Eliza, died in 1881.
On a list of names written at the Semi-Centennial Celebration of Lake County in 1884 are the following old settlers: "James L. Gerrish, arrived 1856, Lena D. Gerrish, arrived 1866." Under the list of boys and girls is "Henry Gerrish, born 1867; and Kittie Gerrish, born 1874."
In a copy of the "Lowell Souvenir, April 1901" an ad appears for the State Bank of Lowell. It lists the following officers: John Lynch, President; A.A. Gerrish, Vice President; F.E. Nelson, Cashier and P.A. Berg, Ass't Cashier. The A.A. Gerrish listed was Dr. Alfred A. Gerrish, grandson of Col. Henry Gerrish and a cousin of Abiel. Dr. Gerrish was born in 1829 and was a physician in Lowell, having come in 1865 from Mt. Vernon, New Hampshire. He never married.
Heirs bearing the Gerrish name can no longer be found in this part of the country, although there are a number of descendants in the Lowell area.
Weather report for this area 100 years ago, in 1882, reads as follows: "January mild. February a very mild month. March warm and muddy. April commenced warm, last of April cool and wet. May cool and wet, corn slow in coming up. June warm and wet. July a cool month, first half wet. August bad hay and harvest month, but good corn weather. October growing weather. First days of November pleasant and warm, afterward some rain, mild. December mild, roads generally good."
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