In December 1993 the life story of pioneer historian Rev. Timothy H. Ball appeared in the "Pioneer History" column -- but little was told how the family came to Indiana. The story of their interesting trip from the east was found in one of Rev. Ball's many volumes concerning the history of this area.
Rev. Ball's father, attorney Hervey Ball, born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1794, was a descendent of Francis Ball, who settled on the Connecticut River in 1640. Hervey married Jane A. Horton, daughter of Dr. Horton of nearby Agawam, Connecticut.
The Ball family was residing at the Horton home while preparing for their trip to Indiana.
The Horton estate was described by Rev. Ball: "A home of great abundance," situated nine miles south of Mt. Tom near the Westfield and Connecticut Rivers, with orchards, a fine garden, a pine grove, chestnut trees, rich meadows, grass acreage, fine pastures -- a choice river valley country home. Generation after generation of Mrs. Ball's family had called it home.
After the death of Dr. Horton the estate was sold and the servants were dismissed as the family prepared to leave toward more primitive quarters in Indiana.
On the spring morning planned for their departure, a stagecoach came from Springfield to take the group to Hartford, Connecticut, a large wagon following with their luggage. Their household goods were sent upon a Great Lakes sailing vessel.
Aboard the stage were Hervey and Jane Ball, their four sons: Timothy, born in 1826; Herman born in 1832; Charles, born in 1834; and James, born in 1836; and one daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1829. Daughters Mary Jane (1839) and Henrietta (1841) were born in Indiana. Grandmother Horton, great grandmother Hammer, and a great aunt joined them for the first part of the journey.
The stagecoach rambled down the main street of town, past the homes of their friends and their church. A stop was made at Windsor to rest the horses, then on they went to the city of Hartford, where they visited at the Dodd mansion. Mary Ann Dodd, a relative, was once listed among the "Poets of Connecticut."
During the stay at Hartford, the children visited the "Charter Oak," where tradition states the Connecticut Charter was hidden in 1687. (The old tree survived until 1856.)
The three older ladies in the group of travelers stayed in Hartford, never again to see the Ball family, which left for New York City, visited relatives there for a short time, then boarded a steamboat for the trip up the Hudson River to Albany, New York, where they took passage on a boat on the Erie Canal, bound for Buffalo, New York, well on their way to "The West."
Rev. Ball was eleven years old on that trip. In the book Lake of the Red Cedars (1880), he wrote about his experience on the canal boat: "Day by day the horses jogged along the tow path, and the loaded boat followed. Many pleasant incidents took place. It was rather funny to be cooped up in a little cabin with several other families by night, to sit on the deck in the daytime and watch the scenes along the bank, to step off sometimes to run along the path, and to watch the filling up of the locks and the ascent of the boat."
(The Erie Canal, eight years in construction, was completed in 1825. It is 363 miles long from Albany, New York, to Buffalo, New York. The early canal was 40 feet wide, 4 feet deep, with 77 locks measuring 90 feet by 15 feet. The first boats had a capacity of 1000 bushels of wheat along with a few passengers and were 61 feet long, 7 feet in width.)
Trumpets blew to announce the arrival at Buffalo, then a young city. It was April, but the harbor was blocked with ice.
The Ball family then joined hundreds of other travelers aboard a large steam ship headed for Toledo, Ohio, on Lake Erie. The heavily loaded ship, the first of the season, plowed its way through the ice floes and reached open water, where a heavy gale was encountered. Most were seasick, but the steamer sailed on to a safe landing at Toledo. From Toledo the only public transportation was a short, horse-drawn railroad, so like many pioneers, Hervey bought a five horse team and a large covered wagon and traveled toward City West, a short-lived village west of Michigan City. An Irish adventurer had joined them as teamster.
When traveling through Michigan they found rough traveling due to the deep mud and a shortage of provisions due to the great number of pioneers on the trail. The children were forced to endure the hardships, but soon learned the ways of the wilderness. "On the first day of May, 1837, the prairie was seen for the first time, -- the scene was charming."
Passing by Michigan City, the travelers came to City West, where they stayed the summer, and where the father had visited the year before and had friends. The children saw Indians for the first time, whom they found friendly.
Wrote Rev. Ball in 1880: "But from that young city on a Great Lake, the family removed to an inland prairie home on a beautiful little lake [Cedar Lake] where when the year 1837 closed, there were the father, the mother, and five children.
In the spring of 1838 the family was busy making their new home at Cedar Lake as attractive as possible -- they found wild roses near the lake and transplanted them close to home. They sent to New England for some dandelion seed "that these familiar yellow blossoms might be around their home, reminding them all of the Connecticut valley meadows."
The pioneer circuit preacher wrote about the Lake of the Red Cedars: "The little lake from which the prairie [Lake Prairie] takes its name, as viewed on a summer day from some prairie height, with the blue sky above, is beautiful beyond the art of painters to represent, because nature in sunny summer reflects light from the crystal waters, and varying hues that skirt the bank, and from the green herbage, and from the sun lit sky, there can be few so lovely."
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