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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

KINGSBURY, JAMES - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

KINGSBURY, JAMES (29 Dec. 1767-12 Dec. 1847), son of Absalom and Rebecca (Rust) Kingsbury was, at the age of 29, the first white settler in the WESTERN RESERVE. In the early spring of 1796, he set out with his wife, Eunice Waldo Kingsbury, three children, and a 13-year-old nephew named Carleton on a grueling four-month journey from Alsted, New Hampshire, to the distant Ohio wilderness. Upon the encouragement of MOSES CLEAVELAND†, Kingsbury and his family settled at the mouth of the Conneaut River in a cabin, planting a few acres of land in crop before the coming of the winter. In November, Kingsbury traveled back to New Hampshire on some important business, expecting to return to his family the next month. Illness, however, delayed his return journey. Once he did set out westward, Kingsbury struggled through a severe winter blizzard that claimed his horse and forced him to trudge home on foot with the aid of an Indian guide. Once he arrived at his cabin, he found his family on the brink of starvation since the unforgiving winter weather had nearly exhausted their meager supplies. In his absence, his wife had given birth to a son, the first white child born in the Western Reserve, but had been unable to minister to the nutritional needs of the newborn due to illness. The life of the infant thus depended on the milk provided by a half-starved cow whose limited diet consisted of twigs and bark collected by the young nephew. Unfortunately, the cow died after eating oak twigs, which are poisonous for cattle, dooming the newborn to starvation.

In the spring of 1797, Kingsbury and his family accompanied the surveyors of the CONNECTICUT LAND COMPANY to the new city they had laid out to the west. The Kingsburys settled in a log cabin near the CUYAHOGA RIVER and planted a crop of corn, becoming the first permanent settlers of Cleveland, Ohio, in June 1797. Due to the threat of malaria at their original homestead by the river, Kingsbury moved his family to higher ground away from the swamps, establishing the NEWBURGH settlement on a ridge southeast of Cleveland. At their new abode, the Kingsbury family prospered and welcomed five more children into the world. In 1800, Governor General Arthur St. Clair of the Northwest Territory appointed Kingsbury judge of the Court of Common Pleas as part of the organization of the first governmental agency in the Western Reserve. He was elected in 1803 to serve in various positions for the township of Newburgh: trustee, overseer of the poor, lister, and supervisor of the highways. In 1805, Kingsbury was elected a member of the legislature of the state of Ohio.

The Kingsburys had twelve children: Nabby, Amos, Almon (or Almond), Nancy, Calista, Elmina, Diana, Albert, Alfred, Silvester, and James Waldo. The child who starved never received a name. Kingsbury died in his Newburgh home on December 12, 1847 and was buried in the ERIE ST. CEMETERY. His body was removed in 1916 and reburied in Highland Park Cemetery. A brook running into the Cuyahoga River had been named KINGSBURY RUN in honor of the late judge.

Last Modified: 18 Aug 2009 03:20:04 PM

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