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The First Settlers

Leaving Waterbury in September 1807, the first group of thirty-three pioneers reached Cleveland in late November. While most of the new settlers wintered over in Cleveland, a hardy few set off for the township. With a sled pulled by oxen, Levi Bronson, Jared Pritchard, John Williams, Silas Hoadley, and Bela Bronson, with his wife Sally, and their eight month-old son Sherlock, set off through the winter landscape, made the trip in eight days. While the men bushwhacked a road through the forest, Sally cooked for them long the way. The trip was completed in eight days.

Three cabins were built by Christmas; and it is said that the only shelter the young Bronson family at night until work on their home was completed was the box of the sled turned up against a tree. The second family to settle in Columbia was that of John Williams in January 1808. Calvin Hoadley's family followed in March. By the summer on 1808, axes were ringing in ten more clearings, and ten more cabins rose in the forest.

From the beginning, our forefathers seem to have had the assortment of skills needed to create and sustain a viable community. Sally Bronson, that first summer, set up school in her cabin. She had ten students. Church services were not neglected. Among settlers were numbered carpenters, millers, a mechanic, a doctor, a tanner/shoe-maker and a blacksmith. Of course, each farmstead had its own logger, farmer, furniture maker, weaver and tailor, candle and soap maker, blessed with varying degrees of competence.

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