In about 1837 Stephen and Diana Watkins accompanied their mother, Mary T. H. E. Watkins/Howard, and the Howard and Badger families in a move from Pomfret, Vermont to northeastern Ohio, Trumbull (now partially Mahoning) County. Those moving included Mary Howard and her third husband Benjamin Howard, their sons, John Snow Howard and Nathan Orlen Howard, Mary’s mother Elizabeth Senter Honey Badger and some other Badgers (John), There were other Honeys (“Uncle Joe”) and at least one Norris, James Monroe, I believe married, or perhaps a son married to Eunice, likely Mary’s sister, and her granddaughter “Little Eunice.”
This was truly a family trek beginning in Vermont and ending for some in Wisconsin with others and descendants eventually spreading further to all corners west.
Dana’s guardianship of Stephen was transferred to Orenus Hart of Brookfield, Ohio. I am not certain how this was accomplished. Orenus is called “Uncle” in Stephen and Diana’s letters but I have no evidence that this represents familial relationship. Orenus Hart had come to Brookfield Ohio in 1822 with his wife Sabra Lewis Hart and older children from Burlington, Ct. A son was married to an Applegate and there are some letters to Stephen from an Applegate in Windsor County, Vermont.
Something of Stephen’s years of maturation can be learned from connecting bits of information appearing in letters and other published accounts. Northeastern Ohio in the early and mid 19th century was a center of religion and education giving birth to two of the colleges associated with our family, Hiram College of the Disciples of Christ movement and Oberlin College established by the Presbyterians. Coitsville (Trumbull/Mahoning County, Ohio) was the home of Wm. H McGuffey of the primers fame. Trumbull County was a major stop on the Slavery Underground Railroad. The Hart and Bushnell families who both became prominent in Stephen Watkins’ life manned stations on the Railway.
Great Grandfather Rolla’s letters indicate Stephen was active in Whig politics and church from at least the time of that move. From our letters we know that Stephen Watkins’ guardian, Orenus Hart, was, as was Stephen, an active member of the Disciples. He was active in politics beginning with the election of 1836. Orenus Hart and his future father-in-law, Wm. D. Hirst, were Whigs, passionately abolitionist and favored Negro suffrage prior to the Civil War.
Orenus Hart’s letter of 1852 describes the outcome of the Whig convention that was the beginning of its end:
“It will be no news to say in Politics we are that is Scott Whigs beaten so much as to be almost among the things that were. All that in consequence of the Platform got up by the South and indorsed by the Whigs of the north. The North must hereafter come together on the principle of right: a question of freedom and then hold on to the same altho the heaven’s pale. But it will be no interest to you for me to stick in to a short letter __ any discussion of Politics. The battle is over. The smoke is mostly evaporated & Nobody killed. ” Orenus Hart friend Stephen Brookfield Nov. 14th 1852; Prairie Tree Letters p. 57-58.
According to his son, Rolandus Aurelian, Stephen, having taught school for some time in Ohio, went to Blackjack, Wisconsin in 1844 or 1845. Here he taught school for a year then returned to Trumbull (now Mahoning) County and married Florinda Hirst 18 January 1846; it is recorded in Mercer County, Ohio. We know one of his students in Ohio was Sarah Bushnell who would become his second wife and I believe it likely that Florinda had also been his student.
Florinda Hirst was the daughter of William D. and Sarah Porter Hirst. They were married in Ohio having come to western Pennsylvania/eastern Ohio from Franklin County, Pa. and Fredericksburg, Md. areas respectively. Florinda was born 26 October 1826 in Ohio. There were numerous younger siblings, all bearing flamboyant names, There were two sons, Rolandus Porter Hirst and Larodus Douthit Hirst. The aunts and uncles and later their children kept contact with their Watkins relatives into the 1920s. It is of some interest that the Hirsts contributed a quantum of that delightful mix of the f engineering mind and talent for writing and poetry in our family. More of the Hirst history into modern times may be found on their sub-page,
Stephen’s sister Diana was married in Ohio to Amos Ayres, a harness maker. Stephen and half brothers, John Snow Howard and Nathan Orlen Howard, apparently lived with the Ayres in Ohio. There were a number of Ayres children though many died in infancy. I have been unable to trace surviving descendants though I know there were some from anecdotal information from other genealogists.
While Stephen seems more “cerebral” in his letters Diana is “full of the earth.” After a time in Wisconsin, the family migrated to the far Western corner of Iowa. There is no mention of Amos at this time or since and we are uncertain of his situation from that point on Diana is reported to have lived to a quite old age and she was certainly corresponding with her nieces and nephews well into the 20th century.
One of the largest volumes of correspondence is between family in Ohio and Stephen and Florinda as they were were settling on the property in Wisconsin.