Friday, June 4, 2021

Putting It All in Perspective


In order to trace our ancestors' steps, going back through time, we need to start with their ending point. So it is, in pondering the migration pathway for my mother-in-law's Flowers and Ambrose families, that we start where they ended: in Perry County, Ohio. Since it would be near-impossible for a son to be born without his mother present at the same location, now that we've found the report that Joseph and Elizabeth Ambrose Flowers' son Thomas was born in 1814 in or near what later became Perry County, we can safely assume that Elizabeth—and thus likely her husband Joseph—were in Ohio in that same year.

Although the young Flowers family arrived quite a bit after Ohio achieved statehood in 1803, don't think life in their new home came easily to them—nor was the way leading to their new community easily navigated. When I examine the few tokens of their arrival in the new state, I begin to wonder just what it was which provided the incentive for Joseph to move his young family there. To put this all into perspective, we need to examine what was—and was not—available as incentives for the family to move to the nascent state of Ohio, and what was left behind by the family in the state they had previously called home.

Yes, for one thing, in Ohio, there was land there to be had, but the systems of administering the first federal land grants in Ohio amounted to a patchwork quilt of various programs evolving over time and through different agencies and systems. That said, we can't simply assume that Joseph Flowers came to Ohio to claim land as a benefit of service in any particular war, or that he came as part of a wave of ethnic migration from Pennsylvania, for instance.

Nor can we assume the way there was easy or convenient. For those leaving homes in Pennsylvania—Joseph's likely former residence—the main route preferred by fellow immigrants of the time was a pathway known as Zane's Trace. This was an overland route leading from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, cutting through the very region around Muskingum County and what eventually became Perry County, the location where the Flowers family settled.

Though Zane's Trace was, up to and after the War of 1812, considered the main route through portions of what became Ohio, disabuse yourself of any concept of this route as a wagon road. In its earliest years, Zane's Trace was a trail through wilderness, barely wide enough to allow passage of settlers on foot, or on horseback, or perhaps traveling with a pack animal. It was only after Ohio achieved statehood that tax money was used to "improve" Zane's Trace and make it wide enough for wagon access. Even then, the road had hazards—though not quite as many as might be faced by those choosing to migrate via the waterways connected to the unpredictable Ohio River.

It is likely through understanding the immigrants' perspective that we can allow their motivations to guide us from the place where they settled, back to their origins in Pennsylvania—or, perhaps, even farther than that location. Next week, we'll take a close look at the few documents affording us a glimpse of where Joseph and Elizabeth might have originated their rough journey to the new state of Ohio.

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