Lucy Preston’s Long Journey West
by Dave Barton
Lucy Preston — with her father, mother, brother, Grandma Taylor, and her little dog Nero — departed Pepperell, Massachusetts for the Ohio frontier mid-October 1819, just as the weather turned cold. They had a seven or eight-hundred mile journey ahead of
them, and hoped to arrive at their destination before winter set in. They traveled in a hired wagon packed with household goods they would need on the trip and later in their new home: beds, bedding, cooking utensils and the like.
Instead of following the route through Pennsylvania taken by the Benedict Family two years previously, the Prestons took a northern route to Ohio, across the Green Mountains into upstate New York, then along the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Buffalo, where they would find a ship to take them up Lake Erie to the Firelands. They traveled slowly, plodding along rough trails, stopping at night in taverns where they slept on the floor. As they crossed the Green Mountains they encountered snow, but by the time they reached Burlington, Vermont, it had disappeared. A month after they left Pepperell, Massachusetts, they reached Black Rock, New York, near Buffalo, where they waited for a boat to take them the rest of the way to the Firelands.
While in Black Rock, Lucy heard stories that stuck in her head the rest of her life. The tavern where they were staying buzzed with news of a terrible tragedy that occurred a few days before the Prestons arrived. A servant girl employed at the tavern had sewn black threads in her nightcap before retiring. When her friends asked her why she had done this, she told them she was mourning her sins. During the night, the girl took an overdose of laudanum, and in the morning, her companions found her dead.
The story of another tragedy was making the rounds of the village. A little girl went out to play with her friends in the fields and woods. When she did not come home for supper, her parents sent her little brother to look for her. Hours stretched on, and when neither child returned the villagers turned out to search for them. They discovered them lying dead at the bottom of a cistern, clasped in each other’s arms. The boy had found his sister and they had started for home. However, in the dark, they had fallen into the cistern and died.
After waiting a few days in Black Rock, Lucy’s father sold their wagon and the family boarded a schooner bound for Sandusky. Among the other passengers on the boat was the Burns family, Irish Catholics who were very religious. Every morning and evening, the father took his daughters, who called him Dada, to the stern of the boat to pray.
However, pray as they might, bad luck dogged this family and all the travelers on the ship. It was already late in the season, and adverse winds caused the captain of their vessel to turn into Erie, Pennsylvania and refuse to go further. The Preston and the other families on the ship were stranded far from their goal. 
 The Story of the Preston family’s journey to the Firelands are from the “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI, The Firelands Historical Society, January 1920, pp. 2394-2399.
This post was first published on this blog in 2009.
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This post first appeared on Firelands History Website | "Sufferers' Land" Tale, please read the originial post: here