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Sufferers’ Land – Post 38 – A Newlywed’s Life

Sufferers’ Land

A Newlywed’s Life

by Dave Barton

Lucy Wickham returned to Norwalk in October 1835, and she and Frederick set up housekeeping at 61 West Main Street, owned by the firm Wickham, Ailing and Christian. Her father and brother moved in with them. The following year, her father, Samuel Preston, built a house at 38 West Main Street, and presented it to Frederick and Lucy as a wedding present. This house is now located on Case Street, and is occupied by the Firelands Museum. [1]

Firelands Museum – Built in 1836 by Samuel Preston as a wedding present for his daughter and son-in-law.

Frederick wanted to continue his life as a sailor, but Lucy, perhaps emboldened by her mother-in-law’s story of how she had convinced Frederick’s father to give up the sea, disagreed strongly. Frederick agreed to leave the maritime trade, but the question then became what he should do instead. His family had a store in Norwalk, and his brother John had a thriving business as a shipbuilder and merchant in Huron. However, neither of these careers appealed to Frederick. Instead, he decided to go into the newspaper business with his father-in-law and brother-in-law Charles Preston at the Huron Reflector.

Frederick was an unlikely candidate to be a newspaperman. Raised in the wilderness of upstate New York, from an early age he spent much of his time on the Great Lakes, as a fisherman and later as a merchant seaman. His experience was in the rough and tumble world of seamen and ships, not in a newspaper office.

Frederick Wickham setting type in the offices of the Huron Reflector in the 1880s.

However, he was diligent, and threw himself into the task of learning the skills needed to get out a newspaper in a rural Ohio town. He often worked late into the night to meet deadlines, and developed the ability to compose articles and editorials at the case, composing in his head as he set the type. He rarely wrote out his copy. [2] About this time, the Reflector started to have competition. Samuel Hatch and Joseph Farr began publication of the Norwalk Experiment in August of 1835. Their paper was the exact opposite in philosophy and political leanings of the conservative Reflector. [3]

Lucy’s family, and her responsibilities running the Wickham household, increased quickly. Already her father and brother lived with her and Frederick. On Thursday, September 15, 1836, she had her first child, Charles Preston Wickham, named for her brother. A girl, Catherine Wickham, followed two years later.

In addition to the children, more relatives arrived in her home. In July 1839, her brother Charles married and brought his bride to live in Lucy’s house. In the summer of 1841, Lucy’s grandparents moved in with her as well. With cousins and other relatives, there were always a dozen or so people living under Lucy’s roof. [4] Space was scarce, especially since the offices of the Huron Reflector were on the second floor of the house. [5]

Lucy and Frederick had successfully established themselves in Norwalk. In addition to the paper, Lucy’s husband and her brother started a general store. The Wickham family became prominent in the community, working in close partnership with the Buckingham, Gallup and Benedict families.

The future in Norwalk looked bright for these families. But that would soon change. The last years of the 1830’s and the beginning of the following decade would bring tragedy and disappointment to all.


[1] The story of Lucy’s return to Norwalk and housekeeping arrangements is from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2400.

[2] The story of how Frederick Wickham came to work at the Norwalk Reflector is from his obituary in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; p. 2202.

[3] The story of the Norwalk Experiment is from “Experiment’s 100th Anniversary,” The Firelands Pioneer, 1937 New Series, Volume XXIV; The Firelands Historical Society; pp. 205-6.

[4] Account of Lucy Wickham’s household is from “Memoir of Mrs. Lucy Preston Wickham,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society; January 1920, p. 2400.

[5] From “Norwalk, Its Men, Women and Girls,” by William Wickham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXI; The Firelands Historical Society;  December 1918, p. 2135.


This post was first published on this blog in 2009.


Previous Post: The Wickham Family


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Sufferers’ Land – Post 38 – A Newlywed’s Life


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