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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meet the People - a New Feature for 2011

Since our Historic Village is closed for the cold and snowy winter, we thought it might be fun to "meet some people from the past" on our blog. These short articles will provide a more in-depth look at some of the people who lived in Northwest Ohio in the early 1800s. We hope you enjoy the articles and will make plans to join us in the spring to experience the lives of these pioneers at Historic Sauder Village.

And now, let's meet our first pioneer . . .
Anna Sauder Witmer-Roth

By 1844, Wayne County, Ohio was a settled area with several well-established Amish communities, but newlyweds Anna and Peter Witmer chose to leave their comfortable life there and travel to the frontier. Anna’s father, Henry Souder (Sauder) had purchased land in Cedar Creek Township, Allen County, Indiana in 1837 and it was to this property that the Witmers moved.

Cedar Creek Township’s first permanent settler had arrived in 1834. By the time Anna and Peter reached the area in 1844 there was a store, a school and the first road had been surveyed. They made their journey while Anna was pregnant and in November their first child, Barbara, was born. By then Peter had built them a log house with one large main floor room where most of the family’s living was done. A lower level contained the kitchen/eating space. However, there was no interior connection between these two levels, so Anna had to go outside in all weather when traveling from the living area to the kitchen. The loft over the main room would have been used for "cold" sleeping, as there was no heat.

Anna and Peter prospered on the frontier. The 1850 Agricultural Census reports Peter owning 160 acres of land, raising wheat, Indian corn and oats and owning a team of horses and a team of oxen. In that same year their daughter, Ann, was born giving them three sons and three daughters. And then on August 5, 1851 tragedy struck. Peter died suddenly and Anna was left a widow with six children under the age of seven and a farm to run.

At this time in history, women who were widowed frequently fell into dire straits. They were often unable to keep their family together and lost everything. However, Anna was fortunate. Within a year, she married Benedict Roth. Benedict was a good provider and the farm continued to prosper. Together they would raise Anna’s six children from her first marriage and have nine of their own.

Anna’s youngest son Henry remembered how hard his mother worked to make a good life for her family. She had an outdoor bake oven and would bake as many as 15 loaves of bread at a time, as well as pies and cakes. Anna was also a spinner. She spun and plied wool from the family sheep. In the cold winter months she would knit mittens and other clothing for her family.

Anna lived a remarkable life. She made the long trip to unsettled Cedar Creek Township and worked hard to raise 15 children. She saw many changes in her lifetime. Anna lived to be nearly 80 years old. When she died, in 1904, she was one of the oldest original settlers of Cedar Creek Township. She was survived by 12 of her 15 children, 83 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren. Many of her descendants today still remember her from shared stories and family histories.

Pictures: Anna Sauder Witmer-Roth with her granddaughter Emma. Also, the Witmer-Roth home, which guests can visit at Pioneer Settlement.

Video: This short video clip shows photos of the restored Witmer-Roth home, an outdoor bake oven and garden where costumed guides share Anna Sauder Witmer-Roth's story. Have you visited the Witmer-Roth home at Pioneer Settlement yet? What are your thoughts about this home and the new addition to Sauder Village? Can you imagine raising 15 children in that small home? If you haven't visited Pioneer Settlement yet, we hope you will join us this season to walk through this home and experience the daily lives of the early pioneers.