Born in 1827 in Green Township, now Ashland County, Ohio, Rosella Rice was the daughter and granddaughter of the earliest settlers there. After establishing herself as a writer for national magazines in the 1860s, she included thinly veiled accounts about her own family.

The Johnny Appleseed connection

 

Rosella’s main claim to fame after her death in 1888 was that she was a Johnny Appleseed biographer, having written this article about him in 1876 in Arthur’s Magazine. Her information again came from her family and, in this case, also from her personal experience.

 

Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman, has become a mythical figure but he was quite real and lived more years in the Richland/Ashland County areas in Ohio than any other place. He planted apple trees, owned nurseries and orchards and sold seeds and saplings to the early pioneers.  He also slept on the floors of their cabins and preached to them his Swedenborgian faith.

 

His half sister, Persis, and her husband, William Broome, were early residents of Green Township, and Johnny visited them often. He also became friends with the Rice family. As a child, Rosella knew him well until he left the area for Indiana in the late 1830s.

 

Some say she corresponded with him until his death in 1845, but no letters have been found.

In the 1870s, she wrote three series of stories for Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine about life on the Ohio frontier — “Fifty Years Ago, or the Cabins of the West” in 1875, “Old Hearth Stones, and the Tales They Told” in 1876 and “Fading Footprints, or the Lowly Lives of Long Ago” in 1879.

 

These stories were distinctly from a woman’s point of view, and the details she includes usually cannot be found in the often-quoted local histories written by men. Rosella describes what people wore, how their cabins were arrang-ed and decorated, what they ate, their relationships within the family and within their communities, what made them happy and how they dealt with loneliness in the sparsely populated land.

 

So, we gathered these stories in one place and offer them again to those who wish a more personal look at this period in history in this particular place.

© 2011 Peggy Mershon                                                                                      Contact at marwelmer@aol.com

But before you start reading her published articles, I suggest you go here and read an address she gave in 1879 to the Ashland County Association. It was published in 1909 in A.J. Baughman’s History of Ashland County. In a more direct and critical voice than you’ll find in her stories, she explains her dedication for keeping Ohio pioneers alive in the minds and hearts of their descendants. Her address begins:

 

There is a vast store of rich material almost untouched lying waiting for some writer who will hold the mirror up to nature and give us pictures of the people and the manners and customs of early times. . . .