The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


October 8, 2011

The lady abolitionist

Betsey Mix Cowles’ passion and compassion helped mold the nation’s history


The parlor of the Ticknor home on Route 45 in Austinburg is neither museum nor shrine to the late Betsey Mix Cowles. It is history sustained at the moment of death, the best effort of successive generations to fulfill a nebulous request in Betsey’s will that the “furnishings” of her childhood home be left “intact.” And so it is that the desk that was her father’s, the chair that came north with a fugitive slave and the one surviving china plate of the six that Betsey purchased with her school teacher earnings are preserved where they were when Betsey passed from this world of sorrow and toil in 1876.
Her remains, along with those of Cowles ancestors and siblings, whose images hang on these aged parlor walls, rest in the cemetery across the street. 
Betsey, born in Connecticut, was but an infant when her parents and seven siblings made the journey to Austin’s Camp, as Austinburg Township was originally know. She was thus a product of the hardships and opportunities of the new land as well as the old Puritanical beliefs that underpinned the values held by her family.
The Cowles family had already made its mark in New England when the Rev. Giles Cowles followed the lead of the Holy Spirit to the Western Reserve.
He was the first settled minister of Austinburg and Morgan townships, building upon the missionary work performed by the Rev. Joseph Badger. He, his wife Sally (White) and their eight children left Bristol, Conn., on May 21, 1811.
Their furniture and the Rev. Cowles’ library were loaded onto two wagons; the pastor, his wife and their two smaller children (Betsey was just 1 year old), rode in a carriage. The family thus traveled in this caravan through forest and unsettled territory for weeks before reaching Austinburg that summer. A commodious log dwelling was soon erected for the family near the site of the present Ticknor home, built four years later.

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