EBENEZER W. EARL is my first cousin, six times removed, on my mother’s side. The son of Jacob and Rachel (Wilson) Earl, he was born in Braceville, Trumbull County, Ohio, on February 12, 1806, and came with his father’s family to Windham, Portage County, in 1814. There were then fourteen families in the township – including the requisite Higleys and Birchards, plus a smattering of Cases, Lymans and Snows.
He started work at a very young age, as a mill boy for a neighborhood of young families. A few years later, and as a very strong young man, he made a good wage taking on the clearing of woodlands for settlement and farming. It was not uncommon for an individual job to involve forty or sixty acres.
He could clear an acre in a day using the windrow method – felling a long line of trees by cutting them half or two-thirds through and directing the course of each so that the first tree of the line would fall against the second, the second against the third and so on. We was also an exceptional rail splitter – he could split from 400 to 600 per day. (The ordinary price for this kind of work was then 12-1/2 cents per 100.)
Like so many others, Ebenezer succumbed to the lure of gold in the West. On January 20, 1852, he and a company of friends left Ohio for New York, carrying $300 to purchase tickets for California via Panama. Before long, the group was underway, arriving in Panama and making the trek across the isthmus. But upon reaching the Pacific Ocean, there was no boat for them. They were forced to remain there eighteen days, and sued the purser of the boat they came on for damages, receiving nearly enough in settlement to purchase tickets to San Francisco on some old sailing vessel. An arduous 65-day voyage followed, during which time they saw land only once, and several passengers died.
They finally arrived in Sacramento, then on to the town of Marysville, and still had a 75-mile walk up to the mines. They did make it – and Eb was ultimately quite successful, securing a considerable quantity of gold. He apparently enjoyed the tough, adventurous life there. Shortly before his death (May 26, 1884), he told someone that if he could sell his farm for what it was worth, he would go back to California.