The Dibbles were a family of nine children which included Lovisa, the future Mrs. Ebenezer Stark, my great-great-great grandmother, and a brother, Lewis, who became Ebenezer’s best friend and fellow ship captain. The Dibbles arrived in the mid-west by schooner after sailing across Lake Erie from New York in 1811. They first settled in Frenchtown, Michigan, now named Monroe, on the banks of the River Raisin.
They were just establishing a productive farm when on November 15, 1812, a neighbor galloped up on horseback warning them that British soldiers and a band of allied Shawnee Indians had defeated the Americans in Detroit and were heading their way in a rampage. They needed to flee.
The Dibbles and the neighbor family climbed into a twenty-four-foot yawl and taking only a few personal belongings, sailed south following the Lake Erie shoreline. Their escape was fortunate, as the area they just left became the site of a major engagement of the War of 1812 known of as the River Raisin Massacre.
After three days, the dangerously overloaded sailboat finally put in at a Western Reserve settlement called Cleaveland, named after General Moses Cleaveland who in 1796 led the initial team of surveyors. The spelling of the settlement’s name was shortened later when the Cleveland Herald newspaper found it couldn’t quite get the longer name into its masthead. The senior Mr. Dibble, Elisha, had been commanding officer of a militia back in New York and returned to the River Raisin area with a company of Ohio militia volunteers. There he found his former farm buildings and crops and had been burned to the ground.
In the Reserve, the Dibbles and the Starks, now living as neighbors, became close friends. Lovisa, age twelve, and her brother, Lewis, eleven months younger, were particularly fond of eighteen-year-old Ebenezer Stark and followed him everywhere. Eben once saved Lewis’ life following a hunting accident. Eben and Lovisa were married in 1826. It was my discovery of a copy of their wedding certificate in a Bloomington, Indiana, LDS church in 1998 that opened the door to this exciting history.
Both Eben and Lewis became ship captains and owners of large tracts of land in the Cleveland area. Both had roads named after them. Stark Avenue located near Wade Park no longer exists, but Dibble Avenue is still a major thoroughfare located a block off the intersection of Superior Ave and E 55th Street in Cleveland.
Readers of my book, “Great Lakes Skipper,” know Ebenezer Stark died a heroic but tragic death in a shipwreck in 1844 at age 46. His wife, Lovisa, never remarried and passed away in Cleveland at age 76. After Lewis’ sailing days, he served three years as Sergeant at Arms in the state senate, then became Director of the U.S. Marine Hospital in Cleveland. Lewis died in 1891 at age 86. Two of Eben’s sons, Henry and Lewis, were pallbearers at Lewis’s funeral.