Oliver Bigelow (1759-1817)
Dr. Oliver Bigelow, surgeon in the American army during the Revolutionary War, left his mark in several states, and is founder of Johnstown, Licking County, Ohio.
Oliver was born December 23, 1759 in Colchester, New London County, Connecticut. He was the son of John and Hannah (Douglass) Bigelow.
He became a physician by the ancient method of apprenticing to an older physician. During the Revolution, he goes aboard the British prison ship Jersey as a volunteer prisoner in order to attend the captured American prisoners. Washington Irving in his multi-volume biography of George Washington does mention the presence of a surgeon on a prison-ship. Bigelow’s name does appear among Vermont military records from which he served.
Today his name appears on his grave marker, on the stone noting “Bigelow Park”, and on the street marked “Bigelow Drive” at MacDonald’s. Once, Main Street was named Bigelow Street.
After the War, Oliver Bigelow graduates from a medical course and for a short time he practices medicine in Goshen, New York. The Bigelows, Gardners and other families had traveled there after the desolation of the Wyoming Massacre that took place in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1778.
After the War, Oliver Bigelow is one of a number of Connecticut residents who settle in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, where he is found on the 1790 and 1800 censuses. While in Pennsylvania, he at age twenty-six marries on January 25, 1786 Esther Harding, daughter of Stephen and Amy (Gardner) Harding, also Connecticut natives. Esther was born in Colchester, New London, Connecticut on April 13, 1759.
Shortly after 1800 the Oliver Bigelow family settle in Tompkins County, New York, at Lansing which is part of Cayuga County. Here their seventh child Harriet is born July 2, 1809, ending Esther’s twenty years of childbearing at age fifty.
President John Adams had deeded land to John Alston Brown in payment for military service during the American Revolution. On December 7, 1810, John Alston Brown of Boone County, Kentucky, deeded a four thousand acre tract of land to Oliver Bigelow for $10,000 or $2.50 per acre.
Children of Oliver and Esther Harding Bigelow:
Nancy Anna Bigelow Gibbs
Born: 1789 Luzerne Co., Pa
Died: 1870 Tompkins Co., NY
Esther Bigelow Walling
Born: 1792 Luzerne Co., PA
Died: 1856 Bremer, IA
Oliver Bigelow, Jr.
Born: 1794 Luzerne Co., PA
Died: After 1850
Born: 1797 Luzerne Co., PA
Died: 1817 Genoa Co., NY
Born: 1798 Luzerne Co., PA
Died: 1874 Lansing, NY
Born: 1801 Luzerne Co., PA
Died: 1816 Johnstown, Ohio
Harriet Bigelow Johnson
Born: 1809 Tompkins Co., NY
Died: 1840 Tioga Co., NY
Since Oliver with his brother John holds large land claims in Ohio, they wish to locate their families to that new state. In 1811 Oliver Bigelow, a doctor and Revolutionary War veteran, comes to the area. He plans to build a town and begins mapping streets, alleys, a town square and a cemetery.
Oliver's wife had a brother named Elisha Harding and he served as Oliver’s attorney when he was purchasing land that would become Johnstown.
In 1813 Oliver Bigelow finishes laying out this little village and decides to donate the streets and alleyways and the public square at the southwest corner of what today is West Coshocton Street (U.S. Route 62) and Main Street (State Route 37). He also donates property for a burying ground (Bigelow Cemetery) for the Johnstown residents. All assume that he names the town after Johnstown, New York but more than likely he named it after his father and brother both named John.
Apparently Oliver and his family spend some time in Licking County, Ohio. Dr. Bigelow becomes the first practicing doctor of medicine in the village and even serves as mayor. His daughter Eunice, almost fifteen years old, dies in Johnstown on April 16, 1816.
In 1817 the Old Colonial Cemetery (now Bigelow Cemetery) is deeded to the village whose population is fewer than 100. On November 5, Oliver Bigelow, aged fifty-eight, dies and is buried at this village cemetery.
His executor was Elihu Bigelow, son of Oliver’s brother John and his heirs were brother-in-law Elisha Harding, son Oliver Bigelow, wife Lydia Bigelow, daughter Nancy Bigelow Gibbs and her husband Garret G. Gibbs.
Oliver’s widow and children return to their home in Lansing, New York, where they live for many years. Esther dies May 20, 1838. First born Anna marries Garrett Gibbs and dies June 20, 1870 in Lansing, New York. Esther marries Peter Walling and dies March 6, 1856 in Fredericksburg, Bremer County, Iowa and is survived by two adult children. Oliver Jr. is listed as head of his family in Lansing, New York in 1850. Sabra, unmarried, dies in Genoa, Cayuga County, New York on May 10, 1817. HIs daughter Lydia was unmarried and dies June 20, 1874 at Lansing, New York. The youngest child Harriet marries William T. Johnson and dies in Owego, New York on May 24, 1840.
Johnstown Historical Society | Johnstown, OH 43031
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