Introducing the Porters by Maureen Smith

July 23, 2008 at 1:25 am 3 comments


Three years ago Maureen Smith was kind enough to write a couple of articles on “The Porters” for Charleston Village Society Inc. Renee Dore’s excellent article on the Captains of the Port reminded me that we had more information. It was of course rumoured by at least the Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce advertisement that the Porter House Steak got its name from the Porter House in Lorain thanks to Charles Dickens
We have seen the ad but cannot verify the tale! Infact there is much much controversy as to how the Porter House Steak came to be named. However since I am going to “Portsmouth” the birthplace of said Charles Dickens I will try and see where Lea and Perrins got their information and if indeed Charles ever stopped in Lorain . In the meantime the Porters are a fascinating piece of Lorain’s history.


Nathaniel & Mary Porter, Poppa & Mamma, as I have affectionately referred to them are the earliest of the Porter family pioneers to Lorain County that I have been able to trace in my almost 10 years of researching them.

Nathaniel, (Poppa) was born in Ireland in 1776. He was the father of 14 sons. He along with his wife Mary immigrated to this country in 1816 from the North of Ireland, County Antrim according to family history.

They first came to West Springfield Ma. It was there in West Springfield, that fourth born son James at the age of 14, was hired by Heman Ely to walk to Ohio in January of 1817, with 3 other men carrying only axes on their shoulders, to clear the land for a new settlement which was to become known as Elyria.

Nathaniel & Mary later came to Elyria and settled there in 1820. Nathaniel was a bit reluctant with the move as we learn from a letter found in the Ely Collection at the Elyria Public Library dated July 25, 1820 written by Justin Ely in West Springfield, MA, to his brother Heman Ely in Elyria,

“I rejoice to hear of the increase of your Irish habitants and trust they will not all be so uneasy as Mr. Porter.”

In the book “The Amherst Story” a story is related about Mary Porter.
The Amherst Free Press of March 18, 1876, recounts a story which gives an interesting account of a pioneer Ezekiel G. Barnes.

He tells about hearing a woman’s cry in the woods, and he went in search of her until he finally came “face to face with a woman sitting on horseback, utterly lost in the woods.” In an attempt to get help for her dying husband, she had ventured out early in the morning from her home in Elyria through the woods to Amherst to ask for the help of one of Mr. Shupe’s daughter. Mr. Barnes escorted her to the Shupe residence where they were greeted with a warm meal and hospitality. They secured one of the daughters and heading back to Elyria where they arrived before the dawn of day. It said that a short time later, her husband did die.

Nathaniel was considered to be one of the first burials in Elyria when he died in 1822. An article found in the Elyria Chronicle Telegram of June 12, 1923 tells us that Nathaniel (Nathan) died in 1822 and was buried on his farm. The following spring, the body was taken up and placed in the Old Elyria Cemetery, which had been designated as the burial spot for the village. This was from an account of a pioneer named William Turner who says he attended the event. Old Elyria Cemetery is now known as Ridgelawn Cemetery. His headstone simply reads;
Mr. Nathaniel Porter
June 13, 1822
Aged 46 years

Mary continued to live in Elyria with her youngest son Hamilton.

Of the 14 sons, 9 were all that we could find. We were quite certain that they were brothers yet we lacked any concrete evidence to tie them together. I was directed to the Ely Collection on another matter, and I couldn’t believe it when I realized that I had hit a jackpot of sorts.

After years of searching for 14 sons, and met with the frustration of only finding nine, our hard work had been validated!
A letter dated September 8, 1834 (Monday) From Justin Ely, West Springfield MA to Heman Ely addressed, Elyria, Lorain Co. which ties all 9 of the Porter names together and no more!

…That said James Porter left at his death, a widow Cynthia, since intermarried with Hiram F. Hubbard who with the said husband and Elizabeth Porter daughter ? we made defendants to the will, also that Thomas Porter, John Porter, Nathaniel Porter, Robert Porter, William Porter, Andrew Porter, and Hamilton Porter, heirs at law of the said Mary Porter since deceased may be made defendants.”

All of the sons had resided in Lorain County at one time or another, some moved on, 3 of the brothers purchased land in Black River Township, and one took root there, Nathaniel who to this day, has roots still flourishing with family living in Lorain.

To be continued…..



Entry filed under: city of lorain, history.

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