The township of Sheffield is bounded on the north by Kingsville, south by Denmark, east by Monroe and west by Plymouth. The township is traversed from east to west by the Ashtabula River, which, with its tributary, Pine Creek, drains the larger part of its territory. Sheffield was formally called East Matherstown, Saybrook was called West Matherstown. Samuel Mathers was one of the first proprietors of the township. When organized in 1817 – 1820, John Griggs, first Justice of the peace changed the name to Sheffield meaning “sheaf of fields”. The first officers were John Gage, Trustee; Chauncey Atwater, township clerk; and Samuel Johnson, treasurer.
The first settler, Old Major Moore as he was called, was a Revolutionary War soldier. He was the first man to break forest in Sheffield. He cleared off two or three acres and erected a cabin in 1811. He married the sixteen year old daughter of Reuben Mendall and this was the first wedding in Sheffield with Smith Webster, Justice of the Peace from Kingsville married them. Old Major Moore and his bride moved Richland County.
The first permanent settler was John Shaw, a British soldier who became a deserter during the War of 1812, He and his companions left in a small boat from Long Point, Canada, making their way across Lake Erie to Ashtabula, a distance of 40 miles. He married Almira Beckwith.
John Gage settled in 1817 with his bride, Ruth Woodbury, on the south side of the river. Others followed, Reuben and Amos Mendall, their brother being the first burial, died from consumption while on furlough from the Army in 1817. He was buried on the corner of the farm.
Others followed to clear, settle, farm and open cheese factories, grist mills and make butter tubs. Much could be said of the virtues, and the pioneer pluck displayed by a large number of Sheffield names such as Bliss, Johnson, Swift, Hardy, West, Shepard, Purdy, Kingsbury, Hawkins, Bennett, Rodgers, Eastman and others.
The first birth was John Gage’s daughter Lodema in July, 1818. The first school was built in 1819, the second built of logs in 1823. There were seven one room school houses in the township. The schools north of the river annexed to Kingsville School in 1914. The seven south of the river run by the Sheffield School Board ran from 1819 until 1937 when annexed by Jefferson, Kingsville and Conneaut School Systems.
The Benetka Road covered bridge was built in the late 1890’s and rebuilt in 1985. It spans the Ashtabula River a distance of 138 feet.
The Free Will Baptist organized in 1839, the Methodist in 1824. The United Brethren Church was organized 1857 by the Reverends Georg Sleeper and Ambrose Shelly. The Baptist Church was organized in 1835 by Reverend Edmond Richmond, who gave land for the church. He is buried in our cemetery beside his two wives and three sons Judah, Horace and Calvin.
The cheese factories were run by Gilbert Whipple on Maple Street. Called the Buckeye Cheese Factory. H. L. Smith has a large and prosperous factory, George Peebles, S. M. Both, J. C. Andrews, Amos Stevens and Chauncey Atwater were more Proprietors.
The first saw and grist mill was erected by Elijah Peck in 1827 on the Ashtabula River. It could saw about three to four hundred feet of lumber a day and grinding four bushels of corn constituted the capacity of the grist mill. Other sawmills were at Sheffield Corners, owned by James Rodgers, another (a steam mill) owned by Brownell & Spears, a water-power mill on the north branch of Mills Creek owned by L. M. Farr and the about one mile west of James Rodgers mill on the Ashtabula River owned by Harvey Clark who in addition to this mill, runs an extensive flowering mill. A pump and butter tub manufactory carried on the Cleveland Brothers in North Sheffield was built in 1969. Capacity, 25 pumps and 50 butter tubs per day.
The first store was built by Norman Thompson and John C. Richmond and kept by Salmon Chandler, in the old store building opposite the Methodist Church. The second store was at Sheffield Centre, kept by Henry Fox, who also hold the office of postmaster.
The first post office was kept in a building nearly opposite the Methodist Church. David Richmond was the first postmaster, in 1885, and the first quarter’s income was eighty-three cents.
Names of other pioneers from Sheffield’s past – William Todd, George Ufford, Joseph Hawkins, Johnson Gillett, Hammon Stevens, Melanethon Wellman, Dan Swift, W. O. Lilly, D. W. Peck, J. C. Quinn, W. R. Howard, F. Mann, A. Whipples, S. M. Booth, D. W. Richmond, H. Shepard, J. Dickson, J. P. Avery, Ira Blodgett, Elisha Peck, A. Marr, Darius Van Slyke, S. Stanton, D. T. Richmond and Beriah Bliss. What stories they could tell.
The first hotel was built by H. G. Hines at Sheffield Center in 1861. The first physician was Dr. Eaton. He came to Sheffield at an early date and died there in 1873.