With the arrival of Mother’s Day Weekend a serious oversight has surfaced.  Nothing has ever been written about the first woman in the township who became a mother.  Using the Bates County History, it was discovered that the first child who was born here was Edwin Kelso, son of John Kelso.

John came in 1798 to oversee the mills that were built at the mouth of Walnut Creek.  His father, William, as well as Col. Thomas Forster, Captain Richard Swan and seven other men had invested in a land sale in Carlisle in August 1796. They organized as the Harrisburg and Presque Ise Land Company and planned to build mills and sell town lots.   The colonel and the captain were soon off to see the land they had bought and estimate what they would need to bring back the next spring when they came to build a saw mill.  When complete by the fall of 1797 it was the second sawmill in the county.  The next spring the colonel returned without the captain.  The mill was not quite finished when Colonel Forster returned home to the Harrisburg area that fall.  By the next spring it was completed and working.  That spring of 1798 John Kelso arrived to manage the mills in which his father and business partners had invested. 

John was there for two years, moving into Erie in 1800, having been appointed Association Judge on March 14.  He waited until his first child, Edwin was born on April 10 then made his move into Erie. The mills had several managers over the years, including Captain Swan, but John Kelso was the first.

As the war of 1812 loomed John Kelso, now referred to as General Kelso, was placed in a position of military command.  He led a brigade that was charged with defending Erie.  He also owned a “small iron boat howitzer,” which until then had only been used for salutes.

Meanwhile, Colonel Forster had applied for the position of Collector of Customs at the Erie port.  This was a presidential appointment and the colonel’s application was accepted.  In fact, he held that position under several presidents until 1836.

As Edwin grew to adulthood he remained in Erie and held many elected and appointed positions as well. “He was early instructed in the modes and duties of official routines.” He accepted the position of Prothonotary and other county offices, remaining for 12 years then was appointed assistant Collector of Customs.  When Thomas Forster died in 1836 Edwin moved into that position. He was a Democrat and served his party well.  He had been widowed for eight years when he died in 1879, survived by two daughters and their families.

Notice anything?  Throughout his life and the life of his father, his mother’s name was never mentioned… The first woman to become a mother in Fairview Township did not have a name, other than Mrs. John Kelso.

Hmm.  A little research was helpful and thanks to BillionGraves.com we know who she was. Her name was Sarah Willis.  IN addition to  Edwin she had six other children.  He was the first and the last was Melvin, born in 1816.  Her husband (John) died three years later at 53 years of age.

And so, on this Mother/s Day Weekend of 2022 we remember the first woman to become a mother in Fairview Township: Sarah Willis Kelso.


Note:  The artist who provided the scene from Walnut Creek as the Featured Image was a local and well recognized woman, Vega Ihsen.

One thought on “Fairview’s First New Mother”

  1. Thank you for sharing these wonderful historic stories. Thet’re a gift to those of us who were born and raised in this special area. I spent many a summer day fishing and swimming in Walnut Creek and Lake Erie.

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