From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland.
WAR OF 1812. When Congress declared war against Great Britain on 18 June 1812, the village of Cleveland consisted of 100 or fewer souls huddled near the mouth of the CUYAHOGA RIVER. Except for their geographic location, they had no reason to be either especially interested or principal actors in the war. However, situated on a significant Lake Erie harbor and attuned to American ideas of possible acquisition of British lands on the lake’s northern shore, the villagers were affected in significant ways by the War of 1812. Cleveland served as a base for supplies, a rendezvous for military units, and the location of a military fort and hospital. The war also provoked alarms and invasion scares, which were quieted only with Perry’s naval victory on Lake Erie and the subsequent demolition of a British and Indian force by Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison at the Battle of the Thames in the autumn of 1813. American activities were centered on Lake Erie and its connecting waterways for 3 primary reasons: to inflict damage on British military units garrisoned in Upper Canada (today’s Ontario), to end the alleged British instigation of Indian depredations on American frontier settlements, and, if possible, to acquire Canadian lands by invasion and occupation. However, the early endeavors were disastrous for America, especially the humiliating surrender of Detroit by Gen. Wm. Hull in Aug. 1812, which opened the waterways for invasions of northern Ohio. After a report from the Sandusky-Huron area falsely informing Clevelanders of enemy boats proceeding down the lake, many residents abandoned their homes and sought refuge farther inland. The “hostile marauders” turned out to be Americans paroled from Hull’s disaster. New England Federalists might be antiwar, but transplanted Western Reserve Federalists recognized the need for defense. Their initial effort centered 2 militia companies at Cleveland, soon augmented by additional militiamen, all commanded by Gen. Elijah Wadsworth. Most of these troops moved out of the village within a short time, on their way westward to the Sandusky and Maumee valleys. In the spring of 1813, Capt. Stanton Sholes arrived with a company of regular army troops. Sholes put his men to work building a hospital, and then a small fort (FORT HUNTINGTON) and a breastworks of logs and brush near the bank of Lake Erie. From that vantage point, soldiers and civilians could view a part of the British fleet that appeared off the harbor on 19 June 1813. A period of calm beset the fleet a short distance from shore, until a thunderstorm drove the potential raiders from the Cleveland area.
Americans had come to realize that control of Lake Erie was requisite to any penetration of Upper Canada. In anticipation of challenging British control of the lake, Lt. Oliver Hazard Perry constructed a fleet at Erie, PA (small boats — bateau were constructed in the upper waters of the Cuyahoga River and would later be used in the invasion of Canada). On 10 Sept. 1813, Perry accomplished his objective in magnificent fashion. Moving from his flagship, the Lawrence, when it was destroyed, he continued command from the deck of the Niagara, reporting the destruction of the British fleet in unforgettable prose: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Americans, starved in this second year of warfare for words of cheer, had found a worthy naval hero. By virtue of the victory, the way now was cleared for Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison’s invasion of Upper Canada. He annihilated a British-Indian force on 5 Oct. 1813 at the Battle of the Thames, ending warfare on Lake Erie and its shores. Clevelanders long reported stories of having heard gunfire from the vessels engaged in Perry’s Battle of Lake Erie, adopting Perry as a civic hero and erecting a statue of him on PUBLIC SQUARE in 1860 (see PERRY MONUMENT). Less newsworthy, but no less significant in the life of the embryonic city, was the way in which supplies for troops, mustering of militia and regular army units, and medical and hospital care for sick and wounded soldiers came to be centered at Cleveland. By the time the war ended with the Treaty of Ghent (24 Dec. 1814), the residents of the village could congratulate themselves on their brave defense against invasion (that did not occur), their logistical contributions to the nation’s military and naval efforts, and the way in which their village’s natural resources of river and harbor had become recognized as advantages for regional supply and support.
Plain Dealer article written by Bob Rich and published on August 13, 1995
PERRY DRIVES BRITISH FROM LAKE ERIE
The War of 1812 is one of those half-forgotten wars in American history. The results were inconclusive and left the raw young country with very little to cheer about.
But for the little log-cabin village of Cleveland, it was a life-or-death matter. Villagers weren’t concerned about an invasion of British troops. The fear was of a British-inspired Indian attack on this thinly settled, undefended part of the western frontier.
There might have been a collective guilty conscience operating here, also. Just a few weeks before the war broke out, a boisterous crowd had watched the hanging in Public Square of an Indian convicted of murdering white trappers.
Congress declared war on Great Britain June 18, 1812; 10 days later, an express rider galloped into Cleveland with the news from Washington. Cleveland’s and Newburgh’s militias promptly formed – 50 men each – every man in his own “citizen suit,” and with his own rifle or shotgun.
By August, the whole linchpin of America’s western frontier defense collapsed when Gen. William Hull surrendered Detroit to the British. Cleveland panicked. Rumors of British warships on Lake Erie and British offers inciting Indians to the warpath sent the citizens running for the hills of rival villages.
But 30 Clevelanders swore they would die rather than give up their tiny Fort Huntington, on the bluff where W. 3rd St. and Lakeside Ave. meet. Julianna Long, Dr. David Long’s wife, and two other women wouldn’t abandon the garrison. She “could nurse the sick and wounded, encourage and comfort those who could fight; at any rate, she would not by her example, encourage disgraceful flight.”
By June 1813, it began to look like the garrison might have to live up to its vow when two British warships appeared off the mouth of the Cuyahoga to bombard the shipworks along the shore. Cleveland shipbuilders had been cutting down the dense forests around the village for lake schooners and had supplied the Navy with the 60-ton brig “Ohio,” a strong addition to Commodore Perry’s Lake Erie fleet.
British firepower was about to put an end to this war industry when Lake Erie came through with one of its notorious summer squalls. Crashing waves pounded the hulls of the British ships, rattled their masts, and probably their morale, too. The next morning, when a thick fog lifted off the lake, the British were gone.
They were next heard from Sept. 10, 1813, when Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet, with heavier guns, took them on in Put-in-Bay off Sandusky in the famous Battle of Lake Erie. Clevelanders swore afterward they could hear the cannon fire 60 miles away. His message to Gen. William Henry Harrison, commander in chief of the northwestern army, reflects his pride and exuberance: “We have met the enemy and they are ours, two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”
The battle became legend, and the victory lifted the British threat from the Great Lakes.
When peace came in 1814, Cleveland went wild. Public Square was packed with an excited, drunken, noisy crowd.
Another era ended that same year. Lorenzo Carter, Cleveland’s real founder, frontiersman, trader and adventurer, would die, and one of those dynamic Connecticut Yankees, Alfred Kelly, would lead Cleveland into a new, exciting future.
It certainly didn’t look that way at the time. Kelly had come to the village in 1810, became the first practicing attorney, and was elected to the state legislature in 1814. He quickly saw to it that Cleveland was incorporated as a village, which at the time extended from Erie (E. 9th St.) west to the Cuyahoga, and Huron St. north to the lake.
It still looked like a transplanted New England village with its frame houses set around Public Square, no more or less important than say, Lorain or Sandusky. In fact, the rivers in the latter two towns worked a lot better than the Cuyahoga. A sandbar reached out from the eastern shore of Lake Erie, blocked the harbor and forced ships to unload their cargoes offshore. The water at the river mouth was 3 to 4 feet, motionless, filled with trash and garbage – a breeding ground for typhoid fever, cholera and malaria.
Here’s what the future great educator Harvey Rice would say about his arrival in September 1824, on a schooner from Buffalo: “A sand-bar prevented the schooner from entering the river … The jolly boat was let down … and we were rowed over the sandbar into the placid waters of the river, and landed on the end of a row of planks that stood on stilts and bridged the marshy brink of the river, to the foot of Union Lane. Here we were left standing with our trunks on the wharf-end of a plank at midnight, strangers in a strange land.”
Rice describes Public Square as “begemmed with stumps, while near its center glowed its crowning jewel, a log courthouse. The eastern border of the Square was skirted by the native forest, which abounded in rabbits and squirrels, and afforded the villagers a `happy hunting-ground.’ The entire population at that time didn’t exceed 400 souls. The town, even at that time, was proud of itself, and called itself, the `Gem of the West.’
A year later, in 1825, Congress would vote funds for clearing the river and harbor, which would make a phenomenal difference, but it would be awhile before Cleveland would become a gem of the West.
Plain Dealer article written by Bob Rich that ran on July 16, 1995
LOG CABIN HERO CARTER HELD SETTLEMENT
Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – Sunday, July 16, 1995
Author: BOB RICH
In the spring of 1797, a remarkable man named Lorenzo Carter brought his family from Vermont to the tiny pioneer settlement of Cleveland. Founder Moses Cleaveland had taken his surveying crew from the Connecticut Land Co. back home in October the year before and would never return to his namesake village. It would be up to Carter and a few others whether Cleveland survived into the turn of the century.
Carter, 6 feet tall, was considered a giant. He had a swarthy complexion and black hair that hung down to his shoulders; also, a reputation for hunting, tracking, shooting and being very good with his fists – and quick to use them.
Lorenzo Carter and family would stay on the bank of the Cuyahoga River when others that straggled in during the next few years left the swampy, malarial-ridden area for higher, healthier grounds.
On paper, Cleveland, with its river from the interior to Lake Erie, should have been the ideal distribution point for the whole Western Reserve, but the river just barely flowed into the lake, choked by silt and sand of the harbor. Even Carter’s brother-in-law couldn’t take the malarial shakes and chills and left. Until April 1800, the Carters were the only white family left in Cleveland town.
Lorenzo Carter built a large log cabin, with two rooms and a spacious garret, and started a ferry at the foot of Superior St. When the Indians came to his cabin “under the hill” with their furs to trade, he had goods such as calico and trinkets for the women and he had what the braves wanted most – whiskey.
People used to say that he was all the law that Cleveland had, and he was soon appointed a constable and later a major of militia by the territorial governor.
As the stories go, any tough who rode into this little frontier clearing felt compelled to try himself out bare-knuckled, against Carter. And the major never lost.
One day, he returned from a hunt to find that a party of thirsty Indians had broken into his warehouse and gotten into the whiskey barrel. Carter exploded, slapped the drunks around, kicked several into the swamps, and promptly forgot about the incident. The braves didn’t. Two of their best marksmen ambushed him in the woods, took their shots and missed. The major didn’t.
After that, the Indians figured he was immortal and often called on him to judge their tribal feuds. He spoke several of their dialects.
He wasn’t admired by everybody. Solid New England Yankees didn’t like the riffraff that hung out at his cabin saloon. One prominent early settler, lawyer Samuel Huntington, wrote back to Moses Cleaveland in 1802 that Carter “gathers about him all the itinerant Vagabonds that he meets with, out of whom he gets all his labour done for their board and Whiskey; over whom he has an absolute control – organizing a phalanx of Desperadoes and setting all Laws at defiance.” And there was perhaps some jealousy involved at his cornering the Indian fur trade.
And yet it was Carter, with his rifle and dogs, who, when every member of the tiny village was down with malarial fever and chills, brought in the wild game to feed them.
He was no civil libertarian, but he didn’t like slavery. When a canoe upset in Lake Erie in the spring of 1806, drowning a white family in the frigid water, the only survivor was a black man, Ben, who was cared for at Carter’s cabin until the fall when two Kentuckians rode in and claimed that he had been their slave.
Carter told Ben that he didn’t have to go back to Kentucky, but Ben talked to his former masters and agreed to go back with them. By the time the small party got to Newburgh, two of Carter’s friends appeared with rifles. “Ben, you damned fool, jump off that horse and take to the woods!” said one. Ben jumped, made it to the woods and presumably to Canada and freedom; the Kentuckians ran the other way.
With all the mixed feelings about Lorenzo Carter, his spacious cabin was the social center, schoolhouse, jail and inn for an area that by 1810 had grown to only 300 people in the entire township. When 16 of Cleveland’s 18 families formed a lending library in 1811, Carter kept Goldsmith’s “History of Greece” and “Don Quixote” out so long that he had to pay a dollar apiece in fines. Apparently, there was a touch of intellect to the man of action.
Movies and books continue to pour out endless Daniel Boone and Wyatt Earp stories. Yet in Cleveland, was just such a frontiersman and adventurer – a man who left his enduring mark on a struggling community by surviving and showing others how to survive.
There’s no statue of Lorenzo Carter in Public Square to go with founder Moses Cleaveland’s.
But he was the first of the remarkable men and women who would force-feed the new, infant village into the brawling giant it became many years later.
Plain Dealer article that ran on July 9, 1995 and written by Bob Rich.
MOSES FINDS THE PROMISED LAND
Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – Sunday, July 9, 1995
Author: BOB RICH
July 5th, 1796, after a merry (and liquid) Fourth of July the night before, Moses Cleaveland and his 50-man surveying crew from the Connecticut Land Co. set out from Conneaut to find the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, where they would lay out a new capital for their Promised Land.
Cleaveland was a burly, powerful-looking man with a swarthy complexion that may have fooled Indians into thinking he was one of them. He was a Yale graduate with experience in the Revolutionary War and had practiced law for 30 years in his hometown of Canterbury, Conn.
He was appointed general of militia by the state. Cleaveland was the logical man to head the survey of the company’s newly acquired 3 million acres east of the Cuyahoga River; plus, his own money was at stake.
Real estate speculation was the way to get rich (or get swindled) in those early days of the American republic. The Connecticut investors had paid 40 cents an acre for their Western Reserve holdings, and the chances of getting rich looked very good. New England was filled with landless, unemployed men who would be able to lay down a little cash for their own lot.
And so Cleaveland’s surveying party of axmen, chainmen, rodmen and compassmen hacked its way through a trackless forest, laying out 5-mile square townships, sometimes eating boiled rattlesnake and berries when hunters came back empty-handed. With a broiling sun, mosquitoes, swamps and rainstorms, most of the party suffered from dysentery, cramps and fevers – and they had 55 miles to go from the Pennsylvania border to the Cuyahoga.
Somewhere along the line, Moses Cleaveland and some of his men got into a boat and coasted along Lake Erie until July 22, 1796, when they headed into the mouth of the sand-choked Cuyahoga – “crooked river,” in the Iroquois language.
Now they met the real enemy: swarms of malarial mosquitoes that rose to attack the sweaty bargemen. Above the eastern bank of the river, the heights were covered with chestnut, oak, walnut and maple trees, but down in the valley, they could smell the swamps and the decay; because the river had so many sandbars, a large sailing vessel would never make it from the lake into the river.
But no matter – the sandbars could be dredged. Here was a river from the interior of Ohio feeding into a freshwater lake, a river that would carry product out and finished goods in. This was the place to establish the capital of New Connecticut.
So the Cleaveland party landed at the foot of today’s St. Clair Ave., climbed up the hill and set to work surveying town lots. The men took 10 acres in the center of the plateau to establish a New England village-style Public Square; pushed a north-south street that they called Ontario through the center, and an even wider path from east-to-west called Superior.
After three months of surveying, Cleaveland took his crew back home to Connecticut.
Cleaveland never came back, but his surveying crew had complimented him by naming the settlement after him. Years later he said, “While I was in New Connecticut I laid out a town on the bank of Lake Erie, which was called by my name, and I believe the child is now born who may live to see that place as large as Old Windham.” Since Old Windham’s population was 2,200, eventually, he was proved right.
Only three people from the Cleaveland party chose to stay: Job Stiles, his wife, Tabitha, and Joseph Landon, and they shared a log cabin put up by the surveyors on what is now W. 6th St. and Superior. Their only company was a little group of Seneca Indians nearby. To the east and south was unbroken wilderness filled with wild game – turkey, bear, deer and timber wolves; west was the river and millions of trees; north was drinking-water pure Lake Erie.
Landon got one blast of winter winds whistling off the lake, and Cleaveland’s population dropped by one-third.
It got right back up there when Edward Paine arrived and began to trade with the Chippewa and Ottawa Indians. He would pull up stakes several years later and found Painesville.
That winter, the Indians befriended their white neighbors in the cabin on the hill, supplying them with game. Eventually, they would lose their ancestral lands to these same neighbors for a little money and a lot of whiskey.
Whoever nastily nicknamed Cleveland “The Mistake on the Lake” must have been there that first year when a few pioneers straggled in in the spring, in time to catch the ague (malaria) with chills and fever. When they recovered, they left for higher ground 6 miles southeast in what became Newburg, or east to Doan’s Corners (now E. 105th and Euclid).
By 1800, the total population was one family. You wouldn’t have wanted to bet on Cleveland’s survival much less its growth to the size of Old Windham, Conn. – unless, that is, you knew that one family in that one cabin belonged to Lorenzo Carter.
From the “Cleveland and Its Neighborhoods” website
“Connecticut Western Reserve”
The origins of Cleveland history actually begin in 1662 when King Charles II of England issued a charter to the colony of Connecticut giving them the strip of land between the 41st and 42nd parallels of north latitude and extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. In 1687 this charter became called the “Charter Oak” because it was once concealed in an oak tree for safe keeping. The Charter Oak was confirmed in 1689 by William and Mary of England.
Many groups laid claim to lands in the Western Reserve including the Native Americans, the French, and even other colonies, such as Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York. After the Revolutionary War, the newly formed republic was confronted with the problem of colonial claims to the western lands. It became apparent that these claims would create rivalries among the newly formed states. Therefore, as a requirement to be admitted to the confederation of the “united states”, each individual state was required to give up its claim to their western lands to the new federal government.
But in 1786, the state of Connecticut asked the Federal Government to allow them to keep a part of her western lands in compensation for her small size. This land was called the “Connecticut Western Reserve.” In 1792, Connecticut set apart a half million acres in the Reserve to compensate citizens who had suffered losses by fire during the Revolution, and they called this land “The Firelands” (which is now part of Erie and Huron counties). The remaining three million acres was sold to the Connecticut Land Company on September 2, 1795 for $1.2 million. The proceeds from this transaction were used by Connecticut for a permanent school fund.
The Connecticut Land Company consisted of forty-nine men who purchased land in the Connecticut Western Reserve for only 40 cents per acre. The Board of Directors was Moses Cleaveland, Oliver Phelps, Henry Champion, Samuel Johnson, Ephraim Kirby, Samuel Mather and Roger Newberry. Moses Cleaveland was chosen as the general agent and led the surveying team. A detailed description of the Connecticut Land Company can be found in an article written in 1884 by Samuel J. Barker.
Copies of the deeds for the land sold to the Connecticut Lane Company are on record in Trumbull County Ohio in the Western Reserve Draft Book pp. 5-73. An interesting account of how the lands were portioned out into shares and lots is at the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s website.
Cleveland: The Best Kept Secret”, by G. E. Condon, 1967.
Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office
Ohio Lands: Chapter 7 www.csuohio.edu/CUT/OhioLands/Chapt7.html
Original Survey of Cleveland, Samuel J. Barker, 1884, www.csuohio.edu/CUT/Clev1884.htm
From the “Cleveland and Its Neighborhoods” website
“Cleveland’s First Neighborhood – The Flats”
(1796 Map by Pease)
Thousands of years ago, a glacier covered the Cleveland area. This glacier caused the area around the mouth of the river to be very flat. In Orth’s history of Cleveland, he describes Lake Erie as once being 200 feet above its current level and successive levels of beach lines were left as the lake gradually fell and receded. Cliffs of rock surrounded the flat area on the left bank and extended south and east of the city. These cliffs became known as “The Heights”. Above the east bank was a forest of chestnut, oak, walnut, ash, and sugar maples (hence Cleveland’s future nickname of “The Forest City”). The Cuyahoga River curved its way through and there was a large stagnant pond with bad smelling bogs and swampland. “Early Cleveland History” by Whittlesey (p. 33) describes these swampy conditions which caused a lot of illness and death among the early settlers.
And so it was in this low-lying swampy place, with the crooked river flowing through it, surrounded by cliffs and forests, where the first settlement of Cleveland began.
Originally, the colonization of the territory was only intended to be the east bank of the Cuyahoga River. There was already a cabin on the west bank belonging to the North-West Fur Company. In later years, this cabin was moved once and then was torn down in 1922. According to Condon, Cleaveland discovered that the Iroquois controlled the east bank of the river while the Hurons controlled the west bank. Moses Cleaveland encouraged the Iroquois to give up their claim to the land on the east side of the river, and they sold their rights for 500 pounds of New York currency, two cattle, and 100 gallons of whiskey. This left the west bank of the river still controlled by the Hurons.
Traveling with Moses Cleaveland were 6 assistants, 37 employees, and two couples; Elijah and Anna Gunn, and Job and Tabitha Stiles. The assistants were Amos Spafford, John Holley, Richard Stoddard, Moses Warren, Joshua Stow and Theodore Shepard. The Gunns took charge of supplies at Conneaut which was to the east along Lake Erie and the Stiles continued on with Moses. This group built a couple of cabins and began the survey of the township. By October 20, 1796 Moses Cleaveland finished his surveying business and left with his party , leaving behind Job and Tabitha Stiles and a Mr. Landon. Landon soon left also and Edward Paine arrived and took his place. These three spent the winter in a cabin located where W. 6th Street and Superior Avenue are today. Crisfield Johnson designates the Stiles family as the first family who settled in Cleveland.
“Cleveland: The Best Kept Secret” by G.E. Condon, 1967
“A History of Cleveland Ohio”, Samuel Orth, 1910
“History of Cuyahoga County”, Crisfield Johnson, 1879
“Pioneer Families of Cleveland 1796-1840”, Gertrude van Renssaelaer Wickham, 1896
“This Cleveland of Ours”, Wilfred H. & Miriam Russell Alburn, 1933
“Early History of Cleveland, Ohio”, Charles Whittlesey, 1867
“Major Lorenzo Carter”
Major Lorenzo Carter was the first permanent settler in Cleveland. He and his family arrived from Rutland, Vermont May 2, 1797 and built a log cabin under a high sand bank near the Cuyahoga River, just north of present-day St. Clair Street. This cabin housed Lorenzo Carter, his wife Rebecca, his sons Alonzo and Henry, and four daughters, Laura, Polly, Mercy and Betsey. It also served as a tavern for the few residents of Cleveland.
By 1800 three or four cabins had been built in Cleveland. David and Gilman Bryant had a still at their cabin at the foot of Superior Lane. Lorenzo Carter also had a farm and still on what is today known as “Whiskey Island” (description in another section). Lorenzo’s son, Alonzo, also had a cabin on Whiskey Island…on the east side of the Cuyahoga River. Eventually, the mouth of the river was straightened to help with shipping and when this happened, the Carter farm and cabin ended up on the west side of the river, an area that was mainly swamplands and marshes.
(Picture showing the old river bed and the new, straightened mouth of the river)
In 1805, the Native Americans sold their land on the west side of the river. This portion of land was surveyed in 1807 and became known as Brooklyn Township. Around this time, land on the west side of the river came on the market, and Lorenzo and his son, Alonzo, bought a tract on the west side of the river near the mouth. Alonzo farmed this land and opened the Red House Tavern.
Ever industrious, Carter first operated a ferry to cross to the west side of the river. In 1808, concerned that there was no way to market Cleveland produce, he built the first boat in the area called the Zephyr. The entire village came to help get the boat into the water, using 12 oxen teams. With a capacity of 30 tons, Clevelanders could ship out grindstones and fur to trade in the East. They would trade for salt, garments, iron, brass and glass.
In “Cleveland: The Best Kept Secret”, Condon describes Lorenzo Carter as a large man not only in physical size, but also in thought. He was clearly a valuable resource to the early community, as he was often called on to settle disputes and his word was law with the Indians on the west bank of the river. Carter had a tough time of it in Cleveland. In 1803, he built a new frame house which burned to the ground the day it was completed. In 1806, Lorenzo’s son Henry, age 11, drowned in the river. In 1809, his warehouse was undermined by the lake and washed away. And finally, in 1814, Major Carter was stricken with cancer of the face and died. He is buried at Erie Street Cemetery, which was for many years known simply as ‘the old burying ground”.
For a man who was the center of action in pioneer times, it seems fitting that Major Lorenzo Carter’s final resting place is Erie Street Cemetery. Once surrounded by bushes and blackberry briars, Erie Street Cemetery is a quiet oasis alongside the hustle and bustle of downtown Cleveland and directly across the street from action-packed Jacob’s Field, the home of Cleveland baseball.
Below is a letter from Alonzo Carter dated June 14, 1858, talking about his experiences and memories in Early Cleveland:
My father came here on 2nd of May, 1797. He was from Rutland, Vermont, but stayed the winter previous in Canada. I was seven years old then, going on eight. We built a log cabin under the hill, five or six rods from the river, about twenty rods north of St. Clair Street. There was an old trading house on the west side of the river, which stood not far from the corner of Main and Center streets.
It was a double log house, quite old and rotten, which the traders used only during the trading season. James Kingsbury and his family came here one or two weeks after we did, and stayed a while in that house.
In July 1797, our hired girl was married to a Mr. Clement, from Canada. They were married by Mr. Seth Hart, who was a minister, and the agent of the company.
I remember seeing the cabin where the crew of the British vessel wintered, after it was wrecked. It was about two miles down the river, on the bank of the lake. The vessel had two brass guns on board, which were buried on shore. My father used to go to the wreck, and get bolts, spikes, and other pieces of iron. Some of this iron is in the gate at my house now.
In the year 1798, my father brought some goods to trade with the Indians. I remember when Menompsy, the Chippewa medicine man was killed; it was towards evening.
Menompsy had doctored Big Son’s wife, who he said he had killed with his medicine. They were in Campbell’s store, under the hill, which stood between the surveyor’s cabin and storehouse. Big Son threatened to kill the doctor in the store, but Menompsy said, “me no ‘fraid” They went out and walked along the road up Union lane. It was getting pretty dark. Big Son pretended to make friends, and put out one hand, as though he would shake hands. With the other hand he drew his knife and stabbed Menompsy who fell down and died. The Chippewas were encamped on the west side of the river, and the Senecas and Ottawas on the east side. Every body expected there would be an Indian fight. The west side Indians painted themselves black, and threatened the Senecas very severely. My father did not sleep for two days and nights.
My father built a new frame house in 1803, near the junction of Superior lane and Union lane. Just as it was finished the shavings took fire, and it was burnt. He then built a block house on the same spot in the same year.
I knew Amos Spafford for ten years; he was a surveyor and came here to live in 1799. He and my father set the big posts at the corners of the streets in 1801, or 1802. I and my brother were boys with his boys, and in 1799 we went about the streets a good deal, and sawed the corner stakes. Spafford took up the stakes, and put down the posts which he cut in the woods nearby. The stakes had been there three or four years. Superior lane was a sharp ridge where we could not get up or down. Traveled up and down the river, on Union lane. In 1800, or 1801, a vessel landed one hundred barrels of salt on the beach, which was carried off on horses, or carried up the beach. My father built his warehouse there in 1809 and ’10. General Tupper, an army contractor, used it in 1812 to store provisions, and also Murray’s warehouse. In 1813 they moved everything two miles up the river, to Walworth’s Point, to keep the stores from the British.
My father’s warehouse was washed down in 1816 or ’17. The remains were there in 1823 and ’24. It was a double log house, and was undermined by the lake.
Persons were buried in the old burying ground in 1797. A Mr. Eldridge was drowned at Grand river, and his body was brought here. We got some boards and made a strong box for a coffin. We put him in, and strung it on a pole with cords, to carry him up to the burying ground. Built a fence around the grave.
The water rose in 1813–overflowed all the low ground. Bank began to slide in 1818. Ontario street was cut out at the time of the war.
The Connecticut Land Company built two buildings between Superior and Union lanes.
The general landing was near foot of Superior lane. Vessels could seldom get into the river. They anchored off and had lighters. When they came in the landed at the foot of Superior lane.
My father died in 1814. They began to work Superior Lane very early–soon after I came here.
The Indians had been camping on the beach at the Point, and left a cat there which my mother wanted. It was in 1798, I went with her to catch the cat, who ran under the logs back of the beach, and as I jumped over after her I went plump in the water, on this side where the swamp was.
In 1806, the channel was three rods wide, and ten inches deep. My brother went in there to bathe, and got on the bar. I was across the river in the field topping corn. I saw his hands out of the water and ran there as fast as I could. He was never seen any more. The river has never been so far east as it was then.
In 1803 and ’04, the hill road was traveled to Painesville. It crossed the Cuyahoga at the foot of Union and Mandrake lanes where the Indians used to cross. They swam their horses.
Below is a letter from Gilman Bryant dated June 1, 1857 in which he relates his memories about Cleveland in the early days:“Mount Vernon Ohio
June 1st 1857:
Alexander C. Ellito, Esq.
Sir: According to your request, I will inform you about the first settlement of Cleveland, Ohio, according to my best recollection.
My father, David Bryant, and myself, landed at Cleveland in June 1797. There was but one family there at the time, viz: Lorenzo Carter, who lived in a log cabin, under the high sand bank, near the Cuyahoga river, and about thirty rods below the bend of the river, at the west end of Superior street. I went up the hill to view the town. I found one log cabin erected by the surveyors, on the south side of Superior Street, near the place where the old Mansion house formerly stood. There was not cleared land, only where the logs were cut to erect the cabin, and for firewood. I saw stakes at the corners of the lots, among the logs, and large oak and chestnut trees. We were on our way to a grindstone quarry, near Vermilion River. We made two trips that summer, and stopped at Mr. Carter’s each time. In the fall of 1797, I found Mr. Rudolphus Edwards in a cabin under the hill, at the west end of Superior Street. We made two trips in the summer of 1798. I found Major Spafford in the old surveyor’s cabin. The same fall Mr. David Clark erected a cabin on the other side of the street and about 5 rods northwest of Spafford’s. We made two trips in the summer of 1799, and in the fall, father and myself returned to Cleveland, to make a pair of millstones for Mr. Williams, about five miles east of Cleveland, near the trail to Hudson. We made the mill stones on the right hand side of the stream as you go up, fifteen or twenty feet from the stream, and about half a mile from the mill, which was under a high bank, and near a fall in said stream of forty or fifty feet. If any person will examine, they will find the remains and pieces of rock, the said stones were made of. The water was conveyed to the mill in a dugout trough, to an under-shot wheel about twelve feet over, with one set of arms, and buckets fifteen inches long, to run inside of the trough, which went down the bank at an angle of forty-five degrees, perhaps. The dam was about four rods above the fall; the mill stones were three and a half feet in diameter, of gray rock. On my way from the town to Mr. William’s mill, I found the cabin of Mr. R. Edwards. who had left the town, about three miles out; the next cabin was Judge Kingsbury, and the next old Mr. Gunn, thence half a mile to Mr. William’s mill.
On my return to Cleveland in the fall of 1800, my father and myself came there to stay. He took a still from Virginia, and built a still-house under the sand bank, about twenty rods from L. Carter’s and fifteen feet from the river. The house was made of hewed logs, twenty by twenty-six, one and a half stories high. We took the water in a trough, out of some small springs which came out of the bank, into the second story of the house, and made the whiskey out of wheat.
My father purchased ten acres of land about one-fourth of a mile from the town plat, on the bank of the river, east of town. In the winter of 1800 and spring of 1801, I helped my father clear five acres on said lot, which was planted with corn in the spring. Said ten acres were sold by my father in the spring of 1802, at the rate of two dollars and fifty cents per acre. Mr. Samuel Huntington came to Cleveland in the spring of 1801, and built a hewed log house near the bank of the Cuyahoga river, about 15 rods south-east of the old surveyors’ cabin, occupied by Mr. Spafford.
I attended the 4th of July ball, mentioned in the History of Ohio. I waited on Miss Doan, who had just arrived at the Corners, four miles east of town. I was then about seventeen years of age, and Miss Doan about fourteen. I was dressed in the then style ñ a gingham suit ñ my hair queued with one and a half yards of black ribbon, about as long and as thick as a corncob, with the little tuft at the lower end; and for the want of pomatum, I had a piece of candle rubbed on my hair, and then as much flour sprinkled on, as could stay without falling off. I had a good wool hat, and a pair of brogans that would help to play “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” or “High Betty Martin,” when I danced. When I went for Miss Doan I took an old horse; when she was ready I rode up to a stump near the cabin, she mounted the stump and spread her under petticoat on “Old Tib” behind me, secured her calico dress to keep it clean, and then mounted behind me. I had a fine time!
The Indians scattered along the river, from five to eight miles apart, as far as the falls. They hauled their canoes above high water mark and covered them with bark, and went from three to five miles back into the woods. In the spring, after sugar making, they all packed their skins, sugar, bear’s oil, honey, and jerked venison, to their crafts. They frequently had to make more canoes, either of wood or bark, as the increase of their furs, &c., required. They would descend the river in April, from sixty to eighty families, and encamp on the west side of the river for eight or nine days, take a drunken scrape and have a feast. I was invited to partake of a white dog. They singed part of the hair off and chopped him up, and made a large kettle of soup. They erected a scaffold, and offered a large wooden bowlful, placed on the scaffold, to “Manitou,” and then they presented me with one fore-paw well boiled, and plenty of soup, the hair still being between the toes. I excused; they said, “a good soldier would eat such.” They said, “God was a good man and he would not hurt anybody.” They, in offering the sacrifice to Manitou, prayed to him for their safety over the lake, and that they might have a good crop of corn, &c.”
“Cleveland’s Golden Story” by James Wallen, 1920
“Lakewood Story” by Margaret Manor Butler, 1949
“Cleveland the Making of A City” by William Ganson Rose, 1950
“Cleveland: The Best Kept Secret” by G.E. Condon, 1967
“This Cleveland of Ours”, Wilfred H. & Miriam Russell Alburn, 1933 – Page 139 has a GREAT description of the pioneers. Page 141 starts the second winter with Lorenzo Carter.
from the Ohio Historical Society
Lorenzo Carter was the first permanent white settler of Cleveland, Ohio.
Carter was born in 1767 (sometimes reported as 1766) in Rutland, Vermont. In 1797, hoping to lead a more profitable life in the Connecticut Western Reserve, Carter relocated his family, including his wife, Rebecca Fuller, to Cleveland. The Carters arrived in Cleveland on May 2. They were the only white family in Cleveland until April 1800. Several other families settled near Cleveland before this date, but they preferred the higher elevations of land around this community, rather than the swampier terrain of Cleveland.
Carter and his family did succeed on the frontier. They built a sizable log-cabin home, which also served as an inn and, for a time, as a jail. Carter eventually became a sizable landholder in the area, owning several dozen acres of land on both the east and west sides of the Cuyahoga River. Carter built the first log warehouse in Cleveland in 1810, as well as the first ship, the Zephyr, capable of trading sizable amounts of goods on Lake Erie in 1808. The Carters also owned the first frame house in Cleveland, although it burned shortly before completion. Carter also served as a constable and as a major in the Ohio Militia.
Carter died on February 7, 1814
Article by George Knepper presented at the Western Reserve Studies Symposium in 1999
From Clevelandareahistory.com an overview on Huntington Park and the statue “erected to the memory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and the role he played in the defense of the United States in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812.”