The Ohio & Erie Canal-from George Washington to Alfred Kelley

“Cleveland’s First Infrastructure” is a project of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections, and was made possible by a grant from the Cleveland Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. It seems appropriate that this exhibit, which highlights the achievement of civil engineers of the early 19th century, premiers during National Engineers Week and on the eve of the birthday of military engineer and land surveyor George Washington. We hope that this site will serve as a gateway through which people can learn about the canal, identify resources for further investigation of canal engineering and history, and find opportunities to visit preserved areas of the Ohio & Erie Canal in Ohio.

The link is here

Alfred Kelley biography

from Ohio Historical Society

Alfred Kelley was born in Middlefield, Connecticut, on November 7, 1789, and then moved with his family to Lowville, New York, at the age of ten. He trained as a lawyer under New York Supreme Court justice Jonas Platt beginning in 1807.

Kelley’s family was connected to the earliest settlers in the Connecticut Western Reserve. His mother’s brother, Joshua Stow, was one of the first members of the Connecticut Land Company and had traveled with Moses Cleaveland in 1796 to establish the settlement of Cleveland. Kelley moved to Cleveland in 1810, becoming a member of the Ohio bar and the community’s first attorney. He quickly became involved in local politics, serving as prosecuting attorney from 1810 to 1822 and becoming Cleveland’s first mayor in 1815. (The election was unanimous, with Kelley receiving all twelve votes.)

Kelley also became involved in state politics, elected to the Ohio House of Representatives for the first time in 1814 and serving in state politics in some capacity for the rest of his life. In 1814, Kelley was the youngest member of the House. When he retired from the Ohio Senate in 1857, he was then the oldest member of the state legislature. During the intervening years, Kelley was an instrumental figure in a number of important state issues. He introduced a bill to end the policy of imprisoning people who could not pay off their debts and helped to create the office of state superintendent of schools. He authored an important banking reform bill in 1845 and the state’s first general property tax law the following year. In addition, Kelley served as chairman of Ohio’s Whig Party commission and helped William Henry Harrison become President of the United States in 1840.

What Kelley was probably most known for, however, was his passionate support for canal construction. In fact, he became known as “the father of the Ohio canal system.” In addition to persuading the state legislature to finance the building of canals, Kelley also devoted much of his time to supervising construction, first in Akron and then in Columbus. In spite of the fact that the canal went significantly over budget, Kelley’s reputation for honesty and integrity insured that the legislature did not withdraw funding for the project.

By the 1840s and 1850s, Kelley realized that canals were being surpassed by a new form of transportation, the railroad. With his urging, the city of Cleveland began a long-term project to connect the community to Cincinnati. By 1851, the railroad already reached from Cleveland to Columbus. Kelley also served as president both of the Columbus and Xenia Railroad and the Cleveland, Painesville, and Ashtabula Railroad.

Kelley died in Columbus on December 2, 1859. During his years of public service, the state of Ohio and the city of Cleveland had grown tremendously and, because of his support of transportation and financial reforms, Kelley had played an important role in their transformation.

Leonard Case Sr.

Overview from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The link is here

CASE, LEONARD, SR. (29 July 1786-7 Dec. 1864), a businessman and philanthropist, was born in Westmoreland County, Pa., son of Meshack and Magdalene (Eckstein) Case. He moved in Apr. 1800 to Warren Twp., Trumbull County. In 1806, he became clerk of the court of common pleas for Trumbull County, later becoming clerk to Gen. Simon Perkins of the CONNECTICUT LAND CO. He studied law, passed the bar in 1814, and moved to Cleveland in 1816 when the COMMERCIAL BANK OF LAKE ERIE was formed and one of the founders hired him as the bank’s cashier. After the bank failed, Case stayed in Cleveland practicing law. From 1821-25, as president of the Cleveland village council, he was responsible for planting shade trees along streets, earning Cleveland the nickname “FOREST CITY.” From 1824-27, he served in the Ohio legislature, drafting laws taxing land according to value rather than size. He advocated railroads and canals.

From 1827-55, Case was an agent for the Connecticut Land Bank, acquiring large amounts of land from debtors during the Panic of 1837. In 1832, Case reorganized the Commercial Bank of Lake Erie and became its president. He was also an investor in the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati Railroad. Case married Elizabeth Gaylord in Stow, Portage County, in 1817, and in the late 1840s turned his affairs over to his sons William and Leonard, Jr. Case gave to many charitable organizations, including Cleveland’s first school for the poor, the Cuyahoga County Historical Society, the Cleveland Medical College, and the city’s first lyceum for the arts. Case died in Cleveland and was buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.


Ohio City Annexation

Overview from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The link is here


OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO), one of Cleveland’s older neighborhoods, was originally part of Brooklyn Twp., founded in 1818. Historic borders of the city were: Lake Erie on the north; the CUYAHOGA RIVER on the east; Walworth Ave. and W. 44th St. on the south; and W. 65th St. on the west. On 3 Mar. 1836, 2 days before Cleveland’s incorporation, the City of Ohio became an independent municipality; it remained so until 5 June 1854, when it was annexed to Cleveland. Although Cleveland had nearly 6,000 people to Ohio City’s 2,000, the two cities became fierce competitors, especially in the area of commerce. This rivalry was best demonstrated in 1837, when Ohio City residents sought, violently, to stop the use of Cleveland’s new COLUMBUS STREET BRIDGE, which siphoned off commercial traffic to Cleveland before it could reach Ohio City’s mercantile district. Among the independent city’s 11 mayors were JOSIAH BARBER†, NORMAN C. BALDWIN†, RICHARD LORD†, THOS. BURNHAM†, and WM. B. CASTLE†. The city’s population grew from approx. 2,400 in the 1830s to 4,253 in 1850. Upon annexation, Ohio City became wards 8, 9, 10, and 11 of Cleveland.

After annexation, Ohio City became known as the near west side. A number of ethnic groups, including GERMANSHUNGARIANS, and IRISH, lived in the area in the late 19th century. One of its focal points has been the WEST SIDE MARKET, which was built by 1912 on the site that Josiah Barber and Richard Lord deeded to the city on the condition it be kept a marketplace. Following World War II, the area entered a period of decline. In 1968 the Ohio City Redevelopment Assn. was chartered to stem the tide of neglect in the historic neighborhood and to strengthen a nascent trend of restoration that had begun in the early 1960s. From 1963-78, over 100 structures were restored or redeveloped, including ST. IGNATIUS HIGH SCHOOL and the Carnegie Branch of the CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY, as well as numerous private residences. As older structures were refurbished and occupied by upper-middle-class individuals and families, the resultant displacement of poorer groups led to charges of gentrification. By this time Ohio City was home to over 15 ethnic groups representing 25,000 people in a 4.5 sq. mi. area. Among the newer immigrant and migrant groups were Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans. As the Ohio City Development Corp. succeeded earlier redevelopment groups in 1992, the neighborhood was further revitalized by the construction of new townhouses on Fulton Rd. and the Market Sq. Retail Ctr. opposite the West Side Market at W. 25th St. and Lorain Ave.