The Story of Cleveland’s 1st Neighborhood (video)

The Story of Cleveland’s 1st Neighborhood (video)

The link is here

In this episode of the History and the Stories of our Neighborhoods, we will tell the story of Cleveland’s first neighborhood, which is the Flats and the Warehouse District – some of the most popular neighborhoods in which to visit when in town. The rich history of the city, starts here, and as we celebrate Cleveland’s 225th birthday of it’s founding, this is a great way to tell the story of such a prominent place in the city’s history.

The Man Who Saved Cleveland by Michael Roberts and Margaret Gulley

The pdf is here

The Man Who Saved Cleveland

By Michael Roberts and Margaret Gulley

Cleveland in the summer of 1797 was hot, thick with malaria and filled with perilous swamps. Creeks, rivers, ponds and the lake invited drowning. Poisonous snakes slithered across the narrow Indian trails and lurking in dense forests were the natives themselves, strange and fearful creatures to the aspiring pioneers.

            The winter here offered even more treachery. Snow as high as a horse’s head and packs of snarling wolves threatened travelers. The ice and wind could freeze a careless man to death before he could contemplate his demise.

That fall, as the surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company prepared to return east before the harsh weather set in, only four families remained to endure winter’s wrath. The work had not gone well and the investors were upset because the land company was far behind schedule. While the city would be named after the surveying leader, Moses Cleaveland, he would never return, likely because of the trouble with the land company and the hardship of that summer.

Remaining behind would be the guardian of those families and ultimately the settlement itself, Lorenzo Carter. Considered a legend even in his day, Carter was a frontiersman who, when thrust into danger and travail, always seemed to emerge and prevail.

Yet today, he is barely celebrated. Time has cast a shadow on his rugged and outspoken spirit, while illuminating the more urban Moses Cleaveland. The truth is that for those first few critical years, Carter was the only thing holding the settlement together.

To this day some maintain that the city should bear Carter’s name rather than that of Cleaveland.

The founding of the city was no easy adventure and what happened in the summer of 1797 illustrated the challenges that were confronted and the role played by Lorenzo Carter in the fledgling community.

Aside from the difficulties that the swamps and forests posed, the land company workers fell victim to a fever that caused dysentery and fits, rendering them exhausted and unfit for work. The illness brought death as well as more and more of the settlers and workers succumbed to the disease.

There began an exodus back to the east and the settlement appeared in jeopardy as most of the original settlers moved away from the lake and river to higher ground toward the south. At one point the Carter family was the only white inhabitants of Cleveland proper.

A tough, dark-complicated man direct in his speech with riveting blue eyes and black shoulder length hair, Carter possessed extraordinary skills in hunting and woodcraft. He could communicate with the Native Americans and his appearance and demeanor appealed to them.

At six feet, muscular, yet as nimble as a forest creature, Carter presented an intimidating figure. His ability with ax, rifle, knife and fists were widely known. His contemporaries referred to him as the Major, or the Pioneer. Indians thought him possessed of magic and able to kill an animal with his rifle without piercing the skin.

With no medicines available to aid the suffering surveyors, Carter turned to the Indians for help. They showed him that a blend of dogwood and cherry bark would achieve similar results as quinine in easing the fever of malaria.

Carter became ill, but never succumbed to the disease. He and his wife, Rebecca, treated many in the plague filled community. He hunted game for those who lay sick with fever, enabling many to survive.

This demonstration of courage and knowledge most likely kept a flickering flame of community alive, for it would have taken years for Cleveland to develop as a location of any prominence had the fever been more ravaging.

How Carter came to the shores of Lake Erie was a story that many in the newly constituted United States shared. The lure that drew them was a future that would be governed by the freedom which had become the foundation of the new nation.

Carter grew up in Connecticut, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran who died of smallpox when Lorenzo was 11. As a child he was fascinated by the library in Warren, Connecticut, an interest that would be rekindled years later in Cleveland. After his mother remarried, the family moved to Vermont where he learned to ride and hunt and shoot and track wild animals.

In 1789, Carter married Rebecca Fuller and appeared destined to become a Vermont farmer. But Ohio fever— enticing stories of the opportunity that lay to the west in the land of “New Connecticut”— seized his imagination. Sometime in either late 1795 or early 1796 he set out with a companion to see this beckoning territory.

Carter’s reconnoitering of the Cuyahoga River gave him a vision of potential prosperity, for he returned to Vermont determined to relocate his family in the Western Reserve. They left Vermont with his brother-in-law, Ezekiel Hawley (sometimes called Holley) and his family, and wintered in Canada, arriving here on May 2, 1797.

He was 30 when he returned to the Cuyahoga River, well seasoned in the ways of the wild. Carter was more than a woodsman, though, having an aptitude for enterprise, construction, farming and the technology of the day.

Over time, it would take all of Carter’s considerable skills to save the settlement from starvation, fear of Indians, and disease. Later, as the colony grew, the community turned to him as a leader to such an extent that, before laws were codified and courts established, he was the law.

He built a log cabin that summer of 1797, on the river just north of what is now St. Clair Avenue. The land for it cost $47.50. The cabin was described as being pretentious and topped with a garret. This expansive log structure served the community in multiple ways. It was a town hall, the school house, a tavern and a place for travelers to seek shelter. It was a place to learn news, albeit old news, for the passage back to the east coast could be as long as three months.

The cabin was a malodorous place, smelling of smoke, sweat, the aroma of food cooking in the hearth and sometimes blended with the odor of New England rum. Virtually anyone who passed by was welcome and the nearby Indians would peer in with curiosity.

Rebecca Carter did not like Indians loitering around the cabin. She was terrified of them and often would cry out in fear if they surprised her. She ran and hid behind a wood pile if she saw them approach.

More than once, Lorenzo would catch a mischievous Indian harassing his wife and threaten him with physical harm, which he could deliver swifter than any man in the settlement.

The cabin hosted the first wedding in the colony on July 4, 1797 when Mrs. Carter’s household worker was married. In 1801, the cabin held the first formal dance that would take place in the colony in celebration of July 4. There were more than 30 in attendance and a mixture of maple sugar, water and whisky was served to the revelers who danced to the squeal of a fiddle.

Contemporary accounts of Carter describe him as a man of principle, but not without prejudice. He made no secret of his dislike of black people, although he could not abide slavery. One account of the time illustrates the complexity of the man.

A black man named Ben had survived a shipwreck nearby on Lake Erie and in 1806. The man, nearly frozen to death, was taken to Carter’s tavern where he was fed and treated for frost bitten toes. Carter and his wife nursed the man back to health.

That fall, two armed men from Kentucky arrived, claiming that the man was an escaped slave. Carter told the two that he would only consent to the black man’s departure if the slave made the decision to return on his own volition.

What took place at this point is not clear, but accounts say the slave departed with the two Kentuckians only to be stopped a gun point a few miles away by two of Carter’s men who held the two at bay while the black man made his escape. He later found freedom in Canada.

Carter’s achievements in the early years of the community were remarkable. Seeking to create regular commerce toward the east, he built a 30-ton vessel called the Zephyr that travelled the lake coast trading furs and transporting grindstones. Historians credit him with officially opening the port of Cleveland and beginning a ship building trade that in 50 years would be the largest in the nation.

The vessel enabled the struggling frontier town to receive much needed staples like salt, iron, tools, leather, groceries and clothing. Again, Carter’s intrepid ingenuity served the community as a whole.

A craftsman seemingly of infinite ability, he built the first two- story frame house on Superior only to see it burn down when children began to play with fire amidst the wood chips. Carter would also suffered the tragedy of having his son, Henry,10, drown in the Cuyahoga River. In all, he sired nine children.

In 1802, after obtaining a license for four dollars to run a tavern, Carter built yet another structure. He had purchased 23-½ acres of land, 12 of which fronted on what is now West 9th Street. Here he built a block house that would gain fame as the Carter Tavern and it served as the first hotel in Cleveland.

Carter complained of the land company prices which seemed continually to decline, dropping from $50 an acre to $25 at one point.

Carter was elected as a captain in the militia in May of 1804, but the election was contested by those who claimed that he was ineligible for the office because he gave liquor to the voters and threatened to turn the savages on the community if not elected. Apparently, nothing became of the charges, but the challenge served to show the disaffection between the pioneers and the newcomers. In August, Carter was elected major, a title he carried for the rest of his life.

            The clashes between Carter and the increasing number of easterners who had invested in the Connecticut Land Company were frequent. The newcomers resented Carter’s influence, position and prestige.

            Carter had such a reputation as a fighter that strangers hearing of his prowess, would travel here, perhaps to best him in a brawl. Those who knew him said that he was never known to lose a street fight.

The first indictment recorded in the Western Reserve was in 1803 and was noted as being against “Mr. Carter, the pioneer, for an assault upon James Hamilton.” Friends attested that Carter was not a quarrelsome person and would only fight if he was insulted. One can only guess what the dispute was regarding Hamilton.

He also had a reputation in contemporary histories of being a man who helped the unfortunate and obliged neighbors and strangers. A drink could always be had at his tavern.

Liquor was a commodity that played an important role on the frontier. It was not only to drink, it could be bartered as currency. Sadly, one of its more important uses was to quell the natives who had a taste for spirits, but could not manage its excesses. Carter was a practiced producer of alcohol and equally adept at manipulating the Indians with it.

In 1798, when a Seneca medicine man was accused of malpractice in the death of the wife of an Indian from another tribe, the husband stabbed him to death, causing the potential for tribal warfare.

Already the Chippewas had donned black war paint and were off in the forest issuing blood curdling oaths and behaving in the most fearsome manner.

Carter recognizing that any fighting could get out of control and the violence spill over into the white community, ameliorated the dispute by having a neighbor brew two gallons of whiskey. Since the capacity of the still was only two quarts daily, it took some time to yield the liquor.   The danger was so dire that Carter did not sleep for two nights, according to his son Alonzo.

The Chippewas and Ottawas traditionally celebrated in the spring and one year they traded furs with Carter for whisky. When they drank the first lot, they traded for more, and so on until the band of natives became drunk. A calculating Carter decided to cut the whisky with water while continuing to barter with the braves.

Upon coming to their senses, the Indians realized that the spirits had been diluted and became enraged. Nine of them attacked the Major’s cabin. He fought them off with a fire poker, driving them to the river and their canoes. Later, a party of Indian women came to make peace with Carter. Thankfully, the women had disarmed the braves before the drinking bout had begun.

By 1810, following the purchase of land on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River from the Indians, Carter and his son bought a piece of land near the river’s mouth. There they built the Red House Tavern and established a farm.

Carter had his vision of justice and administered it in the colony in a manner that brought him acclaim by his fellow citizens. In 1812, When an Indian brave, an acquaintance of Carter’s, was found guilty of murder, it was Lorenzo who escorted him to the gallows on what is now Public Square. He gave the condemned man whisky to numb his fear and saw to it that he was properly dispatched. Such was justice on the frontier.

That year, Carter discovered he was suffering from a form of cancer on his face. The indomitable Major travelled to Virginia where physicians told him his disease was untreatable. He returned and unable to accept his fate, secluded himself in his room at the tavern, crying out in pain and refusing the ministrations of his wife who remained outside his door throughout the ordeal. It was a humbling end for a man so robust and heroic.

After his death Carter’s half brother, John A. Ackley, would write:

“Many stories are told of Major Carter, some are true, and many that are not true. He was the man for a pioneer, with strength of body and mind, but not cultivated. His maxim was not to give an insult, nor receive one, without resenting it, and the insulter generally paid dear for his temerity. With all his faults, his heart was in the right place and was as ready to avenge a wrong done to the weak as one done to himself.”

Carter died on February 14, 1814 at the age of 47, and is buried in Erieview Cemetery just left of the gate on East 9th Street. Everyday, hundreds of cars pass a few yards from his grave, oblivious of this remarkable man and what he did in that dark and dangerous beginning. But for him, there may never have been a great city on the spot it is.

To read more about Lorenzo Carter, click here

Lorenzo Carter by Bob Rich

Plain Dealer article written by Bob Rich that ran on July 16, 1995



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.

Major Lorenzo Carter


“Major Lorenzo Carter”

Lorenzo Carter – Hero of the Western Reserve
The link is here


We call Lorenzo Carter the Hero of the Western Reserve because through all his personal trials and tribulations, he was determined, industrious, tenacious and was of huge importance to the settlement of Cleveland. Roads coming into Cleveland were poor. The Public Square was a mass of mud and stumps. By 1810 the population of Cleveland had dropped to 57. Schools and churches that had already opened were closing because the people were always ill due to the unhealthy conditions of the low and swampy land of Cleveland. Many people died of malaria. Lorenzo Carter “stuck it out” and the establishment of the city is due in no small part to his efforts. 

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.

(Carter’s Cabin at the Mouth of the Cuyahoga River – Whiskey Island on the Left)

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”. 

(Erie Street Cemetery)

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

Other Sources:
“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.


Lorenzo Carter Biography

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

Lorenzo Carter Biography

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


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