War of 1812: Culmination of 20 Years of Conflict Opened Up the Future for Ohio: Elizabeth Sullivan

Courtesy of the Plain Dealer June 10, 2012

The link is here

War of 1812: Culmination of 20 years of conflict opened up the future for Ohio: Elizabeth Sullivan


When federal census-takers ventured into the wild Ohio country in 1800, they found (pdf) 45,365 settlers already living in “the Northwest Territory.”

So many had flooded into this frontier land — from the East Coast, looking for cheap, fertile land; from slave-owning states, wanting to live in a slave-free area; from eastern cities, looking to profit on land speculations — that Ohio had almost reached the magic 60,000 number needed to become a state. It achieved that milestone in 1803.

These newcomers had headed for Ohio despite a series of shockingly violent wars and raids in the 1790s pitting early settlers against indigenous Indian tribes determined to hold on to land specifically guaranteed them in a 1768 British treaty.

An equal thirst for territory propelled the migrants, however — the same inexorable expansionism that set the stage for Ohio’s part in the War of 1812, which started 200 years ago this month.

The war, as it was fought in Ohio, was in many ways the logical extension of more than a decade of Indian warfare for title to this verdant tract of land. Even before war was formally declared on June 18, 1812, the enterprise was viewed with far more enthusiasm on the Ohio frontier than in Philadelphia, New York or Washington.

While East Coasters fretted about the serious economic repercussions, Ohioans correctly understood the stakes as nothing less than control of America’s frontier, the key to the American experiment.

For more than a decade, folks in Ohio and neighboring Kentucky had been on the front lines of a series of Indian wars fought with the help of British weapons and other provisions.

Long after the Revolutionary War had ended, it seemed to many local settlers that Britain was determined to kill the United States through its back door, using indigenous tribes as proxies.

While that impression was exaggerated — the British were much more interested in preserving their stake in the lucrative fur trade than in starting another expensive war — British officials delayed enlightening Indian allies about their narrow aims, or about the 1783 treaty ending the Revolutionary War, when Britain had ceded to the fledgling United States the entire “Old Northwest” that the tribes considered theirs.

The ceded land included all or parts of what was to become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota — although Britain kept armed forts in the area, ostensibly to secure its fur-trading interests.

In this way, more than a quarter-million square miles of prairie, deciduous forests, rivers, swamplands and fertile land became the logical pathway for U.S. expansion — America’s “manifest destiny” long before the phrase was coined.

That’s also why the 1790s Indian wars naturally morphed into the War of 1812 — which did settle, once and for all, America’s expansionist destiny westward, although not northward into Canada, after several invasion attempts failed.

No mere skirmishes, the 1790s wars involved pitched battles by a federation of Indian warriors who knew the stakes, acting in concert under skilled military leadership — and exacting, in 1791, what’s still the worst single-battle U.S. Army loss against Native Americans.

On Nov. 4, 1791, on the Wabash River near present-day Fort Recovery in western Ohio, more than 600 U.S. Army officers, men and militia members under the command of Arthur St. Clair, an aging Revolutionary War veteran afflicted with gout, were slain, along with hundreds of their camp followers, during a surprise attack by 1,000 warriors led by Miami Chief Little Turtle and Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket.

That was more than twice the casualties of the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The sweeping 1795 Treaty of Greenville was supposed to put the Indian claims in Ohio to rest.

That treaty followed the trouncing that troops led by U.S. Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne dealt to a united force that included Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware and Miami tribesmen at the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, in present-day Maumee.

But the 1790s wars did not resolve all of the competing claims.

When Ohio Gov. Return J. Meigs Jr. called in April 1812 for troops to assemble in Dayton — months before war was formally declared — so many showed up to fight that the Army didn’t have supplies for all of them.

Qualified commanders also were in short supply. Local militias near Dayton had to take up armslater that summer to defend the area’s settlements, after the ignominious capitulation in August 1812 of William Hull, another ailing Revolutionary War veteran, who had shockingly surrendered his Ohio and U.S. troops at Detroit to a smaller British-American Indian force, virtually without firing a shot.

Fortunately, other U.S. forces had more success. And the magnificent victory, in September 1813, of Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry in the naval Battle of Lake Erie was a strategic triumph that cut key British supply lines, although it would take another year to end the war.

By 1820, more than half a million people were in Ohio, many hoping to make their fortunes, others heading elsewhere. I was amazed to see, when I looked closely at the census earlier this year, that no fewer than 10 of my direct forebears were in Ohio by 1820.

They came because of hatred of slavery (James Sullivan from North Carolina between 1808 and 1811), thirst for cheaper land (Thomas Crook from Maryland in 1814), the adventure of the frontier (Jacob Kessler and Henry Horn, in-laws and Revolutionary War veterans, from Pennsylvania via Virginia between 1806 and 1814) and to make money in the state’s nascent manufacturing that needed abundant water for power (George Seager, who in about 1811 had emigrated illegally from Britain, where his skills as a wool carder and machine maker were considered an industrial secret “not for export”)

Thomas Crook, my great-great-great-grandfather, briefly served in the 1812 war at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, according to his sworn affidavit, then moved to Wayne Township northeast of Dayton — named for the general who’d defeated Native American forces in 1794. Many of Wayne Township’s early residents were veterans of the Revolutionary, Indian or 1812 wars.

One of Crook’s younger sons was George Crook, a West Point graduate and later famed Indian fighter who became an early champion of Native American civil rights.

Gen. Crook’s attempt in the late 1800s to seek redress for the broken promises to Apache leaders and others whom he’d first fought and then befriended was a lonely battle that alienated him from some of his oldest military friends.

But it suggests how combat veterans often see war — as a failure to act decisively to redirect the elements that are spinning out of control and propelling conflict and violence.

Gen. Crook, who was born on the Ohio frontier a dozen years after the War of 1812 ended, would have grown up surrounded by men who understood that.

Sullivan is The Plain Dealer’s editorial page editor.


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

Moses Cleaveland from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

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CLEAVELAND, MOSES (29 Jan. 1754-16 Nov. 1806), founder of the city of Cleveland, was born in Canterbury, Conn. In 1777, Cleaveland began service in the Revolutionary War in a Connecticut Continental Regiment, and graduated from Yale. Resigning his commission in 1781, he practiced law in Canterbury, and on 2 Mar. 1794 married Esther Champion and had four children. As one of 36 founders of the CONNECTICUT LAND CO. (investing $32,600), and one of 7 directors, in 1796 Cleaveland was sent to survey and map the company’s holdings.

When the party arrived at Buffalo Creek, N.Y., Cleaveland met in treaty with Red Jacket, Joseph Brant, Farmer’s Brother, and other Iroquois chiefs, and with gifts and persuasion convinced them their land had already been ceded through Gen. Anthony Wayne’s Treaty of Greenville. Although they had not signed the treaty, the Indians relinquished their claim to the land to the CUYAHOGA RIVER. At the mouth of Conneaut Creek, the party on 27 June 1796 negotiated with the MASSASAGOES tribe, who challenged their claim to their country. Cleaveland described his agreement with the Six Nations, promised not to disturb their people, and gave them trinkets, wampum, and whiskey in exchange for safety to explore to the Cuyahoga River. Cleaveland arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga on 22 July 1796, and believing that the location, where river, lake, low banks, dense forests, and high bluffs provided both protection and shipping access, was the ideal location for the “capital city” of the Connecticut WESTERN RESERVE, paced out a 10-acre New England-like Public Square. His surveyors plotted a town, naming it Cleaveland. In Oct. 1796, Cleaveland and most of his party returned to Connecticut, where he continued his law practice until his death, never returning to the Western Reserve. A memorial near his grave in Canterbury, Conn., erected 16 Nov. 1906 by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, reads that Cleaveland was “a lawyer, a soldier, a legislator and a leader of men.”

Connecticut Western Reserve from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland

Overview from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

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The WESTERN RESERVE encompassed approx. 3.3 million acres of land in what is now northeastern Ohio. Bounded on the north by Lake Erie, on the east by Pennsylvania, it extended 120 mi. westward. On the south, the Reserve’s line was set at 41 degrees north latitude, running just south of the present cities of Youngstown, Akron, and Willard. The state of Connecticut exempted the land from 41 degrees to as far north as 42 degrees 2 minutes (western extensions of its own boundaries) when it ceded its western claims to the U.S. in 1786. In its 1662 royal charter, Connecticut’s boundaries were established as extending “from sea-to-sea” across North America; royal grants also had created New York and Pennsylvania, both of which intruded on Connecticut’s lands. In the 1750s, a group of Connecticut speculators began to sell lands in the Wyoming Valley near present-day Wilkes-Barre, PA. In 1782, under the Articles of Confederation, a federal court determined that the Wyoming lands belonged to Pennsylvania. At the same time, Congress was encouraging states that claimed western lands to cede them so that it could regulate their sale and governance. Following the example of Virginia’s cession in 1784, which had exempted lands promised to war veterans, Connecticut reserved lands roughly equal in dimension to the Wyoming Valley lands from her cession. Congress took 2 years before reluctantly accepting the Connecticut cession, and then only because the Pennsylvania delegation championed Connecticut’s offer. It is assumed that threats to reopen the Wyoming Valley case motivated Pennsylvania’s support of Connecticut.

Connecticut ceded to the U.S. all her western lands claims, except the area of the Reserve, on 14 Sept. 1786. Indian title to the lands east of the CUYAHOGA RIVER was extinguished in the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. That same year, the State of Connecticut sold most of the reserved lands to the CONNECTICUT LAND CO., and established a school fund with the proceeds from the sale. The actual survey and division of the lands would be directed by the company. Connecticut had exempted the “Firelands,” some 500,000 acres in the western part of the Reserve, in order to compensate citizens whose property had been destroyed in British raids during the Revolutionary War. The year after the Connecticut cession, Congress created the Northwest Territory, but it was assumed that Connecticut, not the territory, was empowered to exercise political jurisdiction over the Reserve. The ambiguity lasted until 1800, when Congress passed the “Quieting Act”; Connecticut surrendered all governing authority and shortly thereafter Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, designated the Western Reserve as Trumbull County, fixing the county seat at Warren.



Cleveland and the War of 1812

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland.

The link is here

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.

Carl Ubbelohde

Case Western Reserve Univ.

Perry Drives British From Lake Erie

Plain Dealer article written by Bob Rich and published on August 13, 1995


Author: BOB RICH

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.

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.

Moses Finds The Promised Land

Plain Dealer article that ran on July 9, 1995 and written by Bob Rich.


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.

“Connecticut Western Reserve” A Brief Overview of Early Cleveland History

From the “Cleveland and Its Neighborhoods” website

The link is here

“Connecticut Western Reserve”

A Brief Overview of Early Cleveland History

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

Teaching Cleveland Digital