Sunday, July 22, 2018

This Day in History

 For a change, I'm doing a post about my hometown (note the spelling.) After all, it has its own history, as I'm sure all your hometowns do, too.

Before Cleveland was anything, there was an area in the foothills of the Appalachians to the west of the Thirteen Colonies, in-between Lake Erie in the north and the Ohio River in the south, that was known as Ohio Country or the Ohio Valley. Judging by the map above by a young surveyor named George Washington, not much seems to have been known about the region. But that's because Washington was a then-subject of the British Empire, and probably shouldn't have been in there in the first place. Though the indigenous people who lived there had their own ideas about who owned what, on a geopolitical scale the Ohio Valley was considered part of the French Empire in 1754, when this map was drawn. However, British fur traders wanted to open up shop in the neighborhood, and this invasion of turf helped touch off...

...the disingenuously-named French and Indian War (in fact, Native Americans of various tribes fought on, and were taken advantage of by, both sides in the conflict.)

The British came out on top in that one, and one of the awards for doing so, according to the 1763 treaty of Paris, was the Ohio Valley. However, the dust had barely settled a dozen years later...

...when there was another war, this one revolutionary in nature, and another Treaty of Paris (1783), that granted the Ohio Valley to the newly-created United States of America.

But which United State? Back in those Articles of Federation days, individual states had as much say as the federal government, and four of them--Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia--claimed the Ohio Valley as their own according to colonial charters drawn up back when the Union Jack still flew from government buildings.

The Continental Congress put an end to all the squabbling with passage of the Northwest Ordinance...

...that was subsequently included in the new Constitution. The Ohio Valley, as well as some of the territory that bordered it, was now the property of the federal government, but wouldn't stay that way forever. Once a particular locality had been settled by enough people, it could be admitted to the Union as a state.

Despite this, Connecticut managed to hang on to a tiny slice of the Ohio Valley in the northeast that it called the "Western Reserve".

All these years later, the term is still used here and there.

Connecticut eventually put the Western Reserve up for sale. It was bought by a group of speculators who formed the Connecticut Land Company.

 Among those investors was this man, Moses Cleaveland (note the spelling.) A prominent lawyer, as well as a brigadier general in the Connecticut militia, Cleaveland was asked by the directors of the company to survey the Western Reserve and make sure they all had a sound investment. He agreed to do so, and set off from Schenectady, New York in June 1796 with a crew of about 50, including six surveyors, a physician, a chaplain, a boatman, and a few emigrants. Two of the men brought along their wives.

When Cleaveland arrived at--hold on a second! With all due respect to the good people at the Great Lakes Brewing Co., this particular Moses didn't have a Red Sea in his path.

 While some traveled by land, most of Moses Cleaveland's expedition went in boats up the Mohawk, down the Oswego ("what goes up ,must come down..."), along the shore of Lake Ontario, and up the Niagara River, probably stopping to see the Falls along the way (though not on the Maid of the Mist--it would another half a century before you could do that.) At Buffalo, they were stopped by members of the Mohawk and Seneca Indian tribes, who said they were trespassing. Cleaveland bought them off with goods valued at $1,200. The party then coasted along the shore of Lake Erie, landing at the mouth of Conneaut Creek, where there were again more Indians, who got whiskey and beads as a kind of toll fee. The expedition then continued to cruise the Erie coast, finally landing at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on July 22. Moses Cleaveland then got out of his boat, took one look at the attractive plain with its lush forest growth nestled between the river on the west and the Great Lake on the north, and decided it would be a great place to build a city. He had streets and town lots drawn up, and on July 22, 1796 his crew decided to name the place Cleaveland (note the spelling) in his honor. Satisfied, the expedition's leader and the new city's namesake went back to Connecticut, never to return. His work was done.

As impressed as Cleaveland had been with his discovery, there was a problem. Great Lake + mouth of river + lush forest growth = swamp land. Of course, swamps can be drained, even back then, but potential settlers were scared off anyway, and population growth was slow. However, one man, Lorenzo Carter, was determined to make a go at it.

In 1797, Carter bought Lot 199, which was about 2 acres of land, for $47.50, thus becoming Cleaveland's first permanent settler. In addition to a home, he also built the Carter Tavern, which quadrupled as a town hall, hotel, and religious meeting house. The settlement s-l-o-w-l-y grew. It wasn't until 1820 that it a population of 120.

However, both Moses Cleavleand's and Lorenzo Carter's instincts about the location's potential proved correct with the completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal in 1832. A key link between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, Cleaveland was now connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Canal and the Hudson River (and some 120 years later, the St Lawrence Seaway.) The population soared.

The Ohio and Erie Canal isn't quite as important to the economy nowadays, but it makes a nice scenic bike path.

Today is the anniversary of the naming of my hometown, so let me return to that before we go.

 Here's a map of Cleaveland (note the spelling) in 1814:

 (I'm showing you a lot of maps today, huh? I'm a regular Rand McNally.)

Here's a map from 1836, and this time I'm not even going to put it in parentheses: NOTE THE SPELLING: 

Looks like an 'a' was dropped sometime between 1814 and 1836, the year Cleveland was finally incorporated. So what happened?

The explanation most often given has to do with the town's first newspaper (an example of which I can't find online.) Originally it was to be called the Cleaveland Advertiser, but when the printer tried to put that on the masthead...

                          CLEAVELAND ADVERTISE wouldn't fit, so they made a little adjustment:

                                                    CLEVELAND ADVERTISER

 As evidence of the power of the press in those pre-internet, pre-televison, pre-radio days, the rest of the town went along with it.

Even if he never returned to the area, Moses Cleaveland is still very much remembered here in Northeast Ohio.

But what about Connecticut, where he spent most of his life, and where he died? Is he honored there as well? Turns out he is (one last time: note the spelling):

First the city was named after the man, and now the man is named after the city!


  1. My city isn't that big so the most historic thing that happened was the Battle of Cowpens which isn't in the city but pretty close by.

    1. I don't know what the Battle of the Cowpens is, Adam, but it sure sounds interesting!

  2. Moon over Parma, where those pink flamingos stand.
    I need her kisses
    and the soft touch of her hand.
    We're goin bowlin,
    so don't lose her in Solon.
    Moon over Parma, tonight.

    Hi, Kirk!

    Did you know that Cleveland rocks? :)

    I say "power to the people," and I hereby claim the Ohio Valley as my own. Git off my land! :)

    "six surveyors, a physician, a chaplain, a boatman, and a few emigrants. Two of the men brought along their wives."

    The original characters on Gilligan's Island before the rewrite.


    But no kidding aside... I appreciated the opportunity to learn about Moses (Cleaveland) and how your hometown was established, a very interesting story indeed.

    Thank you very much for the history lesson, good buddy Kirk, and have a great week!

    1. Glad you liked it, Shady.

      Re: Gilligan's Island.

      Maybe Thurston Howell can buy the Browns.

      Shady, I see you watch Drew Carey. That song actually made its debut on The Big Chuck and Little John Show. They were a couple of late night horror movie hosts who showed comedy sketches in-between all the ghastly doings. They also occasionally had a talent segment, à la The Gong Show. You might find this entertaining:

      And, yes, Cleveland rocks (something British rocker Ian Hunter long ago recognized) as well as polkas. In fact, we have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and, now that I think of it, a Polka Hall of Fame, too.)

      Finally, Shady, as far as you claiming the Ohio Valley as your own:

      Only if you can get Lebron to change his mind.

    2. I watched that clip of McGuire singing "Moon Over Parma" on New Talent Time hosted by Big Chuck and Lil John. Thanks for letting me know about the songs's origin. A Polka Hall of Fame? I'm so there, dude! :)

  3. Such fascinating history. Thanks! And I can sure understand the change in spelling! I haven't been to Cleveland in years. Had a friend who worked at Case Western (Reserve) and we loved to visit.

    1. That's good to know, Mitchell. People who have never been to Cleveland tend to think of it as one large post-industrial wasteland. We DO have areas that fit that description, but the whole place isn't like that.

  4. That is the most in depth thing I have ever read about the history of Cleveland. Very interesting. The canal angle was also interesting, as New Hope and Lamberville here both have a canal system also once used heavily for trade and commerce to travel goods. They are no longer in use either, but mostly scenic locales now.

    The Lad lived in Cleveland for about two years, but for some reason never grew to like it. He left when he got transferred with his job to Roanoke... He may dislike that even more.

    1. Did the Lad live on the East Side or the West Side, Maddie? The East Side is Cleveland at its most Manhattanish. It's where all the museums are, where the Cleveland Orchestra plays, and it's a bit more upscale (this is the suburbs I'm talking about; some poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Cleveland proper border it.)

      The West Side, where I live, is more like something out of Roseanne (please don't hold that against us, Valerie Jarrett--I voted for Obama.) It's blue-collar, people tend to be more interested in sports than high culture, and it's heavily Eastern European ethnic. If kielbasi, pierogie, or polka music drove the Lad from Cleveland, he probably lived here.

      I'm generalizing, of course.

  5. Hey Kirk.... He was on the East side. I came out once and I was surprised he didn't like it more. I thought it was very nice, but I have a more curious personality to go exploring. I don't think he gave it a chance. Roanoke I didn't care for, nice enough but not my cup of tea. He will probably transfer to Conn. next.

    1. Well, Maddie, at least SOMEBODY, as in you, liked Cleveland.