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Cleveland under the hill, in 1800






Although this is only a rough outline taken by one of the pioneers, who was wholly unskilled in the use of the pencil, it must be regarded as a reasonably correct picture of the lower town at that time. The trail or road up the hill, is no doubt more conspicuous and street-like than it should be, although it was then used by teams. During the same year, David Bryant became a settler, and commenced building a small distillery at the mouth of the ravine, between the cabins, as his son more fully relates in the following letter:




Alexander C. Elliot, 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 that 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 no cleared land, only where the logs were cut to erect the cabin, and for fire-wood. I saw the 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 Vermillion river. We made two trips that summer, and stopped at Mr. Carter’s each time. In the fall of 1797, I found Mr. Rodolphus Edwards in a cabin under the hill, at the west end Superior street. We made two trips in the summer of 1798. 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 five rods north-west 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 mill stones 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 the 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. Williams’ mill, I found the cabin of Mr. R. Edwards, who had left the town, about three miles out; the next cabin was Judge Kingsbury’s, and the next old Mr. Gunn, thence half a mile to Mr. Williams’ 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 above 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 whisky 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 the town. In the winter of 1800 and spring of 1801, I helped my father to 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 fifteen 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-a gingham suit-my hair queued with one and a half yards of black ribbon, about as long and as thick as a corncob, with a 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 Bettie 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 on 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 ten days, take a drunken scrape an 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 between the toes. I excused ; they said, “a good soldier could eat such.” They said “God was a good man and 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.

Yours, &c.,

Gilman Bryant.



Gen. M. Cleaveland, Canterbury, Conn.,

to be left at Norwich, Post Office.


Dear Sir:-On my arrival at this place, I found Major Spafford, Mr. Lorenzo Carter and Mr. David Clark, who are the only inhabitants residing in the city, have been anxiously waiting with expectations of purchasing a number of lots, but when I produced my instructions, they were greatly disappointed, both as to price and terms. They assured me, that they had encouragement last year, from Col. Thomas Sheldon; that they would have lands at ten dollars per acre, and from Major Austin at twelve dollars at most; which they think would be a generous price, for such a quantity as they wish to purchase. You will please excuse me, for giving my opinion, but it really seems to me good policy to sell the city lots, at a less price than twenty-five dollars, (two acres) or I shall never expect to see it settled.

Mr. Carter was an early adventurer, has been of essential advantage to the inhabitants here, in helping them to provisions in times of danger and scarcity, has never experienced any gratuity from the company, but complains of being hardly dealt by, in sundry instances. He has money to pay for about thirty acres, which he expected to have taken, if the price had met his expectation; but he now declares that he will leave the purchase, and never own an acre in New Connecticut. Major Spafford has stated his wishes to the company, in his letter of January last, and I am not authorized to add anything. He says he has no idea of giving the present price, for sixteen or eighteen lots. He contemplated building a house, and making large improvements this season, which he thinks would indemnify the company fully, in case he should fail to fulfill his contract; and he is determined to remove to some other part of the purchase immediately, unless he can obtain better terms than I am authorized to give. Mr. Clark is to be included in the same contract, with Major Spafford, but his circumstances will not admit of his making any advances. I have requested the settlers not to leave the place, until I can obtain further information from the Board, and request you to consult General Champion, to whom I have written, and favor me with dispatches by first mail. *

Mr. Edwards has gone to see the Governor.

Crops extraordinary good, and settlers healthy and in good spirits. They are increasing as fast as can be expected, but the universal scarcity of cash, in this back part of the country, renders it extremely difficult to sell money, and the vast quantity of land in market will prevent a speedy sale of our lands. The people have been encouraged that the Company would have a store erected, and receive provisions in payment for lands, for money is not to be had. Mr. Tillitson, from Lyme, wants two, one hundred acre lots, and would pay for one in hand if horses, cattle or provisions would answer, or would take them on credit, if he could have sufficient time to turn his property, but has no cash to advance.

I have given a sketch of these circumstances, in order that you may understand my embarrassments, and expect you will give me particular directions how to proceed, and also, whether I shall make new contracts with settlers, whose old ones are forfeited. They seem unwilling to rely on the generosity of the company, and want new writings.*

I have the pleasure of your brother’s company at this time. He held his first talk with the Smooth Nation, at Mr. Carter’s this morning. Appearances are very promising. I flatter myself he will do no discredit to his elder brother, in his negotiations with the aborigines.

I am, dear sir, with much esteem, yours, &c.,


Samuel Huntington, Esq., of Norwich, Conn., visited Ohio, reaching Youngstown in July. He made a horseback tour through the settlements on the Reserve, keeping daily memoranda, which are preserved by his descendants, at Painesville.

In this diary he says: “Thursday, October 7th, 1800.-Left David Abbott’s mill, (Willoughby,) and came to Cleveland. Stayed at Carter’s at night. Day pleasant and cool. Friday, 3d-Explored the city and town; land high and flat, covered with white oak. On the west side of the river is a long, deep stagnant pond of water, which produces fever and ague, among those who settle near the river. There are only three families near the point, and they have the fever. Saturday, 4th-Sailed out of the Cuyahoga, along the coast, to explore the land west of the river. Channel at the mouth about five feet deep. On the west side is a prairie, where one hundred tons of hay might be cut each year. A little way back is a ridge, from which the land descends to the lake, affording a prospect indescribably beautiful. In the afternoon went to William’s grist and saw mill, (Newburg,) which are nearly completed. Sunday 5th.-Stayed at William’s. Monday, 6th-Went through Towns 7,6, and 5 of Range 11, to Hudson.”

Mr. Huntington continued his journeyings during the season, embracing the settlements on the Ohio as low Marietta. Here he made the acquaintance of Governor St. Clair, the Territorial Judges, and principal men of Ohio. He returned to Norwich, Conn., in the fall, having concluded to become a citizen of New Connecticut.

The ridge, of which so many of the first corners speak, is a natural terrace or bluff, the edge of the upland country, fronting towards and parallel with the lake, from which side it has the appearance of an elevated range. It extends easterly from Newburg to and beyond Painesville, the crest rising from one hundred and sixty to two hundred feet above lake level, broken only by steep and deep gullies where the streams pass through it.


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