Main Body


Soon after the celebration of the 4th of July, 1796, had been completed, the surveyors with their parties enter upon their duties. A plan of survey determined upon by the company, was first to lay out upon the ground, the forty-first parallel of latitude, as a base line. From thence they were to run lines of longitude five miles apart, due north to lake Erie.

These were to be crossed by east and west lines, also five miles apart, all of which constituted the boundaries of townships, five miles square.

The townships were to be numbered as Ranges, counting from the Pennsylvania line as a meridian, westward, to the number of twenty-four ; making one hundred and twenty miles. From the base line they are numbered northward, as Towns ; to the shore of Lake Erie. Thus Cleveland before it had a name as a township, was designated as No. 7, in the twelfth Range, being twelve townships west of the Pennsylvania line; and seven townships north of the forty-first parallel of latitude.

Port Independence at the mouth of the Conneaut river, is only a couple of miles within the State of Ohio.

In a few hours they found the west line of Pennsylvania, which had been run and cleared only a few years previous. A stone was set up where this line came to the lake, on which was marked the latitude; and which was barely within the limits of the State of Connecticut on the north, according to her grants and charter. Her claims under these instruments, were limited to the parallel of forty-two degrees and two minutes north; on which lines of Connecticut and Pennsylvania are now fixed. The parties proceeded down the Pennsylvania line, measuring as they went; in order to assist them in finding the forty-first parallel, and also to determine the variation of their compasses. Mr. Holley’s journal is so complete a narrative, that I insert it almost without abbreviation.



Thursday, July 7th, 1796-Left Conneaut creek in company with Augustus Porter, Seth Pease, and five other men for the south east corner of New Connecticut. We came to the north corner of Pennsylvania, and ran down about five or six rods west of the line. At four miles and sixty-six chains, crossed the Conneaut creek. The banks here are steep. To the end of the eighth mile the land is very similar to the first four of five, not well watered at all. To the end of the thirteenth mile, the land has every appearance of being over flowed in the wet seasons. On the fourteenth mile the land rises and falls, and of course is better. At sixty chains we stop and encamp on high ground for the night. Here, by a very good observation of the Polar star at its greatest eastern elongation, we took the variation of the needle, (which was one degree, thirty-five minutes east elongation of the star.) By a second observation, next morning with the ranges it appeared to be one degree, thirty minutes, (the stars elongation.) The needle varied fifty-three minutes east. Porter’s compass and mine varied alike. Major Spafford’s ten minutes less. The land at the end of the nineteenth mile is ridgy and better watered, covered with almost all kinds of timber. On the twentieth mile an open Tamarach swamp, twenty-third mile the land is indifferent, swampy.

Monday, July 11th-We were stopped by the rain, and encamped near an excellent brook, which we consider a very favorable circumstance. The next morning we left this place and went on to the end of the twenty-fifth mile, through the most abominable swamp in the world. The twenty-sixth mile is part of good bottom land, if it can be kept from over flowing in summer, which I doubt some. On the twenty-seventh mile is a creek (Pymatuning) about sixty links wide. The water before this had all ran north, but when we first came upon this stream the course was north east, then a little way and it was south west, then crooked again and ran south east, and continued on pretty much this course. It is a smooth stream five or six feet deep, and navigable for batteaux. The land on each side is rich, but to all appearance is covered with water the greater part of the year; where we came upon the creek the second time we crossed upon a beaver dam, which was quite a curiosity. The dam consisted of some large sticks or trees thrown across the stream, and filled in with thousands of willows and other small wood; which was so compact as to make considerable of a pond above, from which, through a rich soil was cut several canals and arms, where they live now, as is evident from fresh tracks and newly cut chips and brush.

Tuesday, July 12th-In the morning we breakfasted in our camp by the little brook, and left the pack horse men to come on after us, but when we had proceeded about a mile, we sent back a hand to tell the men to go round the swamp with the horses, but the swamp continued, and we ran on till night. Here being a hemlock ridge, we were in hopes the horses would be able to find us, but alas! we were obliged to make a little camp of boughs, strike up a fire, and go to bed supperless.

In day time I had eat raspberries, gooseberries, wintergreen berries and wintergreens, and in the night I began to grow sick at my stomach, and soon after vomited up everything that was in me. Mr. Pease too had a turn of the cramp, in consequence of traveling all day in the water. We all arose early in the morning, with meagre looks and somewhat faint for want of eating and drinking, for where we camped there was no water, though we had little rum.

On the morning of the 13th we continued our course down the Pennsylvania line two hundred and sixty rods, through an alder swamp, till we came to a ridge of oak, beach, pine, &c, where we determined to stop and wait the coming of provisions. Mr. Porter and Mr. Hall took the compass, and were to travel east twenty minutes, to try and find the horses’ tracks if they had passed. Mr. Pease and Mr. Spafford took my compass, and were to do the same to the west, while I stayed on the line. I made up a fire, and was clearing a spot to lie down, when to my joy and surprise I heard a voice back of us, which I quickly answered, and found to be Joseph Landon, one of the pack horsemen (and a good fellow too,) coming with a back load of provisions. We called Porter and Pease back as soon as possible, and all partook of a most cheerful and much needed breakfast. After this was over, Mr. Porter, Hall and Landon went to help the horses on, as they had found the swamp so large that it was impossible to go round it, and they were obliged to come through, and were about three and

a half miles behind. Mr. Pease, Spafford and myself staid to take care of the packs, &c. After a little time, Mr. Spafford and myself went about half a mile east to the large creek to fish, but were unsuccessful. We returned to Pease, and enjoyed the day as well as possible. It is now twenty minutes after seven, and we have just heard the voices of our friends returning. The land to the end of the twenty-eighth mile is low, but the soil is rich. There are two runs of water on this mile. The thirtieth mile is fine interval land; a creek thirty links wide. On the thirty-first mile is a fine creek twenty-five links wide; bottom stony; brisk current; another creek twenty links wide; north-east; land more ridgy, soil good. On thirty-second mile is fine land for wheat; timber chestnut, white oak and maple rises and descends. On the thirty-third mile is a good run of water, good land and ridgy. On the thirty-fourth mile is a fine spring. To the end of the thirty-seventh mile the land is good, level and timbered with maple, beach, oak and white wood, with herbage. The land to the end of the forty-first mile is gentle, rises and descends, good and timbered with white and black oak, chestnut, pepperage, cucumber and white wood. At the end of the forty-second mile we encamped about 3 o’clock, and waited till morning.

From the Pennsylvania line here, we had a most pleasing prospect, a hill at the distance of four of five miles, with the valley that lay between, covered with stately trees and herbage, which indicated an excellent soil, altogether exhibited a delightful landscape, the beauty of which, I suppose, we encamped from its being the first time we could overlook the woods.

July 16th-On Saturday morning a party of five, ordered by Mr. Porter, came up. The woods being wet, in consequence of the rain the evening before, we delayed starting till after noon. From this place two men with one pack horse, returned to creek Independence, for provision. We proceeded on our way with five horses. Land to the end of the forty-third mile is composed or rises and descends, the whole generally descends to the south west. The soil rich, timbered with black and white oak, chestnut and black walnut, undergrowth of the same hung together with grape vines. There are three fine springs on this mile. At the last end of the forty-fourth mile we crossed a large smooth stream (Shenango) one chain and twenty-five links wide, course east, stony bottom, banks tolerably high, as far as we could see it was good boating; we waded the stream, it was about two and a half feet deep, but an uncommon dry time. Forty-fifth mile, land rises and descends. Timber, oak and hickory; soil good for grain.

On the forty-sixth mile near a run, course east, we encamped for the night.

Sunday, July 17th-Continued on ; the land is level, and good timber, maple, black oak, beech and ironwood. Forty-seventh mile, the first part level, the last part very steep ridges; timbered with oak, the soil poor. The forty-eighth mile more gentle rises, land better, pretty well watered. Forty-ninth mile is very abrupt ridges, stony and poor land, oak timber, and whintleberries. To the end of the fifty-second mile land very much as last described. On the fifty-second mile the land descends to the east, and we overlook several large ridges; on this also, there are large stones which appear like grindstones. On the fifty-third mile we crossed a large creek or river about two chains and fifty links wide; bottom gravelly, current brisk, abounds with fish, course south west. We waded this and found the depth at this dry season to be more than waist high. We supposed this to be the same stream we crossed on the forty-fourth mile, with the addition of all others that we passed. On this creek is good bottom land timbered with red elm, cherry, crab apple trees, plumb and thorn bush. This has been a wet uncomfortable day. In the morning when we started from our encampment three of our men were looking for the horses that had strayed.

Monday, July 18th-In the morning. Our horses have not yet came.

It is beginning to rain and we have concluded not to leave our encampment.

Tuesday, July 19th-We confirmed our line south. At about one hundred rods from the cam we crossed the river again, where it appears navigable for boats. About twelve rods from the river we crossed a creek four rods wide, gravel bottom. Mr. Porter went about one half mile up this and found course to be east and west running east. We soon rose high land, timbered to the end of the fifty-sixth mile, the land is very similar-rises and descends; timber oak, some maple and beech, well watered, soil in many places good. On the fifty-seventh mile is some interval on a creek twenty-five links wide. Rest of land ridgy and stony. To the end of the sixty-first mile descends to the south; soil a fine light red loam, which is excellent. On the sixty-second mile land continued to descend south, gradually. Encamped on this mile. From the rain yesterday and a shower this morning we have been wet and uncomfortable all day.

Wednesday, July 20th.-Land on sixty-second mile, low and moist. Land on sixty-third mile is excellent and handsome, rises and descends. Sixty-fourth mile, for seventy chains, descends gently to the south, thinly timbered with white and black oak, undergrowth same kind, and grapevines; at seventy-two chains, to an Indian path east and west, we descend on a good intervale. On the sixty-sixth mile we encamped, at five chains, on the north side of a river. This we find to be Big Beaver river (Mahoning.) The course is east, current gentle but brisk, grave bottom and low banks. It is about four feet deep; we measured across by trigonometry and found it to be about fifteen rods wide. After we came away, Landon told us he saw two men in a canoe on the opposite shore, and called them to him. They told him they had been at work there (about fifty rods down the river, on the Pennsylvania side,) three years; that the salt springs were about eighteen miles up the river, and they were then going there to make salt; they had not got their families on yet, but should ere long; that about twelve miles below the line, on Big Beaver river, there was an excellent set of mills, and about twenty-five miles below the line, there was a town building rapidly, where provisions of every kind could be procured, and from thence carried by water up the Big Beaver into the heart of the Connecticut Reserve. There are no falls to the source; and it is but sixty miles from the line down to Pittsburgh. Below the town, and above Pittsburgh, there are falls and a carrying place of two miles. The Big Beaver falls into the Allegheny twenty-five miles below Pennsylvania line. The stream we crossed before is the Little Beaver, and joins with the others.

This information we did not get till we had got three miles south of the river, else we should have sent down to the mills. On the forty-second mile, where we encamped, we heard an ox bell and a smaller one off to our right hand, and several of our men went in search of it, supposing there might be inhabitants, but as they descended the hill they lost the sound, and returned without discovering anything, but our conjectures proved true, the men told Landon that there was a family living there on the Little Beaver. Thursday afternoon we arrived at the corner, and prepared to make an observation of the polar star for the variation of compass. The next day Mr. Porter and Pease fixed the quadrant for an observation of the sun at noon. The day was fair and their observation was good. In the evening we again took the variation by the star, and Mr. Pease observed several of the stars for the latitude. After comparing observations they make the latitude to be forty-one degrees twenty seconds north. We set a large square oak post, on which is July 23d, 1796, north side.

Saturday July 23d-Mr. Warren, with a party of thirteen, arrived last evening. Saturday afternoon Mr. Porter went down to the corner, and set a chestnut post, sixteen inches by twelve, on the south side is latitude forty-one degrees north, variation one minute twenty-one seconds east, west side is south-east corner New Connecticut-July 23d 1796, on north side, sixty-eight miles Lake Erie; east side, Pennsylvania.

Sunday morning, July 24th, 1796-I took nine days’ provisions and five hands, and am to start as soon as possible with a line for the Lake shore.

This morning Mr. Porter, Stoddard and Landon, set out to go down the Big Beaver in search of provisions; took with them two days’ allowance for three hands.”

Thus after they had distributed themselves along the base line, Holley ran up the first range line, Spafford the second, Warren the third, and Pease and Porter the fourth. The compasses did not work together. Some of their meridian lines converged, while others diverged, causing a variation of half a mile before reaching the Lake. When the cross lines were run, these differences were found to be very material.

The early surveys of the Government of the United States were conducted in the same manner, but it was soon found necessary, in using an instrument subject to so many fluctuations as the ordinary compass, to make a correction of each township line before proceeding to the next. This is done by running a random line across the north end of each township and correcting back. By the system employed on the Western Reserve, the townships were not equal in quantity.



Hartford, August 26, 1796.

Moses Cleaveland, Esq.-Sir: The Board of Directors think is advisable, expecting the measure will be approved by the Company at their meeting in October, to request that you, Mr. Sorrow, Mr. Porter and the other four surveyors, will consider yourselves a committee to divide the lands in the Western Reserve, according to the mode of partition determined upon by the Company in April. And to effect this you will perhaps judge it expedient, to postpone surveying any of the lots in the six townships for the present, however, this must be left for you to decide upon.

In case the surveys can be completed so far this summer, as that partition can be made according to the mode pointed out, it is the particular wish of the Directors, that this be done in preference to anything else. If partition can be made in the course of the ensuing winter, it will essentially forward the settlement of the lands, and be of very considerable advantage to the proprietors.

If you are of opinion that this object can be accomplished, it will be necessary to obtain information in regard to the quality of the lands in the different townships. The mode of partition agreed to by the Company in April, will determine you what steps are necessary to be taken in this business.

The mode of partition and the articles of agreement entered into with Gen. Hull, so far as they relate to the excess, must be particularly attended to. And unless the lines of the whole territory can be run, so as to ascertain the quantity of the excess, no partition at present can be made. This we conceive may be done, by running a line from the north-east boundary upon lake Erie, to the river Cuyahoga, and from thence taking a traverse, and continuing the line upon the lake to the north-west boundary, making one hundred and twenty miles.

In respect to the five townships, which the Directors were authorized to sell by the constitution, so many of them as remain unsold, we believe would be well for you to dispose of the best advantage, having particular regard to actual settlement being made; and the greater number of actual settlers the more for the interests of the company. And in respect to the township in which by the constitution the first settlements are to be made, and which was to be surveyed into small lots, and those lots sold and disposed of to actual settlers only, we are of the opinion that the sales made to any one settler, ought not to exceed one hundred and fifty or two hundred acres; and that not more than one half of the township be disposed of at present. And in case of your making sales of any of said lots, to sell only to actual settlers. These communications are not intended to interfere with any engagements which you or Mr. Porter may have made prior to the reception of this letter.

The knowledge which you, and the surveyors have obtained of the Western Reserve, will enable you much more readily to equalize the townships, than any other person. If a committee were to go on to the territory next spring, it would take the whole summer for them, to obtain the information you are possessed of in respect to the land, and would, at the same time, occasion one year’s delay in the settlement, use and sale of them.

Should the capital town, viz: the town ordered by the constitution to be surveyed this season, it can be done early next spring. The principal object of attention at present seems to be, to make partition of the Reserve as soon as possible.

If equalizing the townships cannot be done this season, it will take most of next summer to effect it, and at very considerable expense. Of course, none of the lands will be sold, and those persons, who are now so engaged to purchase and settle in the Reserve, will look out for settlements elsewhere, which will probably depreciate the value of the lands.

In the mode of partition it is ordered that four of the best townships, be surveyed into lots of one hundred to a townships, &c. This can be dispensed with this year, and a division of the rest be made. These four townships can be surveyed into lots next spring, and a division then take place consistent with the mode of division.

Please write us on the subject of this letter, as soon as you can with convenience.

We are, sir, with sentiments of esteem,


Oliver Phelps,

Henry Champion, 2D.

Roger Newberry.

Holley’s experience in running one of the meridians will serve as a description of the others, which cannot be given in a more interesting form, than in the language of his own field books, omitting the immaterial portions.

Monday, July 23d, 1796.-Left the south line of New Connecticut with Parker, Hamilton, Gray and Davenport, from the first five mile post, north on variation one degree forty seconds east.

Friday, 24th.-Nineteenth mile: encamped in consequence of rain. M’Intyre came up and brought some bear’s meat, which he dried; dry venison and flour.

Monday, Aug. 1st.-Rainy and cloudy. Sent off M’Intyre for provisions to Conneaut.

Aug. 2d.-Thirty-fourth mile. Took variation, (night of 2d and 3d.) Cloudy ; observation bad ; my eyes sore ; variation two degrees twenty-three seconds. Was obliged to trust to Parker to see the star and line; dare not run it; ran on one degree thirty-seven seconds, being that of the Pennsylvania line opposite.

Aug. 5th.-Forty-sixth mile; encamped ; cloudy ; could not get the variation. M’Intyre came to us with provisions, and was most joyfully received, as we were then eating our last dinner but one.

Aug. 8th.-Sixtieth mile; at night took variation, one degree fifty-three seconds east.

Aug. 10th.-Sixty-sixth mile; came to the bank of the Lake at forty-eight chains 50 links. Set a chestnut post twelve inches square, marked south side, sixty-five miles, forty-eight chains fifty links, &c.

Just as we were starting for Conneaut, we saw a large party coming along the beach, and supposing them to be Indians, and having only a gill of rum left in our bottle, we were hurrying to a spring to drink it before they could come up, and tease us for it. But to our astonishment, we found them to be two of the parties of surveyors coming in together.

Porter and Pease had run their line through to the Lake with all speed, and came to where Stoddard struck the Lake, just as they were cutting the last tree. We had a most joyful meeting, and had not proceeded far before we met Esquire Warren and his party, returning to bring up their line, which they had left seventeen miles from where they started out. Altogether they had what was supposed to be thirteen days’ provisions.

This meeting was not so cordial as the other had been.

We arrived at Conneaut two hours before sundown, and stayed until we had eaten the fatted calf.”

While the four parties were engaged in running up the first four meridians, Cleaveland, after conciliating the Indians, made an excursion to the site of the future city, which should bear his name. He reached here on the 22d of July. All of the party must have felt unusually interested, as they approached the spot. Not one of them had seen the place.

As they coasted close along the shore, overhung by a dense green forest, mirrored in the waters over which they were passing, the mouth of the river disclosed itself, as a small opening, between low banks of sand. The man who controls the party, is seated in the stern, steering his own craft; which is gracefully headed into the stream.

His complexion was so swarthy, his figure so square and stout, and his dress so rude; that the Indians supposed some of the blood of their race had crept into his veins.

Joshua Stow was probably at this time in this pioneer boat. As they passed into the channel, and the broad river unfolded itself to their view, bordered by marshes, reeds, and coarse grass; their anticipations must have been somewhat moderated.

The flats on the west side, and the densely wooded bluffs on the east, did not present a cheerful prospect for a city. They were confined to the eastern shore, by their agreement with the Indians at Buffalo, and at Conneaut.

It was necessary to proceed some distance along this shore, before there was solid ground enough to effect a landing. As the Indians had, from generation to generation, kept open a trail along the margin of the lake, it is probable that Cleaveland’s party, scanning with sharp eyes every object as they rowed along the river, saw where the aboriginal highway descended the hill, along what is now Union lane. Here they came to the bank, and scrambling out, trod for the first time the soil of the new city. While the boat was being unloaded, the agent had an opportunity to mount the bluff, and scan the surrounding land. This view must have revived his enthusiasm, more than the swamps along the river had depressed it. A young growth of oaks, with low bushy tops, covered the ground. Beneath them were thrifty bushes, rooted in a lean, but dry and pleasant soil, highly favorable to the object in view. A smooth and even field sloped gently towards the lake, whose blue waters could be seen extending to the horizon. His imagination doubtless took a pardonable flight into the future, when a great commercial town, should take the place of the stinted forest growth, which the northern tempests had nearly destroyed.

But whatever may have been his anticipations, the reality has outstripped them all. Such a combination of natural beauty, with natural advantages of business, is rarely witnessed; to which have been added, what the surveyors could not have foreseen, artificial aids to commerce then unknown.

It is not certainly known, but probably Stiles, and perhaps his wife, were of this party. Enough men were left to put up a store house for the supplies, and a cabin for the accommodation of the surveyors. These rude structures were located a short distance south of St. Clair street, west of Union lane, at a spring on the side hill, in rear of Scott’s warehouse. During the season, a cabin was put up for Stiles, on Lot 53, east side of Bank street, north of the Herald Building, where Morgan & Root’s Block is now being erected. Thus was the settlement of the city commenced.

By authorities, which will be given hereafter, it will be seen, that houses had before this been built by white people, near the mouth of the river; but not for the purpose of permanent settlement. Col. James Hillman avers, that he put up a small cabin on the east side of the river in 1786, near the foot of Superior Street, of which, however, nothing further is known. Sometime previous to 1787, a party who were wrecked, upon a British vessel, between one and two miles east of the river, built an hut, large enough to shelter themselves, through one winter. On the west side of the river, a log store house was erected, prior to 1786, to protect the flour which was brought here from Pittsburgh, on the way to Detroit. This building, in a dilapidated state, was standing in 1797, when it was occupied awhile by James Kingsbury and his family.

Some cabins were erected during the summer near the shore, beyond Euclid creek, which are noticed in the journals of Holley and Pease. The design and origin of this embryo settlement, is not yet well understood. No one is known to have remained there during the winter of 1796-7.

A Frenchman is reported to have been at Sandusky, not as a settler but a trader. At that time proceeding west of Buffalo; the first white inhabitants on the south shore of lake Erie were located at Erie, Pa. ; the next, the families of Gun and Kingsbury, at Conneaut; and the last and only others settlers, on this bleak wilderness coast were Stiles and his wife, at Cleveland, with whom Edward Paine was domiciled as a border.

The “Excess Company” must have based their hopes of territory upon the map of Evans, which represented the south shore of the lake as bearing too much westerly. If had proved to be true, that from the north-east corner of the Reserve; the coast line was nearly west, their expected surplus might have been realized. Had the English military expeditions, carried instruments for astronomical observations, this great error, would have been avoided.

The surveyors were directed to fix this coast line in 1796, not by observations but by a traverse of the shore, made by chain and compass. This work was entrusted to Mr. Porter, under the supervision of General Cleaveland. West of the Cuyahoga, it was to be executed without the consent of the Indians, which rendered the undertaking somewhat hazardous.

They now immediately commenced the traverse of the lake shore. Porter acting as surveyor, measuring westward along the coast; in order to find where the west line of the Reserve would intersect lake Erie. Warren, Pease, Spafford, and Holley again took to the woods in order to run some parallels westward, from the Pennsylvania line to the Cuyahoga river. Warren had town line between Nos. six and seven, Range one. (Vernon & Kinsman.) Pease between towns seven and eight; Spafford and Stoddard between towns eight and nine, and Holley, between towns nine and ten, or the townships of Hanover and Richmond, Ashtabula county. The extracts which I shall give, from the memoranda of Holley and Atwater; detail the movements of the surveyors so full, during the season, that it will not be necessary to notice them particularly. The parallels they were now running should bring them out near the mouth of the Cuyahoga, the line between seven and eight passing through the city of Cleveland. In order to keep strict faith with the Indians, they were directed not to cross the Cuyahoga river, to cut any trees, or make any marks, on the west side. All of the parties when they reached the Chagrin river, supposed they were at the Cuyahoga. The best maps they could procure had no river upon them, between the Grand River and the Cuyahoga. The surveyors were sorely perplexed on encountering this stream, and proceeded down it to the lake.

Much discussion has taken place upon the origin of the name of the Chagrin river. Thomas Hutchins in his “Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, &c.,” in 1778, notices a stream by the name of “Shaguin,” which is said to mean in some Indian language, the “clear water.” On Hutchins’ map of 1764, no important streams are given between the “Cuyahoga” and Presque Isle. It is thus not easy to determine what river is meant by the Shaguin. The surveyors all speak of it as then known, as the Chagrin. Grand river is a name evidently of French origin, its Indian name being “Sheauga,” from where the term Geauga is derived, by a very natural corruption. It is highly probable that Chagrin is a title given by the French traders, to this stream from some accident or suffering, such as occurred at Misery river, of lake Superior.


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