History of Brecksville Township, OH

From: A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
Publishers: The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924


The part of God's green earth which includes the hills and streams and valleys of Brecksville is included in the Western Reserve, that shrewd acquirement by Governor Winthrop and the Connecticut Colony from the British king, Charles H, in 1662. The famous charter that was hidden in the oak of historic fame included in its description of boundaries this region. Up to the year 1800 and several years thereafter Brecksville was a dense unbroken forest of oak, maple, and other deciduous trees, with some fringes of pine and hemlock along the Chippewa and its branches. The most considerable of this growth was the Pine Woods on the Chippewa, the land on which they stood, now included in the preserves of the "Glen Valley Club."

These magnificent pines met the fate of others of the universal forest, in time, but for years after the township was settled, they afforded a popular picnic ground and their trunks reechoed to innumerable 4th of July orations. As demonstrated by their rings of growth, these giant trees had stood before the caravels of Columbus sailed westward to make his name famous as the discoverer of a new world.

By right of possession this land belonged to the Indians and was theirs to have and to hold. By the divine right of kings transmitted in the Connecticut Charter it belonged to the "Nutmeg State," the successor of the Connecticut Colony, and, through the Connecticut Land Company, was placed upon the market subject to such incumbrance as the Red Man might prove to be. The State of Connecticut appointed a commission, and this commission sold to the Connecticut Land Company, and from this company the original pioneers bought their land. The price per acre varied with the size of the tract purchased, and was at first from 50 cents to a $1.00.

As we have said, the portion of the Western Reserve west of the Cuyahoga River was designated as Indian country long after that east of the river had been ceded to the white man. The Cuyahoga marks the eastern boundary of the Township of Brecksville. The territory west of the Cuyahoga River, which includes this township, was occupied by the Chippewas until finally ceded to the Connecticut Land Company. It is a matter of history, if not of pride, that trinkets and whiskey cut a large figure in the negotiations by which this tract was finally ceded to the white man. Brecksville was organized in 1814, three years after the organization of the county. It was one of the first townships west of the river to form a local government. Bands of Indians lurked about Brecksville until after the War of 1812, when, as many of their tribe had joined with the Indians of Canada as allies of the British, they were given to understand that their presence was no longer desired.

John Breck, a soldier of the War of 1812 and a native of Northampton, Massachusetts, inherited land purchased by his father from the Connecticut Company. On the division, as arranged by the company, he was given title to parts of townships in several counties. In this township named after him he once held title deeds to half its territory. Like Moses Cleaveland, who gave his name to Cleaveland on the lake, he was never a resident here, but his three sons were residents for many years, Theodore Breck, John Adams Breck and Dr. Edward Breck. Shortly after the death of John Breck, in 1830, the three sons settled in Brecksville.

The original John Breck, who gave his name to the town, was a colonel in the American army, and, at one time, commanded the forces at Fort Independence, Boston Harbor. His wife, Clarissa Allen, was the daughter of Rev. Thomas Allen, the first settled minister of Pittsfield, Massachusetts It is related of him, that when General Burgoyne in the Revolutionary war began his campaign of invasion, Mr. Allen heard of it during Sunday service. He promptly dismissed his congregation and left the pulpit to form a company of minute men, who hastened to the relief of the Continental forces.

Dr. Theodore Breck, a great grandson of John Breck, now a resident of Brecksville, gives this interesting genealogy: "In the year 1630, two brothers by the name of Breck landed at the Town of Dorchester, Massachusetts. They came from England, but nothing is known of the family prior to their crossing the ocean; probably, like many others of that time, they had heard stories of the marvels of the new world and were anxious to better their fortunes. They did their part in the building up of the new country, raised families, and prospered more or less like others of the newcomers. Gradually, as the families grew larger, some of the children started out to see the world and settled in other towns so that in a few generations they were represented in Boston and in other points in Massachusetts. Finally, one bolder than the rest followed the old Bay Path to the western part of the state and settled down in Northampton. The family grew and prospered until revolutionary times, when we find Robert Breck a merchant in that busy little town. After the war he was postmaster of Northampton, appointed by Washington, his being the first appointment under the Federal Government. He had several sons who looked after his business while he served for many years as county clerk. Having some money to invest, he bought several tracts of land in the Western Reserve, among them being a tract covering about half of the present Township of Brecksville.

In 1802 Robert Breck died and his property passed to his sons, all of whom, save John, died shortly after, leaving John sole heir to the business and landed property. John had been married, but his wife had died, leaving him a daughter. It was necessary to perpetuate the family name. His brother Robert at the time of his death was engaged to marry and in his will provided a legacy for the lady. John, in transacting the business connected with the legacy left by his brother, fell in love with the girl himself and was accepted. This is the romance connected with his marriage to Clarissa Allen, daughter of Rev. Thomas Allen, the militant minister of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

John desired to know more about the western land left him by his father, and employed Alfred Wolcott, of Boston, to go west and survey the lands. Wolcott came in 1811, and, assisted by Seth Paine, made a survey of the land now comprised in the Township of Brecksville. The notes he made give a description of every lot in the township, boundaries and measurements, soil and timber. These surveyors returned and made their report. Wolcott remained but Paine returned, with his family, and became the first settler in the township. John Breck then began to look up likely settlers for his tract of land, and these he found among his acquaintances in his own town, Northampton. This answers the query so often propounded as to why so many of the early settlers of Brecksville came from Northampton and its vicinity.

At the time of the death of John Breck his children were minors and the property in the West was given in charge of John Randall. There were six children, three of whom came to Brecksville, already mentioned. Theodore and Doctor Edward remained until their death, John returned to New England and spent the few remaining years of his life there. Another family of Brecks are identified with the early history of Brecksville. Rev. Joseph Hunt Breck, a cousin of the original John Breck, came to the Western Reserve as a missionary in 1823. As a missionary or itinerant preacher he traveled through Summit, Geauga and Ashtabula counties, preaching. Following his marriage in 1830, and which occurred in the East, he came to Brecksville. Two years later he moved to Newburgh and located on a farm to regain his failing health. His son, Joseph H. Breck, was identified with the history of that township more particularly, and we will speak of him in the chapter on Newburgh.

In June, 1811, Seth Paine, his wife, two sons and two daughters, Oliver N., Spencer White, Almira and Lorina, and with them a young unmarried man, Melzer Clark, all from Williamsburg, Massachusetts, settled in the southwest corner of the township. They were the first settlers of Brecksville. Soon after their arrival Squire Carpenter of Richfield was called upon to officiate at the wedding of young Clark and Almira Paine. This was the first wedding in Brecksville. The couple soon began keeping house near the Paine home, at a point later known as Carter's Corners. Seth Paine, who assisted in the township survey, was land agent for Mr. Breck, and held a power of attorney to give title to land sold. Clark, whose housekeeping with his new bride began across the road but in Royalton Township, was agent of the land company for that township. Seth Paine's commission as agent was from a Massachusetts company, consisting of Col. John Breck, Ebenezer Hunt and others. As compensation for his services he was to choose 200 acres anywhere in the township, with the exception that it should not be bottom land and should not include a mill site. His choice was in the southwest part, as we have indicated. He left his family at a settlement in Newburgh, near what is now the corner of Walker and Broadway in Cleveland, during the winter of 1810 and 1811, while he proceeded to Brecksville to build a log house.

As the first settler, something of his family is of historical interest. He was of the sixth generation from Stephen Paine, who came from Great Ellington, Norfolk County, England, to America in 1638, on the ship "Diligent," and first settled at Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. In 1661 he and his two sons, with others, purchased a large tract of land near Rehoboth, Massachusetts, from Wainsitta, a son of Massasoit. Other large purchases show in the records of other parts of Massachusetts and of Rhode Island in the name of these Paines. We give this in regard to the ancestor of the first settler of Brecksville because of the general application to all who came to Cuyahoga County in the early days in the face of privations and dangers. They were land hungry by inheritance. Seth Paine and Melzer Clark, both died in 1815 and their unfinished work was turned over to other agents of the land company. Their families, left without their care, remained in the almost unbroken forest. The oldest son of Paine, Spencer, had to take his father's place in supporting the family when he was only fourteen years of age.

Four especial dangers threatened the very early settlers, rattlesnakes, Indians, wild beasts and disease. Rattlesnakes were numerous, particularly near the Cuyahoga River. As many as thirteen had been killed in one place. They would protrude their heads through the puncheon floors of the log cabin. Cattle and horses occasionally died from their bite.

While no deaths from rattlesnake bites occurred to Brecksville settlers, of which we have record, they were a constant source of fear. Miss Rebecca Newell was bitten but recovered. Perhaps her lack of care may have been the cause of the bite. It is related of her that when a small child she was in the habit of taking her bowl of bread and milk out of doors to eat it. No attention was paid at first to this, but it was later noticed that she seemed to be growing thin for lack of nourishment, and looked pale. She was urged to stay inside, but was so unhappy at the restraint that she was again permitted to go out of doors with her porringer of food She was followed and found sitting by a stump in the clearing with a large rattlesnake eating from the same dish of milk. When the snake put his head in on her side of the dish she would tap him with her spoon and say: "Eat on your own side, Old Gray." It is said the snake was killed later and that it had thirteen rattles.

Bands of Indians lurked about Brecksville, until after the War of 1812, but were for the most part friendly. The Indians being, in a sense, allies of the British the outcome of that war was watched for its effect on them and their attitude toward the white man under the Stars and Stripes. At one time Seth Paine's men folks were all away from home for the night, leaving Mrs. Paine and two daughters alone. At nightfall two Indians came to the cabin and asked to stay all night. What to do they knew not, they expected the worst, to refuse they thought sure death, to flee they could not, for they had nowhere to go. They held a counsel and came to the conclusion to let them stay and abide the consequences. The Indians camped on the hearth before the fire, they did not want a bed. At a late hour the women retired to bed behind a blanket. In the night they were thrown into great excitement. The fire had burned down and it was dark. At that time the back log rolled over and a blaze sprang up, giving a bright light, and, peering from behind their blanket, they saw one of the Indians go to the side of the door, where he had left a kind of bark basket, stoop down, take out a large knife, then a long stone and carefully sharpen the knife. The women supposed their time had come and lay in breathless silence and suspense. Soon the Indian stooped again and took out a ham of venison, shaved off two or three slices and ate them, and then went back to the hearth and laid himself down. The women breathed easier. In the morning, before it was fairly light, the Indians left for parts unknown.

Some incidents showing the danger from wild beasts will illustrate their menacing presence. In 1818, Miss Anna Gteen, while on her way on horseback from her home in Independence to that of Elisha Rice in Brecksville, had a thrilling escape. When she reached the top of Smith Hill, near the Chippewa Creek, a wild place even in later years, a panther's scream woke the echoes near her and her horse broke into a wild run. As she neared the Rice home the family heard her coming and opened their door. Miss Green jumped to the ground and rushed in and the horse followed. The door was closed and barred just as the panther landed on the step. Mr. Rice ran upstairs, took an armful of straw and lighted it and this thrown at the beast frightened it away. "Aunt Tamar" Oakes, with two young children, went through the woods to a neighbor's, Mrs. Edgerton's, about a mile away, to warp a piece of cloth. She was so late in returning home that a pack of wolves, with ever increasing numbers, followed her, coming so near that she could hear their panting at every step. She hurried along, trying to determine which child to drop - Mary, the older, or Francis, the baby. Before the decision had been reached, rescue came in the form of the hired man, Alvin Cooley, with a gun, he having been sent out by Mr. Oakes. One time, when Alvin Waite went to mill, his wife was left alone over night with her sister in law, Mrs. John Waite, for company. They were aroused in the night by the squealing of the pigs and immediately divined the cause. Mrs. Waite determined the bear should not carry off the pigs. She got the gun but found it empty. She had been told that three fingers of powder was a load, and loaded the gun accordingly. She discovered a bear, coming out of the pen with a pig, and fired. For some time after she knew no more, as the gun "kicked" so vigorously that she was left unconscious, but the pig was saved. The bear was wounded, as a trail of blood gave evidence, and we will assume as in the story for little boys, that he refrained from pigs ever afterwards. The guns of the settlers soon thinned the woods of dangerous wild animals, that were so numerous when they arrived. Mrs. William McWade told about the snow being tramped solid about their house by the wolves, and of seeing as many as 500 at one time. Various hunts were organized as residents came in sufficient numbers. One known as the Great Hinckley Hunt was organized at the home of Mrs. Seth Paine in December, 1818. The roundup was in Hinckley Township, Medina County. At the meeting to organize the hunt, Carey Oakes was appointed captain for Brecksville, John Ferris for Royalton, Judge John Newton for Richfield, and 'Squire Freyer for Brunswick. This day has become historical, the day of the great hunt: The posse of men under strict discipline, surrounded the township of Hinckley and gradually drew in the line until every animal either was killed or escaped through the firing line. The net result of the hunt amounted to the following in animals killed: Deer, 365; bear, 17; wolves, 5.

In 1811 Lemuel Bourne came to Brecksville. He walked all the way from Savoy, Massachusetts, in about four weeks, a distance of some 600 miles. He selected a site for his future home in the southern part of the township on what is now known as the Noble farm on the State Road, now daily passed by much traffic along the brick road to Akron, Ohio. The next year he returned to Massachusetts, walking back, and married Miss Delia Waite. He bought a horse, loaded his bride and such belongings as he could bring upon it, and walking by the side, started on their honeymoon journey to Brecksville, arriving in 1812. In the meantime Walter Waite had built a log house on property later known as the Stevenson farm. This was the second log house built in Brecksville, Seth Paine's being the first. To this cabin Lemuel Bourne brought his bride. Miss Hattie Bourne, historian of the Brecksville Centennial, relates that the next morning after their arrival Mrs. Bourne "sat in the doorway getting a little acquainted with her new surroundings when she saw a rattlesnake basking in the sunshine a short distance away. Did she scream? Not she. She calmly got a weapon and killed it." On the next New Year's day Walter Waite helped Lemuel Bourne build his house. It was built without doors, and greased paper served for windows, and wooden pegs were used for nails.

In 1811, also, Benona Brown, Samuel Wolcott, Almon Wolcott and Charles Wolcott, from Massachusetts, settled in the northeast part of the township; and Robert Donalson, Mr. Stanford and David Morton located in the southeast part. Donalson and Stanford came from Pennsylvania, and Morton from Massachusetts. To the little settlement this same year was added Eli and Bijah Bagley and Rufus Newell with their families. These located west of the Center. In 1812, Edward Johnston and wife, with a family of four sons, settled in the east part in the valley of the Chippewa near the Cuyahoga. These boys were great hunters. William or "Bill" was once asked to relate some of his experiences at a pioneer meeting, which was largely devoted to reminiscences of the early days. The chairman said, "You have had lots of tussels with bears and Indians, and we want you to relate some of them." "No," said Bill, "I never had any tussels, I always shot to kill." David McCrary and a Mr. Thompson came this year and located in the eastern part of the township near the Cuyahoga River, and Hosea Bradford, who settled on the farm known as the Rinear farm near the Center. These hardy first corners were not unmindful of the dangers that might be encountered. The Indians were a menace, and a garrison was maintained at the house of Seth Paine of such strength as the sparsely settled country could maintain. The pioneers could distinctly hear the cannonading at the Battle of Lake Erie, and hurried to Paine's. Lemuel Bourne for some reason stayed at home, and soon a man came to his house on horseback and said that Perry was whipped and that the settlers must flee for their lives to Hudson. Mr. Bourne carried the startling news to the gathering at Paine's The news caused a panic, and preparations were quickly made to leave. Paine had a horse and a yoke of oxen and a cart which was commandeered. Articles were hidden in the bushes. Mrs. Paine had some choice china, brought from the East. This she put in a kettle and buried. They traveled as far as Boston, Summit County, where there was quite a settlement and a block house, built of white oak logs. Here a counsel was held and it was decided to send to Cleveland and ascertain the truth or falsity of the report about Perry. John Waite volunteered to go. In the morning, as related by Uncle Ned Wilcox, they brought out the old horse, fed him some corn, and Mr. Waite mounted with his rifle in front and a flask in his pocket, containing a little something to drive off dull care, and started on his journey. Arriving at Newburgh, he met a man who said it was all a lie, that Perry was victorious. That would not do, he must not go back without accumulative evidence. He rode on to Cleveland, where the good news was confirmed, returned, and arrived in Boston about sunset of the same day. There was general rejoicing. All returned home at once, but Mrs. Paine never found her dishes. The romance of gossip has it that the place of concealment may have been mislocated and that they are still buried on the old Paine farm.

From this time on new arrivals were numerous. Lemuel Hoadley built a gristmill at the Center on Chippewa Creek. This was a great boon as up to this time the nearest gristmills had been at Newburg and Hudson, and many of the settlers crushed their grain for the family use in hollowed stones or stumps. Hosea Bradford opened a shoe shop at the Center, boot shop would be a better term. Bolter Colson, one of the early arrivals, was famous with the ax. It has been claimed for him that he felled more trees than any other man. He would start on a tree before the previous one reached the ground. He had five sons, Orrin, Chandler, Lyman, Thomas, and Newton. Some of the sons inherited their father's liking for work in the woods. Newton and Thomas engaged in the timber business along with farming the most of their lives. They were also clever hunters and were particularly good at hunting the wild turkey, achieving a reputation for their successes. Hard work did not keep Bolter Colson from preserving his strength. Until his death in 1878 at the age of ninety three, his ax was his constant companion.

As in the settlement of Bedford we note the large families. Aaron Rice and wife, who came in 1813, had seven sons and three daughters, Aaron Barnes, who came in 1826, had six. There were two sons, Jesse and Giles. Jesse, who was prominent in later years in Brecksville as a merchant and public spirited citizen, once said that he never had a suit of clothes, until after he grew to manhood, that was not spun, woven and made for him by his mother. This faithful soul, Aunt Roxey Barnes, was nurse to the neighborhood. She created faith in her herb tea and watched by the sick as a neighborly kindness.

We must mention among the early arrivals, Josiah Wilcox, wife and three sons, Moses Hunt, who came in 1833, married in 1834 Miss Emeline Dewey, and located on the extreme southeastern farm of the township; Russ Snow and Henry Snow with their families; Carey Oakes and family, whose first house was built of poles and bark, who was one of the captains of the Hinckley Hunt; Mrs. Mary Timmons and her son Tommy, who located on the river; Capt. John Dunbar, a soldier of 1812, with a large family; Andrew Dillow and family; Hugh Stevenson, who came in 1831 and who married Elizabeth Holland, a cousin of Martin Van Buren, President of the United States; Ezra Wyatt, who built another gristmill and a sawmill; Ambrose and Ebba Wilcox, and Chauncey L. Young, who built mills; Isaac Packard, who kept the first tavern in a log house, where the Congregational Church now stands; and Thomas Allen and wife, Marana, with five sons and four daughters, William, Charles, Thomas, Frank, Sarah, Joe, Lottie and Mary, and May, who was the first postmaster of the town. Isaac Packard sold his tavern site to the trustees of the Congregational Church. There was controversy over the purchase, some of the members holding that it was unhallowed ground. Thomas Allen, while postmaster, received one mail a week. Of his eight children two are living, the twins, Mary and May. Mary is the wife of William Baxter Peck of Denver, Colorado, and May is Mrs. John Stewart of North Evanston, Chicago.

Industrial Brecksville has been left behind by the march of events. At one time before 1840 there were several gristmills, four or five sawmills, three distilleries and a tannery and barkmill on the Chippewa. Peter Goodell had a chair factory and cabinet shop, using the power of a small stream, and Jason Janes a woolen mill nearby that was known as the "spring mill." Later at the Center "Al" Billings operated a harness shop, Robert Crossman and William McWade were rivals in the manufacture of boots and shoes, and James Wyatt conducted a cheese factory. These small industries went out of business, being unable to compete with the larger manufacturing establishments in industrial centers, and the township is, today, almost exclusively an agricultural community.

Following the opening of the Ohio canal in 1826 the bilious fever raged fearfully and there were many deaths. Chester Waite was the first doctor in town. He built the first frame house on the public square. Dr. Isaac Morgan was the second. He came in 1818 and practiced until his death. Then followed Doctors Gibbs and Cleveland and then Dr. William Knowlton, whose two sons, Augustus and William A. Knowlton, later adopted the same profession and practiced in the town, both becoming popular not only as physicians but as orators of unusual ability. Dr. William Knowlton is still living in Cleveland. He married as his second wife Fannie Snow, who has achieved a reputation as a musical composer. Dr. Edward Breck, also one of the sons of John Breck, after whom the town was named, practiced his profession in the town until his death in 1865. The present physicians are Dr. E. L. Bourne, grandson of Lemuel, and Dr. Theodore Breck, great grandson of John Breck.

An incident of local historical interest occurred in 1856, the Great Sleighride. This occurred in the month of March. It originated in Solon Township, which called on a neighboring town with seven four horse teams and a banner flying, "Beat this if you can." The story is aptly told in the following lines written by Mrs. Allen, then an old lady and a participant in the events narrated:

THE GREAT SLEIGHRIDES
Come listen, young and old, to the story that is told
Of our mammoth sleighride that came off so handy, O.
I will tell you how it begun, likewise how the story run
Old Medina boys for conquering are the dandy, O.

The Solon boys, it seems, got up seven four-horse teams
And had a sleighride that came off so handy, O,
With a banner in the van, that said, "take me if you can,"
But Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Next Twinsburg boys are seen, driving fourteen four-horse teams,
They're going for the banner now so handy, O.
And they bear the flag away, but alas it cannot stay,
Old Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Old Bedford in the field, and the banner now must yield,
For their teams are counted thirty-four, so handy, O,
But the Bedford boys can't brag, they cannot keep the flag.
Old Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Now Northfield comes in sight, but their numbers are not right,
And they cannot take the banner quite so handy, O,
So they had to give up beat, and homeward did retreat
But Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Now Brecksville boys are there, and they take the banner fair,
Their four-horse teams are fifty-four so handy, O,
But 'tis only for a day, there are others in the play.
Old Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Old Royalton doth freight, four-horse teams just sixty-eight,
With merry lads and lassies, all so handy, O,
Oh, it is a glorious day, and the flag they bear away,
But Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Now Boston rallies round, their "canalers" beat the ground,
A motley crew, that they've got up so handy, O,
They go home without the flag, to get a new recruit of nags,
But Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

My friends, oh do not grieve, you can hear their horses heave,
As they come again to take the flag so handy, O.
Some are blind and some are lame, the poor horses aren't to blame,
But Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Old Boston turned out fine, four-horse teams they'd eighty-nine,
And they bear the banner home, so neat and handy, O,
Old Boston got her will but the banner can't be still.
Old Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

One hundred fifty four-horse teams the banner bore,
From Boston up to Richfield, all so handy, O.
We will now reverse the case, for the county's joined the race,
Old Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

How the counties rally 'round, oh how sweet the music sounds,
Cuyahoga and Medina are so handy, O,
Summit County played the swine. Said: "The banner shall be mine."
But Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Four-horse teams oh what a string! and the merry bells do ring,
The snow is deep, the roads are smooth and handy, O.
All the teams if counted true, were four hundred sixty-two,
But Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

It was March the eighteenth day, the Medina boys did say; "
Come let us take the banner, 'tis so handy, O."
Nine hundred the amount, likewise twelve they didn't count
Old Medina boys will conquer-they're the dandy, O.

Into Akron now they pour, and the cannon loud doth roar,
With bands of music playing neat and handy, O,
And the banner we have won, that says, "take me if you can,"
Hark! Medina boys have conquered-they're the dandy, O.

Mrs. Allen was a resident of Hinckley, Medina County, and in the concluding stanzas of this poem written to commemorate the Great Sleigh rides she states that the banner is at the county seat of Medina County and dares any county, "when winter comes again," to come and take it.

Brecksville furnished eighty eight soldiers in the Civil war, a number equal to half the voting population. In no part of the country did the shots against Fort Sumpter awaken a more active remonstrance than in this little town, and soon men and boys were drilling and the town was like a camp. A little later the women gathered, almost without exception and they met daily and shipped dainties for the hospitals and picked lint to dress the wounds of the injured. The war song, "God bless the fingers picking lint," called down a benediction upon many hands in Brecksville. Logan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic was organized January 25, 1885, with fifteen charter members. L. D. Morse was the first commander. Among those who have served since are Harmon Rinear, Charles Stressing, J. R. Chaffee, O. P. Latimer, T. J. Rudgers, Calvin C. Hardin and J. F. Reinhardt. As in other places the Post has been the dominant and leading spirit in the Decoration Day exercises and in 1890 a very elaborate series of exercises were brought about by their efforts. Only two of the commanders of Logan Post are now living.

The first school in the township was taught by Oriana Paine at the Center and was attended by children from the families of Hoadley, Adams, Bradford and Waite. In 1826 there were three school districts. In District No. I Mrs. Aaron Rice was the first teacher and was to receive as compensation the sum of $1 per week. She was then unmarried.' The district being without funds and discovering that the lady contemplated matrimony she was tendered as payment in full for her services which she accepted, three chairs, a bake kettle and a barrel of whiskey. As an evidence of the thrift of the settlers it is related that in the Snow district at one time the schoolhouse burned down. A new one was erected with such expedition that fire from the burning embers of the old building were taken to start the first fire in the new schoolhouse.

From the three original school districts the number was increased, with the population, to nine, including the fractional districts. These were formed for the convenience of pupils and included factions of several townships. In one school in the southeast part of the township, pupils, at one time, attended from four townships and three counties. Some of these fractional district schools are still in operation but most of the schools in the sub districts are abandoned and the pupils brought in busses to the one central graded and high school at the Center. This system, first advocated at county teachers' institutes, has now become quite general, replacing the "little red schoolhouse." Among the very early teachers, who taught in the district schools of Brecksville, were Calvin Oakes, Johnson Patrick, Bene Butler, William Warren (father of Warren of the Ohio Criminal Code), Amy Jenkins, Anson Leonard, Eleanor Coates, Abigail Cushman, and Maria Storrs.
The religious sentiment of Brecksville from its earliest history has found expression through two churches, the Congregational and the Methodist Episcopal. The Congregational Church has been, however, Presbyterian during a portion of its history. On the 13th of July, 1816, Rev. William Hanford, a missionary from Hudson, Ohio, formed an organization at the home of Esquire Bradford. A church was organized with thirteen members, John Adams, Lemuel Hoadley, Chloe, his wife, John Waite, Bolter Colson, Harriet, his wife, Hannah Payne, Lyman J. rost, Oriana Payne, Zilpha Waite, Lucy Wilcox, James Dixon, and Mary, his wife. "The church was formed under that peculiar ecclesiastical system known on the Reserve as the Plan of Union. This was a measure originated by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and adopted by the General Association of Connecticut, for the purpose of promoting unity and harmony among the churches in new settlements." January 4, 1817, the church placed itself under the care of the Grand River Presbytery. In 1854 it voted to become an independent Congregational Church. In 1874, under the pastorate of Rev. I. McK. Pittenger and the urgent solicitation of Rev. H. H. Wells, evangelist, it became Presbyterian, joining the Cleveland Presbytery. Reverend Pittenger was shortly after chosen presiding elder of said organization. In 1889, the church again decided to become Congregational and joined the Cleveland Congregational Conference. Since this time it has been identified with that organization as a Congregational Church. In 1841 it installed its first regular pastor, Rev. Newton Barrett. During his ministry the present church edifice was built. The money was raised by the sale of pews, the bell being given by the Brecks in compliance with a promise made when the town was named. Among the early ministers have been Rev. Joseph Breck, Rev. Chester Chapin, Rev. Newton Barrett, Rev. Thomas Towler and Rev. G. C. Reed.

The first meeting, that finally developed into the 'organization of the Brecksville Methodist Episcopal Church, was held at the residence of Lemuel Bourne prior to 1823. In 1832 the present church structure was built on the north side of the public square, facing the Congregational Church building on the south side of the square. Until 1853 the church was lighted by tallow candles in tin reflectors on the walls. Then an agitation began for lamps, and one man, an outsider, sent word that he would sell a cow to defray the expense if necessary. This spurred up the project, and the new lighting was installed without the sale of the cow. Those who sit today on velvet under electric lights will hardly realize the sacrifices of those, who built the first fires and tried to imitate the life of the first teachers. In 1824 Rev. Solomon Minwaer and Rev. John Pardo were circuit pastors. Each received $100 per year, salary. Among those who have served the church, either as circuit or regular pastors are Rev. Moses B. Mead, Rev. I. W. Dwyer, Rev. A. R. Palmer, Rev. T. D. Stevie, Rev. E. H. Bush, Rev. C. F. Irish, Rev. J. R. Carpenter and Reverend Pollock, afterwards presiding elder.

We have said Brecksville is an agricultural community. In April, 1876, Union Grange was organized. The first officers were: Hollis Barr, master; C. T. Canfield, overseer; O. O. Spafford, lecturer; H. C. Wilcox, secretary; David Bratton, treasurer, and C. C. Hannum, chorister. The Grange bought groceries, hardware and farming tools at a saving to the farmers. A. A. Butler was purchasing agent. This organization was allowed to lapse and in the year 1891 it was reorganized and again disbanded. In March, 1903, Brecksville Grange was organized as a new lodge, with H. T. Bratton as master; C. H. Miller, overseer; L. H. Rust, secretary, and J. E. McCreery, treasurer.

The annual fairs in the '40s and later were interesting occasions. In this new community, united as it was by such close ties of neighborly fraternity, these annual events became occasions of great interest. Everybody exhibited and everybody rejoiced in the premiums awarded, wherever bestowed. It was a gala day for young and old. These fairs became of practical advantage aside from the question of recreation. Methods of plant culture were discussed as well as the breeding of domestic animals. They were agricultural institutes. The young people made more of the day than the rest, for with them it must close with a dance at the Town Hall, and the young men utilized the occasion in securing their respective girls for that occasion. The writer has in his possession a premium certificate of the Brecksville Fair, held in 1848, awarding a premium to John Coates for the best specimen of pumpkins. This was signed by Edmund Bartlette as president and Theodore Breck, secretary of the Brecksville Agricultural Society. These fairs were abandoned about the time of the Civil war.

An Odd Fellows lodge has existed in Brecksville since 1878. It was organized on July 10th of that year with the following charter members: Capt. M. I. Morgan, Dr. W. A. Knowlton, E. L. Hannum, A. A. Butler, A. K. Skeels, M. D. McNaughton, Clifford Edgerton, G. E. Ploss, A. C. Rice, John Rooks, James King, Homer Barnes, W. F. Dillow, S. D. Sherwood, C. T. Canfield, R. E. Garrity, O. O. Spafford, and A. J. Snow. Thirty six additional members were taken in as members during the year. In 1879 the lodge built a hall on the south side of the square, which was dedicated December 31st of that year.

We have referred to the distilleries as among the early industries of the township. From their establishment one street leading east from the State Road to the Cuyahoga River was named Whiskey Lane. In later years an effort has been made to change the name but it remains, and is more permanent than the sentiment in regard to the commodity. In 1850 a wave of temperance agitation struck the town. A meeting was held "upstairs in the Breck Building" to form a temperance society. From this meeting was organized Chippewa Lodge of Good Templars. This lodge became a popular organization, grew in numbers and held regular meetings quite largely attended. It continued in existence for many years and until the town became free from the liquor traffic, under the local option law. Among those active in the lodge were J. J. Barnes, C. O. Bartlett, Karl Snow, Ed Phelps, Lucian Payne, Julia McWade, Newton Oakes, Elwin Carter, Mrs. James Coates and Mrs. Harriet Dunbar.

We have stated that Brecksville was organized in 1814. The election resulted as follows: Trustees, Lemuel Hoadley, John Adams and Eli Bagley; township clerk, John Wait; justices of the peace, John Wait and Eli Bagley. These were the first officers. At the second election held at the home of Eli Bagley April 3, 1815, the following officers were elected: Trustees, Aaron Rice, Lemuel Hoadley and Edward Johnson; clerk, John Wait; treasurer, John Adams; constable and lister (assessor), Ebenezer Rice; poormasters, Hoses Bradford and Aaron Rice; fence viewers, Ebenezer Rice, Walter Wait and Hubert Baker; road supervisors, Lemuel Bourne, Hosea Bradford, Hubert Baker and Ebenezer Rice. Charles Wolcott, previously elected constable and who refused to serve, was fined $2, which money was applied towards a township book. The original records show that Seth Paine's heirs sold a stray ox for $25.75, and that the charge for keeping was $12.00; that a settlement had been made with Lemuel Hoadley (probably for road work) for $3.75, leaving a balance in the treasury of $12. This was added to the record: "a very fine showing indeed." The trustees at the March meeting in 1816 chose Aaron Rice, Eli Bagley and John Wait, grand jurors, and Silas Rice and Charles Wolcott, petit jurors. At a meeting in November, 1917, the overseers of the poor directed the constable to order Hubert Baker to depart from the township without delay. The writ was served and a fee of 37 1/2 cents charged by the constable. In this year fifteen persons were thus ordered to leave the township to prevent them from becoming a public charge.

The present trustees of the township are Joseph Vyrostek, George Ellsworth and Milton Snow; clerk, Carl Burtscher; treasurer, E. E. Wiese; road superintendent, Norris Starr. Among those who have served the township for long periods of time are Trustees Julius White, Holland Snow, John Fitzwater, Ira Fitzwater, and Burr Van Noate. James H. Coates as treasurer, and Charles S. Burt as clerk, served in their respective offices continuously for over thirty years. Charles B. Rich, John Coates, Lewis Rust, Moses Hunt and A. K. Skeels each held the office of justice of the peace for long periods.

The ultimate passing of the township is foreshadowed in that December 20, 1921, the Village of Brecksville was formed. It embraces in its confines a large portion of the original township. Its officers are: Mayor, Burt Harris; clerk, Hugh Ellsworth; treasurer, E. E. Wiese; marshal, J. T. Taul; council, H. T. Bratton, Frank McCreery, Ben Metzger, Earl Rinear, E. W. Rudgers and H. W. Snow. Among the first acts of the village officers was to set in motion the necessary procedure for securing electric lights in the village, by authorizing a bond issue of $50,000, which was voted upon at a special election held February 28, 1922, and carried by a vote of 214 in favor and 33 against, the lighting to be under contract with the Cleveland Illuminating Company. An application was made to the county commissioners in 1922 to incorporate the remaining territory of the township in the village, thus dispensing with the township organization, but it has not been accomplished.

The early history of Brecksville is replete with interesting anecdotes. Tom Fitzwater for years played the fiddle for dances and was much in demand. His fiddle box was homemade and resembled a child's coffin. One morning after an all night performance at a dance in which calling off was included as his function in connection with the harmony produced for the occasion, tired and sleepy, his faithful fiddle under his arm, he was "footing it" homeward. His route took him along the tow path of the canal. Just as the first dim twilight of the morning appeared, he passed the cabin of "Widow Falkner," an aged eccentric character, who lived in a lonely part of the valley. She looked out of the window at the apparition, spied the fiddle box, scented a tragedy, and then with piercing shrieks exclaimed over and over: "Oh my God what a wretch!" Long afterward Tom was greeted in the store and the blacksmith shop and on the street with "Oh my God what a wretch!" It was suggested that the widow referred to his performances on the fiddle.

Julius Hannum ("Jule") was a practical joker and the life of many occasions. In the days of the Underground Railroad, Carey Oakes had a station at his house. He was strong in his anti slavery views and harbored escaped slaves and helped them on to Canada. It was his practice to feed and lodge them and as he sent them on to another station, give each one a dollar with his blessing. Jule Hannum blacked up, palmed himself off as a runaway slave and chuckled home with his dollar and his blessing. It is not recorded whether he finally returned the dollar to "Uncle Carey," but the story got out, being too good to keep.

Brecksville was a whig town and a strong supporter of General Harrison in the days of the log cabin, hard cider campaign. At a great political rally in the interest of Harrison some one put ipecac in the barrel of cider provided for the occasion. The perpetrator of this act was never found out, but it was generally attributed to John Breck, who later was a strong whig supporter, perhaps by way of atonement. The incident is related in the following lines, which were read before a meeting of The Early Settlers' Association in Cleveland:

The news got dull in harvest time,
Most all the reg'lar things were closed,
But still serene, in numbers full,
We loafers by the counter dozed.

Well back in eighteen forty's time
Sim Joynton turned the evening talk,
To when, in presidential year,
A campaign took a sudden balk.

Brecksville was strong for Harrison,
Van's followers were few but set,
Watching the Tipp and Tyler band
With vigils we remember yet.

A final rally had been planned
To sweep the opposition in
And leave Van Buren's following
Too dead presumably to skin.

Brecksville was bright on rally night.
The campaign cider barrel stood
Convenient by the cabin door,
Built up of mammoth logs of wood.

And followers of Harrison,
Each true and faithful, stalwart whig,
Considering the country's weal,
Was asked and urged to take a swig.

Around the borders of the crowd
The opposition forces strolled.
As if they contemplated soon
To join the Tipp and Tyler fold.

Their interest, it seems, was this:
To see how worked the ipecac
They'd put into the cider there
When Dr. Morgan turned his back.

The meeting grew in magnitude,
And time for speaking drew apace,
Enthusiasm mounted high
Illumining each patriot face.

Oh world, thy slippery turns! the whigs,
Who'd worked to throw Van Buren down,
Began with unanimity,
A throwing up, disgracing town.

With faces pale the patriots drooped,
The ipecac had sovereign sway,
The rally faded into naught,
As fades the glimmering light of day.

The old man mused: It's seventy years,
But mem'ry canters easy back
To that campaign in forty, when
We dosed the whigs with ipecac.

Brecksville has produced many of prominence in various walks of life, who have gone out into fields of usefulness. The most noted I will mention first, Prof. John N. Stockwell. His biography appears in another volume of this history. At the time of his death, May 18, 1920, at the advanced age of eighty nine, he was regarded as one of the foremost philosophers and the dean of American astronomers. Gus Heege, who entertained the pupils of the district school as a barefoot boy, with various unusual performances, and who achieved fame and fortune in the character of Yon Yonson on the stage, should be mentioned. Florence Morse (Kingsley), a small child, when her father and mother taught the higher and lower school in the Center district, famous as a writer of books and as an editor of the Ladies Home Journal, deserves special mention. John Wilcox, a successful teacher in the Brecksville schools, sheriff of the county, and at the time of his death, editor of the Cleveland Press; Frank Wilcox, who refused public office, likewise a successful teacher in the Brecksville schools before he engaged in the practice of law in Cleveland, obtaining an enviable position at the bar. Among the earlier generations, Theodore Breck, who served in the State Senate, as county commissioner, and in other positions of trust, enlarges the list of those who have added greatly to the interest attached to the history of Brecksville. Frank Skeels, who was police prosecutor in Cleveland and a lawyer of standing, and Arthur Skeels, a civil engineer of note, both sons of A. K. Skeels, who served for many years as justice of the peace, made most creditable records. E. J. Phelps (Ed), prominent in the civic affairs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, always kept up an active interest in the days when he taught school in his native town of Brecksville. Dr. W. A. Knowlton, physician of Brecksville for many years, platform orator of more than local fame, at one time president of the Cleveland Medical Association, now at an advanced age, his wife, Fannie Snow Knowlton, musician and composer, were long identified with the town's activities.

The centennial of the first settlement was celebrated in 1911. This occasion was made interesting by the presence of a large number of former residents, who came from all parts of the land. Its inception came from the Brecksville Association, an organization of former residents that held its meetings in Cleveland for many years. At this centennial Hon. Paul Howland was the orator of the day. A boulder, product of the Glacial Age, which had been placed in the public square, was dedicated, commemorative of the first settlement.


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