History of Euclid Township, Cuyahoga County, OH Part 1

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


Moses Cleveland had forty one surveyors under him when he came as the agent of the Connecticut Land Company to survey the Western Reserve. He was not a surveyor himself, but he owned a large block of shares in the company and was personally interested in the enterprise. He was a lawyer capable of drawing a contract that would stand, but not capable of running a line. If history could record or its pages tell the whole story there would appear the statement that his troubles with the force under him in the difficult and dangerous task before them, his worries in carrying forward the work to completion, required as much diplomacy to surmount or at least the same quality as that displayed by Lincoln in dealing with the Border States at the outbreak of the Rebellion. It is known that by some concerted agreement the surveyors and their assistants, in the spring of 1796, insisted on having a share in the enterprise of reclaiming the wilderness, aside from their wages. General Cleveland was obliged to concede to their wishes, but knowing the peculiar type of men he had to deal with drew up an agreement in legal form. He was the agent of the company and superintendent of the survey. This agreement was signed up at Cleveland September 30, 1796. It was a formal contract. It assigned the whole of township 8, range 11, to the employes under him, conditional upon their becoming actual settlers and paying $1 per acre. By the terms of this agreement eleven families were to settle in 1797, eighteen more in 1798, and twelve more in 1799. All were to make clearings of a certain size and in case any failed to carry out their part of the contract the land was to revert to the company. This condition was attached, however, that any individual carrying out his contract should not lose his rights because of the failure of any other one to carry out his agreement under the conditional conveyance. It was a large concession. Each man was assigned 500 acres of land.

Immediately after the agreement was signed the employes held a meeting. The education of the principal surveyors had been chiefly along mathematical lines and without any dissenting voices it was at once agreed to call their new township Euclid after the great mathematician and geometer. This name given to the survey township was afterwards adopted for the civil townships and to the justly famous thoroughfare with its eastern terminus at the Public Square in Cleveland. At this meeting of employes it was agreed who should begin settlements in one, who in two, and who in three years. It is a matter of history that not one became a permanent resident of the territory allotted. Nathaniel Doan did become a resident of the county, locating at Doan's Corners in Cleveland Township. Several attempts were made to carry out the agreement. In the memorandum of the surveys of 1797 there is this entry: "August 10th Two men started out to do settling duties for Seth Pease and Doctor Shepard." These were two leading men of the surveying party. Several other beginnings were made in that year under the contract, mostly in the level territory between the ridge and the lake shore. This part of the township was surveyed into small tracts, while that farther from the lake was surveyed into larger tracts. The intention being that each man should have a place near the lake and one back farther. These surveyors were men of push and daring, used to hardships, and yet they were not pioneers. The slow yet sure determination that carried out the march of civilization over the Western Reserve was embodied in a different type of people. One could map out, plan and chart a civilization, but the real pioneer must come to build it. Moses Cleveland represents the first class as Alonzo Carter does the second. It would be a very appropriate and historic setting to have a monument to Carter beside that of Moses Cleveland on the Public Square in Cleveland.

The Euclid that we are writing about is not the original survey township entire as the western and southwestern parts have since the grant to the settlers, who did not settle, been taken off to form East Cleveland Township, leaving the township an irregular tract with an eastern boundary nearly nine miles long, a southern one of only three miles, and a northwestern boundary on the lake of six miles. The first real settlement of which we have any knowledge was made in 1798 by John Morse, who was not one of the original surveyors. He may have bought out the right of someone who joined in the contract to buy the township. He built a log house on the ridge on the east line of the township and girdled about twenty acres of timber around it. He also cleared three or four acres on the flats near the lake shore and sowed it to wheat and grass seed. His wheat was cut and put in the sheaf, in a log barn, which he had built with a rather poor roof made of black ash bark. After all this labor had been done Morse abandoned the whole proposition. The wheat was destroyed by the rain through the leaky roof. He left one permanent improvement that became a great boon to later settlers. The following year the grass came up on the wheat field and from this field the whole township secured timothy and red top grass seed that seeded the meadows all through the settlements. But this was not a settlement in the real meaning of the term. Perhaps the one thing that kept the surveyors from becoming settlers and pioneers more than any other was the malaria. They did not fear the wild beast or the Indian. It is recorded about the family of Nathaniel Doan, who was one of the surveying party but did not settle on the territory allotted to the surveyors under the signed agreement, that only one of the family had sufficient strength to bring a pail of water, and that was Seth Doan, a boy of thirteen, and the family consisted of nine persons. Bilious fever and fever and ague had the whole community in their grip. The pioneers had much to contend with in the reclaiming of this territory.

Joseph Burke was the first permanent settler in Euclid. He was a native of Vermont and was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary army. He was not one of the forty one employes who made contract with Moses Cleveland, although he may have worked on the survey the next year after or the year of his arrival. He settled in 1798 or 1799 on the east line of the township north of and adjoining the Morse tract. Burke's cabin was on the main road from Cleveland to the Pennsylvania line. This followed the foot of the ridge and had been opened to the extent of having the trees girdled along a course two rods wide and having the underbrush cut out. It could not, however, be traveled by a wagon without an ax along with which to cut out obstructions. Burke got some whiskey and opened a tavern, the first in the township and the first between Conneaut and Cleveland. Reference is made to the tavern, not the whiskey. He stayed ten years ministering to the traveling wants of man and beast, then enlisted as a soldier in the War of 1812 and died in the service. The next settler in the township was David Dille, a native of New Jersey. He came from Western Pennsylvania in November, 1798, and located on the main road one half mile southeast of Euclid Creek. Mr. Dille was an Indian fighter and all around frontiersman. He had been actively engaged in frontier wars with the Indians before and after the Revolution. He was in that unfortunate expedition of Colonel Crawford, when that commander, friend of Washington, was defeated, captured and burned at the stake, near Upper Sandusky. Dille had five sons, Nehemiah, Lewis B., Calvin, Luther and Asa, nearly all grown to manhood when they came with their father to Euclid. They either came with him or followed in a year or two. He had fourteen younger children, nearly all born in Euclid. As parent, soldier and pioneer he seemed to have filled a large place. He lived in Euclid until his death and can be counted as having been a very permanent settler. He lived to a good old age. He was the first actual settler after Burke, of whom there is a very clear record, but in August, previous to his coming with his family, five young men came from Washington County, Pennsylvania, to look for land. Four made selections along the main road, John Shaw, Thomas McIlrath, in what was later East Cleveland, and John Ruple in Euclid, close to the line between the townships, and William Coleman at Euclid Creek. The fifth man, Garret Thorp, did not make a selection. In April, 1804, Coleman, Shaw and Mcllrath began work on their land in the vigorous style of the real pioneers. In the fall Coleman, who had cleared three or four acres and gotten out logs for a cabin, did not wait to build but went East and brought on his family to the site of the new home. He was a native of New Jersey, twenty three years old and had a wife and two children, but little else besides. An inventory of his possessions revealed a yoke of oxen and a wagon, a cow, and 75 cents in money. His capital, as was the case with so many of the early settlers, consisted of strong arms and willing hands, and perhaps we might add in his share in that neighborly fraternity, without which the work of many of the early settlers would have been trebly hard and discouraging. He brought on his family and the wagon cover served for a tent for a while. Then came the raising and the scattered neighbors from a radius of ten miles or more gathered to raise the new house. This done, Mr. and Mrs. Coleman put on the roof without further assistance. When the house was finished there was not a board in the construction. The door, chamber floor and ground floor were all split out of logs with an axe. The work was cleverly done as Mr. Coleman proved himself to be a man of varied adaptability. The puncheon floor was common before the settlements were blessed with a sawmill. Incidents of the pioneer experience of Mr. Coleman are related in a manuscript preserved by the Western Reserve Historical Society of Cleveland. The family having by the following March used up all the little crop of corn that had been raised the previous year, Mr. Coleman started out to supply the family needs. He went to the residence of Judge Huntington in Newburg, who had a supply of corn. The judge was away on judicial business and he had to deal with the wife. He tried to buy corn on credit, but the thrifty housewife was not disposed to extend credit to a total stranger. He told of his need and Mrs. Huntington asked him if he could make baskets. He said he could, for he reasoned to himself that if a squaw could make baskets he could, although he had never tried. Mrs. Huntington inquired the price and he said: "The old Indian price, the basket full of shelled corn." She agreed to the terms and gave Coleman a list of the number and size of the baskets she wanted. He went home, borrowing thirty pounds of corn meal on the way of Capt. Timothy Doan, who lived in the part of Euclid Township that was afterwards included in East Cleveland. The next morning he looked up some good timber and began learning the trade of basket making. It took him several days to "get the hang of the thing," but he finally succeeded and filled the entire order of Mrs. Huntington. He hitched up the ox team and hauled the baskets to the Huntington home in Newburg, and received according to contract 10 1/2 bushels of corn. He drove from there to the gristmill of Rudolphus Edwards to get his corn ground, but found that the mill was idle, as the mill stones had been taken out to be "dressed." Deacon Burke, an old miller, had come from Hudson to do the work and was already on the job. Several more days would be required to complete the dressing and grists were accumulating. Coleman watched Burke for a while and then suggested to Edwards that the best thing for all parties concerned was for him to board himself and oxen while he helped Deacon Burke dress the stones. Now Mr. Coleman had never struck a blow on a millstone in his life, but Edwards was willing if Coleman could do the work properly and to the satisfaction of Deacon Burke. Coleman had great confidence in himself and was sure he could imitate the pattern set by Burke. He went to work and satisfied the deacon and continued until the stones were finished and put in place. He soon had his grist ground and was on his way home with cornmeal for the family. Thus he had in less than a month's time learned two trades to get a few hundred pounds of cornmeal for the family use.

We have said in an earlier chapter that Rocky River was the only stream entering Lake Erie that did not follow the original glacial channel. Its rock bottom was a lure to the lake fish, and, the pioneers, who were compelled to put in supplies of food for their families before the multiplied flocks and herds made subsistence more easy, resorted there for fish. Mr. Coleman's next move after getting a supply of cornmeal was a trip to Rocky River to catch fish for the summer use. He and another man went in a canoe on Lake Erie and returned with two barrels of fine pike and pickerel. Up to this time people believed that lake fish could not be preserved in salt or brine, as were the salt water fish. An old Indian when asked about it said: "No - no salt, put him on pole - make little fire - smoke him heap." Mr. Coleman reasoned that lake fish would keep in salt as well as ocean fish. He had a quantity of salt, for which he had traded his watch before leaving for the western wilderness. He tried the experiment and succeeded. Then his neighbors followed his example. The late Hon. John Barr, a student of pioneer life, investigated the matter and gave credit to Mr. Coleman for this discovery, which, so seemingly trivial at this time, was a great boon to the scattered pioneers in those days. William Coleman was a type of the best class of pioneers. Jacob Coleman, an uncle of William, came to Euclid in 1805. He had been a soldier in the Revolution, was for two years in Col. William A. Washington's celebrated cavalry regiment, regiment of horse they called it then. John Ruple, known for long as Deacon Ruple, came that year. He bought his farm two years before. This was east of Nine Mile Creek. Deacon Ruple raised a large family did his part in reclaiming the forest and lived out his life in Euclid. In Euclid there seemed to be a larger percentage of panthers among the wild denizens of the wood than in other parts. These animals were accounted more dangerous than the bear and the wolf, and would more readily attack man, hence the shooting of a panther was more of an event, the danger attending a contact with this wily creature was counted in. Among the most popular sports, and this has continued almost to the present day, was coon hunting. This was attended with no danger, and the skin had a trading value and the meat was cooked for the family use. Coon skins were legal tender in Newburg for household necessities.

In the settling up of Euclid the destruction of the rattlesnake was taken up with much vigor. No one in the township quite equalled the record of the Mayfield incident. Deacon John Ruple killed thirty eight at one time. He was not bitten, but the fumes of the angry reptiles thrown into the air made him quite sick. Luther Dille had a similar experience near Collamer. He killed forty three and became so sick that he had to desist before the nest was cleaned out. It became the particular business of boys as well as men to get rid of this danger to the lives of the pioneers. Boy like they experimented with the reptile. One boy bet that he could touch the tail of a snake and get away without being bitten. He tried it to his sorrow, but his life was saved by quick and heroic treatment. The boys would often hold the reptiles down with a forked stick, then slip a noose of tough bark over their heads and take them home as live captives to show and shock the family. They shot many with the bow and arrow. It is due to this active and energetic campaign against them that the pioneers coming into this infested region suffered so few losses by snake bite, but the presence of the reptiles was a drawback and their destruction a part of pioneer history.

Religion was early manifest in Euclid in organized form and a Congregational Church, the first church to be organized in Cuyahoga County, was formed in August, 1807. John Ruple was the first deacon. The building was erected in that part of Euclid which was later in the civil township of East Cleveland, so that this distinction may apply to both townships.

In 1807 Andrew Mcllrath and his three sons in law, Abraham Mattox, David Bennett and Abraham L. Norris, arrived with their families and settled near the line between Euclid and East Cleveland as afterwards divided. McIlrath lived out his life on the old pioneer stamping ground, but the daughters with their families followed the "westward ho" contagion in a few years. Gad Cranney located on an old clearing near the lake shore, remained about fifteen years and then joined the westward march, moving first to Indiana. The same year as Cranney, John Adams came to Euclid and located on the main road east of Euclid Creek, where he stayed ten years and then sold to one John Wilcox. Adams' successor remained much longer and until the early '70s. The incoming settlers at this time were few and it is easy to note their individual arrivals. In 1809 Abraham Bishop of Washington County, New York, settled on a lot that had been improved by John Morse. Bishop brought a large quanity of farm merchandise, which he sold throughout the locality, such as plows, chains, etc. The next year he built a sawmill on the east branch of Euclid Creek on a site that was afterwards and for many years occupied by Seth D. Pelton and Jonathan Pelton, who continued the business. Bishop's mill was the first in the township. The first panther killed in the township was a victim of the marksmanship of Deacon John Ruple, who like Bill Johnson of Brecksville, "never had any tussels," because he always shot to kill. This was a large animal, measuring nine feet from tip of nose to tip of tail. It was commonly reported that Andrew McIlrath in close quarters killed one with an ax.

Euclid was organized as a civil township in 1810. It included much more than the original survey township allotted to the original surveyors under Moses Cleveland, for it had always been the policy of the settlers of the Western Reserve to promote law and order by extending the jurisdiction of the organized townships over the thinly populated regions beyond its limits. The name selected for the survey township was adopted for the civil township. The first town meeting was held April 22d at the home of Walter Strong. Timothy Doan acted as moderator. The proceedings were in this wise, and so the elections were conducted in the townships afterwards. The self appointed moderator, or chairman, calls the meeting to order at the time specified in the notice and acts as chairman during the selection of judges and clerks of election. The choice was, as a rule, made by a viva voca vote. At this first election David Dille and Abraham Bishop were chosen as judges of election, and the clerk was Lewis R. Dille. The officers elected, being the first officers of the township, were: Trustees, Elisha Graham, David Dille and Thomas Mcllrath; clerk, Lewis R. Dille; overseers of the poor, David Hendershot and Holley Tanner; fence viewers, Seth Doan, James Lewis, am praiser, Nehemiah Dille; lister, Holley Tanner; treasurer, Abraham Bishop; constable, Nehemiah Dille; supervisors of the highways, Eastern District, James Covert; Northern District, Holley Tanner; East Middle District, Abraham Bishop; Western District, John Shaw; Southern District, Asa Dille; West Middle District, Lewis R. Dille. The next settlers who came in after the organization were Garrett and Benjamin Thorp. They located near the mouth of Euclid Creek. Benjamin later moved into East Cleveland, or that part of Euclid which was included in that township.

We have repeatedly referred to the anxiety on the part of the settlers all over the county as to the safety of their person, home, family and landed possession, particularly the danger from hostile Indians, when the War of 1812 began. The people of Euclid felt that they were in a very dangerous locality, being exposed to the white foe by sea and the red foe by land. When the news came of Hull's surrender, and with it the rumor that British and Indians were making a murderous progress down the lake, the settlers hitched up ox sleds, loaded on family, provisions and household effects and started eastward. They found the Chagrin River so swollen that they could not cross and were in a veritable panic. William Coleman went twice to Cleveland to get the latest news. On his second trip he learned that the scare about the British and Indians arose from the movement of the scattered remnant of Hull's army down the lake. Soon the people came back to their homes, but every man who could bear arms served in defence of the frontier. When troops were stationed at Cleveland a small picket of horsemen were maintained at Euclid Creek to give notice of the enemy, white or red, from that direction. The nearest approach to an invasion of Euclid occurred just before the battle of Lake Erie. A detachment of the enemy forces from the British fleet landed and killed an ox belonging to Mr. Mcllrath, and carried the beef to the war ships. This was the only raid recorded in history. The brilliant victory of Commodore Perry, the great turning point of the war here, put an end to that deadly fear that dominated the settlers, so that even during the war some emigrants came. Dr. Havilla Farnsworth was one. He came from Newport, Rhode Island, and settled on the ridge. He was the first physician in the township. He had a large practice and was locally famous both as a physician and as a surgeon. His visits were made on horseback, he often going out fifteen or twenty miles. At night he would have a guide riding ahead with a torch to lead the way. Scattering settlers came, lured by the cheap land. Benjamin Day bought 300 acres of land west of Nottingham. He came with his family the day before Perry's victory. Dr. Robert Day was only eight years old on the arrival of the family. Where Nottingham is there was only a path marked by blazed trees. Nearly all the inhabitants of the township at that time lived on the main road near the lake shore. After the war land began to advance in price, but Luther Dille paid only $3 per acre. He bought in 1813. The next year Jonathan Pelton bought Abraham Bishop's farm and sawmill on Euclid Creek. His son, Seth Pelton, long a resident of that locality, was then nineteen years of age, and his brother, Joseph, was twenty one. John Bishop at that time lived at what became later Euclid Village.

Shortly after 1814 Paul P. Condit opened a tavern in a frame house half a mile west of the present Village of Euclid. This was the first frame tavern in the township. Abram Farr opened one at Euclid Creek shortly after Condit opened. The real center of business in the township about this time was a small settlement called Euclid, but which was afterwards called Collarner. Two miles northeast of the main road was a smaller collection of houses called then Euclid Creek, now Euclid Village. After the war the township settled up quite rapidly. The land was still cheap and settlers multiplied. The land between the ridge and the lake was cleared more rapidly, but there was considerable clearing done on the ridge. A poll sheet of an election held in the township in 1815 has been preserved and the list shows that forty two men voted. We give the list as recorded 108 years ago: Timothy Doan, William Coleman, David Hendershot, Nehemiah Dille, John Shaw, Seth Doan, Jacob Coleman, James Strong, Asa Dille, Jr., Amaziah Porter, John H. Strong, Levi Thomas, Thomas Barr, David Dille, Samuel Ruple, Samuel Mcllrath, Jedediah Crocker, Samuel Dodge, J. Adams, Asa Dille, Heavily Farnsworth, Francis K. Porter, Luther Dille, Enoch Murry, Benjamin Day, Abraham Bishop, Walter Strong, Samuel Mcllrath, Abraham L. Morris, Jedediali D. Crocker, Parker Pelton, Samuel Crocker, Daniel S. Tyler, Joseph Pelton, Ezra B. Smith, Dennis Cooper, Calvin Dille, Abijah Crosby, Lewis R. Dille, Hugh Hamilton, William Gray and James Ruple. William Coleman was the first postmaster in the township and he began his official duties as such in 1815. Two years after (and it seems the postoffice did not require his entire time) he built the first gristmill in the Township of Eudid Creek and afterwards built a sawmill at the same locality.

About 1820, William Gray, who had located at the mouth of Euclid Creek and lived there about ten years, built a plant there for making stoneware, jugs, jars, bowls, etc. In 1823 he sold this to J. and L. Marsilhott. That was the firm name, whose advertisement appeared in the Cleveland Herald of that year. Leonard Marsilliott kept up the business for fifteen years. He bought clay from Springfield, Ohio, perhaps not all, and burned seven or eight kilns a year employing five or six men throughout the year. Here, as remembered by early residents, was quite a settlement for those days. In 1823 the township was divided into ten school districts and a complete census of the township made in connection therewith. The old records show that at that time there were 183 heads of families in the township, showing a rapid filling up in the ten years following the close of the war. Of the school districts formed the families were located as follows: In district number one, twenty eight; number two, thirty four; number three, twenty two; number four, seventeen; in district number five, fourteen; number six, twelve; number seven, twenty one; in number eight, thirteen; in number nine, twenty one; and in district number ten, fourteen. In 1828 a stage route was established along with the main road from Cleveland to Buffalo and two and four horse teams passed daily each way. When navigation on the lake was closed, this stage route was crowded with traffic. Ten years later, and the log house had changed to frame and there was general improvement. A great many little conveniences were coming into use to aid the housewife and farmer. The friction match was replacing the tinder box and fewer stumps interfered with the plow and in the clearing. The pioneers of the Western Reserve were progressive. They were quick to adopt improvements of all kinds as they came along. It is related of a plow agent, who endeavored to sell a turnover plow in the mountains of Tennessee to one who had always used the "bung town" or shovel plow, that he was repulsed with the remark that "God Almighty knew which side up He wanted the land, when He made it."

In 1840, Ruel House, Charles Moses, and Capt. William Trist opened a shipyard at the mouth of the Euclid Creek. This was in operation for ten years. They first built canal boats, their yards being located on the west side of the creek. They built some ten or twelve canal boats in the five years that they followed that line of work, and then in the next five years they built schooners for the lake service. They put some six or seven afloat, the last and largest having a capacity or measurement of 300 tons. When R. H. Strowbridge came to Euclid in 1840, Abram Farr was still keeping tavern at Euclid Creek and there were three stores there, those of John Bishop, Charles Farr, and Nelson Moses. The township was becoming quite thickly settled in the southern part adjoining Warrensville, stone quarries had been opened on Euclid Creek by James Hendershot, Madison Sherman, and a Mr. Husong. Madison Sherman built the first mill in the township for cutting stone. The township had passed through the pioneer stage and was changed from a wilderness to an agricultural community with its certain small industries, when, in 1847, East Cleveland was formed. The western part went to unite with other territory in the forming of the new township. This left the township with an irregular boundary, but soon after came a new era in its history. In 1852 the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad, later the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, or a part thereof, and now the New York Central, was built through the township, five and a half miles of its right of way being in Euclid. The transportation facilities thus brought home, opened new markets and transportation waited on production, if it can be said that transportation waits.

Continued in Part 2 of Euclid, OH History.

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