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CHAPTER VII

IN THE TIME OF WAR.

In the letter of Senator Stanley Griswold, previously quoted, he states that a committee of the Legislature107 had, in 1809, been charged with the duty of locating the seat of justice for Cuyahoga County. This commission was met by the urgent claims of both Cleveland and Newburg, which place last named had a population fully as large as her rival, and was regarded as the more healthful location of the two. Cleveland carried the day, not so much because of present advantages, as for its prospects in the future.

The independent judicial existence of Cuyahoga County, therefore, commenced in May, 1810, when the Common Pleas Court was organized. Hon. Benjamin Ruggles was presiding judge, and Nathan Perry, Sr., Augustus Gilbert, and Timothy Doan, associate judges. The first official staff of the county elected, or appointed by the judges of the court, or otherwise, was as follows:

Prosecuting Attorney: Peter Hitchcock (of Geauga County), appointed in June; succeeded in November by Alfred Kelley.
Clerk and Recorder: Jon Walworth.
Sheriff: Smith S. Baldwin.

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County Commissioners: Jabez Wright, Nathaniel Doan.
Treasurer: Asa Dille.
Surveyor: Samuel S. Baldwin.

The first session of the court was held at the newly-erected store of Elias and Harvey Murray on Superior street, which had not been occupied. One indictment was presented for petit larceny, several for selling foreign goods without license, and others for selling whisky to the Indians. The session of the succeeding June had to deal with three criminal prosecutions and five civil suits. There was one case of "trespass on the case for eleven hundred white fish of the value of $70, which came into the hands of the defendant by ‘finding,’ but who refused to give them up on demand, and converted them to his own use." This suit was laid over until the next term, when the plaintiff failed to appear, and it was dismissed. The other cases have been thus described: "Alfred Kelley appears in the second case on the docket, on behalf of Ralph M. Pomeroy vs. James Leach. Suit on a note of hand dated October 27, 1808, ‘at Black Rock, to-wit, at Cleveland,’ for $80, and in another sum of $150. This case was continued one term, and then discontinued by settlement. And now, in the third case, the famous old pioneer, Rodolphus Edwards, was chosen defendant in the suit of one John S. Reede. It was an appealed case from Justice Erasmus Miles’’ court, by the plaintiff, the justice having decided that the plaintiff had no case against Edwards. The plaintiff failed to prosecute his appeal, and the old pioneer was decreed to ‘go’ with judgment for his costs, $8.54. R. B. Parkman was defendant’s attorney. The fourth case was an action of ejectment for a farm in Euclid, in which Alfred Kelley appeared for the heirs of Aaron Olmsted, of East Hartford, Conn., vs. Richard Fen, and James Lewis, the tenant; Samuel W. Phelps, attorney for defendants."108

At the November term, an indictment was presented

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against one Daniel Miner, for "not having obtained such license or permit as the law directs to keep a tavern, or to sell, barter or deliver, for money or other article of value, any wine, rum, brandy, whisky, spirits or strong drink by less quantity less than one quart, did, with intent to defraud the revenue of the county, on the 25th of October last past, sell, barter and deliver at Cleveland aforesaid, wine, rum, brandy, whisky and spirits by less quantity than one quart, to-wit, one gill of whisky for the sum of six cents in money, contrary to the statute, etc." To this a plea of guilty was entered, and was followed by a fine of twenty-five cents. Another indictment against the same person was to the effect that with "men and horses, with force and arms, ferry over Rocky River," without a license, and for this offense he was fined five dollars and a bill for costs.

In like manner this early court, during its first years of existence, saw Ambrose Hecox charged with selling "one-half yard of cotton cambric, six yards of Indian cotton cloth, one-half pound Hyson skin tea, without license, contrary to the statute law regulating ferries, taverns, stores, etc;: Erastus Miles prosecuted for selling liquor to the Indians; ‘Thomas McIlrath for trading one quart of whisky for three raccoon skins; and John S. Reede and Banks Finch for engaging in a "fight and box at fisticuffs." The indictment declared in solemn form that "John S. Reede, of Black River, and Banks Finch, of Huron township, in said county, on the 1st day of February, 1812, with force and arms, in the peace of God and the State, then and there being, did, then and there with each other agree, and in and upon each other did then and there assault and with each other did then and there willfully fight and box at fisticuffs, and each other did then and there strike, kick, cuff, bite, bruise, wound and ill-treat, against the statute and the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio."

From May, 1810, to May, 1814, one hundred and nine civil suits were entered, the greater number of them be-

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ing petitions for partition of lands, generally of non-resident heirs, living in Connecticut. In 1814, there was a conviction for theft, and the offender was sentenced "to be taken to the public whipping-post in Cleveland, and that he be whipped fifteen stripes on the naked back, and be imprisoned in jail ten days and pay a fine of one hundred dollars." There is nothing upon the record to show that this sentence was carried out. The memories of the oldest settlers, some of whom have been recently questioned upon this subject, fail to furnish the least light upon the question whether or not early Cleveland was disgraced by the presence of this remnant of barbarism.109

There appears one case against a father for decoying his son away before the expiration of his term of apprenticeship; a suit for slander in 1812; and the first application for divorce in 1816. From 1820 to 1835, but thirty suits of this character were commenced, and in a large number of cases the differences were composed before the cause was called in court. The only lawyers who appear of record during the first four years are Thomas E. Webb, Alfred Kelley, Robert B. Parkman, Samuel W. Phelps, Peter Hitchcock, John S. Edwards and D. Redick.

There was an annual session of the Supreme Court of Ohio in the several counties, under the early judicial system, and the first session in Cuyahoga was held in August, 1810, when William W. Irwin and Ethan A. Brown organized the Court, and appointed John Walworth clerk. Al-

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fred Kelley was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court.

The year 1811 was one of rather humdrum quiet, the little town on the Cuyahoga going on with few changes or events worthy of record. A pen-picture of Cleveland, as it appeared toward the end of that year or the early part of 1812, has been drawn by a careful observer110 who was here at that time, and as it takes the combined form of a verbal map and a census, space may be well employed for its reproduction. "The following, to the best of my recollection," said he, "are the names of men who lived in what was then Cleveland, in the fall of 1811 and spring of 1812. Possibly a few names may be missing. I will begin north of the Kingsbury creek, on Broadway: The first was Maj. Samuel Jones, on the hill near the turn of the road; farther down came Judge John Walworth, then postmaster, and his oldest son, A. W. Walworth, and son-in-law, Dr. David Long. Then, on the corner where the Forest City House now stands, was a Mr. Morey. The next was near the now American House, where the little post-office then stood, occupied by Mr. Hanchet, who had just started a little store. Close by was a tavern, kept by Mr. George Wallace. On the top of the hill, north of Main street, Lorenzo Carter and son, Lorenzo, Jr., who kept tavern also. The only house below on Water street was owned by Judge Samuel Williamson, with his family and his brother Matthew, who had a tannery on the side hill below. On the corner of Water and Superior streets was Nathan Perry’s store, and his brother, Horace Perry, lived near by. Levi Johnson began in Cleveland about that time, likewise two brothers of his, who came on soon after; Benjamin, a one-legged man; and I think the other’s name was John. The first and last were lake captains for a time. Abraham Hickox, the old blacksmith; Alfred Kelley, Esq., who boarded with ‘Squire Walworth at that time; then a Mr. Bailey, also Elias and Harvey Murray, and perhaps a very few others

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in town not named. On what is now Euclid avenue, from Monumental Square through the woods to East Cleveland, was but one man, Nathan Chapman, who lived in a small shanty, with a small clearing around him, and near the present Euclid Station. He died soon after. Then at what was called Doan’s Corners lived two families only, Nathaniel, the older, and Maj. Seth Doan. Then on the south, now Woodland Hills avenue, first came Richar Blin, Rodolphus Edwards, and Mr. Stephens, a school teacher; Mr. Honey, James Kingsbury, David Burras, Eben Hosmer, John Wightman, William W. Williams, and three sons, Frederick, William W., Jr., and Joseph. Next, on the Carter place, Philomen Baldwin, and four sons, Philomen, Jr., Amos, Caleb and Runa. Next, James Hamilton; then Samuel Hamilton (who was drowned in the lake), his widow, and three sons, Chester, Justice and Samuel, Jr., in what was called Newburg and now Cleveland. Six by the name of Miles—Erastus, Theodore, Charles, Samuel, Thompson, and Daniel. Widow White with five sons, John, William, Solomon, Samuel , and Lyman. A Mr. Barnes, Henry Edwards, Allen Gaylord, and father and mother. In the spring of 1812, came Noble Bates, Ephraim and Jedediah Hubbel, with their aged father and mother (the latter soon after died); in each family were several sons; Stephen, Gilbert, Sylvester Burk, and six sons, B. B. Burk, Gaius, Erectus, etc.; Abner Cochran, on what is now called Aetna street. Samuel S. Baldwin, Esq., was sheriff and county surveyor, and hung the noted Indian, John O’Mic, in 1812. Next, Y. L. Morgan, with three sons, Y. L., Jr., Caleb and Isham A. The next on the present Broadway, Dyer Sherman, Christopher Gunn, Elijah, Charles, and Elijah Gunn, Jr; Robert Fulton, Robert Carr, Samuel Dille, Ira Ensign, Ezekiel Holly, and two sons, Lorin and Alphonso, Widow Clark and four sons, Mason, Martin, Jarvis, and Rufus."

Isham A. Morgan, who, also, saw Cleveland for the first time in 1811, has added some points of detail to the

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above.111 "Then what now is a grand and growing city, could hardly be called a village. A few houses of the primitive order located along Superior street between the river and the Public Square, with here and there a temporary dwelling in the bushy vicinity, gave but a slight indication that it was the beginning of a future large city. I remember when there was no court house in Cleveland, nor a church building in Cuyahoga County, nor a bridge across the river from the outlet to Cuyahoga Falls. The outlet of the river, at that time, was some 120 yard west of where it is now (1881), and was sometimes completely barred across with sand by storms, so that men having on low shoes have walked across without wetting their feet. A ferry at the foot of superior street, consisting one flat-boat and a skiff, answered the purpose to convey over the river all who desired, for quite a number of years. . . . The first water supply for extinguishing fires in Cleveland was a public well eight feet across, with a wheel and two buckets, situated on Bank street, near Superior. In those days nearly every family had a well at their back door, of good water for every purpose except washing. To supply water for washing, when rain water failed, Benhu Johnson, a soldier of the war of 1812-14 (who lost a leg in the campaign and substituted a wooden one), with his pony and wagon, supplied as many as needed, from the lake at twenty-five cents a load of two barrels; and Jabez Kelley furnished the soap at a shilling a gallon, made at his log soap and candle factory, located on Superior street, near the river. . . . Where Prospect street is now, next to Ontario, was the old cemetery, surrounded by bushes and blackberry briars; Outside of the cemetery west, south and east, the forest stood in its native grandeur. On Ontario street, a little south of the old cemetery, was a large mound, supposed to be the work of the Mound builders of prehistoric. times. It stood several years after we came,

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before it was made level with the surrounding earth."

The year 1812 was in marked contrast to the one preceding it, as the shadow of the second great war with England fell across the threshold of Cleveland, and there was no lack of stir, turmoil, apprehension, and danger. Although actual hostilities never touched the city, and no force of the enemy appeared at its gates, the center of the war upon the lakes and in the west was near enough to keep it in hourly fear, and to make the port of Cuyahoga an important base for supplies, and a point for the gathering and moving of troops.

Congress, on the 18th of June, declared war, and on June 28th a swift-riding expressman came galloping into Cleveland, with the announcement of that important fact. Ten days of the most rapid work of which horse-flesh, with frequent relays, was possible, had been consumed in carrying the news from the Potomac to the Cuyahoga.

drawing of Gen. W. H. Harrison

Gen. W. H. Harrison

This news meant much to all this thinly-settled and undefended portion of the west. The fear of England was a secondary consideration; but England had fostered the friendship of the Indians, and there was no telling what fearful havoc might be wrought by these savage allies of the foreign foe. The hope of regaining her lost colonies had never been relinquished by England; and the secret endeavors of her diplomats to foment disturbances upon the western frontiers of the United States, and open the way for an Indian uprising, that should destroy the power of our government in these sections, had much to do with the action of the United States in declaring war.

During this war, Cleveland became one of the important

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military stations of the lake country. It was the place of gathering for the militia of this section whose services were made use of by the government. Fort Huntington, a small stockade, was erected on the shore of the lake near the foot of Seneca street, and named after Ohio’s recent governor. Major Jessup, of the United States Army, was in command; and the fort was largely used as a guard-house for soldiers who were under arrest.

The declaration of war did not come as a surprise, as such action had been expected for some time. The people were therefore prepared for action when the messenger rode in with his news, and such measures for defense as were possible were taken. Arms and ammunition were issued, and the militia were drilled in a manner that suggested service, rather than muster-day. There was naturally great anxiety, as no one could tell at what moment a British war-ship might anchor off the harbor and knock the little town to pieces, or a band of Indians creep in by night and give the settlement to fire and death.

The hope of the settlers pointed in two directions. They depended upon General Van Rensselaer, on the Niagara, to defend them toward the east, and General Hull, at Detroit, to guard them upon the west. It was further believed that the forces under these two leaders would be able at an early day to conquer that portion of Canada north of Lake Erie, and thus remove the main danger in that direction. That hope was somewhat dampened, when a messenger brought the news that Hull had advanced into Canada, been driven back, and was now endeavoring to hold his own upon the American side of the Detroit River.

Worse news was to follow, and along in August came the dire intelligence that Hull had surrendered his entire force, and that the British and their Indian allies were already in possession of one of the most important military and civil posts in the west.

No one could tell at what hour the successful foe might

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come sweeping along the sough shore of Lake Erie, upon a work of devastation and death. The excitement in Cleveland was naturally at fever heat. Messengers were quickly mounted and sent in all directions to carry the warning, and ask for aid. One was sent directly to General Wadsworth,112 at Canfield, asking him to lend such aid as the militia under his command could give. The manner in which the people received the news has been described by eye-witnesses, whom it is my privilege to quote direct. Alfred Kelley113 says: "Information was received at Cleveland, through a scout from Huron, that a large number of British troops and Indians were seen from the shore, in boats, proceeding down the lake, and that they would probably reach Cleveland in the course of the ensuing night. This information spread rapidly through the surrounding settlements. A large proportion of the families in Cleveland, Newburg (then part of Cleveland), and Euclid, immediately on the receipt of this news, took such necessary articles of food, clothing and utensils as they could carry, and started for the more populous and less exposed parts of the interior. About thirty men only remained, determined to meet the enemy if they should come, and, if possible, prevent their landing. They determined at least to do all in their power to allay the panic, and prevent the depopulation of the country. Several ladies of Cleveland, among whom were Mrs. George Wallace, Mrs. Jon Walworth and Mrs. Dr. Long, resolved not to desert their husbands and friends. When Mrs. Long was told that she could not fight or forcibly oppose

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the enemy, she replied that she ‘could nurse the sick—wounded—encourage and comfort those who could fight; at any rate she would not, by her example, encourage disgraceful flight.’"

Isham A. Morgan114 adds some details of interest: "One day the people at the mouth of Huron River discovered parties coming in boats; they were a good deal alarmed, as they supposed them to be British and Indians to be let loose on the almost defenseless settlers. A courier was immediately sent to Cleveland to give the alarm there. Major Samuel Jones, of Cleveland, got on his horse and scoured the country round, telling the people to go to Doan’s Corners, and there would be a guard to protect them as best they could.

drawing of Commodore O. H. Perry

Commodore O. H. Perry

My brother yoked and hitched the oxen to the wagon, as we then had but one horse. After putting a few necessary articles into the wagon and burying a few others, all went to Doan’s Corners—East Cleveland, there most of the people in Cleveland and vicinity assembled. My father had been ill with a fever, and was scarcely able to be about; he took the gun, which had been brought along, and handed it to my brother, Y. L. Morgan, who was a good shot, and said to him, ‘If the Indians come, you see that there is one less to go away!’ That night was spent in expectation not the pleasant. A few men had stayed in Cleveland, to watch developments there. In the morning, Captain All Gaylord was seen approaching the encampment, waving his sword, and saying, ‘To your tents, oh Israel! General Hull has surrendered to the British general, and our men, instead of Indians, were seen off Huron. They are returning to their

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homes.’ Thankful were all that it turned out with them to be nothing worse than the inconvenience of fleeing from their homes on short notice under unpleasant circumstances."

While the refugees were gathering out at Doan’s Corners, a little band of men were down at Cleveland, determined to meet the foe with such resistance as they could offer. When night came on they posted sentinels along the water front, and lay down to rest, but were soon awakened by an alarm that a vessel was approaching.

The men sprang to their arms , and lined up along the landing-place, ready to answer the first sign of an attack. A challenge was shouted from the shore, and back came the response, "We are paroled prisoners of Hull’s army!"

The army of defense became a committee of welcome, and the troops were brought ashore, and cared for. Some of them were suffering from wounds, and were carried up to the still vacant Murray store on Superior street, which was turned into a temporary hospital.

Two companies of militia were ready for service within the presents limits of the city, one hailing from Cleveland and one from Newburg. The Clevelanders mustered about fifty men, each being uniformed in his citizen’s suit, and armed with his own rifle or shotgun, whatever the make. In a few months the company disbanded, subject to call. The full company roll is here given;

Captain: Harvey Murray.
Lieutenant: Lewis Dille.
Ensign: Alfred Kelley.
Sargeants: Ebenezer Green, Simeon Moss, Thomas Hamilton, Seth Doa. Corporals: James Root, John Lauterman, Asa Dille, Martin G. Shelhouse.
Drummer: David S. Tyler.
Fifer: Rodolphus Carlton.
Privates: Aretus Burk, Allen Burk, Charles Brandon, John Bishop, Moses Bradley, Silas Burk, Sylvester Beacher, James S. Bills, John Carlton, Mason Clark, Anthony Doyle, Luther Dille, Samuel Dille, Samuel Dodge,

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Moses Eldred, Samuel Evarts, Ebenezer Fish, Zebulon R. S. Freeman, Robert Harberson, Daniel S. Judd, Jackson James, John James, Stephen King, Guy Lee, Jacob Mingus, Thomas McIlrath, William McConkey, Samuel Noyes, David Reed, John Sweeney, Parker Shadrick, Luther Sterns, Bazaleel Thorp, John Taylor, Thomas Thomas, Hartman VanDuzen, Joseph Williams, Matthew Williamson, Jon Wrightman, William White, Joseph Burk, Robert Prentice, Benjamin Ogden.

A somewhat similar company was organized in Newburg, under the command of Captain Allen Gaylord, whose Scriptural admonition to the fugitives at Doan’s Corners has been noted already.

General Wadsworth115 made immediate response to the request for help that frightened Cleveland had sent him. He ordered all the militia of his division into the field, and on August 23rd left Canfield for the lake shore, escorted by a company of horsemen. He came by way of Hudson, Bedford and Newburg, and reached Cleveland on the afternoon of the 24th, receiving a most hearty welcome.

With him came Elisha Whittlesey, who so long represented one of the districts of the Reserve in Congress, and also Benjamin Tappen, another prominent man of his day, both of whom were Wadsworth’s aids. Col. Lewis Cass reached Cleveland from Detroit on the same evening, and his denunciation of Hull’s surrender was expressed in terms of the most vehement anger. He was then en route to Washington, and was accompanied upon his journey by Ex-Governor Huntington, who had ridden over from his home in Painesville, and met these other distinguished gentlemen in Cleveland.

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Mr. Huntington carried to the war department a letter from General Wadsworth, in which he described the situation in this section, and set forth his needs. He informed the Secretary of War that he had called out three thousand, men; was in need of arms, equipments, ammunition, and rations, and asked for immediate aid; but, like the prompt man he was, did not sit idle and wait for a response. He appointed three commissioners, whose business if was to purchase food and forage from the people, giving certificates in return, which were based upon the future good faith of the government.

Toward the end of August, an accession of force came in the person of General Simon Perkins,116 who was accompanied by quite a body of militia. He was sent to the Huron River, with a thousand men, with orders to protect the people, and build block-houses where needed. General R. Beall was also dispatched in the same direction, with another body of troops; while Wadsworth soon followed with the greater part of his remaining force.

When General William Henry Harrison took command in the northwest, General Perkins, at the head of some five hundred men, was stationed near the mouth of the Huron River, and before long came in conflict with a force of British and Indians, nd fought the engagement known in Ohio history as the "Battle of the Peninsula." Soldiers from the Cuyahoga were engaged, and one member of the Cleveland company—James S. Hills, was killed, and two others wounded.

Only a small guard was on duty at Cleveland during the quiet that accompanied the winter of 1812-13. With

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the spring came Major Jessup, of the regular army, who took command at this point. A company of regular troops under command of Captain Stanton Sholes arrived in May of this year; and under his orders a plain, but substantial, hospital was erected. It was also at this time that Fort Huntington, already referred to, was constructed. It was built of logs some twelve feet long, that were sunk into the ground three or four feet; the sides of those adjoining each other being hewed down for a few inches, thus fitting solidly together. This formed a good defense against small arms, while dirt was heaped up against the outside, to deaden the effect of heavier missiles. Trees and brush wee next cut and piled along the side toward the lake, making a long abatis very difficult to scale.

Captain Sholes, in the later days of peace, after his country had passed through its war with Mexico, and was upon the verge of the most terrible conflict of all—in 1858, when 87 years of age—penned an account of his reception in Cleveland on May 10th, 1813, when his company of regulars marched into the city. "I halted my company," said he, "between Major Carter’s and Wallace’s. I was here met by Governor Meigs, who gave me a most cordial welcome, as did all the citizens. The governor took me to a place where my company could pitch their tents. I found no place of defense, no hospital and a forest of large timber (mostly chestnut), between the lake and, and the lake road. There was a road that turned off between Mr. Perry’s and Major Carter’s that went to the point, which was the only place that the lake could be seen from the buildings. This little cluster of buildings was all of wood, I think none painted. There were a few houses further back from the lake road. The widow Walworth kept the post-office, or Ashbel, her son. Mr. L. Johnson, Judge Kingsbury, Major Carter, N. Perry, Geo. Wallace, and a few ofhers were there. At my arrival I found a number of sick and wounded who were of Hull’s surrender, sent here from Detroit, and more coming. These were crowded into a log-cabin, a and no one to

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care for them. I sent one or two of my soldiers to take care of them, as they had no friends. I had two or three good carpenters in my company, and set them to work to build a hospital. I very soon got up a good one, thirty by twenty feet, smoothly and tightly covered, and floored with chestnut bark, with two tier of bunks around the walls, with doors and windows, and not a nail, or screw, or iron latch or hinge about the building. Its cost to the Government was a few extra rations. In a short time I had all the bunks well strawed, and the sick and wounded good and clean, to their great joy and comfort, but some had fallen asleep. I next went to work and built a small fort, about fifty yards from the bank of the lake, in the forest. This fort finished, I set the men to felling the timber along and near the hank of the lake, rolling the logs and brush near the brink of the bank to serve as a breastwork. On the 19th of June, a part of the British fleet appeared off our harbor, with the apparent design to land. When they got within one and a half miles of our harbor, it became a perfect calm, and they lay there till afternoon, when a most terrible thunderstorm came up, and drove them from out coast. We saw them no more as enemies. Their object was to destroy the public or government boats, then built and building, in the Cuyahoga River, and other government stores at that place."117

The war vessels to which Captain Sholes refers were the "Lady Provost," the "Queen Charlotte,"118 and several smaller vessels. Had an attempt been made to land, the city was prepared to make a valiant defense; as each

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man who could muster a gun saw that it was well loaded, and hastened to the water front. There was one small cannon in the place, and for lack of a better carriage, it was swung upon the hind wheels of a wagon, and loaded ready for business. The battle was never fought, as for once the sudden squalls for which Lake Erie is famous sprang up, and drove the enemy away.

A visit from General Harrison, on a tour of inspection, was one of the events of the midsummer. He was accompanied by his staff, among whom were Governor Huntington, Major George Tod, Major Jessup, and Col. Wood. He was cordially received by the people, and remained but three days, when he returned to headquarters at the mouth of the Maumee. When Commodore Perry passed up Lake Erie, just before that memorable battle that won him such glorious fame, and broke the British power in the northwest, his fleet lay off the mouth of the Cuyahoga, while he paid a visit to the shore. Only a few weeks later, the people along the lake shore heard the deep roar of his guns in the still September air. Before long came the glad tidings that have made the 10th of September, 1813, s glorious day in the annals of our country. When Harrison won the battle of the Thames in October, he and Perry came down the lake together, en route for Buffalo, and visited Cleveland on the way. They were entertained at a banquet while here, and the Masons of all this neighborhood met them in special session, out at the hospitable home of Judge Kingsbury. Although peace was not formally declared until 1815, the war was at an end so far as Cleveland was directly concerned.

Returning once more to the quiet ways of peace, we find that Cuyahoga County, having come into possession of a court of her own, felt the need of a suitable structure in which the judiciary and the executive officers could be properly housed. A contract was therefore made between the county commissioners and Levi Johnson, for the erection of a court-house and jail on the northwest corner of the Public Square. This work was commenced

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in 1812, but was not completed until the summer of the succeeding year. The building was of wood, two stories high, with a jail and living room for the sheriff on the ground floor, and a court room above. It was in this little building that justice, according to the high Cuyahoga standard, was administered for some fifteen years.

drawing of First Court House and Jail

First Court House and Jail

It was not ready, however, for either the trial or incarceration of the first man, white or red, tried for murder, and executed, in Cuyahoga County.

There was one, O’Mic119 or Poccon, the son of O’Mic, who committed murder for gain, and was compelled to pay the penalty, under the laws of Ohio. A daughter of Judge John Walworth, who knew him as a boy, says that he "was not a bad Indian towards the whites. When we were children at Painesville, we used to play together on the banks of the Grand River, at my father’s old residence, which we called Bloomingdale." A story is told on the authority of a niece of Major Carter, that when young John was near sixteen years of age, he entered the Carter garden without permission, and began to help himself to the vegetables. He was ordered away by Mr. Carter, but instead of going, whipped out a knife and chased her around the house, leaving, only when a stalwart young man appeared upon the scene and drove him away.

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It is needless to add that when the redoubtable Major came home and heard this story, he set out in instant search of the young rascal, as he was the last man in Cleveland to allow a deed of that kind to go unpunished.

He went to the Indian headquarters, on the other side of the river. It is said that he put a rope in his pocket, with the declaration that he would hang the offender if he caught him—which story has a suggestion of prophecy, if true, as Carter was the chief instrument of O’Mic’s execution, some years later. As that may be, the father of the boy was so impressed by the Major’s visit, and the remarks he made over there, that a promise was given that young John should be kept on the western shore of the river, and it is further said that the next trip that he made across the river, was when on his way to trial and punishment.

The crime for which he was executed was committed near Sandusky City, Huron County then being attached to Cuyahoga for judicial purposes. Two whiter trappers, named Buel and Gibbs, were murdered in their sleep and their traps and furs stolen. Three Indians wee arrested for the deed; one of them escaped by suicide, and another was let go because of his youth.120 The third was young O’Mic, who was brought to Cleveland and turned over to Major Carter, who tied him to a rafter in his house, in the absence of a jail.

The crime was committed on April 3rd, 1812, and the trial occurred in the same month. The court sat in the open air, at the corner of Water and Superior streets, under the shade of a protecting tree. Alfred Kelley was prosecuting attorney; Peter Hitchcock counsel for the defense. The court records121 further show that the

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judges of court were William W. Irvin and Ethan Allen Brown; sheriff, Samuel S. Baldwin, grand jurors, Asa Smith, Hezekiah King, Horatio Perry, Calvin Hoadley, Lemuel Hoadley, Plinney Mowrey, James Cudderbach, John Shirtz, Benjamin Jones, Jeremiah Everitt, Samuel Miles, Jacob Carad, and Harvey Murray. The petit jurors were Hiram Russell, Levi Johnson, Philemon Baldwin, David Bunnel, Charles Gunn, Christopher Gunn, Samuel Dille, Elijah Gunn, David Barret, Dyer Shearman, William Austin, and Seth Doan.

The indictment charged O’Mic with the murder of Daniel Buel, the crime being committed "with a certain Tomahawk, made of iron and Steele." The trial was of short duration; the verdict "guilty;" and the sentence of death fixed for the 26th of June following.

Many accounts have been written of this pioneer execution which vindicated before the red man the strong power of the white man’s law; an event which may well be classed as one of the most dramatic, in all its incidents and surroundings, of any that have happened in the valley of the Cuyahoga. No account yet penned has so well told the story as that of Elisha Whittlesey,122 who was an eye-witness, and speaks from personal knowledge. I repeat his story in full:

"After his conviction, O’Mic told Mr. Carter and Sheriff Baldwin (who was from Danbury), that he would let the pale faces see how an Indian could die; that they need not tie his arms, but when the time came he would jump off from the gallows. Before Mr. Carter’s house, in the direction of Superior street, was an open space, somewhat extensive, and covered with grass. The religious exercises were held there. Several clergymen were present, and I think the sermon was delivered by the Rev. Mr. Darrow, of Vienna, Trumbull County. The military were commanded by Major Jones, a fine-looking officer in full uniform, but he was in the condition that Captain McGuffy, of Coitsville, said he was when he was

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commanded to perform an evolution by his company and could not do it. His explanation was, ‘I know Baron Steuben perfectly well, but I cannot commit him to practice.’

"O’Mic sat on his coffin in a wagon painted for the occasion. He was a fine-looking young Indian, and watched everything that occurred with much anxiety. The gallows was erected on the Public Square in front of where the old court house was erected. After the religious services were over, Major Jones endeavored to form a hollow square, so that the prisoner should be guarded on all sides. He rode backwards and forwards with drawn sword, epaulets, and scabbard flying, but he did not know what order to give. The wagon with O’Mic moved ahead and stopped; but as the "Sheriff doubted whether he was to be aided by the military, he proceeded onward. Major Jones finally took the suggestion of some one, who told him to ride to the head of the line, and double it round until the front and rear of the line met. Arriving at the gallows, Mr. Carter, the Sheriff and O’Mic ascended to the platform by a ladder. The arms of the prisoner were loosely pinioned. A rope was around his neck with a loop in the end. Another was let down through a hole in the top piece, on which was a hook to attach to the rope around the neck. The rope with the hook was brought to one of the posts, and fastened to it near the ground.

"After some little time, Mr. Carter came down, leaving O’Mic and Sheriff Baldwin on the platform. As the Sheriff drew down the cap, O’Mic was the most terrified being, rational or irrational, I ever saw, and seizing the cap with his right hand, which he could reach by bending his head and inclining his neck in that direction, he stepped to one of the posts and put his arm around. It. The Sheriff approached him to loose his hold, and for just a moment it was doubtful whether O’Mic would not throw him to the ground. Mr. Carter ascended to the platform and a negotiation in regular diplomat style was had. It.

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was in the native tongue, as I understood at the time. Mr. Carter appealed to O’Mic to display his courage, narrating what he had said about showing pale faces how an Indian could die, but it had no effect. Finally, O’Mic made a proposition, that if Mr. Carter would give him half a pint of whisky he would consent to die. The whisky was soon on hand, in a large glass tumbler, real old Monongahela, for which an old settler would almost be willing to be hung, if he could now obtain the like. The glass was given to O’Mic and he drank the whisky in as little time as he could have turned it out of the glass. Mr. Carter again came down, and the Sheriff again drew down the cap, and the same scene was re-enacted, O’Mic expressing the same terror. Mr. Carter again ascended to the platform, and O’Mic gave him the honor of an Indian, in pledge that he would not longer resist the sentence of the court if he should have another half pint of whisky. Mr. Carter, representing the people of Ohio and the dignity of the laws, thought the terms were reasonable, and the whisky was forthcoming on short order. The tumbler was not given to O’Mic, but it was held to his mouth, and he sucked the whisky out, Sheriff Baldwin drew the rope that pinioned his arms more tightly, and the rope was drawn down to prevent the prisoner form going to the post, and to prevent him from pulling off his cap. The platform was immediately cleared of all but O’Mic, who ran the ends of his fingers on his right hand between the rope and his neck. The rope that help up one end of the platform was cut, and the body swung in a straight line towards the lake, as far as the rope permitted and retuned, and after swinging forth and backward several times, and the weight being about to be suspended perpendicular under the center of the top of the gallows, the body turned in a circle and finally rested still. At that time a terrific storm appeared and came up from the north northwest with great rapidity, to avoid which, and it being doubtful whether the neck was broken and to accomplish so necessary part of a hanging, the rope was

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Drawn down with the design of raising the body, so that, by a sudden relaxing of the rope, the body would fall several feet, and thereby dislocate the neck beyond any doubt, but when the body fell, the rope broke as readily as a tow string and fell upon the ground. The coffin and grave were near the gallows and the body was picked up, put into the coffin, and the coffin immediately put into the grave. The storm was heavy and all scampered but O’Mic. The report was, at that time, that the surgeons at dusk raised the body, and when it lay on the dissecting table, it was easier to restore life than to prevent it."

There is a second chapter to this story—brief, but expressive. There were several physicians present at the execution, from various sections of the Reserve. At night, with the tacit consent of the Sheriff they visited the Public Square, and came away with a bundle they had not carried there. "The skeleton was placed below a spring, on the bank of the lake, east of Water street," writes a descendant123 of one of these medical gentlemen, "and remained there for about one year, after which time it was properly articulated. The skeleton was for a long time in the possession of Dr. Long, but was later in Hudson in the office of Dr. Town. From there, it was supposed, it was carried to Penn, near Pittsburg, to Dr. Murray, a son-in–law of Dr. Town. The writer has made every effort to discover its whereabouts and restore the bones to Cleveland, which should be their proper resting place, but all efforts to this end have proved fruitless."

The meetings of the electors of Cleveland township had hitherto been held at private residences, but with the completion of the court-house, the gatherings were within its more commodious quarters, and the record book proudly carries the entry, "at the court-house."

A glimpse at a pioneer moving, and at Cleveland in the summer of 1813, is afforded by a member of a family

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which had decided to make its home in this section. "In 1811, my grandfather, Jacob Russell," says the narrator,124 "sold his farm and grist-mill on the Connecticut River, and took a contract for land in Newburg (now Warrensville), Ohio. His oldest son, Elijah, my father, shouldered his knapsack, and came to Ohio to get a lot surveyed; he made some improvements, selected a place for building, and then returned to New York, where he lived. In the spring of the following year, he, with his brother Ralph, came again to Ohio, cleared their piece of land, planted corn, built a lot-house, and went to Connecticut to assist in moving the family to their new home, which was accomplished in the autumn of the same year. They formed an odd procession; father’s brother, Elisha, and brother-in-law, Hart Risley, accompanied them with their families; the wagons were drawn by oxen, my father waking al the way so as to drive, while grandmother rode on horseback. When they were as comfortably settled as might be, father returned to his family, whom he moved the next summer, 1813, embarking at Sackett’s Harbor, N. Y., August 1st, and arriving at Cleveland, August 31st. There being no harbor at that time, the landing was effected by means of row-boats. We then pulled ourselves up the bank by the scrub-oaks, which lined it, and walked to the hotel kept by Major Carter; this hotel was then the only frame house in Cleveland."


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