BY LAKE AND CANEL
Lake Erie has played an important part in the history of Cleveland, and been of direct and continuous benefit in the development of her commerce, and the extension of her lines of travel. Frequent references to the early marine interest of Cleveland, have been made in the foregoing pages, and, with the arrival of the year in which the first steamboat of the northern lakes touched at her harbor—1818—it is time to treat more fully of the inception and advance of her shipping interests.
The blue waters, that dance before the city’s guarded harbor to-day, were no less blue, and the foliage of the Forest City no less green, when, in 1679, La Salle, "the handsome, blue-eyed cavalier, with smooth cheeks and abundant ringlets," and Father Hennepin, with "sandaled feet, a coarse gray capote and peaked hood, the cord of St. Francis about his waist, and a rosary and crucifix hanging at his side," set sail from the Niagara River, and pushed the famous ship "Griffin" against the unknown dangers, and into the unsailed water-paths of Lake Erie. By three names the lake was then known—the high-sounding Lac de Conti, of La Salle, the Erie Tejocharonting of the Indians who lived upon its banks, and the shorter Erie, with which the Franciscan friar compromised with the native term.
The venerable priest has, himself, left this record of the building of that ship: "It was on the 22nd of January, 1679, that we began to clear a place on the banks of the Niagara River, for the purpose of constructing a vessel, and on the 30th the keel was ready to be laid. . . . On the day appointed to launcher, it was named the ‘Griffin,’ and we fired three cannon and sung the Te
Deum, which was accompanied with whoops and cries of joy. The Iroquois, who happened to be on the spot that day, were witnesses of the ceremony. We gave them l’eau de vie (brandy) to drink, and they also partook of our delight. From that time, we quitted our cabin on the shore, and slept on the vessel, to be out of the way of insults from the Indians. We were at last ready to sail, our crew consisting in all of thirty-four persons, and the day of our departure was on the 7th of August, 1679.
This forerunner of the fleets that plough the great lakes to-day was of forty-five tons burden. A figure, half eagle and half lion, carved in wood, adorned her prow. Five cannon made her safe from Indian attack. When launched, she was taken to Black Rock, near the site of Buffalo, where she received her finishing touches.
She sailed out into Lake Erie at the appointed time, touched here and there for purposes of trade, only to frighten the natives away and make barter with them impossible: reached the Detroit River, passed through to Lake Huron, and finally reached Mackinaw, which was then the great center of the western fur trade. She loaded with a goodly stock of these gods, at a small island in the vicinity of Green Bay, and on the 17th of September, as night fell, fired her parting gun and sailed away into the heart of a coming storm. La Salle and his associates who remained for further explorations, saw her disappear in the gloom—and in that gloom she has been wrapped forever. No word—no hint of her fate has been given in all the years that have passed since then. No known man again saw her crew; no relic was cast upon the shore. She doubtless perished in that storm, and not a soul was saved to tell the tale.
The entrance from the lake, at the point where Moses Cleaveland, in later years, surveyed the forests, on the present site of our fair city, may or may not have been seen or touched at by the bold Frenchman n his upward trip, If he did land here, he left no record of the fact. Early mention of the Cuyahoga, and some account of its
first white visitors, may be found in an earlier portion of this work.
When Cleveland was selected as the capital of the Reserve, the Cuyahoga emptied itself into the lake west of its present artificial mouth, while yet farther west could be seen the location of a still earlier bed, then only a stagnant pond. Across the river mouth ran a bar of sand, which, in the spring and fall, was torn open by the floods, but in summer rose so high that even the small schooners of the day had difficulty in passing in and out. Once inside, a fairly good harborage was found.
The building of ships in Cleveland commenced at an early day. The ventures of Major Carter with the "Zephyr," and of Levi Johnson with the "Pilot," have been already recorded. In 1810, Murray & Bixby built the "Ohio," of sixty tons. She was sailed by Captain John Austen, and afterwards became a part of Commodore Perry’s fleet, but took no part in the great fight, being absent on other service. While the "Pilot" was under construction, another craft, the "Lady of the Lake," of about thirty tons, was being built by Mr. Gaylord, a brother of the wife of Leonard Case. This vessel was sailed by Captain Stone, between Detroit and Buffalo. The "Pilot" was kept busy from the first in the employ of the United States, carrying army stores and troops; and touching at Detroit, Maumee, Erie, Buffalo, and other points on the lake, as occasion required. In 1815, Mr. Johnson commenced the schooner "Neptune," of sixty-five tons burthen; she was launched in the spring following. Her first trip was to Buffalo. She was afterwards engaged in the fur trade, in the employ of the American Fur Company. The "Prudence" was built, in 1821, by Philo Taylor; and in 1826 John Blair constructed the "Macedonian," and Captain Burtiss the "Lake Serpent."
It was in 1815, that the people of Cleveland, for the first time, saw a steam-vessel come to anchor before their
City.141 It was the famous, picturesque, and somewhat oddly constructed "Walk-in-the-Water,"—so named after an Indian chief. Her visit here was made on August 25th, on her way from Buffalo to Detroit, under command of Captain Job Fish, who had been an engineer for Fulton, on the Hudson. She was of three hundred tons burthen, could travel a steady eight or ten miles an hour, and accommodate one hundred cabin passengers, and a large number in the steerage. The people of Cleveland saluted her with a round of artillery, and several prominent citizens continued with her to Detroit.
The "Walk-in-the-Water" was constructed at Black Rock, and launched on the 28th of May, 1818. As her engines were not of sufficient power to carry her against the rapids, the captain went ashore; drummed up the thinly-settled country; collected twenty yoke of oxen; attached them to a line fixed on the vessel, and by their
aid and her steam, acting together, quickly pulled her up.
She left Buffalo on her trial trip, on August 23rd. She made seven trips to Detroit the first season, each occupying from nine to ten days. An early passenger142 has left us an account of her launching and his first experiences of travel by steam-boat: "In August, 1818, I was present at Black Rock and saw the first steam-boat launched, that entered the waters of Lake Erie. It was called ‘Walk-in-the-Water,’ and was a memorable event of that day. At this time there was no harbor at Buffalo of sufficient depth of water for a craft of that size, and owing to the crude manner of constructing engines at that time, she had very great difficulty in getting up the river into the lake, consequently she was obliged to wait for a ‘horn breeze,’ as the sailors term it, and hitch on eight or ten pair pf oxen by means of a long rope or cable, and together with all the steam that could be raised, she was enabled to make the ascent. Sometimes the cable would break, and the craft float back to the place form whence she started."
Mr. Howe relates his experience as a passenger: "I took passage from Black Rock to Cleveland on board the steamer ‘Walk-in-the-Water,’ and ascended the Niagara River through the aid of and assistance of that ‘horn breeze,’ before described. The usual speed of this boat was about eight miles an hour, without the use of sail, and made a trip to Detroit in about eight days. We arrived off Cleveland at near the close of the second day, under a heavy northwest gale of wind, and a heavy sea. At that time there was no entrance to the harbor, except for very small craft and lighters. It was soon discovered that the boat could proceed no farther against the wind, and could not put back without great peril. Finally all the anchors were cast, with the alternative of riding out the gale or going onto the beach, and I think the latter was most expected by all on board. The gale continued
for three nights and two days without much abatement, and n the morning of the third day, the passengers were taken ashore in small boats, among whom were the late Governor Wood, wife and child"
The steamer ran successfully through the seasons of 1819-20, and up to November, 1821, when she was driven ashore, near Buffalo, and wrecked. In a sketch of the life of Orlando Cutter, one of the pioneers of Cleveland, is found an incident in connection with that event. He went east in the fall of 1821, and on his return decided to exchange his former schooner experiences for an experiment with steam. In company with two friends, George Williams and John S. Strong, and some seventy other passengers, he went aboard at Black Rock, in the afternoon. The oxen were called into requisition to get them over the rapids, ere they proceeded out into the open lake. In the night a furious gale arose and Captain Rogers, who was then in command, put back, but was not able to get into Buffalo Creek. He came to an anchor near its mouth. Mr. Cutter, who was very seasick, lay in his cabin below, little caring for further experiments with steam. Towards morning, the anchor gave way, and the career of usefulness of the "Walk-in-the-Water" was ended. She was driven ashore sidewise and lay easy on a sand beach, so that the passengers and crew reached shore without loss of life.
Some further details of this exciting contest between steam and storm, were personally furnished the writer a few years ago, by the George Williams above referred to.143 At the time of the narration, he was living in Cleveland, of a venerable old age, but with mind and memory as clear as a bell. Mr. Williams said: "As she cast off her tow-line and moved unaided into the broad waters of Lake Erie, there was no anticipation of the terrible gale we were soon to encounter. The boat had a full complement of passengers, and a full cargo of goods, mostly
for western merchants, one of whom, Mr. Palmer, of Detroit, was on board with his bride. There was also a company of missionaries, several of whom were ladies, on their way to some western Indian tribe.
As the winds rose, friends grouped themselves together, and as the storm grew more and more furious, there was great terror among them. The young bride was frantic, shrieking and calling on her husband. The missionaries sang hymns, and devoted themselves to soothing the terrified. There was a Mr. Strong on board, a cattle dealer and farmer, after whom Strongsville, near Cleveland, was named. He had in his saddle-bags the proceeds of a drove of cattle just sold at the east. Through the night and during the height of the storm, he lay in a berth near the companion way, his saddle-bags under his head. When asked how he could lie there so quietly, he nonchalantly replied, if he was to be drowned he might as well be drowned there as anywhere. We lay tossed of the tempest, the big seas sweeping over us all the long night. Just as the first gleam of daylight appeared, our anchor
began to drag. The captain, seeing the impossibility of saving the steamer, ordered her beached. With skilled seamanship she was sent broadside on. A rope was stretched from boat to beach, and the passengers wee ferried to shore in the small boat. They reached it, drenched and exhausted, but all saved. Yes, of all on board then, I suppose I am the only one now living."
Returning to the ship-building interests of Cleveland, we find Noble H. Merwin engaged in the construction of a schooner of forty-four tons, at the foot of Superior street. She was launched in March, 1822.143a Her chain cable was an article of home industry—one of Cleveland’s first iron manufactures—and was made on the anvil of one Jones, a blacksmith. As a test of its strength, it was fastened to a butternut tree, and pulled upon by twelve yoke of oxen. Although it parted under the strain, it was thought strong enough for the uses to which it would be put. "When she was launched," says George B. Merwin, "I stood on the heel of her bowsprit, and as she touched the water, christened her, by giving her my mother’s name, ‘Minerva,’ and broke a gallon jug of whisky over her bow, as was the custom on similar occasions in those times. She was dispatched to Mackinac, loaded with provisions, for the garrison on that island, and made the round trip in four weeks, which at that time was regarded as a wonderful achievement."
In 1824, the first steamship built at this port, was constructed by Levi Johnson, in partnership with the Turhooven brothers. It was called the "Enterprise," and was about two hundred and twenty tons. Its engine was of from sixty to seventy horse-power, and was built in Pittsburg. Mr. Johnson, himself, commanded her, running between Buffalo and Detroit. When hard times struck the vessel interests in 1828, he sold her, and retired from the lakes. He aided in building only one more vessel, the "Commodore," which was constructed on the
Chagrin River, in 1830. From that date on, the building of lake craft was continued by various parties, as the business of the port required.
The route, by which the early vessels entered Cleveland, via what afterwards was called "the old river bed," was uncertain, because of the bars of sand which rapidly accumulated at the mouth of the Cuyahoga. The people of Cleveland began to agitate an improvement, and naturally looked to the general government for relief. The appeal was not in vain, and, by an act passed by Congress on March 3rd, 1825, five thousand dollars were appropriated to the building of a pier at Cleveland. This ran six hundred feet into the lake, nearly at right angles with the shore, and beginning forty rods east of the east bank of the river at its mouth. This brought no relief, as the sand filled in as rapidly as before. Congress was persuaded to appropriate an additional ten thousand dollars, and in 1827, Major T. W. Maurice, of the United States engineer corps, prepared a plan for permanent relief, which the government adopted. It was nothing less than the opening of a new and more direct channel, at a point where the bend of the river carried it near to the lake shore. A dam was built across the river, opposite the south end of the experimental pier, from which so much had been expected and so little came. When the rains came, the river rose, men with spades and teams with scrapers were engaged in abundance, and a trench dug across the isthmus from the river to the lake. With the first break into the outlet, the force of the water itself came into play, and the work was practically done. The next spring saw the commencement of the eastern pier. Eventually, both piers were carried back to the river, and also extended into the lake: Congress making successive appropriations for the work. By 1840, over seventy-five thousand dollars had been used in this work, but a good harbor had been secured. The mouth of the old river bed gradually filled up, and the bed itself was used as a place of anchorage and wharfage.
Cleveland not only saw her first steam-boat in 1818, but her first newspaper as well. On the 31st of July, the "Cleaveland Gazette and Commercial Register" made its appearance. In its prospectus, the promise was made, that it should appear weekly, but that promise was not always kept, sometimes ten days or two weeks elapsing between days of publication. It was edited and published by Andrew Logan,144 was not large in size, and was managed with considerable ability while it lived, which was only during the year of its birth, or perhaps a little later.
The second venture in Cleveland journalism resulted in the publication of a newspaper, that had a long and wonderful career, and exerted a powerful influence all through this section for more than sixty years. ‘The first number of the "Cleaveland Herald" was issued on October 19th, 1819, without a single subscriber, and under difficulties which might make even a modern publisher quail. Eber D. Howe, whom we have already quoted, has told in a terse and graphic manner the story of that venture, and as direct witnesses are always to be preferred to hearsay narrators, I will allow him to speak for himself: "I commenced looking about for material aid to bring about my plan for putting in operation the ‘Cleaveland Herald.’ With this view, I went to Erie, and conferred with my old friend Willes, who had the year before started the ‘Erie Gazette.’ After due consultation and deliberation, he agreed to remove his press and type to Cleveland after the expiration of the first year in that place. So, on the 19th of October, 1819, without a single subscriber, the first number of the ‘Cleaveland Herald’ was issued. Some of the difficulties and perplexities now to be encountered may here
be mentioned, as matters of curiosity to the present generation. Our mails were then all carried on horse-back. We had one mail a week from Buffalo, Pittsburg, Columbus, and Sandusky. The paper, on which we printed, was transported in wagons from Pittsburg, and at some seasons the roads were in such condition that it was impossible to procure it in time for publication days. Advance payments for newspapers at that time were never thought of. In a few weeks our subscription list amounted to about 300, at which point it stood for about two years, with no very great variation. These were scattered all over the Western Reserve, except in the County of Trumbull. In order to extend our circulation to its greatest capacity, we were obliged to resort to measures and expedients which would appear rather ludicrous at the present day. For instance, each and every week, after the paper had been struck off, I mounted a horse, with a valise, filled with copies of the ‘Herald,’ and distributed them at the doors of all subscribers between Cleveland and Painesville, a distance of thirty miles, leaving a package at the latter place; and on returning diverged two miles to what is known as Kirtland Flats, where another package was left for distribution, which occupied fully two days. I frequently carried a tin horn to notify the yeomanry of the arrival of the latest news, which was generally forty days from Europe and ten days from New York. This service was performed through the fall, winter, and spring, and through rain, snow, and mud, with only one additional charge of fifty cents on the subscription price; and as the number of papers thus carried averaged about sixty, the profits may readily calculated."144a
At the end of two years of this hard and trying labor, Mr. Howe ceased his connection with the "Herald," and Mr. Willes continued its publication. For some thirteen years it occupied the journalistic field without a rival.
The decade from 1810 to 1820, was one of quiet but steady growth for Ohio, her population doubling in that time,
and reaching over a half million at the date last named. Cheap land and a fruitful soil, with the hopeful attraction of a promising future, had invited a steady immigration from the east. The Erie Canal had stimulated a desire for a direct connection between Lake Erie and the Ohio River: in 1820, the first legislative steps toward that end were taken. Cleveland felt the reviving and encouraging effects of this general advance in the State, and although she was not to emerge, for some years, from the uncertain prospects of villagehood, we find evidences, here and there, of her ambition toward larger things.
Cleveland had, in her earlier days, the same crude forms of transportation, and the same difficulties to face, as confronted her pioneer neighbors everywhere, except that the lake gave her vessel facilities in one direction, and the Cuyahoga River in another. Overland freight came in winter by sleighs, and in summer on a huge vehicle called a "Pennsylvania," or "Conestoga" wagon, which had to be put together solidly, and well provided with strong horses, to overcome the difficulties of the pioneer roads.
As compared with other means of travel, the stage-coach was the palace car of its day. Cleveland took a long stride upward, when, in 1820, a stage line connected her with Columbus: in the autumn, another joined her to Norwalk. Wagon lines were established, at about the same time, to Pittsburg and Buffalo. The conveyance in which passengers to Pittsburg rode has been described to the writer, as "a canvas top, set solidly on a springless wagon, with three plain boards for seats." Passengers by stage-coach, in summer, had a comparatively easy time, but in the spring or fall their lot was often one of trouble. "The traveler," says an early account, "was sure to be called on to go on foot a large portion of the time, and was often expected to shoulder a rail and carry it from mudhole to mudhole to pry out the vehicle in which he was, in theory, supposed to be riding."
In 1823, a movement was set on foot for the improve-
ment of the public highways. The State directed the laying out of a "free road" from Cleveland to the Ohio River, in Columbiana County. A movement was made in the same year to turnpike the stage-road running to the southwest, and as a result the Wayne, Medina & Cuyahoga Turnpike Company came into being and did good work, making one of the best highways in the State. In 1824, another State road was laid out, running from Cleveland along the line now known as Kinsman street, and out through Warrensville and Orange. With these wagon and stage lines, with the canal when opened, and with the facilities offered by the lake, the traveling public was compelled to content itself until the dawning of the great railroad era.
In 1819, Joel Scranton came to Cleveland, and soon became one of the prominent merchants of the place. He brought with him a schooner load of leather, well knowing that he had something for which there would be a demand. In the same year came John Blair, from his farm home in Maryland, in the hope of gaining a fortune in the west. As a means toward that end, he carried three dollars in his pocket, but by a small and lucky speculation in pork, soon increased his capital, and before long opened a produce and commission store on the river. In 1820, Peter M. Weddell arrived, went into business, and soon made himself one of the leading commercial factors of Cleveland. Michael Spangler came also, and his "Commercial House" was for some years one of the landmarks of the village.
It was in 1820 that Cleveland saw the organization of her second church society, and the commencement of a
line of religious work that has steadily increased and broadened, until to-day it is felt for the general good, in many directions. On the 19th of September of that year, a little company gathered in the old log court-house, and with a membership of but fifteen organized the First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland.145
Rev. Randolph Stone, pastor of a Presbyterian Church at Morgan, Ashtabula County, had been engaged previously, by several residents of Cleveland, to give one-third of his time to this place, and upon the organization of this new church he became its minister. Services were conducted in the
court-house for a time: then were held in the newly-erected brick academy building on St. Clair street. In 1827, the society was legally incorporated as the "First Presbyterian Society of Cleveland," and at the annual meeting Samuel Cowles was chosen president, D. H. Beardsley secretary, and P. M. Weddell treasurer. The first building the "Old Stone Church," was dedicated in 1834; was demolished in 1853, to make room for a new edifice, which was soon burned down. It was followed by the erection of the present structure, which has stood for years as one of the gospel centers of Cleveland.146
Another of those entertaining pen-pictures of Cleveland, which have been so wisely and carefully gathered into that store-house of historical treasures, the "Annals" of Cuyahoga’s early settlers, has been drawn by Judge Rufus P. Spalding,147 of the year whose record we have now reached: "In the month of March, 1823, I first saw Cleveland. I came from Warren, in Trumbull County where I then lived, in the company of Hon. George Tod, who was then president judge of the third judicial circuit, which embraced, if I mistake not, the whole Western Reserve. We made the journey on horseback, and were nearly two days in accomplishing it. I recollect the Judge, instead of an overcoat, wore an Indian blanket drawn over his head by means of a hole cut in the center. We came to attend court, and put up at the house of Mr. Merwin, where we met quite a number of lawyers from adjacent counties. At this time the village of Warren, where I lived, was considered as altogether ahead of Cleveland in importance; indeed, there was very little of Cleveland, at that day, east and southeast of the Public Square. The population was estimated at four
hundred souls. The earliest burying ground was at the present intersection of Prospect and Ontario streets. Some years afterwards, in riding away from Cleveland, in the stage-coach, I passed the Erie street cemetery, just then laid out. I recollect it excited my surprise that a site for a burying-ground should be selected so far out of town. The court that I attended on my first visit, was held in the old court-house, that stood on the northwest quarter of the Public Square. The presiding judge was the Hon. George Tod, a well-read lawyer and a courteous gentleman, the father of our late patriotic governor, David Tod. The associate judges of the Common Pleas Court were Hon. Thomas Card and Hon. Samuel Williamson. Horace Perry was clerk, and Jas. S. Clarke, sheriff The lawyers attending court were Alfred Kelly, then acting prosecuting attorney for the county; Leonard Case, Samuel Cowles, Reuben Wood and John W. Willey, of Cleveland; Samuel W. Phelps and Samuel Wheeler, of Geauga; Jonathan Sloane, of Portage, Elisha Whittlesey, Thomas D Webb, and R. P Spalding, or Trumbull County. John Blair was foreman of the grand jury."
Judge Spalding’;s visit, this time, was only temporary. It was years afterwards that he became an honored citizen of Cleveland, where he remained until the close of his life. There arrived at about this time, however, a gentleman who became one of the business men of the village, and was soon recognized as an addition of which Cleveland had reason to he proud. The was Richard Hilliard, who was a moving spirit in his day, and gave to the young and struggling village a service of value in many ways. He was of New York birth, was well edu-
cated, and had spent some portion of his young manhood in school teaching. He went into business with John Daly at Black Rock, but removed to Cleveland, where in 1827, he purchased his partner’s interest, and carried on the business alone. He was located on Superior street, where the old Atwater Building used to stand, and soon built up a large dry-goods and grocery trade. He formed a partnership with William Hayes, and for some year the firm of Hilliard & Hayes carried on a profitable business. Feeling the need of better accommodations, Mr. Hilliard built a brick block on Water street, at the corner of Frankfort, moved into it, and extended his operations still further. In company with Courtland Palmer, of New York, and Edwin Clark, of Cleveland, he purchased a large tract of land on the flats, and aided in opening that part of the city to manufacturing purposes. In his labor in connection with the creation of Cleveland’s system of waterworks, as president of the incorporated village, and as one of the promoters of the city’s railroad system, he gave a service of great value. H died in December 21st, 1856, leaving a name which deserves the high place it holds in the history of commercial Cleveland.
There were several other notable names added to the lengthening roll of Clevelanders about this time. Among these were John W. Allen, Sherlock J. Andrews and David H. Beardsley. Each one became identified with public interests and lived to see a great city grow up about him. The services rendered by Mr. Allen were conspicuously useful. He was born at Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1802, the son of a lawyer, who gave him a good education. He came here in 1825, studied law with Judge Samuel
Cowles, and became a member of the Cleveland bar. From 1831 to 1835, he was annually elected village president. In 1841, he became mayor. He was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1835; sent to Congress in 1836, and re-elected two years later. He was a Whig in politics; became the intimate friend of Henry Clay, and continued to act with that political organization until the formation of the Republican party, when he gave his adhesion to the new faith. In 1870, he was appointed post-master of Cleveland by President Grant, was reappointed in 1874, and resigned the following year. We have already noted his appointment as one of the first commissioners of the State Bank of Ohio; and at a later point will find him one of the moving spirits in the building of our first railways. Of him it has been truly said: "Mr. Allen was remarkable for the refinement and dignity of his fact and person. His manners were courteous and friendly. His heart was always open to the calls of benevolence, and his ready hand and timely aid secured the prosperity of may a young man who otherwise might have failed entirely. The early settlers of Cleveland, who knew him as one of the foremost and most distinguished of our citizens, will recall the great debt of gratitude the city owes him, for his untiring, unselfish labors in its behalf, and will honor his memory as it deserves." Mr. Allen died on October 5th, 1887.
Sherlock J. Andrews came in the same year as Mr. Allen. He was a native of Wallingford, Connecticut, where he was born in 1801; was liberally educated; graduated from Union College in 1821; and came to Cleveland in 1825, where he commenced the practice of the law in connection with Samuel Cowles. He was afterwards associated in the same manner with two other honored citizens of Cleveland, John A. Foot and James M. Hoyt. In 1840, he was elected to Congress, but ill-health compelled him to decline renomination. He was elected judge of the Superior Court of Cleveland in 1848; in the next year was chosen a member of the conven-
tion to revise the constitution of the State; and in 1873 was sent to a second convention called for the same purpose. He rendered valuable service to the public in all these responsible positions; was a brilliant advocate, a model judge, a cultured, high-minded gentleman. He died at his home in Cleveland, on February 11th, 1880.
David H. Beardsley, who was born, in 1789, at New Preston, Conn., and died in Cleveland in 1870, came to this city in 1826. He had previously lived at Lower Sandusky (now Fremont), Ohio, where he served as a judge, and a member of the Ohio Legislature. In 1827, he was appointed collector for the Ohio Canal at this point. He continued in that position for a score of years; the most of the commerce of Cleveland passing through his hands. So valuable were his services, that no matter how the political fortunes of those in charge of the public works of Ohio might change, he remained in his office undisturbed. "His integrity," says one biographer,148 who knew him well, "was the great feature of his character. During all those years that he transacted the business of the State, and in the numerous accounts rendered by him, which amounted to thousands, and in the amount of money collected to about $1,400,000, not an error, either large or small, was ever detected in his accounts. Having remained many years in his office, and feeling finally that some other business would be more congenial to him, he voluntarily retired." Mr. Beardsley afterwards rendered Cleveland valuable service in connection with the public water-works, and as one of the sinking fund commissioners.
A new era lay just before the Cleveland of 1824; and the year that followed was, in one sense, the turning point in the fortunes of the city. Many signs of progress had been shown during the decade that had just ended, but none of them guaranteed anything beyond a continuation of the same modest village-hood that marked a half-dozen
rivals and neighbors along the shore of the lake. Stage-coaches made the town a point of stoppage; the mails came with due regularity; two churches had been established; there was one live newspaper, and the remains of another that had departed. The seat of justice and the jail were here yet, but Newburg had by no means given up hope of securing them both. In lake traffic the town was fairly represented, but Grand River, Black River, and Conneaut Creek were by no means certain that their future was less brilliant than that of the Cuyahoga. Forests and wild country lay all about her, the logging bee was sill a regular social feature out on the Euclid road; stumps, and briars, and underbrush, were among the things that yet adorned portions of the Public Square.
The real growth of the city commenced, only, after the building of the Ohio Canal. The modern traveler, who comes down to the foot of South Water street, in a railroad car, may not realize that beneath the rails, over which he passes, lies the bed of what was once the central artery of Cleveland's traffic and travel.
The canal was, at one time, the main topic discussed by those who advocated internal improvements, and occupied the public attention as fully as did the railroad at a later date.
With the powers of steam but little known, it was natural that this should be the case. The benefits obtained by use of the natural waterways, led men of a progressive and inquiring turn of mind to ask themselves: Why not take a hint from nature, and pattern ourselves upon her model? If she has given us the Rhine, the Thames, the Mississippi, why cannot we have our artificial rivers of water, to join those cities and aid those interests for which she has done so little? All countries cannot be Holland, nor all cities Venice, but leaves can be taken from the book of experience recorded by each. So they set themselves to work; and how well they succeeded, can be read, somewhat, by the results produced
before the days of canal decadence, near the middle of the present century.
The real era of modern canal building may be said to have opened in England about 1761, when the Duke of Bridgewater presented a petition for a bill that would permit the construction of the great canal that bears his name. By 1823, the canals of the United Kingdom had reached a total length of 2,682 1/4 miles, and the cost had reached over thirty million pounds sterling.
The matter received serious consideration upon this side of the sea at an early date. It would be difficult to name any one person to whom belongs the honor of originating the canal system of America. General Philip Schuyler, who won distinction in the Revolutionary Army, was certainly one of the original movers in that direction, and contributed much toward the bringing about of important results. In 1761, he was sent to England upon public business, and while there examined the Bridgewater Canal, which had been recently completed. Upon his return home he dwelt with enthusiasm upon the subject, and naturally cast about for directions in which a like enterprise, and a similar triumph of engineering, could be made to redound to the credit and good of America. It was not long before he suggested an artificial connection between Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.
The great war came on, and during it and the period of recuperation of energy and finances that followed, not even so earnest a canal disciple as Schuyler, could find the heart to suggest much beyond an occasional note, that the matter might not be lost sight of altogether. Others had ere this given the theme an attention not wholly of a speculative character, and among these was Elkanah Watson, who paid a visit to Mount Vernon in 1785, where he "found the mind of Washington engaged in a project for connecting the waters of the Potomac with those west of the Alleghany Mountains, by a canal, in order to divert the extensive fur trade from Detroit
to Alexandria, which was then almost exclusively enjoyed by Montreal." The result was a renewed interest and energy on the part of Watson, and the production of some practical results.
In 1788, Watson proceeded to the head of navigation on the Mohawk River, at Fort Schuyler (now Rome), New York, and there impressed with the feasibility of an artificial water connection between the Hudson River—which meant a direct route to the ocean—and Lake Ontario, which would open the whole basin of the great lakes, by the following route: A canal from Wood Creek to Oneida Lake, and thence down the Onondaga River to Oswego, on Lake Ontario.
The idea was slowly but surely worked out through calculations, conferences with General Schuyler and other enthusiasts, and the sounding of the opinions of those by whose private capital any such undertaking must be achieved. By 1792, public and private opinion had arrived at a point to permit the taking of a definite step. Accordingly, the Legislature of New York passed an act by which two companies were chartered—the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company and the Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company. General Schuyler was made president of both these organizations.
Both proposed routes were explored and work upon them commenced in 1793. The western canal was never completed, according to its original design, but a greater than it was opened to commerce along the same route at a later day. Gouverneur Morris was one of the inspiring spirits that carried forward the work begun by Schuyler and Watson. It was largely by his influence that New York was led, in 1810, to appoint a board of canal commissioners, of which he was made chairman; and the work which ended in the completion of the great Erie Canal, was practically commenced and thence pushed with no hesitation as to the amount of energy, toil and money needed for the completion of the task.
Upon the appointment of the canal commissioners of
New York, above referred to, they found an efficient and able ally in DeWitt Clinton, who, with others, was appointed in 1812 to lay the matter of the proposed canal before the general government, with a view that Congress should undertake it as a national work. The suggestion was not adopted; while the declaration of war with England delayed the pushing of the enterprise by the State, the party most interested in the results. When Clinton was elected governor in 1816, he found his occasion, and made the most able and earnest use of the power and influence thus placed in his hands. He worked day and night, was zealous in season and out of season, and saw the great enterprise not only commenced but completed and dedicated forever to the public use. The cost of the canal was $7,602,000, all of which was borne by the State f New York.
This experiment, upon the part of New York, and its successful conclusion, naturally had its effect upon other sections of the country. Ohio was especially interested, and the first steps toward a like system were taken before the completion of the New York enterprise. Legislation was had, as early as 1820, looking towards the construction of a canal to connect Lake Erie and the Ohio River. On January 31st, 1822, a law was passed by the State Legislature authorizing an examination into the practicability of the scheme, and the commissioners named in the act for the carrying out of that measure were Benjamin Tappan, Alfred Kelley, Thomas Worthington, Ethan A. Brown, Jeremiah Morrow, Isaac Minor, and Ebenezer Buckingham. After the preliminary steps had been taken, Mr. Kelley and Micajah T. Williams were made acting commissioners, and the canals were constructed under their direct control With full credit to all others who had a part in the work, it can be truthfully said that no words can overestimate the part Mr. Kelley had therein. The following pertinent quotation tells the tale:
"The Ohio Canal is a monument to the enterprise, energy, integrity and sagacity of Alfred Kelley. He was
acting commissioner during its construction, and the onerous and responsible service was performed with such fidelity and economy that the actual cost did not exceed the estimate. The dimensions of the Ohio Canal were the same as those of the Erie Canal of New York, but the number of locks was nearly double. The Erie Canal is 363 miles in length, and its total cost was $7,143,789, or cost per mile, $19,679. The Ohio Canal is 307 miles in length; its total cost was $4,695,824, or cost per mile, $15,300, being less than that of any other canal constructed on this continent. The Ohio Canal was finished about 1830. The labor, with the facilities then existing for the conducting of public enterprise, was Herculean, but Mr. Kelley’s indomitable will and iron constitution and physique triumphed over all difficulties. Mr. Kelley neither charged nor received any pay for his first year’s services in superintending the preliminary explorations and surveys for the Ohio Canal, and while engaged in the great labor of building the canal, received only a salary of three dollars per day. Surely, it was not the money he worked for!"
The commissioners, above named, set themselves earnestly to the great work they had in hand. They employed James Geddes, of Onondaga County, New York, as engineer, and he arrived at Columbus, the State Capital, in June, 1822. He began an examination of the various proposed routes, ably assisted by Mr. Kelley and his staff, and continued it during the whole of 1823-24; and in 1825 the route was established. It was to commence at Cleveland and end at Portsmouth, on the Ohio River, a distance of three hundred and fifty miles. The personal preference of Mr. Kelley naturally had considerable to do with giving Cleveland the wonderful advantage which this decision secured.
When everything was ready for the opening of the work, preparations were made for an inauguration in keeping with the greatness of the event. An invitation was extended to DeWitt Clinton to be present and break ground at the spot designated for the commencement, on Licking summit, some three miles west of Newark, in Licking County.
The date set for the ceremony was July 4th, 1825.
Governor Clinton accepted the invitation, and stated that he would reach Cleveland on the last day of June.
Extensive preparations were made for his arrival. It was not known whether he would come by stagecoach or boat. When the first named means of conveyance arrived without him, all Cleveland went down to the bluff to watch for the "Superior," which was then due. The story of his arrival and reception has been told by an eye-witness149 in a manner that cannot be improved upon, so I give it in full: "It was a heavenly day, not a cloud in the sky, the lake calm as the river, its glistening bosom reflecting the fierce rays of an almost tropical sun; she [the ‘Superior’] soon passed Water street, dressed with all her flags, and came to anchor about a mile opposite the mouth of the river, and fired her usual signal gun. Her commander, Captain Fisk, ordered the steps to be let down and her yawl boat to be placed alongside of them; then, taking Governor Clinton by the hand, seated him in the stern of the boat, and was followed by his aids, Colonel Jones, Colonel Read, and Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer, who had traversed the State when a wilderness, as an officer, under General Wayne; Messrs, Rathbone and Lord, who had loaned us the money with which to commence the canal, and Judge Conkling, United States District Judge, of New York. They came up the river, the Stars and Stripes waving over them and landed at the foot of Superior strteet, where the reception committee with carriages and a large concourse of citizens awaited them and took them to the Mansion House, then kept by my father, where Governor Clinton was addressed by the late Judge Samuel Cowles, who had been selected by the committee to make the reception address. Governor Clinton made an eloquent reply. In a part of his remarks he made the statement, ‘that when our canals were made, even if they had cost five million dollars, they would be
worth three times that sum; that the increased price of our productions, in twenty years would be worth five million of dollars; that the money saved on the transportation of goods, to our people, during the same period, would finally pay their tolls, refund their entire cost, principal and interest.’ DeWitt Clinton was a man of majestic presence. In hs person he was large and robust, his forehead high and broad, his hair black and curly, and his eyes large, black and brilliant, and, take him all in all, looked as though he was born to command;"
The inauguration was accompanied by appropriate ceremonies, Governor Clinton himself turning the first spadeful of earth. The work of construction was pushed rapidly forward, and the canal was ready for practical navigation, as far south as Akron, by mid-summer of 1827.
The formal opening was marked by the usual festivities, which occurred in July—one account says on the 4th, but Mr. Merwin places it on the 7th. The two northernmost locks, which connected the canal with the Cuyahoga at Cleveland was not completed, and the question arose as to how a boat from this end of the line could be got past the locks, and go southward to meet one coming from the other way.
Active Noble H. Merwin found a way of solving that difficulty. He had gone to Buffalo, purchased the canal boat "Pioneer," had it towed to Cleveland, and taken up the river to a convenient point, where teams hauled it over the bank into the canal. A party of leading citizens went aboard, and the boat was soon on its way toward Akron. They soon met the "Allen Trimble"—so named in honor of the governor of the State, who was aboard, as were also the State canal commissioners and other prominent officials.
Salutes were fired, flags flung to the breeze, speeches made, and a day of genuine rejoicing indulged in. Both boats came back to Cleveland, where a banquet was served under a bower at the Mansion House, followed by
a grand ball in the evening, where Sherlock J. Andrews and John W. Allen served with C. M. Giddings, H. H. Sizer and William Lemon as managers.150
In a business way, the effect of this new water highway was immediate and beneficial. It made Cleveland the principal place in Ohio, on Lake Erie, and enlarged the possibilities of lake travel and freightage by providing a means of carriage into the State, and on to the south by means of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers. A large section of country was provided with an outlet for grain and produce hardly marketable before,151 and general business received a marked stimulus. Cleveland had secured a great advantage over all her rivals, and settlers and capital came to her in a steadily increasing stream.
There was one result, immediate in its nature, which had not been anticipated, and that for a time bade fair to do the city great harm. In July and August a severe epidemic of typhoid fever swept over Cleveland, and it was charged to the malaria arising from digging the canal basin. Seventeen deaths occurred in less than two months. "A terrible depression of spirits and stagnation of business ensued," writes Ara Sprague, in the communication from which we have already quoted. "The whole corporation could have been bought for what one lot would now cost on Superior street. For two months I gave up all business; went from house to house to look after the sick and their uncared-for business.’ People were generally discouraged and anxious to leave."