away, but by the best estimates of historians of the day and newspaper accounts, close to 200 Irishmen remained as squatters.

       Like their pioneering brothers before them, they headed for the docks seeking work. But there was another reason for doing so: the Yankee establishment let them know in no uncertain terms they were not welcome in other sections of the still small, but bustling, community. The attitude of the local residents was understandable, for the Irish were a different breed -- foreign, footloose and free-spirited, wild men all.

       One can imagine the impact the 200 Irishmen made on the more orderly Yankees, who numbered only about 1,000 themselves. They strongly resented this invasion by rough and tumble, mannerless men, who seemed interested only in obtaining the bare necessities of life and drinking the saloons along the riverfront dry. The Yankees had a decision to make and they made it quickly -- they ceded the marshlands at the river's mouth to the Irish.

Whiskey Island

       One must picture that land as it was when the Irish first huddled together on it. When Moses Cleaveland first came upon it, it was a delta and he had some difficulty finding the main channel to the river itself. The fact that he had to come upriver three-quarters of a mile before reaching ground solid enough to stand on gives one a clue as to its composition. One of the men in his company, in writing later about the founding father's trip .....




upriver, revealed a nice touch of humor. "I could not help but re flect that history was repeating itself," he wrote, "Moses, like his namesake, was caught in the bullrushes."

       The land around the river's mouth and for a half-mile south of it was pure swamp, with the exception of a ridge that had been formed by the Cuyahoga's current as it curved westward on its way to emptying in Lake Erie at a point just east of present day Edgewater Park. It would not be until 1827 that federal funding and en gineering expertise allowed local citizens to dig a channel, creating the river's mouth as we now know it. The Irish, naturally, did the digging.

       Since that knoll was the only habitable land anywhere about, the Irish took possession of it and began erecting tarpaper shanties on it., Amusingly enough, that stretch of slightly elevated land was once the "farm" of Lorenzo Carter, the city's first resident, who had built a still on its easternmost end. The land the Irish settled on had been called klhiskey Island for years before they arrived, but if it hadn't been, it would have had to have been renamed.

       The Irish who squatted there gave a new meaning to the island's name -- they made it a real island of whiskey. In its heyday it boasted of having 13 saloons, a considerable achievement since it was only a mile lona and a third of a mile across at its vtidest point. It was from the first and for many years remained the wildest, bawdiest section of Cleveland.




       Whiskey Island was not actually an island, but rather a peninsula. Furthermore, it never was an island, not even when its first inhabitants, the "Irrinons" or Erie Indians, made a permanent camp there in the middle of the 17th Century. It is amusing to note that the French called the Eries "The Cat People," while two centuries later, Irish dock workers would come to be known as "Iron Ore Terriers" or "The Dog People." Those two tribes, the Eries and the Irish, would have had a rollicking good time had they the chance to meet, for both were of mercurial temperament, intemperate and amazingly stubborn, especially when it came to admitting the odds were against them.

       Be that as it may, when Moses made his way through the Cuyahoga's bullrushes, Whiskey Island was a peninsula jutting westward from where the river's present day mouth is to about West 54th Street. When the river was straightened to allow nature to assist in the clearing of the sandbars which clogged its mouth, the original entrance to the lake was filled in and the peninsula then became anchored on its western end.

       It is now difficult to imagine what a beehive of humanity Whiskey Island was from the 1830's to the turn of the century. All there is on it now are a number of grasshopper-like machines called Hulett Unloaders, oil storage tanks, a few warehouses, the International Salt Company's large works, railroad yards and, of course, docks. The only traces of humanity left on the island are remnants of Riverbed Road and footers from a number of houses




Near the Lake Shore Bridge
Grain boat upset due to unbalanced load.


Whiskey Island--River Boats unloading ore in 1880.
In the background is St. Malachi Church on Whiskey Island
(Plain Dealer)




and business establishments. Oh, what it was in the days of the early Irish settlers!

       Whiskey Island was triangular in shape, almost an isosceles but not quite, with its northern boundary as its base. The island's northern limits were where the Penn-Central mainline tracks now run. The land now north of there resulted both from the action of the lake and the action of men, who carted fill there faster than the lake could reclaim it.

       It is even more difficult for one looking over Whiskey Island today to imagine that all told, it had 22 streets crisscrossing it. Any doubts of this can be dispelled by a consultation of early Cleveland area maps. The streets were laid out by a group of ill-fated investors who purchased the land from the estate of Lorenzo Carter. The longest thoroughfare was Bennet Street, which ran the length of the island along its northernmost boundary. It now serves as the roadbed of the Pehn-Central mainline tracks.

       With the exceptions of Bennet, Albert and Toledo Streets, all others ran northwest-southeast or southwest-northeast, creating the crisscross pattern. Bennet, of course, ran in a West-east direction, while Albert and Toledo Streets ran in a north-south direction. The latter two were at the eastern edge of the island and only one block long. There was also an unnamed alley parallel to and a block west of Toledo Street, which some of the early inhabitants dubbed "Sin Alley."




Map showing streets on Whiskey Island




       As one can imagine, such a pattern determined that streets near the base angles would be shorter than those originating from the apex. Thus, Carter Street on the western end and Elm Street on the eastern were both only 600 feet, or two blocks long. The longest street other than Bennet was Macy, which ran in a southwesterly-northeasterly direction for almost a half-mile. A man walking in a northwesterly direction from the point Macy Street originated would cross, in order, Thompson, Tyler, Baldwin, Pratt and the forementioned Carter Street.

       If he were to walk in a northeasterly direction from the same spot, he would cross, again in order, Andrew, Gidings, Union, West, Hickory, Mulberry, Center, Elm, Sycamore and Riverbed Streets. The latter two streets were longer than Elm because the eastern base angle contained an irregularity, which also served as the terminus for two other streets, Willow and River, which actually ran parallel to Macy, but for most of their length were on the south side of the old river bed.

       The blocks created by this crisscross pattern were 300 feet square in the center part of the island and, of course, varied in size as the streets drew nearer to the base angles. To be sure, there were some fascinating geometrical shapes in the remaining blocks, including rectangles, trapezoids, parallelograms and a rhomboid or two, all of which were hardly conducive to helping an Irishman find his way home after a night of tippling.