Cleveland Irish: First Timers

In last month’s column, we discussed the history of the Western Reserve from glaciers to the Moses Cleaveland. As you may recall, Moses left and never returned. This month we discuss those who arrived and stayed, more or less.

The surveyors and members of the Moses expedition had had their fill of mosquitos and not their fill of food. They threatened to leave their tedious work behind, the first example of collective bargaining in the Western Reserve. They settled for land in Euclid Township, a homonym some call true to this day.

David Dille was the first to build a cabin and reside in Euclid Township in 1796 and built the Dille home in 1836. He was a Huguenot. His family had left Scotland in the 16th Century for Jamaica and then to South Carolina.

Colonial South Carolina was home to the Stono Rebellion, the largest slave rebellion in the Southern Colonies. The rebels were from the Kingdom of the Kongo, Catholic and spoke Portuguese. (The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian movement, 1684-1796 by John Thornton.)

Beatriz was burnt at the stake in 1706. As Father Godic said at the Mac, “The faith will survive despite us and hopefully grow because of us.”

The majority of the rebels, including their leader, Cato, were executed. David Dille served with Col. William Crawford in Northwest Ohio. Col. Crawford was the son of William, Sr., from Coleraine, Ireland, and Honora Grimes, from Ballymoney, Ireland. He was burnt at the stake by the Seneca near the Sandusky River after being captured.

I think of these events when I traverse Dille Road and then past Cochran Avenue en route to Muldoon’s on 185th. Saturday is steak night, just ask Sean Fitz. In Cleveland Pease’s Hotel and a storehouse were built near the Cuyahoga. The Stiles family cabin was constructed as well. Seed wheat was imported from near the Genesee River in New York and grown near Conneaut.

The First Thanksgiving in Cleveland
It was the first crop grown by settlers in the Western Reserve. Jack Murphy, always cognizant of local history, honors this first with a very fair price for Geny draft at Tradewinds Lounge. Devoid of such kindness and to be fair, it was a storehouse, not a lounge; only three people remained in Cleveland for the winter of 1796: the Stiles family, Job Phelps Stiles and Tabitha Cumi Stiles, and a Joseph Landon, who ghosted; his room was taken by Edward Paine.

Edward arrived in time for the first Thanksgiving in Cleveland. The Stiles and Paine shared the land and the holiday with a group of Seneca.

James Kingsbury and his wife Eunice Waldo settled in Conneaut with three small children. They struggled to survive. James was forced to head east for provisions and the remaining Kingsburys would not have survived without the donated meat from the Mannasaugas people. Eunice gave birth to the first settler child in the Western Reserve, who was fed the browse of oak trees. The child died in January of 1797. The first settler child born in Cleveland was Charles Phelps Stiles (CPS) on January 23rd, 1797.

Seth Pease, surveyor,  and Rev. Seth Hart led a second expedition to the Western Reserve in April of that year and found the Kingsburys in a bad way. Elijah Gunn and family moved to the Cuyahoga, Cleveland’s second family. Lorenzo and Rebecca Carter and family arrived in May of 1797, with Ezekiel Hawley and Lucy Carter Hawley and family.

As we know, Carter built a cabin near the mouth of the Cuyahoga. Travelers knew that Carter supplied a bed, a meal and some rum. That could be considered the first pub in Cleveland, just yards from the oldest Irish pub in Cleveland- The Flat Iron.

Carter did not have a shuttle to games or Tom’s chowder. Carter did build a boat and ran a ferry near Superior Avenue.

It was June 3rd of that year that Rev. Hart preformed the first Christian religious service in Cleveland. David Eldridge was buried in Cleveland’s first cemetary that day, a member of the expedition who drowned in the Grand River.

The cemetery was on the eastside of Ontario, north of Prospect. Just south of the new cemetary was a mound built by the Hopewell.

Soon thereafter, the first fence in Cleveland was erected to a newly planted vegetable garden. The Kingsburys moved to Cleveland in 1797, and eventually built a cabin at the site of today’s Federal Building, until they moved on Woodhill Road. They were on the road from Doan’s Corners on East 105th to Newburgh.

The First Wedding in Cleveland
That year Rev. Hart officiated the first wedding in Cleveland. Chole Inches, Rebecca Carter’s domestic servant, married William Clement. They left on Cleveland’s first honeymoon and never came back.

Once Pease completed his survey, the Connecticut Land Company granted in 1798 the first land in the Western Reserve. Tabitha Stiles received one city lot, a 10-acre lot and a 100-acre lot. Anna Gunn now owned a 100-acre lot and the Kingsburys got two 100-acre lots. Nathaniel Doan was giving a city lot on Superior Avenue and Bank Street, not Banc Street, to open a blacksmith shop. The first highway was cleared, now known as Euclid Avenue.

Other than Lorenzo Carter, most moved to the higher ground to the East and established farms. Samuel Dodge and Nathan Chapman arrived in 1798; Chapman was the first carpenter. David Abbott built the first gristmill in the Western Reserve in Willoughby, spitting distance to Nora’s Public House today.
First Tavern in Cleveland.

The First Teacher in Cleveland
Nathaniel Doan built a tavern at Euclid Avenue and East 107th. David Hudson made his first trip to the Western Reserve and returned in 1800 to live near his namesake. George Pease was the first teacher in Cleveland and taught in a log schoolhouse. Broadway Avenue was the road to Pittsburgh and Newburgh was home to 10 families, growth that Cleveland did not enjoy at the time, as it had only seven inhabitants.

It would be 25 years before the Ohio & Erie Canal was approved and the beginning of the mass immigration of the Irish began. They were immigrants, not settlers. More settlers would arrive before the uninhabited Flats would become Irishtown Bend. We will discuss those settlers next month and attempt to complete our understanding of the city and the society that it had to navigate.

*Francis McGarry holds undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Anthropology, Education and History and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He is the Executive Director of Bluestone Hibernian Charities and proprietor of McGarry Consulting. He is a past president of the Irish American Club East Side and the founder and past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. 


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