Handout #1. What Moses Saw
The Indians called the river Cuyahoga, or crooked. It wound its
way north from its point of origin near what is now Burton, Ohio,
in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. For centuries,
the Indians of the area, the Huron, the Erie and the Miami, hunted
the banks of the twisting river. They took salt from the salt
licks in the area and sometimes used the natural gas wells to
melt ore to make cutting tools. For many years, the Indians lived
in peace in the area.
In July of 1796, a group of men from New England arrived at the
mouth of the Cuyahoga. Sent to survey a new area to open settlement,
these men had come many miles using only a crudely and inaccurately
drawn map to guide them. Head the surveying party was General
Moses Cleaveland, former officer in George Washingtonís
Continental Army and a respected citizen back in Connecticut.
Cleaveland was charged with finding a suitable site for a capital
city of the soon to be established territory of New Connecticut.
The sandy, reed-clogged mouth of the Cuyahoga did not look a likely
site for a capital city. When the party landed and moved out onto
the banks, they found that their first impressions were false.
The banks of the river and the land beyond, farther than the eye
could see, were covered with good forest land. The sheltered lowland
areas at the mouth of the river would serve well as a harbor for
the trade ships which would come once the city was established.
So it was on the banks of the crooked river that Moses Cleaveland
chose to locate the city which would later bear his name.
The Indians in the area were not completely without contact with
the Europeans. French and English traders had been coming to the
area for years to trade cloth, beads, guns, and whiskey for the
rich pelts of the beaver and muskrat trapped by the Indians. Priests
had come in their long canoes to bring Christianity to the Indians
about the same time that the traders began to arrive regularly.
There were some attempts at establishing small, permanent settlements
by the Moravians, such as Pilgerruh.
When Moses Cleveland left his boat and stepped out onto the shore,
he began the establishment of a city we today call after him.
The city itself wasnít much in the beginning, just a few
small huts huddled in the protection of the river bank. But Moses
Cleaveland, when he returned to Connecticut carried with him surveyorís
plans which established the city along the lines of a New England
Township. The city itself was laid out with a public square at
its center. Set aside for public use, if the lands had been purchased
at the price set by the company, it would have cost two dollars.
All the land parcels to be sold by the company, in the first few
years, surrounded the square. Within months, people in the coastal
areas began to buy land from the Connecticut Land Company. Some
bought the land to sell to others, but many purchased the land
with the intention of going west and settling in the land that
became the Western Reserve. In a short time, a small but thriving
community was established on the banks of the crooked river called
the Cuyahoga. A city was born.
from Ohio History: A Resource Guide for
Teachers, Cleveland City Schools, 1983.