Teaching Cleveland
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Middle School Edition: 6-8

Lesson 1

What Moses Cleaveland Saw


After listening to a short story about the landing of Moses Cleaveland and his surveying party, students will be able to describe what the area of Cleveland looked like in 1796. Students will learn what a survey is and how the land is surveyed.



survey, surveyor's measure, link, chain


  1. What was the geography of the area when Moses Cleaveland and his surveying party landed in 1796?
  2. What were the advantages and disadvantages of settling along the banks of the Cuyahoga River.
  3. What does it mean to "survey" an area? How do you survey land? Why is it important to survey land?

Teacher Notes: There are two types of surveys. A land survey is used to fix boundaries and to find the areas of plots of ground. A plane survey is used on small plots of ground only, since it does not take into consideration the curvature of the earth's surface. A geodetic survey makes allowance for curvature and it is used to find large areas or long boundaries.

Surveyor's tools:

  • Transit - small telescope set up on a tripod with attached horizontal and vertical arcs, used to measure horizontal and vertical angles. A transit also judges distances.
  • Surveyor's Compass - used to determine magnetic directions.
  • Surveyor's Measure or Chain - A linear measure.
    1 link (li) = 7.92 in.
    100 li = 1chain (ch.) = 66 ft.
    10 ch. = 1 furlong (fur.) = 660 ft.
    8 fur. = 1 statute mile (mi.) = 5,280 ft.
  • Engineer's Chain
    1 link (li.) = 1 ft.
    100 li = 1 chain (ch.) = 100 ft.
    52.8 ch. = 1 mile (mi.) = 5,280 ft

The City of Cleveland was named for its founder Moses Cleaveland. The spelling was later changed to its current spelling.


  1. Ask students to define survey.
  2. Display a map of Cleveland focusing on the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, the Flats and the downtown area. Ask students to describe the area, allowing those who have been in that area to share their information. Ask how the Cuyahoga River got its name. (It is believed that the Mohawk Indians called it "Cayagaga", meaning crooked river. The Senecas called it Cuyohaga, meaning "place of the jawbone"). Ask them what they think this area looked like when Moses Cleaveland and the first surveying party landed there in 1796?
  3. Read the short story of Moses Cleaveland and His Surveying Party or have students read it independently, and answer the questions for discussion. Focus on the positives and negatives of the area.
  4. Distribute paper and crayons to students and ask them to draw a picture of what they think Moses saw drawing upon their imagination and the information from the reading.
  5. Ask students what they think it means to "survey" the land? How do they think a surveyor measures the land? Explain the types of surveys and the surveyor's instrument. Introduce the "Surveyors Measure" from the handout. Have students create their own surveyors measure. Ask students to speculate on what problems the surveyor might encounter when surveying the land? (trees, rocks, hills, etc.) How does the surveyor solve these problems? Have students conduct a plane survey of the room. They could extend this activity and survey the halls or playground, or the perimeter of the school building. Ask students to speculate how long it took that first surveying party to survey the newly planned city of Cleveland?

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