Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 4

Handout 2 - Letter of Gilman Bryant

Alexander C. Elliot was one of a number of Clevelander's who wrote a history of the city. He requested recollections from a number of the descendants of Cleveland's early settlers.


Mount Vernon, Ohio, June 1st, 1857

Alexander C. Elliot, Esq. -- Sir: According to your request, I will inform you about the first settlement of Cleveland, Ohio, according to my best recollection.

My father, David Bryant, and myself, landed at Cleveland in June 1797. There was but one family there at the time, viz: Lorenzo Carter, who lived in a log cabin, under the high sand bank, near the Cuyahoga river, and about thirty rods below the bend of the river, at the west end of Superior street. I went up the hill to view the town. I found one log cabin erected by the surveyors, on the south side of Superior street, near the place where the old Mansion house formerly stood. There was not cleared land, only where the logs were cut to erect the cabin, and for firewood. I saw stakes at the corners of the lots, among the logs, and large oak and chestnut trees. We were on our way to a grindstone quarry, near Vermilion river. We made two trips that summer, and stopped at Mr. Carter's each time. In the fall of 1797, I found Mr. Rudolphus Edwards in a cabin under the hill, at the west end of Superior street. We made two trips in the summer of 1798. I found Major Spafford in the old surveyor's cabin. The same fall Mr. David Clark erected a cabin on the other side of the street and about 5 rods northwest of Spafford's. We made two trips in the summer of 1799, and in the fall, father and myself returned to Cleveland, to make a pair of millstones for Mr. Williams, about five miles east of Cleveland, near the trail to Hudson. We made the mill stones on the right hand side of the stream as you go up, fifteen or twenty feet from the stream, and about half a mile from the mill, which was under a high bank, and near a fall in said stream of forty or fifty feet. If any person will examine, they will find the remains and pieces of rock, the said stones were made of. The water was conveyed to the mill in a dugout trough, to an under-shot wheel about twelve feet over, with one set of arms, and buckets fifteen inches long, to run inside of the trough, which went down the bank at an angle of forty-five degrees, perhaps. The dam was about four rods above the fall; the mill stones were three and a half feet in diameter, of gray rock. On my way from the town to Mr. William's mill, I found the cabin of Mr. R. Edwards. who had left the town, about three miles out; the next cabin was Judge Kingsbury, and the next old Mr. Gunn, thence half a mile to Mr. William's mill.

On my return to Cleveland in the fall of 1800, my father and myself came there to stay. He took a still from Virginia, and built a still-house under the sand bank, about

twenty rods from L.Carter's and fifteen feet from the river. The house was made of hewed logs, twenty by twenty-six, one and a half stories high. We took the water in a trough, out of some small springs which came out of the bank, into the second story of the house, and made the whiskey out of wheat.

My father purchased ten acres of land about one-fourth of a mile from the town plat, on the bank of the river, east of town. In the winter of 1800 and spring of 1801, I helped my father clear five acres on said lot, which was planted with corn in the spring. Said ten acres were sold by my father in the spring of 1802, at the rate of two dollars and fifty cents per acre. Mr. Samuel Huntington came to Cleveland in the spring of 1801, and built a hewed log house near the bank of the Cuyahoga river, about 15 rods south-east of the old surveyors' cabin, occupied by Mr. Spafford.

I attended the 4th of July ball, mentioned in the History of Ohio. I waited on Miss Doan, who had just arrived at the Corners, four miles east of town. I was then about seventeen years of age, and Miss Doan about fourteen. I was dressed in the then style ñ a gingham suit ñ my hair queued with one and a half yards of black ribbon, about as long and as thick as a corncob, with the little tuft at the lower end; and for the want of pomatum, I had a piece of candle rubbed on my hair, and then as much

flour sprinkled on, as could stay without falling off. I had a good wool hat, and a pair of brogans that would help to play "Fisher's Hornpipe," or "High Betty Martin," when I danced. When I went for Miss Doan I took an old horse; when she was ready I rode up to a stump near the cabin, she mounted the stump and spread her under petticoat on "Old Tib" behind me, secured her calico dress to keep it clean, and then mounted behind me. I had a fine time!

The Indians scattered along the river, from five to eight miles apart, as far as the falls. They hauled their canoes above high water mark and covered them with bark, and went from three to five miles back into the woods. In the spring, after sugar making, they all packed their skins, sugar, bear's oil, honey, and jerked venison, to their crafts. They frequently had to make more canoes, either of wood or bark, as the increase of their furs, &c., required. They would descend the river in April, from sixty to eighty families, and encamp on the west side of the river for eight or nine days, take a drunken scrape and have a feast. I was invited to partake of a white dog. They singed part of the hair off and chopped him up, and made a large kettle of soup. They erected a scaffold, and offered a large wooden bowlfull, placed on the scaffold, to "Manitou," and then they presented me with one fore-paw well boiled, and plenty of soup, the hair still being between the toes. I

excused; they said, "a good soldier would eat such." They said, "God was a good man and he would not hurt anybody." They, in offering the sacrifice to Manitou, prayed to him for their safety over the lake, and that they might have a good crop of corn, &c.

Yours, &c.

Gilman Bryant

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