Cleveland is a city that’s fairly young when you consider that our eastern neighbors hosted some of the first European settlements in what would become the United States. Despite this, it seems that a great deal of history was borne right here in Cleveland and the surrounding region. While much of this history is common knowledge amongst residents, Cleveland contains a great deal of hidden history. Today we’re taking a tour through time, and we’ll be visiting some historic happenings that just may surprise you.
1. Moravian Missions dot the area, c. 1780s
In 1786, the Moravian Missionaries are recognized as the first settlers to populate Northeast Ohio. In the Cuyahoga Valley area, they established Pilgerruh, or Pilgrim's Rest, to serve and convert the indigenous population. They established their settlement on the grounds of an abandoned Ottawa village thought to be located between the modern Stone and Schreiber Roads. This same group previously established Gnadenhutten and Schoenbrunn, two settlements founded in 1772 (and one of which ended in tragedy shortly thereafter, as the above photo demonstrates).
2. The first wedding is held in Cleaveland, 1797
As you may know, our city is named for Moses Cleaveland, the Connecticut Land Company surveyor that first mapped out the city. He arrived in 1796, and population growth was rather slow following his departure. Despite this, the settlement celebrated its first wedding almost exactly one year later… at a time when the community still spelled its name with an "a". Chloe Inches and William Clement, the aforementioned couple, celebrated their nuptials on July 4, 1797.
3. The Dunham Tavern opens, 1832
Believed to be the first frame house on Euclid Avenue, Dunham Tavern is now known as the oldest building on its original site in The Land. Now a museum, this home was completed in 1824. As the city grew, the area surrounding the structure became a stagecoach route, and the Dunham family took advantage of this and opened a tavern. It operated as such until 1857, but the structure persisted even through the rise, fall, and eventual renewal of Euclid Avenue.
4. The Cleveland Grays are organized, 1837
You have likely heard about the longest operating volunteer militia in the state, as its gorgeous headquarters now functions as a museum. While its grand, castle-like structure is instantly recognizable, the Grays have humble roots. They did not even see military service for the first two decades of their existence - until the Civil War changed everything. Though the members of this group did see service in a few different affairs, the group now primarily serves as an educational organization.
5. A cholera epidemic strikes the state, 1849
Cholera has resulted in several pandemics in the past few centuries, and some of the most brutal occurred in the 1800s. Here in Ohio, 1832 and 1849 were particularly devastating years. The 1849 epidemic likely claimed the life of former president James K. Polk, and Cleveland residents were among the first in the state to display symptoms. Those that survived a cholera diagnosis were often treated with calomel, a drug containing mercury chloride with side effects that were often as debilitating as the disease.
6. Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. installs Bessemer converters, 1868
Have you ever wondered how Cleveland's steel industry began? It started with a company that rerolled and produced iron rails for the railroad industry. They brought the first blast furnace into Cleveland, and they eventually introduced Bessemer converters to produce steel. Over the years, the company dealt with strikes, but it was acquired by the American Steel and Wire Company of New Jersey and was eventually absorbed by the United States Steel Corporation.
7. The Brush Electric Co. light up Cleveland, 1879
In 1880, Charles F. Brush set out to change the world with the establishment of the Brush Electric Co. Just months prior to the company’s establishment, Brush demonstrated the effectiveness of his groundbreaking arc light system by lighting up Cleveland’s Public Square. Soon, thousands of arc lights illuminated U.S. cities from coast to coast.
8. Mayor Stokes is elected, 1967
Carl B. Stokes is a name Clevelanders are quite familiar with. When this man was born in Cleveland in 1927, his family could not imagine that he would drop out of high school and eventually join the Army. They certainly could not have guessed that he would go on to become one of the first African Americans to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city. This fearless politician, news anchor, and veteran passed in his hometown in 1996, but he left behind a legacy that remains impressive to this day.
9. The Glenville shootout, 1968
Once upon a time, Cleveland was a segregated community. These sentiments were reflected in local amusement parks and businesses... but also in the local workforce. Coinciding with the Second Great Migration, or the movement of southern African American populations toward Northeastern cities, led to a notable amount of racial tension in the city. Riots and arson broke out in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood, but that was just the beginning of a series of tragedies. Tensions culminated in the infamous Glenville shootout of July, 1968, a gunfight between the Cleveland Police Department and the Black Nationalists of New Libya. The riots continued for days, costing the city $2.6 million in damages and requiring Mayor Stokes to call in the Ohio Army National Guard.
Cleveland is home to a great deal of history, and it seems that one can spend a lifetime here and still learn something new every day. Which of these historical happenings surprised you most?
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