Ashtabula Co., Ohio
SOURCE: History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Large, Moina W.
Topeka :: Historical Pub. Co.,, 1924, 1132 pgs.
PREHISTORIC RACE - "SOUTH RIDGE" -
CONNEAUT - EARLY CHURCHES -
CONNEAUT HARBOR - GREAT BRIDGE -
ADVENTURE OF A
PIONEER - CHANGED THEIR PLANS -
FIRST FAMILY TO WINTER HERE - CAR FERRY
DISASTERS - PULLMAN'S CONTRACT - FIRST WHITE SETTLER -
STAGE COACH TRAGEDY -
PLANS OF STEEL COMPANY - PUBLIC LIBRARY - COUNTRY CLUB -
EAST CONNEAUT AS
It was near the mouth of Conneaut
Creek, a stream not them navigable, but now one of the deepest and most
important harbors on the south shore of Lake Erie that Moses Cleaveland and his
party of surveyors first touched Ohio, in their journey to this section for
purpose of making a survey of the Western Reserve, the new possession of the
Connecticut Land Company, of Connecticut.
While this party was given credit for being the first
company of white persons to establish themselves in the country, developments of
later years disclosed indisputable evidence that at some time in the far-gone
centuries this section had been inhabited by a race of people of gigantic
stature who were not Indians. Delving into great mounds of earth that were
not of natural formation brought for bones of this prehistoric people, as well
as pottery, crude weapons and other belongings that had been buried with the
Yet, with all this evidence, there has never yet been
found a manuscript or writing of any nature that would give the slightest hint
as to the personality of those early residents. Where they came from, how
long there were here, or where they eventually departed for is a mystery that
will probably never be solved.
The first intimation of these people was uncovered in
and about where is now the city of Conneaut, and as the settlements became more
numerous and extensive many other sections of the county reported similar finds,
indicating that this vicinity was well populated.
Conneaut, however, seemed to have been the metropolis
of these people, as indicated by a large burying ground on the bank of the river
west of the originally settled town, and another in the sugar-loaf like
prominence across the river to the south. A writer says "When first
discovered the spot was covered with trees not distinguishable from surrounding
forest, except an opening near the center containing a single butternut.
The graves were distinguished by a slight depressions in the surface of the
earth, disposed in straight rows, which, with intervening spaces, or valleys,
covered the entire area. The ancient burying-grounds occupy an area of
about four acres and appear to have been accurately surveyed into lots running
from north to south and when first seen presented the appearance of neat and
Aaron Wright, Esq., in 1800, made a careful examination
of these depressions and found them invariably to contain human bones blackened
with time, which, upon exposure to the air, soon crumbled to dust. Some of
these bones were of unusual size and evidently belonged to a race allied with
giants. Skulls were taken from these mounds, the cavities of which were of
sufficient capacity to admit the head of an ordinary man, and jaw-bone that
might be fitted over the face with equal facility. The bones o the upper
and lower extremities were of corresponding size.
The first tragedy involving a white man that occurred
after the arrival of the Cleaveland party was the murder, in the following year,
of a man named Williams, who was passing through en route from Detroit to
Erie (then Presque Isle). While sojourning temporarily here, Williams
sold a gun to an Indian of the settlement that still remained near where the
whites were located. It was agreed that the Indian was to pay in pelts,
which Williams calculated to take on to Erie and sell, and with proceeds
buy a new gun.
The chief of this tribe was one "Bear's Oil", a
wily old Redskin, who, however, had shown no great antipathy because of the
invasion of the whites. Old Bear's Oil told Williams
that the brave to whom he had sold the rifle was no good and would not pay him,
whereupon Williams compelled the Indian to give back the shooting-iron.
A short time later Williams resumed his journey,
with but a few miles farther to go. But he never reached his destination.
The Indian with whom he had had the gun transaction had held his peace and
apparently nursed no grudge against the white man, but it developed that he
watched the stranger with untiring vigil, and when Williams had gone the
buck took his trail, overtook him on the beach of the lake a few miles east of
Conneaut and murdered him in cold blood, recovering the gun, which he took back
to the village with him.
When the commander of the military post at Presque Isle
learned of the tragedy, he sent messengers to the Indian village, who demanded
that the chief give the murderer into their custody. Bear's Oil,
apparently, was submissive, but exacted conditions. He agreed that if an
officer and a suitable number as guard were sent forward to take charge of the
prisoner, he would give him up. Pursuant to this arrangement the guard and
officer were sent and when they arrived Bear's Oil invited them to remain
over night. This they did, and when morning came they were informed by
Bear's Oil that he had changed his mind and would not turn his man over.
To back his position nearly 50 Indians in paint and well armed stood about
conveniently. The officer and his men, realizing that it would be folly to
attempt to force their issue in the face of such a demonstration, withdrew to
their boat and returned to the barracks without their prisoner.
The return of the men, empty handed, was a signal for
action and immediately the entire garrison, strengthened by such settlers as
cared to indulge in what might be a strenuous adventure, started by boat for
Conneaut, under instructions to bring back a murderer and to impose such
chastisement on old Bear's Oil and his braves as seemed expedient.
The old chief had anticipated just such action, and
speedily assembled his people and decamped for parts unknown. When the
soldiers arrived at the village site it was bare. It was learned that this
band of Indians continued their flight toward the west, by canoes, till they
reached Toledo, and thence cut across country and was last head from as having
located on the banks of the Wabash River.
Probably the first white men that ever gazed upon the
waters of Lake Erie from the Ohio shore were two men who had been captured and
were held by Indians. In 1790 and 1791 General Harmon and
Governor St. Clair conducted a campaign by white settlers of Ohio against
certain tribes of Indians who had been troublesome. The Indians proved the
victors and among the spoils of the war the two white men figured. Their
captors brought them to the shore of the lake in the vicinity of Conneaut.
The bringing of these white prisoners to the village was a cause
for great rejoicing and they were subjected to many tortures and hardships
before the question of their final disposition came up for settlement. It
was finally decided to let one of them live and witness the death of the other
through burning at the state. The program was carried out almost to the
point of realization when an unexpected interruption occurred. A fair
young squaw of the tribe, like Pocahontas, interceded for Capt. John Smith,
rushed to the rescue and begged that the young white man's life be saved.
There was a lot of pow-wowing, pro and con, but the young woman was evidently a
favorite with the band, and her prayer was granted and the man was released.
He soon became a great favorite with all the tribe and his influence grew until
he became the recognized representative of the Indians in their dealings with
the white men. The other prisoner also remained with the Indians for a
long time, but, eventually, both men were allowed to withdraw to their own
people and they became settlers and spent the rest of their lives in this
- The gradual moving back from the lake some of the settles had the result of
establishing small settlements within the territory constituting townships that
had been laid out and named. Conneaut had, for instance, a four-cornered
sub-village called South Ridge, situated in the road of that name in the
southern part of the township.
This was a flourishing little settlement for many
years, boasting the usual essentials of such a colony, general store, blacksmith
shop, church, school and sometimes some thriving little commercial industry.
South Ridge had, for some years, a post office all its own and a flourishing
The church-going people of that immediate vicinity
formed themselves into a general church society, in which capacity they
worshiped until 1837, when the Free-Will Baptist element, which had organized in
1826 but continued to join in the union services, withdrew and built a church
edifice of its own, under the ministry of the Rev. Samuel Wise.
Amboy - Another settlement within the township of Conneaut was,
and still is, Amboy. That colony started about four miles west of the
river on the North Ridge, and also had its palmy days, and was larger than South
Ridge village. In addition to the advantages named for the neighbor on the
south, Amboy had a tavern, one more church, a flouring mill, a cabinet shop, a
cobbler's shop, several cigar factories and a platform station on the line of
the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad.
There are plenty still living who well remember when
"Pumpkin Hook" meant the same as Amboy. Our grandfathers used to tell a
story to effect that some weary travelers once came to Amboy as daylight waned
and, thinking the tavern there was a good place for a rest, they engaged
quarters for the night. Their wagon and its load were put in a barn, for
safe shelter, but when they were ready to hitch up for another start they
discovered that someone had "hooked" several pumpkins that had been in the
wagon. From that incident the town became possessed of the strange
nickname "Pumpkin Hook".
Conneaut - The following is taken from
the News Herald:
"The name of Conneaut was given to the stream bordering our city by a tribe of
Seneca Indians and signifies "River of Many Fish."
"Arriving at the mouth of Conneaut River, July 4, 1796,
a group of 50 surveyors under Moses Cleaveland named the point of land on which
they touched "Fort Independence".
"In the fall of the same year came the first settlers,
James Kingsbury and family. He had one child, the first to be born
on Western Reserve territory, which included what is now Ohio.
"The year 1789 saw the first permanent settlement.
These pioneers consisted of Thomas Montgomery and wife and Aaron
"The following year found several other settlements
started along the creek and in the closely succeeding years many other families
"Conneaut Township was organized in 1804 and born the name of
"Salem" until 1832, when the name was changed to "Conneaut."
"The year 1832 saw the publication of the first journal
in Conneaut, called the "Ashtabula County Gazette."
"The first real estate boom started in 1833 and
continued until 1836. The cause of the boom was a railroad to be built
from Conneaut to Beaver Falls, Pa. Much land was purchased on account of
this and was platted into streets and building lots. The proposed railroad
plans, however, failed to materialize. The principal streets at the time
were: Liberty, Main Street, Broad, Washington and Harbor; these were laid
out by blazing trees, this explaining why our streets today do not run parallel
"The nineteenth century marked the beginning of
activities at Conneaut Harbor. Ship building, shipping of grain, lumber,
etc., became one of the most important industries. The first appropriation
received from the government was $7,500, used in construction work at the
"The year 1834 witnessed the incorporation of Conneaut
village. The mayor and council plan of government was adopted, and Dr.
Samuel L. Fenton was made its first mayor. A census in 1835 showed
Conneaut to have had 450 males over 21 years of age.
"During the next few years a tannery was opened and the
weekly journal was sold to new managers, who named it the "Conneaut Reporter".
A company was formed to lay a plank road from Conneaut to Youngstown. A
plank road was also laid at this time between the village and the harbor, with a
toll gate at the harbor.
"In 1852 Milo Osborn laid a plank road from the foot
of Main street to Amboy. A Mr. Blakeslee was first toll gate
keeper, the gate being near the A. B. Crittenden home west of the city,
the spot now being marked by a bronze tablet.
"t this time stage coaches ran regularly form
Painesville to Erie. Taverns lined the route, among them being the Tremont
House at Conneaut, which gained much fame. This hotel was located where
the Dorman block now stands.
"The year 1852 marked the completion of the
Cleveland-Painesville-Ashtabula Railroad to Conneaut, later being continued to
Erie, and the name changed to Lake Shore & Michigan Southern.
The old fair grounds just west of the old city limits
were opened in 1853. One of the exhibit buildings still stands.
"At this time considerable trade was carried on through
the harbor. Exports were farm products and imports consisted of
"Conneaut began to grow at this time, gas was
discovered, two flour mills and a paper mill were put in operation and David
Cummins started (1863) canning "Lake Shore" tomatoes. On Main street
there was but one big structure, the Cleveland block. State coaches made
regular trips between Conneaut and Pierpont and the Lake Shore Railroad brought
the mail from the east and west.
"On the south side of Liberty street and east of
Washington street all the tillage land in 1866, as was tillage land in 1866, as
were the lands west of Sandusky street.
"A new town hall was built in 1876, new lumber mills
were erected and many people offered to make Conneaut their home on account of
the advantages, and in 1878 the population was put at 1,300; the New York,
Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate) was constructed through Conneaut
between the years of 1881 and 1882, which saw the first real boom. After
much active work by leading citizens, Conneaut won over Ashtabula in efforts to
secure the Nickel Plate shops. The coming of these shops to Conneaut
brought the arrival of mechanics, new business concerns and new residences until
in 1886 the census total amounted to over 2,200.
"The next year, Conneaut subscribed enough money to
bring the Pittsburgh, Shenango & Lake Erie Railroad, now known as the Bessemer.
At the harbor new docks were built and the old ones reconstructed. The
channel was deepened and widened in readiness for the coming of the great ore
and coal trade.
"The first ore was received in 1892.
"It was discovered that it took too long to unload the
big boats by the wheelbarrow method, so Brown hoists were purchased. The
number of tons of ore gradually increased from year to year, thus necessitating
the purchase of the powerful machines known as Huletts and electrics.
"July 4 of the year 1896 marked the 100th anniversary
of the founding of Conneaut, which was widely celebrated.
"The Pittsburgh Steamship Company, organized in 1897,
purchased a fleet of 16 steamships and 20 barges; two new docks were
"The Bessemer ran its first passenger train in 1897 and
in this year handed about a million tons of ore. In 1916 the largest
amount of ore was received in Conneaut Harbor, it being about nine and one-half
million tons. Conneaut Harbor has made several world records for unloading
ore, and has among its large structures the largest four-track swing bridge in
"The last 25 or 30 years of Conneaut's history have
seen the development of many important industries, among which are: The
Conneaut Brick Plant (1898); The Conneaut Can Company (1901); The Conneaut
Leather Company (1903); The Cummins Canning Factory moved into their new
building (1909); The Burke Machine Tool Company (1910); and the Conneaut Shovel
As the Western Reserve developed the stream of
emigrants toward the west flowed steadily and Conneaut, being on the direct line
of travel, became quite an important stopping place. The need of
accommodations for the floating prospectors soon became apparent and this was
supplied at first by the construction of a log hotel where is now the corner of
Main and Broad streets. The landlord's name was Dunn. This
was succeeded soon afterward by erection of a frame hostelry, of which
Pierpont & Davenport were the first proprietors.
The first schoolhouse was erected near the corner of
Main and Washington streets. In 1835 Conneaut Academy was incorporated,
the incorporators being A. Dart, Henry Keys, Lewis Thayer, Josiah Brown,
James Brooks and Aaron Wright. This institution of learning
opened in an old building that was moved onto the property now the corner of
Main and Mill streets. The Rev. Judah L. Richmond was the first
teacher, he being assisted by Miss Sara Bonney, who was appointed
principal of the institution eventually merged into the regular public school of
the city. From the time of this transfer, the schools followed the trend
of public school progress, always keeping up with the times and today the
educational facilities of Conneaut are among the best. The latest addition
to the requirements was a large new building erected within the past year in the
western section of the city.
- The early settlers of Conneaut Township had a distinct sense of obligation
to the Author of their being for His guidance and protection over them during
their journey westward and their efforts to establish for themselves homes for
the future in the new land. The first public demonstration of this spirit
was in 1800, when a meeting was called to be held at the home of Aaron
Wright. This was but the forerunner of a succession of like gatherings
which were attended faithfully, but it was not until 1818 that a regular
organization was effected.
The Conneaut Christian Church Society was organized at
a meeting held in the school house on the ridge road between Conneaut and Amboy
on May 23, 1818. The original roster contained the names of fifteen
members and on that occasion Elder Cheney preached the initial sermon.
Subsequently, meetings were held in the school house generally until 1834, when
the congregation had reached numerical proportions that warranted their having
an independent place of worship and they builded for themselves and such
non-members as desired to identify themselves with the society a church home on
the site where is now the home of the Cummings families, the location then being
known as the "Center". After seven years, the building was moved closer to
the business section and located on Buffalo street.
The next church organized effected was that of the
Congregational Presbyterian faiths, at the home of Robert Montgomery, in
1819; the itinerant preacher, Joseph Badger, was the organizing officer
as there were not enough Congregationalists or Presbyterians in the immediate
vicinity to support separate churches, it was decided to make this a union
organization of both, to which all agreed. In 1828 the congregation were
able to occupy their own church home which had been under construction for a
couple of years.
A Methodist class was formed in the east part of town
in the early '20s, one in what is now Amboy in 1823 and one in the village in
On Oct. 18, 1831, a meeting was held in the Ridge
school house at which was effected an organization of the Baptist Church, 23
members signing a charter roll. Twelve of these had letters from other
churches and the others had recently been baptized. The first pastor was
the Rev. Asa Jacobs, who served in that capacity for six years.
Shortly after he was succeeded, in 1837, by the Rev. J. L. Richmond, the
church meetings, which had up to that time been held in the school house, were
changed to Conneaut village.
In the passing of later years other denominations
organized and built their houses for worship and the church representatives in
Conneaut is today that of the average modern city.
The most elaborate structure of this nature in the city
is the First Congregational, which was rebuilt in the years from 1907 to 1916 by
personal expense of George J. Record, and dedicated as a memorial to his
deceased daughter, Mrs. May Record Findley.
Harbor - At all points along the south shore of
Lake Erie where rivers that were navigable, or could be made so, emptied in to
the lake, the harbors thus afforded were of great importance to the adjacent
Conneaut was particularly blessed in this respect, the
mouth of its river being broad and deep, and it was said to have been the finest
natural harbor between the Cuyahoga and buffalo, with the possible exception of
Erie. The location of this harbor at the entrance to the new Western
Reserve of Connecticut brought it into prominence at once, as the influx of
settlers from the east came mostly by water, and Conneaut River was easily
accessible to the boats that brought their personal belongings.
When the original surveying party came to this point
they were attracted by the evident advantages the spot afforded, and that was
what largely influenced them to establish their headquarters there during the
time that they were engaged in the eastern section of the Reserve. They
erected storehouses in close proximity to the river's mouth, thus greatly
lessening the handling of shipments that came in by boat.
The evolution of Conneaut River from a shallow stream
into one of the greatest ports-of-entry on the Great Lakes reads like a fairy
tale. This work is indebted to C. S. Putnam, one of Conneaut's most
enthusiastic boosters, for the greater part of the following story of the
progress and development of the harbor.
Not until in the nineteenth century did the marine
business on Lake Erie begin to assume even minor importance. In 1805
Buffalo was made a port of entry, but it was in 1817 before her fleet, then the
largest on the lake, numbered seven vessels, with a total of 459 tons.
During those early years Conneaut Harbor had a very small commerce, conveyed in
sailing scows and light draft schooners. The first steamer on Lake Erie -
"Walk-in-the-Water" - was launched in Buffalo in 1818. It was a small,
crudely constructed passenger and cargo boat of less than two hundred tons,
equipped with inferior engine and surmounted by smokestacks made of ordinary
stovepipe-iron sheets. Her maiden trip to Detroit, with some forty
passengers, consumed thirteen days. Verily, the trip was made in a slow
"Walk", but the boat's arrival here was an event which attracted a crowd of
people to the harbor, as it did at every other port along the lake. This
new marine wonder continued the only steamboat on the lake during the four years
of her service, until in October, 1822, she was wrecked by being driven ashore
one night in a gale of wind.
In 1825 two other steamboats of better design and
greater tonnage were making regular trips between Buffalo and Detroit, stopping
at principal ports along the south shore of the lake. In 1827 the opening
of the fertile states farther west resulted in a great tide of emigration in
that direction and the demand for transportation caused a rapidly growing fleet
of both sailing and steam craft to be constructed at ports all along Lake Erie,
and as they increased in numbers, so, also, they increased in tonnage capacity,
until boats of six or eight hundred tons were common. To accommodate the
passenger traffic and facilitate the handling of the cargoes of the larger boats
it became necessary to build long piers out into the lake at some of the ports.
At a point about a mile west of Conneaut harbor such a pier was constructed
where steamers stopped regularly, as did also many of the larger sailing craft,
because unable to enter a shallow harbor mouth. In 1829 the first
Government improvement at Conneaut Harbor was completed, on an appropriation of
$7,500.00, in the building of two piers, or jetties, each two hundred feet long,
which made a harbor entrance one hundred feet wide, with twelve feet of water.
From then on the up-lake pier went into disuse and the harbor came back into a
rapidly increasing marine growth and glory. To recount the commercial
activity and growth of the shipping business at this harbor during the '30s,
'40s and early '50s in detail would not add to the interest of this history
particularly. During that period of a quarter of a century Conneaut Harbor
kept its place with other ports, becoming an important point for the shipment of
lumber, staves, grain, spirits and other products of the contributing
territory as far south as Youngstown, 65 miles, and long caravans of six and
eight horse or ox-teams could be seen trailing along the toll road between the
two places. Tall-masted vessels and steamboats frequently filled the river
for a mile back from the lake, up to Dimmick's and Wood's Landings. The
receipts at the harbor and constituting backhauls of the teamsters consisted
principally of machinery, tools, agricultural implements, furniture, salt, lime,
general merchandise, and a great variety of necessities and luxuries of the
people of that period. It was a regular port-of-call for the fleet of
passenger packet steamers plying between Buffalo and Detroit. These
steamers always traversed the lake, well within sight of land, calling at all
the principal ports, and occupied about four days in making the trip in either
direction. This was fairly expeditious, considering the number of stops
and the time consumed in handling large shipments of package freight and taking
on many cords of four-foot wood for fuel between ports.
From about 1830, following the completion of the
Government improvement work, which made this port one of the best deep-water
harbors on the lake, the period of its greatest marine activity set in. It
soon became necessary to line the docks with warehouses to take care of the
freight in transit until it could be forwarded, or came under the demands of
local needs. The rapid increase in commerce outgrew the ability of vessels
available to handle it and progressive men, who could see ahead and had
confidence in the permanence and ultimate growth of the new West, set about to
meet the demand by building more boats.
Thus the ship-building industry soon became an
important feature of Conneaut's growing commercial importance. Ship
carpentry was a trade followed by many men here for years, and a number of
owners, captains and sailors on both sailing and steam craft hailed this as
their home port. The first vessel constructed at this harbor was named in
honor of the town, the "Salem Packet". Elias Keyes and Capt. Sam
Ward were the builders. The boat was constructed on the flats above
the Main Street bridge and at a point nearly under where now spans the new
viaduct. It remained on the ways for some time after its completion,
waiting for a sufficient depth of water in the river and in the end did not have
to be formally launched as an unheralded spring freshet carried it off the ways,
but, fortunately, did it no damage. The Salem Packet was a
"fore-an'-after" with a capacity for carrying 27 tons. That was a
good-sized boat. Capt. Ward sailed her that season. As
compared with the great ships of today the boats of that early period might be
classed as a "mosquito fleet."
The next boat constructed was the Farmer, built by
Christopher Ford and ailed by Capt. Charles Brown. This vessel
was wrecked on Long Point in the season of 1827 and later floated and taken to
Cleveland, where she was rebuilt.
James Tubbs built the Independence, a 30ton
schooner, on the beach a mile west of Conneaut Harbor. John Brooks
constructed and sailed the small vessel Humming Bird, from which he was lost off
Sandusky, being washed overboard. Other craft in and about Conneaut in
those early days included the following?
The Conneaut Packett, by Applebee and Tubbs;
the sloop Dart, built in Kingsville and taken overland to Conneaut to be
launched and fitted
[PICTURE OF CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH,
[PICTURE OF CITY HALL]
out; The Oregon and the Commercial, built at Harmon's Landing,
west of Conneaut; the Reindeer, North America, Wisconsin, Constitution, Troy,
J. B. Skinner, Henry M. Kinney, J. B. Brown, the Belle, Lucy Walbridge,
Lucy A. Blossom, Banner, Dan Marble, Traveler, Telegraph, Grayhound,
Stambaugh, Seabird, Fairy Queen, Nightingale, Ogarita, Indianola, Thomas
Swain, Loren Gould, L. M. Guthrie, Times, Monitor, Ann Maria, Valentine,
T. B. Rice, J. G. Palmer, Conneaut and M. Capron.
The North America was a steamer, the first
steamboat built in Conneaut. She was launched in 1834, was of 300 tons
burden. This ship was the property of a stock company. Capt.
Gilmore Applebee brought her out.
In 1836 the 400 ton steamer Wisconsin was constructed
at Harper's Landing. She was also the product of a stock company and,
after being launched, was towed to Buffalo for her final fitting out.
The Banner, a trim schooner, was the boat to claim the
next increase in size. She was launched in 1847, had a capacity of 500
tons and was at that time the largest sailing vessel on the Great Lakes.
Capt. Marshall Capron was her proud skipper.
In 1862-3 a ship of 450 tons burden was built at
Conneaut, for service on salt water. She was constructed on contract for
Then came a still larger ship, the Ogarita, having a
carrying capacity of 600 tons. This ship quite overshadowed any other
afloat on the lakes. She also was built for Buffalo parties.
Capt. Andrew Lent was her master.
The early marine business of Conneaut Harbor reached
its height between 1845 and 1852 and the village of Conneaut grew and prospered
until the advent of the railroad in the latter year, then it received a decided
setback as the overland means of transportation took the lion's share of the
east and west freightage as well as a goodly part of the matter to be
transferred to the southern points and the general passenger traffic.
For some years after the railroad killed the passenger
and light freight business on the lakes, sailing vessels continued to do a
considerable business at Conneaut Harbor in lumber and some other commodities,
but as the valuable timber in the territory tributary to the lake trade became
depleted, the cargoes became fewer and farther between, until during the '60s
they had almost entirely vanished and many of the vessels had been sold and
withdrawn to the upper lakes.
Conneaut Harbor became very soon little more than a
fishing port and so remained for many years, till one fine day great steel
interests decided upon acquiring possession of adjoining property and
constructing a real harbor, to serve as a transfer point for the great
quantities of iron ore that were being required at the mill sites in the
That was a happy day for Conneaut, and the outcome was
that it was not long till the residents of that village began to boast of their
wonderful harbor and the vast amount of tonnage going over their docks.
The period sine the beginning of the new order of
dispensation at Conneaut Harbor may be fittingly designated its "Iron Age", for,
while millions of tons of coal and various manufactured products have in the
meantime been received and dispatched, iron ore in vast quantities has
constituted the greatly preponderating constituent and asset of all its
Early in the year 1887 the first faint systems of an
approaching restoration of this long dormant harbor became apparent. The
survey of the Erie, Shenango & Pittsburgh Railroad was begun, and several local
citizens' meetings were held in furtherance of securing the proposed railroad's
terminal here. In February, 1888, a company reorganization was effected
and the name changed to Pittsburgh, Shenango & Lake Erie Railroad. Grading
for the railroad began that moth near Greenville, Pa. Conneaut citizens
subscribed a bonus of $25,000 on condition that a terminal of the road be built
to this harbor, and a provisional purchase of 20 acres of land along the west
side of the harbor was made by trustees of the fund. In March surveyors
ran a line between Conneaut Harbor and Albion, Pa., and the work of driving
piles to repair the breaks in the piers was begun and slowly prosecuted during
the ensuing summer. Throughout the year 1889 the entire project was in a
state of doldrums. Harbor improvement work was entirely suspended, and
railroad building was prosecuted in a desultory manner. There was internal
indecision and public uncertainty as to whether Erie or Conneaut would become
the road's harbor terminal, until finally the company went under a receivership
and all construction work was suspended. Refinancing and reorganization
were accomplished by September, 1890, and thenceforth construction work was
prosecuted with a vigor.
The years 1891-2 were historically eventful in
determining the question and actually accomplished the reopening of Conneaut
Harbor to navigation and marine commerce. To Col. S. B. Dick,
president, and A. C. Huidekoper, vice-president, of the reorganized
railroad company the credit is due for the decision arrived at and the activity
displayed in carrying it into actual effect. During the year 8191 the
railroad was completed to a junction with the Nickel Plate road to that
company's passenger and freight terminal in Erie.
In October grading for the harbor branch of the road
was begun and the work pushed as rapidly as possible throughout the following
winter. Much of the land abutting the west bank of the river between the
Lake Shore Railway fill and the harbor entrance was purchased, to control which,
and to construct and operate the docks, the Pittsburgh & Conneaut Dock Company
was incorporated as an auxiliary to the railroad company. Work of
pile-driving and building part of a 600-foot dock (later a part of Dock No. 1)
was prosecuted, upon which was erected six legs of Brown hoists, with one-ton
buckets. A dredge was bought here which had first to cut the channel ahead
of itself through the great sandbar at the harbor mouth, to gain an entrance and
begin dredging and clearing out the many years' accumulation of sunken logs,
trees and snags, which the bar had held in the river bed. The summer of
1892 witnessed the driving of the last spike connecting Conneaut Harbor by rail
with the southern coal and furnace districts. Unable to wait the slow
action of the National Government in utilizing for harbor improvement the
$40,000 appropriated by Congress in that year, the dock company officials
obtained permission from the War Department to repair the piers and dredge out
the channel between them at the company's expense. This work resulted in
opening a narrow channel 16 feet deep alongside the west pier. The ore
dock was completed and two "whirlies" built thereon to supplement the Brown
hoists in uploading vessels, and Conneaut Harbor was ready to enter into the
iron ore traffic. Dredging continued uninterruptedly throughout the
season, and the dock company expended about $250.000. The first loaded
vessel to enter this harbor in nearly a quarter of a century was the barge
Marine City, on September 30, 1892, with a deckload of pine lumber for the
Record Manufacturing Company, of this city. But the great event occurred
on Sunday, Nov. 6, when the steamship Charles J. Kershaw, drawing 16 feet
forward, entered with the first cargo of iron ore (1130 tons) ever unloaded at
When it became known that the first cargo of ore was
arriving nearly the entire population of Conneaut hurried to the harbor to
welcome it. Deep silence and some anxiety prevailed as the tug O'Brien
towed the barge slowly and carefully through the narrow channel between the
piers, but after it had safely arrived alongside the dock every stream whistle
at the harbor opened wide in shrill salute of welcome and the massed crowd of
people sent up a great shout of exultation. The two cargoes above
mentioned were all that arrived that season, but it was a beginning.
The year 1893 witnessed greatly increased activity at
the harbor, both in improvement work and the shipping business, despite the fact
that the entire financial interests of the country in its grip. I February
a contract had been entered into for the shipment of 250,000 tons of Marquette
ore to the Conneaut docks during the season. In preparation to unload the
cargoes expeditiously three additional Brown hoists and two new King hoists were
erected and additional "whirlies" constructed, the entire coast of the hoisting
outfit then amounting to about $150,000. A long stretch of additional dock
construction, extending it to 1,700 feet, was completed, and long lines of
sidetracks for switching and storage purposes were laid. Early in the
season a contract was let by the Government engineer for pier work and dredging
at the harbor entrance under the appropriation made the previous year. The
project adopted by the Government engineers contemplated construction of two
parallel piers 200 feet apart, extending out a sufficient distance into the lake
to insure a channel depth of 17 feet of water. Early in the morning of May
15th the first disaster occurred at the harbor. A strong flood pouring
down the river created a current which broke the mooring lines of the dredge
Continental. In a few moments she was swept out into the lake on the swift
current, where a high sea was running and sunk. All aboard of her, the
captain, engineer, two deckhands and a female cook, were drowned.
June 3rd witnessed the arrival of 34 carloads of the
first coal for shipment. Whirlies loaded it into the barge Wayne, for
Duluth. On June 7th the steamer Queen of the West arrived in 1,300 tons of
ore, the first cargo of the season and the second at this harbor. A week
later, the steamer Servia arrived with 1,700 tons of Ashland ore, and thereafter
this harbor was fairly launched upon its career as a great iron ore receiving
port. July 30th a fleet of six steamers, "Whalebacks" and barges, were
moored in the then small harbor, and the novel spectacle attracted hundreds of
visitors. Later on so many of the "whaleback" type of vessels, dubbed
"pigs", came in here that rival ports named this harbor the "pig-pen." The
first season's business at this redeveloped harbor included 100 cargoes of ore,
totaling 203,207 tons. Eleven cargoes of coal that conveyed a total of
23,185 tons of coal were shipped to the upper lakes.
In the month of April, 1894, 400 additional feet of
dockage was under construction. In May the dock company purchased 17 acres
of land contained in the "Big Bend". This was for dockage and slip
excavation. In July of this year the dock laborers went on a strike and
became so demonstrative that the mayor called for a company of state militia and
the Geneva Rifles were sent here and order was restored. In September the
steamer S. S. Curry, 4,750 tons of coal, which was the record coal cargo on the
Great Lakes up to that time.
The United States & Ontario Steam Navigation Company
was incorporated in September, 1894, and a contract was let that winter for the
building of two ferry-boats for service in connection with a contract that had
been made with the Grand Trunk, in Canada, to export coal from Conneaut Harbor
to Port Dover and Port Stanley. These car-ferries were built to carry 30
cars, which, at that time, constituted a good-sized train-lad. These chips
were put into service the following season. They were named the Shenango
No. 1 and the Shenango No. 2 and the No. 1 made the first trip on August 17,
taking a large party of officials and invited guests on board. These ships
started out on their mission most suspicuously and without intimation of
the tragic manner in which both were to be put out of commission later on.
During the following winter the Shenango No. 1 was
caught in the ice in midlake and drifted about with the floe for three months
before she was released.
In 1896 Andrew Carnegie and his associates purchased a
controlling interest in the Pittsburgh, Shenango & Lake Erie Railroad and in the
Pittsburgh & Conneaut Dock Company. Immediately thereafter the railroad
was extended from Butler, Pa., to the Carnegie mills near Pittsburgh. The
railroad and dock companies contracted to deliver 2,000,000 tons of iron ore to
the furnaces of the Carnegie Steel Company annually. To accomplish this it
was necessary to make extensions to their harbor facilities, for which purpose
$500,000 was appropriated, and the Rockefeller "Bessemer" fleet of steel
steamers was given a contract to bring down the ore. To an appropriation
of $50,000 made the previous year another like sum was added by the Government.
In January, 1897, the Pittsburgh, Shenango & Lake Erie
Railroad was reorganized and renamed the Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie, and
the line was extended that year to North Bessemer, giving a direct route from
Conneaut, 148 miles long. That winter a new slip 1,300 feet long and 165
feet wide was excavated southward in line with the main channel, on which new
docks was installed a battery of fast twelve McMyler hoists.
The steamer Andrew Carnegie this season brought in the record cargo
of iron ore, 5,160 tons. And this summer also saw the innovation of the
first steel hopper-cars, of 50-ton capacity. The "Bessemer" company placed
an order for 600 of these cars.
In 1898 the dock company acquired the entire Andrews
estate, lying east of the river, which was used for dock and storage purposes,
and made accessibly by a railroad bridge from the west side. In 1859 the
Pittsburgh Steamship Company was organized and contracts were awarded for
construction of several ships larger than any then on the lakes. The
new company also purchased the 16 steamers and 20 "whaleback" barges comprising
the fleet of the American Steel Barge Company. Eventually the new fleet
numbered over a hundred big ships.
The importance of Conneaut Harbor as a lake shipping
point commanded attention of the United States Government, and liberal
appropriations were made from time to time. The plans for harbor
protection at this port were finally approved by the War Department, providing
for a west pier 1,075 feet long, an east pier 1,467 feet long, cast and west
breakwaters 1,000 feet and 1,200 feet long, respectively. This plan was
carried out and subsequent additions made, till Conneaut has nearly 8,000 feet
of breakwater wall and is one of the best protected and most approachable
harbors on the chain of lakes.
In the year 1899 the first Hulett "clamshell" ore
machine ever built was installed on a Conneaut dock and it was a wonder to all
beholders. That, however, was but a starter to the immense fast plants
that now adorn the docks of this harbor. Everything is of the most modern
type, electricity has displaced steam as a means of power and hundreds of men
have been put out of work by the inventive genius of bright minds that has
resulted in the making of machinery that seems almost human in its operation.
When improvements now under way on the Conneaut docks
are completed several years hence, Conneaut will have the finest dock on the
lakes, in the opinion of marine men of that place.
One of the greatest projects under way, and scheduled
for completion in 1926, is the widening of the main river, to the extent that a
600-foot steamer will be able to turn completely around in the main river with
ease. Formerly it was possible for but two boats to ride side by side in
the main channel, but when operations under way by the Dravo Construction
Company in straightening out the west bank of the river are completed, five
freighters can easily pass. The west bank is to be buttressed by a huge
concrete wall sunk to rock bottom on which will be erected a series of electric
Hullets. Back of the machines will be storage space for 3,000,000 tons of
ore, tripling the present dock capacity which is approximately 1,500,000 tons.
At present two new electric Hullets are being erected
here, and when they are in operation, sometime this summer, will give Conneaut a
battery of nine Hullets, five of them electrically operated. In the fall
two of the old hydraulic Hullets, the first ever erected in the world, and the
invention of a Conneaut man, will be dismantled. These two are now in the
battery of four "water dogs' on the local docks which were placed in operation
years ago, being invented and perfected by Frank Hullett, now
Bridge. - The most outstanding point in the
history of Conneaut is the day on which the Connecticut Land Company's engineers
landed, thereby starting the history of Ashtabula County. The next biggest
day in the city's annals was Friday, July 18, 1924, when the massive viaduct
spanning the deep valley of the Conneaut River was dedicated, thus opening to
the citizens and the traveling public the largest bridge in the State of Ohio in
the construction of which the state had assisted. The event was attended
by elaborate pageantry and a program of addresses, among the speakers being
several notable men. Among these were a personal representative of the
State of Ohio, the secretary of state, state director of highways, chief
engineer of bridges of state highway department, chief engineer of the state
highway department, senior bridge engineer of the United States Bureau of Public
Roads and also a representative of the chief of the same bureau, the chief
highway examiner, the city manager of Cleveland, the United States congressman
from this district, and officials of Ashtabula County. The day's program
began with a great pageant in which appeared all manner of vehicles in use for
the past century and more. Notable among the equipages was the ancient
coach owned and driven by Marquit Andre La Lafayette during his stay in this
country, driven by a red-coated flunkey and with a green clad footman, and
occupied by a couple dressed in the costumes of Lafayette's day; the carriage in
which King Edward of England rode when he made a tour of this country; one of
the old omnibusses that were used before the advent of the street-cars and
modern carryalls; prairie schooners, drawn by oxen and attended and occupied by
people garbed as in the days of old-time emigration; old-time high-wheel
bicycles, and other agencies of transportation representing the evolution of the
means of conveyance from the 9x-team to the airplane. While the last-named
machine could not actually participate in the parade, it was in evidence,
soaring above the city and occasionally dropping an air-bomb to enliven the
occasion. From a stand erected on the west approach of the viaduct a
program of speeches was delivered to an immense throng of interested listeners.
This part of the program concluded with the formal christening of the new bridge
which consisted of breaking a jug of water on the superstructure, the act of
being performed by Mrs. Amelia Chidester, who was nearing her ninetieth
birthday and the oldest resident of Conneaut who was physically able to do the
honors of the occasion. The gallon of water that served on this occasion
was made up of one quart of water from the supply of the cities of Chicago,
Buffalo, Cleveland and Conneaut, a novel idea and very appropriate, since the
completion of this bridge eliminated two of the worst hills on the direct
National Highway between Chicago and Buffalo. It was estimated that 30,000
visitors were in Conneaut on the occasion of the "opening". The structure
of briefly described as follows:
Located on the Chicago-Buffalo road. Replaces the
last toll bridge within Ohio. Eliminates two of the most difficult hills
on the Chicago-Buffalo road. Built jointly by the Federal Government, the
State of Ohio and Ashtabula County. The structure is entirely of
reinforced concrete. There are seven main arch spans with six smaller
approach spans. The extreme length is 1,317 feet. Height from water
to sidewalk - 85 feet. Width between curbs - 32 feet. Sidewalks on either
side - 5 1/2 feet wide. The viaduct is on a grade, the east end being
eight feet higher than the west end. It is the largest highway structure
in which the State has ever participated. It contains 12,500 cubic yards
of concrete and 1,100,000 pounds of reinforcing steel. The total weight is
approximately 30,000 tons. Twenty-three months were required to build it.
Cost approximately $516,000.
The agitation for this bridge was commenced in the
summer of 1912, when a petition signed by 400 citizens of Conneaut was presented
to the county commissioners, asking that body to construct a high-level roadway
across the valley. At about the same time the county officials were also
confronted with a movement at Ashtabula for a like structure at the north end of
Main street. The answering of both prayers was out of the question, and as
neither city could be favored without objection on the part of the other, the
proposition lay dormant for a number of years. The progress in road
improvements occasioned by the growing automobile traffic, the country over,
called for more than local aid in construction and a National Government bureau
was made, which apportioned aid to state bureaus, and with this backing, in
1921, approval of both big bridge projects in this county was obtained and
federal and state aid pledged. Just about this time the old toll bridge,
which had served in Conneaut since 1902, was condemned as unsafe and closed to
vehicle travel. This necessitated all east and west traffic going through
the terrible gulf road and created a demand for immediate action toward a remedy
for the situation. This urgency was recognized by all, and contracts were
awarded and work begun in August, 1922, and was completed in 23 months.
This structure was, at time of its completion, the largest highway bridge in
Ohio in construction of which the state had participated. Builders will be
interested in the materials entering into the bridge composition, which embraced
the following: Twenty-one thousand barrels of cement, 10,000 tons of
crushed limestone, 10,000 tons of sand, 10,000 tons of crushed slag, 600 tons of
reinforced steel, 9,000 square yards of waterproof cotton cloth, 450,000 paving
brick, 200 tons of asphalt, 300 tons of crushed granite, 250,000 board feet of
lumber, 300 pounds of paraffine. Over 800 cars of material was unloaded
for the structure.
The advantage of this high-level roadway at this point
is illustrated in the following calculations by the expert mathematician of the
"With the opening of the new bridge and the consequent
doing away with the necessity for motorists to use the rough and treacherous
hills and road across the creek valley the average driver will probably heave a
great sigh and exclaim, "Gee, I'm glad I don't have to drive under the bridge
But in addition to this satisfaction there is a
distinct economic gain that few will sense. The new route from East
Conneaut across the new bridge is approximately 1,000 feet shorter than it was
by way of the old structure. An average of 5,000 cars passes along this
route each day, and oftentimes on Sundays and holidays runs up to more than
double that number.
Thus each day there will be saved by the new bridge
5,000 times 1,000, or 5,000,000 automobile feet. This is approximately 947
miles. Figuring the average gallon mileage as 15, this means that
motorists every day will save 63 gallons of gasoline at 21 cent a gallon is
$13.23. In the course of a year the bridge saves a gasoline bill of $482.
89. One gifted at statistics might also figure the saving in time, oil,
wear on tires, depreciation on the machines, etc. Thus does the new
structure justify the outlay involved, from a monetary standpoint."
The toll bridge which the new high-level displaced was
originally a railroad bridge in Girard, Pa., on the line of the Nickel Plate.
When it was displaced there, it was purchased by M. W. Culbertson, of that
place, who made arrangements with the Ashtabula County commissioners to allow
him to reconstruct it at the east end of Main street in Conneaut. It was
put into service there in 1902, and in 1907 the superstructure was rebuilt.
When the C. & E. interurban line was built, it crossed this bridge in a
framework extension constructed especially for that purpose, along the north
side. A few years later a part of this framework gave way under a funeral
car and nearly precipitated the car, the mourners and casket to the valley
bottom. Then the track was transferred to the main structure. Teh
bridge was closed to traffic in the early spring of 1922, but the trolley cars
were allowed the traffic in the early spring of 1922, but the trolley cars were
allowed to continue to use it until September of that year, when it was sold to
a Buffalo junk concern, which shut off all vehicular traffic, and that was the
death knell of the C. & E. interurban service, which was discontinued forthwith.
Adventure of a
Pioneer - One of the stories of adventures of
the early day residents of Conneaut has to do with the strange experience of one
Solomon Sweatland. Several versions of the story have been
published, but the main features are related quite similarly, and the following
account, copied from the Williams Brothers' History, is very likely as
near to the facts as could in any way be ascertained, as there is no historical
record of early date. Credit for this version is given to Harvey
"Sweatland was an active young man, residing
with his family on the lake shore, a short distance below the mouth of Conneaut
Creek. He was fondly attached to the sports of the woods, and made a chase
a source both of profit and amusement.
"A favorite method of capturing deer at this time was
to chase up a herd of them with hounds, and drive them into the lake, as these
animals readily take to the water when hotly pursued. Sweatland
kept a canoe for the purpose of going upon the lake in pursuit of the deer, and
one of his neighbors, who acted in concert with him, kept a number of hounds.
The arrangement between the two men was that while Mr. Cousins, a
neighbor, should go into the woods, and with the dogs start the deer toward the
lake, Sweatland should be prepared to take his canoe and pursue and
capture the deer as soon as it should take to the water.
"His canoe was nothing more than a large whitewood log
hollowed out and formed into the shape of a canoe, about 14 feet in length, and
rather wide for its length.
"It was a lovely morning in the early autumn of the
year 1817; Sweatland had risen earlry, in anticipation of enjoying a chase upon
the blue waters of the lake, and without putting on his coat or waistcoat,
listening as he went towards his canoe for the approach of the hounds. He
soon heard their deep baying, and by the time he reached the boat he found that
a large deer had already taken to the water and was rapidly moving away from the
shore. Throwing his hat upon the beach and boarding his canoe, he was soon
engaged in an animated chase. The wind, which had been fresh from the
south during the night, began now to gradually increase until it became nearly a
gale; but Sweatland, intent upon catching his prize, paid little or no heed to
this. The deer was a vigorous animal and, stoutly breasting the waves,
gave proof that in a race with a log canoe, managed with a single paddle, he was
not to be easily vanquished. Our hero had attained a considerable distance
from the shore before overtaking the animal. The latter, turning and
shooting past the canoe, struck out toward the shore. Sweatland, with
alarm, now discovered his danger. Heading his frail bark toward the land,
he discovered that with the utmost exertion he could make no headway whatever
against the terrible gale that was now blowing against him, but, in fact, was
every moment being carried further and further from the shore.
"His outward progress had been observed by Mr. Cousins
and others on the shore, who now became alarmed for his safety. They saw
at once the impossibility of his returning in the face of such a gale, and
unless help could be got to him he was doomed to perish at sea. Soon a
boat containing Messrs. Gilbert, Cousins and Belden was launched, with a full
determination of making every possible effort for his relief. They soon
met the deer returning toward the shore, when, meeting with a sea in which they
judged it impossible for a canoe to live, they returned, giving Sweatland up for
"Our hero, meantime, was manfully battling with the
waves of an angry sea. He possessed a cool head and stout heart, which,
was a tolerable degree of physical strength, and remarkable powers of endurance,
were of degree of physical strength, and remarkable powers of endurance, were of
immense advantage to him in his emergency. As the day wore away, he
receded farther and farther from the shore. As he followed with his eyes
the outline of the distant shore, he could distinguish the spot where his own
dear cabin stood, filled with hearts burning with anxiety and distress on his
behalf. During the day one or two schooners were seen, which he tried in
vain to signal.
Seeing the utter hopelessness of getting back to the
American shore, he made up his mind to sail with the wind and strike out for the
Canada side. The gale had now arisen until it was indeed furious. He
was borne on over the angry waters, utterly powerless to guide his bark.
He was obliged to stand erect, moving cautiously from one extremity of his
vessel to the other, so as to trim it to the waves, fearing that each succeeding
plunge would be the last one. He was obliged, too, to bail his boat of
water, using his shoes for this purpose.
"Hitherto our hero had been blessed with the cheerful
light of day. Now darkness was rapidly approaching. The billows of
the sea looked dark and frowning. Thinly clad and destitute of food, our
hero passed a terrible night. When morning came, he found he was in sight
of land, and that he was nearing Long Point, on the Canada shore. After
being buffeted by wind and waves for nearly thirty hours, he reached the land in
safety, and no mortal man was ever more thankful. Still, exhausted from
fatigue and faint from hunger, he found himself 40 miles from any settlement,
while the country that intervened was a desert, filled with marshes and tangled
"We will not undertake to describe his toilsome journey
toward the Canadian settlements. Suffice it to say he arrived in the
course of 20 or more hours, and was kindly received by the people, who showed
him every hospitality. On his way to the settlement he had the good
fortune to find a quantity of goods, supposed to have been driven on shore from
the wreck of some vessel. Accompanied by some of the inhabitants, he
returned and took possession of the goods, which he carried to Buffalo, and from
the avails of which he purchased himself a new suite of clothes. He then
took passage on the schooner 'Fire-Fly' bound for Ashtabula Harbor.
Arriving at his dwelling, guns were fired from the deck of the schooner and the
crew gave three loud cheers. On landing, he found that his funeral sermon
had been preached, and that his wife was clad in the habiliments of morning."
Changed Their Plans. - Starting from Harpersfield, N. Y., in
1798, one Thomas Montgomery, with his family and a man named Aaron
Wright, set out for the Western Reserve with the idea of making their
destination the town now in this county, which had been named for their old home
place, Harpersfield. When they reached Conneaut, they stopped for a rest
and to look around, and the result was a decision to locate there, and they
became the first permanent residents of that place.
Being, as it were, the gateway to the great West, they
decided that it was destined to become a place of importance, and the general
beauty of the surroundings and promising outlook was what caused them to give up
locating in Harpersfield, notwithstanding they would there be among their
friends who had preceded them from the East.
It happened that they, too, found an inviting,
ready-made domicile awaiting them, the Kingsbury family having moved on and left
the surveyor's house again vacant and free to all comers. Of this the
Montgomery-Wright party took possession immediately and prepared to settle.
In addition to this, they had the advantage of cleared spaces that had been
under cultivation by the Indians, who had but recently withdrawn to new
localities, away from the encroachments of the white men. Thus relieved of
the burden and delay necessary to the construction of a house and the clearing
of trees and stumps to make room for crops, this party had a good start toward
their future prosperity.
The year following the settlement of the
Montgomery-Wright party, they were joined by several families from the east,
and one can imagine what a joy it was to have the solitude of their existence
broken by the sight of friendly and familiar faces, the ring of the ax and the
song of the chopper. Among the newcomers, in the year 1799, were John
and Nathan King, Samuel Bemus and Robert, Levi and John
Montgomery, all from New York state. They at once decided to follow
the example set by their immediate predecessors and locate on the eastern edge
of the Reserve, and they began the construction of cabins. Aaron Wright
built his home on the site where now stand the Cummings' homes, in the
western suburb of Conneaut. The following account of one little incident
of makeshift pioneer life is credited to Mr. Wright:
"I once lived 16 days without seeing a human face,
excepting my own, in the pail of water which I used for a looking-glass,
when compelled to shave, and this was the only facility I had for making my
toilet for a long time. After my 16 days' seclusion, a friend called upon
me, and of course I was anxious to receive him hospitably and entertain him in
good style. My larder was wanting in one very important article, viz:
meat, the bones of my last porcupine having already been picked. While I
was in this dilemma, two other friends called, one of them, fortunately, having
killed a fine turkey. I set him to stripping the feathers, while I
prepared my kettle and some dough where with to make a potpie, by simply putting
the flour and water together. I soon had supper in readiness, and my
friend has often informed me that it was the best meal to which he ever sat
down, made up of my potpie, bread, pepper and salt. When it was time to
retire I spread my straw bed upon the floor as usual, and, by lying crosswise,
four of us enjoyed a good night's rest."
Another year brought numerous additions to the colony,
many people of the East being attracted by the glowing accounts that got back
there regarding the new country, its advantages and promise. Among the
next settlers are named Seth Herrington, James Harper and James
Montgomery, with their families; Daniel Baldwin, James and
Nathaniel Laughlin, Dr. Nehemiah King, the first physician, who was a most
welcome acquisition to the settlement; Peter King, Sr., and Peter
King, Jr., Elisha and Amos King, Hananiah Brooks, Caleb Thompson, William
Perrin, David Gould, Zebediah and Seth Thompson, Daniel Sawtell, James
Dunn and others.
Each successive year brought many newcomers, from all
parts of the East, and it was not many years till they who comprised the thrifty
colony began to talk about organizing a village. This culminated in the
year 1804, in the organization of Salem Township, and it was the first organized
township in Ashtabula County. Salem included that territory to the south
which is now Monroe, which latter section was taken from Salem in 1818 and given
its present name. The name Salem gave way to Conneaut in 1832 after the
postoffice and river had been known by that name for a long time.
The home of Nathan King was the scene of the
first meeting called for the election of officers for the new town, and the men
named, and their respective positions, were as follows: Clerk, James
Montgomery; trustees, respectively positions, were as follows: Clerk,
James Montgomery; trustees, James Harper, Nathan King and William
Gerguson; poormasters, Hananiah Brooks and Joseph Tubbs;
supervisors of highways, John King and James Montgomery; fence
viewers, Seth Harrington and James Ferguson; constable, Levi
Montgomery; treasurer, James Harper. Dr. Samuel l. Fenton
was elected the first mayor of Contact, in 1834.
Family to Winter Here - The assertion that James Kingsbury and
his wife and children were the first family who spent a winter on the Western
Reserve has never been disputed, and they had a most tragic experience as a
result of their venturing into the unbroken West. They landed at Conneaut
Creek shortly after the surveying party had moved on to the Cuyahoga River and
established its permanent headquarters. The Kingsburys were in great luck,
for a starter. They had not known where they might settle when they
reached the new land of promise, but when they found the good house vacated by
the surveyors, they at once took possession, congratulating themselves on their
good fortune in not having possession, congratulating themselves on their good
fortune in not having to pitch their tent in the forest for an indefinite period
till they could build a place of abode.
The late Harvey Nettleton is given credit for
the following account of the experiences of the Kingsbury family,
is the history published by the Williams Brothers:
"The story of the sufferings of the family during that
severe winter has often been told, but by those who are in the midst of plenty
and to whom want has never been known, it is with difficulty appreciated.
"Circumstances rendering it necessary during the fall
for Mr. Kingsbury to make a journey to the State of New York, he left his
family in expectation of a speedy return, but during his absence he was
prostrated with a severe sickness that confined him to his bed until the setting
in of winter. As soon as he was able, he started on the return trip to the
new home, fully realizing that his extended absence might mean great hardship to
the family back there in the wilds alone. At Buffalo he secured the
services of an Indian guide, who conducted him through the wilderness. At
Presque Isle (Erie), anticipating the wants of his family, he purchased 20
pounds of flour and proceeded on his journey. In crossing Elk Creek on the
ice, he disabled his horse and left it in the snow, and, placing the flour upon
his own back, pursued his way, filled with gloomy forebodings as to the
condition of his family.
"On his arrival on the evening, his worst apprehensions
were more than realized in the agonizing scene that met his eyes.
Stretched upon the cot lay the partner of his cares, who had followed him
through all the dangers and hardships of the wilderness without repining, pale
and emaciated, reduced by fierce famine to the last stages in which life can be
sustained, and near the mother, on a little pellet, were the remains of his
youngest child, born in his absence, and who had just expired from the want of
that nourishment which the mother, herself deprived of sustenance, could not
"Shut up by a gloomy wilderness, far from the aid and
sympathy of all friends, filled with anxiety for an absent husband, suffering
with want, destitute of necessary assistance, she was compelled to behold two
children expire around her, powerless to help them.
"Such is the picture presented, truthful in every
respect, for the contemplation of the wives and daughters of today, who have no
adequate conception of the hardships endured by the pioneers of this beautiful
country of ours.
"It appears that Mr. Kingsbury, who later became
known as Judge Kingsbury, in order to supply the wants of his family, was
under the necessity of transporting his provisions from the mouth of the
Cuyahoga River on a handsled, and he and his hired man drew a barrel of beef the
whole distance at a single load."
In later years Mr. Kingsbury became a prominent
figure in the life and progress of the Western Reserve, and eventually he
changed his place of residence from Conneaut to Newburg.
Ferry Disasters. - There seemed to be an unkind fate guiding the
Conneaut care ferries in their early career. The undertaking of winter
navigation proved very costly, it being quite a common occurrence for the ships
to become stuck in the ice for days or weeks, and, in one instance, at least, in
the winter of 1894, the Shenango No. 1 drifted about the lake for three months
before being freed from the icy shackles that held her helpless. This same
boat eventually fell prey to the ice floss. Her last trip was on Jan. 8,
1904, when she left Rondeau, Canada, for her home port and, almost at the
entrance to Conneaut Harbor, in sight of her home dockage, she was stopped by
the heavy anchor of ice and became so solidly embedded that she was unable to
move forward or backward. After several days' efforts to free her,
dynamiting was resorted to as a last hope, and that proving also of no avail,
there was nothing to do but wait for the spring breakup. Again this ship
lay fast in the ice for three months, but was not destined to so fortunate a
release as before, for on March 11 she was discovered to be on fire in her hold,
and all of her that would burn was licked up by the flames and only her shell
remained. When the ice broke up in the spring the hull sank, and that was
the last of the Shenango No. 1. The flames worked so fast that one
fireman, who was asleep in his berth, was unable to get out and was cremated.
The Bessemer & Marquette No. 2 car ferry left Conneaut
on Dec. 7, 1909, for Post Stanley, Ont., with a cargo of loaded coal cars, and
was never heard of again. This case was one of the greatest mysteries of
the history of Lake Erie. That a ship of such magnitude could be so
utterly lost in Erie's shallow waters would be unbelievable were it not for the
proof given in this case, for the lake was dragged and sounded for years, till
it seemed that every foot of the lower end had been examined, and not a sign of
the wreck was ever located. The ship was manned by a crew of 32 men, under
Capt. R. R. McLeod, of Conneaut, and carried 30 cars of coal and
structural steel. During the afternoon of the day when she cleared, a
strong southwest wind rapidly increased into a terrific gale, which continued
with unabated fury throughout the following night. No one knows where, or
when, or why the staunch ship foundered, for not one who was on board survived.
It was a generally accepted theory that some of the cars must have broken their
fastenings and, with the ship rolling and pitching, gone through her bow or
side. It was over a week before the first sign of the boat came to light,
and that consisted of a most gruesome discovery. A fish tug out about 15
miles from Erie picked up one of the lifeboats of the Bessemer & Marquette No.
2, about 15 miles in the lake, which contained the frozen bodies of nine of the
ship's crew. The following spring two more bodies of members of the crew
were picked up on the beach below Long Point, on the Canada side, and another
was recovered from the ice in the Niagara River. During the following
summer the body of one of the pilots was found in midlake, and shortly afterward
Captain McLeod's was discovered nearly buried in the sand of Long Point
(By C. S. Putnam).
Pullman's Contract. - The Christian Church Society of Conneaut
gave to the Pullmans, of palace care fame, their first big john, and
thereby helped to put them on the road to wealth and notoriety. Long years
before the Pullmans ever thought of the palatial sleeping and drawing
room cars, much less of founding a great city to carry their name and fame down
the ages, the senior Pullman and his two sons, George and Albert,
were the original inventors of a house-moving device that had proven very
successful in transporting small buildings from one lot to another, and which
they claimed would work equally well on large buildings, but they never had a
chance to prove it out fully till they heard that the Christian Church Society
of Conneaut was desirous of changing the location of their house of worship.
The Pullmans lived in Dunkirk, and Mr. Pullman went to Conneaut
and contracted with the church officials to move the building for a
consideration of $170.
The First Christian Church was founded on May 23, 1818,
and meetings were held for some time in the Peter King schoolhouse, the Rev.
John Cherry being the first pastor. After a few years, the society
erected a church at the old center, a mile west of the present principal
business section. About the middle of the last century the property on
Buffalo street was acquired, and then arose the question of a building thereon,
as the officials had little faith in the efficacy of the moving machines of the
Pullman's, of which they had heard. The building was a heavy frame
structure, 40 x 50 feet on the ground. It was built in the days when the
best of timber was used and was substantial in every particular. To move
such a building today a distance of a mile would be but a matter of a few days'
work at most, but it took two months to accomplish the feat with the crude
machinery of the Pullmans. That was before the quietude of Conneaut
had been disturbed by the scream of the locomotive whistle and the rumble of the
cars, and the moving apparatus was brought overland from Dunkirk, a distance of
more than 50 miles. Three teams of horses were required to haul the
outfit. The three Pullmans and one other man performed the work of moving.
The men boarded with the Fifield family, strong supporters of the church, who
took them in as an accommodation, and not for gain, as the Fifields did not need
the money. In fact, they received no money. The job proved a losing
venture financially, and to help recompense the contractors for their losses,
the Fifields charged them nothing for the care of the men and teams while the
work was going on. The old church was placed on its new foundation without
damage and served the congregation well for many years. In 1913 it was
displaced by the present splendid structure, in which was held the great
demonstration that celebrated, the hundredth anniversary of the organization, on
May 26, 1918.
Coach Tragedy. - Conneaut River furnished the setting for a
distressing tragedy that illustrated the possibility of accidents when traveling
by stage, as well as the interruptions liable to befall such means of going from
place to place. On Feb. 10, 1832, the regular stage coach left Erie for
Cleveland, filled with passengers. There had been a few days' thaw, and
when the conveyance reached "Conneaught" Creek (so spelled in the newspaper
account), it was found that the ice had broken up and a freshet was in progress
that overflowed the banks of the stream. It was at once apparent that the
stage could not be taken farther until the water receded, but some of the
passengers were anxious to be on their way and thought if they could get across,
they could procure other conveyance and proceed on their journey. The
driver was induced to unhitch a horse and try to ride it through the stream,
which he accomplished very successfully, and returned to the stage. The
passengers who were in a hurry, among whom was a Mr. A. M. Brown, then
mounted the other horses and, piloted by the driver, started through the flood.
Mr. Brown allowed his horse to deviate from the course the others
were taking and got into deep water and was swept away, out into the lake,
underneath the ice and his body was not recovered.
White Settler - Soon after the Connecticut Land Company's party of
surveyors arrived and landed at the mouth of Conneaut Creek, they were surprised
upon learning of the presence of a man in that locality who believed to have
been the first white settler of the Western Reserve.
His name was Halsted, and he had a shack in what
is now East Conneaut, where he said he had lived along for several years.
He was friendly in his attitude toward the newcomers, but did not court
intimacy, and was never at all communicative relative to himself. He
showed little interest in anything regarding the eastern section of the country
and, withal, was quite a mysterious personage. He disappeared shortly
after the surveyors arrived, not taking the trouble to say good-bye, nor to tell
where he was going.
Steel Company - The formation of
the United States Steel Corporation, in 1901, was a cause for deepest regret for
Conneaut residents, as it deprived that place of that which would undoubtedly
have been the starter for a great future steel town. On Jan. 8, 1901, the
Associated Press announced, as given out by President Charles Schwab, of the
Carnegie Steel Company, that that concern would soon begin the erection of what
would be the largest tube mill in the world, its location to be at Conneaut,
Ohio, and its cost $12,000,000. This announcement attracted wide attention
throughout the country, and produced a state of great excitement in Conneaut.
As an earnest of this announcement, the land agents of the company began closing
options on thousands of acres of land east and south of the harbor, which
options had already been quietly obtained during the preceding year.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid to such landowners, and it meant
independence for several of them, but the plan was doomed to be nipped in the
bud, for the formation of the United States Steel Corporation included
absorption of the Carnegie Steel Company and resulted in an abandonment of the
tube mill project, and the anticipations of great commercial expansion by
Conneaut residents underwent a decided eclipse. (C. S. Putnam)
Library - Away back in the early years of
Conneaut steps were taken to obtain for Conneaut a public library, and numerous
schemes were worked whereby to procure funds with which to start such an
institution. Most notable of the efforts was a series of annual excursions
to Conneaut Lake, which were fun for several successive years under the
direction of George J. Record, and the net proceeds were turned
over to the township trustees, after a library had finally been established.
In 1905 was formed the People's Free Library Association, composed of members
who are willing to pay a yearly tax, that the general public might have the
benefit of free reading. The collection was in the hands of H. H. Timby,
who circulated them from his bookshop. In November of that year the
question of sustaining a free public library by taxation was voted on and
carried by a good majority. Mr. Timby continued in charge of the
books until 1908, when, through the generous gift of $25,000 by Mr. Carnegie, a
new building was erected and formally opened to the public on May 3, 1909.
Marie T. Brown was chosen librarian, a position she still holds.
Besides the circulation from the library, there have been placed at Amboy, at
the Bethel, at the schools in Amboy, Farnham and North Conneaut, small
assortments of books for the convenient use of rural communities. The
patrons of the library number fully 7,000 persons.
Club - One of the social institutions of which
Conneauters are proud is the Country Club, which was organized in 1921.
When a few enthusiastic Conneaut men had the temerity to suggest such an
organization, others looked doubtful and the promoters received little
encouragement. However, they were not to be discourage until they had put
the proposition to a test, and they were most agreeably surprised at the
interest shown, and the outcome of their efforts was within a month there had
been subscribed $16,000 worth of stock in a holding company, a tract of 76 acres
had been secured, and within 60 days from the launching of the project a new
golf course had been constructed. The club today has a splendid home and
property on the lake road.
East Conneaut as "Little Hope". - An old resident of East
Conneaut, whose modesty evidently prevented the appearance of his name, wrote
the following reminiscence for the News-Herald:
"Little Hope of 60 years ago had few attractions, no
business to speak of, a quiet little place. Two schoolhouses, the little
yellow one at the corner of Thompson and Main roads. I say little, but it
held all there were to go and served as Sunday school room, with good Noah
Bartlett to lead and see that our verses were committed to memory.
That made Bible scholars. And the red brick that stood at the corner of
Middle road and Main, where the grade school stands today, and in 1862 was used
for Sunday school, with Russell Keys as superintendent. Now the
large building erected in 1902 accommodates 140. But that is not to be
compared with the splendid fireproof building that stands on Rowe street, with
grades from fifth to ninth, accommodating 178 scholars, with a large auditorium,
used for all entertainments, and is a good monument to the growth of East
"In place of schoolhouses used for churches, we are to
have a splendid new M. E. Church, made possible by the untiring efforts of
Rev. Norman and committee.
"The first time the writer walked over the road was the
Fourth of July 62 years ago. The first stop was at Sumantha
Ray's shop, later Philando Petty's, the Eden of all small
children, for the things were in a splendid messy heap that we all loved.
"Every one who had no horse had to walk and carry all
of their groceries.
"We went to Keyes' grocery and got those
splendid big codfish and Bill's Buffalo soap, with the picture of a charging
buffalo and the soap as strong as the buffalo. The codfish has become an
aristocrat and not for the poor people, and Bills Buffalo soap has been
outclassed by many others.
Then we came down the hill and up the hill and back to
Little Hope and brought some nice striped sticks of candy six inches long.
There are none like it, the taste is not there, it is gone with many other
things of childhood.
"The other business places were Russell
Thompson's wagon shop and James and Harry Guthrie's blacksmith
shop. Dunn's tavern, kept by Bob Williams, who kept drink
for man and beast, where we stopped to rest a pair of tired little feet, for the
trail was long, and as the years go by it grows longer."