Early History of Cleveland
by Col. Chas. Whittlesey -
Publ. Cleveland, O.
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BY THE LATE ASHBEL W. WALWORTH -
Major Carter was a friend of liberty to the utmost.
He was always found on the side of the weak and oppressed.
His language was, "I hate negroes, and do not want them about me."
But for all that, he did have them about him, most generally those
that did him the least good. He used them as well as he did
other people, if they were civil and decent.
To illustrate his goodness of heart, I will relate the
Early in the spring of 1806, a canoe containing a white
man, his wife and some children, and a colored man, were coming
down the lake. The canoe was upset, and all drowned but the
colored man, called Ben, between this place and Rocky
river. Ben was a large man, and reached the iron
bound shore, where there was an old tree which had tumbled down
the rocks; he climbed up it so far as to be clear of the
water, and then stayed until he was discovered by some boatmen.
When taken off he was almost insensible, his feet and limbs were
much frozen, and he was brought to Major Carter's house
in that situation. He had no money, and all the clothes he
had were not worth three dollars. The Major took care of
him, as he would one of his children, all summer. The
rheumatism drew his limbs out of shape, and I think his toes were
frozen off. Although he hobbled about a little in the fall,
I do not think he was able to render the least assistance to the
Some time in October, 1806, there came to Cleveland two
Kentucky gentlemen, well mounted, and stopped at Major
Spafford's who lived where the Merwin or Mansion House
used to stand. They stated that one of them was the lawful
owner of Ben. The Kentuckians walked over to
Carter's and made their business known. He told them of
Ben's misfortunes, and also what he had done for him; said
he did not believe in slavery, and he did not like negroes.
The owner said he wanted to see Ben, and if he did not want
to go back, he might stay where he was; that Ben would say
that his master was kind to him, and that he could say that Ben
was a good boy, but had been enticed away. The Major
told him that Ben was away, and he did not know where he
was, but at all events you can never see Ben, without he
wants to see you. The Kentuckians agree to that, and told
the Major to see Ben, and he might have his choice to stay
or go at his option, but wanted to see him face to face. The
owner and the Major had a number of interviews, and finally it was
agreed that the owner and Ben, should see each other enough
to converse. Ben was to stand on the west side of the
river, on a piece of land now owned by Mr. Scranton,
covered with the heaviest kind of timber, the owner to be on the
east side. a little below where the widow Colahan now
lives, near the end of Huron street. At the time they were
in conversation, I was passing along the top of the bluff, and
heard them converse. The owner said, "Ben, have I not
always used you well, and treated you as well as the rest of
my family?" Ben answered in the affirmative.
Many inquiries and answers passed, but the conversation was marked
by good feeling on both sides. Nothing further occurred to
my knowledge until the next morning, or the next but one, when I
saw Ben mounted on one of the Kentuckians' horses, with
holster and pistols, &c., and the man on foot, on the road to
Hudson, about a mile from Major Carter's talking in the
most friendly manner.
Now comes the most inexplicable part of the story.
It would seem that the Major showed no dissatisfaction to Ben's
going with his master; but two white men, one called John
Thompson, and the other Jas. Geer, hangers on at the
Major's tavern, and nearly as useless as Ben had been to
him, preceded, or followed and passed the Kentuckians; for when
they had got about three miles from Newburg Mills, (then called
Cleveland Mills,) on the old "Carter road," they appeared,
one on each side of the road, each with a rifle; and as the
Kentuckians and Ben were passing, Ben still mounted;
one of the men says, "Ben, you d___d fool, jump off of that
horse and take to the woods." Ben obeyed, the
hunters also ran, and it may be supposed, though known, that the
Kentuckians were somewhat astonished. However they never
returned to tell of their bad luck. The men and the Major
kept the secret, but it was found out in this way. In the
winter, a son of Major Spafford, and a younger brother of
Nathan Perry, Esq., of this place, were out on the west
side of the river hunting. They got lost, and wandered
around till nearly worn out. At last they struck a horse's
track, and followed it until it brought them to a hut, and who did
they meet but poor Ben, who told them the story and
enjoined secresy, which they kept as long as was necessary.
There was not at that time any road on the west side of the
Cuyahoga, not a white person living east of Huron or north of
Wooster, and perhaps none there. Ben's hut must have
been in Brecksville or Independence. What became of Ben
is not known by me, but he was probably sent to Canada.
In the spring of 1807, (I think it was,) a man, perhaps
forty-five years old, talkative, forward and rather singular, came
into the place, stopped with Major Spafford and worked for
him two or three months. One morning Major Spafford
came to Major Carter's and inquired about the man. He
said he was at his house last night, and was not now to be found,
and he did not know but he might have walked over to Carter's
house. Major Carter had not seen him, but says he,
"the rascal has run away." Major Spafford says, "I
think not; he brought nothing with him to my house, and I do not
know as he has carried anything away; and further, I think I must
owe him about four dollars." "Well," says Major Carter,
"there shall nobody run away from this place, and I'll go after
him; I can track him out."
He immediately started down what is now Water street,
to the lake. There was then a number of log and brush fences
across the street. When he got to the lake he found the
track, and followed it down about two miles, when it turned off
towards the road that leads to Euclid. The Major followed
the road, and thence toward Euclid, to near where Mr. J. K.
Curtis now lives, (Willson Avenue,) where he overtook the man.
The Major told him he must go back to Cleveland. He said,
"he would not go, that he did not owe anybody there, and had
not stolen anything, and the Major had nothing to do with him."
The Major told him "he did not care whether he went back or not,
but one of two things you shall do, either you must go with me
peaceably, or be killed and thrown into this cat swamp, to be
eaten by the wolves and turkey buzzards." The Major had a
peculiar manner of suiting actions and looks, to wards.
"Oh!" says the man, "if you are in earnest, I don't care if I go
back." The Major brought him to Major Spafford, who
asked him "What made him go off in such a manner; you know I owe
you something." He answered, "I supposed you owe me a
little, but I will tell you how it is with me. I have been a
roving character, and don't stay but a little while in a place.
I have been in the habit when I left a place to run away."
Major Spafford told him "it was a bad one, and that he had
better give it up; besides, you cannot run away from this place."
The man said "he saw it would not do here, and he thought he would
not try it again." Major Spafford told him "to eat
his breakfast, and he would see in the meantime how much he owed
him, and then he might go when and where he pleased." The
man said "he had about given up the idea of going, and if the
Major would let him work he would stay," which was agreed to, and
he stayed two or three months.
Sometime in the fall of 1798, Major Carter said
to me, "When I was living in my old log house under the hill, I
saw an Indian coming up the river in a canoe. He landed
opposite my house, fastened his canoe, and with his paddle waked
up to where I stood. After the usual salutation, he asked,
'What stream do you call this?'" The Major replied, "the
Cuyahoga." "No, no, this is not the Cuyahoga, I was here
when a boy so high, (placing his hand about the height of a boy
ten or a dozen years old,) and the Cuyahoga was like this," making
a plan with his paddle on the ground, which corresponded with what
we call the old river bed. [It must be kept in mind, that
from the point where the parties stood, they could not have a view
of the old river bed as we can now, on account of the forest.]
The Major said he had not any doubt, that the river used to empty
itself at the west end of the pond. The Indian appeared to
Major Carter to be seventy or seventy-five years old.
Subsequently I learned that in the year 1798, an old
Oneida Indian, whose name was Scanodewan, who had been a
faithful friend to the Americans during their struggle for
independence, and was much attached to the Harpers of
Harperstown, State of New York, followed Col. Alex. Harper
and family to Harpersfield, in this State.
Scanodewan made himself useful to the Colonel,
by hunting and procuring game for the support of his family and
Col. Harper died in teh fall of 1798, and soon
after Scanodewan became uneasy, and told the family of Col.
Harper that he would go to the lake, build a canoe, and go up
the lake. He returned to the widow Harper's and
reported to them the changes that he been made sine he had been
there before more especially the alteration of the mouth of the
Cuyahoga river. There can be little doubt that Scanodewan,
was the same man who conversed with Major Carter on the
The facts relating to the Indian, I have recently
obtained from Mrs. Tappen and her brother, Col. Robert
Harper, of Harpersfield, Ohio, who is the youngest child of
the late Col. Alex. Harper, and who was eight years old
when his father died.
Major Carter was far from a quarrelsome man.
I never heard of his fighting unless he was grossly insulted, and
as he would say, "driven to it." It was a common saying in
this region, that Major Carter was all the law Cleveland
had, and I think he often gave out well measured justice. It
was not unfrequent, that strangers traveling through the place,
who had heard of the Major's success in whipping his man, who
believed themselves smart fighters, thought they may gain laurels
by having it said that they whipped him. I never heard it
asserted by any one, and never heard of any one boasting, that
such an act had been performed.
He was kind and generous to the poor and unfortunate,
hospitable to the stranger, would put himself to great
inconvenience to oblige a neighbor, and was always at the service
of an individual or the public, when a wrong had been perpetrated.
In all the domestic relations he was kind and affectionate.
In the year 1812 he was afflicted with a cancer on his
face, and went to Virginia in 1813 for medical aid, which proved
useless. He died February 8th, 1814, aged forty-seven, after
enduring the most excruciating sufferings for months, previous to
his death. Mrs. Carter survived him till October
18th, 1827, aged sixty-one.
Source: Early History of Cleveland
by Col. Chas. Whittlesey -
Publ. Cleveland, O. 1867 - Page 339
At the pioneer celebration of
October, 1858, Oliver Culver, of New York, one of the
surveying party of 1797, was present, supposed to be the only
survivor. Lot Sanford was, however, then alive.
The following letter gives a brief history of
Culver, who may still be living.
Rochester, July 29, 1860.
John Barr, Esq. - Mr.
Oliver Culver, of Brighton, to-day called on me, and handed me
your letter of March 27, 1860, in which you request him to state
the date and place of his birth, and to send his autograph, for
the Pioneer society of Cleveland. Mr. Culver would
willingly send his autograph, but he can not, because for some
time past, his sight has so much failed, that he does not write,
even his own name. In all other respects, his health
continues robust and good. Mr. Culver, was born at
East Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut, September 24, 1778;
and will be eighty-two years old on the 24th September next.
When he was five years of age, soon after the peace of
1783, his father removed to East Windsor to Ticonderoga, N. Y.
After a short residence there, he removed to Orwell, Vermont,
where Mr. Culver remained with his parents, until the
spring of 1797, returning home, occasionally, until 1805. In
February, 1797, he hired, with his father's consent, to Amos
Spafford, to accompany him with a party of surveyors to the
Connecticut Company's Lands.
Early in March, 1797, he was sent by Amos Spafford,
with his son Samuel Spafford, on foot, from Orwell,
Vermont, to Schenectady, New York, to arrange for boats, and
ascertain when they would be ready to carry the party on, from
there up the Mohawk. Samuel Spafford wrote back to
his father, that the Mohawk would not be clear of ice, and the
boats ready to start, before the first of April; and that he and
Mr. Culver would go on to Ironduquoit bay, and there camp,
and hunt, until the surveying party arrived. They did so,
traveling by land, on foot, well provided with arms, ammunition
and provisions. At Ironduquoit bay, the camped, and boarded
with Asa Dunbar, and family, a trapper, who was a mulatto
man, from the Mohawk country, of whose location they were informed
at Schenectady. They remained there hunting, and curing the
skins taken, about six or seven weeks, until the surveying party
under Mr. Spafford arrived, about the last of April.
At Queenstown their boats were drawn over land on
carriages, with teams, by some Canadians, and launched at
Chippeway, from whence they cross to the mouth of Buffalo creek,
and coasted up from there along the south shore of lake Erie.
At Cleveland the party erected a log house. Mr. Culver
was a chain bearer, that season at twelve dollars a month.
When cold weather arrived, the party returned to
Vermont. Mr. Culver and Samuel Spafford
stopped a few weeks at Dunbar's, and continued their hunt
with the object of collecting peltries.
Late in December, after the snow became too deep for
hunting, they traveled on foot to Orwell. In 1798, Mr.
Culver went to Cleveland, in a party of eighteen men employed
as before, to assist in cutting out a road, to the Pennsylvania
line, on which they worked that season. In 1800, he bought
his present farm in Brighton, Monroe county, New York, cleared
seven acres, and sowed it to wheat, and got a good crop.
Up to 1804 he was employed three years at Ironduquoit
landing, by Augustus Griswold; superintending an ashery.
In 1804 he went to Cleveland, with a boat load of salt, dry goods,
liquors, and tobacco &c., and opened a store. The vessel was
loaded at Black Rock, freight paid, three dollars per barrel.
She was built at Erie, by Seth Reed and commanded by
Capt. Dobbin. In 1805, Mr. Culver married and
settled on his farm. His wife died a few weeks since.
I write this by his direction.
Respectfully, yours, & c.,
J. M. Hatch
When Culver, re-visited the
city fifty-four years after his mercantile trip, its identity with
the sickly and scattered town of 1804, could scarcely be traced.
He was conveyed through long and compactly built streets, covering
nearly all the ample space allotted by the surveyors for city and
out lots. When he last saw them, they were not
distinguishable from the surrounding forest, except by an
occasional horse trail, and by blazed lines upon the trees.
Source: Early History of Cleveland
by Col. Chas. Whittlesey -
Publ. Cleveland, O. 1867 - Page 326