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Cuyahoga County, Ohio
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Early History of Cleveland
 by Col. Chas. Whittlesey -
Publ. Cleveland, O.



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 following facts:
     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 Major.
     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 others.
     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 subject.
     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



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