Historic Olmsted Falls
The story of Olmsted Falls begins with the story of Connecticut's Western Reserve. It is a history that is an important part of the early history of the United States. It all began in 1662 when King Charles II of England granted Connecticut all lands bounded by the colony from sea to sea. It was said that Charles had a greater knowledge of liquor than geography. The king did not know how much land he was giving, and Connecticut did not know what it was getting. Remember this was before the Lewis and Clark age of discovery. When our new government was formed, Connecticut relinquished all of its western lands to the federal government, except for the land that it called the Western Reserve, or New Connecticut. The Northwest Territory was established in 1787, and the claims of the colonies had to be settled. Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia had claims granted by English kings. All gave up their claims to the new government except for Connecticut, which retained its Western Reserve. The Continental Congress set aside about 500,000 acres of the reserve for the benefit of citizens who had suffered losses by fire during the Revolution; it called the land the "Fire Lands." During the Revolution, British troops would burn the property of people suspected of supporting the American cause. The Fire Lands would be today's Erie and Huron Counties.
Let us step back even further in time to the prehistoric period. Following the departure of the glaciers, the first humans to enter the region did so as early as 12,000 to 10,000 B.C. They were small hunting groups following the mastodon and mammoth. Many migrating hunting tribes entered the region. One of those tribes, the Erie, gained control of the southern shore of the lake from Sandusky Bay to today's Buffalo. At the time of the discovery of the Eries by the French Jesuit missionaries, the Cuyahoga River, the Rocky River, and the Portage Lakes seemed to be an important region for the Eries. The area was rich in wildlife, fish, and berries for the picking, and the soil was rich for growing. Unfortunately for the Eries, their control of the region was not to last; the Iroquois became their bitter enemies. The Iroquois, who lived in what is today Quebec, Ontario, and New York State, joined with other tribes to form the Six Nations. In the middle of the 17th century, the Iroquois with their allies defeated the Eries and took control of what is today northeast Ohio. Moses Cleaveland was chosen by the Connecticut Land Company to lead a surveying party to meet with the Native Americans and negotiate the sale of the western lands. He served under George Washington as a general during the Revolutionary War and rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Connecticut Militia. It was the Six Nations of the Iroquois that General Cleaveland met with to negotiate the sale of the western lands. A Mohawk chief named Joseph Brant served as a spokesman for his people. He became a Christian missionary for the Anglican Church and was a British military officer. Brant was born in 1742 on the banks of the Ohio River and given the Native American name Thayendanegea. The name Thayendanegea means "he who places two bets." He did not place two bets but stayed loyal to the crown and was rewarded for his loyalty. After the war he received a land grant of 675,000 acres in Canada for Mohawk losses during the Revolutionary War. Brant died on August 24, 1807, in Canada and Moses Cleaveland at his home in Connecticut in 1806. Both men lived long enough that they may have been informed of the second sale of the lands of the Western Reserve at the Treaty of Fort Industry in 1805 when the Native American tribes west of the Cuyahoga River sold the western lands of the reserve to the Connecticut Land Company.
If there is anything you remember from this article, I hope it is the courage and determination of those early settlers to make their life meaningful. I read the following on a flyer, so I do not know who to attribute it to, but I believe it is profound and best identifies all those who came to America and the Western Reserve and this who came on to Olmsted Falls in those early days when this land was a wilderness. The flyer read: "I dare you to sacrifice a life pre-determined with guided direction and ease for a path of unknown challenges and choice -- bestowed the freedom to fail and grow -- thus experiencing the gift of life." I do not know how it could be said in any better way.
The full story is told in Images of America book "Olmsted Falls" by John D. Cimperman. The book can be found at Keith Jewelers, 8089 Columbia Road, Olmsted Falls; online at Amazon Books; and also at arcadia publishing.com. It is also available at the Olmsted Falls Branch of the Cuyahoga Library.