Wednesday, February 15, 2012
A detail from the 1858 Hopkins Map of Cuyahoga County. Used courtesy of Rails and Trails, original courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society. Annotations by the author.
In 1837, two farmers, both residents of Cleveland, purchased a small, oddly shaped parcel of land (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 183904200003). The $250 purchase netted them 8.27 acres, with Coit Road on one side, and Nine Mile Creek running down the middle of it. The property, outlined here in green, was about a quarter mile south of St. Clair Avenue.
You may recall Nine Mile Creek as the source of water for the Luster Tannery (16360 Euclid Avenue, East Cleveland), about a mile upstream. The structure, built for tanning leather in the 1850s, is a major early industrial landmark. The Luster property is outlined in light blue
The two men who purchased the land, Cornelius Thorp and Isaac Page, both lived in the area. Cornelius, at the time, was 30 years old, and was married, with three or four children. Isaac was a few years older, also married and the father of at least a couple children.
Both had farms of a decent size - Isaac Page's amounted to 62 acres, while Cornelius Thorp's farm was about 40 acres.
Why, then, did they purchase the land?
This detail of a 1903 USGS topographical map, covering about the same area as the one used to open this story, helps illustrate why. Note that Nine Mile Creek seems to enter a ravine at about the point where the sawmill is located (to the left of the "k" in "Creek"). Perhaps there was even a falls. Whatever the case, there would probably have been significant water power at the site.
Water power was very important in the early to mid 19th cenutry - other than steam engines and manual labor, it was the only way one could power anything. Even on a tiny creek, a small dam could store up enough water to power a mill for a couple hours a day.
To take advantage of the water power, a sawmill was built on the site, as illustrated in the 1858 map that I lead with. When was it built? I haven't been able to locate any information relating to that. One might suspect that construction began soon after the purchase, unless they bought the land speculatively.
Thorp and Page probably operated the mill part-time - the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Censuses list their occupations as "farmer". It was quite common at the time to do other work to supplement farm income, so this does not seem strange. However, as of 1860, Isaac's son, Isaac Morris (or Maurice) Page lists his occupation as "sawmill" - perhaps running the business full time. A decade later, however, he is listed again as a farmer.
There is only one other sawmill pictured in East Cleveland township on the 1858 Hopkins map - a steam driven one on Shaw Brook, operated by Henry Coit, shown in the far left of the detail above. This suggests relatively little competition in the immediate area.
The grave of Isaac Page (the father) is marked by this obelisk, in East Cleveland Township Cemetery.
A small obelisk, mostly buried, marks the Thorp family plot at First Presbyterian Churchyard, in East Cleveland.
The only name visible is that of Cornelius's daughter, Mary. It'll be worth digging up the fallen obelisk and replacing it on its mount, to see if the names of other family members are noted.
These weren't the only mills in the immediate area - there were more in Euclid, as detailed in Mills & Salt, on Bluestone Heights. Still, this example represents an interesting piece of our early industrial history.