Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment : A Brief Look at the Early History of Fairport Harbor

Located thirty miles east of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie is Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  Fairport's past is rich in history and local lore.  However today Fairport Harbor may be one of Ohio's best kept secrets.  Situated on the mouth of the Grand River,  Fairport is home to two local lighthouses, a magnificently groomed Metroparks beach, local cultural organizations, boating access to Lake Erie and to a village community celebrating 200 hundred years steeped in early American history / lore.  The early history of Grandon (1812), renamed Fairport (1836), designated Fairport Harbor (1959) is the story of the Western Reserve.  Each Thursday in 2012, this blog will feature a bicentennial moment from the Village of Fairport Harbor.  As the Bicentennial Year unfolds, I welcome your help and article contributions.  If you have any Fairport Harbor books, documents, family histories, photos, etc. that you would like to donate to the Fairport Harbor Historical Society archives / library please call 440-354-4825 or stop by some Tuesday afternoon with your contributions.  I look foward to sharing your history, and Fairport's history with your fellow community residents as well as the visitors to the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum.

Latitude 41degrees 45' 28" and Longitude 81 degrees 16' 40" - The Early Years...

The early history of Fairport is the history of the Western Reserve.  The area known today as Fairport Harbor is adjacent to the Grand River and is situated on the southern shores of Lake Erie.  This area became an important port of call for immigrants, for commerce to the Upper Great Lakes Region, and as a haven from volatile storms that dotted Lake Erie. 
The earliest archeological evidence found in Fairport were the Erie Indians (Cat Indians).  A partial 1937 dig confirmed their presence from around 1650-1654.  It is believed their sudden end came at the hands of the Iroquois.  The next mention of people in this area came in 1760.  Major Robert Rogers and his group were thought to have taken haven at the mouth of the Grand River during a severe storm. 
A deed of cession in 1786 saw Connecticut give up lands granted in a charter from King Charles II.  The land became known as the Western Reserve and included what was to become Grandon (1812), renamed Fairport (1836), designated Fairport Harbor (1959).  Historical accounts of Geauga and Lake Counties referenced pioneer families as early as 1798.  Samuel Fowler was deeded 3246 acres that year.  John Walworth purchased 2000 acres in Painesville in 1799.  This property was sold to Samuel Huntington.  In January 1801, Samuel Fowler deeded to Abraham Skinner and Eleazer Paine twenty-five percent of his land holdings.  While their homes were not in Fairport proper, it did lead the way to the first home being built in Fairport just two years later.  Joseph Rider built the first home in Fairport in 1803.
May 16, 1812 saw the original village of Grandon laid out by Captain Abraham Skinner, Samuel Huntington and others on land deeded by Samuel Fowler in 1798.  Grandon became a thriving port of call.  Commerce grew, a lighthouse was added in 1825, immigrants soon followed, and early American history continued to unfold in this corner of the soon-to-be Lake County.  Grandon changed its name to Fairport in 1836 and a new era in history unfolded. 

The next Bicentennial Moment will appear on Thursday, January 19, 2012.  Follow the history of Fairport Harbor each and every Thursday.  From the well known, to the hidden gems and nuggets, I will travel the timeline of Fairport Harbor and share her stories.

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