Monday, April 27, 2015

Dock Road & Arcola Creek - The Western Reserve Years of Madison Twp.

Lake County's roadways bear the names of many early county pioneers and businessmen.  The names Kniffen, Seeley, Vrooman, Garfield, Morley, Rockefeller, Casement are but a few examples.  Looking at the eastern half of the county one name stands out and bears mentioning today - the road is named Dock and the Arcola Creek area dates back in Western Reserve history to 1796.  The first permanent settlers who came to Cunningham Creek, Ellensburg or Madison Dock arrived around 1798 from New York.  Their names were Colonel Alex Harper, William McFarland and Ezra Gregory.  By 1803 Joel Russell and his family arrive to the area via a sailing vessel.  Known as expert shipbuilders they worked at Bailey's dock near a makeshift lighthouse.  Captain Cunningham arrived in 1811.  The discovery of iron ore in 1812 and bog iron found in the future Lake County led to early industrialization of the Middle Ridge area. The Old Tavern in Unionville was not only a stage stop but gained importance as part of the UGRR era in history.  Madison Dock became an important leg in a slave's journey to freedom - Canada or otherwise.  The year 1825 saw this area firmly entrenched in shipbuilding.  Neighboring Richmond and Grandon (Fairport) also had shipbuilding.  Over 52 vessels, mostly schooners were built in the county. The Bailey, Helena, Flying Dutchman and Madeline were just the names of a few vessels of importance in this era.  1831 saw another early settler Uri Seeley establish Arcole Furnance from the former Erie Furnace Company site.

Cunningham Creek was now known in the record books as Ellensburg and by 1835 a long dock built out into the lake was used by ships traveling the lake from Kelley's Island (limestone) to Buffalo (commerce).  Joel Norton became an important sail maker of the area.  The era of prosperity lasted into the next decade but by 1850 the bust period was at hand.  Depleted resources, a weathered dock and deserted homesteads left by transient workers shifted the industrial age to one of farming.  A name change to Chapintown or Centerville soon faded into what today is known as Madison Village.  Only a few of the original landmarks permeate the countryside.  The Arcola Creek Estuary remains as a connector to Lake Erie and a period in Western Reserve history not to be forgotten.

information gleaned from 1980 article by Sue Orris, Madison Historical Society

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