Thursday, March 17, 2016

Eastern Lake County - A Proud Past

In the heart of the Connecticut Western Reserve, the Painesville-Grandon-Fairport area was the epicenter of lands surveyed by the Connecticut Land Company in 1796.  Land long occupied by various Indian nations for untold generations gave way to incoming settlers. This early history is told by the Indian Museum once located on Lake Erie College campus, now located for the last decade in downtown Willoughby.

John Walworth, General Edward Paine, Captain Abraham Skinner and their followers settled in Painesville Township in 1800.  Skinner’s New Market was laid out by 1803 and in existence from 1806-1809.  Just up the Grand River, Champion was next to appear.  Named in honor of Henry Champion the village became Painesville by 1815.  Area buildings and street signs now honor these memories.

In 1810, Joseph Rider built a log cabin, a stagecoach stop that would become the landmark Rider’s Tavern.  The First Congregational Church appeared in 1810 as well.  Noted architect Jonathon Goldsmith built a local lighthouse in 1825 in addition to many local Greek revival homes circa 1818 still occupied today.  Thomas Harvey championed education and school by 1823.  His public library efforts followed in 1824 and an entire public school system became a reality by 1851.  A Women’s Seminary and future Lake Erie College dates back to 1856.  Coe Manufacturing was established in 1852, its distillery, turning mill and iron works the largest of the century.  Eber Howe founded the Painesville Telegraph in 1822, a paper that circulated daily till 1986.  Howe along with key others was a leading abolitionist and UGRR champion.

‘LeRoy’ and Concord were organized circa 1822.  Transportation and Plank Road companies began in these communities.  Leroy became a center for forge and tannery companies.  Concord boasted a boot-shoe factory and turning mill.

Grandon (1812) - Fairport (1836) claim settler Samuel Huntington for its waterfront history.  The ore and coal industry saw over 3000 ships arrive with in excess of a million dollars in commerce in 1847 landing on the Fairport docks.  Richmond later to become Grand River occupied the western side of the river.  Thomas Richmond, a salt merchant from NY sought to make Richmond a canal town in the 1830s.  2000 residents followed his dream which died out quickly once Cleveland won the canal race.

Growth continued from these beginnings as European immigrants moved into our county and became the pillars of their communities.   Kaukonen, Joughin, Harvey, Mathews, Howe, Casement, Storrs and many other native names resonate today in the voluminous lore of Lake County history.

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