Earliest History of Ashtabula
Darrell E. Hamilton
In May 1795, the legislature of Connecticut appointed a commit-
tee to receive and sell to individuals the land of the Connecticut
Western Reserve. In September 1795, the lands were sold and
deeded. Even though the lands of the Western Reserve in reality
still belonged to the Indians that lived in the Western Reserve, the
lands were sold to individuals whom had never had sat foot on
"their" land and some never would.
The Connecticut Land Company in 1796, hired General Moses
Cleavland to make treaties with the Indians, survey the Reserve
into five mile townships townships and establish a city. Moses
Cleaveland was not your typical Daniel Boone. Mr. Cleaveland
was a Yale Graduate, appointed a Captain in the Army by Con-
ress served in the Connecticut legislature and was a Brigadier
General in Connecticut's militia.
On June 21, 1796, Moses Cleaveland met with six Indian Cheifs
around a council fire in Buffalo, New York. Cleaveland was to set-
tle with the Indians in the quickest, eastiest and cheapest way he
could. Cleaveland provided great feasts and dancing for the In-
dians not to mention the never ending supply of whiskey for four
days to soften their thinking. Originally Moses Cleaveland had of-
fered the Indians $1,000 for giving up title to the land of the Re-
serve. The Chiefs turned Cleaveland down but the whiskey flowed
and the Chiefs softened. In the end the Indians were paid $500,
provisions to see them home, two beef cattle and of course a hun-
dred gallons of whiskey. This "settlement" would enable Cleave-
land to begin surveying so settlers could move into the Connect-
icut Western Reserve.
Moses Cleaveland then set out for the Connecticut Western Re-
serve just west of the Pennsylvania line. Most of the party of 52
traveled in boats but a few traveled by land to reach the Reserve.
Among the party of 52 were at least two mem who brought their
wives and children.
On July 4, 1796, Cleaveland and his surveying party would land
at Conneaut Creek in which the surveying party would christen
"Fort Independence". After settling and much celebrating, on July
7, the men organized into four field parties to begin surveying.
After completing the surveying of the eastern most part of the
Connecticut Western Reserve, the party continued on to the
mouth of the Ashtabula River. The Ashtabula River was named by
the Indians of this area translating into "river of many fish" or
sometimes different variations of the same meaning. Moses
Cleaveland was so entraced over the beauty of the surroundings
that he proposed to those accompanying him that the name of
the stream be changed to Mary Esther, in honor of his daughter.
The men were not overly enthused over the proposition until he
brought up two gallons of wine from the hold of their craft. The
men were then all in favor of renaming the Ashtabula River,
"Mary Esther". But unlike the Indians, when the wine ran out, the
name was forgotton and the Ashtabula name would live on.