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Summit County's First Roads
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First Roads

by Sharon Myers

Smith Road played a big part in the history of Summit County and in the War of 1812. It very well may have been an Indian trace, adapted and straightened by the first white settlers in the area.

Martin Smith arrived in our area in 1798 from Hartland, Conn. to see the land allotted to him in the Western Reserve, having served in the Revolutionary War in Connecticut. He prepared a home for his wife and seven children and went back to Connecticut to bring them back to Ohio. Smith cut through the forest and over the hills the road that bears his name -- the first road established in Summit County and recorded in 1809.

During the War of 1812, General Elijah Wadsworth and his army, the 4th Division of the Ohio Militia, camped at Old Portage and it was necessary for them to keep Smith Road open from east to west to be ready to serve in either direction. Wadsworth was ordered to recut Smith Road through the woods from Old Portage in a northwesterly direction to Camp Avery, Milan. Hundreds of teams loaded and unloaded supplies each day, passing over Smith Road with their provisions, ammunitions, and troops. Recruits for General Hull's army marched over Smith Road and back again after the surrender there.

General Simon Perkins, who commanded the Third Brigade of the 4th Division, also used Smith Road, as did the gallant Col. George Croghan in the defense of Ft. Stephenson in Fremont, Ohio. He and one cannon and 150 men defeated the 500 well-trained British forces and many Indians. Teams bringing produce to the mill or hauling logs for new cabins all used Smith Road.

Another important thoroughfare dating back many centuries is Portage Path. It was the superhighway of its day, used by Indians, explorers and settlers. Portage Path was originally a beaten groove barely nine inches deep and wide enough for only one man and eight miles long. Many centuries of Indians carried their canoes over this path that divided the north-flowing Cuyahoga River and the south-flowing Tuscarawas River. This was the link between Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico. The mound builders, who were succeeded by the industrious Erie Indians, are said to have been the first to use this important portage.

From 1785 until 1805 Portage Path marked the boundary line of the United States. Everything to the west was Indian Territory. It is one of the oldest paths in the country, showing on explorers' maps. Today Portage Path and Manchester Road follow the approximate route of the original path.

Portage Path was cleared and made passable for teams in 1812 by Miner Spicer at his own expense for use in the War of 1812. Major Minor Spicer was born May 29, 1776 in Groton, Conn. and he died Sept. 11, 1855. He married Cynthia Allen and Hannah Allen Williams. He came to Ohio on horseback in 1810 from Connecticut. He served as a trustee of Portage Township and Justice of the Peace. He had nine children. He guarded the line from Old Portage to New Portage and part way to Cleveland during the War of 1812, serving as Major of the Ohio Militia under Captain Samuel Hale. He is buried in Glendale Cemetery.

Contact Sharon Myers, President of the William Wetmore Chapter Daughters of 1812 at 330-794-5099

 

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