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Wetmore & the Western Reserve

by Sharon Myers

The Western Reserve was also known as New Connecticut. It was 3.3 million acres of forest stretching from the Pennsylvania border 120 miles west to Sandusky Bay and averaging about 50 miles north to south. It has been called the last stand of Puritanism in the United States.

In 1662 following the practice of the day of rewarding land to subjects who would settle afar, England's King Charles II granted to the colony of Connecticut all land between the 41st and 42nd parallels north from Pennsylvania westward. The grant was vague, but Connecticut interpreted it as extending to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1792 it was agreed that the 500,000 westernmost acres would be set aside as the Fire Lands for eastern Connecticut residents who had been burned out by the British in the Revolution. The 1785 Treaty of Fort McIntosh set the Cuyahoga River and Portage Path as the western boundary of the U.S. and everything to the west was Indian Territory.

In 1795 Connecticut sold most of the Reserve to the Connecticut Land Company for $1.2 million. Investors in the Land Company hoped to settle in the Reserve or sell their holdings at a profit. But first, the land needed to be surveyed and that fell to General Moses Cleaveland, a large investor in the firm.

In 1796 Cleaveland and 51 men left Connecticut for the Reserve. Upon arriving in New Connecticut he built a supply station in Conneaut. Joshua Stow had already built a warehouse there named "Stow's Castle."

By the fall of 1797 all township lines in the Reserve had been completed. The taming of the wilderness had begun.

In Connecticut, deeds were made out to the 35 parties of the 3 million Western Reserve acres as their investment indicated. Specific plots of ground were not assigned. When the survey was finished and the land assessed, a ticket was made out for each specific section of land. The tickets were separated into first, second or third class land and five separate drawings held over the next five years. A man entitled to 1,000 acres, drawing tickets from the three piles, might draw land in three different townships in three different ranges. Nothing prevented him from swapping tickets with someone to consolidate his holdings.

Ohio was the first state settled by people of our own country. The individualism that the pioneers had from the freedom of shaping their life amid the solitude of a self-created forest clearing had resulted in a temperament that gave action prominence over words.

William Wetmore came to Ohio from Middletown, Conn. to sell land in Stow Township for his cousin Joshua Stow. In return for his efforts, he had the privilege of buying 1,000 acres at $1.25 per acre. The Wetmores built their second home on the Southwest corner of Silver Lake in 1807. The house still stands today at 3020 Kent Road. At one time Wetmore established a store between the lake and Cuyahoga Falls, at Old Village.

Two worn steps in front of his house that date to the War of 1812 are referred to as "the Treaty steps." Wetmore befriended the Indians, shaking hands and smoking a peace pipe on these steps.

Five hundred huts lined Route 59 and extended from the lake to the Cuyahoga River. Shortly before the War of 1812, the Wetmores noticed their Native American friends were holding a war council. As daybreak approached, the Native American camp appeared deserted and the Wetmores ventured down to the huts and found them empty. It is believed that the British tried to convince the Native Americans to kill the Americans, but the British plea was ignored.

The highway past Silver Lake has been an important thoroughfare since the first settlement of the state. The stages which passed Judge Wetmore's home from Warren to Wooster and down to Marietta, connected at Stow Corners with the coaches from Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Wetmore was appointed Commissary during the War of 1812 by General Elijah Wadsworth. He was to see that supplies for the troops flowed freely through the area.

In a letter dated Oct. 7, 1812 to his family in Connecticut William Wetmore wrote, "we live in a world of trouble and disappointments, however; we now feel quite safe as we have a considerable military force to the west of us. The Indians and their good friends and allies, the British, have seen fit to leave this area. Every man liable to do military duty is now out which throws off my farming. Living on the Great Road [Route 59], by which all military pass, we seldom eat a meal without someone new at the table."

William's farm extended from Silver Lake to Route 91/Darrow Road and on the east side of Route 59. The Stow-Munroe Falls Library occupies some of the old farm, as well as some commercial buildings and Wetmore Park on Wetmore Avenue near Holy Family Church.

When Judge William Wetmore began the settlement of the town of Manchester (Cuyahoga Falls) in 1812, he built a dam near the present location of the River Estates Bridge. The dam serviced a lumber mill that milled wood for the Navy boat yard at Old Portage during the War of 1812. This wood was allegedly used to make gunboats for the Battle of Lake Erie or Schenectady boats to move troops and supplies along the rivers.


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