There are some controversies on the War of 1812 in Summit County.
There is evidence that Camp Wadsworth was on the former Hill farm, now in Sand Run Park, opposite the Portage Locks. An
anvil, metallic bits of harness, a razor and other articles were plowed up on the site. Apparently a few hundred men at most
were there at a time. Most of the supplies were transported by way of Cleveland and from there carried by boat or by the road
near the lake, or by way of Zanesville south of Old Portage, or by the Ohio River. Some of Wadsworth's letters indicate that
he was anxious to have Smith Road through Old Portage used more.
Two or three boats were built and launched on the Cuyahoga at a yard about 3/4 mile east of Portage Path. Whether they
were part of Commodore Perry's fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie has been disputed through the years.
The boats were floated down the river, which was a much larger body of water than at present but still shallow at the riffles
to make it necessary to use pries and chains attached to oxen to get the boats into deeper water. After stopping at the Pinery
in Northfield Township to have pine masts fitted, they continued down to Lake Erie. There is good evidence that a boat yard
existed at a point 6/10 of a mile east of the Portage Tree. The location is where the river and canal come very close together
opposite the skating and archery center of Metro Park on Merriman Road.
There is great controversy on the location of this yard. There is said to be a dry dock and large pits in the area near
Metropolitan Park/Sand Run in the Valley to the west. Heavy planks have been found at the bottom.
At this point there remain the outlines of two long pits connecting with the river. An excavation made in the 1930s during
a period of low water, heavy planks were found at the bottom of the pits. These would have been dry docks. Historian Samuel
Lane said the boats that became part of Perry's fleet were the Portage, the Porcupine and the Hornet -- the first so named
from the port where it was built; the second from the fact that the late William Cogswell of Bath, who helped to build the
boats, captured a porcupine and tossed it on board just as it was launched; and the third from the circumstances that at the
pineries at Northfield where the boats were being fitted with masts and spars, a hornets' nest was discovered in the top of
the tree selected for a mast for that boat. (Cogswell was born Feb. 20, 1794 in New York and died Feb. 28, 1872. He moved
from New York to Pennsylvania and then to Ohio. He worked at the salt springs in Liverpool Township and was a full time hunter
with Dan Mallet. He also sold his services as a woodsman, clearing land and building cabins. He served in the Ohio Militia
under Captain John Carpenter and he is buried in Montrose Cemetery.)
Historian Peter Cherry said that the Navy Department found it necessary to build three small vessels to be used as gun
boats on Lake Erie and they were built near the northern end of Portage Path in January 1813. The contract was awarded to
Brimel Robins of Cory, PA and he selected Old Portage as the place to build them. The timber and lumber were furnished by
Captains Rice and Stow and were sawed in the mill of Francis and Zenas Kelsey at Old Cuyahoga Village. In June the three boats
were launched and named Treppe, Tigress, and Portage. The Portage was afterward renamed Porcupine.
Cogswell of Bath said that he was employed with others to float the boats down to the Lake with instructions that when
they got to the pinery near Peninsula they should furnish each boat with mast and spars. When they got to Cleveland, the boats
were examined and at once went into commission and did good service in the Battle of Lake Erie.
While it would seem impossible to float gun boats from the Portage to Cleveland, river boatmen on shallow streams would
often wait for the freshet following a heavy rain to start on their journey. The boats were launched in June when heavy rains
and high waters are common.
Stewart Gaylord was born Feb. 8, 1784 in Connecticut and died Oct. 2, 1840. He married Mary Ann Creamer. He was a ship
carpenter. He is said to have superintended the construction of the Old Portage boat yard. He served in the Ohio Militia under
Capt. Thomas Rice and is buried in Stow Cemetery.
New Information on the Three Boats Built in Summit County:
They were indeed gunboats, ordered by the Army [not the Navy] and they were used in the Battle of the Thames, just a
few weeks after the Battle of Lake Erie.
Contact Sharon Myers, President, William Wetmore Chapter Daughters of 1812 at 330-794-5099