Proofed by Laura Hine
ROCKPORT, one of the northern townships of Cuyahoga County, is number seven in range fourteen, in the survey of the Western Reserve, and lies upon the southern shore of Lake Erie. It contains twenty-one full sections of a mile square each, and four fractional sections, the size of which is reduced by the lake. The township is bounded on the north by Lake Erie; on the south by Middleburg township; on the east by Brooklyn, and on the west by Dover.
The surface of the country is level and the soil is generally productive, especially along the lake shore, where a rich fruit belt contributes largely to the wealth and prosperity of the township. South of that belt, fruit is also considerably cultivated but general farming is more largely followed, and with very profitable results. As a rule, the farmers are intelligent, thrifty and prosperous, their well cultivated and well appointed farms showing their success in life; while their handsome dwellings-which in very many cases might properly be called elegant-testify to the taste as well as the prosperity of the owners.
Detroit street, as the extension of that street into Rockport is commonly called, follows the lake shore from the township line to Rocky river, an avenue of more than ordinary pretensions, and is also a drive much frequented by the citizens of Cleveland. Bordering it on either side are numerous handsome and costly suburban residences, set in the midst of tastefully kept grounds, and presenting on a summer day in connection with the smiling fields, the numerous patches of woodland and the broad expanse of the lake, a scene of beauty seldom surpassed.
Rocky river, a rugged but shallow stream, flows through Rockport from the southern line near the southwestern corner in an exceedingly crooked course to the lake, passing nearly the whole distance between high and abrupt embankments, which at the river's mouth are handsomely wooded, and present a very picturesque appearance. Here also, in summer, people from Cleveland daily resort in large numbers, to enjoy the beauties of nature and to rejoice in the invigorating breezes which are wafted landward over the billowy bosom of Lake Erie.
The first white person to settle in the township of Rockport (so goes an old record by Henry Alger, himself a settler in Rockport in 1812) was John Harbertson (or Harberson) an Irish refugee, who, with his family, located in the spring of 1809 upon the east side of Rocky river near its mouth. In the same year, and about the same time, Wm. McConley, who came over from Ireland with Harbertson, settled in Rockport upon a place now known as Van Scoter bottom. Neither Harbertson nor McConley tarried long in their new homes, whence they removed about 1810; Harbertson to Huron county, where he resided until his death.
In 1808, Philo Taylor, who had moved from New York to Cleveland in 1806, agreed with Harmon Canfield and Elisha Whittlesey, as agents and owners of land in what is now Rockport, to locate in that township. On the 10th of April in that year he landed with his family from an open boat at the mouth of Rocky river. He selected a place on the east side of the river opposite the site of the Patchen House, put up a cabin and began clearing. By 1809 he had effected material improvements there. At that time, Mr. Canfield, who had verbally agreed that Taylor should have the place, informed him that he would have to select some other spot, since it had been decided by the proprietors to lay out a town near the mouth of the river, and that the lot originally selected by Taylor would be wanted for that purpose. At this Mr. Taylor became exceeding wroth. He sold his improvements to Daniel Miner, launched a curse against the mouth of Rocky river, and removed with his family to Dover.
Until 1809 there was no highway between Cleveland and the Huron river, that whole region being an almost unbroken wilderness. In that year the legislature made an appropriation for a public road between these points, and selected Ebenezer Merry, Nathaniel Doan and Lorenzo Carter to superintend the work. This road crossed Rocky river near its mouth, and was the only one west of Cleveland until 1814 or 1815. Daniel Miner, who bought out Philo Taylor in 1809, came from Homer, New York, in that year and occupied Taylor's old improvements. In 1812, he began to build a mill upon what is still known as the "mill lot." Before it was completed Miner died, in February, 1813. Despite of Canfield's sanguine expectations, the Taylor lot was never employed as a part of the proposed town which indeed never existed save on paper. Miner kept a tavern and a ferry there in 1811. He shortly afterward bought out Harbertson on the same side of the river, and kept tavern in his old house in 1812.
In 1809 the public highway, above referred to, being completed to Rocky river, one George Peake, a mulatto, and his family were the first to pass over it in a wagon, by which they journeyed from Cleveland to Rocky river, locating on the place lately owned by John Barnum. Peake had been a soldier in the British army, and was in General Wolf's command at the taking of Quebec. Locating in Maryland he had married a black woman reputed to have owned "a half bushel of dollars." He had settled with her in Pennsylvania, had raised a family of children, and when he moved to Rockport was accompanied by two grown sons-George and Joseph; two others-James and Henry-following soon after. The Peakes introduced an improvement in the form of a hand grist-mill, which was exceedingly well liked by the few settlers, as grinding had previously been accomplished by means of the "stump mortar and springpole pestle." George Peake died in September, 1827, at the great age of one hundred and five.
In 1811 Doctor John Turner, a brother-in-law of Daniel Miner, came from the State of New York and located on the farm afterwards owned by Governor Wood. Two years afterward, while the doctor and his wife were away from home, their residence was burned to the ground and their two children were destroyed with it. After this calamity the family removed to Dover. While the Turners lived in Rockport the newcomers were Jeremiah Van Scoter, John Pitts, Datus Kelley and Chester Dean a brother-in-law of Kelley. Van Scoter located upon the place now known as Van Scoter's bottom, and after remaining a year removed to Huron County. Mr. Kelley occupied the place now owned by George Merwin. In 1834, with his brother Ira, he bought the now famous Kelley Island.
On the 7th of June, 1812, Nathan Alger, with his wife and sons-Henry, Herman, Nathan, Jr., and Thaddeus P.-and his son-in-law, John Kidney, all from Litchfield county, Conn., settled upon sections twelve and thirteen, and founded what is to this day known as the Alger settlement. Two days later, Benjamin Robinson, afterwards son-in-law of Nathan Alger, came in from Vermont and took up a place in that settlement. Nathan Alger, Sr., died January 21, 1813, being the first white person who died in the township. Samuel Dean, with sons Joseph and Aaron W., moved into the township in 1814. Samuel Dean died in 1840, aged 85; his son Chester died in 1855; Horace B. Alger and Dyer Nichols came in during the fall of 1812.
Benjamin Robinson, above referred to, was a famous hunter, and much addicted to a roving life; priding himself, indeed, upon his Indian habits. He became eventually an industrious member of the Alger settlement, but in his old age fell into evil ways, paid the penalty, and died in poverty at the age of ninety.
Rufus Wright, a soldier of the war of 1812, removed in 1816 from Stillwater, N.Y., to Rockport and bought of Gideon Granger three-quarters of an acre of land, now occupied by the Patchen House, on the west side of Rocky river, near its mouth. He paid $300 for it, evidently sharing Granger's belief that there was destined to be a great city near the natural harbor at the mouth of Rocky river. Wright put up a framed tavern of considerable size, and from 1816 to 1853 the house remained in the possession of the Wright family, passing in the later year to Mr. Silverthorn. As the Patchen House, it is a remodeled and improved structure still containing, however, a portion of the old building. A part of the old tavern is now used by the widow of John Williams as a residence, a little south of the Patchen House. Mr. Wright built half of the first bridge at that point, kept a ferry there for some years, and assisted in cutting out the first road west of the river.
About the time of Wright's settlement, Henry Clark, John James, Charles Miles, and Joseph Sizer came into the township, and between the years 1816 and 1820 Clark and James were also tavern keepers on the west side. The first tavern kept in the township was, as already recorded, the one opened by Daniel Miner, to whom the court of common pleas of the Cuyahoga county issued a license in March, 1811, renewing it to 1812, and also granting a license to keep a ferry. This tavern was only a log cabin, eighteen feet by twenty-four, and stood on the east side of the river, near the end of the present bridge. For some years after Miner's death his widow carried on the tavern, previous to which, for a brief period, Moses Eldred, who located in the township in the spring of 1813, kept the stand.
Joseph, a son of Samuel Dean, who settled in Rockport in 1814, built and carried on the first tannery in the township, on the north ridge, where Lucius Dean now resides. In 1815 Joseph Larwill-afterwards the founder of Granger City-built a mill near the mouth of Rocky river, but before he put it in operation it was burned to the ground. A similar fate befell a mill which was built on the same spot in 1818 by Erastus and Charles Johnson. In 1817 Datus Kelley built a sawmill in section sixteen, on the creek that crosses the north ridge.
James Nicholson, at the age of twenty, traveled in 1803, afoot, from Barnstable county Connecticut, to Trumbull county, Ohio, whence, after a residence of fifteen years, he moved, in 1818, to Rockport, where he had purchased two hundred and seventy acres of land. Upon a portion of that land his son, Ezra Nicholson, now lives. Of James Nicholson's two children, who came with him, a daughter-Mrs. Elias Paddock of Olmsted-is still living. Upon his arrival he put up a log cabin, and at that time was the only settler between the Cuyahoga and Rocky rivers. In 1826 he erected a framed house a little west of where Ezra Nicholson now lives, and shortly afterward opened it as a tavern. Mr. Nicholson resided in Rockport until his death, which occurred in Rockport, when he had reached the age of seventy-six.
Mars Wager, with his wife, Keturah, moved from Ontario county, New York, to Cleveland in 1818, and in 1820 proceeded to Rockport, where he had purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land, in section twenty-two, from Francis, son of Gideon Granger. He died in Rockport in 1841, leaving a widow and several children, the former of whom still lives on the old homestead, at the age of eight-five. Her sons, Adam M. and Israel D., are prominent citizens of Rockport.
In April, 1819, Eliel Farr, a farmer and surveyor, with his sons, Aurelias, Eliel, Jr. and Algernon, came into Rockport from Pennsylvania, and settled upon section sixteen. Price French left Ontario county, New York, in 1818, and settled in Indiana. He moved from there to Rockport in 1828, with his wife and six children, and located upon the place now occupied by Ezra Nicholson. He disposed of that portion of the farm to James Nicholson, and afterwards occupied the place where his son, A. G. French, now resides.
David Herrington, who went to Middleburg, Ohio, from Otsego county, New York, in 1821, settled two years later in Rockport, upon the place now occupied by his widow. William and Mary Jordan located in 1827 upon the "Jordan place," on the Dover plank road. Mrs. Jordan still resides upon the old homestead, surrounded by her children.
Jonathan Parshall moved from New York to Rockport in 1821, purchased an acre of ground of Mars Wager, and put up a log cabin near the house of the latter. Parshall was a house-carpenter, and also taught school a few weeks in Rockport, but he was not very industrious, and in the course of time, being unable to pay even for his acre of land, he was dispossessed of it.
Mention has already been made of the fact that Nathan Alger, Sr., was the first person to die in the township. The first white child born in the township was Egbert, son of Philo Taylor, who was born in November, 1809. Addison, son of Datus Kelley, was the second, born in June, 1812, and the third was Philana D., daughter of Henry Alger, born in December, 1812. The first couple resident in the township, who were married, were Benjamin Robinson and Amelia Alger, who were wedded in Cleveland November 5, 1812, by George Wallace, Esq. There was no wedding in the township until January, 1814. Chester Dean, of Rockport, and Lucy, daughter of Abner Smith, of Dover, were united by George Wallace, Esq., at the house of Datus Kelley. Visitors to this wedding came from miles around upon ox-sleds, and the occasion, so says tradition, "was one of great merriment."
The first justice of the peace was Charles Miles, who was elected June 24, 1819. In that year, at a State election, but thirteen votes were polled in the township.
Previous to 1812, Indians used to rendezvous in numbers at the mouth of Rocky river, and on an island in that stream they buried several of their dead. Upon that island, too, they left their canoes during the winter, while they went in the interior for game. Upon returning in the spring, they were in the habit of building a fire at the head of each grave on the island. The Indians were friendly to the whites before the war of 1812, but on the outbreak of that conflict, many of them joined Tecumseh, and none of them ever returned.
A great "bear hunt" was organized in 1820, and the command entrusted to Joseph Dean, a famous Nimrod of the time. The line of the hunt reached from Rocky river to Black river, and included a small army of hunters. Of bears they got few, but the catch of deer was abundant. The hunt wound up with a grand jollification whereat whisky played an important part, as in truth it invariably did in all public, and many private events of the time.
Whisky drinking was exceedingly popular and doubtless pernicious. At all events so thought Datus Kelley, who at a township meeting in 1827 astonished the company by presenting a temperance pledge for signatures. There was a storm of opposition, and a loud outcry against what was called Kelly's onslaught upon liberty, but despite such a beginning, Mr. Kelley persevered in his purpose and eventually succeeded in gaining many adherents to the cause.
At the first township election but nineteen voters lived in Rockport and as there were eighteen offices to fill it was remarked after the election that every man in the township held an office, kept a tavern or owned a sawmill.
The first bridge across Rocky river near its mouth was built in 1821, by subscriptions, Rufus Wright paying about one-half the expense. There was a great gathering at the raising of the bridge, which consumed a week. When it was accomplished, Captain Wright invited all hands to his tavern, where the whisky jug passed merrily around and where the event was celebrated in so hilarious a manner that even the "Squire" himself danced a jig on a table among tumblers and bottles, while the rest of the company cheered his efforts by singing Yankee Doodle.
A sketch of the early experiences of the Algers, written by Henry Alger, narrates that when he reached Rockport, June 7, 1812, his personal property consisted of an axe, an old French watch, part of a kit of shoemaker's tools a bed and seven cents in cash. As he had borrowed ten dollars to pay his way to Rockport, he was in mood to idle away his time, but began at once to put up his log cabin, and furnished it with a "catamount" bedstead, a shoemaker's bench and two stools. With that outfit he and his wife set up housekeeping. The only kitchen ware they had at first was an old broken iron tea kettle which young Alger happened to find on the lake shore. In the fall of 1812 Mr. Alger went thirty-six miles west of Painesville and threshed wheat for Ebenezer Merry, receiving every tenth bushel for his labor. This shows plainly enough that breadstuffs were very scarce and high at that time.
In 1813 Mr. Alger went to Cleveland to get salt, and for fifty-six pounds of that commodity he worked nine days for S. S. Baldwin, and carried it home afoot on his back. In a similar way he obtained flour-by chopping timber for Capt. Hoadley of Columbia. He chopped an acre of timber for one hundred pound of flour, and carried the latter home on his back-a distance of ten miles.
When Philo Taylor first settled in Rockport, in 1808, he went to mill in an open boat to the river Raisin, in the State of Michigan. The corn mills in Rockport at that early day were hollowed stumps for mortars, in which the grain was ground with what was called spring-pole pestle. In 1810 a mail route between Cleveland and Detroit was established through Rockport. The mail, which weighed six or seven pounds, was carried on foot in a valise, by three men, stationed along the line.
In 1815, Joseph Larwill, of Wooster, Ohio, came to Rockport and purchased the "mill lot" on the east side of the river, and also a tract on the west side near the mouth, where, with Gideon Granger, John Bever and Calvin Pease, he laid out a city, which was called Granger, in honor of Gideon Granger, a large land owner in Rockport and other parts of the Reserve. A sale of the lots was widely advertised, and on the appointed day a great number of people were assembled from a considerable distance. Lots were sold at high rates; some bringing $60 each; the excitement ran high, and Larwill & Co. felt assured of fortune.
The first cabin built upon the site of the new city was put up by Charles Miles near where the Patchen House now stands, and in 1816 John Dowling, George Reynolds and Capt. Foster also erected cabins. In the same year, John James of Boston, bought out Miles, who then located on the farm afterwards owned by Gov. Wood. James, who had brought out a small stock of goods, opened a store, and also a tavern, both of which he carried on until his death in 1820.
In 1816, too, as already stated, Rufus Wright built a tavern there, and there were also several other settlers in the new city at that time, including Asahel Porter, Eleazer Waterman, Josephus B. Lizer and Henry Canfield, the last of whom built what was long known as "Canfield's old store." Mr. Canfield came from Trumbull county, Ohio, the home of his father who had bought considerable land in Rockport. One day he met at his store a lady who had journeyed alone, on horseback, from Connecticut to Royalton to visit her sister. He fell in love with her at first sight, married her shortly afterward, and moved with her to a farm east of the river, now owned by Collins French. He lived there a short time, however, before returning to Trumbull county.
One Fluke, a German, and a potter by trade, came from Wooster and settled in Granger City in 1817, and began to make brown earthenware. Shortly after that Henry Clark came along and opened a tavern, and one Scott moved from Painesville to join Larwill in the erection of a mill. They had got up the frame of a dam when winter set in, but in the spring the flood washed it entirely away. This deeply discouraged Mr. Larwill regarding the future of Granger City, and he abandoned the undertaking in disgust.
The city struggle on a short time after this, but all kinds of business were soon abandoned there, and even the few scattered cabins were speedily deserted by their inmates.
Rockport was formed as a civil township in February, 1819, and on the first Monday in the following, April it held its first election at Rufus Wright's tavern. Those who voted at that election were Rufus Wright, Asahel Porter, Henry Canfield, Samuel Dean, Chester Dean, Joseph Dean, Dyer Nichols, Daniel Bardin, John Kidney, John Pitts, John James, Chas. Miles, Erastus Johnson, Charles Johnson, Josephus B. Sizer, Datus Kelley, Jas. Nicholson, Benjamin Robinson and Henry Alger.
The chairman of the meeting was Charles Miles; the judges of election were Asahel Porter and Datus Kelley. The officers chosen were Henry Alger, Rufus Wright and Erastus Johnson, trustees; Henry Canfield, clerk; James Nicholson and Samuel Dean, overseers of the poor; Benjamin Robinson and Joseph dean, fence-viewers; Joseph Dean, lister.
The first book of town ship records has been lost, and the list of those who have served the township as trustees, clerks and treasurers, can be given only from 1832 to 1879. For that period it is as follows:
1832. Trustees, Dyer Nichols, Jared Hickcox, Chas. Warner;
clerk, Dyer Eaton; treasurer, Calvin Giddings.
The first postmaster in Rockport was probably a Mr. Goodwin, who, about 1827, kept an office at Rocky river, on the old stage route. In 1829 the stage route was changed so that it passed over "Hog Back" Hill and crossed the river about a mile and a half above the mouth. Then Calvin Giddings, living on Hog Back hill, was appointed postmaster. After a while Giddings moved across the river and took the post office with him. About 1834 the office was returned to the mouth of the river, and Rufus Wright, who then kept tavern there, was appointed postmaster. The office remained at Wright's until about 1852. Abraham, Philip and Frederick, sons of Rufus Wright, being successively postmasters there. In 1852 the office was removed a mile south, where Herman Barnum kept it a year, being succeeded, in 1853, by Benjamin Phinney, who kept a store there. He retained the office until his death in 1864. The office was then again returned to the mouth of the river, where John Williams was the postmaster until 1865. Another change then took the office up the river about two miles, to the house of Andrew Kyle, who continued to be the postmaster there until 1875. This year the office was removed northward to the store of B F. Phinney, who has been the incumbent since that time. A post office was again established at Rocky river in 1877, at the Cliff House, with William Hall as postmaster. He was followed by A. T. Van Tassel, and he by James Starkweather; the latter being the present incumbent.
Horace Dean, who kept store there, was the first postmaster at East Rockport. After his time the incumbents have been O. W. Hotchkiss, William R. Smith, Jacob Tagardine, Adam Wager and Joseph Howe, the latter being the postmaster during the present year, 1879.
The Methodists residing in Rockport, on the west side of the river, enjoyed irregular worship in schoolhouses and private residences until 1847, when a house of worship was erected about a mile and a half west of the mouth of Rocky river. The first class was organized in 1828. William Jordan was the leader; the other members being Dyer Eaton, Mrs. Mary Jordan, _____ Whiting, ____ Bennett, Philena Alger, Sara Doty, Polly Jordan and Sallie Usher. The organization took place in William Jordan's log cabin, and there worship was held for some time afterward.
The first preacher was Rev. Henry O. Sheldon, a most industrious laborer in the moral vineyard. Upon the erection of the church building, in 1847, the trustees were John D. Taylor, John Barnes, Henry Rauch, Benjamin Lowell and Sidney Lowell. The church membership is now fifty. The leader is C. S. Giddings, who is also the secretary of the society. The present trustees are S. H. Brown, Mark Able, C. S. Giddings, F. McMahon, Ira Burlingame, C. N. Wise and Charles Cuddeback. The present pastor is Rev. John McKean.
This body was organized May 27, 1832, with the following members: Gideon Watrous, Royal Millard, John Dike, Fanny Watrous, Amelia Robinson, Sarah Herrington, Anna Millard, Lydia Dike and Fannie M. Nichols.
In 1836 a dissension arose when several members withdrew and organized a new church on the opposite or west side of the river. The dissenters engaged Rev. Moses Ware as a settled minister, but their separate organization lasted only a short time. About 1842 they returned to the mother church.
The latter received from 1832 to 1847 one hundred and twenty-five members, but in the last named year the congregation had so far declined in strength that regular worship was abandoned. A further lapse of two years, failing to disclose any renewed vitality, the few remaining members met on the 20th of February, 1850, and formally voted to dissolve the organization. A commodious meeting-house had been erected by the society, being completed in June 1846. This house of worship-long known as "The Tabernacle"-has, since 1850, been given over to free public use for religious worship, public entertainment, etc., and has for many years been in active demand, especially on Sabbath days. The Baptists gathered from time to time, after 1850, for worship in the tabernacle, and had frequent preaching about 1860 and afterwards, but no reorganization of the church has been effected.
This church was organized in 1835, but very little can be said touching its early history. Its existence was limited to a few years, and the records of those years are lost.
The church was revived and reorganized, however, on the 24th of July 1859, when Benjamin Mastick, Russell Hawkins, Lydia Hawkins, Louisa Trisket, Mary C. Kinney, Silas Gleason, Labrina Gleason, Andrew Kyle and Susannah Kyle comprised the number who were received into membership. The first deacons under the reorganization were Ezra Bassett and Silas Gleason, and the first pastor was Rev. N. Cobb. His successors were Revs. J. B. Allen, E. T. Fowler, O. W. White and E. H. Votaw, the latter being the pastor in charge in July 1, 1879, when the membership was thirty-five.
In October, 1869, the church dissolved the connection, which it had previously maintained with the Presbyterian organization, and was taken into the Sullivan, Ohio, Congregational Association. The church building now in use was erected in 1861. The present trustees are L. A. Palmer, William Andrews, and A. Barter; the deacons, William Andrews and A. Barter; the clerk, B. Barter.
A Free Will Baptist church was organized in Rockport about 1840, and in 1843 included the following members: Obadiah Munn and wife, John Warren and wife, Jeremiah Gleason and wife, Joseph Coon and wife, Prosser Coon and wife, J. M. Plimpton and wife, Thomas Alexander and wife, Israel Kidney and wife, James Kidney and wife, Sarah and Joseph Hall.
Elder Reynolds, the first minister, preached until about 1847. He was succeeded by Elder Prentiss but afterward returned and preached a second term. After him Elders Beebe, Pelton and others supplied the pulpit. After worshiping in school-houses until 1846, the congregation built a church on Hilliard avenue, opposite where the Good Templar's Hall now stands. At no time very prosperous, the society declined materially in strength for two or three years previous to 1858, and in that year was dissolved. The church building served until 1877 as a place of worship for various denominations, when it was purchased by Mr. F. Wager, who removed it to his farm and converted it into a store-house.
This was not regularly organized until January 5, 1879, although a house of worship was built in the winter of 1877 and '78 and dedicated June 16, 1878. The original members were James Cannon and wife, J. C. Cannon and wife, William Southern and wife, Joseph Southern and wife, Peter Bower, Miss Ella Woodbury, Miss Lou Atwell. James Cannon was chosen trustee; and Elder J. C. Cannon, who was the first preacher, continues to occupy that relation. The membership on the 1st day of July, 1879 was thirty-seven.
Previous to 1841 there were several families of the Swedenborgian faith in Rockport, James Nicholson and Mara Wager being leading believers. Rev. M. McCarr, of Cincinnati, was invited to come out and form a church, which he did on the 4th of September, 1841, in a school-house near Rocky river. The first members were W. D. Bell and wife, Osborne Case, James Nicholson and wife, I. D. Wager and wife, Delia Paddock, A. M. Wager, Boadicea and Dianthus Thayer, James Newman, Jane E. Johnson, Susanna Parshall, Mars Wager and wife, James Coolahan and wife, Asa Dickinson and wife, Richard Hooper and wife, Matilda Wager, Mary Berthong and John Berry.
The first trustees were W. D. Bell, James Nicholson and I. D. Wagar. The first ordained mister was Rev. Richard Hooper who had been a Methodist preacher in Rockport, and who is said to have been suddenly converted, at a camp meeting, to the new faith. He was ordained directly after the organization just mentioned, and labored vigorously four years as the pastor. Succeeding him the ordained ministers have been Revs. W. G. Day (who preached ten years), L. P. Mercer, D. Noble, John Saal, and Geo. L. Sterns, the present incumbent, who was ordained in 1876. The church membership now numbers about forty.
The society worshiped in the Rocky River school-house until 1848, when the present house of worship (remodeled and improved in 1878) was built. The trustees now are Ezra Nicholson, A. M. Wagar and Alfred French.
Incidental to the religious experience of James Nicholson and Mars Wagar it is said that upon their awakening to the new faith they, with their wives, rode in a two-horse wagon all the way to Wooster to be baptized into the church.
About 1850 a small band of "Bible Christians" used to worship occasionally in the Free Will Baptist church and continued to do so for three or four years. The first class contained sixteen members; its leader was Mark Tagardine. Rev. Richard Roach, of Cleveland, used to come out and preach for them, as did others whose names cannot now be recalled. Members of the denomination known as the United Brethren also had meetings in the Baptist church at that time, and after the Bible Christians discontinued worship, the Wesleyean Methodists formed a class with mark Tagardine as the leader. Their first minister was Rev. Mr. Crooks.
Later, the Wesleyans gave place to a Methodist Episcopal class of twenty members and of that, too, Mark Tagardine was chosen leader; the Rev. Mr. Jewett of Berea preaching the first sermon. A church edifice known as the Detroit Street M. E. Church was built in 1876, at which time Rev. Mr. McCaskie was the pastor. After him Rev. Wm. Warren took charge. The present membership is one hundred and twenty-five. The class leaders are James Primat, John Webb, Stephen Hutchins and Mark Tagardine, and the trustees are Archibald Webb, James Bean, Jos. Parsons and Peter Clampet.
ST. PATRICK'S (CATHOLIC) CHURCH.
This church, which has a house of worship in the southern part of Rockport, is an Irish Catholic organization. Previous to 1852 its members were able to enjoy only irregular service. In that year the church building now used was dedicated by Bishop Rappe, at which time about thirty families were included in the congregation. The priest first placed in charge was Rev. Lewis Filiere, who also preached at Olmstead Falls and Berea. He served about ten years and was followed by Rev. Fathers Miller, Ludwig, Hyland, Quigley, O'Brien and Kuhbler. Father Kuhbler, the present incumbent, has charge also of the German Catholic church of Rockport. The church of St. Patrick is moderately prosperous and has a congregation of sixty families.
In 1851 Rev. Philip Stemple, a preacher of Brighton, was invited to visit Rockport and to organize a German Protestant church, about fifteen families being anxious to join the proposed organization. Mr. Stemple organized the church and for fifteen years afterward preached in a school-house, once in three weeks, to the German Protestants of Rockport. By 1867 the organization had grown quite strong and numerous, and in that year a commodious brick church was built at a cost of about $5,000, besides labor contributed by the members of the society. Rev. Franz Schreck, from Wisconsin, was the first pastor after the completion of the church. The present pastor is Rev. Wm. Locher and the congregation contains about thirty families. The first trustees of the church were Peter Reitz, William Mack and _____ Annacher. The present trustees are Henry Brondes, Frederick Brunner and George Zimmer.
This was organized in 1847, and in 1851 the present church edifice was built. Valentine Gleb was the first class-leader, and William Mack, John Mack and Henry Dryer were the first trustees. Between 1847 and 1851, Revs. Messrs. John and Klein were the preachers, and a school-house was the place of worship. After the building of the church the preachers were Rev. Messrs. Baldaff, Reicher, Berg, Weber, Detter, G. Nachtripp, Reiter, C. Nachtripp, Buhdenbaum, Homier, Snyder, Nuffer, Nast and Borgerdeng. Latterly the church organization was lost much of its membership and has for some time been without regular preaching. The present trustees are Valentine Gleb, Jacob Knopf, Henry Dryer, Michael Neuchter, and Bartlett Stocker. Valentine Gleb, who was in 1847 the first class-leader, still fills that office, in which he has served uninterruptedly since 1852.
This edifice which bears the above name, is a chapel of Trinity parish of Cleveland. It was opened for worship in 1875, and was consecrated on Ascension Day, 1879, by Bishop Bedell. Rev. J. W. Brown, D. D., of Trinity, is the rector, and Mr. Charles P. Ranney, of Cleveland, is the lay reader in charge. The communicants number sixteen, and the attendants about fifty.
This German Catholic organization worships in a fine brick church edifice in the German settlement, close to the southern line of the township. The first church building, a plain framed structure, was completed in 1854, when about fourteen families attended services. The congregation includes now thirty-three families. Fathers Graessner, Kuhn, Miller and Kuhbler, with others, have served the church since its organization. The brick edifice, now in use, was built in 1867, at a cash cost of about $8,000, -although its actual value-by reason of volunteer labor, was much more. The present trustees are George Betts, Jacob Ammersback and Mehurad Nicholas. The officiating priest is Father Kuhbler.
One of the earliest school masters-although he scarcely merited the dignified appellation of teacher-was Jonathan Parshall, a house-carpenter, who lived on a small piece of land adjoining Mars Wagar. He was not over intelligent, nor was he an especially industrious citizen, but it appears that he considered himself fitted to instruct the tender youth and in the year 1829 taught a few scholars in the back part of Mr. Wagar's house. The neighborhood tradition is that Parshall was decidedly poor teacher, and that his experience in that line lasted but a few weeks.
In 1830 a log school-house was built nearly opposite where Ezra Nicholson now lives, in which the first teacher was a lady from Olmstead. The brick structure which replaced the log house not long afterwards, is now used by Walter Phelps as a dwelling.
Rockport now enjoys an excellent and liberal system of public education. There is a special school district which extends from Rocky River east to the township line, and is composed chiefly of residents on Detroit street. This district manages its own school affairs under the act of 1871, and has three fine brick school-buildings. One contains a graded school, for which a new house, to cost $6,000, is to be completed by January 1, 1880. The other two buildings together cost at least $7,000. The average daily attendance at the three schools is one hundred and sixty, and the amount raised for school support in 1879 was $3,000.
Apart from this special district, the amount raised for the support of township schools in 1879 was $1,900. The township contains eight school-houses (seven of them being of brick) valued at $19,500. The total number of children of school age is six hundred and thirty-three.
The Rockford Christian Temperance Union, which was organized in 1878, has since then been doing good work, and now is in a flourishing condition with thirty members. The officers are S. H. Brown, president; James Potter, Mrs. S. H. Brown and Mrs. H. Crossley, vice presidents; Miss L. Jordan, secretary; Mrs. J. W. Spencer, treasurer; Miss Annie Hutton, corresponding secretary. The business meetings are held in the Methodist Church, on the west side of the river.
There is a similar organization on the east side of the river known as the Temperance Sunday School. Meetings are held each Sabbath in the tabernacle, and the members are very zealous in behalf of the temperance cause. The organization is under the direction of a managing committee. Strong temperance movements were set on foot in Rockport in 1867, and resulted in the organization of two lodges of Good Templars, which after a brief era of prosperity ceased to exist in 1876.
Fruit growing is one of the most important and remunerative industries in Rockport. The region especially devoted to it is that contiguous to Detroit street between the township line and Rocky river, whence large supplies of all the kinds of fruit raised in this climate are annually convey to the Cleveland market.
Dr. J. P. Kirtland was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, to engage to any extent in fruit culture in Rockport, setting out a number of various kinds of trees in 1850. Not long afterward Lewis and Ezra Nicholson and others began a liberal cultivation of fruit. The business developed rapidly and in a short time assumed considerable proportions along the line of Detroit street, and engaged the attention of all the dweller upon the thoroughfare.
According to the published statistics, the value of fruit sent to Cleveland from Detroit street in 1867 was $10,000, while in 1872 it was no less than $50,000. Fruit culture is by no means a losing business elsewhere in the township, but the peculiar characteristics of the soil on the northern ridge make the most profitable locality.
The first graveyard laid out by the white settlers in Rockport occupied the site of the Cliff House. Here, it is said, were buried the bodies of a number of sailors drowned off the "point" in 1812. Henry Alger was buried there as was also Daniel Miner, two of the pioneers, but their bodies were afterward removed elsewhere. Traces of this burial ground remained until the erection of the Cliff House obliterated them.
The burying ground on Detroit street was laid out about 1840, and among the first to be buried there were Mrs. Sarah Ann Brewster and an unknown man who was found dead in the woods-supposed to have been murdered. Rockport now has several cemeteries, many of which are very neatly kept and beautifully adorned.
Three lines of railway, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis and the Rocky River Railroads, traverse Rockport, the two former passing diagonally across it from northeast to southwest, and the latter, running due west from the township line to Rocky river, one of its termini. This latter road was built to accommodate the tide of pleasure hunters which flows in great volume in the summer season to Rocky river and to the lake shore in that vicinity. It is also a very great convenience to people residing along its line, and from them derives no inconsiderable part of its support.
The manufacturing interests of Rockport are very few. William Maile on Detroit street began in 1861 to manufacture drain tile and common brick. The brick business he soon gave up, but for seven years after 1861, he made about three hundred thousand drain tile annually. In 1869 he resumed the manufacture of brick, in connection with the tile business, and at present-in June, 1879-he is making drain tile and Penfield pressed brick, employing three hands.
Mr. John W. Spencer is extensively occupied in the western part of Rockport in the manufacture of tile and brick, in which he engaged in 1874, with his brother, F. J. Spencer. The latter retiring in 1877, J. W. Spencer has since carried on the business alone. He employs four men, and manufactures annually two hundred thousand drain tile and one hundred thousand brick.
History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Part Third: The Townships, compiled by Crisfield Johnson, Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., 1879; pages 501-509.