Lorenzo Carter - excerpts from The Pioneer Families of Cleveland 1796-1840

Rankin Family History Project

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Excerpts from The Pioneer Families of CLEVELAND

Major Lorenzo Carter

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Major Lorenzo Carter has justly been called


for it is doubtful if many of the earliest settlers would have survived the periods of great deprivation they experienced but for Major Carter.

He was their leader and protector. His courage sustained and fortified them in days of trial and danger. The skillful use of his rifle often saved them from starvation or from the terrors of wild beasts. His sturdy presence held in check any hostile demonstration of the Indians. Moreover, his continued residence in the hamlet - seventeen years in all - encouraged later settlers in remaining and living down the malaria that had driven the Stiles, Guns, Hawleys, Kingsburys and Edwards to the heights now outlined by Woodhill Road.

He must have been a striking figure even in those days of picturesque, half-Indian attire; six feet in height, erect, with black hair that hung in length to his shoulders; and with an alert, resolute bearing that betokened the born leader.

We learn that he was honest and generous, as well as brave and capable. It was common saying that "Major Carter was all the law Cleveland had. He was kind to the poor and unfortunate, hospitable to the stranger, would put himself to great inconvenience to oblige a neighbor, and was always at the service of an individual or the public when a wrong had been perpetrated."

It is not the purpose of this history of the Cleveland pioneers to dwell upon their American ancestry. But, as Lorenzo Carter was so unique a personage and filled for so many years so prominent a place in the hamlet, it seems proper to touch lightly upon his forebears, in order to explain him - to account for his intelligence and unusual traits of character.

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(1) Rev. Thomas Carter was educated at Cambridge, England, and there took his degree of M. A. He came to America in 1635, and seven years later was ordained at Woburn, Mass. He became minister of the Congregation church in that town, and continued for for forty-two years.

(2) Thomas Carter, Jr., cultivated a large farm near Woburn, but resided in the old homestead, built in 1642, a part of which is still standing. He married Margery, daughter of Francis Whittemore.

(3) Thomas Carter 3rd, born in Woburn, removed to Litchfield, Conn. His wife was Sarah Gilbert, a descendant of Jonathan Gilbert, Hugh Welles, James Rodgers, and other early lights of Colonial days. Evidently he was a man of considerable property, as he deeded a generous amount of land to each of his six sons. These sons all served their country in the struggle for American independence.

(4) Lieut. Elazer Carter enlisted in the Continental Army. His company was disbanded temporarily, and he returned home, to die small-pox, in his thirty-seventh year, leaving a widow and six children, the oldest of whom - Lorenzo Carter - was but eleven years of age.

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Elizabeth Buell Carter, wife of Eleazer, was the granddaughter of Ensign William Buell, of Windham County, Conn, and a descendant of the Griswolds, of Winsor, and the Collins, of Hartford. An educated woman, well-fitted for the years of trial and struggle that lay before her, she was capable in instructing her children when other opportunities of education failed them.

Warren - the small village of Litchfield County, in which they lived - possessed an unusual library for that day, and her children were taught to use it freely. The list of books drawn by Lorenzo from that library, and later from one in Cleveland, witness to his good taste in literature and frequent indulgence in it.

About 1783 - the close of the Revolutionary War - Mrs. Carter married, secondly, Major Benjamin Ackley, who took her and her children, together with some of his own, by a former marriage, to Castleton, Vt., where her brother, Major Ephraim Buell, had recently settled.

At least three more children were born to her, all of whom lived to be very aged. They were John A. Eleazer, and Orange Ackley. The former was once well known in Cleveland, as was his son, John M. Ackley, late of Brewton, Ala., to whose courtesy the writer is greatly indebted for valuable data concerning the family.

In 1789 Lorenzo Carter married Rebecca Fuller, and settled down on a small farm in Castleton. But not long. He soon became dissatisfied with the old circumscribed life of a poor farmer, his imagination became fired by glowing descriptions of "New Connecticut", and in company with another man, he came West, either in the fall of 1795, or very early the following year, to investigate for himself the future site of Cleveland.

He returned to Vermont, and in the late fall of 1796, in company with Ezekiel Hawley, Lucy Carter Hawley, his wife - who was Lorenzo's sister - and their young child, the Carters started for their new home in the wilderness.

They had three children at that time, Alonzo, Laura, and Rebecca, aged respectively six, four and two years. When the party reached the little hamlet of Buffalo, N. Y., it seemed expedient not to proceed any farther on the journey that season. There were no accommodations for the two families there. Buffalo was simply a store-house and a log hut or two, so at the close of the American Revolution thirteen years previous, a settlement had been made by Tory refugees, chief of whom was John Clement, formerly of Schenectady, N. Y. - one of Butler's rangers in the dreadful warfare carried on by Tories against the patriots of the Mohawk Valley during the struggle of the American Revolution.

December 13, another child was born to the Carters - little Henry, who ten years later was drowned in Cuyahoga River. Mrs. Carter engaged a young Canadian girl to assist her in the care of the babe, by the name of Chloe Inches, who had an admirer in William Clement, a son of John Clement, the ranger.

She accompanied the family to Cleveland, but two months afterward was followed and claimed by her lover, and they were married the following July. A full account of this wedding will be found in the pages of this volume.

At what date the Carters and Hawleys resumed their journey is not ascertained, but they reached here in May, 1797. As there were young children in the party, including a babe five months old, and as the weather in this latitude is often at freezing point in the early part of April, it is probable they delayed starting until later in the month, which would bring them to their destination after the middle of May.

Mr. Carter bought lot 199, which was on the river bank west of Water Street, and nearly at the foot of St. Clair Street. It contained nearly two acres, and cost $47.50. The contract with and description of it from the Connecticut Land Company is still preserved.

Upon this lot he built a large log-house, containing two rooms, with rough puncheon floors. They must have been furnished in the most primitive fashion, as the only household effects that could be transported from the East at that early day were bedding and the simplest cooking utensils. One iron kettle and a skillet often served for half a dozen purposes in preparing a meal, and frequently only part of a family could eat at a time for want of sufficient dishes.

This first log-house, on the side of the hill and close to the river, was the center of many pioneer activities. It was a dwelling, Indian trading-post, store, and headquarters for all the settlement. Here, in 1801, was celebrated the Fourth of July, ending in a dance, participated in by about a dozen women and fifteen men. The only refreshment served, it is said, was whiskey and water, sweetened with maple sugar. But as the report of this social affair was written by a man, it may have been biased by his own taste in the matter of refreshments - the hot drink probably remembered, the food that appealed to the women forgotten.

Timothy Doan's eldest daughter, Nancy, aged fifteen, was one of the party. She had arrived the previous April with her parents, and was visiting her uncle Nathaniel at Doan's Corners. She was escorted by a young man living transiently in Newburgh, named Bryant. He wore a gingham suit, and his hair - queued - was tied with a yard and a half of black ribbon. It had previously been greased and sprinkled with flour as thick as it would stick. He wore a wool hat and heavy shoes. By means of the latter he hoped to make a fine clatter in his "pigeon wings" while dancing the Fisher's Hornpipe or "Hie Betty Martin."

Doan's Corners was four miles east from the Carter home, and two miles or more north of Newburgh, and Bryant went for Nancy on an old horse along the road now known as Woodhill Road. "He alighted by a stump near the Doan cabin, and Nancy mounted the stump, spread her under-petticoat over old Tib's back, secured her calico dress from the mud-splashes sure to assail it, and mounted behind hi." It is reported that they had a good time.

In 1801 Mr. Carter added to his possessions by acquiring more city property. The deed and description of it is still retained in the family. It began at the north-west corner of Water (W. 9th) and Superior streets, and embraced all the lots between that point and lot 199 - the one he was occupying.

Upon the corner he built a large frame-house - the first one in the settlement - which, when nearly finished, was set on fire by children playing with the dry shavings left on the floors. It must have been a serious loss to the family, as well as a great disappointment. However, another one was soon erected, but this time of hewn logs.

There is some dispute regarding the exact year in which this last house was finished, but the oldest son of the family was thirteen years of age at the time, and his testimony should have due weight. He says it was in 1803. The house consisted of a large living room, kitchen and two bedrooms on the ground floor, and several small rooms in the half-story above.

A large chimney stood in the center of this primitive structure, in which were two free-places. The one in the kitchen had an iron crane, upon which Mrs. Carter hung venison, wild turkey or other meats to roast, while the few vegetables obtainable were cooked either in the hot ashes or in iron pots and skillets set close to the fire and requiring continual turning to secure an even heat within. The baking-oven was built in the chimney.

The oldest daughter of the family - Mrs. Laura Miles Strong - stated that the furniture in this log-cabin was all made by a Cleveland carpenter out of lumber brought from Detroit.

Mrs. Carter was fully in sympathy with her husband in all his plans for the future. There were many strangers constantly arriving to inspect the new settlement, with a view of joining it, and these were freely and generously invited to partake of the hospitality of the Carter home. Finally it became apparent that a public inn was necessary, and Mr. Carter made his new log-house a tavern.

Although the cares of this house, of strangers, and of her children required an immense amount of labor, Mrs. Carter was ever ready to comfort or aid any suffering neighbor by sympathy, tender nursing, or by supplying daintily prepared food for the helpless. Her intense religious nature, combined with her early training, led her to be among the first to assist in the organization of a religious society, which held its early services in Carter's tavern before a "meeting-house" was built.

In is a great satisfaction to the writer, and will be to the reader, that so much of this representative pioneer woman has been preserved. It is due to the loyalty and zeal of her great-granddaughter - Miss L. Belle Hamlin, of Milford, Conn. - a genealogist of our day, whose researches secured knowledge of her ancestress that otherwise would have been unattainable.

Rebecca Fuller Carter was the daughter of Amos and Mercy Taylor Fuller, who with several neighbors, removed from Lebanon, Conn., to Carmel, a beautiful little village of Eastern New York. But during the War of the American Revolution, fifteen years later, that locality became so unsafe that after innumerable hardships the family were compelled to return to Connecticut, and Mr. Fuller, then nearing sixty years of age, was obliged to found a new home. This he did in Warren, a little village in the mountains of Litchfield County. It possessed, for that period, an unusually good library and an excellent school.

Here also lived the widow Carter and her children, and the Ackleys. Abel Fuller, Rebecca's brother, was in love with Roxanna Ackley, afterward the step-sister of Lorenzo Carter. Two years after the marriage of Mrs. Carter to Roxanna's father, and the removal of the families to Castleton, Vt., Abel followed them, and Roxanna Ackley became his wife.

In time Rebecca Fuller visited her brother in Castleton, and a friendship that had existed between Lorenzo Carter and herself was renewed. It matured into strong affection, and they were married in January, 1789. She was twenty-two years of age.

No pioneer woman of Cleveland was more illy fitted to endure the dangers, deprivations and toil which existed for all those first settlers than was Mrs. Carter, whose shy, timid, imaginative temperament [sic] created unnecessary terrors, and whose physical frailty made the struggle for existence difficult.

The surrounding Indians were a source of continual anxiety, for she possessed none of that fearlessness so characteristic of her husband, and she suffered greatly from an unconquerable dread of their approach. The common occurrence of one peering into the house with face pressed close against the window-pane would cause her to run away screaming with terror. Or, did they appear in the house when her husband was away, she would lock herself and children in another room, or would hide in the woodpile until they disappeared.

This fear of them was apparent to the Indians, and, perhaps in resentment of it, they seemed to enjoy tormenting her.

Once, knowing that Mr. Carter was away hunting, an Indian came into the house, and ordered her to cook a meal for him, and, growing ugly at some delay, he raised his arm threateningly and started towards her. She ran through the open door and circled round and round the woodpile, closely followed by her pursuer.

The aspect of this scene was suddenly changed by the appearance of her husband standing with gun leveled at her tormentor, and, while she fell breathless to the ground, almost paralyzed with fright, the Indian skulked limping away, carrying with him a stinging and personal knowledge of Lorenzo Carter's skill as a marksman.

Mrs. Carter had five more children born to her after she came to Cleveland, making nine in all. Her little Rebecca, who came with them from Vermont, died the fall after their arrival, and in 1808 she lost two more children -- Cleveland born -- in less than two months. Three years later her ten-year-old son, Henry, the one born in Canada, was drowned in the river.

But she had yet to face a greater sorrow, one that demanded her uttermost fortitude. Lorenzo Carter, in the very prime of life, was smitten with that dreadful and fatal disease - cancer. It appeared upon his face, and he went East to consult the most eminent physicians, but returned, knowing that for him life was short. Brave and daring as he had shown himself hitherto, he could not resign himself to his fate. As the disease gradually disfigured his countenance, he grew morbidly sensitive, refused all visitors, and retired to an upper room to avoid friends and strangers alike.

There were days when, tortured by pain and his own thoughts, he would pace his room, furiously raging at his hard fate.

His gentle wife would then endeavor to pacify him in every way that love prompted, but often - so impatient and desperate was his mood - he would drive her away. Then she would sit down on the stairs near his door and pray to be taught how to comfort him.

That he appreciated her devotion and reciprocated her affection, is evident in his will, in which careful directions are given for her future welfare.

Lorenzo Carter died in February, 1814, and was buried in Erie Street Cemetery, to the left of the main drive, and close to the front entrance. Beside him lies his wife, Rebecca Fuller Carter, who survived him thirteen years and died at the age of sixty-one.

The births, deaths and marriages of the Carter children were copied from the family Bible and kindly furnished as data for this work.

Alonzo Carter, b. in Castleton, Vt., 1790; m. Julia Akins.

Laura Carter, b. in Castleton, Vt., 1792; m. Erastus Miles and (2d) James Strong.

Rebecca Carter, b. in Castleton, Vt., 1794; d. Sept. 1797.

Henry Carter, b. in Niagara, Ont., Dec. 1796; d. Sept. 1806.

Polly Carter, b. in Cleveland 1798; m. William Peets, and (2d) -----.

Rebecca Carter, b. in Cleveland, 1800; d. Aug., 1803.

Lorenzo Carter, b. in Cleveland, 1802; d. Sept. 1803.

Mercy Carter, b. in Cleveland, 1804; m. Asahel Abels.

Betsey Carter, b. in Cleveland, 1806; m. Orison Cathan.

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Soon after his arrival in Cleveland, Lorenzo Carter bought a large farm on the west side of the river, most of it lying directly opposite his homestead. This he either gave or sold to his eldest born and only son Alonzo, who lived on it and cultivated it for many years. His house, painted red and always mentioned as the red house, stood where it was conspicuous from superior Street, being directly opposite the foot of it.

Alonzo Carter married in 1815, Julia Akins, who was the daughter of George and Tamison Higgins Akins, who had come from Haddam, Conn., in 1811, and settled in Brooklyn on the farm where the City Infirmary has stood for so many years.

In the red house Alonzo and his wife entertained the traveling public, and their tavern was as well-known a stopping-place as, for fifteen years, his father's had been. The Buffalo Land Company bought the farm some time in the '30s, and erected one of the finest hotels in the West, either on it or close at hand. But the grand hotel proved less profitable than the small pioneer tavern, and eventually fell into ruin, after many years of base usage as factory and slum tenement.

Alonzo Carter had the distinction of being


He was unanimously elected to that office in June, 1815, when the village of Cleveland was incorporated, and probably it was a tribute to the well known Carter honesty.

The marshal chosen in that election of 1815 was John A. Ackley, the half-brother of Lorenzo Carter.

Alonzo seems always to have been held in much respect. He was associated with leading citizens of the town in various enterprises. He inherited the kind, generous qualities of his parents. This was exemplified in an incident which will be found in Johnson's History of Cuyahoga County, p. 417.

After the sale of the farm he removed to the vicinity of Broadway and Miles Ave., where his sons also lived and died.

Children of Alonzo and Julia Akins Carter:

Rebecca Carter, m. 1835, Joseph Few, of New York State.

Laura Carter, m. 1844, Stewart Rathbun.

Julia Carter, m. 1845, Mr. Charles Northrup, of Olmstead Falls, O.

Amelia Carter, m. Corydon Rathbun.

Lorenzo Carter, m. Eunice Brockway.

Edward Carter, m. Margaret Stewart, widow of Augustus Stewart.

Charles Carter, m. Anna Rock.

Henry Carter, m. Julia McNamara.

Alonzo Carter died in 1872, and his wife ten years later.

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Laura Carter

Laura Carter, the oldest daughter of Lorenzo and Rebecca Carter, was a tall, straight, black-eyed girl, and, like her father, courageous and fearless. Her remembrance of the long journey from Vermont to Cleveland was but slight, but some of her recollections of events that transpired after the family reached their destination remained vivid through life, especially that of the Indians crowding into their cabin and sometimes filling the living room with their numbers.

At first they peered curiously around, handled all articles that amused or puzzled them, watched closely the movements of the family, and showed particular interest in Mrs. Carter's method of cooking. The bread baking was a wonderful mystery, and when she placed the bread dough near the fire to hasten its rising they would watch its gradual rising upward, shaking their heads with solemnity, mutter "bad spirit," and edge to a distant corner.

Very early Laura learned that she could protect her timid mother from these invasions. She knew they both respected and feared her father, and that they would immediately disperse upon his arrival home. So she would glance out of the window, and, turning, call, "Father is coming!" or, going to the door, would pretend to be talking with him at a distance away. Whereupon the Indians would take to the woods.

One night, Alonzo and Laura planned to have some fun with several of their prostrate forms, the children placed handfuls of horse-chestnuts in the hot ashes, and then hid to watch results.

Soon a sputtering and cracking began, then a shot, followed by a resounding explosion, issuing from that fire-place. The Indians sprang to their feet and fled out into the night. The following day they told of how "an evil spirit came down the Carters' chimney, and they could not rest there."

One night, during Mr. Carter's absence, about fifteen Indians came in and took possession of the cabin. Their carousing and smoking greatly frightened Mrs. Carter, who was lying ill in an adjoining room. Laura was then but thirteen years old, but she walked in boldly, swinging a broom right and left, hitting heads, legs and arms indiscriminately, and crying, "Get out! my mother is sick!" The Indians, taken by surprise, almost unconsciously obeyed the command of the daring little girl.

In 1809, at the age of seventeen, Laura married Erastus Miles, who had located in Cleveland in 1801, and the following year had been made town clerk. He held this office many years, and in 1810 was appointed a justice of the peace. His stirring energy appealed strongly to Laura's father, and soon after the marriage they were associated together in various enterprises, one of which was the building of the "Zephyr," the first vessel built in Cleveland.

As it seemed impossible to leave her frail mother to the labor and care the tavern entailed, the young couple decided to remain there until Mercy and Polly, the younger sisters, were older.

During the War of 1812 the tavern was overrun with soldiers coming by boat-load into Cleveland - especially after Perry's victory. Laura and her sisters cooked night as well as day for those hungry men, and years afterward they used to refer to the barrels of bread they had then baked - often in the hours of the night.

Laura Carter Miles was her father's chief nurse during his fatal illness. Her strong, self-reliant, cheerful nature sustained and comforted the stricken man in a way impossible to his delicate, grief-stricken wife. She was with him to the end, and two weeks later gave birth to her second child.

Soon after, Mr. Miles built a residence in Newburgh, and removed his family there. This building, though changed beyond all recognition, still stands on the corner of Broadway and Miles Ave. At the same time he opened a store,m and started for New York to purchase goods to stock it. Mrs. Miles accompanied him, riding all the way on horseback.

On this trip, while visiting relatives, she learned to make salt-rising bread, much to the convenience of her neighbors, whom she instructed in the art, as fresh yeast was not always easy to obtain.

In 1826, after a few days only of illness, Erastus Miles died. Two years later Laura married Mr. James Strong of Cleveland - son of the pioneer - and thenceforth lived in his home on Euclid Avenue, at the corner of E. 89th Street. The Severance mansion now occupies the site.

Here she spent twelve happy years. Mr. Strong was very kind to her children, and she was equally so to his by a former marriage, and in the course of time three more came to bless the household.

Mr. Strong died in 1840, and his widow moved to Olmstead Falls, and subsequently to Elkhart, Ind., where she died in 1863.

Children Erastus and Laura Carter Miles:

Emily Miles, b. 1810; m. Timothy T. Clark; 2nd, Joseph K. Curtis.

Lorenzo Miles, b. 1815; m. Margaret Lawrence, of Mr. Morris, N. Y.

Edwin Miles, b. 1817; d. 18 years of age.

Lucretia Miles, b. 1818; m. Hon. Edward s. Hamlin, of Elyria, O.

Charles Miles, b. 1820; m. Electa A. Lawrence - sister of Margaret.

Children of James and Laura Carter Strong:

Mary Strong, m. Hon. Edward Hamlin.

Frances Strong, m. Lewis W. Pickering, of Elkhart, Ind.

Louise Strong, m. Samuel S. Strong, of Elkhart, Ind.

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