Bay Village’s History

The History of Bay Village, Ohio

Bay Village residents through history have treasured their hometown for its beauty, bounty and tranquility.

Bay Village and surrounding areas were home to wandering tribes of Erie Indians when the first white men explored this area, about 1600. The lands were fertile hunting and fishing grounds. The most important Indian trail in Ohio is now Lake Road, which runs through Bay Village.

In 1778, the State of Virginia had made this part of the country its Northwest Territory during the Revolutionary War. New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut, however, also laid claim to the lands. Finally, because of all the confusion and the need for the 13 new United States to come to an agreement, all the states except Connecticut gave up its claims in 1780 and 1781. Connecticut refused to give up what it called its Western Reserve and, until Ohio became a state in 1803, this area belonged to Connecticut.

During its ownership, the Connecticut Land Company sold some of the land and gave many acres to Connecticut citizens who had lost their homes and farms during the Revolution. This area was called “The Firelands” because the people had lost their homes and barns to the fires of war.

One of the members of the Connecticut Land Company was a surveyor named Moses Cleaveland. He and his friends made the trip on horseback from Connecticut in 68 days to the new land they had purchased. They arrived on the banks of the Cuyahoga River with their Indian guides in July, 1796. The party explored, surveyed and marked off land into townships five miles square.

The township lines between the Cuyahoga River and the Firelands to the west were surveyed and laid out in 1806. Two men from Connecticut bought Township Number 7, bordered by Lake Erie on the north, the township of Olmsted on the south, Rockport (Rocky River) on the east and Avon on the west. The cost: about $32,000 for 25 square miles.

The owners, Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Stowe, named it Dover Township after their home town of Dover, Connecticut, which was named because it looked similar to Dover, England, and, probably, because the cliffs along the lake looked like the high, white cliffs of England’s shore.

Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Stowe never came to the lands they owned; they left it to their sales agents to sell the farm lots to new settlers.

As early as 1799 a man named Joseph Cahoon visited this area and wrote to his wife Lydia in Vermont about a new, beautiful countryside he had found. (Cahoon’s family was Scottish, the name being Colquhoun in Scotland.)

After returning home to Vergennes, Vermont, in 1807, he bought Lot 95 on the Lake Erie shore at the mouth of a creek. Two years later, at age 52, with his wife, five sons and three daughters, and all their belongings packed into a covered wagon, they set out for the eight-week walk to their new home.

The Cahoon family stopped their wagon on the morning of October 10, 1810, near a bubbling little creek. Cahoon, a miller by trade, had picked the land knowing he would need waterpower to turn his mill.

That same afternoon, after righting a spilled wagon in the Rocky River, Asahel Porter and his family, together with his 17-year-old brother-in-law, Reuben Osborn, arrived from New York and claimed Lot 94 to the west.

With winter approaching, Cahoon and his sons, with nothing more than axes and muscle, built a log cabin in four days. Animal skins covered the windows; the door was the bottom of the wagon.

By 1818, the Cahoons had built a large, five-bedroom frame house on a grassy hillside above the creek. Joseph called it the most beautiful spot in America. The house stands today as the Rose Hill Museum, filled with Cahoon and other early settlers’ memorabilia.

The Cahoon family barn, built in 1882, was converted in the 1930s to a community center, which serves the community today.

The Reuben Osborn house, the oldest frame dwelling between Cleveland and Lorain dating to 1814, was slated for demolition in the early 1990s and was moved from its lakeside lot to a spot near the Cahoon family home in Cahoon Memorial Park. It now serves as the Osborn Learning Center, and houses a rotating variety of displays.

Settlers came fast between 1811 and 1818. They hacked out homesteads about a half-mile apart on the lakeside dirt road. They were farmers, millers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, teachers and more.

The Bassett family came in 1811, then the Halls and Crockers. The Saddlers came in 1816, the Windsors in 1817, the Wolfs in 1818, the Bradleys and Clagues in 1819. By 1840 Dover’s population was 960.

The first schoolteacher was Betsy Crocker, age 14, who began teaching in 1816 in a log schoolhouse on the lakeshore at Bassett Road. After a fire destroyed the log building, a wooden frame schoolhouse was built near the same spot in 1830. A red brick schoolhouse replaced that in 1869 and operated for 72 years. Most children went no further than the sixth grade.

In 1827 the first organized church was held at the old log schoolhouse. After the congregation grew, a huge log cabin church was built near the schoolhouse, replaced by a wood-frame building in 1840 and, in 1908, by a brick building, parts of which still serve today as the Bay Methodist Church.

Joseph Cahoon’s granddaughter, Ida Maria Cahoon, who never married, was the last living relative, and when she died in 1917 she left the house and 115 acres to the new City of Bay Village, with the stipulation that the home be forever maintained as a library or museum. That land is now Cahoon Memorial Park.

John Huntington, one of the original partners in the Standard Oil Company, built a summer estate on 100 acres of land, now known as Huntington Park, which is part of the Cleveland Metroparks system. The park features the only public beach between Cleveland and Lorain, as well as the Huntington Playhouse, housed in the estate’s old barn.

An electric railway was built through the city about 1896. It ran from Cleveland to Toledo. Area residents built summer cottages in the city, many of which still stand today as refurbished family homes.

Besides the electric railway, the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad ran tracks through the area in 1882. The Dover railroad station and nearby store was the center of activity for many years. In 1963, the old station was moved to Huntington Park where it became part of the BayARTS complex.

Washington Lawrence, one of the founders of Union Carbide Corp., in 1895 began the construction of a large home on the lake in Bay Village. Across the street, Lawrence constructed one of the first golf courses in the nation. Family members lived in the house until 1948, when it became the Bay View Hospital, operated by the Shepard family. Today it is part of the Cashelmara condominium complex.

In 1901, because of squabbles over the spending of tax revenues, the City of Bay Village was established in the area of Dover Township north of the railroad tracks. A city government was first elected in 1903.

The city continued to grow over the years. In 1914 a city hall was erected. In 1920 the Parkview School was built. In 2005 that school was demolished to make way for the Bay Middle School. Other schools followed as the population increased.

A library was built in the late 1970’s, and it now operates as part of the Cuyahoga County public library system.

The community is protected by a fine fire department housed in a building built in 1973 on Wolf Road. Adjacent is a new police station, built in 2003.

Today, Bay Village is a community of more than 15,000 individuals living in more than 6,200 homes. Like those who have gone before, they enjoy the city’s beauty, bounty and tranquility.