It wasn’t an altruistic pioneering spirit that led to Cleveland’s founding on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Nor was it a great vision of a shining city on the banks of a shimmering Lake Erie. It was a land deal created by convenience by investors who were willing to buy land sight unseen. Indeed, the area had not even been surveyed.
Following the Revolutionary War, the national government pressed its new states to give up claims to the lands west of the Allegheny Mountains that had been granted by England. Connecticut’s piece of the pie was literally a slice that ran from Pennsylvania’s border west to the Pacific Ocean.
Connecticut agreed to give up the grant, but negotiated a portion at the eastern end, which the state planned to sell for $1 million to help finance public education.
Connecticut found no takers for its “Western Reserve” until Connecticut Land Co., a group of 49 investors led by Oliver Phelps, stepped forward. Phelps put up a little over a quarter of the $1 million purchase for a piece of land that stretched from its eastern neighbor 120 miles west to what is now Sandusky Bay.
Once Connecticut Land Co. won the bid, it paid one of the investors, Moses Cleaveland, to survey the land. He was given a budget of $7,000 and a summer to complete the task, but there were problems, including inadequate supplies, forcing many to dine on broiled rattlesnake while away from the company’s centralized provisions. They were plagued by rain, illness and mosquitos that would swarm in clouds up the Cuyahoga River.
The disgruntled surveyors threatened mutiny and desertion if their pay was not increased. Cleaveland struck a deal for land in a nearby township that could be purchased for $1 an acre. The surveyors named the township Euclid after the father of geometry.
After the initial surveying, the entire Western Reserve was divided into 5-mile square townships, and within each, broken down into 100-acre farms.