BROOKLYN TOWNSHIP

BROOKLYN TOWNSHIP, created in 1818, marked the beginning of an organized governmental structure on the west side of the CUYAHOGA RIVER.

The initial survey (launched in 1796) of Connecticut’s WESTERN RESERVE was limited to lands east of the river because those to the west were still under Native American claim. Areas west would legitimately open to settlement only after the Treaty of  Fort Industry on July 4, 1805. Under the terms of the treaty, the eastern boundary of lands held by the Ottawa, Potawatomi, Chippewa, Wyandot, Munsee, Delaware and Shawnee tribes was moved from the Tuscarawas and Cuyahoga Rivers westward to a line 120 miles from Pennsylvania’s eastern border. The Tribes’ new eastern boundary thus became the westward edge of the Firelands of the Connecticut Western Reserve.

Settlement of Western Reserve land immediately east of the Cuyahoga River began immediately after the 1796 survey and, by 1814, Cleveland was large enough to be recognized as a village. By that time lands west of the river were also being organized and settled. The Township of Rockport was formed in 1815. This tract ultimately became western LAKEWOOD, ROCKY RIVER, FAIRVIEW PARK and LINNDALE. On 1 June 1818, roughly 800,000 acres apportioned into standard 160-acre lots—from the Cuyahoga River to what is now Lakewood and south from Lake Erie to the Townships of Parma and Independence—became the Township of Brooklyn. Captain Ozias Brainard, an 1814 emigrant from Connecticut, proposed that the area’s new name be “Egypt” because corn grew so well there. However, Brooklyn was the more-popular, less-controversial choice. Samuel Lord and his brother RICHARD were the area’s first large landowners, joining roughly three dozen other investors who purchased the entire Western Reserve from the State of Connecticut in 1795, formed the CONNECTICUT LAND COMPANY and sent out surveying parties beginning in 1796. JOSIAH BARBER, Samuel Lord’s son-in-law, became a partner soon after. Most subsequent settlers purchased their tracts from Lord and Barber.

Brooklyn Twp.’s first white settlement was on a picturesque slope in the area now occupied by RIVERSIDE CEMETERY and which, to this day, is known as Granger Hill. Little is known about the man called Granger other than that he was Canadian and that he left in 1815 after selling his property to Ozias Brainard who, in 1813, had settled along the Newburgh road in Brooklyn Twp’s southwest corner.

A few years earlier, in 1812, James Fish and his cousins Ebenezer and Moses Fish—the first Connecticut Land Company emissaries—had come from Groton, CT, to the Western Reserve with myriad relatives, an ox-team and a lumber wagon. Settling around what became Denison Ave. in the area now known as Brooklyn Centre, they built a crude log cabin and, on 19 May 1814, James’ son Isaiah was born—the first white child born in the new settlement. Early on, the family often journeyed to NEWBURGH TOWNSHIP south of Cleveland and east of the river to earn cash, mill grain, and acquire produce and supplies.

Later in 1814, 40 more people arrived from Connecticut: the families of Isaac Hinckley, Asa Ackley, Asa Brainard, Elijah Young, Stephen Brainard, Enos Brainard and Warren Brainard. Isaac Hinckley settled with his family near what is now Schaaf Rd. Asa and Stephen Brainard located around the site of present-day MetroHealth on Scranton Road. Asa Ackley, a miller, opened a blacksmith shop on Walworth Run in 1814. That same year, the first religious services in what would become Brooklyn Twp. were held by a traveling Universalist preacher, and a Methodist class met at the home of Ozias Brainard. Diodate Clark, who came from Connecticut in 1815, was the Township’s first male school teacher. The area’s first gristmill was erected around 1815 and the first sawmill in 1817. Ozias Brainard, Jr., is said to have erected Brooklyn Twp.’s first frame dwelling. Samuel Barber constructed a log house at Pearl (W. 25th) St. and Franklin Ave. overlooking the river valley, which he later replaced with the first brick house in Cleveland. To entice settlers, Barber (who later became the first mayor of Ohio City) operated a store at Pearl Rd. and Lorain Ave. Asa Brainard opened the area’s first tavern about 1825. By 1830, Ansel Smith had set up a wagon shop. Later, old Indian trails were used to construct what became Pearl, Broadview and Schaaf Rds.              

Thanks to its proximity to Cleveland, Brooklyn Twp. grew rapidly and numerous hamlets and villages began to be carved out. The first new municipality likely was Brighton, which incorporated just south of Big Creek around 1833. Brighton’s life as a distinct entity was short: Its charter was allowed to lapse in 1837, only a year after incorporation, and it reverted to Brooklyn Twp. until 1890, when it was organized as the Village of South Brooklyn. South Brooklyn was annexed to the city of Cleveland in December 1905. By WWII, the term South Brooklyn was seldom used and the area now represents a significant part of the Cleveland neighborhood formally known as OLD BROOKLYN.

Brooklyn Village (laid out by Moses Fish in 1830 as Brooklyn Centre and incorporated in 5 Aug 1867 as Brooklyn Village) included territory north of Big Creek to an area between what are now Clark and Dennison Avenues near the Cleveland Zoo. Brooklyn Village grew in population and wealth from year to year, with frequent conflicts over its proposed annexation to the City of Cleveland. The disagreements ended in 1894 when the north end of Brooklyn Village became part of Cleveland’s 39th Ward. Once again known as Brooklyn Centre, it now is (along with Old Brooklyn) one of only two Brooklyn-identified neighborhoods and statistical planning areas (SPAs) within the City of Cleveland.

In 1903 the Village of BROOKLYN HEIGHTS—now a suburb of Cleveland—was carved out of a large southeasterly section of Brooklyn Twp. and an equally large portion of Independence Twp. across the Cuyahoga River. (Independence Twp. had been annexed by Newburgh Twp. in 1896 and an adjoining part of Brooklyn Twp. became the Village of SEVEN HILLS in 1927.) A prime motive for Brooklyn Hts.’ secession was to escape higher tax valuations resulting from intensive cultivation for gardening and greenhouse purposes. At the time, the community was a leading vegetable-growing area and, to this day, Brooklyn entities are sometimes called “Greenhouse Capital of the United States.” Brooklyn Hts. has remained a separate village, although a large western section (about two-thirds of the Village’s area) was annexed to the City of Cleveland in 1927.

The last “Brooklyn” to secede  from the City of Cleveland was, ironically, “Brooklyn,” which spun off to became Cleveland’s Brooklyn Village in 1927 and the City of Brooklyn in 1950. One historical claim to fame of this little suburb (4.5 sq. mi.) is that it was once home to two airports: Brooklyn Airport (now the site of a shopping mall) and Mather Airport (now the site of a school). On 20 Oct. 1955, Elvis Presley performed at Brooklyn High School—his first concert north of the Mason-Dixon line. 

The Twp.’s first “non-Brooklyn” secession was The CITY OF OHIO, which was an independent municipality (and the first incorporated city in Cuyahoga Cty.) from 3 March 1836 until 5 June 1854 when it became part of Cleveland Wards 8, 9, 10, and 11 and renamed Ohio City. GERMANS, HUNGARIANS and IRISH were among its early residents. The area now known as Tremont, comprised first of British, Irish and German settlers, soon followed. Initially part of Ohio City, it was first christened Cleveland Heights and subsequently University Heights, Lincoln Heights, The South Side, and ultimately TREMONT. Other parts of Brooklyn Twp. followed, carving out unique identities such as CUDELL, STOCKYARDSKAMMS CORNERS, and Clark-Fulton. By 1837, 401 free AFRICAN AMERICANS were registered throughout Brooklyn Twp. Careful records were kept to prevent these people from being carried south into slavery. 

The Village of West Cleveland along Brooklyn Twp’s northern border was organized in 1875 and annexed to the City on 26 Feb 1894, at which time it became Cleveland’s 41st Ward. West Cleveland’s linear epicenter was Detroit Avenue—the first Brooklyn Twp. street and later the first streetcar route (1863) to transect Cleveland’s west side.

In 1872 George Linn, Robert Linn, C. J. Thatcher and A. K. Moulton purchased a large tract of land in the southwest corner of Brooklyn Twp., which they named the Village of Linndale. A portion of that was annexed to the City of Cleveland in 1900 and the remainder was incorporated in 1902.

Annexation of Brooklyn Twp. segments continued well into the 20th Century (e.g., sections of Brook Park, Fairview Park and Riveredge Twp.) but today Brooklyn Twp. exists only as a historical placeholder, having been fully overwritten by a wide variety of Cleveland neighborhoods, suburbs, and villages.

Christopher Roy

 

Logo of the Western Reserve Historical Society

Brooklyn Township Records, WRHS

 

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