CLEAVELAND, MOSES (29 Jan. 1754-16 Nov. 1806), founder of the city of Cleveland, was born in Canterbury, Conn. In 1777, Cleaveland began service in the Revolutionary War in a Connecticut Continental Regiment, and graduated from Yale. Resigning his commission in 1781, he practiced law in Canterbury, and on 2 Mar. 1794 married Esther Champion and had four children. As one of 36 founders of the CONNECTICUT LAND CO. (investing $32,600), and one of 7 directors, in 1796 Cleaveland was sent to survey and map the company's holdings.
When the party arrived at Buffalo Creek, N.Y., Cleaveland met in treaty with Red Jacket, Joseph Brant, Farmer's Brother, and other Iroquois chiefs, and with gifts and persuasion convinced them their land had already been ceded through Gen. Anthony Wayne's Treaty of Greenville. Although they had not signed the treaty, the Indians relinquished their claim to the land to the CUYAHOGA RIVER. At the mouth of Conneaut Creek, the party on 27 June 1796 negotiated with the MASSASAGOES tribe, who challenged their claim to their country. Cleaveland described his agreement with the Six Nations, promised not to disturb their people, and gave them trinkets, wampum, and whiskey in exchange for safety to explore to the Cuyahoga River. Cleaveland arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga on 22 July 1796, and believing that the location, where river, lake, low banks, dense forests, and high bluffs provided both protection and shipping access, was the ideal location for the "capital city" of the Connecticut WESTERN RESERVE, led the surveying of the 9.5-acre, New England-like PUBLIC SQUARE. Importantly the choice of the site recognized the potential of a creating water transportation route from Lake Erie to the Ohio River (that would be realized with the completion of the OHIO AND ERIE CANAL in 1832).
His surveyors plotted a town, naming it Cleaveland. In Oct. 1796, Cleaveland and most of his party returned to Connecticut, where he continued his law practice until his death, never returning to the Western Reserve. A memorial near his grave in Canterbury, Conn., erected 16 Nov. 1906 by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, reads that Cleaveland was "a lawyer, a soldier, a legislator and a leader of men."