The EARLY SETTLERS ASSOCIATION OF THE WESTERN RESERVE is a voluntary organization of people who are interested in studying, preserving and commemorating the history of the Connecticut WESTERN RESERVE and early Cleveland. Still active after 140 years, it was organized as the Early Settlers Association of Cuyahoga County at the instigation of HIRAM M. ADDISON on 19 November, 1879. HARVEY RICE was elected first president.
According to its constitution, the club's purpose was "to record the deeds of pioneers, to collect all facts, incidents, relics, and personal reminiscences respecting the early history and settlement of the county and other parts of the Western Reserve regarded of permanent value." Annual meetings originally took place on Cleveland's birthdate of 22 July, but after 1902 they were held every 10 September, commemorating Commodore Perry's victory on Lake Erie. Records of the proceedings of these meetings have been published annually by the ESA in its Annals from 1880-responsible 1933, seven times from 1934-61, and generally every five years since 1961. It also published numerous maps and brochures and a quarterly membership newsletter, The Pioneer. In 1963 cooperated with the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY in the publication of A Pictorial History of the Western Reserve by Margaret Manor Butler.
Among the public monuments promoted and funded by the association are the statue of MOSES CLEAVELAND in PUBLIC SQUARE, the Harvey Rice monument, the bronze replica of the COMMODORE PERRY MONUMENT in Fort Huntington Park, and the statue of George Washington in the Federal Building Plaza on East 6th St. The ESA has been for the restoration and preservation of the ERIE STREET CEMETERY, the establishment of FORT HUNTINGTON PARK, and the erection of boundary markers designating the four corners of the Western Reserve.
During the city's 1946 sesquicentennial, the ESA assisted in the naming of the MOSES CLEAVELAND TREES and performed a follow-up inventory for the Bicentennial of 1976 and subsequently. During the 1971 (Super-sesquicentennial) celebration, the association established and selected names for the CLEVELAND HALL OF FAME, maintained and updated every five years in the rotunda of Cleveland City Hall.
Since 1980, ESA has awarded the Herrick Award, named for local historian Clay Herrick and his family, to individuals who have contributed significantly to the betterment of Cleveland. Honorees have included Victor Schreckengost, Maxine Levin and Leon Bibb. Recent ESA activities also include a special award to students participating in NATIONAL HISTORY DAY local competition, for projects relevant to the Western Reserve’s history. William C. Barrow succeeded long-time president John Cimperman in 2019 and in 2023 Mary Artino, Moses Cleaveland's sixth great-grandaughter, succeeded Barrow, becoming the association's first woman president.
Updated by William C. Barrow