History of the City of Wickliffe

Est. 1916

The Abridged History of Wickliffe

Wickliffe Its Early Beginnings

Settling In

Range 10, Township 9 (a small portion of the Western Reserve's three million acres) eventually became the City of Wickliffe, Ohio. Moses Cleaveland, an investor and Director of the Connecticut Land Company, was appointed general agent to personally conduct the surveying of the Western Reserve. His entourage of 51 included surveyors, a physician, an astronomer, a commissary, a boatman, cook, Indian traders, axmen, chainmen, rodmen and two couples who would manage the company store in Conneaut and Cleveland.

The party left Connecticut and journeyed 68 days before sighting the northwest border of Pennsylvania on July 4, 1796. After pitching their tents in Conneaut, they fired a Federal Salute of fifteen rounds plus one, in honor of New Connecticut. Their celebration, with toasts and good cheer, emptied two pails of grog.

Following the establishment of the eastern border of the Western Reserve Territory, the group divided into four and began the westward ordeal of hacking out townships into five-mile squares. The survey was not completed that year because a surveyor mistook the Chagrin River for the Cuyahoga River. This wasted many days of exploring before they finally located the Cuyahoga and completed mapping out the townships east of the river. Range 10, Township 9 was surveyed between August and September 1796.

In spite of reports of poor living conditions, disease and food shortages, a few settlers started to trickle into the new territory. Cleveland's population was only 57 in 1810. The turning point in Cleveland’s emigration was New England's cold summer of 1816. Severe frosts continued long into the summer, destroying most of the crops, and cattle died for lack of food. The following winter was also exceptionally severe and people believed the glacial age was returning to reclaim the area. After learning the harsh lessons caused by the weather, the devastation of recent wars, and financial ruin, New Englanders envisioned that the Ohio frontier would be kinder to them. Every family was affected; younger sons were determined to migrate, daughters were boldly marrying and setting out to new beginnings. The cry "Westward Ho" echoed through the land. These God-fearing pioneers, who relied on providence to guide them, came to the Western Reserve in ox-drawn wagons in search of a better life.

The First Families

The wagons kept rolling in. By now it was 1817 and among the settlers are families whose names are familiar in our history, Jones, Tarbell, Lloyd, and Taylor. We now know they came to Wickliffe to join the Freemans, Strongs, Davises and Clarks who were the earliest settlers of Range 10, Township 9, first known as "Chagrine."

The earliest town records show that in 1817 Wickliffe's first residents, the Williams Jones and Abner C. Tarbell families, traveled in two covered wagons from Haddam, Connecticut to the Western Reserve. They settled at Cleveland Public Square but soon relocated to land purchased on a knoll west of the intersection of Lloyd Road and Euclid Avenue, now known as Wickliffe. These early histories have recorded that the land was purchased from the Connecticut Land Company at $5 per acre. However, the Wickliffe Historical Society has a recorded deed that indicates William Jones purchased the land from Theron Freeman on December 4, 1817.

The Wickliffe Historical Society Newsletter dated Summer 1987 quotes an article, “Sketches of Our Old Folks”, from the Willoughby Independent circa 1880. The article recounts an interview with Clarissa Clark Jones, wife of William Jones, who gave a brief sketch of Wickliffe as it appeared in 1817. “The principal building of the settlement was a hotel, a thing of considerable importance in those days. It was kept by a man named Freeman . . . Freeman's father lived near the Eddy Farm. The father of Willoughby townsman Barnes Davis occupied a house that stood across the street, and a little west of Stray’s store. Judge Strong lived on Carman farm. Rodney Strong's house stood on the Taylor farm and Walter Strong had his abode in a house that stood near the residence of Simon Arnold. John Clark and his family lived in a log house near the side of the Graves’ house. These were nearly, if not all, the families who were living in Wickliffe. Mrs. Jones came to that locality. Some of these had been located at least seven years prior to 1817; some perhaps ante-date that period by a few years."

The same issue of the Society's Newsletter explains, “The Jones family was accompanied by the Tarbells…and so they built a double log cabin on a site that was just east of the old village hall. Later, about 1820, Jones built another house on what is now Euclid Avenue.” Originally, it was recorded that Tarbell was the son-in-law of William Jones, but the Historical Society has verified with the Tarbell family that Abner C. Tarbell was a brother-in-law, having married Lucy Parks Jones (sister of William Jones) in 1816.

Other families such as Fuller, Turner, McCracken, Vorce, White, Mosher, Hutchinson, Arnold, Alvord, and Ferguson joined the settlement. Many of these early names are on markers in the Wickliffe Cemetery.

How Our City Grew

Starting on our Own Path

For its first 100 years, Wickliffe was a precinct in Willoughby Township. In 1916, a petition was filed requesting that Wickliffe be permitted to incorporate as a village. When the election was held on March 27, 1916, a majority of those voting approved the resolution (119 were for incorporation). The Incorporation of the Village of Wickliffe was recorded in Painesville on April 10, 1916. Harry C. Coulby, whose estate was destined to become Wickliffe's City Hall, became the first Mayor. First Council members were Harry Carr, Ben Provo, J. Winn Fuller, Merton A. Kellog, George Tyte, and Grant Donaldson. William Means was Treasurer, and Roy Rush was Clerk.

Wickliffe's first administration building was the old Village Hall located on Euclid Avenue. Through the years, village officials shared these accommodations with the fire and police department organized in 1916. Early residents and wealthy Clevelanders who had established large estates here, wished to retain the country atmosphere, so industrialization was discouraged. Most of the residents of Italian ancestry arrived during the 1900's from Campobasso, Italy. They worked as gardeners on the large estates or on the railroads.

Although several people handled mail and postal services before 1843, the first United States post office branch was established on July 3 of that year. Silas A. Vorce was the first postmaster.

Stagecoaches and horses were the only means of transportation into the city until 1852 when the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad was built (later the New York Central). The first city interurban came out as far as Taylor Road until 1895 when the CP&E ran a line from Cleveland to Willoughby.

Post-War Exapansion

Between 1916 and 1940, few industries settled in Wickliffe. Many people still grew their own grapes, onions, eggs, and fruit and sold the excess to Cleveland markets. In 1928, the trees on Euclid Avenue were uprooted so that a sewer line could be installed and several houses were moved back to make way for businesses. In March 1929, the Wickliffe Chamber of Commerce was formed.

Then came the Depression of the '30s - with little or no growth. But rapid expansion followed World War II. Homebuilders and industries found Lake County and Wickliffe.

Census Figures from 1859 to 2000

1859

18 Families

1910

800

1920

1,508

1930

2,491

1940

3,155

1950

5,002

1960

15,760

1970

*21,354

1980

16,790

1990

14,588

2000

13,484

*Included part of Willoughby Hills

The Wickliffe Public Library, established in 1936, was housed in what is now the Middle School. In 1960 it moved to temporary quarters in a Lloyd Road at Euclid Avenue storefront. On November 17, 1963, the present library building opened at a cost of $290,000 paid in full by a tax levy that ran from 1959-62. The land was provided by the Wickliffe Board of Education.

Wickliffe officially became a city on October 6, 1951, when the population grew to 5,002. In 1954, the residents attended the dedication of Wickliffe's fabulous City Hall - the million-dollar mansion built by shipping magnate Harry Coulby. The city negotiated its purchase, along with 54 acres of land, by trading its old village hall, a 14-acre park on Bishop Road and $70,000 in cash. $110,000 was spent to renovate the mansion.

The police and fire departments also moved to the former Coulby estate. The police had offices in the east wing until 1991, when the new state-of-the-art police station was opened adjacent to City Hall at a cost of $1,800,000. The Fire Department built a new building along Euclid Avenue in 1996 at a cost of $2,000,000. Both projects were accomplished without new taxes or borrowing money.

School is Now in Session

Early Education

The settlers who came to Wickliffe from New England were learned and refined people who valued education. As a result of their concern, our schools have always had an important role in this community. These historical notes that document the evolution of Wickliffe schools have been taken from three sources:
"Dedication of Wickliffe City Hall Program - 1954"; "Wickliffe in Action," published by the league of Women Voters in 1972; and the Wickliffe Connection, Spring 1987 article, "E.J. King" by Emily DiDonato.

The first school house was located on the west side of Arnold Road (Bishop Road) - now Borromeo property. A second frame school was built and used until a two-room brick school was built in 1878 where the Middle School now stands. Some area students attended Schram School, District 134, a small red building at the comer of Rockefeller Road and Route 6. As there was no high school in the west end of the county, other students who wished to continue their education rode the CP&E to Willoughby or Cleveland.

In 1872, Wickliffe had one of the best elementary schools in Ohio, and E.J. King, Wickliffe's third mayor, was one of its students. The school lacked an auditorium and gymnasium, but so extensive and thorough was the training that those who completed the course always passed a teacher's examination.

A left wing was added to the brick school building in 1896, making it a four-room school. The township tore this building down in 1915 and erected a new school. Mr. Elliott, a Wickliffe resident, was the architect. After Wickliffe incorporated in 1916, the townspeople formed their own school district and purchased the newly erected building from the township. It eventually became Wickliffe High School.

In 1919, Mr. LeRoy Heavilin became the first Superintendent of Schools and history tells us that in 1919, Mrs. Lawton was the first woman to be elected to the School Board. Also, it was through the efforts of the Mothers Club, formed in 1913, that electric lights were obtained for the school building. In February 1924, the Mothers Club became the Wickliffe Parent Teacher Association. In 1924, Wickliffe High School graduated its first class--three students.

The Current School System

Lincoln Elementary School was built in 1926, with additions in 1948 and 1963. The old Wickliffe High School was enlarged in 1932. Worden Elementary School was built in 1953 and Mapledale Elementary School in 1959.

The present high school was built on Rockefeller Road in 1958, and the old building became the junior high school. In 1982, due to declining enrollment, both Worden and Mapledale Elementary Schools were closed and the junior high became the Wickliffe Middle School.

Wickliffe High School and the athletic field are located on the land occupied by the former estate of Frank Rockefeller, bother of John D. Rockefeller. The building that houses the current Board of Education offices was the carriage house for the Rockefeller estate.