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History in focus for city on hilltop
History in focus for city on hilltop
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
What does Chardon have to do with suntans, hazard pay for well diggers and a gift no one apparently wanted at first?
Those are some of the stories to be found in the early history of the town as described in "Pioneer and General History of Geauga County."
First written in 1880 and then updated in 1953, the book is probably more fancy than fact, according to Clair Wilson, archivist at the Geauga County Archives and Records Center. "It's a good place to start," she said.
But, for those looking to verify the facts of early history, Ms. Wilson said, research into deeds, civil and probate court records, tax maps, some newspapers and a small reference section are available to those looking to dig deeper.
With the bicentennial celebration of the founding of Chardon beginning next year, history buffs may be looking at what prompted those early settlers to hang their hats on the hill.
"Pioneer and General History of Geauga County," written by J.O. Converse, was based on a series of articles by E.V. Canfield that were published in the Geauga Democrat newspaper in 1870-71.
Ms. Wilson said the book may describe some of the area's first settlers, but the order in which they arrived is not necessarily true. She said records confirm the people mentioned actually existed, as did many of the titles used for the people.
Chardon is described in the book as "situated upon a most pleasant, healthful and sightly elevation."
A well-known story is that Peter Chardon Brooks lent his name to the town in 1808 in exchange for county commissioners making Chardon the county seat, and the book recounts that chapter in history.
While the gift was accepted and the name was given, it would be four years until anyone called Chardon home, according to the book. At that time, the book recounted, there were older settlements in the area in Burton and Bondstown, now Hambden.
In 1811, Capt. Edward Paine made his way from Painesville to begin clearing the land on what is now Chardon Square. He received help from Samuel Phelps, according to the book.
In March 1812, Norman Canfield erected a double, log cabin, the first building of any kind in the town. They remained the town's only inhabitants until the spring of 1812 when Mr. Paine moved in with his family. Mr. Paine built the second building, intended for a courthouse, but stayed there with his family until building a second residence that fall.
In July 1812, Samuel King arrived from Long Meadow, Mass. and moved into the courthouse. He would become the first adult to die in Chardon.
According to the book, Mr. Paine, Mr. Canfield and Mr. King continued to clear the public square in the spring of 1814 to raise their crops of wheat, corn and potatoes.
Mr. King, however, would fall victim to a fever, thought to be typhus, and died Feb. 6, 1817 at the age of 38. He would be followed in death in the succeeding months by his oldest daughter, Hannah, and oldest son, Warren.
Although the square was cleared, one remaining elm tree and its inhabitant vexed those trying to farm the land. A "hedge-hog" that took up residence in the tree escaped "as many as 50 shots fired at him."
Chipmunks were equally pesky, being described as "exceedingly troublesome and keen-scented."
A fourth family to arrive would bring about the first neighborly dispute.
The book notes that Antony Carter and his wife, Nancy, arrived in the fall of 1813. An African-American couple, they bought land north of the village on Painesville Road, according to the book.
They were followed by Jabez King, brother of Samuel. When Jabez King's wife had the first child born (Laura) in Chardon, the wives of Chardon settlers and another two from Bondstown arrived for the event.
However, no invitation was sent to Mrs. Carter. The book states that Mrs. Carter met the slight with indifference, but it so angered her husband that the couple moved to Warren.
An 8-by-10-foot jail, according to the book, held its first and possibly only inmate when Hugh McDougal spent 10 days with only bread and water for failing to meet his debt payments.
The book also describes two attempts to dig wells in the new settlement. Both of those initial attempts reportedly led to the well diggers' deaths. No powder was available to blast through the rock and it required a "persistent pecking." Most, however, relied on the springs at the base of the hill for their water.
Just before the close of the 19th century, more people were finding Chardon and its reputation for snow and wind.
Dr. W.E. Allyn, of Cleveland, wrote that Chardon is "better supplied with ultraviolet rays than any other place in the state because it is high and has no smoke producing industry. Mr. Allyn claimed that his skin burns two to three times quicker in Chardon than at his Shaker Heights home.
It also records a windstorm that roared through town on March 27, 1882, moving buildings from their foundations, destroying a barn and reducing sheds and smaller buildings to fragments.
As for snow, the history book credits the storm of 1913 as the greatest. It brought 32 inches of snow on a Sunday night and another 18 inches the following day. The snow, which came in early November, was wet, and residents reported hearing trees crash to the ground all night.
The coldest day recorded happened on Feb. 9, 1934, when it was 40 degrees below zero in the flats and 30 below on the hilltop.
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