New York's Governor De Witt Clinton had had the foresight to see the possibilities of commerce with the growing West. He it was who linked the Great Lakes with the Atlantic by means of the Erie Canal connecting Lake Erie and the Hudson River.
With the opening of the Erie Canal merchandise from the east arrived much faster and lumber, grain and dairy products of Ohio's agricultural districts reached their eastern destinations much quicker than before.
More vessels needed to carry these cargoes were being built at Conneaut and the post war business-slump was soon forgotten; farmers again were finding the markets for their products. Prosperity had returned.
With the $7,500 congressional appropriation of 1829 for harbor improvement, piers were constructed and warehouses were built along the bank of the river.
Other appropriations were made later, and the spot in this western wilderness where Moses Cleaveland's party had landed some thirty years previously was now the scene of such shipping activity as the Connecticut Land Company had never dreamed of.
FOUNDRY IN 1830
Still another important industry benefited this corner of the state when in 1830 the Ohio Furnace was put into operation by A. Dart and M. P. Ormsby. This foundry was located about one-half mile north of dark's Comers, and between 100 andl50 men were employed there making stoves, and all kinds of castings.
Another progressive step was taken in 1832. In February of that year O. H. Knapp founded the city's first newspaper. The Salem Adviser. It was a Whig publication that lasted about two years before it was succeeded by the Conneaut Gazette.
SALEM BECOMES CONNEAUT
The village had incorporated in 1834, changing its name from Salem meaning "peace" to Conneaut, "river of many fish."
Dr. Samuel L. Fenton was elected mayor of the newly incorporated town.
For some time reports and rumors had been circulated throughout this section of the country that a railroad was to be built from Beaver Falls, Pa., to the lake at Conneaut.
Speculation over the proposed railroad construction created a real estate boom starting in 1833 and collapsing in 1836 when plans for building the railroad were finally dropped.
The schools of the town had been progressing, but still the residents were not satisfied with the elementary training their children were receiving and were asking for better educational advantages. On February 14, 1835 the Conneaut Academy was incorporated. A building had to be secured and it was not until 1837 that the Academy was opened in its first home at Main and Mill Streets.
The faculty for the first term consisted of two teachers. Reverend Judah L. Richmond and Miss Sarah Bonney. This Academy expanded during the years that followed, and after three decades of service it was taken over by the city school officials and became a part of the public school system.
The settlement of Benton had, like Conneaut, changed its name and now was known by the lasting name of Tinker's Hollow. This became the site of another foundry, which the Tinkers built in 1835. Some eighteen years later an invention of worldwide importance was to be built, tested and demonstrated there before the rest of the country learned about it.
OLD PLANK ROAD
The increase in activities at Conneaut Harbor, due to the expansion of the ship building industry, made it imperative that a good road be laid from the business section of the town to the piers at the water front. Inl835 a sturdy plank road was built, and for years was the only road to that area. It was much used even though it was a toll road and the patrons sometimes objected to the fee charged. ,p> FORTY YEARS PROGRESS
Forty years had now passed since Western Reserve had received its first white inhabitants. One building, Stow's Castle, had been sufficient to accommodate the party that set foot on Conneaut soil that July day in 1796. The latest census showed there were 450 males of voting age living here in 1835. Interesting statistics recorded in 1837 inform us that at that time Conneaut had three churches, eleven taverns, one bank (a branch of the Miami Exporting Co.). one printing office, 24 mercantile establishments, one steam saw mill, one iron foundry and five flour mills. Contracts had been let for the building of 80 dwellings and numerous stores.
That year the harbor had received 275 sailing vessels and 760 steamers. The outgoing ships had carried 1,124,067 feet of sawed lumber, pipe staves, 24,786 bushels of grain, 10,849 barrels of pork and beef, glass, 81 tons of coal, 25 tons of cheese, 46 tons of butter, fruit and cast iron. Incoming cargoes had consisted of salt, pine lumber, gypsum, fish, limestone and burr-mill stones.
DEBATE CLUB OF 1839
The South Ridge neighborhood's reputation for progressiveness is again brought to attention when we read of the Debate Club that was formed there in 1839.
Debates on timely subjects brought crowds to fill their hall and listen to the participants presenting their views of the debated questions. A small fee was charged and the proceeds from the meetings were used to purchase books for the South Ridge Circulating Library.
On October 23rd of the same year residents of that part of the township met at South Ridge Church and formed an Anti-Slavery Society. The slavery question was discussed by the members of the Society and active work was undertaken in securing freedom for the slaves.
The Underground Railway had frequent "depots" in that neighborhood and many a slave was smuggled on toward Canada with the help of members of the South Ridge Anti-Slavery group.
1840 POPULATION 2,642
The early 40's found Conneaut still growing and progressing. Darby's Geographical Dictionary (1840) gives the combined population of Conneaut and Conneaut Township as 2,642.
That year, in the industrial section of Conneaut, Judson & dark installed a carding machine in their mill. Forty knots of filling or 30 of warp was considered a day's work for a girl.
The machine shop of J. A. Ellis opened at the same time, and his business increased rapidly. Two years afterwards more men were given employment when a foundry was added to the shop.
In Conneaut's history, the first mention of a fire fighting organization appears in 1841when the Conneaut Fire Engine and Hose Company, a volunteer group, was formed. Twenty-one men were charter members. There is a record of but one piece of equipment being purchased by this company a $300 fire engine. From that date until the present, our town has had organized fire protection, the personnel of the organization increasingly efficient and the equipment continually being improved.
In 1850, reorganization was arranged at which time the name was changed to Cataract Fire Company and the fire fighters numbered forty. At this time a one thousand-dollar 22-manpower Cataract engine was purchased for their use.
As the equipment became obsolete, it was replaced by more modem equipment, and improvements were being made in many lines to facilitate the work of the company. Two large cisterns were constructed on Main Street, and one at Broad Street and the other at Washington Street. These were in use a great many years but were no longer necessary after the installation of the city water system in 1891 when both cisterns were abandoned.
The Cataract Hose Company, an offspring of the Cataract Fir Company, was formed in 1892. Whereas the first company began as little more than a bucket- brigade, and the succeeding company had the benefit of pump and hose, the newly- formed group had much better fire fighting apparatus. The Protection Hose Company organized in 1894 merged with the Cataract Hose Company 12 years later. The Hook and Ladder Company organized in 1892 gave good service, a hook and ladder truck being purchased which was later remodeled and made into a horse drawn truck. At about the same time the Cataract and Protection Companies were provided with horse-drawn hose wagons.
"NIAGARA" AND "HAYWARD"
The Niagara Hose Company (1893) and the Hayward Hose Company (1894) were organized to furnish protection at the west-end and harbor districts respectively.
As the city grew, the volunteer system was superseded by a salaried fire department with headquarters at the city hall and a substation at the harbor.
In December 1913, use of horse-drawn equipment was discontinued and an American-La France motor truck costing $9,000 was purchased and a fire alarm system through-out the city was installed- Thomas J. Gough was the fire chief at that time. The first trip made by the new fire truck was in January 1914 in response to a false alarm turned in at the Conneaut Leather Company plant
FEW GREAT FIRES
Conneaut has been fortunate in having had but few great fires, the worst in recent years were: Baptist Church 1900; Stanley Block 1918; The Bethel 1928; K. of P. Bldg. 1932; the building occupied by the Conneaut Rubber and Chemical Company on Mill Street, 1943 and again in 1945; Country Club, 1946. The present force consists of a staff of seven regular men and three minute- men who are giving the city twenty-four hour service. Since April 1924 the fire department has been headed by Chief Roy Warren. Two volunteer departments. East Conneaut and Amboy, serve Lakeville and neighboring areas. The departments are well organized and have done excellent work.
Conneaut outgrew its original Academy building in the short space of seven years, and in 1844-45 a new brick structure was erected at the comer of Main and School Streets. The first instructors in the new building were L. W. Savage and a Miss Booth. The largest number of students ever enrolled in the Academy was 121.
HALF CENTURY MARK
The year 1846 arrived and Conneaut was now a half- century old.
Little is found in the historical records of that year, but mention is made of the fact that where Moses Cleaveland had landed 50 years previously, there was now a busy harbor with a pier, a light house, two forwarding houses and eleven dwellings.
The first history of Western Reserve appeared one year later.
C. P. & A. RAILROAD.
The Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad had been built as far as Ashtabula, and in 1852 it was extended to Conneaut.
Later connection was made with the line at Erie and the name changed to Lake Shore & Michigan Southern R. R. Mail service by stage coach was abandoned in 1852 in favor of the speedier service given by the C.P. &A.
PLANK ROAD TO AMBOY
Improvements were being made on the roads in this locality. A plank road was built, by Milo Osborn in 1852. It extended from the foot of Main Street hill to Amboy, and like many other roads of that era, it was a toll road. The toll- gate was erected a few rods west of the Grant Road, the site of which is now marked by a boulder bearing a bronze plate.
TINKER MOWING MACHINE
The tinkers had been an industrious family and the inventiveness of one of their members was responsible for the invention of the mowing machine. It was designed and built at the Tinker Foundry and the first demonstration or its operation was on a July 1853 afternoon in a field near Tinker's Hollow. It was estimated, ten years later, that the Tinker mowing machine was being used on 3,000 farms in this country. During the Civil War the U.S. Government placed large orders for these machines and for other articles manufactured at the Tinker foundry and machine shop. Tinker's Hollow remained an active spot in Monroe Township for many years.
Across the Pennsylvania state line. West Springfield in 1853 had opened an academy to which came many students from the surrounding towns to study the subjects taught in this new institution.
Professor John A Austin was its first principal, and 165 students attended the academy during the second term. Years later, like many of the early academies, it was absorbed into the public school system.
CONNEAUT FAIR IN 1854
Conneaut's next organization of note was the Conneaut Agricultural Society formed in 1853-54. It had a president, secretary, treasurer and twelve vice-presidents, one for each of the local school districts.
On September 21, 1854 the first fair was held in Conneaut on the 21-acre piece of ground owned by Amos Thompson. This land was later purchased by the Agricultural Society and was used as a fair ground until 1875 when the property was sold to D. Cummins.
GAS DRILLING IN50'S
Drilling for gas in this area was begun late in the 50's, the first successful well being obtained in 1859. It was drilled near Conneaut Creek, not far from Mill Street. Immediately drilling increased and many other well were put down on nearby farms.
A newspaper venture of two Conneaut boys at this time is worthy of note. The slavery question was disturbing the entire country and it was not surprising that the youth of America should want to be heard.
Two local lads, aged 14 and 15 years, started publishing a paper for the young people of the land. These youthful editors were Osee M. Hall, who later became an attorney in Red Wing, Minn., and Virgil P. Kline, who afterward practiced law in Cleveland, Ohio. Their publication that dealt with slavery was issued monthly during 1859-1860.
HORSE THIEF ERA
In the late 50's organized bands of horse thieves had been roaming the country, stealing horses from barns and pastures in alarmingly increasing numbers.
On January 21, 1860, indignant farmers of the vicinity held a meeting and formed the South Ridge Vigilance Committee that for many years assisted the authorities in the capture and prosecution of the thieves.
G. A. R. POST FORMED
The early 60's found the nation again engaged in war. Many were the local men who left their farms and places of business to go in the defense of the country.
Those who came back met and formed Custer Post, No. 9, G. A. R. after their return to the city. Their organization did not take place however until October 116, 1876 when fifteen charter members were enrolled. There were 46 on their roster two years later.
During the early years of the Civil War farmer were called upon to raise more foodstuffs for the fighting forces. In 1863, David Cummins began canning "Lake Shore" tomatoes in his octagon house on Liberty Street. His first year's entire output was 700 cans of tomatoes cooked over a kitchen stove. His canning business soon demanded larger quarters and Mr. Cummins moved his canning factory to the west-end of town. This was the beginning of the Cummins Canning Company whose products today have a ationwide reputation.