Premiering with a double feature: Cahoon and Clague

The Observer is excited to celebrate the end of the year with a new beginning, as we welcome columnist Elizabeth Heineman. “Beyond the Name” will highlight interesting stories about the people whose contributions to our community have merited the naming of streets, parks, buildings and other landmarks in their honor. Elizabeth discovered an interest in local history through volunteer work at a museum in her home state of Maine. She moved to Westlake in October 2015, then to Bay Village in May 2016.

As a relative newcomer to the Westlake/Bay Village area, I often find something new to learn about it, past and present; about those who live and lived here. Two names in particular are hard to avoid: Cahoon and Clague. For readers who have lived here longer than I, their stories might already be familiar. But for me, getting to know these families has helped me learn more about my new community.

Cahoon Creek courses along Bay Village’s Cahoon Road and through Cahoon Memorial Park, into Lake Erie. Clearly, the Cahoon family has a prominent place in Bay Village history.

Their story begins with the purchase of Township 7, Range 15, on the shore of Lake Erie.  

Joseph Cahoon, one of the early visitors to the township, bought Lot 95, a parcel of land with a creek running through it. In 1810, he and his wife, Lydia, along with their eight children, made the six-week journey from Vergennes, Vermont, to their new home. Lydia is said to have brought a rose bush with her, the first to be planted on what is now Rose Hill.

The Cahoons built themselves a log cabin on the site where Bay Boat Club is now located. Joseph, a miller by trade, constructed a gristmill on the creek in 1813; then, later, established the sawmill that was used to build the family’s frame house 1818.

Joseph and Lydia’s son Joel inherited the family’s farmland; he and his wife, Margaret, moved into the house, which Margaret named Rose Hill, in 1842.

Their children, especially their daughter Ida Maria, made sure to preserve the family’s place in history. Ida held the Cahoon Pioneer Association in 1910 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the settlers’ arrival to Dover Township. She wrote a history of pioneer women in Cuyahoga County, as well as a history of the Cahoon family.

Ida and her sisters, all teachers, retired to Hill House in 1910. In 1917, after the death of the Cahoon sisters, the family’s farmland was left to the Village of Bay. The sisters left stipulations that carry on their family’s legacy; their family’s land was left to the city for a public park, and their home and their book collection were to become a library or museum.

Some things have changed since then, but the Cahoon legacy remains. In 1933, a Works Progress Administration project transformed the Cahoon family’s barn into the Community House. The library moved to another location, but, in 1975, the Bay Village Historical Society opened the family home as the Rose Hill Museum. The next year, local Boy Scouts built a replica of the Cahoons’ original log cabin in Cahoon Memorial Park. The museum and park activities continue today.

In Westlake, Clague Road separates Clague Park from the Clague Playhouse. The Clagues, like the Cahoons, made their mark on local history as early settlers in Dover Township. They didn’t arrive as early, but they came from much farther away. Robert Clague first came to Dover in 1829, but returned to his home in the Isle of Man, where he married Margaret Cowell. Later, they traveled with their six-week-old daughter, Ruth, across the ocean and ultimately walked from Cleveland to Dover Township in 1837. They initially lived in a log cabin and were the first family in the township to grow fruit for commercial markets.

Robert and Margaret had more children, including two sons who would serve in the Civil War, and the family prospered. Their brick house was built in 1876; their property grew to a total of 78 acres, divided by the dusty lane that would become Clague Road; and they became known for their investments and generous loans to local people.

Walter and Sophronia Clague, the last surviving children of Robert and Margaret, donated their family’s farmland to the township as a public park. The land was accepted in 1926 and dedicated in 1929. The Clague house became available for rent in 1967; and the Westlake Historical Society and the Bay Village Players, who changed their name to the Clague Players, rented it.

Two families from different backgrounds who came to the township at different times, both made their marks on the area by their dedication to their respective legacies and the city they lived in; to the past as well as the future.

Elizabeth Heineman

I grew up in Maine, where I completed an English degree and volunteered at a local history museum. I moved to Ohio from Washington, where I did volunteer work as an editor.

Read More on Beyond the Name
Volume 8, Issue 24, Posted 10:02 AM, 12.13.2016