A life cut short too soon: Leverett Judson Cahoon

Leverett Judson Cahoon – named for his Uncle Leverett Johnson and a Baptist minister, Rev. Judson – is described as having a happy, cheerful disposition, full of energy and with the ability to plan and carry out whatever he attempted. He grew up working on the family farm with his brothers and father.

Leverett, born Nov. 16, 1845, was the eighth child of Margaret and Joel Cahoon and the grandson of Joseph and Lydia Cahoon, first settlers of Dover Township in 1810. The family history tells that Leverett was very promising, possessing rare learning abilities at an early age. This he improved by studying at the district and select schools in the area. It was the family’s wish that Leverett attend college. However, at age 17, his father became ill and immobile. 

Leverett made the choice to stay home, take charge of the family business, and become the big brother to his mother and four sisters. Leverett stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 235 pounds. Along with his younger brother, John Marshall, whose advice he valued, he accepted all the responsibilities of running the family business. With this decision made, Leverett began improving the farm.

The family owned an apple orchard on the east side of Dover Center Road across the street from the Oviatt lumber mill. In 1860, he and John Marshal, while still teenagers, got permission from their father to build a brick store in the apple orchard and sell supplies to the farmers. They sold rope, nails, chain, baskets, axes, hoes and seed, something very much needed in the North Dover area at the time.

The New York Central Railway approached the family with a request to lease land on the south side of the store’s property line for the laying of the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks. The family requested a Dover train station be located on the property and they would lease the land. This made deliveries to the store much easier and developed their business. It was also handy for their use when needing to board the train since the station was almost in their backyard. The boys carried their ailing father in a wagon down to the newly laid tracks so he could see them. Joel died in 1882.

With land lying on the banks of Lake Erie and possessing the proper qualities of soil for the culture of grapes, Leverett gradually turned his farmland into vineyards, becoming devoted to that branch of fruit growing. He read books, studied and visited vineyards, constantly learning, and soon became an expert. He made trips to the Ohio State Board of Agriculture in Columbus and spoke to groups on the subject of viticulture, the growing of grapes. He was well known in the state and local area. 

At one time he had 100 acres of grape vineyards, the largest acreage in the state of Ohio. He purchased the land in the eastern section of Lot 94, which contained the Baker/Hassler house and named the house "Castle Garden." Here migrant workers lived during picking season. He was able to offer employment year-round to people that lived in the area. Leverett had a great business sense and the farm flourished under his care.

The farm location on Cahoon Creek also was favorable for fisheries and so with the same energy he entered into that industry as well. A fish house was built at the mouth of Cahoon Creek. Dried fish, used for fertilizer on the farmers' fields, was an important product. Oils were produced and sold by the barrel, and fresh fish were eaten at the dinner table.

At an early age, Leverett sought to give back and taught school in one of the area schools during the winter. For many years, he had been unconsciously working himself into prominence by his excellent work habits, his great mental strength and public spirit, as well as his utter thoughtlessness of self when someone else or his town could receive benefits. He had great plans for the future, but it was not to be.

One day in 1884, on a trip to downtown Cleveland on business, Leverett stepped down off a streetcar and dislocated his knee. He was brought home to the farm to mend, being taken care of by his mother and sisters. During his time in bed he caught pneumonia which lingered long and serious; he never fully recovered. Still he could not rest.

Not willing to admit he was sick and knowing he had much that needed his attention, Leverett neglected his health and returned to his jobs. In 1886, he was back at work full-time, planning improvements and executing plans already formed. Still weak, he was more susceptible to germs and contracted typhoid fever which he could not shake. It took his life on Aug. 16, 1886, just short of his 41st birthday. With the passing of Leverett, all family responsibilities went to John Marshall, who stepped up to the plate and took over the farm.

Leverett’s church service was held in the Dover Lake Shore Methodist Episcopal Church. Hundreds of people Leverett had met in business, family and friends attended his wake at the farmhouse (now Rose Hill Museum). Leverett belonged to Dover Masonic Lodge No. 489 F. & A.M. A picture of him hung in the lodge for years, donated by the family.

We can only imagine what more he might have accomplished if he had lived longer. He is buried in Lakeside Cemetery.

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Volume 10, Issue 4, Posted 9:36 AM, 02.20.2018