Some Vanished Villages of Cuyahoga County and Their Civil War Heritage

By Paul Siedel
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2023, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Charger in January 2023.

As one looks at a map of Cuyahoga County today, it’s hard to imagine how the county was originally laid out. Cuyahoga County, like all others in northeast Ohio, was laid out on the township plan. There were 19 original townships in the county, and all except two still exist in one form or another. They and the villages that sprung up within them served as recruiting stations and state militia headquarters during the Civil War. Most of these villages and towns have been swallowed up by the mile after mile of urban sprawl that today constitutes greater Cleveland. But with careful examination it is possible to identify several of them. These villages usually sprung up around mills, crossroads, or railroad junctions.

An 1874 map of Cuyahoga County showing the townships

As the city of Cleveland grew, some of these small villages and towns incorporated and became suburbs, such as Gates Mills, North Olmsted, Warrensville Heights, Independence Center, and Newburgh Heights. Others just voted to join the larger city and vanished from the map, such as Doan’s Corners at East 105th and Euclid, Brooklyn Center at Denison and West 25th, and Brighton at the intersection of West 25th with Memphis, Broadview, and State Roads. Still others changed into different communities, but have left their mark on the map, such as Warrensville Center at Chagrin and Warrensville Center Road, which was absorbed into Shaker Heights, and also the village of Albion at Pearl and Albion Roads, which languished and finally fell victim to big box stores and motels, although a road still bears the name of that long-vanished village.

Gates Mills: one of the mills built by Holsey Gates, from which the name of this community was derived
A map showing the location of Camp Cleveland in the Tremont neighborhood

During the Civil War these small villages throughout the Western Reserve served as recruiting stations and supplied the army with rations and supplies. The old village green of Newburgh at East 93rd and Harvard hosted a large recruiting station, and the mills in the village supplied products such as gun barrels and buckets. Closer to downtown Cleveland, the valley of Walworth Run was a haven for small businesses. The spring-fed creek provided water for many breweries and for many manufacturers of railroad equipment as wells as for slaughterhouses, which gave way to the harness industry that supplied the U. S. Army with leather goods. Soldiers from Camp Cleveland soon popularized the little valley with games of chance, foot races, wrestling matches, rooster fights, or anything that one could bet on.

A drawing of Walworth Run
A photograph of Camp Cleveland

As time went on, several of the original townships changed their names because of mailing issues. Dover became Westlake in the 1940s, and Rockport vanished from the map with the incorporation of Fairview Park, Rocky River, and Lakewood, while the remainder of Rockport voted to join Cleveland and became the West Park neighborhood. These are the only two townships of which there is no remaining place on the map, although Dover Center Road still bears the name of the old township. There are still several small villages and towns remaining that have maintained their identity. While not true suburbs, they have long since become part of the Cleveland metropolitan area. Chagrin Falls, Berea, Bedford, and Olmsted Falls still maintain their identity. Berea has its cherished Civil War soldier proudly standing on the triangle in the center of town.

The Civil War Monument in Berea

These small villages and crossroads witnessed men going off to serve in the Union Army. Their village greens and town centers were instrumental in supplying the U.S. Army with recruits and supplies that helped win the war. Today when we drive through certain jurisdictions, they bear little resemblance to the small farming villages that they once were. But many times their names live on and contribute to the rich history that we share here in Cuyahoga County and the Western Reserve.