Transcribed by Helen Rosenstein Wolf
Proofed by Denise, County Coordinator
PARMA, one of the youngest townships in Cuyahoga, covers an area of five miles square, being the territory of survey-township six, in range thirteen. Brooklyn township lies on the north, Royalton on the south, Independence on the east, and Middleburg on the west. Of the population of fifteen hundred, reported by the last census, full two-thirds are estimated to be Germans and other foreigners-the former largely predominating, and manifesting their usual energy as thrifty, industrious husbandmen. They concentrate in settlements, have church of their own, and, although somewhat clannish, are liberally represented in the administration of public affairs.
The surface of the township on the north and west is generally level, but on the east is elevated and undulating. The soil is of a clayey character, and is handsomely productive. Fruit is grown with success, but general farm products are the principal reliance of the inhabitants. Building and flag stones are obtained in considerable quantities, and of an excellent quality; Cogswell's quarry being the most productive. Several mineral springs are also found in the township, and from these considerable water, of alleged medicinal virtue, is annually forwarded to Cleveland and other points.
Parma has no streams of any consequence, nor has it any railway communication within its own limits, although that convenience is near at hand. It contains a strictly agricultural community, and has no village within its borders. Nevertheless, its schools are excellent, its churches are plentiful, and the people generally appear to be in a prosperous condition.
In the division of the Western Reserve, or by subsequent sale, township six fell to various proprietors-Tuckerman, Cheny, Ely, Blake, Plympton and others, who early endeavored to promote settlement on their lands. In consequence, however, of the general impression that it was a swampy and undesirable region the owners found the task a difficult one.
Benajah Fay, a native of Massachusetts, who came out from Lewis county, New York, was the first settler in Greenbrier, as Parma was called before it was organized. In 1816 he located upon the Plympton tract. His family, consisting of himself, wife and twelve children, journeyed with an ox-team and one horse. Upon his arrival he had to cut a road through the woods to his farm. He opened a tavern in 1819 on the old stage road, in a double log house, opposite the present residence of J. W. Fay, which, as "B. Fay's Inn," was a famous landmark for many years. Mr. Fay was a man of mark in the new community, served in various local offices, and was always in high esteem as a useful and honored citizen. He built a framed tavern in 1826, and in 1832 replaced it with a brick one, which was the first brick house in the township. He died in April, 1860, aged eighty-five.
In 1817 one Conrad Countryman, a "Mohawk Dutchman," took up a farm on the Ely tract, in the present township of Parma. Countryman lived in the western part, on the line on which afterwards ran the stage road between Cleveland and Columbus. In time he put up a blacksmith shop and a sawmill, in both of which enterprises he was the first in the township. Mr. Countryman's eldest son built a house on his father's farm, and kept "bachelor's hall" in the immediate neighborhood of his father and the rest of the family. Besides being a miller, blacksmith and farmer, Mr. Countryman also kept a tavern, and with all his avocations he managed to keep himself quite busy. He resided in Parma, or Greenbrier as it was then called, until 1826, when, with his family and entire possessions he moved farther west.
Peletiah Bliss, a Connecticut Yankee, traveled afoot in 1818 from New England to Ohio, carrying a pack on his back, and seeking for a location in the boundless west. On reaching "Greenbrier" he was favorably impressed with it, and accordingly purchased fifty acres of land on the Ely tract, where he built a shanty and soon made a clearing.
Previous to making his western journey Bliss had determined to marry a certain fair young damsel of Connecticut as soon as he got matters well shaped in a new home. So, after laboring upon his clearing a few years, until he thought he had prepared a fitting home for his bride, he set out for Connecticut on foot, living, it is said, upon salt pork during the entire trip. He reached his destination in due time (that is, in due time by that kind of conveyance), married the girl of his heart, and with her returned to Greenbrier; the wedding tour being made in a lumber wagon drawn by an ox-team, owned by Edwin Foot, of Connecticut, who was himself on the way to Brooklyn, Ohio. Bliss resided in Parma until his death. He had but one child-a daughter-who moved to Michigan.
The settlement of the township was very slow until late in 1821 when there was an important accession in the families of Asa Emerson, Amos Hodgman, Jesse Nicholas, Joseph Small and William Steele. These families had been neighbors in Maine and in 1817 had removed together to the West; having all settled, though separately, in southern Ohio. They kept up communication with each other and, becoming dissatisfied with their location in that region, they agreed to move north to "Greenbrier." In 1821 they accordingly entered the township in company.
Emerson, who had a family of nine children, bought seventy-five acres on the Tuckerman tract, having lived for a brief time with Conrad Countryman before effecting his purchase. Emerson was a carpenter as well as a farmer, and resided in Parma until his death, in 1855. Of his children, Oliver, Asa and Lucina (Mrs. Whitney) are still living in Parma.
Amos Hodgman also settled upon the Tuckerman tract, where he resided until he died. Jesse Nicholas located upon the Ely tract, becoming a tavern-keeper and a farmer on the Columbus road. Joseph Small bought land on the Tuckerman tract and after a residence there of twenty-five years removed to Michigan. William Steele located on the Ely tract and died two years afterward, whereupon his widow returned to Maine; making the journey, it is said, on foot and alone. Of the members of the families above named, who came in 1821, the only ones now living in Parma are John Hodgman and Asa and Oliver S. Emerson, and they three are the earliest surviving residents of the township.
Asher Norton and family came from Vermont in 1823, and settled in the southeast corner of the township. Mr. Norton lived there until 1863 when he removed to Brighton (in Brooklyn township) where he died. His brother Benjamin took up a farm adjoining Asher's about the same time (1823) on which he remained until 1859, when he changed his residence to Brecksville. Rufus Scovill, a brother-in-law of the Nortons, settled near them in 1823, and remained a resident of Parma until his death. Nehemiah Toms, who also married a sister of the Norton's, located near the latter in 1823, and there died. Abner T. Beals, an early settler in Royalton, removed from that township to Parma in 1825, and, after remaining a short time in the northern part, eventually settled on the Ely tract, on the line of the stage road. Mr. Beals resided in Parma until 1876 when he moved to Michigan, where he died.
In 1825 Samuel Freeman, with his wife, ten children and a hired man, made the journey from Massachusetts to Ohio, via the Erie Canal and Lake Erie, and reached Benajah Fay's inn, in Greenbrier, on the night of Saturday, May 26, 1825-twenty days after leaving New England. Mr. Freeman bought a piece of land on the Plympton tract, and, while he was building a residence of his own he and his family lived for forty days in the newly-built barn of Benajah Fay. Mr. Freeman became a man of considerable local consequence in Parma. He was the first justice of the peace, the first school-teacher and the first post-master. He took an active part in forwarding the religious interests of the little settlement, and was withal a citizen whose influence was always felt for good and whom his fellow citizens held in high regard.
The early settlers in Parma experienced naturally the same difficulties, privations and trials usually encountered by Western pioneers, and bore them with like fortitude. Indians did not trouble them, but savage beasts caused much annoyance, and grand hunts for bears and wolves, in which all the townsmen joined, were frequently resorted to, to get rid of the marauders. Even as late as 1842 the ravages by wolves and bears were very serious, and in that year the people of Parma united in a general hunting party, and spent several days in waging a war of extermination against them.
Good grass appears not to have been very plentiful in Parma for a considerable time after its settlement, as hay for the cattle had to be brought from Middleburg, little except browse being obtainable in Parma. Baking bread on a board before a wood fire and roasting meat by suspending it upon strings hung over the fire, were two of the customs of those primitive days. For some time the nearest gristmill was in Middleburg. It was not always easy to obtain wheat bread, but "johnny cake," made from corn ground in a home "stump mortar," did good service in its place. When Moses Towl built a gristmill on Big creek, in Parma, it was considered a great improvement, and Mr. Towl was looked upon as a public benefactor.
The first person born in Parma was Lucina, daughter of Asa Emerson. Her birth occurred in March, 1823. In mature life she served with distinction for three years as hospital nurse in the Union army during the rebellion of 1861-65.
The first death in the township was that of Isaac Emerson, a young man of seventeen, who died in the winter of 1823. He was buried on the Countryman place. The next deaths were those of William Steele and his child, who were buried near young Emerson's grave, on the banks of Big creek. When the cemetery on the Medina road was laid out the remains of Isaac Emerson were transferred thither, but the graves of Steele and his child were undisturbed, and their bones still lie upon the bank of the creek, although the spot is entirely unmarked.
The first marriage ceremony was celebrated at the house of Joseph Small, when his daughter Lois was wedded to Ephraim Fowls, of Middleburg. An attendant upon the occasion states that the event, although a novel one in the township, was an exceedingly quiet one.
In March, 1827, the town was divided into road districts, the first being "two miles in width on the west side of the town and running a line through the town north and south parallel with the west line; the second running a north and south line through the town parallel with the east line; the third to include the remainder of the town."
The road now known as the Brighton and Parma plank road was at an early day the Cleveland and Columbus turnpike, over which there was a vast amount of travel, and upon which, within the limits of Parma, there were four taverns. When William Henry Harrison was elected to the Presidency a band of his adherents in Cleveland mounted a canoe upon wheels, and escorted it over the turnpike to Columbus, with much hilarious demonstration. When the procession reached the house of Asa Emerson, in Parma, that worthy citizen, being an unflinching Democrat, was much disgusted with the Harrison display. He hastily hoisted one of his wife's red petticoats upon a broomstick, and marched defiantly alongside the big canoe, waving his flag and taunting the Harrisonians until the latter were seriously angered, and he thought best to desist, lest they should resort to violence.
In April, 1827, one year after the township was organized, the treasurer reported that he had received in cash for road taxes in 1826 the sum of $16.84, and $11.38 in road certificates. The township is believed to have been called Greenbrier before its organization on account of the abundance of that shrub in many places. York street was so named because of the settlement along its line of a community from the State of New York.
As already stated, the township is a purely agricultural one. The only manufacturing enterprises of either early or late days were the following: William and Dudley Humphrey, who came to Parma from Connecticut in 1836, pursued for fifteen years, or until 1851, the manufacture of clock-cases, in which they set works procured from Connecticut. They then sold the clocks through the country, and during their residence in Parma they carried on quite an extensive business.
On the 7th of March, Greenbrier, which until then had been a portion of the civil township of Brooklyn, was formed into a separate township and given the name of Parma. The first township election was held on the first Monday in April, 1826, at the house of Samuel Freeman, on which occasion Asa Emerson, Jesse Nichols and David Adams were the judges of election; Peletiah Bliss and Oliver Emerson were the clerks. The officers chosen were Peletiah Bliss, township clerk; Asa Emerson, Samuel T. Varney and David Adams, trustees; Benajah Fay and Jesse Nichols, overseers of the poor; John Hodgman and Benjamin Norton, fence-viewers; Peletiah Bliss, treasurer; Asher Norton and Amos Hodgman, supervisors of highways; Peter Countryman, constable. A list of the persons who have served the township as trustees, clerks and treasurers, from organization to 1879, are given below.
1826. Trustees, Asa Emerson, Sam'l T. Varney, David Adams;
clerk, Peletiah Bliss; treasurer, Peletiah Bliss.
The first sermon heard in Parma was delivered in 1823, at the house of Asa Emerson, by Rev. Henry Hudson, of Royalton, a Baptist minister. Mr. Hudson was also a doctor, and having been called to attend at the birth of a daughter of Mr. Emerson, on a Saturday, he remained, and preached a sermon on the following day. A hasty notice was sent out, and the inhabitants gathered in full force at Mr. Emerson's house, and were refreshed with a renewal of their earlier religious experiences. Mr. Hudson preached in Parma quite often after that, and, as the early settlers in that township were principally Baptists, he never lacked hearers. Besides Mr. Hudson, Rev. Mr. Jackson, of Wooster, also preached to the Baptists of Parma, and although thus it will be seen that the Baptists were the only ones who enjoyed early religious worship in Parma, and yet, somewhat curiously, no church of that denomination was ever organized there.
This church was organized about 1830, in the southeast corner of the township, with but a handful of members, among whom were David Pond, John Johnson, J. W. Kilburn, Alfred Cleveland and Moses Ware with their wives. David Pond was the first deacon, and Moses Ware the first elder. In 1839 there was a great revival when forty persons were added to the membership, which rose in that year to sixty. Among the early preachers were Elders Randall and Walker, the latter of whom was the leading spirit in the revival just mentioned. The organization never owned a church-building, but used a school-house as a place of worship. Toward 1864, the membership grew small by degrees, and the church was dissolved in that year.
The first Presbyterian Church of Parma was organized as a
Congregational Church November 7, 1835, with fourteen members,
as follows: Samuel, Sarah, Sarah B. and Celinda Freeman, James
M. Cogswell, Beulah G. Adams, Catherine Ann Ferrell, Mary H.
Cogswell, Descom and Susan Chapin, Frederick and Harriet Cogswell,
Catherine Ferrell and Arvin Kennedy. The first clerk was Frederick
F. Cogswell, and the first elders, Samuel Freeman, James M. Cogswell
and Descom Chapin. At the first meeting it was resolved "not
to take for a member any person who is a dealer in, or manufacturer,
of ardent spirits."
This congregation (German) was organized in 1858, and in that year built a brick church which is still used. Previous to that date, beginning in 1853, Rev. Philip Stempel, of Brighton, had preached to the German Protestants of Parma occasionally, in school-houses.
At the building of the church, the trustees were Michael Hoag, Adam Hahn, George Bauer, and John Huber, the membership being then about twenty-five. The membership in August, 1879, was forty-four. The pastor at that time was Rev. Mr. Kraus, and the trustees were George Bauer, William Keyser, Michael Hahn and Gottfried Klanzinger.
In 1867 a division took place in the congregation of the German Reformed Protestant church of Parma; a portion withdrawing and forming a separate church, of the Evangelical Lutheran denomination, and they built a house of worship in 1868. At that time the membership was thirty-five, but it has been declining latterly, and now numbers but twenty. The first trustees were Michael Meyer, John Koch, and Gottleib Miller; the first minister was Rev. Mr. Fuehr. Rev. Paul Littke is the present minister. The trustees are John Koch, Michael Meyer, and Christian Koch. The deacons are Andrew Hoag, John Sharp and Deitrich Basch.
Rev. Father Quigley commenced in 1872 to hold Catholic religious services at the house of Conrad Rohrbach in Parma, and at the close of that year the congregation included eleven families. In 1873 a church edifice was built upon a lot adjoining Mr. Rohrbach's residence, and there the Catholics of Parma have since worshiped. Conrad Rohrbach was the first trustee, and still serves as trustee, as does John Gehring. Following Father Quigley as priests, were Rev. Fathers O'Brien, Kuhbler, Zampiel and Fidelius-the latter of whom is the present incumbent, and holds services once a fortnight. The average attendance numbers seventeen families.
The first school taught in Greenbrier was conducted by Samuel
Freeman, in his own house, during the winter of 1825. There Mr.
Freeman taught his own children-of whom there were not a few-and
those of such settlers as deemed book education one of the necessities
of life. Parma's first school teacher was a well-educated man
for those days, and he so trained his children that after him
three of them, Samuel, Jr., Lawrence and Lyndon also became school
The second school district was set off in December, 1826, in the northeast part of the township. At the same time the southeast corner of the township was made a portion of the fourth school district of Brecksville, and contained Benjamin and Asher Norton and Nelson Scovill. In 1879 Parma was divided into nine school districts, in which the number of school children, between the ages of six and sixteen, was three hundred and ninety. The amount appropriated for school purposes in that year was $2,000.
Samuel Freeman was Parma's first postmaster; after him the office was held successively by William Humphrey, Oliver Emerson and Harry Humphrey. Oliver Emerson was then appointed to a second term, and has been the incumbent ever since.
History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Part Third: The Townships, compiled by Crisfield Johnson, Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., 1879; pages 497-501.