Here's a Badass Historical Anecdote About Cleveland's First Permanent Settler

Lorenzo Carter was the first person to settle down in what was at the time called "Cleaveland." That was back in 1797. He lived in what would later be known as the Warehouse District. He loved Tomo's sushi.

Anyway, I stumbled across Carter's Wikipedia page in researching a few unrelated historical references. It's a brief but fascinating footnote to Cleveland's earliest history. He's described as both "swarthy" and "all the law Cleveland had," so you know there's some badass context to be had.

Check out this story:

In another exhibition of frontier justice, Lorenzo Carter prevented two Kentuckians from returning an African named Ben to slavery. In the spring of 1806 Ben survived a shipwreck that killed everyone else on board just after setting sail from the nearby community of Rocky River. Starving, frostbitten and suffering from rheumatism Ben was taken to Carter’s tavern where the ravages of frostbite took some of his toes. Under Lorenzo Carter's care, Ben was allowed to recover and regained his strength. In October two Kentuckians arrived in Cleaveland claiming to own Ben. Carter responded them saying “I don’t like Niggers, but I don’t believe in slavery, and Ben shan’t be taken away unless he chooses to go.” (Johnson, 1879, p. 232) Carter allowed a parley between the Kentuckians and Ben over a stream and it ended peaceably. However, in a move that no historian has been able to explain, Ben was taken out of Cleaveland by the Kentuckians the next day. In what has been termed a rescue, two men who worked for Carter stopped them at gun point and told Ben to make a break for the woods. Ben jumped off the horse and ran into the woods while the two men covered him and then followed him. The Kentuckians never returned and Ben settled in the Brecksville/Independence area of Ohio until he left for Canada.


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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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