Cuyahoga County Bicentennial

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In 2008 Cuyahoga County began celebrating its bicentennial, having been first formed in 1808. When genealogists search for official county records, they will note that the earliest records are dated in 1810. How can this be? The simple reason is that it took almost two years for the county to become “organized” and separated from its parent county, Geauga County.

The following explanation of the history of Cuyahoga County is found on the at Cuyahoga County website in an article entitled “A Walk Through History.”

The entire Ohio country was part of the Northwest Territory, established by the ordinance of 1787 and governed by General St. Clair. In 1788 the land east of the Cuyahoga river was designated as Washington County; with Marietta made the county seat of this territory that encompassed the lands from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. The land west of the Cuyahoga River, “extending to the headwaters of all streams flowing into Lake Michigan,” was named Wayne County in 1796, with Detroit as the county seat.

More administrative changes were in store as Jefferson County was formed out of Washington County in 1797; and in 1800 the lands east and west of the Cuyahoga River were joined to constitute Trumbull County. Later Geauga County was created from the existing Trumbull County in 1806; and finally in 1808 Cuyahoga County was established, along with Ashtabula and Portage, carved from parent counties Trumbull and Geauga.

The statute passed in 1808 proclaimed that all that part of the county of Geauga “which lies west of the ninth range of townships” would become a separate and distinct entity to be known by the name of Cuyahoga, and should be organized whenever the population should be sufficient to require it.

Two years would pass before Cuyahoga County was formally separated from Geauga and declared to be independent, effective May 1, 1810.

The first county officers, designated by the Ohio Constitution, as well as other legislation, were the commissioners, the sheriff and the coroner, all elected; while the treasurer, the judges of the common pleas court, the surveyor, the prosecutor, the recorder, and the clerk of courts, were appointed. The first meeting of the Cuyahoga County Commissioners was held in June of 1810 and one of the initial orders issued by Commissioners Jabez Wright and Nathaniel Doan was the payment of one dollar for wolf scalps for “the year ensuing.”

The Common Pleas Court held its inaugural session in a newly completed frame store building belonging to Elias and Harvey Murray, situated on the south side of Superior Avenue between Public Square and Seneca St., now West 3rd.

But within two years the County experienced the need to house its executive and judicial officers in more appropriate headquarters and a contract was let to construct a courthouse and jail on the northwest quadrant of the Square. The project began in 1812 and the building was completed in the Summer of 1813. The new two story structure was built of logs, costing $700.00. The lower story accommodated prisoners in two cells: one for criminals and one for debtors; while a living area was created for the sheriff. The courtroom was on the second floor; and here justice was administered for about fifteen years.