Early Settlers and Warrensville Township

Daniel Warren's cabin

Daniel Warren's cabin, first home in Warrensvile Township

The Warren Family

The owner and builder of the original Warren cabin was Daniel Warren, the first settler in Warrensville Township. He and his wife, Margaret Prentiss Warren, came from Acworth, New Hampshire. They were married in Acworth in 1806 and in 1807 Margaret gave birth to their first of eight children.

In 1808, Daniel, Margaret, and their son Hiram made the six hundred mile trip from Acworth, New Hampshire to Painesville, Ohio by oxcart with Daniel’s sister, Sarah Warren Duty, and her five small children. In Painesville, they joined Sarah’s husband, Ebenezer Duty, who had preceded them to the area referred to as the Western Reserveā€”a tract of land in Northeastern Ohio owned by Connecticut.

Ebenezer Duty and Daniel Warren were expert brick-makers and bricklayers and they set up a business in Painesville. Among other buildings, they constructed the Court House in Jefferson, Ohio, the first building of its type in this part of the country and, as payment, were each entitled to a $300 parcel of land of their choosing.

Daniel chose Lot 42 in Township 7, Range 11, sight unseen, because it was near Cleveland where the great surveyor, Moses Cleaveland had started a settlement. In October 1809, he, Margaret, and Hiram arrived at their new home site in the dense forest. Here they selected the location for their log cabin near a spring. He soon cleared land enough to raise crops to support his family. Soon after, at a housewarming party, Margaret was asked to suggest a name for their location, then known only as Township 7. She chose Warrensville. Subsequently, Daniel’s prominent position in the area led him to fill several important offices, both in the township and the county, such as Justice of the Peace, county assessor, and associate Judge of the county.

Daniel Warren’s father, Moses, followed his son and daughter-in-law to Ohio and, in 1817, built a home on a ridge south of Kinsman Road, the first frame house in Warrensville. He chose a location near a creek, which he channeled through the cellar to provide refrigeration. Today it is the oldest house in Shaker Heights and the oldest frame house in Cuyahoga County.

Ralph Rusell, founder of the North Union Shaker Colony

Ralph Rusell, founder of the North Union Shaker Colony

The Russell Family

The founder and first leader of the North Union Shaker Colony, Ralph Russell, was born in Windsor, Connecticut on August 3, 1789. He was the ninth of twelve children born to Jacob and Esther Russell. Jacob Russell operated a mill and served in the Revolutionary War.

Ralph Russell made his first visit to Ohio in 1811. He came to examine a tract of land in Northeast Ohio which his parents had purchased from the Connecticut Land Company. The 944 acre tract of land was part of the Western Reserve which was owned by the state of Connecticut.

Ralph returned to the East before the onset of winter. Early in the spring of 1812 he made the western trek again. Upon his arrival they built a cabin and sowed their crops. This done, he went back to Connecticut to lead the eighteen other Russell family members on their expedition to Warrensville, Ohio.

During the next nine years, Ralph and his family struggled with the customary hardships of the frontier. In 1818 he married Laura Ellsworth, with whom he had grown up in Windsor. He purchased a section of his father’s farm on Lee Road and brought his bride to live there. The death of Jacob Russell in 1821 was a severe blow to Ralph. To assuage his grief, he sought spiritual help.

Ralph made up his mind to learn more about the Shaker religion. He set out on foot for Lebanon, Ohio, to meet with the Union Village Shakers. His intended short visit lengthened into months. Ralph became an eager pupil and embraced the Shaker teachings wholeheartedly.

On his return trip to Warrensville in 1822, Ralph told of being guided by “a strong clear ray of light proceeding from Union Village in a perfectly straight horizontal line until it reached a spot near his dwelling, where it rose up in a strong column and became a beautiful tree.” Inspired by this vision, he set about converting his relatives and neighbors.

Ralph succeeded in converting three of his brothers and two of his neighbors who, in turn, conveyed their lands and possessions to the newly formed North Union colony.

Laura Russell

Laura Russell

In 1826 the colony emerged from the log cabin era and continued to grow in numbers and strength. By 1828 the first official community meeting was held at which thirty-six members signed the Covenant. Strangely enough, Ralph Russell’s signature was not among them.

He, his wife, and his three children withdrew from the community and moved to Aurora, Ohio where he fathered four more children before his death on December 28, 1866. He was buried in Union Cemetery in Solon, Ohio on Liberty Road alongside several family members.

The North Union colony increased in property, prosperity and membership for many years. Ralph’s brothers and their children were active members of the community until it was dissolved. In 1889 one of the last remaining members, Melinda Russell, age 83, moved to the Shaker community in Watervliet, Ohio where she died a month later, the last of the Russells of North Union.

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