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Roots Revealed Blog

Mystery Cave of Cedar Point Valley

Posted: 7/31/2013
Posted By: Foster Brown

A mysterious "cave" bordered by an archway of sandstone blocks stares out of the shale cliff across the river from Maple Grove Picnic Area in Rocky River Reservation. “Hermit’s Cave,” as it is sometimes called, was once the entrance to a 50-foot long sluiceway, a tunnel that brought water from the Rocky River to the Lawrence Grist Mill. Constructed in 1832 by Joel B. Lawrence, the mill ground grain into flour for inhabitants of the area. Water rushing through the sluiceway rotated a horizontal tub wheel, which then turned the grindstone and ground the wheat, barley or other grains. Mr. Lawrence built a wooden dam across the Rocky River to form a mill pond and provide the necessary constant supply of water. Sandstone blocks that formed the dam’s foundation (possibly cut from the Berea sandstone quarries) sit scattered along the river bank. An earthen dam extension still forms a ridge running through the woods at the edge of the picnic area. The only visible remains of the mill itself are the sandstone foundation walls, located north of Cedar Point Road along the Valley Parkway.

Cedar Point Valley area residents were dependent on their local mill not only to grind their grain, but also to weigh themselves! The mill had a good set of weighing scales, which proved useful in the neighborhood. Amelia Ames, who lived on Butternut Ridge Road, notes in her diary on July 11, 1865 that "After supper we all went over to the mill. I weigh 125 ½ pounds." It’s fun to visualize Amelia sitting on the scale in her long dress.

It would be interesting to know how many pounds of grain were ground into flour during the 81 years of the mill’s existence. The waterwheel and grindstone ceased turning forever in 1913, when a terrible flood on the Rocky River destroyed the dam and waterwheel. The Lawrence Grist Mill was never rebuilt.

Before Cedar Point Valley became part of Cleveland Metroparks in the 1920s, the final owner of the mill site was Albert Laisy. Albert grew cherries, apples, peonies and dahlias on the property to sell to Clevelanders. While he worked in his gardens, Albert’s son Fred often played in the old mill building and amused himself by throwing marbles down the grain chutes. Albert Laisy finally tore down the dilapidated building in 1917 when the structure became a safety hazard. Fred fondly shared these memories when he was interviewed by Cleveland Metroparks volunteer Galen Cooley in 1980.

The mysterious "Hermit’s Cave" turns out to be a clue to the past; it is evidence of a thriving community and business in the Cedar Point area of the Rocky River Valley. For more information on the Lawrence Grist Mill and to see a diorama of the mill site, visit Rocky River Nature Center.

Kathy Schmidt
Naturalist II – Rocky River Nature Center


8/14/2013 6:39:46 PM by Kathy Schmidt
Bob Harrison- Let us know when you write your book!
- Kathy Schmidt
8/10/2013 2:24:42 AM by Bob Harrison
@Kathy Schmidt - thank you very much for the information. It's probably the same house. The last time I hiked the Mill Stream Reservation was probably in the mid-80s and I'm not sure the trails even had names then. I would park my car just off the Parkway and hike the 5 KM loop trail. It looks like there have been more trails created since then.

If I recall, the house was not easy to see from the trail, especially in summertime when the trees were full of leaves. All that remained of the house was a couple rows of bricks and the tall chimney.

I'll look into Deloss Drake's book (any connection to the road?). I'm especially interested in getting a handle on what the area was like back then as I'm tossing around some book ideas (I should probably get my first novel completed before I go looking for others though).

@Foster Brown, thanks for your research on the "Hermit's Cave" and this blog post. I lived in Parma Hts. for almost twenty years and never knew this existed. I look forward to any add'l information you might dig up on the sugar camps.

Thanks again to both of you!

- Bob Harrison
Tampa, FL

8/8/2013 12:48:33 PM by Foster Brown
I jumped in without seeing Kathy's your comments. That is cool, or should I say sweet! Foster
8/8/2013 12:43:19 PM by Foster Brown
You have given me a new area to research. If my research goes well, you may find a blog entry on this in the future. Thanks, Foster Brown
8/7/2013 7:16:56 PM by Kathy Schmidt
Bob Harrison- Thank you for your comment and for your questions. Regarding the foundation and chimney, the remains of an old sugarhouse with a large brick chimney are on the "Sugarbush Loop Trail". Could this be the one you are referring to? Deloss F. Drake writes in "The History of Strongsville" that there were two large sugar camps in that area, one producing about 300 gallons of syrup a year, and the other (the one with the the visible foundation and chimney) producing 1200 gallons a year. The sugar house burned down around 1945. One of our past volunteers (born in 1906!) remembers seeing the sugarhouse. If you look carefully, you can still see some flattened and rusty sap buckets. Sometime after 1945, the maple trees were sold to a basket factory in Cleveland.
The oil derrik is privately owned. When the owners transferred property to the park in the 1970s, they maintained the mineral rights.

Ronaldl J LaCourse: Thank you for your comment!

Mike Samenuk: I love your story and your passing the legend on to your kids.

Jan Dregalla: I would like to know more about your connection to the mill and your Aunt's story. If you have any more details, would you pass them on to me? Thanks!

8/1/2013 3:07:47 AM by Jan Dregalla
When I hiked with my aunt she showed me this and told us in was a mill and her father-in-law used to work there when he was young. If my aunt were still living she'd be almost 100, so her father-in-law would have been the right age to work there. Nice to know the whole story. I knew it was a mill but not all the details. Thanks.
8/1/2013 1:28:31 AM by Mike Samenuk
I fondly remember learning the legend of the Hermit's Cave while at CYO Day Camp. One of the highlights of the week was hiking to the old grist mill opening and having the group leaders tell the tale of a wild-eyed hermit living in the cave. Creepy stuff for elementary school kids! I've taken my kids to see the Hermit's Cave while visiting the maple sugaring festival...and repeated the legend to them also!
8/1/2013 1:01:49 AM by Ronaldl J LaCourse
I've always enjoyed the MetroParks, but learning of its roots and background, that makes it more interesting. Thank you MetroParks
7/31/2013 11:19:10 PM by Bob Harrison
Very interesting! Do you have any information on a couple structures in the Mill Stream Run reservation? Specifically the oil derrick along one of the paths, also accessible from Drake Rd. There is also a foundation and chimney of a house in the woods off of the Royalview Yellow Trail. I had asked about the house a couple years ago on your FB page but was only given the barest of information. Would love to know the full history on the old house and the oil derrick.

Thank you!

- Bob Harrison
Tampa, FL
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