Roots Revealed Blog
Photo: Newsbank/The American Antiquarian Society
Cleveland Metroparks Bedford Reservation is a wonderful place to enjoy nature any time of the year, but especially in autumn. The Tinker’s Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook provides a spectacular vista for viewing the fall color that emerges along this largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River. Tinker’s Creek has been flowing from Portage County into the Cuyahoga River for thousands of years and has had it's name since the founding of Cleveland.
On July 4, 1796, a surveying party hired by the Connecticut Land Company and led by Moses Cleaveland, arrived by way of Lake Erie at the mouth of Conneaut Creek in Ashtabula County. The party was comprised of 50 men, women, and children including Captain Joseph Tinker, who was the principal boatman on the expedition. That day, the group celebrated America’s 20th birthday with a Federal salute of 15 rounds led by Tinker. He also added a 16th round in honor of New Connecticut. The party called the place where they had landed Port Independence.
The group soon moved west, arriving at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on July 22, 1796 which is the day that we celebrate the founding of Cleveland. Shortly after, Tinker and his boat hands were directed to “ascend the Cuyahoga River to ascertain its capacity for navigation. He went up as far as the mouth of a creek that falls into the river from the east, which we named Tinker’s Creek” recalled Augustus Porter, principal surveyor, in a letter from 1843 which was reprinted in the Cleveland Morning Leader, October 21, 1858.
Duties concluded, Tinker, Cleaveland and most of the surveying party returned to New England in the Fall of 1796. The next Spring, a second surveying party including Joseph Tinker came back to New Connecticut to resume their work. Moses Cleaveland did not return; it is unclear if he ever actually stepped foot in the Western Reserve again. Tinker worked with the surveying team throughout the spring and summer and led supply runs with his crew.
Being relieved of their duties, Joseph Tinker, along with Joel Hawley, William Edwards, and Joseph Pierce, started for home. Sailing along the southern shores of Lake Erie in early October, 1797, they encountered a storm, their boat capsized and all but Hawley were drowned. Tinker, Edwards, and Pierce were buried near the place where their bodies were recovered. Their obituaries were published in the Albany Register on Monday, November 6, 1797 (see photo.)
While Joseph Tinker only spent a short time in Northeast Ohio, his legacy lives on here by way of the creek that bears his name. Had he lived longer, perhaps he would have returned to settle in the area? He may have witnessed its growth and some of the industrial and recreational opportunities that Tinker’s Creek has provided for settlers in the Western Reserve over the last 200 years.
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