From Dover to Market

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, a web based historical resource operated and maintained by Case Western Reserve University, the public market as an institution in Cleveland started as early as 1829. That year, stalls were auctioned off to farmers and merchants on the South side of Public Square on Ontario Street. This quickly expanded to 4 markets by 1836 with a second operation South of Public Square, one in the Canal Basin near Superior Ave. and one in Ohio City’s Franklin Circle all vying for the patronage of the citizens of Cleveland. In 1840, Cleveland’s oldest still running public market, The Westside Market, was started by Josiah Barbar and Richard Lord at its present location. It seems that the markets came later to the farther Eastside of Cleveland, with the Eastside Farmer’s Market beginning in 1932, and other private markets like the Sheriff St. Market and the Euclid-105th St. Market joining in, in 1891 and 1917 respectively.
These would have been the markets that the farmers in Dover would have used to get their products out to the wider world, in other words the East. Cleveland was at the epicenter of a vast “trading Empire” according to Reign Hadsell and Hazel Rutherford in their book, “History and Civics of Dover Village”. They go on to say that, when the book was published in 1931, 2,000,000 people lived within a 50 mile radius of Cleveland and would naturally look to that city as their primary trade and distribution center. If you looked within a 500 mile radius, you could have found 55% of the population of the United States, along with 135,000 major industries. In 1928, 15 million tons of merchandise left Cleveland by train, with all the east and west trunk railroad lines in the United States running within 47 miles of the city (remember, this is in 1931).
Farming had always been a way of life for the people of Dover from the beginning. Harvesting crops and preparing them for market was something that everyone did a couple of times per week from June or July through October. The trip to market would have been made on horse and buggy up until the early years of the 20th century. This meant that trips to market took on a real event feel. It might take all day or all night to reach a market. Some farmers, like the father of Fern Crehan, Dover resident and author of the memoir “The Days before Yesterday”, were up by 4:30 or 5:00 AM to get his wares to the market on Erie Ave. on Cleveland’s Westside. Others like Ester Albers’ father were up by 1:30 AM to make it to the East Side Market; and that was after he had acquired a truck! Ester Albers’ memoirs, “Memoirs by Ester Clare Albers” can be viewed on the library’s local history webpage, or in the local history reference section. Some farmers would leave after supper on the night before a market day, so as to be there first thing in the morning, all set up and ready to go. The farmers who went to these markets would sell all the typical agricultural goods of the day. Western states especially, grew much of the nation’s wheat, grain and corn. Dover resident and author, Ruben Hall, tells us in his book “Reminiscences of Dover Pioneer Life” that the raising of stock, i.e. cattle, horses and sheep, was once a large industry in Dover. There were 2 or 3 slaughterhouses here during the late 1800s to early 1900s, where livestock was prepared for the Cleveland markets and from there to the hungry Eastern masses. Fruit from the orchards would have been packed up and sold, and this included grapes. Hall remarks that the grape industry was “an important factor in the development and prosperity of the township.” In fact, right around the turn of the 20th century, Dover was the 2nd largest grape producer anywhere in the United States. By 1930, there were twelve hundred acres of land under cultivation for growing grapes. Thus we see the grape and the green house on the seal of the City of Westlake, harkening back to our agricultural past.

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