Lorenzo Carter Cabin

If there were huge, disease-carrying mosquitoes flying around your house, or if you were told that the Cuyahoga River -- steps from your front door -- was haunted by Indian spirits, would you stick it out in Cleveland? One man did, becoming Cleveland's first permanent settler. His name was Lorenzo Carter. Not destined to face the wilderness alone, Mr. Carter was later joined by his wife Rebecca and their 9 children, as well as by other pioneers who, following Carter's example, decided that they could make a life for themselves in the new settlement.

Lorenzo Carter (1767-1814) left his home of Vermont and arrived in Cleveland on May 2, 1797, a little less than a year after Moses Cleaveland's surveying party had laid out the town and promptly headed back to Connecticut. Carter decided to make Cleveland his home and built a small log cabin on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River. Despite the hardships the swampy, malarial Cuyahoga brought to his family, Carter made a living trading furs with local Indians, farming, and running the Carter Tavern, which served as an inn and tavern as well as an informal town hall and community meeting place. Carter also ran a ferry service across the river and served as Cleveland's first constable. Had Lorenzo Carter and his family decided not to stick it out in Cleveland, the city may not have developed as quickly as it did. He died in 1814 and is buried alongside Rebecca in Erie Street Cemetery.

As time went on, the story of Carter and his family started to fade from the city's memory. Unlike Moses Cleaveland, no statue was ever erected to honor him. In 1976, however, members of the Cleveland Women's City Club commissioned the building of this replica of Carter's cabin. Its interior was open to the public and contained items that would have been found in the original cabin. Visitors could look inside to get a glimpse of what life was like for the first permanent settlers of Cleveland. Like Carter's original cabin, the replica is now gone, demolished in 2021 for a new boat slip after falling into neglect.


"A Part of Cleveland's Story" Herman Reuger, the director of Carter Cabin and overseer of the city's Heritage Parks, speaks about the importance of knowing about the life of Lorenzo Carter.
Pioneer Life Herman Reuger, the director of Carter Cabin and overseer of the city's Heritage Parks, talks about what life was like for a pioneer in Cleveland.
Rebuilding the Cabin Herman Reuger, the director of Carter Cabin, talks about the Women's City Club members who worked hard to build "Heritage Parks," including the Carter Cabin site, in Cleveland during the 1970s.


Lorenzo Carter Cabin
Lorenzo Carter Cabin Located in Cleveland Heritage Park I (on the east bank of the Flats, directly underneath the Detroit-Supeior Bridge) Lorenzo Carter's cabin was built in 1976 to commemorate the nation's bicentennial. The cabin's director, Herman Rueger (pictured), is an expert on Carter and the city's early history. He offers educational tours of the cabin and can be reached at (440) 943-5377. Image courtesy of Kristen Thomas
Lorenzo Carter
Lorenzo Carter Image courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society
Hard Work
Hard Work Imagine walking in the woods of Cleveland to find many straight logs of the same diameter to build such an important shelter, as Carter had to do upon arriving in town in 1797. At the cabin, feel the wooden logs and think about how much sweat and hard work it took to build it. The long, cold Cleveland winters that the family had to survive inside a wooden cabin such as this must have been especially difficult. Photo courtesy of Kristen Thomas
The Hearth
The Hearth There is a hearth, or fireplace, inside Lorenzo Carter's cabin. In Carter's time, this area of the log cabin was at the heart of the family's existence. It provided food, heat and comfort. Look around at the other artificats and think about how these objects were used in the daily life of pioneers. Image courtesy of Kristen Thomas.
Cleveland Quilt
Cleveland Quilt This commemorative quilt hangs inside the Carter cabin. Back in the 1800s, a quilt signified many things. It was filled with memories on each piece of square material. It was used to comfort those who were sick or those who were cold during a winter night. Look closely at each square and figure out why the quilter chose that particular image. What might have you added? Image courtesy of Kristen Thomas.
Carter Cabin's Original Location
Carter Cabin's Original Location Exit the replica Carter Cabin and look towards the riverfront to the North. This red brick building with the blue and white "Morrison and Son" painted sign is closer to the actual site of the original Carter Cabin, which sat at the base of St. Clair Ave. Image courtesy of Kristen Thomas
Cleveland in 1800
Cleveland in 1800 This drawing, published in an 1896 book, shows how Cleveland looked in 1800. Carter's cabin can be seen, as can a couple of other cabins that sat on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River at this time. How has the river and land around it changed in the last 200 years? Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Erie Street Cemetery
Erie Street Cemetery Lorenzo and Rebecca Carter's graves sit right by the East 9th Street entrance of the Erie Street Cemetery. The plaque at the base of the grave reads "They Remained -- Others Fled." In June of 2006, the Early Settler's Association, along with Carter's great granddaughter Jessie Carter Martin, added a thick reddish-pink granite slab to the Carter's grave, since the original grave was getting very worn out. The Erie Street Cemetery was acquired in 1825 when the city decided that the first Cleveland cemetery, Ontario Cemetery, was too small, too close to the city center, and needed to be moved. Graves (including the Carters') were dug up and tombstones moved from Ontario and Prospect Streets to the Erie Street Cemetery, which is located on East 9th Street, just across from Progressive Field. Image courtesy of Megan Navratil


1283 Riverbed St, Cleveland, OH 44113 | Demolished


Kristen Thomas, “Lorenzo Carter Cabin,” Cleveland Historical, accessed April 21, 2024, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/286.