As you approach the southern side of Public Square you will see a bronze statue of a man. This famous figure stands frozen in time, keeping watch over the very town that bears his name.
Moses Cleaveland (1754-1806) was born and raised in Connecticut. After studying law at Yale College, he served as a General in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Moses was a shareholder in the Connecticut Land Company which purchased land in the Western Reserve, or New Connecticut. This involvement led Moses Cleaveland on an expedition into the Ohio wilderness. He was responsible for surveying the land as well as negotiating land rights with the Indians living there. The Indians who initially challenged the surveying party's right to be on the land received livestock, whiskey, and various trinkets from Cleaveland in exchange for an assurance of safety.
On July 22, 1796, Moses arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River and decided that the land just to the east of it would be the capital of the new territory. His surveyors laid out a town, including a 9-1/2-acre Public Square, on the high bluffs overlooking Lake Erie and the winding Cuyahoga. Cleaveland and most of his men returned to Connecticut in October, having laid out towns and plots all across the territory east of the Cuyahoga River.
Ninety-two years later, in 1888, the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve erected a statue of Cleaveland on the very Public Square that his men had once plotted. Cast in bronze and standing just under eight feet tall, the statue, which cost over $4,000 to build, shows Cleaveland as a surveyor, holding a staff and compass. Despite the honored position that Cleaveland holds in the city's history, however, it is spelled Cleveland – without the extra "a." One legend has it that in 1830 the city's newspaper could not fit the "a" in its headline, so the city became Cleveland.
Moses Cleaveland, however, never returned to the city that bears his name (minus an "a," anyways) after his surveying job was completed. On his return to New England he wrote:
"While I was in New Connecticut I laid out a town on the bank of Lake Erie, which was called by my name, and I believe the child is now born that may live to see that place as large as Old Windham."
Although it took time for Cleveland to grow and develop into a viable city after his departure in 1796, Cleaveland's prophecy has truly come to fruition!