Lake Erie

This vast prairie extends northward to and beyond the Great Lakes, and it is recorded that in the early history of the proposed legislation for the “Northwest Territory,” Congress gravely selected as the names of the States which were to be created out of it such ponderous conglomerates as “Metropotamia,” “Assenispia,” ” Pelisipia ” and ” Polypotamia,” titles which happily were long ago permitted to pass into oblivion. Northward, in Ohio, the region stretches to Lake Erie, the most southern and the smallest of the group of Great Lakes above Niagara. It is regarded as the least attractive lake, having neither romances nor much scenery. Yet, from its favorable position, it carries an enormous commerce. It is elliptical in form, about two hundred and forty miles long and sixty miles broad, the surface being five hundred and sixty-five feet above the ocean level. It is a very shallow lake, the depth rarely exceeding one hundred and twenty feet, excepting at the lower end, while the other lakes are much deeper, and in describing this difference of level it is said that the surplus waters poured from the vast basins of Superior, Michigan and Huron, flow across the plate of Erie into the deep bowl of Ontario. This shallowness causes it to be easily disturbed, so that it is the most dangerous of these fresh-water seas, and it has few harbors, and those very poor, especially upon the southern shore. The bottom of the lake is a light, clayey sediment, rapidly accumulated from the-wearing away of the shores, largely composed of clay strata. The loosely-aggregated products of these disintegrated strata are frequently seen along its coast, forming cliffs extending back into elevated plateaus, ‘ through which the rivers cut deep channels. Their mouths are clogged by sand-bars, and dredging and breakwaters have made the harbors on the southern shore, around which have grown the chief towns—Dunkirk, Erie, Ashtabula, Cleveland, Sandusky and Toledo. The name of Lake Erie comes from the Indian ” tribe of the Cat,”‘whom the French called the ” Chats,” because their early explorers, penetrating to the shores of the lake, found them abounding in wild cats, and thus they gave the same name to the cats and the savages. In their own parlance, these Indians were the ” Eries,” and in the seventeenth century they numbered about two thousand warriors. In 1656 the Iroquois attacked and almost annihilated them.

The Lake Erie ports in the ” Buckeye State” of Ohio, so called from the buckeye tree, are chiefly harbors for shipping coal and receiving ores from the upper lakes, their railroads leading to the great industrial centres to the southward. Near the eastern boundary of Ohio is Conneaut, on the bank of a wide and deep ravine, formed by a small river, broadening into a bay at the shore of the lake, the name meaning “many fish.” Here landed in 1796 the first settlers from Connecticut, who entered the ” Western Reserve,” as all this region was then called. On July 4th of that year, celebrating the national anniversary, ” they pledged each other in tin cups of lake water, accompanied by a salute of fowling-pieces,” and the next day began building the first house on the Reserve, constructed of logs, and long known as “Stow Castle.” Conneaut is consequently known as the “Plymouth of the Western Reserve,” as here began the settlements made by the Puritan New England migration to Ohio. On deep ravines making their harbors are Ashtabula, an enormous entrepot for ores, and a few miles farther westward, Painesville, on Grand River, named for Thomas Paine. Beyond is Mentor, the home of the martyred President Gar-field, whose large white house stands near the rail-way. All along here, the southern shore of Lake Erie is a broad terrace at eighty to one hundred feet elevation above the water, while farther inland is another and considerably higher plateau. Each sharp declivity facing northward seems at one time to have been the actual shore of the lake when its surface before the waters receded was much higher than now. The outer plateau having once been the overflowed lake bed, is level, excepting where the crooked but attractive streams have deeply cut their winding ravines down through it to reach Lake Erie.