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Cleveland, Ohio

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History's Mysteries

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(Flood victims buried in a mass grave at the Broadview Cemetery)
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|1876||100+ dead||Train accident in Ashtabula||December 29||NO||A train plummeted off the tracks into a deep gully after the iron truss bridge collapsed during a blizzard. All were buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula.
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|1882||None||Tidal wave hits Cleveland||June 23||NO||An 8'10" wave swept over part of the harbor but did not cause major damage or any deaths.
|1882||None||Tidal wave hits Cleveland||June 23||NO||An 8'10" wave swept over part of the harbor but did not cause major damage or any deaths.
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Revision as of 18:24, 5 June 2014

This page is set aside for musings about historical facts that seem contradictory and/or just plain, uhm, mysterious.


Early settler Ozias Brainard bought his property from a man named Granger.

Historical Record - Nearly ever history written about the earliest settlers on the west side of the Cuyahoga River, mention that when Ozias Brainard arrived in Cuyahoga County, he found a man named Granger and his son, Samuel, squatting on the his land. Apparently, Granger had arrived some time earlier and claimed the land as his own. So Granger sells the land to Brainard and moves off to some other part of Ohio.
Question -
  1. Didn't all the Connecticut settlers buy their lots from Lord & Barber before they arrived here? If they did, then Brainard should have booted Granger off his land, not bought it from him. This part of the story makes no sense.
  2. Was this Granger actually Gideon Granger who owned large, vast tracts of land in Northeast Ohio?

Flood victims buried in a mass grave at the Broadview Cemetery

Historical Record - Is there any? No one seems to have found any actual facts on this story. Kathryn Wilmer suggests this mass burial in her book on Old Brooklyn. The story is that 20 or 30 people were victims of a flood on the Cuyahoga and all of them were buried in a mass grave in the old Brooklyn Cemetery on Broadview Road (the old Brainard cemetery, later called the Broadview Cemetery). This cemetery isn't in Brooklyn Centre, but it's a mysterious enough story to include here.

Suppostions -
  1. The big question is why would they all be buried together? Why wouldn't their families have them buried in proper plots?
  2. Were the bodies unidentifiable?
  3. Were they all impoverished?
  4. Were they from somewhere other than Ohio so that the bodies couldn't be shipped back to their home towns or countries?
  5. Which flood on the Cuyahoga was so bad that so many were killed?
  6. What year did this supposedly happen?
  7. Was their death the result of a shipwreck?
  8. Could they have actually been passengers on a train that derailed due to a flood?
  9. Were they possibly burn victims from the major flood that resulted in Standard Oil's refinery spilling oil on the river and it catching fire?
  10. Did this occur prior to the opening of Riverside Cemetery, thus the reason the bodies ended up in Broadview Cemetery?

The Possibilities
First let us consider some of the disasters that have occurred on the Cuyahoga. by listing the known number of lives lost, we can then easily dismiss certain events from even being considered.
Year Lives lost Event Date Conclusion Reasoning
1876100+ deadTrain accident in AshtabulaDecember 29NOA train plummeted off the tracks into a deep gully after the iron truss bridge collapsed during a blizzard. All were buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula.
1882NoneTidal wave hits ClevelandJune 23NOAn 8'10" wave swept over part of the harbor but did not cause major damage or any deaths.
1883 2 deadFlood on CuyahogaFebruaryUNLIKELYNot enough deaths to fulfill the idea of a mass grave.
1893 7 deadFlood on CuyahogaMayUNLIKELYNot enough deaths to fulfill the idea of a mass grave.
189517 deadStreetcar plunged over Central ViaductNovember 16UNLIKELYRight amount of deaths but nothing so far to substantiate that they wouldn't have been buried elsewhere. In fact, from a Cleveland Press article in the week following this accident, several victims are noted as having been buried in Riverside Cemetery
189617 deadFerry overturned on CuyahogaJuly 16UNLIKELYOnly two of the victims had an obituary in the Cleveland Press that have been found so far. However, Monroe Cemetery's Register of Interment lists eight burials.[1].
1904???Flash flood due to breakup of ice gorgeJanuaryUNLIKELYNot enough deaths to fulfill the idea of a mass grave.
1913UnknownMajor flood in ClevelandFebruaryUNLIKELYNeeds further research.
19182,200+Flu EpidemicFall 1918
Spring 1919
POSSIBLENeeds further research.
The death rate for the Influenza was nearly triple the norm.[2] In just two months, 2,249 died in Cleveland.[3] These numbers suggest an overwhelming number of bodies requiring burial. Could cemeteries keep up with single burial plots? If any event in Cleveland points to the need for mass graves, this one does.
19427 deadTidal wave hits north shoreMay 31UNLIKELYDeaths occured from Bay Village to Geneva.

1895 Streetcar Plunge Over Central Viaduct

Street railroad conductor, Edward Huffman, fails to notice the bridge was open. Car #642 of the Cleveland Street Railroad plunges into the Cuyahoga killing seventeen. Some of the bodies were identified as:
MRS. MINNIE BROWN, 10 Thurman Street
MATTHEW CALLAHAN, lived on Hamilton Street.
BESSIE DAVIS, aged 21, a school teacher, lived on Noyes Street
HARRY W. FOSTER, aged 21, clerk for Root & McBride Co., 51 Mentor Avenue.
MRS. A.W. HOFFMAN, age 30, 1508 Pearl street
GERTIE HOFFMAN, infant, 1508 Pearl street
HARVEY HOFFMAN, age 7, 1508 Pearl street
LOUIS F. HULETZ, age 26, mail carrier, 38 Brevier St.
CURT LEPEHNE, age 14, 66 Jennings Avenue
_____ LOONEY, age 9
JAMES MCLAUGHLIN, aged 35, baseball player, 77 Trowbridge Avenue.
HENRY W. MECKLENBURG, tailor, 58 Mary Street.
MARIA NETTGEN, 10 Joseph Street
MRS. MARTHA (RUSSELL) PALMER, dressmaker, 165 Kenilworth Ave.
AUGUSTA SARINSKY, 207 Central Avenue
MRS. JOHN SAUERHEIMER, lived on Professor Street.
MRS. MARTHA SAUERHEIMER, 154 Merchant Avenue.

"Up to November 16, 1895, Cleveland had been singularly free from serious accidents on its street railroads, although its river and its viaducts, with their swing-bridges, were constant menaces. On that date, however, in an early hour of the evening, a car plunged through the open draw of the Central Viaduct, into the Cuyahoga River, 100 feet below. Seventeen deaths resulted, all from drowning, for there were no injuries on the bodies when they were recovered. The car was one on the Cedar and Jennings avenue line of the "Big Consolidated" system, and it was going to the South Side. The accident occurred at the north end of the draw. Its cause is uncertain, for the testimony before the coroner was at direct odds on the vital point. The bridge-tender swore that the bridge had been opened for a tug boat, that the warning red lights were displayed, and that the gates were closed and locked. The motorman, who jumped and was saved just as his car went over the brink, swore that the gates were open, and there were no lights. The conductor, who gave the signal to start after the car had stopped at the safety switch, was one of the drowned, and so his testimony, which would have been final, was lost. The coroner’s verdict was non-committal as to the placing of the responsibility. Augustus Rogers, the motorman who was held for manslaughter, was discharged. Only one passenger was saved. He went down with the car, but struggled out to the surface of the water and clung to a spile till rescued.

-- "A History of the City of Cleveland", by James Harrison Kennedy, page 508

1896 Ferry Overturned

The most likely candidate found thus far is the following account about an event that occurred on July 16, 1896. While not a flood, the drownings occurred on the Cuyahoga River; there were numerous deaths; and the victims were most likely poor immigrants. However, Monroe Cemetery records reveal that eight of the victims were buried there.[4]

16 July 1896:
"Another of the serious casualties that have shocked the city occurred on July 16th, 1896, when a scow, used as a ferry-boat, crossed the river, near the Willow Street bridge, loaded with laborers from the ore docks in that neighborhood. The craft held nearly forty persons, and, considering its age and size, was overloaded. It had left the dock but a few feet when two tugs, towing a large vessel, passed near it, the swash of which tossed the old boat with considerable violence. One of the men, apparently becoming pani-stricken, arose in the boat and began pulling off his coat, as if for the purpose of jumping into the river. His fears spread among the passengers, who, rushing to one side, canted it and turned it over in the water. In consequence of this nearly half of them sank into the river like lead. The heavy brogans on their feet, and their clothes weighted with the particles of iron ore, carried many of them immediately to the bottom, from which they did not rise, as is usual with drowning people. The men on shore, who might have taken some measures to rescue them had they dreamed of what was to come, supposing that the rocking of the boat was only an occasion for frolic, and considering it a joke, had no idea of the serious consequences until the victims were all in the water. Life preservers were thrown from one of the big vessels in the vicinity, and thereby some of those who did not swim were rescued; but fifteen of the unfortunate men were drowned, and one other victim, in his anxiety to reach the scene and see it, fell off the dock and was also drowned. Most of them left families dependent upon their labor. Very few of them could swim, and the fact that so many were saved was due to good fortune. The crowd was horrified by their shrieks and cries for help. "Oh, God save me." "Don't let me drown in this muddy river," and other like appeals for aid were heard. No one could be said to be to blame for the accident except the men themselves, who probably would not have been plunged into the water, or have jumped into it, had they kept their seats or not overloaded the boat in the first place."

-- "The World's" History of Cleveland", page 121

"Twenty lives lost by the overturning of a flat bottomed scow in the river," was the message that flashed over telephone wires shortly after 7 o'clock last evening and startled men in newspaper offices and police stations.

The disaster proved to be an appalling one. The occupants of the boat were mostly Germans. They crowded into the scow, which was lying at the C.& P. ore docks in the old river bed.

All were eager to get to their homes, where happy faces of wives and children were awaiting them, and there they could partake of the warm evening meal and then rest after the arduous labor of the day.

The scow started across the river, handled by a boy. Suddenly a tug hove into view, coming at a rapid rate. The men saw danger. They attempted to turn back to shore. There was great excitement. Everyone was giving orders at once.

The boat became unmanageable and her side turned to the tug. At this moment a big wave from the tug washed completely over her, filling her with water.

Men yelled and jumped and in a moment there was a struggling mass of humanity in the inky black waters of the Cuyahoga. Three minutes later all was a quiet as though nothing had happened. Except for a few heads barely above water, a few life preservers floating about, and a big scow bottom side up, the river at that point presented no unusual scene. But twenty lives or thereabouts, had gone to meet their God.

.....This river bed runs westward, paralleling the lake shore. Along its banks docks have been erected and a vast traffic has sprung up in the handling of ore.

Among the largest ore docks are those of the C.&P. Dock Co., almost at the foot of Pearl street. Fully 300 men are employed there in handling iron ore. Most of them are foreigners by birth. The people who live in the downtown portion of the West Side, are accustomed to see these men trudge, back and forth, to and from work, day after day. They are known by the peculiar brown or copper color, which their clothes, shoes, faces, hands and even dinner pails assume, from contact with the ore.

Many of these men live in pleasant little homes of their own, in the suburbs of the West Side. Some of them have worked on the dock for years.....

A tremendous steel vessel, the Henry Bessemer, lay at the C&P docks yesterday. Her stern faced eastward. So large is she that those standing on the dock, at her stern, cannot see what boats may be coming down the river from beyond her. It is almost impossible to get an unobstructed view of the river at this point until midstream is reached.

Toward evening the various gangs of men at work on the dock begin to put away their tools and leave for home. The boys who carry water to them during the day have also another duty--to row the men across the river when they come to work and when they quit work at night.

....When the scow started from shore the Lagonda and her tugs were just coming alongside the Bessemer, and they were hidden from the view of the men in the scow by the Bessemer. When the scow got about fifty feet from shore the danger of a collision was noted. The effect of the waves washed from the prow of the leading tug was also apparent in a rocking motion of the scow.

...The waves caused greater rocking of the boat. They also swung her around with broadside to the tug. The next wave washed completely over her and filled her with water. Heartrending cries went up from the men. In the face of the terrible danger there was hardly a cool man on board. The crews of the Bessemer and other boats lying near rushed on deck, with startled expressions on their faces, to learn the causes of the appal-ling appeal from drowning men "Help! Help!" But the men on the boats were powerless. The only boat which might have averted the terrible calamity - the tug which was causing the danger - did not stop, perhaps could not, with a big steamer sweeping onward, close behind it.

-- The Cleveland Plain Dealer -- July 17, 1896

List of victims:
August Kerstein
William Saunders
Mike Lynch
Fritz Boettels
Christ Gerhahn
Charles Kraus
Brokup Masek
Carl Bohrmeister
Julius Erike
Christ Gerlach (burial in Monroe Cemetery)
Edward Ryan
Charles Spoerke
Charles Nique
Charles Vogelsang
Charles Miller
John Miller
William Buelow (burial in Monroe Cemetery)


  1. Monroe Cemetery Register of Interments, July 16, 1896, interments #19258 thru #19265
  2. Epidemiology and Public Health, By Victor Clarence Vaughan, Henry Frieze Vaughan, George Truman Palmer, 1922; Page 309
  3. The Medical World, Dec 1918; Page 403
  4. Monroe Cemetery Register of Interments, July 16, 1896, interments #19258 thru #19265
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