Area History & Early Parma Settlers
A general history of the area includes a long chain of peoples from, the Eries, the Iroquois or Five Nations, the Shawnee, France, England, the colonies of the Connecticut Land Company, and finally the individual purchasers of the land. Each left their mark on Parma and North East Ohio.
The Native Peoples
The southeastern shore of Lake Erie was occupied by a tribe of American settlers called the Eries, or the Cat Nation. Apart from the coastal area, which was occupied by the Eries or Cat Nation, the land west of the Cuyahoga river was held at various times by the Wyandots, Ottawas, Delawares, Chippewas, Antastas and Shawnee.
After 1655, when the Iroquois annihilated the Erie, Ohio became a hunting ground rather than permanent residence. Land ownership like the Europeans did not exist; rather they claimed the right to use the land for various purposes, with different boundaries for hunting, fishing, farming and villages.
Treaties Made & Broken
Once again, the Cuyahoga river was the dividing line! In 1785, a treaty was made with the Native Peoples at Fort McIntosh in Beaver, Pennsylvania, granting the “Western Reserve” – land east of the Cuyahoga River – to the European settlers.
This treaty didn’t last long! Due to both British and Spanish interests, brutal wars ensued until the Native Americans were defeated. Ten years later, in 1795 a new treaty signed at Greenville, Ohio granting the remainder of Ohio to the United States. With this, the settlement of New Connecticut went into high gear.
Pictured is a drawing of the Treaty of Greenville, drawn by an officer in the Army of “Mad” Anthony Wayne who was present at the meeting.
The Connecticut Land Company
As a restitution for their services in the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson and the Connecticut Land Company, offered large tracts of land to retired soldiers. In Parma, Ohio land was granted to Tuckerman, Cheny, Ely, Blake, and Plympton. They in turn were the first to promote settlement on their lands tracts. This proved difficult as the area had a reputation of being a swampland.
Greenbrier Becomes Parma
Benajah Fay, a native of Massachusetts, who came out from Lewis county, New York, was the first settler in Greenbrier, as Parma was called before it was organized. In 1816 he located upon the Plympton tract. His family, consisting of himself, wife and ten children (three more were added later), journeyed with an ox-team and one horse. Upon his arrival he had to cut a road through the woods to his farm. He opened a tavern in 1819 on the old stage road, in a double log house, opposite the present residence of J. W. Fay, which, as “B. Fay’s Inn,” was a famous landmark for many years. Mr. Fay was a man of mark in the new community, served in various local offices, and was always in high esteem as a useful and honored citizen.
On the 7th of March 1826, Greenbrier, which until then had been a portion of the civil township of Brooklyn, was formed into a separate township and given the name of Parma, after the city in Italy. In that same year Benajah Fay built a framed tavern and in 1832 replaced it with a brick one, which was the first brick house in the township.
Pictured here is his son, Jeremiah Wilcox Fay and his wife Mary Ann (Bradley) Fay (circa 1913), courtesy of the Cleveland Memory Project, standing on the porch of that brick building. His great-grand-daughter, Ruth Fay, is the Chair of the Parma Historical Society Today!
The Stearns Homestead
Lyman Stearns constructed a Yankee barn between 1835 and 1855. In 1855, their Greek revival farmhouse was completed and the Stearns family moved in.The Stearns farmed the land until it was taken over by the Gibbs family. In 1981 Stearns Homestead was placed on the National Register of Historical Places, with an official Ohio Historical Marker placed October 7, 2001 identifying Stearns Homestead as a historic farm.
Today the 48-acre site located in the heart of Parma, Ohio, is a working farm, used for educational purposes. Free and open to the public, it is a favorite for school children and history buffs. It is home to many animals including horses, ponies, goats, sheep, chickens and rabbits. Stearns Homestead, is operated by the Parma Area Historical Society (PAHS) in cooperation with the City of Parma.