Area History & Early Parma Settlers

An Overview

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.

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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.

Pictured here is Tecumseh, famous chief & leader of the Shawnee.

Tecumseh, Chief of the Shawnee
Tecumseh, Chief of the Shawnee

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.

Parma, Ohio in 1876
Parma, Ohio in 1876

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.

Jeremiah WIlcox Fay and Mary Ann (Bradley) Fay
Jeremiah WIlcox Fay and Mary Ann (Bradley) Fay

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!

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.

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Historic References

Parma & Ancestry
History of the Western Reserve
Cuyahoga County History
History of the Fay Family

5 thoughts on “Area History & Early Parma Settlers”

  1. I’m looking for information and pictures going back to around 1950 of two Parma structures. One is the Lutheran church that was located on State and Pleasant Valley. (It was torn down in the late 1950s to put in a gas station). The other is the old General Store on the same corner, across the street, called Klingers, removed a bit before the Lutheran Church. Can anyone direct me?

  2. Hi, great story, i grew up bordering the farm when it was all woods before vista ridge neighborhood; and i am intrigued how beautiful the land is, and used to be. Can I find more old info or maps about the Stearns/Gibbs farm? Thank you!

  3. Hello Michael –
    Unfortunately we do not have any additional historic information available online. We have lots at the farm if you ever get a chance to stop by. One day if we get just the right volunteer, we may try to get more historical records up on our website. Anyone out there interested?

  4. Hello!

    I’m looking for any information you may have on a house my family owned for a brief period of time. The home was built in 1855 and was known as The Cartwright House. The address is 7622 State Rd in Parma. It is currently owned by another family. This house left a profound impression on me and I wanted to know if there was any historic information that may give me some clarity in the experiences that I had in the home.

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Parma's Historical Farm