Early Settlers

Jacob Silverthorne

Coit House
Jacob Silverthorne

There is perhaps no resident of Cleveland more capable of speaking with authority concerning many Cleveland’s events and conditions than Jacob Silverthorne. He knew Cleveland when it was scarcely more than a village, its business district bordering the river, while its commercial and industrial enterprises were primitive.

In his years of an active business career, Mr. Silverthorne witnessed Cleveland’s growth, progress, and development. In 1838, he saw the first locomotive in Ohio. When Mr. Silverthorne first became acquainted with the city, it had no jail, only a cage for those who broke the law.

His business life brought him into close contact with many prominent men, knowing them not as they appeared in history but as they were in everyday life so that his stories were delightfully entertaining.

Jacob Henry Silverthorne was born on November 17, 1827, the son of William Silverthorne, one of the earliest Cleveland residents. He was the grandson of Daniel Coit, one of the original Wester Reserve landowners. William died when Jacob was twelve years old.

Jacob acquired his education in the early schools in which he pursued his studies in a small log building, as was typical. He left school and home when he was ten years old and went to Sandusky, Ohio, with the W. H. Mills family. At age fifteen, he made his way to Ashtabula, Ohio, where he learned the building of fanning mills. He remained in Ashtabula for three years and then moved to Willoughby, Ohio, where he was employed for a year by a man he had previously learned his trade. He then devoted two years to business on his own.

While in Willoughby, Jacob became married to Jeannette Jackson, a native of Rutland, Vermont. They had two children: William Henry, born June 11, 1850, and Emma (Brooks), born on February 28, 1865. In 1853, Silverthorne moved his family to Rocky River, where he had purchased the Wright Tavern.

About 1864, he sold the tavern and took over the Jonathan Bowles’ tavern in East Cleveland. Until 1870 it was one of the most popular resorts in northern Ohio, famed for its game dinners and champagne.

In 1870, Charles Coit converted his farmhouse on his lakeshore property (Bratenahl) into a summer hotel called the Coit House. When Jacob Silverthorne, a genial tavern-keeper, took it over soon afterward, he made it into a popular resort.

When Coit House closed in 1878, Silverthorne became involved with Drake & Company, a wholesale dealer of teas, coffees, and spices. After three years, he returned to Rocky River and again purchased the hotel property in 1884.

He continued in the hotel business for seventeen years, after which he retired from active life. Jacob’s wife, Jenette, died on August 23, 1888. Shortly after, Jacob moved to the Hollenden Hotel. Jacob died on September 4, 1913, at the home of his daughter in Willoughby, Ohio. He was buried alongside his wife in Lakeview Cemetery.

Jacob Silverthorne stood as a splendid example of an earlier time’s hotel proprietor, an essential part in the history of the state before modern invention made travel a matter of hours instead of days. He was deeply interested in all that pertained to Cleveland, its growth, and its upbuilding, while he is honored as one of Ohio’s worthy pioneers throughout the city.