Early Settlers

Sheldon and Catherine Parks

Sheldon Parks Sr. settled in East Cleveland Township in 1834. He purchased a 155-acre homestead from Henry Coit for $10 an acre. He ended up selling a one-acre right-of-way for future railroad construction. He promised to maintain his fence on both sides of the tracks to prevent collisions with his livestock.

Vagrants of all kinds drifted west following the shore of Lake Erie. Later, when the railroad came through before the Civil War, thousands of impoverished Irish immigrants, some of whom employed in railroad construction, arrived on the scene.

Sheldon was both a farmer and a master carpenter.  He was always financially prosperous and generous to the Irish immigrants he saw constructing the railroad line. He went out of his way to assist those who he learned were the refugees of the potato famine.

Sheldon Parks Sr. was born on January 4, 1779, in Bethlehem, Connecticut, to Elijah and Annie Parks. He married Catharine Earls, who was born on January 10, 1800, in Schoharie County, New York. They had eight children: Leonard born on November 13, 1824, Lucy born on November 30, 1826, Samuel born on September 20, 1828, Joseph born on March 1, 1831, Caroline born on September 2, 1832, Mary Elizabeth (Page) born on May 27, 1835, Catherine (Hanks) born on January 16, 1837, and Dwight born on December 9, 1840.

Catherine died on March 6, 1866. Sheldon died on April 29, 1872, and buried alongside Catherine in East Cleveland Township Cemetery. After Sheldon’s death, John D. Rockefeller purchased fifty acres of his lakefront property. Rockefeller hung on to most of the land for more than 20 years before selling off parcels.